Cyber Ramblings - Mar 6, 2001

6 March 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

Hope May Be on Horizon for Amazon.com
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Industry experts admit that Amazon.com is not as desperate as some on the mainstream media would like to think, but it's no secret the online retailer needed to reinvent itself to survive in the future. They may have saved themselves by forming a strategic alliance with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Britain’s Sunday Times reports that under the deal, expected to be announced in six weeks, Amazon would handle Wal-Mart's online strategy, similar to a deal Amazon struck with Toysrus.com in August. In return, Amazon would gain presence in Wal-Mart’s stores. Shares of Amazon.com climbed more than 26 percent Monday after the report was published. Neither companies were willing to comment on the report.

Don’t Look at Naked Wife

Many computer users who thought they were finally getting a good look at a co-worker's or friend's attractive wife were foiled Tuesday by a computer virus. The destructive virus uses the same means of operation as the widespread Anna Kournikova virus that was spread throughout the world last month. This time instead of enticing users with a picture of the popular and attractive Russian tennis star, the virus offered users a look at "naked wife." Steve Trilling, director of research at the Symantec Antivirus Research Center, told the Associated Press about 20 of Symantec's clients in Canada, the United States and Europe had been hit. Trilling said the virus, which appears with the subject line "FW: Naked Wife," deletes almost all of a computer's vital system files. It also sends itself out to everyone in the user's e-mail address book.

Hackers Finally Lose Contest
For the first time ever, hackers were unable to penetrate eWeek’s Openhack interactive security test. The magazine put up a $50,000 reward to anyone who could hack into Argus Systems Group Inc.’s PitBull line of operating systems. Hackers were given a 17-day period to try and crack the system, and it wasn’t without effort. The contest was the first of the three eWeek Labs’ Openhack test in which the program wasn’t penetrated. Hackers were able to find and exploit a number of application-level security holes to get root-level access to the Web server that had shell access. On a regular version of Unix, root access is the key to the castle. But even with the front door wide open, no one was able to get at the crown jewels because of the kernel-level file and network access controls built into the PitBull-modified versions of Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris, Red Hat Inc.'s Red Hat Linux and IBM's AIX.

Egghead.com Latest to Cutback Workforce
Egghead.com, an Internet retailer of technology products for small businesses, is laying off 77 employees, or about 12 percent of its work force. Egghead.com, which started as a chain of software stores in 1984, said Monday it would cut 40 jobs in its Menlo Park headquarters and 37 in Vancouver, Wash. President and CEO Jeff Sheahan said the move was necessary to "streamline the business" and reduce costs.

Intel Cuts Prices on Chips for Desktop Computers
Chip making giant Intel Corp. has cut prices by as much as 19 percent on some of its processors used in desktop computers, with smaller markdowns for top-of-the line Pentium 4 models. The cuts, which took effect Sunday and were confirmed by the company Monday, come as inventories build and demand for new computers slows. Intel slashed the price of its 800 megahertz Celeron to $112 from $138, a 19 percent decline. The 766 MHz Celeron dropped 8 percent, to $103 from $112. Its 1 gigahertz Pentium 3, meanwhile, now costs $241, compared to $268 before the price cut. The 933 MHz model fell 7 percent, to $225 from $241. The new Pentium 4's prices also fell--though at much lower rates. The 1.5 GHz Pentium 4’s price dropped 1 percent, to $637 from $644. The 1.4 GHz model went to $423 from $440, and the 1.3 GHz version fell to $332 from $336. The new prices apply to wholesale purchases in lots of 1,000.

Semiconductor Sales Dropping
Worldwide semiconductor sales fell 5.7 percent from December to January, reflecting a backlog of inventory and slowing demand, an industry group said Monday. Chip sales were reported to be $16.87 billion in January, compared with $17.89 billion in December, said George Scalise, president of the Semiconductor Industry Association. January's numbers increased 13.7 percent compared with the same month in 2000, when sales topped $14.84 billion. Last month, year-over-year growth was more than 20 percent. Decelerating sales were recorded in all sectors and geographic regions. Compared with January 2000, the Japanese market grew 23.2 percent while Asia Pacific increased 2.9 percent. The Americas reported growth of 15.4 percent, compared with 14.6 percent in Europe. The Semiconductor Industry Association has represented U.S. manufacturers since 1977. Its members make up more than 90 percent of U.S. chip companies

Judge Delivers Final Blow to Napster Users
Users who flocked to Napster over the weekend fearing the end to the popular file sharing of songs got bad news today. The site saw increased traffic prior to a federal judge’s ruling on the sites copyright case against the music industry. Fearing the site would be shut down on Monday users copied as much music as they could before it was too late. While the users were given some extra time by the judge on Tuesday, they won’t be able to enjoy the service for much longer. The judge gave the recording industry another victory Tuesday in its bid to control digital music, saying Napster Inc. has just 72 hours to block any copyright songs. It is believed the industry will put limits on what songs can be copied, such as top 100 songs.

VeriSign Gives up Control of .org TLD
The company in charge of giving out the Top Level Domain of .org has agreed to give up that right in exchange for extending the rights to the more lucrative .com TLD. If approved, VeriSign Inc. would avoid having to sell part of its business to meet the terms of an existing contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the organization selected by the U.S. government in 1998 to oversee Internet addresses. The agreement calls for .org to be ultimately returned to the exclusive use of non-profit organizations. Although .org stands for organization, anyone could currently register such names. VeriSign, which now gets $6 per name registered, would be able to run the master lists for .com until 2007, with options to extend the contract. Domain names are key for finding Web sites and sending e-mail. The .com names are the most popular, with 21 million claimed. There are 4 million .net and 3 million .org names. Other domain names include .gov for U.S. government and .au for Australia.