Cyber Ramblings - Mar 27, 2001

27 March 2001
MLB Charging for Internet Broadcasts
Opening day for the 2001 Major League Baseball season is less than a week away and MLB reached an agreement this week that will bring the league $20 million over the next three years. The deal, signed with RealNetworks Inc., will allow the Seattle-based firm to charge a $9.95 fee to users for the entire season to subscribe to Internet broadcasts of baseball games. The feeds, free since local stations began broadcasting on baseball websites, will be subscription-based. The move has baseball falling in line with the NBA which also charges a season-long fee for the service.

Vivendi Buying into AOL Europe
French entertainment giant Vivendi Universal said it will exchange the 55 percent stake it held in Internet service provider AOL France for shares in AOL Europe. Under the agreement, Vivendi's mobile phone unit Cegetel and its pay-television division Canal Plus will exchange their 55 percent share in AOL France for junior preferred shares in AOL Europe, valued at $725 million. AOL Europe will redeem the preferred shares in April 2003 with cash, publicly traded AOL Europe common stock or AOL Time Warner stock.

Microsoft Setting up Shop in Silicon Valley
Microsoft Corp. increased its Silicon Valley presence by launching a new technology center that the software titan hopes will help its expansive new strategy for Internet-based services. Microsoft has housed some divisions in the area for years and has 1,500 employees there, but the vast majority of operations are based in Redmond, Wash. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, making a rare public appearance in the valley, and other company executives stressed the company needs partners there.

The new center is ostensibly a research lab where e-commerce companies can spend two weeks to two months testing the usefulness and reliability of their software applications. Microsoft also runs similar labs in Toronto, Boston and Austin, Texas; one is scheduled to open in Chicago this spring.

Conexant Cutting 1,500 Jobs
Conexant Systems Inc. is cutting 1,500 jobs, or 17.8 percent of its work force, as it tries to reduce costs due to the technology market slowdown. The semiconductor and Internet software company also announced that it expects to lose more than expected in its second fiscal quarter as revenue will be 35 percent to 40 percent lower than in the first quarter. The company expects a loss of 35 cents to 40 cents a share excluding the impact of one-time charges. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial/First Call expected a loss of 24 cents a share. The job cuts include the company's Newport Beach headquarters and semiconductor plant, and facilities in San Diego and Ventura counties. Other plans to cut costs include temporary shutdowns of the company's wafer manufacturing and assembly and test facilities, a significant reduction in capital spending based on the revised revenue outlook and pay cuts of 10 percent for the senior management team. The company employs 8,400 people overall.

Warning Released About New Worm
A new computer worm that could render websites unviewable and disconnect entire networks had computer security professionals on edge and warning users. The worm exploits a new but well-known flaw in software that’s critical for every computer connected to the Internet. Experts predicted such a worm would be written to take advantage of the flaw in "BIND" software back in January, when government agencies found the problem. There has already been a smattering of victims. Internet browsers wouldn’t be hit by the worm, which has been dubbed "Lion." Instead it's aimed at a particular class of computers at the heart of the Internet’s infrastructure--domain name servers running Linux. Using software called "BIND," those computers pair common names for websites with their underlying IP addresses; networks can’t work without them.

Siemens AG’s WebWasher a Popular Choice
In only two years of existence a downloadable software which blocks banner ads so Internet users don’t see them has had 4 million people download it, according to Siemens AG, the German company which developed the software. WebWasher could become a nightmare for anyone trying to make a buck off the Web. Media corporations, porn barons and kitchen table entrepreneurs could all be hit. The company claims WebWasher blocks not just banner ads, but the new, IAB-approved square ads that sit in the center of the page, and will also soon be able to nix the "skyscraper" ads popular with online newspapers.

China Monitoring Internet Cables
Chinese officials are increasing ocean-going patrols in an attempt to protect the main Internet cables linking China to North America from damage by fishing boats. Three major breaks over the past two months have affected millions of Internet users. With the main fishing season approaching, local officials say they fear further damage. China has ordered the phasing out of a type of fishing net believed to be responsible for the problem, but state media say its use is still on the increase.

South Australian AG Proposes Internet Fines
Legislation proposed by the South Australian Attorney General would impose fines of up to $10,000 on people in that state who upload to the Internet material deemed offensive. The laws are not intended to catch ISPs or other companies hosting the Web pages. Critics say that the bill does not clearly explain under which jurisdiction the laws would apply; it's unclear whether an offence depends on the location of the Internet server or on the person uploading the offensive material. The bill's opponents--Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) and the South Australian Internet Association (SAIA), to name a few--argue that without uniform laws across all Australian states and territories the laws would be difficult to enforce.