15th > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

MS, HP, Intel and Nortel to forge telecoms alliance

Northern Telecom is expected to announce today a telecoms alliance with HP, Intel and Microsoft. The collaboration is to make it possible for small and medium sized businesses to be able to combine voice and data. There is nothing especially novel about this, except for the market power of the partners to the deal. Cisco's acquisition of Selsius last year made this possible, although the new relationship raises questions about the continuing seriousness of the Cisco-Microsoft collaboration. Other competitors include Lucent and 3Com (who recently purchased NBX). The deal was put together by Nortel, who wanted to build routers, switches and servers. The plan is to use Intel's Pentium, and Windows 2000, which may mean some thawing of the currently frosty relationship between the former Wintel partners. Intel has become progressively more hostile to Microsoft's NT-centric view of networking, particularly with respect to the embedded/communications markets, where bloatware and high per seat licence fees don't play well. So if - as seems likely - the announcement will stray into this territory via embedded NT/Win2k, we should look for further liberalisation of Microsoft's licensing policies. HP will bring a lot of NT and network infrastructure experience to the party. The company is committed to NT as the future networking standard for the enterprise, and has progressively been embedding management and traffic control functionality in its own hubs and switches. This makes it a potentially valuable partner for Intel and Nortel, in particular. ®
The Register breaking news

MS reorg – Gates burnt out, so spin him off?

Later today Microsoft is expected to announce its latest reorganisation. Normally these happen every couple of years, but the last significant one followed the panic December 1995 move when Microsoft finally realised that the Internet boat was sailing out of the harbour and that it was not on board. Gates really has left the running of the company to Steve Ballmer since he was appointed president, and is now concentrating on soaking up what in Mafia circles has been called "respect" as he floats around the world making sales calls on world leaders. There is every sign that he is burnt out and is far from being the formidable hands-on executive he once was. Meanwhile, Microsoft is experiencing not unexpected difficulties in attracting and keeping high-calibre executives. It is hard to motivate zillionaires who have no need for money and are only there for the power and the sycophantic ego stroking that is associated. The cash tends to burn a hole in their pockets, so much of their energy is devoted to spending it, rather than keeping up to date with developments in the industry like we mere mortals. The Microsoft trial showed just how pitifully ill-informed many senior Microsoft execs are. Today is expected to see the announcement of four divisions: an enterprise unit (Windows), and an applications unit (Office) will be relatively unchanged. A developers unit and a consumer unit will also be formed. Jim Allchin is expected to continue heading up Windows operations, which may accelerate Microsoft's downfall, since Windows under his stewardship has produced some truly flaky products. Robert Muglia will probably keep control of an applications unit. Paul Maritz, regarded as number three at Microsoft, is tipped for fewer responsibilities in a new developers' division. This appears to be a demotion on the face of it, but it could well be that he is tired of working so hard and fancies a lighter load (at least that's what his chums are saying). The consumer division, aka interactive media (aka IMG, which The Register's dodgy old hippies recall as the International Marxist Group - Ed), is said to be underperforming, but it could be that it has peaked and that nobody much wants its products, and that msn.com is just another portal. Microsoft has been trawling for a new consumer leader (employing the aptly named Heidrick and Struggles to act as headhunters). Executives from Disney, Excite and Yahoo are said to have said "no thanks". The current view is that Jon deVaan (in charge of Office) and Brad Chase (launcher of Windows 95 and IE) will share the responsibility - but being labeled as unsuitable for the top job will not please Chase. The job became available when Pete Higgins said last year that he was taking a leave of absence, although this is now also being described as a resignation. Brad Silverberg was almost certainly offered the job, but he had already tasted freedom and evidently likes it. He had wanted Allchin's job, and departed on his walkabout (ride about, actually, on a bicycle in Canada). Ballmer apparently decided against spinning off msn.com. Microsoft claimed last week that it had quadrupled its revenue in the last year, which shows just how small it must be. Microsoft has been very careful to keep the actual amount of haemorrhage secret. Microsoft will increasingly find it difficult to keep its senior executives sufficiently motivated, but perhaps it does not care much, providing they do not join rivals and teach them Microsoft's tricks. It is most unlikely that the reorganisation bears any relationship to the Microsoft trial. Although the breaking of Microsoft's into Babysofts is a favourite remedy of the less-informed, it would be unlikely to be successful as a means of dealing with Microsoft's behaviour. So far as Ballmer is concerned, he was never anything but a salesman and cheerleader, and there is every sign that he likes the power of his new job, so will stay around. It would be a smart move for Microsoft itself to do some real restructuring, and perhaps push out Gates to some charitable pasture. This is the kind of move that could convince the DoJ that Microsoft was willing to reform -- at least a little. ®
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu, NEC fuel Japan Linux take-off

Linux seems poised for a breakthrough in Japan, according to reports over the weekend. According to the newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Fujitsu and NEC are poised to roll out Linux products for the networking market, while IBM Japan plans Linux notebooks and servers. NEC will be unveiling Linux servers aimed at ISPs next month, and will be implementing what sounds like a Linux 'ready to run' programme for its corporate servers. Corporate customers will be given data on the Linux compatibility of NEC servers. Fujitsu's plans are possibly more interesting, as the company intends to start selling network management systems that allow Linux and Windows NT machines to be managed more easily on the same network. It will be possible to manage Linux machines from NT consoles and vice versa, so it should become easier for Japanese businesses to introduce Linux on existing networks. ®
The Register breaking news

Unique serial number exists in all 25 micron Intel chips

Update Two An architect who currently works for Intel US has now confirmed what we were beginning to suspect all along -- every .25 micron Intel chip has the processor serial number (PSN). The chip designer, who revealed the news under strict conditions of anyonymity, said: "Any .25 micron core including the PII, all Celerons and all current Xeons have had serialisation ever since .25 micron technology started." The exception is the .25 Tillamook P5 MMX, he said. Since we posted our original story on Saturday, however, more information has come to light. Intel's own document, The Pentium II Xeon Processor Server Platform System Management Guide which is order no. #243835-001 confirms the existence of the PSN in the Xeon. See the processor's PIROM, table one. It's called Processor Electronic Signature. Table One is on page 20. Also see 4.4.1.5 on page 19. This morning (Monday) we placed a call to Intel and it promised it would get back to us. We now have that statement. A representative said: "A prototype of the circuitry has been present in some PII and Celeron parts, purely for validation and testing purposes. "It wasn't on all, by any means. It was disabled during the manufacturing process." He would not say which proportion of the PII core had the serial number, nor would he say whether the feature is disabled in BIOS. But he did confirm that the "erratum" we wrote about last week was essentially a batch of Dixon core chips which escaped this process. This means that Intel is and was shipping products with the serialisation number switched off. The only exception is the Tillamook P5 .25 micron parts, the Intel chip architect, who originally tipped us off, said. But why didn't Intel tell us and the whole world what it was doing then, and why? It seems that maybe it just thought it would lump in the PSN announcement to co-incide with the introduction of Katmai-PIII. So when we first broke the story about the Mobile PII with Dixon core, the only "erratum" was that Intel forgot to turn it off. Intriguing. How US bodies pushing for a boycott of Intel parts will react to all of this is even more interesting. ® Related Stories Dixon Intel PIIs have serial numbers -- it's a bug Intel stealth shipping Coppermine on Dixon parts? Unique ID customer numbers on mobile PIIs no accident Pentium II Xeons have serial numbers too Gelsinger "brains" behind shipping chips with PSN switched on Opinion: Intel the Chipzilla just naive
The Register breaking news

Poorest households to get IT access

The government will provide poorer families with recycled PCs as part of a £400 million package announced last week. David Blunkett, secretary of state for education and employment, revealed low income families would be eligible for the computers from as little as £5 per month. The plan to provide access to IT training for every community in Britain will include a network of computer centres and low price laptops for teachers. In a separate statement, Blunkett said the divide between "haves and have nots" had to be overcome when it came to IT. The department of education was unable to divulge to The Register what was classed as "poor", commenting it was "too early to give that kind of detail." But it did say the investment was part of the cash injection into IT promised last week in the Budget. Much of the investment will go to inner cities. Mr Blunkett said: "It will match the modernisation now taking place in the United States. It will raise standards in schools, develop lifelong learning and improve employability." ®
The Register breaking news

UK government urged to tackle mobile charges

The mobile phone industry has come under attack by campaigners eager to make it part of the government’s fight against "rip-off Britain." Pressure groups have urged trade secretary Stephen Byers to crack down on cellular phone companies for charging more than their counterparts overseas. The move came after it was revealed that some off-peak charges had been hiked by as much as 1,500 per cent. Peter Richardson, Dataquest principal analyst, was not in favour of legislating against the problem, saying market forces would take care of the situation. He added: "It would not be good to see a regulator intervening. There is a already a lot of competition in this area, which is on the increase. Mobile phone companies are keen to get the level of penetration in the UK they have in countries like Finland." ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq to announce 4-way PIII Xeons at CeBIT

PC company Compaq is expected to announce Thursday details of their four way Xeon servers. It will make the announcement as it outlines the eight-way systems, based on so-called Intel Saber technology, set to arrive in April. The Register will have a team of reporters at CeBIT, held in Hannover, Germany, and will file stories from the show. Other vendors, including IBM, are expected to announce their Pentium III Xeons soon afterwards. Last month, Big Blue said there was likely to be only a seven per cent performance boost over the Pentium II Xeon platform. ®
The Register breaking news

Hyundai spins off ChipPAC to US consortium for $550 million

The Korean press reported today that Hyundai has sold its US subsidiary ChipPAC to Bain Capital and Citicorp for a reported half a billion dollars. Hyundai will continue to hold a 10 per cent stake in the firm, which assembles chips and manufactures test equipment, according to the Korea Herald. The move is part of Hyundai's plan to divest itself of non-essential businesses as it raises the necessary cash for the merger of its own semiconductor business with LG Semicon. ®
The Register breaking news

Deutsche Telekom is running a peep-show, says AOL

AOL Europe has claimed a prize scalp after successfully arguing that Deutsche Telekom was guilty of offering unfair pricing plans for Net access. A court in Hamburg threw out DT's pricing scheme for its T-Online Internet service after AOL Europe complained it was uncompetitive. Up until now users have been unaware how much of the bundled six pfennig-per-minute price of Net connection was split between the cost for the dial-up connection and service subscription. The court also barred DT from advertising the unlawful bundled price. "If Ron Sommer [DT's CEO] truly wants to make Germany the leading Internet power in Europe, Deutsche Telekom needs to stop billing by the minute for the Internet, like a peep show," said Andreas Schmidt, president and CEO of AOL Europe. "After all, television isn't billed that way," he said. Heralding its victory as a triumph for German Net users, AOL now wants to repeat its success in other European countries. AOL believes the court's decision supports its call for flat-rate access for all Internet users. Maggie Gallant, a spokeswoman for AOL Europe confirmed that the company is currently taking steps to lobby government and regulators in the UK to try and force the introduction of unmetered telephone charges. ® See earlier stories: AOL Europe demands flat-rate fee for Net connections AOL slams Deutche Telekom Net access foul play
The Register breaking news

ilion sells off huge slice of German operation

Networking distributor ilion sold off a sizeable chunk of its German subsidiary. Bonn-based Garmhausen has taken 40 per cent of ilion Deutschland, which has been bought for "a nominal amount" according to a company statement. This is a turnaround for the distributor, which last September stated its intention to withdraw from Switzerland, Germany and Austria. ilion has since shut its Swiss business, although it decided to continue with the Austrian and German subsidiaries. The German business was reviewed, resulting in staff being cut from 45 to 20 and cost and stock levels halved. It is now seen as a workable subsidiary in its streamlined form. In today’s statement the company said: "ilion has always believed that Germany is a strategically important geographic area. The downsized business is now commercially viable and the board expects it to grow profitably in the new partnership with Garmhausen." Ilion also has offices in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. Garmhausen will provide technical support for ilion kit in a joint venture called ilion Garmhausen. ®
The Register breaking news

Clockwork computer power planned for next year

The Freeplay Power Group of South Africa is the latest in a series of outfits working on clockwork computers. And tantalisingly, its current prototype is running on an Apple eMate. Recent rumour has had it that Apple, in its quest for a killer design for its return to the low-cost educational market eMate was aimed at, has been considering wind-up technology. On the plus side, this could produce acceptable endurance. On the minus, if a clockwork computer turned out to look ludicrous rather than like a killer product, Apple could come in for another strafing of the sort it collected from Doonesbury, when the Newton wasn't quite right first time. Freeplay is currently working with General Electric on a clockwork generator (with a solar panel in addition), although no deal seems to have been inked. The target price of the wind-up power source is $50. Freeplay plans to license the manufacturing of its gizmo, and joint chairman Rory Stear expects to have it ready for market next year. So far ancient Apple hardware is the favoured by inventors - Brit Trevor Bayliss OBE has been there, done that. He's best known for his windup radio, but he also developed and demonstrated in 1997 an Apple eMate 300 that could have its battery life of 24-28 hours extended by four to five hours by winding up a charger. He did a demo at the Commonwealth conference in Botswana, where 30 seconds of hand cranking gave about 15 minutes of computer use. Bayliss worked with the BaygenPower Group to develop the wind-up. There is still the slight problem of connecting to the Internet from remote locations without electricity, but one day, she'll be right and satellite phones may even be on a chip (Er, Graham - wouldn't the satellites need to be beaming death rays for this to work? - Ed). ®
The Register breaking news

Intel meets re-marking pall on road to Damascus

Intel's re-marking utility it announced today is likely a diversionary tactic, according to sources close to the company. They referred us to the problem with Pentium IIs having ID numbers as an example of PR retro-engineering. They also took the time out to point that the infamous FDIV problem was only one of nearly 40 problems with the Pentium (585) processor. Intel has a poor record on re-marking. And we reported a program German paper c't wrote nearly eleven months ago, pre-empting Intel, big time. (That story was Program released to counter re-marking) See for example, this story: Intel shrugs shoulders over re-marking Even more surprising was our earlier story: Intel a whited sepulchre on overclocking, which revealed the depths to which Chipzilla had sunk, despite its high moral principles. Still, Intel can't do everything, despite or perhaps because of its Chipzilla size dimensions. The chip Goliath has been deluged with calls and emails since early Saturday after we revealed ID numbers exist on Pentium IIs, as well as Pentium IIIs. Now, despite the fact that Intel has not been interested in re-marking of chips over the last year, as highlighted by c't magazine, Intel has suddenly started taking an interest. Intel's sudden SWAT response to c't is here. The race is now on. Will little Chipzilla beat our Intel architecture engineer to post a PII interrogation? After all, this is the year of the rabbit, also known as the bunney-honey... What interests end users, resellers and distributors much more is the utility which will tell its worldwide users how the Pentium II IDs work. Which we will post RSN, we promise...unless Intel engineers are far slower than the hare... ®
The Register breaking news

Class action lawsuit hits CHS

CHS Electronics is facing a class action lawsuit from shareholders, charging the US distributor with submitting false financial statements and earnings. The company is being sued on behalf of every person who bought CHS common stock between February 27 1997 and March 10 1999. The complaint was filed in US District Court, Southern District of Florida, by Steven Cauley, of Little Rock, Arkansas. This is not a trivial matter - the allegations say CHS submitted financial statements based on forged documents and false customer orders, and inaccurately described the amount of its vendor rebates. It also claims that certain assets, primarily accounts receivable, were kept off the balance sheet and that assets and earnings were materially overstated. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the company’s shares performed worse than publicly represented, Cauley’s suit alleges. On February 24, CHS admitted it had found discrepancies in expected vendor rebates that may have impacted earnings. At the time it said that preliminary fourth-quarter earnings did not meet analyst expectations. ®
The Register breaking news

Telecomms disruption looms for UK businesses

UK companies have 50 working days left to update their telecomms equipment before new code and number changes are introduced causing yet more inconvenience. Businesses that don’t make the changes in time for the 1 June deadline could face disruption to their communications if they don't take remedial action soon, the organisation behind the scheme has warned. National Code & Number Change (NCNC) hopes a new PR push being launched tomorrow will help improve the situation. But by its own admission, the NCNC's strategy of getting telecomms maintainers to alert business to this latest telecomms menopause has failed. According to the NCNC's research while three quarters of telecomms maintainers recognise that it is important, more than half have yet to start updating their customers’ equipment. "Our research shows that 95 per cent of businesses haven’t started planning for the changes, even though we have been running The Big Number campaign since July last year, " said Howard Sandom, campaign manager for the NCNC. "With 50 working days until the introduction of parallel running, businesses face disruption to their communications if they don’t make the necessary changes," he said. The telephone code and number changes are being introduced by the telecomms regulator, OFTEL, to prevent the UK running out of telephone numbers. ®
The Register breaking news

Compaq hit by class action

Compaq is being sued by two separate sets of shareholders, claiming the vendor hid a PC sales slowdown earlier this year. The separate suits are both on behalf of investors that bought Compaq stock between January 27 and February 25, according to online news service TechWeb. The suits claim the Houston-based company violated US securities laws by misrepresenting or failing to disclose a slowdown in both demand for and sales of kit earlier this quarter. Thus investors were duped into buying stock at artificially inflated prices, the lawsuits claim. ®
The Register breaking news

Vanderbilts generator meets Lennox the Linux in mad draw

Practically all of the UK press was concerned today about how Vanderbilt ("The Generator") was beaten by Lennox "Linnux" today. The truth is, who cares. It's a barbaric sparring match compared to which Bill "The Tolerator" Gates should have been "decked" by Linus "The Operator" Torvalds. Should not both have been concerned about the delay of Scott "Merced" McNeally UltraSparc III, the referee? ®
The Register breaking news

Chipzilla becomes Gorgonzilla

It has been pointed out to The Register that Terry Shannon, then at Shannon knows DEC, first used the word Chipzilla in a reference to Intel nearly a year back. We therefore wish to acknowledge his contribution, and also to say that from thenceforth, when we refer to Chipzilla, we really mean Gorgonzilla. Obviously it's a kind of cheese, obviously it stinks, and obviously, too, it's misspelt. Plus maybe Intel is a Gorgon. Someone pass us a plate please... ®
Mikezilla, 15 1999