3rd > February > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Channel assembly lifts Northamber profits

Northamber is turning its back on the growth at all costs volume distribution model. Speaking to The Register about the company's latest interims, which saw margins rise but sales fall by six per cent, chairman David Phillips said the company was no longer prepared to sacrifice margin for market share. Turnover for the six months to 31 December was £141 million, 6.1 per cent down on the same period in 1997. At same time trading profits increased 10.8 per cent, translating to £4.72 million pre-tax profits (1997: £4.26 million). This was achieved against a backdrop of price erosion of 16 per cent on higher volume products, according to Phillips, who said the results reflect the company’s move to a higher margin model. He cited the company's HP and IBM channel assembly and AS/400 distribution activities as particularly good margin makers. He also expressed confidence that the company would gain RS/6000 distribution rights for the first time this year. Northamber’s historic roots are in the printer market, where many disties shift kit below cost. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

‘Slow’ machine in test video was running MS Office

Microsoft senior VP Jim Allchin retreated in disorder yesterday as the case of the edited video rattled through the courtroom. Government attorney David Boies had forced an admission by Allchin that Microsoft's video demonstration had been tampered with DoJ skewers exec over falsified video, and then proceeded to use this to undermine the exec's evidence. In his deposition last week Allchin had written that the machines used in his video demonstration had been "virgin machines." The video, unfortunately, showed that they had not been. Allchin still insisted that the points he had made were valid, but his evidence now seems fatally flawed. The demo was intended to show that after using the Internet Explorer uninstall program produced by DoJ witness Edward Felten, the performance of Windows 98 was severely degraded. One of the machines shown, however, was clearly not "virgin." It showed - woops - a Microsoft Office taskbar, and Boies also showed that changes had been made in the registry. Based on this, the Microsoft test was clearly unscientific. It would also appear to have been the case that the machine shown performing badly on the video in its attempts to access the Windows Update site was, er, the one that hadn't had Felten's program run on it. The events in court yesterday morning seem to have triggered a Microsoft investigation. By the afternoon the company was saying that its video demo hadn't been faulty, and that the discrepancy affected only a small part of a very long tape. General counsel Bill Neukom insisted it didn't change the results of the test. Boies, triumphant, charitably said the tape wasa clearly unreliable, but that he didn't think Microsoft had deliberately fudged it. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

S3 unveils Voodoo-zapping Savage4

S3 has announced the successor to its Savage3D graphics chipset, the unsurprisingly named Savage4. The new accelerator is the first to support Intel's AGP (Accelerated Graphics Port) 4X specification, claimed S3. And the company has also announced its first design win for the product: Diamond Multimedia, which will release a product based on the Savage4 in the second quarter of the year. Number Nine is believed to have licensed the technology too. Savage4 is the latest in the new generation of 128-bit graphics cards, led by ATI's recently released Rage 128 chipset. The S3 product offers 32-bit rendering, DirectX 6 texture compression, single-pass multitexturing, support for up to 32MB of video memory (though AGP also provides it with as much system RAM as its needs) and DVD playback. Savage4 will ship in two configurations: Pro and GT. The former is aimed in mid-range volume markets -- ie. 'must have the latest, fastest technology' gamers -- and supports up to 32MB of 143MHz memory. The Savage4 GT is a more mainstream part, supporting 16MB of 125MHz RAM. In short, the Pro will be gunning for 3Dfx/nVidia, while the GT will be targetting ATI. That said, even the GT looks set to outperform 3Dfx's forthcoming Voodoo 3, in both graphics and price. Voodoo 3, at least as far as the published spec. goes, supports just 16MB of RAM, and lacks the S3 chip-set's 32-bit texturing, texture compression and support for large 2K by 2K textures. It increasingly seems that, like so many market leaders, 3Dfx has rather taken its eye of the ball. We expect rapid changes to the Voodoo line-up, real soon. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel tempts Toshiba with cash carrot

Intel has followed up its investments in Samsung and Micron Technologies with a similar deal with Toshiba. The reason: to persuade the Japanese giant to ramp up production of Rambus Direct DRAM. It's not yet known how much cash the Great Stan waved in front of Toshiba's nose, but it's likely be in the same ballpark as the $100 million investment in Samsung and the $500 million it paid to Micron. Toshiba is Japan's second largest chipmaker. Intel has been keen to offer financial enticements to memory producers once it became clear that supplies of Direct DRAM chips are likely to be limited. Intel has stated that Rambus' memory technology is the way forward for faster RAM, and is set to introduce its Camino chipset, the first mainstream motherboard design to support Direct DRAM, next quarter. Other chip-set vendors have been lining up behind the PC133 SDRAM memory spec. as a short-term alternative to ease the transition to Direct DRAM (see Chipset vendors prepare for Rambus shortage). IBM has also said it will produce PC133 products, in anticipation of that demand (see IBM to offer Rambus alternative). ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel, HP, IBM and Compaq to thrash out IO directions

The protagonists in the argument over the future direction of I/O will meet in Monterey, California on the 12th of this month in a bid to thrash out their differences. Intel representatives will sit on one side of the table while ranged against them will be executives from HP, IBM and Compaq. The issue over PCI/X now seems to be resolved. But sources close to the talks said today that this was just one stage in discussions. Intel wants to push its own NGIO (next generation IO) to be incorporated in Merced and future revs of microprocessors, but the three big system vendors have their own view. An IBM source said today: "While all bodies are now pointing in the same direction on PCI/X." That is probably not the case with NGIO, he said. "We come from the view of a system manufacturer, while Intel is looking at from the standpoint of a chip and board manufacturer," he said. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Kenwood debuts 52x CD-ROM drive

Kenwood Technologies has announced a 52x CD-ROM drive. The drive actually runs at 9x speed, but uses a multiple-beam laser that reads six tracks of data simultaneously to generate an effective speed of 52x. That translates into a data throughput of 6.7MBps to 7.8MBps. The drive spins at a range of speeds to ensure a constant linear velocity (CLV) to ensure those rates are consistent wherever the data being read resides on the disc. Regular drives spin at a constant angular velocity (CAV), so the linear velocity of the disc, and thus the speed at which data can be read, slows as the laser moves away from the edge of the disc. Kenwood licensed this technology from Zen Research, which announced the system, called TrueX, last summer. Zen originally claimed a 40x speed for TrueX drives, and some units operating at that speed were announced. The new Kenwood drive uses an upgraded version of TrueX that not only boosts the speed but includes improved ASICs and firmware, and adds the ability to read CD-RW discs. The drive will initially be released as an ATAPI unit, but Kenwood said it will soon offer a SCSI version. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

IBM copper will appear in an Intel Netfinity in June

A senior executive at IBM in Europe gave details today of his company's plans to include copper technology in its Intel-based servers. The move is part of a plan IBM has to bring technology from its S/390, RS and AS/400 series into the Intel space, said Tikiri Wanduragala, IBM's senior consultant for the Netfinity server range. He said that the plans, which include a system on a chip project called Blue Logic, were part of IBM's X-Architecture, which will extend well into the next century. The PowerPC chip will sit on a RAID controller and similar technology will also be migrated to AS and RS machines, said Wanduragala. IBM will also introduce mainframe technology called Netfinity 7000M10 "chip kill correction" on its high end servers, he said. Wanduragala revealed that IBM is also working with Intel on Merced technology. He said: "We're going work on core logic and IBM engineers are designing the support chips." However, he said that in his opinion Intel will not incorporate any copper technology in Merced, although it could be an option for future processors. Wanduragala also said that IBM will introduce Pentium III and Pentium III Xeon machines over the next month. The low end machines, the Netfinity 3000, the 5000 and the 5500M10 are already in production. Server platforms do not take advantage of the Streaming SIMD instructions in the Pentium III, he said, but will over a performance boost of around seven per cent over systems using the Pentium II. In the middle of the year, IBM will introduce systems based on Intel's Profusion (Corollary) technology. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft junks NT-based consumer OS plan

Microsoft will produce at least one more rev of Windows 9x before it finally converges its operating systems, it has emerged this week. This new plan flatly contradicts what the company has been saying for over a year - far from rolling its desktop products into one basic OS at Windows 2000 stage, Microsoft may now be on the point of abandoning its convergence strategy. Microsoft has actually been talking about rolling it all into one product since the early stages of NT. For most of that time the company hasn't got any closer to a single core product that covers both business and consumer sectors, but more recently it has made it clear that it sees Windows 98 as being the last of the line. The next big product, Windows 2000 (aka NT 5.0) was intended to spearhead the push to move NT technology into the corporate market, supplanting 9x, and also to form the basis for a new consumer-oriented operating system. But now it would appear that all of this has been at least postponed. Microsoft is planning a Windows 98 service pack for the middle of the year, and then after that a more substantial 9x update aimed at the consumer market. Considering the calendar and Microsoft's historical problems in getting new revs of its operating systems to market, Windows 99 isn't an option as a name, and it appears the company is currently referring to the product internally as Windows NT Consumer. Aha, you may note. Considering that NT is going to be called Windows 2000 next, NT Consumer obviously isn't going to be the name either. As you read, focus groups are no doubt busy on this little conundrum. There are several probable reasons why Microsoft has decided to 'delay' convergence. Windows 2000 itself is a moving target, and it will be virtually impossible for MS developers to get going on a consumer OS based on the NT kernel until Win2k has shipped. It's also a big, unwieldy monster which - in order to sell to its business target market - is going to have to be secure and stable. It probably isn't where you'd want to start if you wanted to develop a consumer OS that was good at games. Essentially, Microsoft's developers will find life a lot easier if they stick with the 9x kernel rather than continuing to try to reverse stuff into NT, compromising that product as they do so. But we can spot what's happening here, can't we? That is precisely the reason Microsoft's vaunted convergence plans haven't got anywhere since the early 90s. The idea might work in theory (actually it doesn't but never mind that), but the reality is that it's impossible to do in practice. Note also that the Windows NT Consumer tag, even if it's unlikely to ship under that banner, bears a certain relationship to other Microsoft 'Windows' projects. Rather than converging Windows operating systems, Microsoft has found itself adding new ones as it goes along, and in the case of Windows CE, even splitting these into more variants. The product name in general expresses a belief that Windows is whatever we call it, and maybe Windows is just about a common look and feel (although that goes out the, er, window when we're talking appliance or in-vehicle implementations). Convergence is something Microsoft wants to do, sometime - but it'll probably never really do it. ®
John Lettice, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

UK companies face chaos as phone numbers change

Half of UK companies are unaware that new telephone numbers and codes are being introduced in less than four months time. Figures obtained by The Register from National Code & Number Change (NCNC), the organisation managing the project, show that only 53 per cent of UK businesses are aware of the sweeping changes due to come into effect on 1 June. The number of firms that have taken any action to prepare for the changeover has remained unchanged at just 10 per cent since November, and the lack of any progress could leave many exposed to problems. An NCNC representative confirmed that only around one per cent of necessary equipment changes had been carried out. He said: "Work on changes to equipment needs to be started soon and it's worrying that more hasn't been done." The changes have been instigated by Oftel to meet the growing demand for telephone numbers in the UK. An Oftel representative expressed little concern over the amount of changeover work still outstanding. "If the research shows that more than half of companies are aware of change, I don't see what else can be done if they chose to ignore it," he said. All businesses in the UK are potentially affected by the new 02 area codes planned for London, Cardiff, Portsmouth, Southampton, Coventry and Northern Ireland. Disruption could occur, if no action is taken, from 1 June 1999, when new codes and numbers will run in parallel with existing codes and numbers. In particular, changes need to be made to telecomms systems which use call barring, call routing and speed dialler services. The recent introduction of the euro and the continuing saga of the millennium bug has forced many companies to ignore the issue altogether while they deal with more pressing matters. But unless companies in the UK implement the changes it could cause widespread disruption and added cost, NCNC has warned. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft sued over alleged ActiveX patent violation

Microsoft Internet Explorer's use of plug-ins and applets to add functionality was yesterday alleged to have violated the patents of a small, privately owned software developer. The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on behalf of Eolas Technologies, claims Microsoft's products infringe a patent protecting technology that makes it possible to embed applets, such as ActiveX controls, into a Web page. The patent is assigned to the University of California -- Eolas says it has exclusive rights to its commercial exploitation. Products named in the suit include not only Internet Explorer but Windows 95 and 98 too. The suit demands unspecified damages from Microsoft and that the software giant cease all manufacture, use and sale of the offending products. Even a preliminary injunction granting a halt in the sale of these products while the trial is conducted would hit Microsoft hard, though given the company's legal experience, it could probably get around such an order. It's notably the Windows NT isn't mentioned, presumably because Microsoft has never described browsing as being integral to that particular OS. According to report from the Reuters news agency, Eolas would not comment on whether it had licensed its technology to other Internet software developers, but you have to wonder why neither Netscape nor Sun, whose browser and Java products would also appear to infringe the company's patents, are not apparently named in the suit. If they didn't license the technology, that makes Eolas' motives seem far more predatory than might otherwise be the case. The patent describes "a system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object. The program object is embedded into a hypermedia document much like data objects. The user may select the program object from the screen. Once selected the program object executes on the user's (client) computer or may execute on a remote server or additional remote computers in a distributed processing arrangement". Sounds pretty damning, no? The key to the case, from Microsoft's perspective, may be timing. The patent in question, 5,838,906, was only granted on 17 November 1998, long after IE, Navigator, Java, et al began using and supporting tiny-applications embedded in Web pages, though the initial patent application was made on 17 October 1994. Sun began work on Java in 1991, though it was only made public in 1995. Mosaic, the browser on which IE is based, was released in 1993. At the time of writing, Microsoft had yet to respond to the suit. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Anti-abortion web threats silenced by $100m damages bill

More than a dozen US anti-abortion activists who used the Internet to publicise their opinions have been ordered to pay $100 million in damages by a US court. The American Coalition of Life Activists and the Advocates for Life Ministries was found guilty of inciting violence by posting details of around 200 doctors and other health workers from abortion clinics on the Web. The case has touched a raw nerve in the US -– where freedom of speech is often seen of paramount importance -- after activists called for the "baby butchers" to be "brought to justice" on the Nuremberg Files Web site. The judge in this case said the site read like a "wanted" poster. In one instance, the name of Dr. Barnett Slepian appeared on the activists' site with a line through it to indicate his murder. His name was crossed out only hours after he was killed by a sniper's bullet last October. "The jury saw these anti-choice wanted posters for what they are -- a hit list for terrorists," said Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), which brought the action. In a separate decision, Judge Lowell Reed in Philadelphia decided that the US government's bid to prevent Web sites from making sexually explicit material available to children under 17 year's of age was unconstitutional. Judge Lowell decided that safeguarding freedom of speech was more important than protecting minors from such unsuitable material. It is not yet known whether the US government will seek to appeal against the decision. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Ecademy seeks to spread the word about e-commerce

Self-styled ecommerce guru Thomas Power has launched a Web-based service, called Ecademy, to help businesses learn more about online trading. The Ecademy site was launched on Monday and has already received interest from 300 people eager to find out how e-commerce can improve their businesses. "The aim of the Ecademy is to provide the knowledge that drives ecommerce by sharing information, developing careers and uniting people," said Glen Watkins of the Ecademy. "Ultimately, we want the Ecademy to be a professional body covering the whole of the ecommerce industry," he said. Power is holding a free live discussion on the site tomorrow night (Thursday 4 February) at 8.00pm (GMT) to answer questions on a range of ecommerce issues. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Dan pulls in ex-Gateway man to beef up sales team

John Shepheard has resurfaced at UK vendor Dan Technology to head up its sales team. Shepheard, who left rival vendor Gateway in November last year, joined Dan as sales director on 1 February. London-based Dan said Shepheard's work in the newly created position would concentrate on the company's health, education and local authority sectors. He will also help the PC assembler move into new markets in the UK and abroad. Shepheard said: "I really couldn't have picked a better time to join Dan. The challenge facing Dan today is to step up a gear, dramatically increasing sales without losing the small company ethos." He resigned as director of sales for Gateway EMEA last year after four years at the vendor. At the time, Gateway said Shepheard wanted to leave the company's HQ in Ireland to return to his family in England. Shepheard has 14 years in the industry. He was a sales executive at computer magazine publisher VNU Business Publications, and worked at fellow publishers EMAP and Ziff-Davies before joining Gateway. Dan Technology, with a 1997/8 turnover of £40 million, also has offices in Scotland and Leeds. Its networking subsidiary, Dan Network Solutions, is based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. ®
Linda Harrison, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq contemplating 128-bit Alpha

The cost of Alpha chip development after the year 2002 is likely to be over $1.5 billion, a source said today. The last iteration of Compaq's 64-bit Alpha platform is the EV8, as previously revealed here, but the cost of the 128-bit chip it is contemplating is prohibitively expensive. That is because it would involve Compaq funding a fab which could produce the .05 micron technology involved. A joint venture is possible, but Compaq would have to pull in a number of other players to succeed. Currently, the industry is concerned that Compaq might turn everything right around and become the chip monopoly in the year 2000. Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer has made no secrets about his aims and ambitions. However, he is likely to face fierce opposition to his plans from rival system vendors HP and IBM, never mind Dell. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Willamette set to be phased by copper

A senior IBM executive told The Register today that he disputed whether there would only be two 64-bit chips available in the next century. That followed an entry into the battle by Richard George, UK Alpha Server manager at Compaq, who said two days ago there would only be two chips left in the next century, IA-64 and DEC Alpha. Tikiri Wanduragola, Netfinity analyst at IBM Europe, said that he doubted George's analysis of the situation is true. IBM is firmly committed to the Intel IA-64 platform, but it is not merely a matter of chips, said Wanduragola. And Wanduragola said that the Power PC platform was far from dead, despite George's claims. Indeed, IBM has a number of future Power PC designs, all named after birds of the blackbird variety -- including Crows and Ravens -- never mind the original Corax crow. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Europe-wide Net boycott a qualified success

Organisers of the latest European Internet strike today claimed action taken olast weekend had been a success, with Net traffic in at least one country down almost 90 per cent.
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Is Merced a RISCy chip?

An article in top US magazine Information Week has posed the question whether Intel's 64-bit Merced platform is based on Risc or Cisc. And now a controversy has arisen over whether Merced is attempting to bridge the gap between its possibly doomed Willamette IA-32 architecture and other chips that will come out this year, from both Transmeta and IBM. According to Tikiri Wanduragola, a former chip and bus designer at IBM who nows helps Big Blue sell its Netfinity servers, Merced is a hybrid. He said earlier today that the Merced design is a compromise between Cisc and Risc technology. Intel insists that it still has on board most of the major PC vendors, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the US, allowed Compaq to take over Digital on the condition that the chip Goliath fab its Alpha chips. Because Intel holds all of the information about Merced very close to its chest, it is probable that PC vendors -- including HP, Compaq and Dell -- will not find out until silicon is ready. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Now Sun SPARC supports AMD

No sooner had we written that Compaq is supporting AMD's K7 while Compaq thinks other IA-64 chips will die next year, than a missive appears on our email reminding us of Sun SPARC. Given this level of support from third party vendors, we at The Register have this feeling that the FTC case against Intel could fall over before it even starts. The release says that the SunPCI card will use a 300MHz AMD card with between 64Mb and 256Mb of PC memory. So Solaris is not dead. What next? Intel offers a daughterboard? ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

N64 emulator vanishes after lawsuit threat

Nintendo N64 emulator UltraHLE (Ultra High Level Emulator) finally made its appearance last Thursday, only to be removed from the developers' Web site hours, Emulators Unlimited, after its release. The site claimed the software had been pulled because of the huge level of demand, but it's noteworthy that on the same day, Sony announced its decision to take legal action against Connectix over the latter's Mac-based PlayStation emulator, Virtual GameStation (VGS). Indeed, a Nintendo spokeswoman said this week the company was considering filing a lawsuit against UltraHLE's developers. The Sony action was prompted as much over concern about the extent to which VGS might encourage piracy, as over alleged patent and copyright infringement (see Sony to sue Connectix over PlayStation emulator and PlayStation emulator developer to fight Sony lawsuit). Connectix denies both charges, and claims to have equipped its emulator with code to help prevent illegal copies of PlayStation game CDs from running. With UltraHLE, however, there is no such excuse: the only way to use it is exclusively with pirated titles since N64 titles ship on ROM cartridge, not CDs. At least Connectix can argue it's encouraging the sale of legitimate PlayStation software. Most emulators available on the Internet allow PCs and Macs to act as long defunct consoles and home computers, such as the Sinclair Spectrum, Dragon 32, Commodore 64 and Nintendo Entertainment System. While all the games played on these emulators are still under copyright protection, few of the copyright owners have made a fuss about emulators because their titles are no longer on sale. With modern systems, the case is far less clear cut because the boundary between the emulator world and those users who are simply interested in pirating software is very hazy indeed. Nintendo sees no distinction: emulators are "illegal" since they can only operate with illegitimate software. The company has been closing down Web sites trading in data and programs downloaded from ROM cartridges for some time. Such sites can be used by gamers to transfer games to a PC and then to a CD-R -- many games magazines contain ads for devices that hook a CD player up to an N64, said one console owner who did not wish to be named. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Boy's ‘r’ Us – says Intel

We meant to write this before and thought we had but obviously we hadn't. Last Friday we went to the Olympia Trade Fair here in London and discovered the Groove Connection, where people can vary the music just by picking up their little pinkies -- or whatever. A team of 12 varied the music just by falling out with each other. And now we hear Intel is on a case with toys too. QuelleDommage... ®
Nancy Bananas, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

Cisco sees 40 per cent revenue hike in Q2

Cisco yesterday posted profits of $606 million on sales of $2.83 billion for its second quarter of fiscal 1999. That compares to profits of $457 million and revenues of $2.02 billion for the same period last year, increases of 33 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively. The Q2 99 profit quoted by Cisco excludes the write-off of purchased in-process R&D arising out of the company's acquisition of Summa Four, Clarity Wireless, Selsius Systems and Pipelinks. That write-off amounts to $349 million, bringing the final profit figure down to $257 million. Those purchases are part of Cisco's ongoing acquisition strategy to help it expands into a wide range of Internet-related business activities. Indeed, Cisco president and CEO John Chambers said last year that 1999 would see up to 15 acquisitions. Speaking at the announcement of the results, Chambers said the world was moving into the "third phase of the Internet revolution" in which "consumers will be the driving force". That suggests Cisco's future acquisitions will predominantly be businesses focussing on that arena. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 1999
The Register breaking news

MS exec recants over video ‘inconsistency’

Microsoft VP Jim Allchin has 'explained' the inconsistency in the videotape he showed on Monday, and which yesterday the DoJ claimed as a fraud. Well, apparently, anyway. In a press release dated yesterday, but posted at 9am Pacific Time today, Microsoft puts forward the answers that Allchin had a little trouble with yesterday morning. According to the release, the "inconsistency... does nothing to invalidate either the tests on which the demonstration was based or the substance of [Allchin's] testimony." The net effect of yesterday's events, of course, was a massive PR own-goal for Microsoft which largely destroyed the value of Allchin's testimony, but you can see why Redmond might not want to put it quite like that. Says the explanation: "Allchin conducted thorough tests of Felten's program [Edward Felten's IE uninstaller], using new machines under strict laboratory conditions. He discovered that Felten's program not only fails to remove IE from Windows 98, leaving virtually all of the code intact so that users can still browse the Internet, but it also degrades the performance of the operating system." This test was, says Microsoft, replicated by a technical team using different machines. "When the videotape was played in court to demonstrate problems in the Felten program, a title on one screen showed 'Internet Explorer' where it should have said 'Windows 98' whenever the Felten program was running. Allchin agreed that there was an inconsistency between the taped demonstration and the standard screen profile that should have been displayed while the Felten program was running on the computer. After telephoning members of the technical team at Microsoft during the lunch recess, however, Allchin was able to explain the discrepancy when court resumed in the afternoon." The reason was, he says, that "one small entry in the Windows registry on the machine that was used - an entry that allows users to choose or change the title for a particular screen - had apparently been deleted or left blank by another program that had been run previously on that computer, causing it to default to the title, 'Internet Explorer,' even though the Felten program was running on the machine." Got that? So Felten's program was running on it, even though it looked like it wasn't, so the demo was still valid. Now we'll cut to the transcript of yesterday's ambush of Allchin by the DoJ. Boies plays the video, and the voiceover says: "It's taking a very long time, however. Unusually long to access that Web site." Boies then asks: "This is the portion of the clip where you are saying that after the Felten program has been run, that the performance of Windows is degraded, right?" Allchin concurs, but adds: "But from what I'm seeing here right now, I believe that that was done on a pre-Felten system, although the point still stands. He has performance problems and the Windows Update doesn't work, but I believe, from what I'm seeing here, they filmed the wrong system." Boies: "And when they were filming the wrong system and they were purporting to show the degradation and how long it took, they were showing how long it took on a Windows machine without the Felten program being run, correct?" Allchin is now clearly rattled, and says he can't be 100 per cent sure, he'll have to check. Boies rams it home: "Well sir, if you look up here, it says 'Microsoft Internet Explorer,' correct, sir?" Allchin agrees. Boies: "And you've already testified that you know that that means that the Felten program has not been run, correct?" Allchin: "That's right. I believe that to be true." Allchin's beliefs, you will note, have changed somewhat dramatically between yesterday morning's court appearance and 9am today Pacific Time. But yesterday, before he could phone the techies, the torture continued. Boies: "This video that you brought in here and vouched for and told the court how much you'd checked it, is a video that purports to show right here on the screen a performance degradation, and talks about how slow that is and how it's due to the Felten program, and that's just wrong, right? It's not slow due to the Felten program. If it's slow at all, it's because that's the way Windows 98 is, right?" Allchin's response is meanderingly tragic. "In this particular case, it's... I did not think the Felten program had been run. The performance problem exists... I'm not sure that they obviously would do anything like that. So that's not what happened. I'm going to go back and understand. We'll pull all the videos." Now folks, one of the most fascinating aspects of the transcript is that Boies then launches into a long and involved series of questioning concerning changes in Windows registry entries made on the video machines. These changes, according to Allchin yesterday morning, were of no relevance to the running of the test. But yesterday morning you'll note that his conclusion was that the machine showing poor performance on the video had not had Felten's uninstall program applied. Today/yesterday (depends on whether you go for date on release or publication date) he says the explanation is that there had been minor edits in the registry. Now you might reckon, if he thinks this now, Boies line of questioning yesterday morning would have prompted the same explanation - yesterday morning. ® Related stories: Slow machine in test was running MS Office DoJ skewers MS exec over falsified video Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 03 Feb 1999