7th > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Banana trade war threatens software sector

The banana trade war could spread to the UK software industry, a leading UK politician warns. John Redwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, said: "The last thing we want now is a trade war with America, which could spiral out of control, and damage more of our businesses." Speaking at the opening of new offices in Wokingham for high-tech networking company, DCA Ltd, Redwood said: "Pullovers are already at risk. Please don't threaten our software industry. I urge the Government to use whatever influence it has in both Brussels and Washington to get the threat lifted." A keeper of the Thatcherite flame, this Conservative politician is known as the Vulcan, on account of his remarkably pointy ears. Redwood can be characterised with a not terribly broad brush as anti-European (Union) and very pro-American. The man has never been noted for his compassion for the less fortunate sectors of society, but he is famously clever. However his fear for the future of the UK's puny software industry looks way off beam. There is no way this dispute is escalating into the hi-tech sector. Take a look at most places in Europe where computer companies cluster -- along the Thames Valley, in Scotland's Silicon Glen, Munich, Paris, Dublin and Amsterdam/Rotterdam -- and you will see the tenants with the biggest HQs, warehouses and assembly plants are American-domiciled. The US is the dominant force in computer technology. Its industry giants are ardent proponents of globalisation and have become Europe's de facto computer industry giants. The World Trade Organisation, convenes for an emergency meeting tomorrow (March 8), to consider the latest spiral in the fruity battle between America and the European Union.(See also Hands off our bananas]. The EU, which requested the meeting, slammed the US for taking 'irresponsible unilateral action' in imposing punitive 100 per cent tariffs on a range of European goods. British exports will be worst affected, by the US action, which is designed to force Europe to remove minimum quotas on banana imports from the Caribbean. US banana companies say this freezes them out of the European market. If the EU escalates the banana trade war, it will seek to impose sanctions where only America jobs get hurt. Few American jobs depend on growing bananas. This is why, the AFL-CIO, America's union grouping, wants its own government to back down. When Redwood talks of pullovers he is referring to Scotland's cashmere-knit industry. Based in the Scottish Borders, a region that has done little harm to anyone since it gave up cattle raiding a few centuries back, the cashmere industry is bemused and scared by the US government's decision to include it on the banana retaliation lists. More than 2,000 jobs are at risk. The banana trade war is a tribute to the lobbying influence of the US banana barons. Never forget that Chiquita - formerly United Fruit - persuaded the CIA in the 1950s to overthrow a democratically elected government in Guatemala. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Hands off our bananas

This story was filed originally in 1997 Following US complaints, The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has headed off a sneaky attempt by the European Union to reclassify networking hardware components as telecoms goods. This would have seen tariffs on non-EU imports on LAN hardware rise from 3 per cent to 7.5 per cent. However, the WTO has rejected the US’s attempt to stop the EU from reclassifying multimedia PCs as consumer electronics equipment. This would see tariff duties rise from 3.5 per cent to 14 per cent. The EU’s reasoning is bizarre. Equally bizarre, it has no intention of actually collecting the duties - as there is no indigenous European CD-ROM drive industry to protect. This case has more to do with the EU standing up to the playground bully, than with commercial logic. Successful action from the US and Latin American countries in getting the WTO to declare EU banana quotas illegal is far more controversial. The EU currently guarantees a percentage of the EU banana market to Caribbean growers. Most EU countries - especially France and the UK, which used to run colonies in the region - are in favour of the status quo. (Germany, which has the world’s highest per capita consumption of bananas is a notable exception). Claire Short, The British Government’s magnificent Minister for Overseas Aid, urges European consumers to boycott Latin American bananas. A letter from Mr Michael A. Samuels, of Washington DC, to The Financial Times , said such action would violate the WTO and undermine the integrity of that important body. As regrettable acts such as these would perpetrate massive unfairness and hostility towards hundreds of thousands of farmers and workers in Latin America, who like their Caribbean neighbours depend on EU banana sales to earn a living. "The unfortunate irony is that, as numerous economists have made clear, proposals of this kind are nothing more than a thinly effort to ensure that certain EU middlemen continue to be enriched." Let’s get this straight. EU middlemen are teddy bears compared with American banana middlemen. Take United Fruit, the effective owner of Guatemala for 50 years. In 1954, the company financed a CIA-engineered coup, when it feared it would lose control of its very own banana republic. The US is protecting companies such as United Fruit when it lobbies the WTO to change EU banana policy. Latin peasants can rot in the fields. The US likes the WTO. According to the estimable Joe Rogaly, a senior columnist on The Financial Times, "of the 101 cases filed in the first 2.5 years of the panel’s existence, 35 originated in the US - the principle base of global businesses, the world’s largest exporter, and the home of intergalactice companies, like Boeing, Intel, Microsoft ". "Funny about Intel being on that list. Not many years ago, Japanese manufacturers of semiconductors were regarded as a threat, likely to dominated world market, the US set numerical targets for exports of American chips to Japan. Today, the WTO is designed to free the world from such constraints." The US preaches free trade but it is all too willing to cite anti-dumping rules to protect its companies. US memory manufacturer Micron is a prime beneficiary of this readiness to levy fines and tariffs in the name of "fairness". It is also equally willing to ignore WTO policy - when it suits. US Cuban sanctions are clearly illegal, under international law. But Jesse Helms, the odious senator for North Carolina, and head of the US Senate’s foreign policy committee, is clearly far more important than principles of international law. With fellow sponsor, senator Dan Burton, Helms sponsored a bill that bars from entry in to they US any foreigner who uses property confiscated by Cuba that is claimed by a US national. It also allows companies doing business in Cuba to be sued in US courts. The European Union has expressed irritation with this US attempt to extend sovereignty beyond its shores. But so far it has funked outright confrontation. EU complaints to the WTO on Helms-Burton have faded into insignificance. Which brings us back to LAN tariffs. The US should have its way on networking hardware import duties. The tariff threat over multimedia hardware should also be lifted. But keep your hands off our bananas. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

1394 Trade Association replies to Intel Firewire snub

Reader's Comment I have just read Intel Snubs IEEE 1394 for USB 2.0 by Tony Smith. On balance, I found it to be an accurate portrayal. I would like to add some more facts for your consideration. 1394 is the undisputed winner in the Consumer A/V realm. It is being promoted by the Federal Communications Commission for inclusion in DTVs. It has been shipping in digital camcorders since the summer of 1995 and is currently in camcorders from Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and JVC. Approximately seven million have been sold to date, with a run rate of one million units per quarter. 1394 DTVs are scheduled to hit the market in time for Christmas 99. But new A/V products will not be the only new 1394 products attracting attention on store shelves around Christmas this year. Printers and scanners are also scheduled to hit the market in time for the rush. 1394 mass storage devices for PCs are scheduled to appear in mid-99 (even sooner for iMacs), with first year sales estimated at just under a million and 2000 sales estimated at a minimum of three million. This does not include the numbers for the AV HDD which was announced by Quantum and Sony late last year. With PCs already shipping from NEC, Compaq, Sony, and Apple, and four more coming from the top 10 PC makers this year, 1394 is picking up significant support in the PC world. Sales in 1999 for 1394 PCs is estimated at 8 million units. In the USA, we sometimes lose sight of what is happening in the rest of the world. 1394 is very popular in Japan where they love their 1394 DV camcorders and are looking for something to connect to it. There are 10-14 times the 1394 products on store shelves in Japan as in America... and they are all moving this way. In only nine months, Sony 1394 notebook computers have captured the number 10 spot worldwide for notebooks and the number seven spot in Japan. With Apple finding enormous success in the Japanese market (with market share as high as 28.8 per cent, depending on when you take the snapshot), 1394 (FireWire) peripheral sales could easily double current estimates -- see here for peripherals announced at MacWorld Expo. Texas Instruments is the only 1394 silicon vendor making their sales and estimates public. TI enabled over 2 million 1394 products with silicon in 1998 and easily expects to top 10 million in 1999 (and it is only one 1394 silicon vendor). The 1394 Trade Association expects 30 million 1394 products to ship in 1999, with growth expected to rise exponentially starting in 2000. And finally a word about USB 2.0. USB 2.0 is only good for traditional peripheral devices in a PC-centric environment. For any peripheral maker who wants to take advantage of the convergence revolution, 1394 is the only good choice. Printers can be connected directly to digital cameras through the DPP standard using 1394 and hard drives can be customized for digital video as Quantum, Sony, and Western Digital have done. If the peripheral maker wants to increase his target market to individuals who may or may not own a PC, then the peer-to-peer capabilities of 1394 make it the only peripheral interface which makes sense. 1394 has created the convergence of the PC, PC peripherals, consumer electronics, silicon graphics workstations, and the Apple Macintosh G3 and iMac. All of these systems now share 1394 as their, high-speed interface. There is no other way to connect to the gigabytes of data coming into the homes over cable, satellite and DVD. There are too many advantages of 1394 for anyone to automatically choose USB 2.0 unless their only goal is to develop a traditional, commodity peripheral that will be forever tethered to the PC. ® The Register welcomes letters for publication. We reserve the right to edit for clarity and conciseness.
James Snider, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

IA-64 Architecture Innovations

This is a presentation jointly given by John Crawford, Architect & Intel Fellow at Intel, and Jerry Huck, leading architect at Hewlett Packard at the Intel Developer Forum. Because it is a long presentation, each of the files IA64-1.JPG to IA64-18.JPG contains three slides each. You can see photographs of the Merced package here, while our full coverage of the Intel Developer Forum is is here. These are the titles of each slide: 1. IA-64 Architecture Innovations 2. Agenda 3. Traditional architectures: limited parallelism File One 4. IA-64: explicit parallelism 5. IA-64: principles 6. Predication File Two 7. Predication review 8. Introducing parallel compares 9. Eight Queens example File Three 10. Eight Queens example 11. Eight Queens example 12. Five predicate compare types File Four 13. Predication benefits 14. Speculation review 15. Hoisting uses File Five 16. Introducing the NaT -- "not a thing" 17. Propagation 18. Exception deferral: more than skin deep File Six 19. Control speculation summary 20. Store barrier 21. Introducing data speculation File Seven 22. Data speculation: uses can be hoisted 23. Advanced load address table: ALAT 24. Architectural support for data speculation File Eight 25. Speculation benefits 26. Agenda 27. Branch instruction File Ninee 28. Branch predicates 29. Compare and branch in same cycle 30. Multi-way branch File Ten 31. Software pipelining 32. Basic loop example 33. Loop support: unrolling File Eleven 34. Software register re-naming 35. Software register re-naming 36. Software register re-naming File Twelve 37. Software register re-naming 38. Software register re-naming 39. Introducing rotating registers File Thirteen 40. Introducing rotating registers 41. Introducing rotating registers 42. Introducing rotating registers File Fourteen 43. Introducing rotating registers 44. Loop support: rotating registers 45. Introducing rotating predicate registers File Fifteen 46. Introducing rotating predicate registers 47. Introducing rotating predicate registers 48. Introducing rotating predicate registers File Sixteen 49. Introducing rotating predicate registers 50. Introducing rotating predicate registers. File Seventeen More on rotating predicate registers File Eighteen ®
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft outlines Win64 futures

As reported here last week, Microsoft is to send out 100,000 copies of W2K Beta Three on 21 April. (Story: Microsoft to ship beta three on 21 April). But even before it has started shipping that beta, the Great Satan of Software has started talking about Win64. At the Intel Developer Forum, Oscar Newkerk, who runs the developer relations group at Microsoft, outlined the company's plans for Win64. He told delegates that Win64 is not NT 5 style VLM, and has uniform address space, with all pointers 64 bits, and all APIs that accept pointers will accept 64-bit pointers. The intention, he said, was to provide ISVs with a uniform 4Tb user, 4Tb kernel, flat address space and to deliver Win64 on all 64-bit capable processors that support Windows NT. Err...those are the Alpha and Intel platforms, aren't they? He claimed that porting from Win32 to Win64 "should be simple", and Microsoft has the goal to support both with a single source code base. There will be no new programming models. Win64, he said, is a combination of NT and Windows, adding new explicitly sized types, integral types that match the precision of a pointer. Almost all (our italics) Win32 data types remain 32 bit pointers, while LPARAM, WPARAM, LRESULT, HMODULE are 64-bits. When you migrate your 32-bit code, you have to identify polymorphism in your internal interfaces, pay attention to compiler warnings and you must not blindly cast warnings away. He suggested programmers use Microsoft's "Address Space Sandbox". Win64 supports the Large Address Aware image file characteristic. If a flag is CLEAR set, a process has no access to addresses greater than 2Gb. All addresses, he said, can be safely truncated into a 32-bit quantity. If the flag is SET, the entire 64-bit address space is available to the process. In summary, he said, Microsoft's "Sandbox" allows developers to ignore pointer truncation warnings. A port to Win64 becomes a recompile and minor API adaptations, and you are limited to 2Gb of address space. If developers don't need more than 2Gb of address space, they can use the "Sandbox" for a fast and easy port. IA-64 HAL features include PNP drivers only, assume no ISA slots, have no bus lock support, one TLB domain and ACPI only. Win64, he concluded, does not explicitly support loading an IA-32 DLL into the address space of a native Win64 process, and conversely does not support loading a native Win64 DLL into the address space of an IA-32 process. ® Intel Developer Forum coverage
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

MS ID number system could track all Windows users

Earlier this year the built-in serial numbers in Intel's Pentium III caused a privacy storm. But now a software company has revealed that Microsoft has been running a rather more effective identification system since the launch of Windows 98. So Redmond knows a lot more about you than you might have thought. The point about the Intel system is that it could be used to track personal data relating to PC users, but the Microsoft system is apparently doing so already, and has the potential to operate as a digital fingerprint that tracks where you go, and the documents you produce, anywhere on the Internet. Robert Smith, president of development tools company Phar Lap, last week pointed out that the Windows 98 registration wizard, which is used to register for support and updates, does cute things in addition to just sending Microsoft the Windows 98 registration number. This number, known as a Globally Unique Identifier, is sent to Microsoft along with name, address, phone number, plus demographic details and information on the hardware and software being used. Note that with the progressive tightening-up of Microsoft's registration procedures it is becoming more and more difficult to get support from the company, or to get software updates, without registering, so Microsoft is going to acquire more and more of this data. In the Windows 98 install procedure, users are not told that all this data is being sent, but Smith says that the data Microsoft is gathering is being used to build a database of Windows users globally. From what Smith says, it would also seem that Microsoft has been doing a pretty through job of 'integrating' the number into a user's entire installation. Aside from being linked to the user's name, it also appears in files the user has created, so Microsoft's database could be used to track both users and the documents they produce across the Internet. Microsoft denies that it ever intended to use the data it's gathered for marketing, but as the Windows 98 registration wizard clearly says that the data will be used by Microsoft and its affiliated companies, and the usual check box asking if you mind being sent information is there, this is obvious nonsense. Users do have the ability to decline to send inventory information during registration, but they clearly can't do much about identification numbers embedded in the data files they produce. Microsoft may change the registration wizard in the next Windows 98 service pack (which may be a while yet), but may also (probably depending on the level of the privacy firestorm) produce a utility that will delete the information from the local machine's registry. The company also apparently intends to delete information already collected from its database, but it's not clear what this information consists of. Probably it will be data on users and their machine configurations which have been acquired as part of the online support and update processes. Microsoft's own privacy policy provides some information on what this data consists of: "When you buy and install a new product, we ask you to register your purchase," it says. "We then merge your registration information with any information you've already left with us (we call that information your personal profile). If you haven't previously registered with us, we create a personal profile for you from your registration information." This information is available at the Personal Information Center" on the Microsoft site. But here's the bit that makes you wonder why everybody got worried about Intel without noticing Microsoft: "In creating a new profile or updating an existing one, we obtain your hardware identification number from the registry on your computer's hard drive. If you have already registered, we also obtain the personal identification number you were assigned … We then send a small bit of code back to your hard drive. This code is uniquely yours and only includes your registration information. It is your passport to seamless travel across microsoft.com, allowing you to download free software, order free newsletters and visit premium sites without having to fill out another registration form. Even if you switch computers, you won't have to re-register." There - so it's all supposed to make it easy for you, right? Microsoft may however find itself having to clean up its act sooner rather than later. The US and the EU remain locked in negotiation over how to tackle EU privacy regulations which restrict the export of personal data. If a solution is arrived at, US companies holding data on EU citizens will have to adhere to some sort of mutually agreed code of conduct. One might observe that a company that gives the impression of neither knowing what data it has nor why it acquired it will have a bit of difficulty passing the tests. ®
John Lettice, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel UK compares PIII serial number to car licence plate

100 years ago The oldest UK newspaper, The Observer, published only on Sundays, today quoted an unnamed Intel UK spokesperson as saying: "You have to put licence plates on your car if you want to drive, this development is the electronic extension of that." He or she was driven to say so because a reporter from The Observer was asking about the significance of the "unique" serial number contained in Pentium IIIs (Katmais). But given the occasion, Intel's remarks are likely to offend many people. PCs, after all, do not drive down the roads of Britain, although both Microsoft and Intel would like to see their systems careering like a veritable Jehu. Cars, many people believe, are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, plus bad and smelly effects on the atmosphere. One hundred years ago (in fact, on February 25th, 1899), a one Major James Richer was being driven down Grove Hill, on Harrow-on-the-Hill, by Edwin Sewell at 25mph. The Daimler was designed to drive only at 14mph, but Sewell, who was a salesman for Daimler, was overclocking the motor to the limit in the hope of good sales. Major Richer was a representative for the well-known Army & Navy Stores. Both men died when the wooden wheels on the wagon collapsed. The Daimler representative and the Major had just had cups of tea at the Kings Head, at the top of the hill. The pub still stands today, and there is a plaque to mark the first car fatality in the UK. On the anniversary, in Harrow, Friends of the Earth held a mock funeral procession to commemorate the first road deaths in Britain. Now Microsoft is being accused of using a similar software system to Intel. See our story: MS ID number systems could track all Windows users. At The Register, we're not sure we want to see cars powered by Wintel...® RegIstroid II Kings ix, 20 "...the driving is like the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously."
Mike Magee, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Iridium losing some molecules

A reader points out to us that Iridium, the element, has the atomic number 77, but, so far, has only launched 66 satellites. Where, we are bound to ask, are the missing 11 satellites? So far, Iridium is only Dysprosium, a rare-earth element found only in traces. We're tempted to compare the satellite system Iridium with something also only found in traces... ®
Pat Rishian, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Materials go missing twixt desert and Harrow

Our materials from Palm Spring's IDF arrived back with the all-important foils about security missing. Section Five is titled Enabling the trusted, connected PC but these foils aren't there in our big thick folder....Now luckily, someone showed these to us before we left the desert. They outline Intel's further plans for security in 1999. The Department of Parapsychology at Edinburgh University knows what they are, as well as Ma Shipton...we'll leave it for a bit and see if Intel trusts us, eh? ®
Para Guy, 07 Mar 1999
The Register breaking news

Dixons cleared of overcharging

Dixons does not charge too much for its PCs. And it's sort of official. The Office of Fair Trading will clear Dixons, following an informal three month investigation, the Sunday Times revealed today. An OFT search into Dixons "failed to turn up any evidence of anti-competitive practices and officials believe the enquiry is likely to be quietly shelved", the newspaper said. This is likely to disappoint lobby group the Consumers Association, which last November called for an OFT investigation into Dixons. The OFT enquiry was set in train by a letter from then Trade Secretary Peter Mandelson. At the start of the investigation, Dixons called on the Government to introduce tax breaks for PC purchases. Dixons accounts for around 15 per cent of UK PC sales -- but up to half of sales in the consumer sector. Computer prices in the UK are up to 15 per cent higher than in Germany, Europe's cheapest market for PCs. But that does not make it Dixons' fault, as The Register has argued. At Comdex fall last year, Intel No. 2 Craig Barrett launched a broadside against Dixons, accusing the retailer of making "ridiculous" margins on PCs. A few weeks later, The chip giant apologised by letter to the indignant and -- litigious -- Dixons. Dixons says margins on its PC sales are less than ten per cent -- compare and contrast Intel's 60 per cent or so gross margins. The retailer is also threatening to sue Fujitsu, after the PC vendor slammed its pricing practices. ®
Drew Cullen, 07 Mar 1999