26th > March > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

How to crash Bill's parties

No invite for today's exclusive book-signing by His Billness? (See Gates exclusive signing ceremony.) Well, don't despair, you can quite possibly just walk in. We did a bit of contract work for MS a few years back, and this involved listening to a Bill Gates speech (it was highly-paid contract work, obviously). The great man wasn't known to be in the UK at the time as far as the press was concerned, but in reality was to be telling Microsoft's Blue Chip customers all about Digital Nervous Systems at the QE2 Conference Centre in Westminster. This centre is -- allegedly -- one of the most secure venues for such things available in London. Detectors, big blokes at the door, the works. We'd no ticket, but MS UK had told us be there or be dead, so we went. We were early, so none of our minders had arrived yet. We said to the big bloke at the door that we were probably on the guest list, so he ushered us through the detector and pointed us to to check-in desk. The check-in desk didn't have us on the list, but said that was cool. "Do you have a business card?" Course we did -- one that said 'The Register, Situation Publishing' too. So in five minutes we were upstairs with the high command of NatWest et al, and in 30 minutes we were within pie-ing distance of Bill. Prior to that we'd been caught up with by our ashen-faced minder. "How the hell did you get in here? I've got your ticket in my pocket! For god's sake, don't tell Text 100 -- this is supposed to be a 'no press' event!" But if you want to try this, gentle reader, remember we didn't tell you how... ®
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Obituary: Pentium MMX nearly dead. Celeron barely alive

A year ago Posted 30 March 1998 The same sources that report that we will all stand at the graveside of the last Pentium MMX this August also expect we will cheer the arrival of the Celeron. This, of course, in a similar way to the refrain: "The king is dead, long live the king." But evidence is mounting that Intel will find it hard to persuade the masses that opting for an entry-level Celeron, sans cache, will produce the same results as the previous processor. And one competitor, at least, is claiming that Intel is perpetrating a trick on punters which will rebound on its financial figures. Rana Mainee, market planning manager for AMD Europe, cannot be expected to be impartial. But, he said today: "The Celeron stinks the same way as the 486SX and the 487SX stank." Mainee said: "Intel’s had a pretty low profile on socket seven but that market is still buoyant. I’m very surprised that Intel says that the Pentium II now represents over half of their shipments. He said: "Dataquest has Slot One share at 10 per cent for the last quarter. I expected the Pentium II number to rise, but I’d be very surprised if it has risen that high in the last quarter. "The big crunch Intel has this year is that people won’t pay extra for the extra horsepower. Maybe the whole hardware industry has become complacent. This is the first time you have a so-called latest technology processor which is actually slower than a previous processor." He claimed system builders and assemblers, which supply a large percentage of PCs here and abroad, are still happy to buy the old socket seven processors when they can get them. And his views are echoed by Sukh Rayat, managing director of UK distributor Flashpoint. He said: "Now Intel’s actually taken a step backwards because it’s suffering. The entry-level market is the fastest growing sector of the market." Rayat said that Intel’s business model precludes it from concentrating on the Celeron-like sector because it needs high margins to fund the high fab investments it makes. Said Mainee: "I think AMD, Cyrix and IDT can take well over half of this [retail] market. The Pentium II was way off the mark last year and is a bit closer to the market this year." But, he added, Intel would have been more honest to its customers if it had stuck with socket seven, rather than promoting a product which would underperform. He said that was a disservice to end users, most of whom viewed a PC as their third biggest purchase. And he wondered how Intel would position the Celeron after it had spent large advertising bucks on promoting the PII technology. ®
The Register breaking news

WinChip2 300 pix make it to WWW

Jonathan Hou, over at Fullon3D, has kindly sent us some pictures of the IDT/Centaur WinChip2/300. He says he has some samples and will shortly post a review and some benchmarks, so check his site out. In the meantime, here's a pic of the package. ®
The Register breaking news

JC analyses K7 in depth

Over at JC's hardware pages there's a heap of speculation about how the MD K7 will work. That follows pictures of the K7 posted on a Japanese site yesterday (see AMD K7 ripped asunder on Japanese site). There's enough information to conclude that the processor is designed in such a way that two CPUs can easily be connected together in an SMP configuration giving a fast throughput rate. And Marco Remondino, chief editor and webmaster of Italian hardware site, Hardware Zone, said: "I just wanted to let you know what's the use of the upper connectors on the K7 CPU: it's used to connect two CPUs so to allow point-to-point data transmission in a dual CPU configuration, from one CPU to the other. That's faster than on P6 systems, where the data is transferred through a slower bus." Pretty soon now, we hear, K7s will start tipping up at third parties so expect more information to leak. ®
The Register breaking news

MS-DoJ deal talks scheduled for Tuesday

MS on Trial Only one attorney general broke ranks yesterday after the meeting to discuss a possible out of court settlement with Microsoft. Patricia Madrid of New Mexico said: "We'll have talks on Tuesday," and that they would include all parties (ie. the states as well as the DoJ). She also noted that Microsoft gave $2500 to her opponent during the November election campaign -- unwise as it turned out, since Madrid won, and the opponent was subsequently fined $17,500 for failing to report this and other gifts. Of course the election of law officers does raise other concerns. Lead attorney for the states, Tom Miller of Iowa, was keeping mum, and even refused to confirm that the meeting was about Microsoft. This would have been easier if he had not been standing in front of a sign that said "Microsoft meeting". The AGs then all trotted off to the White House. Both sides are playing the "negotiations need to be confidential" card, but there is little expectation that there will be a settlement. Wall Street doesn't seem to agree, since Microsoft shares gained five per cent to $180. It seems that the gnomes thrive on nonsense, and pay little attention to little local wars, because they cannot find Kosovo on a map. Reuters downgraded its earlier story that Gates said Microsoft had made a "settlement offer" to there being "ongoing discussions". Microsoft's "settlement proposal", as Dow Jones was calling it, apparently runs to four pages and concedes exclusionary or near-exclusionary behaviour in contracts with ISPs, ICPs and software developers. Gates said in a CBC TV interview promoting his book that "we'd love to settle this thing if there's any reasonable settlement [sic -- this is nonsensical]. Our lawyers are in constant contact with the government lawyers". Judge Jackson will hold a status hearing on 31 March to review when the trial will recommence. It could be in May if his present case runs on, but will not be before mid-April. ® Complete Register trial coverage
The Register breaking news

Intel goes hell for leather to hire Merced staff

A Register reader who calls himself the Sixth Vulture has painstakingly compiled job adverts Intel has placed since the beginning of the month. And the list is long, suggesting either Intel is short of staff or is ramping up its Merced project. On 1 March, Intel advertised a total of 20 Merced vacancies, including jobs for software engineers, system hardware design engineers, product engineers, logic engineers, architecture validation enginners and project managers. One job, for a Merced circuit designer engineer, is particularly intriguing. "In this position you will work on VLSI CMOS circuit design for the Merced CPU and latest Merced CPU and future IA-64 bit architecture microprocessor." What, we wonder, is the "latest" Merced CPU and what is the earlier one? Total engineer job ads for Intel since early March run into the hundreds, the Sixth Vulture has demonstrated. ®
The Register breaking news

UMC to build 12-inch wafer fab

A report in Taiwanese newspaper the Commercial Times said that United Microelectronics Corp (UMC) will build a 12-inch fab in the Tainan science park. UMC had originally intended to build an eight-inch wafer fab but increased demand has caused it to bring forward its plans. The company now has five fabs and last year bought Nippon Steel Semi. Meanwhile, Intel plans to make a decision very shortly about its own 12-inch wafer plans. ®
The Register breaking news

MS planning shedloads of Windows NT variants

Weird noises from this week's Gartner Symposium in San Diego say Microsoft, despite apparently postponing development of one version of NT, is planning something in excess of ten different new versions. But from the reports it seems clear that the scheme is going to fall awkwardly between the techie plan, which is converging on one code base and then tailoring in different directions, and the marketing one, which is give us all your money. Marketing will as always triumph in the definition of MS strategic direction. Hence the planning as reported by Gartner presumes the leap of faith that says Microsoft is going to get a version of Windows 2000 that it can build on out of the door by 2000. The tally of NT (or Win2k if you like) versions that will then start to appear runs approximately as follows: We already have three, in the shape of Workstation, Server and Enterprise Edition. You might say that calling these three NT-based operating systems rather than just the one operating system is stretching packaging a little now, but there's plenty more where that came from. In addition to these there will be new embedded and data centre versions, and then smart card and CE versions (look, read the rest of the article before you flame us -- we're just reporting, OK?). These different versions will be multiplied further by the move to 64-bit. This will happen at the top end first, data centre and enterprise by 2001 (sure...) but everything else will follow. More versionitis comes in the shape of projected splits in the number of processors that different versions will support, so four way, eight way and beyond implementations of Win2k will be presented as being more powerful, and therefore will cost lots more dollars. The consumer release of NT, incidentally, is now targeted for 2002. This explains the recent retrieval of Windows 98 from the corporate morgue -- jump leads are being applied to the cold corpse of Good Old 9x even as you read. We can presume that Gartner's roadmap come from the horse's ass, er, mouth -- Redmond itself, and that they were presented as a series of technological innovations that marked the move away from a 'one size fits all' strategy. But the truth is clearly the reverse. If the market needs lots of different operating systems for lots of different platforms, then obviously there's no point in them all being NT, is there? And if you look at it properly, they inevitably won't all be NT. The core workstation and server versions will be, certainly, and the various 32/64-bit and scalability permutations will be NT as well. But clear away all the smoke from that bit of the roadmap and what you get is Microsoft with two variants of the OS which move first to Win2k and then to -bit (not necessarily as smoothly as the marketing folk would like, of course). You still get two variants, and the enterprise and data centre stuff just means pay Microsoft more money to get access to the functionality that's in there in the first place. And before you write, yes we do know we're probably being overly generous in counting the current product line as two, given that the only thing stopping you running Web servers on Workstation is the licence. The "embedded" version is currently another one that owes more to packaging than technology. Right now Microsoft has a few customers who're operating point of sale equipment running NT, but this is not embedded software as others would understand it -- what you get is an NT PC, some of whose bits you can't get at. The smart card and CE versions are weirder, and therefore further down the line. Win2k obviously doesn't fit on a smart card, and presumably anything MS builds that fits on a smart card and is called NT is going to be a different operating system, ie. another branding exercise. And NT for CE is even more bizarre -- an operating system for an operating system? No, this is a muddled indication that the convergence plan is still twitching -- a "version" of NT will be built to take over from the current line of CE operating systems, and Microsoft will no doubt confuse itself further by remembering projected games/consumer/set-top box variants of CE and then bifurcating NT some more. Basically, friends, it's all a complete crock. Even if Microsoft does manage to get a stable Win2k it can build on out of the door, the 'building' process will largely degenerate into a combination of packaging-differentiated products and entirely different operating systems held together, sort of, by being called NT (or whatever it's called by then). But then, it's a bit like that already, isn't it? ®
The Register breaking news

London is the capital of digital Europe – official

It's official. London is the wired capital of Europe. More than a quarter of the 250 international companies that have invested in London are in the hi-tech industry, creating 15,000 in the capital, according to the inward investment agency London First Centre. "London offers one of the most technologically-advanced infrastructures in the world and is Europe's Digital Capital," said London First Centre's CEO, Stephen O'Brien. "Two thirds of London businesses have an Internet site (shouldn't that be Web site? Ed) proportionately far more than in the US, Canada, Germany or Japan," he said. US Internet Service Provider Globix Corporation -- which reported revenues of $5.93 million for its fourth quarter last year -- is the latest company to set up in central London investing £5 million and creating 100 new jobs in a new venture. Marc Bell, president and CEO of Globix, said: "London was chosen as the launchpad for expansion into Europe, not only because it is a world-wide business hub…but also because it has a business-friendly environment and a competitive telecommunications infrastructure." ®
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UK consortium plunges $7 million into Korean anti-Microsoft firm

English-language newspaper the Korea Herald said today that a consortium of five unnamed UK institutional investors have put $7 million into Hangul and Computer. Last year, Hangul, which turns over nearly 30 billion won, became an overnight celebrity after it was persuaded to carry on developing its own, rather than Microsoft software. (See Koreans raise the anti-Microsoft flag.) The latest reports say that the $7 million will be used to grow the Korean Internet market. ®
The Register breaking news

Class action blizzard snows AMD

Last week we saw several class action cases placed against AMD and its CEO Jerry Sanders III. And this week, the blizzard is continuing. The latest actions have been placed by lawyers Marc S Henzel, John Thompson (on behalf of herself?) and another plaintiff called Schwarz. The actions centre around AMD allegedly not disclosing a serious design flaw in the K6 chip line which forced a re-tooling of the manufacturing line. It claims the defendants made "false and misleading statements and omissions" which caused AMD's share price to be artifically inflated. ®
The Register breaking news

Sony, EMI team up on Net music development

Two of the world's 'big five' music labels, Japan's Sony Music Entertainment and Britain's EMI, have agreed to co-operate on the development of their respective Internet sites. According to a report in today's Financial Times, the two companies are exploring ways of bringing technologies and systems both have in development to each others' sites. Those technologies primarily focus of the sale and distribution of music across the Internet. Sony recently unveiled MagicGate, its system for downloading music via the Net to both hi-fi units and to PCs, so it clearly has some key technology to bring to the deal (see Sony enters digital music contest with MP3-beater). EMI has been keeping rather more tight-lipped on its exploration of the Internet as a distribution medium beyond supporting IBM's US-based Project Madison public trials. Given how far behind the Brits tend to be on technology adoption, it's possible EMI won't be contributing anything of that nature and has simply agreeing to back Sony's system and perhaps other technologies and formats too. EMI is the only major label (in the UK at least) to follow Sony's example and release albums on MiniDisc. ® See also Sony to offer music downloads by satellite Music industry sues MP3 search engine developer
The Register breaking news

Mystery litigation hits IBM, Apple

The Hashimoto Corporation and Phonetel Communications is suing IBM, Apple and a string of other companies for alleged patent infringement. The action was filed on 18 March but details remain sketchy about the patents allegedly infringed. The plaintiffs are suing Apple, Bellsouth Products, IBM, Naft Inc, STL Electronics and US Electronics. Phontel creates and licenses intellectual property. Its mission statement is: "To license our current technology and to develop new patented solutions for the future. We are committed to help people better communicate around the world and to further the vision that Dr. Kazuo Hashimoto began over 40 years ago." ®
The Register breaking news

NatSemi to integrate LCDs, solar panels

Interesting patents National Semiconductor has registered a patent which will allow LCDs on notebooks and PDAs to be integrated with a solar panel. The patent, No. 5886688, says: "The present apparatus is for use in for example, a personal digital assistant (PDA) laptop computer, person computer, watch or the like, and in one embodiment includes a transparent or semitransparent liquid crystal display disposed over a solar cell array, and in another embodiment includes a transparent or semitransparent solar cell array disposed over a liquid crystal display. In another embodiment, alternate display units and solar cell array units are positioned on a substrate." And while we're talking about solar panels, would anyone care to tell us why we didn't see one single solar panel while we were out there in February, and before that October? ®
The Register breaking news

Memory Corp buys out Datrontech memory business

Memory Corp has mopped up Datrontech’s minority stake in their joint venture company DTEC Memory Corp. The Scottish memory designer is paying £1.75 million in cash for Datrontech’s 49 per cent stake in the DRAM distributor. It will also repay loans made by Datrontech to DTEC amounting to £0.72 million, on December 31, 2001. The company is funding the deal through a $4 million share placing, which is expected to get shareholder approval on Monday, 29 March. The ties between the two companies are not entirely cut. Datrontech will pay £500,000 for the rights to licence Direct Rambus DR-RIMM technology from Memory Corp. Memory Corp is one of two European companies with rights to sub-licence Direct Rambus technology. Mark Doughty, MemCorp finance director, said the company had a lead on Direct RAMBUS rivals, but declined to name a date beyond ... "it should before the end of the year"... for the launch of MemCorp branded product Memory Corp is paying Datrontech for support services, relating presumably to DTEC’s continued tenure in Datrontech’s Basingstoke heaquarters. In the year ended 31 December 1998, DMC made an unaudited profit before tax of £0.18 million on turnover of £47.2m. As at 31 December 1998, the net tangible assets of DMC were £0.32m. DTEC Memory Corp comprises three former Datrontech businesses; Memory Plus, a bespoke assembler based in Wiltshire; DMC, in Basingstoke, a high volume memory trader; and Datrontech Hong Kong, a memory buying operation. Doughty said the DTEC distribution business "bulks us up… it gives us critical mass with our customers, especially with European OEMs". Memory Corp swapped stock exchanges last year, moving from AIM, the UK junior market, to Brussels- based Easdaq. Memcorp's Easdaq share trading volumes are three times higher than on AIM. MemCorp's opening Easdaq share price was $11.20 and now stands at $15.75 (equivalent to 28p and 42p for the company’s AIM-listed shares). It now has six market makers and four analysts tracking the stock, against one analyst checking out the company when it was on AIM, according to Doughty. ®
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Online auctioneer plans $1 billion IPO

Online auction house eBay wants to raise $1 billion from a new share issue, although exactly what the company plans to do with the cash is still sketchy. All the company was prepared to say was that it would use the proceeds from the sale for "general corporate purposes." A total of 6,500,000 shares will be made available as part of the public offering and early indications suggest that investors have more than a healthy appetite for this latest high-profile Net company. This is in spite of the constant stream of warnings suggesting that the Net stock bubble is about to burst and the disastrous series of events that has tortured the Lycos/USA Networks deal. What's more, eBay has had its fair share of troubles although this hasn't stopped it from announcing a major marketing agreement with AOL in deal that will net the giant service provider $75 million over four years. ® See related stories Con man given the boot by eBay e-Bay in e-trouble after copied MS software is sold on its site
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IE download numbers scam – how it worked

Microsoft's admission that it told huge fibs about the number of copies of Internet Explorer four users downloaded in 1997 should have been a lot more embarrassing - because actually the two releases covering downloads of 4 and 5, one from 3 October 97 and one from 24 March 1999, seem to have come from the same boilerplate. This week Microsoft trumpeted that downloads of IE 5, launched on 18 March, had passed a million, tripling the previous record set by IE 4. Five days separate the launch and the press release, which means there must have been around 333,000 downloads of 4 in the first five days. But back on 3 October 1997 Microsoft claimed more than a million downloads of IE 4 in the first two days. This interesting discrepancy is explained by Microsoft as being accounted for by the company having counted each and every download of the Active Setup executable as a full download of IE 4. As those of you who've been rash enough to try to download Microsoft software will know, this vicious little piece of code installs on your machine in a twinkling, then you sit back for hours as it proceeds to pull megabyte after megabyte of application (sorry, operating system enhancement) off the MS Web site. You get bored and pull the plugs, or the connection breaks. Some people even manage to get all of the software sometimes, eventually. Rather than turning beetroot, MS spokespeople have been saying they just decided to be more rigorous and only count complete downloads, one of them telling Reuters: "Either way you measure it, IE5 is more than triple the downloads." That's actually rather revealing, because if we do a rough calculation based on 330,000 complete downloads of 4 over five days, front-load it a bit for the launch so therefore call it 150,000 over the first two days, then we get a download failure rate of something in the region of 85 per cent. If that's still the case at 5, then over 6.5 million people have failed to download IE 5. But seriously, things must have improved in the interim. But not round at MS Spin Central, where they can write the same release twice without noticing the discrepancies. Let's take a look at the texts (we've italicised the plagiarism for your convenience): "Customer response to Internet Explorer 4.0 has been overwhelming," said Brad Chase, vice president in the applications and Internet client group at Microsoft. "We're blown away by the user demand and thrilled about the critical acclaim and recommendations Internet Explorer 4.0 has received from the industry's leading publications." - 3 October 1997. "Customer response to Internet Explorer 5 has been simply amazing," said Yusuf Mehdi, director of Windows marketing at Microsoft. "We're thrilled with the number of downloads by customers over the first few days, and are gratified by the broad acclaim and recommendation from the industry's leading technical experts." - 24 March 1999. Microsoft Web Site has Record Day with Launch of Internet Explorer 4.0 - 3 October 1997. Microsoft Web Site Experiences Record Traffic With Launch of Internet Explorer 5 - 24 March 1999. The incredible demand for Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 brought a record number of visitors to Microsoft's Web site this week. - 3 October 1997. The incredible demand for Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 brought a record number of visitors to the Microsoft Web site over the last five days. - 24 March 1999. But enough of that. We hesitate to quote numbers, considering that they sometimes turn out to be nonsense, but Microsoft also inadvertently offers some interesting comparative data about its site traffic. The IE 5 release says traffic at microsoft.com has been 140 per cent up on normal levels since the launch, while in days of 4 it was up 150 per cent. On 30 September 1997, IE 4 Day Zero, the site had 1.5 million visitors requesting 31 million pages of content, so that would give you standard daily traffic of 600,000 at that time. IE 5 Day Zero, 18 March 1999, saw 4 million users request 44 million pages, so as that's 140 per cent up we can reckon standard daily traffic now being in the region of 1.7 million. Microsoft's apparent admission that its visitors average 11 pages each is interesting too, as in the February Netratings report Microsoft site visitors were already ninth least committed in the top ten list of Web properties, averaging 15 pages each. Freefall, folks? ®
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Intel licks stamps.com with money

Intel has put an undisclosed amount of money into US service STAMPS.COM and has also taken a share in Broadlogic. Over the last two years, Intel has invested in hundreds of technology companies. The aim, of course, is to sell more microprocessors. Broadlogic makes adaptors and software for broadband applications including cable, satellite and wireless. ® Related story Intel's Vadasz explains investment plans
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Lotus Notes/Domino R5 to ship at last

After more than a year of delays and setbacks, Lotus has said it will have Notes/Domino 5 ready to roll next week. The most recent in the long line of delays took place in January at Lotusphere ’99. The much-awaited release (R5) had been expected to take place at the gathering of the great and the good of the Lotus world, but it was not to be. Back then, Lotus chief executive, Jeff Papows said a delay of two or three weeks was needed for "quality assurance" purposes and that it would surface in February. Needless to say, R5 failed to put in an appearance in February either. According to a Lotus talking head, the company was searching for "a solution for addressing and rectifying all documented bugs." A concept that would almost certainly be lost on another well known software giant from the US, famed for releasing bug-laded product and then working on the necessary patches. According to reports on US news wire service Techweb, the Notes client has been separated from the Domino server, making it available as a stand-alone product. Domino Application Server will be priced at $1,795, the TechWeb story said. The Domino Mail Server is priced at $695, Domino Server at $4,995, Domino Designer at $495. R5 will run on most platforms, including Windows 95/98 and NT Workstation, and Macintosh PowerPC. Downloads are expected to be available from the Lotus site on either Tuesday or Wednesday, with CDs being pressed later in the week. There has been almost as much anticipation as there has delay over R5's release, although it is April Fools’ Day next Thursday, so perhaps the software industry would do well not to hold its breath this time either. ®
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FreeServe passes confidential customer info to PC World

Staff working on the Dixons FreeServe technical support line have been passing on confidential customer information to their associate company PC World, in breach of the ISP's own strict policy on data protection. Customers of the UK's most popular ISP, who have been advised that they have hardware problems after phoning FreeServe's 50p-a minute technical support line, have been contacted by PC World staff offering a fix, even though this flies in the face of section 5.1 of FreeServe's terms and conditions. Section 5.1 reads: "We will comply with the relevant English Data Protection laws, so normally any personal details to be provided to us will not be disclosed to third parties without your consent." A representative of FreeServe admitted that there had been such a breach and that the company had started an investigation. "It is not FreeServe policy [to pass on confidential customer information to third parties]," she said. "FreeServe and PC World do have a number of shared staff [manning the technical support line] and this may be at the root of the problem," she said in defence of the allegations. "We are currently investigating this." Mark Danby, head of FreeServe, was unavailable for comment. News that FreeServe was using confidential information to try and generate sales for PC World emerged yesterday when the Daily Telegraph published a letter by a G.Pendleton who complained of a problem using FreeServe email. "I contacted FreeServe and it stated that I had a corrupt hard disk drive and needed a new one; it even got PC World to phone and offer me a new one." The story was corroborated by a Register reader, Neil Weiss, this morning who said he received a phone call from PC World less than a week after chatting to someone on the FreeServe helpdesk and telling them he was just about to buy some computer peripherals. "Dixons is just using FreeServe as a database for PC World," said Weiss, who was angry that the ISP had passed on his personal details without his consent. "They're using it as a vehicle to sell Dixons products," he said. A representative of the Data Protection Registrar declined to comment on the issue because, to the best of her knowledge, no official complaint had been made. ®
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Demon libel loss could cripple Internet free speech

Demon Internet has lost the latest round in its court case against libelled scientist Laurence Godfrey. But it says it will appeal against the decision, which confirms that an ISP can be held liable for any content posted on the Internet. The ruling could cripple "freedom of expression and electronic trading", Demon says. In today’s pre-trial ruling by in the High Court, Mr. Justice Morland ruled in favour of the plaintiff, who sued Demon for its failure in 1995 to remove forged messages on soc.culture.thai. purporting to be from him. In court, Demon had argued that it should not be held responsible for information posted to and made available from newsgroups that are held on its servers. Worldwide, approximately one million individual articles are posted in 35,000-plus active news groups each day, the ISP estimates. Pointing out out that the libellous poster was an unknown individual from America, who was not a Demon Internet customer, the ISP says the decision may open up the Internet industry to millions of similar "unjustified complaints". Complainants could force ISPs to police and censor any item of information on their servers, Demon says. "The way is open for scurrilous and unsubstantiated claims that would undoubtedly curb the freedom of speech by Internet users." David Furniss, director of Scottish Telecom’s Internet Services (which owns Demon Internet) said: "If comparable complaints had been made to Mr Godfrey in a public forum such as a restaurant he would not be suing the owner of the restaurant for defamation. The only difference in this instance is the lack of clarity in the law and lack of understanding of the parameters of the Internet." In March this year, a UK court awarded Godfrey £15,000 in libel damages from Canadian student Michael Dolenga the real author of the Thai Usenet messages, who posted the piece while he was studying at Cornell University. "I'm not recognizing the British court's jurisdiction and the hell with it", Dolenga said at the time, according to Need to Know, the impeccable source on all things Web and cultural. @reg;
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Troubled ilion sees last year’s profit turn into losses

ilion today turned in dismal pre-tax losses of over £3 million for 1998, blaming redundancy, management changes, and reorganisation costs. Last year, the troubled networking distributor posted a £6.1 million pre-tax profit but despite an increase in turnover for the year ending 31 December 1998, ilion saw this turn into a loss of £3.24 million. Turnover for the period stood at £240.6 million, up 18 per cent on last year’s £203.1 million. In the UK, ilion saw a pre-tax loss of £1.4 million, against 1997’s £5.6 million profit. Turnover fell to £108.4 million from £115.5 million. Redundancy costs in the UK, reorganisation costs in Germany and the closing of its Swiss operation were cited as reasons for the disappointing figures. ilion blamed difficult UK trading conditions for the two profit warnings issued in 1998. This morning it said the UK business was: "Now on the road towards profitability with a new management team." The distributor has seen a steady trickle of staff leave the company recently. Last December, Wayne Channon, ilion chairman and chief executive, jumped ship. See earlier story. This month has seen the departure of two key sales staff. Richard Holway, analyst at Richard Holway Ltd and publisher of the Holway Report , described the results as: "A very sad state of affairs." Holway said distributors needed to get big, or go niche and develop services. "As far as I can see, ilion is neither," he added. "I think things have the potential to get better. ilion was faced with problems and took the necessary tough action. But it needs to change its business model, and as yet it has outlined no such plans," said Holway. Michael Sayers, ilion chairman, commented: "The Group now has a strong and united senior management team. The difficulties experienced during 1998, primarily in the UK, are being addressed effectively and the board looks forward to the rest of the current year with confidence." ®
The Register breaking news

IBM chooses Manchester United as reference site

Forty eight hours after Loot Gerstner, the executive chairman of IBM worldwide revealed the extent of its PC losses, Big Blue has struck again. According to a release this morning, Manchester United, a football team from somewhere in England, is using Netfinity servers to brand its merchandise. There are some problems with this. English soccer is gladiatoral by nature, and if Manchester United (called by London teams "scum") is using IBM kit, that means other teams will call for a statement by Big Blue. Aston Villa, a Birmingham team, was sponsored by AST, because of the confluence of letters. Tottenham Hotspur, a London team, was sponsored by Hewlett Packard, but that sponsorship deal seems to have fallen apart. Compaq used to sponsor Queens Park Rangers, but that deal has gone too. Wimbledon was sponsored by Elonex at one time. Given the above, can it really be true that IBM, afraid of WWW.SOMETHING.COM is sponsoring the red shirts? ®
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Merced project in utter disarray

In some ways we're glad we wrote our words earlier on today showing the number of jobs available to outsiders. And in some ways we are not happy. Now a senior Intel Merced engineer, who refuses to be named under any circumstances, but who is thoroughly reliable, has given us the inside track on what's happening in the corporation. The engineer said that one of the biggest problems with Merced is where the architects are based. Around 70 per cent are based in Santa Clara, CA. He said: "It should not be based there, and I'll tell you why." According to the engineer on the team, Intel corporate culture is "seething with brutal peer competition and totally driven by greed". He gives us instances of this in action. He claims: "I can remember one instance while I worked at a different site where the middle managers actually sponsored a stock portfolio contest and actually spent resources (electronic, paper, administrative) to conduct the contest." He said that the most talented people quickly realised that they did not need to hang around and "be flogged like beef cattle". But his most damning criticism is this. Intel hires "babes from the woods" (new college grads) to replace departed (experienced) employees and somehow thinks that a design team made mostly of talented (if inexperienced) designers is going to get one of the most complex chip designs produced thus far out the door on schedule. Merced development is based in Santa Clara for simple reasons, he said. "That's where the managerial power is, in addition to all of the oafs who worked on Pentium who are so concerned with staying on high profile projects to justify (and grow) their stock options." People based in other IA-64 development locations, don't have the political influence to make changes, however bright they or their projects are, he added. And worse. Because of delays, engineers are now taking much of the testing and validation information out of the processor just to get it out of the door. Merced has thus failed to tape out and McKinley is Intel's great hope for IA-64, even though it will be developed by and managed by Hewlett Packard. Responding to the above story, an Intel representative said: "Merced remains a major focus for us and we're committed to the platform. The project remains on track." ®
The Register breaking news

Web site fails to pull channel business online

zygonet.com, the on-line market for PC equipment, has received a lukewarm response from the channel despite claims that huge numbers of dealers and distributors are using the service. The company claims that over half of the UK’s distributors have joined the free Web site since its January launch, with dealers placing potential orders for around £10 million of kit through the service. The site will be free until 30 April and will then cost distributors £995 and dealers £695 annually. Few of those contacted by The Register said they would continue to use the site when they had to pay and said they would want to see how the service develops over time. Peter Rigby, CHS Electronics marketing and communications director, was sceptical about bidding for business on the site. "Distributors are pitching blind. It gets rid of the ability to price customers individually, and we could find ourselves undercutting one of our big resellers. We don’t feel the need to use zygonet.com." Paresh Pau, director at London-based distributor Technoworld, described the whole process as "quite tedious." He added: "I would need a bit more convincing to make it worth the fee." In the face of such criticism, Andrew Jenkins, zygonet.com sales director, remained upbeat. "The trial phase went really well. People were getting between five and 55 quotes per item posted. Savings of between five and 30 per cent were not uncommon," he said. Jenkins was unsure why some distributors were not using the site. However, he admitted that distributor quotes could take days to come through, adding that the Web site was more ideally suited to dealers selling to consumers. ®