13th > December > 1998 Archive
Could the UK government's Y2K policy get any worse? Until yesterday one would have thought not (Registers passim), but one would have been reckoning without the redoubtable mispeak powers of Action 2000 head Gwynneth Flower, who has issued a statement stressing the need to plan for something close to Armageddon. Flower's earlier greatest hits included musing out loud that Bill Gates could help in dealing with Y2K, see Microsoft's Y2K site and here for why this wasn't a good idea. The aspect of her statement which has - oh yes - caused widespread panic-stricken writing of headlines in the UK's Sunday papers is her advice that every household should lay in two weeks' supply of long-life foodstuffs in preparation for Christmas next year. Flower, it seems clear, is anticipating the possible breakdown of power supplies, transportation, communications systems, cookers, microwave ovens, refrigerators… This is all terribly embarrassing for the British government, which has been (largely) soft-pedalling the potential mega-disaster aspects of Y2K, but which seems to have accidentally appointed a crazed survivalist to look after the details. Flower intends to issue a leaflet next year explaining what sort of things it will be important for people to have in stock, and we'll look forward to that. But in the meantime she might care to browse a few of those helpful Web sites that tell you what to do when law and order and society break down completely, how to defend yourself Communists, perverts and invaders from Tau Ceti, and how to kill with your bare hands. We might be able to help too. The Register's more senior members of staff remember growing up among the debris of the British government's more paranoid wartime constructions. Large air raid shelters that anticipated a Luftwaffe paving of Eastern Scotland that never happened to any great degree, huge blocks of concrete and dragons teeth sprinkled along the coastline, in the odd belief that the Tay Estuary was a prime target for the panzers… Gas masks, spam, blackout curtains, home armies parading with broom handles, dried eggs, melting down iron railings for Spitfires - yes, if we start now, there's still time. ®
Acer is poised to make the break from Microsoft with its XC machines, and Linux is a strong candidate for the operating system that at least some of the devices will use, say industry sources. The XC concept is to produce several different ranges of low-cost, specialist and single-purpose appliance-type machines based on the x86.
Yet another wireless alliance is due to debut on Tuesday, according to US reports. But with this one Microsoft may be finally giving us an indication of which way (or ways) it intends to jump. Spinmeisters last week were suggesting that Bluetooth was in big trouble because Microsoft wasn't going to join (Click for counterspin). The latest organisation (named the Wireless Ready and Trade Alliance by someone with cloth ears, apparently) is tipped to include WirelessKnowledge, Microsoft's jv company with Qualcomm, as a member. The lead members of the WRTA include AT&T Wireless, Bell Atlantic Mobile and Sierra Wireless, plus HP, Sharp, Casio and Compaq on the hardware side. That little lot makes it pretty clear it's going to be US-centric, with the phone and wireless boys calling the shots on wireless standards and the hardware vendors hoping to benefit from US sales. But there are also clear overlaps and possible clashes with both Bluetooth, the international effort that's starting to look rather European, and HomeRF, the US one that's a sort of Americanised DECT 2. WRTA intends to concentrate on interoperability issues concerning wireless hardware, software and services, and that has obvious attractions to WirelessKnowledge. Despite its control-freak parents this outfit claims to be independently run, and is aiming to offer multi-platform wireless systems that give wireless clients access to BackOffice-type applications. So maybe not that independent after all. (Earlier story) The new group's formation suggests that various overlapping camps are starting to form around short range cable replacement and home networking systems and wireless telephony-related systems. HomeRF can be seen as a sort of competitor to Bluetooth, while WRTA may well clash with WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) Forum. Microsoft is a member of HomeRF, and of WRTA at least by proxy. The Enemy, including Ericsson, Nokia, Motorola and Symbian, are signed up for WAP, and for Bluetooth. But the sheer complexity of the interlocking memberships makes it clear that rival camps have yet to form up properly. Qualcomm is in Bluetooth and WAP as well, and Compaq is in Bluetooth, WRTA, HomeRF and the GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association, a GSM trade body). AMD, one of whose VPs insisted to us earlier this year that wireless could never get cheaper than wired, is nevertheless in Bluetooth and HomeRF. This one will get worse before it gets better. ®
Oracle's kernel strategy for its Raw Iron database project is starting to take shape, and it seems it has acquired a distinct Open Source look to it. Although the company is due to announce official support for Raw Iron from Sun tomorrow, in addition to the Solaris kernel it has shortlisted FreeBSD, NetBSD and the Linux kernel.
A proposed merger between LG Semicon and Hyundai to create a single powerful semiconductor firm looks set to fall apart this week, despite the appointment of a US company to broker an agreement. Lee Hun-jai, chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) is quoted today in two local newspapers as saying that both LG Semicon and Hyundai are bth insisting they can go it alone in the market. But that is likely to irritate South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, who has insisted thaat the two chaebols (family firms) get that particular act together. Mr Lee is reported as saying that the “widely different corporate cultures” of the companies would prevent the integration of their semiconductor business but blamed LG for dragging its feet on the merger. Hyundai, on the other hand, had supported Wall Street consultancy Arthur D. Little on its plans, Lee is reported as saying. The two could face financial penalties from the government for their recalcitrance. Meanwhile, LG Electronics in the UK is expected to announce its plans for a restructuring during the course of this week, as reported here earlier. ®
Ben Slivka is one of the finds of the Microsoft antritrust action - he turns a mean quote ("grow the polluted Java"), but he has a mind as well. Back in May 1995, Slivka produced a long, carefully thought out memo that showed he'd grasped where the Internet was headed, and proposing strategies Microsoft could use to benefit from it. Slivka's memo is entitled The Web is the Next Platform (no messing about here) and is DoJ exhibit 21.