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Week of September 9, 2001 News Archive

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Monday September 10, 2001 Top

Via Files Countersuit Against Intel Over Pentium 4 Chipset

Microchip designer Via Technologies said Monday that it was filing a series of counter lawsuits against semiconductor giant Intel for patent infringement in Taiwan and the United States. "Intel processors and the Intel Pentium 4 processors compatible 845 chipsets infringe on Via's patents," Via's marketing director, Richard Brown, said at a news conference. "Starting today, Via will begin filing a series of patent-infringement lawsuits and civil actions in Taiwan and U.S. courts, seeking damages and injunctive relief," said Brown. Last week, in a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Intel accused Via of violating five Intel patents with its P4X266 chipset. Via's shares fell the 7 percent daily trading limit Monday after Intel filed its latest legal action against the Taiwanese company on Friday. The company said it would also sue Intel for violating Taiwan's Fair Trade Law through "willful destruction of Via property by Intel representatives and employees." Via said in a statement earlier Monday that it would contest Intel's lawsuit and urged the U.S. company to stop "illegal interference" with its clients. Electronics industry newsletters have said Taiwan's top computer motherboard makers have refused to use the P4X266, fearing Intel could also target them for legal action. Intel has declined to comment on talk it has pressured board makers into turning down Via's product. Intel could not immediately be reached for comment.

Intel Phasing Out Desktop Pentium III's this Year

Intel is looking to quickly phase out the Pentium III desktop PC processor this autumn as it ramps up production of Pentium 4 in computers with a mainstream price point, the company confirmed today. According to industry sources, Intel plans to stop taking orders for the Pentium III desktop processor as of Dec. 7. Intel would not comment on the exact date that the chip would disappear. An Intel spokesman said that while Pentium III support will continue for some long-term Pentium III customers, such as governments, the focus will now definitively shift to Pentium 4. Intel has been pushing Pentium 4 towards the mainstream for several months through a program of aggressive price cuts, but its efforts have been hindered by the processor's ability to work only with relatively expensive, next-generation Rambus memory (RDRAM). As of today, however, Pentium 4 is available with Intel's 845 chipset, which uses cheaper SDRAM, paving the way for Pentium 4 to become the mainstream PC chip. "The Intel 845 broadens the Pentium 4 processor family by delivering support throughout the mainstream market segment for the advanced, and ever-evolving end-user PC usage models," said Louis Burns, Intel vice president and general manager, Desktop Products Group, in a statement. "I fully expect that this will become the next high-volume mainstream platform for IT departments worldwide." Pentium III will continue as a mobile chip, with the recently introduced 0.13-micron Pentium III-M mobile processor moving into a low-cost Celeron incarnation later this year.

New Unix Worm Could Reach Code Red Levels

A new Internet worm designed to attack a common flaw in Unix systems has been confirmed dead, but security experts are warning that the self-propagating worm could be the next Code Red. The X.C worm exploits a newly discovered hole in the telnet service that is run on most Unix systems. Antivirus companies are concerned that crackers will have learned from the success of the Code Red worm and its variants, and will be encouraged by the length of time that it takes system administrators to patch machines against publicized vulnerabilities. "This is going to go along the same lines as Code Red, as virus writers will know that a lot of machines will be vulnerable," said Mark Read, systems security analyst for computer security company MIS Corporate Defence Solutions. "This is definitely the way forward with viruses, as it removes the need for humans to double click on attachments in order for the worm to spread, and instead looks for servers that have not been patched." The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) issued an alert on the X.C worm on August 30th, and analysts at SecurityFocus have now confirmed that the spread of the virus has been contained due to the program's dependency on a file located on a Web server in Poland.

But infected systems will still be able to break into other vulnerable hosts, and might have succeeded in installing "back doors" on previously attacked systems. The X.C worm can affect Solaris, SGI IRIX and Open BSD. It targets a buffer overflow exploit in the Telnetd system, and attempts to fetch a copy from the program's source code named "x.c." from the Polish server and replicate it on the victim host. "Telnetd is very insecure when you are connecting to a Unix box from a remote station, as everything is sent across the network. If someone is using a packet sniffer, it is easy to find out a person's username and password," said Read. X.C never posed a serious threat, as it only targeted a limited number of Unix systems. "This could have been a test version, or was programmed incorrectly," said Read. But security firms are warning that the next version is likely to be as virulent as Code Red, attacking more popular operating systems such as RedHat 7.0 that include Telnetd in the default.

States Warn DOJ To Hold Strong Against Microsoft

Two states participating in the Microsoft antitrust case have a message for the Justice Department: If you go soft on the software giant, we're ready to push for stronger sanctions on our own. Breaking ranks with the government camp: New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who late last week said that they are "committed to pressing the trial court for stringent remedies that will change the conduct by Microsoft that the courts have found to be illegal, and that will provide consumers with the benefits of competition." Such a move by the two states, which have the resources to pursue separate actions against Microsoft and which have been among the leaders of the coalition of 18 states arrayed against the software company, could add to the challenge of obtaining a fast remedy or eventually settling the case. California and New York appear to be responding to a surprising turnabout by the Justice Department, which last week said it would not seek a breakup of Microsoft or retry the claim that the software giant illegally tied together Internet Explorer and Windows 95 and 98. Instead, the federal agency plans to seek restrictions on the company's business practices. Through that action, the government may be signaling terms on which it would be willing to settle and that could be palatable for Microsoft.

But Spitzer and Lockyer may be sending another message: They don't want the case settled on too modest terms or to see the Justice Department go easy on the company during forthcoming remedy proceedings, said legal specialists. "They have the right to seek whatever remedy is appropriate for the violations of their own antitrust laws," said Rich Gray, a Silicon Valley-based antitrust attorney closely following the trial. One problem for the government: "Seeking a stiffer remedy could drag out discovery" and other proceedings when the case returns to court, Gray said. In a worst-case scenario, the trial judge could separate those states' cases from the larger proceeding, he added. Although many legal experts were not surprised to see the Bush administration relenting on a position strongly advocated by Clinton trustbusters, the apparent support of the state attorneys general for that move did catch them off guard. Two of the most vocal supporters of hard-line action against Microsoft, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, publicly spoke out last week in favor of the Justice Department's apparently softened position. "It's really hard to believe, after pushing so long and hard for breakup, the states would back off that position now," said Bob Lande, an antitrust professor with the University of Baltimore School of Law. "It makes you wonder."

DivX Moves Closer to Commercial Use

A dark-horse competitor is joining the bitter battle over Internet video standards, promising to bring an MP3-like challenge to market leaders Microsoft and RealNetworks. Known as DivX, the technology has until now has been most closely associated with growing piracy of Hollywood movies on the Internet. But DivXNetworks, the company behind the format, is determined to put its bootleg past behind it and become a viable purveyor of legal downloads and full-blown video-on-demand services. That ambitious goal inched a step closer to reality last week when alternative film distributor Strand Releasing said it had licensed the DivX Open Video System, becoming the first commercial partner to use its video-compression format for secure DivX downloads. For example, consumers can now rent the 1995 film "World and Time Enough" for $4.95 directly from Strand Releasing's Web site for five days, after which the file will become inaccessible. Although Strand Releasing is a minor player in Hollywood, the announcement highlights the high-stakes battle to create a video standard with wide appeal and marks an important step in DivXNetworks' quest to be that standard. Last month the company issued a new version of its touted DivX "codec"--a mathematical formula used to compress bulky video files to transfer them effectively over the Internet. "DivX has hit the same sort of status in video as MP3 has in digital music," said Ben Sawyer, researcher and founder of Digitalmill, a Portland, Maine, company that consults on emerging technologies.

"The question now is whether it can go over the top. They've come out of nowhere and ridden on the strength of their programming team. But frankly, I'm not sure any available video codec is there yet. There is still a lot of work to be done in delivering video pictures over the Net." Success, however, is not assured. Even if it receives the endorsement of major content owners, DivX still faces significant challengers, including mighty Microsoft. Microsoft could pose a further headache for DivXNetworks down the road for a different reason: The original version of DivX was essentially based on a Microsoft implementation of MPEG-4. "The DivX technology lineage is based on using Microsoft technology and re-branding it as its own," said Michael Aldridge, Microsoft's product manager for the Windows Digital Media Division. Aldridge said Microsoft's lawyers are looking at implementations of DivX, but he would not comment on legal questions relating to the origin of the codec. DivXNetworks admits that early versions of the codec did rely in part on Microsoft technology but says the most recent versions represent a clean break. "The (new) codecs were built from scratch," said a company spokesman.

Tuesday September 11, 2001 Top

The United States of America Comes Under Attack

Our normal news seems pointless in the face of such a great tragedy, so we dedicate todays news slot to the tragedy.

In the worst terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil, hijackers crashed passenger planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, toppling the 110-story twin towers, killing all aboard the jets and an unknown number on the ground. There were no immediate details available on casualties, but thousands of people work in the affected buildings - 50,000 in the World Trade Center alone. Hundreds of people were in local hospitals. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said the casualties would be "more than we can bear." The Federal Aviation Administration ordered all airports around the country closed in the first such nationwide shutdown. The flight ban was not expected to be lifted until at least Wednesday at noon ET. In an address to the nation tonight, President Bush vowed that the terrorists would be brought to justice. "The functions of our government will continue without interruption," Bush said from the White House.

The chaos began at about 8:50 a.m. ET when a hijacked American Airlines passenger plane smashed into the 110-story One World Trade Center, the northern tower. Then, at about 9 a.m., another jet crashed into the southern tower, Two World Trade Center. According to the FBI, the planes involved in the World Trade Center crashes were American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767 en route from Boston to Los Angeles carrying 81 passengers, nine flight attendants and two pilots, and United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 also headed from Boston to Los Angeles. Officials said the plane was carrying 56 passengers, two pilots and seven flight attendants.At about 10 a.m., the southern tower collapsed, enveloping lower Manhattan in a cloud of dust, ash and debris. A half-hour later, the northern tower also fell in on itself and the New York City skyline was indelibly changed.

"Lots of smoke and then the next thing I heard was an explosion in the building from the top, the south building just crumbled, just completely went down, I saw it," said witness Joan Fleischer. "It's hard to see all the pieces, but you could see it tipping over and just crashing to the ground." Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Shortly after the crashes at the World Trade Center, at about 9:40 a.m., FBI officials say American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757 en route from Washington Dulles Airport to Los Angeles crashed into the Pentagon. The plane was carrying 58 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots. Then, at about 10:40 a.m., reports came that United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757, en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco, crashed in western Pennsylvania, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. The plane was carrying 38 passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants.

"Our financial institutions remain strong. The American economy will be open for business as well. We have a full resolution to find those responsible for this evil act and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."Attorney General John Ashcroft said thousands of FBI agents from around the country are being assigned to investigate the attacks and will be focusing on New York, Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston and Newark, N.J. Ashcroft also pledged that those responsible would be brought to justice."The determination of the terrorists will not deter the determination of the American people," said Ashcroft. "We will find the people responsible for this terrible act and justice will be done."

The Red Cross hotline for blood donations is 1 (800) GIVE LIFE. The agency has asked people willing to donate blood first to call and schedule an appointment. To donate money to Red Cross relief efforts call 1 (800) HELP NOW. The Salvation Army will accept financial contributions through 1 (800) SAL ARMY. Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinated disaster relief efforts by the government, does not accept donations. Information on Possible Victims: The FBI has created a Website,, and telephone hotline, (800) 331-0075, for information on possible victims. Both may also be used by people to report information about the terror attacks. Both American Airlines and United Airlines have set up hotlines for people concerned that family members were aboard the downed planes. American Airlines: 1 (800) 245-0999. United 1 (800) 932-8555. St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City is taking inquiries about possible casualties. Their number is (212) 604-7285, but the hospital asks that only family members of possible victims use the hotline. Bellevue Hospital Center has also treated scores of casualties from the World Trade Center attacks. The facility has its own hotline number, (212) 562-7696, but warns that the system is backed up due to the number of incoming calls.

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