Cyber Ramblings - Feb 27, 2001

27 February 2001
NFL Inks Deal for Interactive Seats
Soon fans at NFL games will be able to play television producer.

Fans will be able to watch replays from different angles, punch in statistics and order food from their interactive seats as the result of a five-year agreement with ChoiceSeat Inc.

The company is to install SmartSeats at stadiums this season and wireless systems in the future.

It is not clear how many teams are involved or how many interactive seats there will be at the stadiums where they are installed. The NFL could gain the ability to purchase stock in the company in the future.

ChoiceSeat was used at the 1998 Super Bowl and World Series in San Diego, and has been installed at Madison Square Garden in New York, the FleetCenter in Boston and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.

JDS Uniphase Corp. to cut 3,000 jobs
Fiber-optics maker JDS Uniphase Corp. will cut more than 3,000 jobs, or more than 10 percent of its work force, in an attempt to streamline operations.

The cuts are the largest in the company's history, spokesman Jeff Wild said Tuesday. In January, the company laid off about 700 contract employees in Ottawa.

The company, a leading maker of optical network components, said the cuts are aimed to improve efficiency and meet market demand. Most of the jobs cut will be made in manufacturing.

Before the cuts, JDS Uniphase had about 29,000 employees.

More than 1,000 employees will be laid off this week and about 300 contract workers will be cut in JDS Uniphase's joint headquarters in Ottawa. The remaining job cuts will be made by the end of June, the end of the company's fiscal year, said the company, which also has headquarters in San Jose.

In late January, JDS Uniphase warned future sales would be dampened by a slowdown in equipment spending by its customers. Still, the company beat analyst expectations with earnings of $208 million, or 21 cents per share, excluding merger-related charges and other factors, for the quarter ending Dec. 30.

3Com Cutting 10% of Workforce
Struggling network equipment maker 3Com Corp. will lay off 10 percent of its full-time work force to restore profitability and trim costs amid a souring economy, the company announced Monday.

The move, part of a $200 million savings plan unveiled in January, will affect about 900 of 3Com's 9,200 full-time employees and 300 of its 2,500 contracted workers around the world.

The company will cut back on travel spending and other discretionary costs, a spokesperson said, and look to save money on manufacturing and purchasing. It also might sell off equipment and property.

Under the savings plan announced last month, 3Com will take a charge of $40 million to $60 million in the current quarter for the restructuring, which is expected to result in up to $225 million in annual savings.

Etoys Will File for Bankruptcy
eToys, the beleaguered Internet retailer that has seen its stock go from Wall Street darling to the dumps, said Monday it will file for bankruptcy protection within the next five to 10 days. The company listed liabilities totalling $274 million as of Jan. 31 — a debt that was unlikely to be erased even if the company finds a buyer, eToys said in a statement.

eToys said it will close its Web site by March 8.

eToys has also advised investors that its common and preferred stock was "worthless."

The Nasdaq stock market halted trading of the company's stock Monday after eToys said it would not be able to meet the minimum requirements needed to keep the stock listed. Its stock was trading at 9 cents per share.

In addition, the company said three of its directors resigned effective Monday. Two members, including chief executive officer Edward C. Lenk, remain, the company said.

Like many Internet companies, eToys was big on promise but short on results. The company lost money, but investors believed it could survive to become a major player despite competition from industry leader Toys R Us.

eToys was founded in 1997 by the Internet incubator Idealab.

IU Computers Latest to be Hacked
Police are investigating a breach in computer security that allowed someone to access personal information on more than 2,000 Indiana University graduate students.

Most of the information taken from the university server appears to have gone to a university in Sweden.

The unauthorized visitor downloaded the names and Social Security numbers of about 2,600 students.

The server was left unsecured following a computer crash that occurred while the person that who would normally deal with a computer problem was out sick, according to the school. Another employee brought the server back up, but reconfigured it incorrectly.

On Feb. 6 the university's Information Technology Service notified the bursar's office of excessive activity on the server. An investigation revealed that bursar files had been accessed. Letters were sent to affected students Friday.

University police are investigating and the FBI has been notified.

Michigan Court System Going Online
State officials are looking into setting up a virtual court that would let lawyers file briefs online and put in their court appearances by teleconference in a bid to help attract high-tech businesses to Michigan.

Marc Shulman, the state representative shepherding the cybercourt bill through the state legislature, said the online court would be for any business that wants a quick resolution to a dispute, whether it's over trade secrets, interconnection agreements or other issues.

No jury would be involved, the dispute would have to involve transactions of at least $25,000 and both sides would have to agree to use the cybercourt, he said.

Lawyers could file briefs, submit depositions, even argue the case from anywhere in the country. Cases could be heard at any hour of the night or day.

Judges would be specially trained to handle high-tech cases and to work in a virtual environment as well as a courtroom specially wired to handle computers and specialized audio-video and electronic equipment.

Other states are considering changing their court systems to make themselves more attractive to high-tech companies. Maryland, for instance, plans to set up a separate judicial division to handle technology and business cases.

But Michigan not only wants to set up a separate court, it wants to make it as technically advanced as possible, something it thinks will appeal to high-tech companies used to conducting business globally in cyberspace.

Chinese Police Look to Cleanup Internet
The Ministry of Public Security has released new software designed to keep "cults, sex and violence" off the Internet in China, a police official said.

"The software, Internet Police 110, was released yesterday. It will prevent users from getting unhealthy information from foreign and domestic Web sites," he told Reuters. "It was designed to block information of cults, sex and violence on the Internet," he said, without making clear whether installation was mandatory.

"I believe it will help purify China’s Internet service," the official said of the software, which is named for the emergency police telephone number.

The software--available in three versions for households, Internet cafes and schools--can also monitor Web traffic and delete or block messages from sources deemed offensive, he said. China routinely blocks Web sites of Western media outlets, human rights groups, the Falun Gong spiritual group, Tibetan exiles and other sources of information it deems politically sensitive or harmful.

Although China has embraced the Internet as a tool of commerce and education, government officials last year also issued a raft of new regulations governing news, Web Site content, chat rooms and e-mail. In October, it published sweeping new regulations on Internet companies, limiting foreign investment and content and requiring strict surveillance against "subversive" content.

Blockbuster Teams with Universal Pictures and Radio Shack
Video rental chain Blockbuster Inc. said it inked a deal to offer Universal Pictures films via its video on-demand service and separately said electronics retailer Radio Shack Corp. will have a presence at its stores.

Blockbuster, a subsidiary of media giant Viacom Inc., last year teamed with Enron Broadband Services to deliver feature films on demand through the Enron Corp. unit’s Intelligent Network, which is currently in the testing phases in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and American Fork, Utah.

The deal between Universal and Blockbuster coincides with a new revenue sharing agreement between the two companies that covers new film releases being made available for rent at Blockbuster stores, the company said.

As part of the deal with Radio Shack, which sells electronics through more than 7,100 U.S. stores and dealers, Blockbuster said it plans to introduce a Radio Shack "store-within-a-store" inside its 5,000 video rental locations nationwide.

Nobody knows where Kevin Smith came from. He simply showed up one day and started writing articles for IGN. We liked him, so we decided to keep him. We think you'll like him too. Kevin can be reached at