20th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

MS goes for broke with $60 Win2k offer

At Comdex Spring yesterday Bill Gates pushed the button on the Windows 2000 launch, and simultaneously the company rolled out a $59.95 offer giving users beta 3 for $59.95, plus access to updates during the beta, and the full gold code when it ships. The offer is available here, and looks suspiciously like the mechanism Microsoft intends to use to get those 500,000 Win2k beta testers Jim Allchin was promising just last week. Except that according to Bill, Microsoft already has 500,000 corporate users signed up, and the latest programme, which is in plain view on the Microsoft site, is being operated differently from the two we already know about. Microsoft already has OEMs signed up to ship beta code plus upgrade coupons to users who want Win2k. Yesterday Gates said there were 20 companies ready to do this, and Dell and HP were among the companies announcing their participation in the programme. At the same time we have something that was being referred to last week as the Corporate Partnership Program, which we read as being aimed at key corporate customers. As originally planned this programme was intended to give very close aid and support to a small elite of key corporate customers. Conceivably, if a reasonable number of the corporate customers covered were doing widespread testing, this might account for the 500,000 seats that Gates says are already signed up to the beta. More likely, Bill has just identified the major customers and counted all of the seats they own, which doesn't mean 500,000 beta testers, but assuming participation in an early release programme means they'll be upgraded to gold code early, it does mean 500,000 users won for Win2k shortly after shipping. But when we first heard about this programme last year it was called the Corporate Preview Program, not the Corporate Partnership Program (or alternatively, the Cost Recovery Program). The one announced on the Web yesterday is different, but is also called the Corporate Preview Program - are they the same, or different? The new CPP doesn't look particularly corporate, and there's no sign that it will be limited to 500,000. We think this is the one intended to win the great unwashed to the Win2k cause, and that Microsoft is aiming to get as many on board as possible now, then issue cackling press releases later. The honest punters will get the beta code, Win2k Professional and Server, and for an extra $19.95 they get code for Advanced Server. They also get an evaluation and deployment kit, preview guide, and Beta Update subscription. The offer will also be available internationally, which suggests strongly that this is the big one. But MS also stresses that you should allow six to eight weeks for delivery after the release of beta 3. That means two things. First of all, the people this offer is aimed at aren't the core customers - they're being brought on board to build critical mass for Win2k. Second, it means Microsoft is expecting high volumes, and has therefore factored in CD pressing times and, probably, the need to build some more fixes into the product before it can be risked in distribution this widespread. As a sign-off, we'd just like to observe how sinful this all is. Microsoft doesn't have gold code, and won't be likely to have it before October, which is the optimistic date. But it's got its 20 top OEMs agreeing to ship the beta, it's recruiting its key corporate customers to install the beta, and it's offering the world in general a massively attractive discount deal in order to get them to run the beta. MS is sacrificing a lot of upfront revenue in order to get an OS deployed first, and will then fix it later. This is a sin. ®
John Lettice, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates Comdex keynote skates over holes in Win2k beta

Bill Gates had very little to say in his scripted remarks to the ever-faithful Comdex audience yesterday. Most of the time was taken up with video clips and demonstrations. Because of the regular failure of these demos, a clip of last year's W98 failure was shown, in a PR attempt to suggest that Microsoft was so confident that it had overcome the problem, it could afford to laugh at itself. Humour helps to overcome feature failure, but proper performance is better, especially in the real world. Gates personally only enthuses about Microsoft's nerdware - the games and home entertainment stuff. It was noticeable that all the serious attempts at showing Windows 2000's supposed capabilities were left to the Redmond amateur dramatic society, whose players had been coached, rehearsed and polished until they gleamed. Indeed Gates himself only sells at head-of-state level nowadays, where levels of ignorance and awe create a non-challenging environment. Gates spoke of the new records that the PC is achieving every year, but he did not make a point of mentioning that the Windows proportion of PC cost continues to rise as Microsoft exploits its monopoly. Gates moved nearer to legitimising technologies that have been around, working solidly and improving for many years. He referred to "advanced" speech recognition, to which Microsoft has contributed essentially nothing, and handwriting recognition, saying that these would be coming to Windows "over the next three years". He spoke in the future tense about mobile data capabilities that had been possible and available for years, showing just how little he knows about the real market: "You'll be able to take your phone, dial-in, get your messages, get your schedule, get any information you want, stock prices, weather reports, travel plans ..." And this is the guy that corporations trust with their most critical data processing, when it is clear that he has no vision, and is stuck in an unreal world developing applications that do not reflect what is really needed in business. Gates' presentation necessarily reflect what will actually be in Windows 2000. Brian Valentine, the new Windows boss is best known for his pompous remark to Business Week in February: "I have a nice perspective on what it means to be in charge of the most important project in the history of mankind". He is right however, because Microsoft circles, "mankind" is synonymous with "Microsoft": and the company now realises that this next iteration may well fail disastrously. The NT kernel was badly designed initially, and is some ten years behind the state of the art. Furthermore, the idea that one code base that can suit all users is absurd, and there is insufficient componentisation to make it possible to switch out games-playing optimisation code that is not needed by business. Such design errors reflect the immaturity of Microsoft's staff, who know so little about the actual business world that they assume that businesses want to have play capabilities. The reverse is also true: games players don't exactly need Microsoft's efforts at clustering. Valentine's instructions from Ballmer were to get the product out of the door, whether it was ready or not. As a hunter with a bow and arrow, Valentine is used to picking off his quarry, and so it is with his product. Features will not appear as announced. The two likely to be partially castrated are IntelliMirror and Active Directory, according to reports leaking from the Seattle homeland. In the case of IntelliMirror, it is now expected that only part of a user's data will be stored on the server. Active Directory is unlikely to have adequate systems administration tools, so network administration will remain a nightmare, to the delight of Novell no doubt. In addition, linkages between the operating system and various device types will probably not be completed. The biggest problem however will be the bugginess of the code that is released. Reports range between there being 30 million and 50 million lines of code, and it is not yet known what the final size will be since Microsoft has yet to decide finally on what to cut out (and that's what beta 3 is about, supposedly - seeing how bad some of the rough areas are). Microsoft does not have sufficient staff to correct the existing bugs, which from past experience run at around one bug per thousand lines of code, so there are probably 40,000 active bugs at present. Fixes introduce new bugs and expose existing ones that were masked by bugs that have been fixed, so that after each cycle of fixing, a serious level of new testing is required. The result is likely to be that W2K should not be released for at least another year, even with some reduction in the features. In his speech to Comdex, Gates referred to IntelliMirror in very general terms: it "lets you get your information whenever you want it". So far as Active Directory was concerned, Gates said only that it "lets you do this rich management of the network, very important, the distributed services fabric, things like transaction capability built into the operating system, so that people writing high-end applications automatically get support for clustering." If only it were true. His words were chosen carefully to avoid direct promises that the features would be included. The whole presentation was as usual just a sales pitch for Microsoft products: this so-called leader has no vision at all. The main omissions were interesting: there was not a single word or joke about the trial, and Linux received not a mention this year - it wasn't necessary because the whole audience knew Linus Torvalds was on half an hour after Gates finished. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

UK anti-spam minnow takes on US big fish

UK Internet company BiblioTech has rejected an out-of-court settlement from a US junk emailer because he has refused to give any assurance that he won't do it again in the future. Sam Khuri -- who runs the Net-based company Benchmark Print Supply -- had agreed to settle the dispute and pay damages after he allegedly committed offences against BiblioTech and its free Postmaster email service. Although Khuri said he would not use Postmaster to send spam in the future, he refused to give any assurance that he would not send junk email using other service providers. It is this intransigence that has prompted BiblioTech to continue to pursue Khuri through the US courts. "Our goal is not just a spam-free Postmaster email system," said Chris Verdin of BiblioTech. "Instead, we seek a spam-free Internet." "As long as spam-related settlements protect only the complaining ISP, rather than all ISPs, there will always be another target for the spammer," he said. The lawsuit -- which is pending in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia -- arose after Khuri flooded Postmaster's mail servers with a torrent of unsolicited email. Fulham-based BiblioTech has a history of challenging spammers and has pledged that if any of its customers falls victim to spam, it will track-down the offending individual or company and get them to stop -- even if it means going to court. It has even enlisted the help of Sanford Wallace -- the one-time "King of Spam" who has since reformed his ways -- to help track down and identify persistent offenders. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Open source server leads Apple streaming scheme

Microsoft made a notable absence from Apple's various QuickTime 4.0 announcements yesterday. Interim CEO Steve Jobs can't have missed last week's launch of Windows Media Technologies (WMT) 4.0, so either he doesn't figure WMT is much of a threat, at least for now, or he thinks Bill Gates has already won and all Apple can hope to gain is his leavings. Given the spiffy new look to QuickTime's client applications, the latter seems unlikely -- Apple clearly sees the software going beyond adding a little extra functionality to its operating system. But in either case it leaves Apple focusing its competitive efforts on RealNetworks, which dominates streaming media with an 85 per cent marketshare. Apple has two key weapons to take to the fight with Real. First, there's image quality. Apple has been working on QuickTime for rather longer than Real has been developing its own software, and its core playback technology, with its support for numerous compression standards, video and animation formats, and performance tweaks, give QuickTime a real edge here. That's the advantage of leveraging a video technology into streaming, rather than the other way round. Real has focused its efforts on getting the streaming to work in low-bandwidth environments -- as bandwidth has increased, it's had more time to devote to improving the playback quality. Apple, on the other hand, has got the quality off pat and has been able to sit and wait for the bandwidth to catch up. To use that bandwith, Apple has based QuickTime 4.0's streaming facilities on two standard protocols, RTP (Real Time Protocol) and RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol). There are some important technological issues here that may act against Apple -- both protocols aren't designed to operate across firewalls and have problems with networks that share a single IP address through a shared modem -- and lack the fine-tuning you get with a proprietary technology like Real's G2. However, the standards vs proprietary argument only plays a small part here -- the standards aspect is only relevant in that it feeds in to Apple's other weapon: making its server technology open source. Apple isn't releasing QuickTime itself under an open source licence (or, rather, Apple's variation on that theme, the Apple Public Source Licence) -- it's simply releasing the streaming server. Apple has modified the PSL to address some of the concerns of the open source community, specifically it's original limitation on the ability of people to use the code outside R&D labs. That's been changed to permit people to download the code, compile it and run it to do real work. Now, for media companies, that really doesn't matter too much. As long as they have the tools to create content and do so as cheaply as possible, they're happy. What the open source side does do, however, is allow all those guys running Linux servers to adapt Apple's code for their own platforms and begin offering their own QuickTime content. If the plan works, that will widen QuickTime's mindshare in a way that a handful of deals with leading content providers never can, especially when those providers are also supporting rival formats. It's a canny move, not least because it positions Apple as the official opposition to not only the closed RealNetworks, but to Microsoft's attempt to dominate the Internet. QuickTime 4.0 Streaming Server right now runs under the BSD Unix-based MacOS X Server, and is avaible as a free upgrade to that OS. Given Apple's desire to protect the 'family jewels' -- ie. revenue -- the open source Darwin Streaming Server (Darwin is Apple's codename for all its open source offerings) may not contain all of the 'official' version's features, in particular its interface code, but it will be enough to allow it to be ported to other platforms. QuickTime 4.0, incorporated new versions of QuickTime Player, Picture Viewer and browser plug-ins, is available now in beta form, in both standard and Pro (pay a shareware-level fee of $30 and get access to QuickTime's editing features). It's not clear when the final release will ship, but Apple has jumped onto the 'easy automatic updates via the Net' bandwagon, so users will found out soon enough. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Fraud gang targets UK channel

Police are warning UK IT dealers to be on their guard following the latest spate of activity by a well-organised fraud ring. The multi-million pound computer crime gang is being investigated by Derbyshire Fraud Squad after a number of dealers were ripped off recently. According to the detective leading the investigation, UK companies need to exercise quality business practices. DC Howarth, Derbyshire Fraud Squad, confirmed there was an ongoing investigation into the crimes. He asked companies to practice “good business sense” in first time dealings with any customer. Businesses should watch for differences between delivery and company addresses, and should clear cheques before deliveries and do not accept credit cards, he said. One of the latest victims was Acorn development house Eesox. Cambridge-based Eesox received an order from a company calling itself Computeq (UK) Ltd. Some 40 pieces of memory to the tune of £4,476 were ordered on 12 April. The cheque turned out to be from a stolen chequebook. Computeq UK Ltd had been dissolved in 1996 and Eesox was left out of pocket. The group was using the name and registration number of Computeq Ltd, a genuine company trading in London, to get credit ratings for Computeq UK Ltd. Helen Shepherd, Eesox business manager, warned: “They are dangerous because they seem so genuine - they even haggle over prices on the telephone, and orders come through the fax on company-headed paper,” she said. The group also targeted Paul Weller, general manager at Eesox supplier OEM Hitech. Weller told The Register: “These people seem to prey on small companies like ours. It’s extremely frustrating.” The group tried to hit OEM Hitech three times last year under three different names. Weller said the connection between the applications was the mobile phone number the gang used – which had 07000 as its prefix. According to Shepherd, company names used included: Computeq UK Ltd, Crossmedia Communications Ltd, Honor Oak Printshop, Dataselection Organisation Limited, RPMC Europe Ltd and Small Rock Microsystems. South East London delivery addresses regularly used were: 324 Brownhill Road, Catford, 52 Bromley Road, Catford, 266 Westbourne Park Road and Bittern Court, Edward Street. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Silly signatures – the saga continues

The Register has been overwhelmed by the number of emails its has received quoting some of the best email signatures around. Here's our top ten -- as sent in by you, our readers -- and in no particular order. 1) No matter how hard you try, you can't polish crap! Steve Lindsey 2) Failure is not an option -- it comes bundled with Windows. Perry Newhook 3) A bunch of flowers is like a bunch of arse - only it smells sweeter..." Fine Slagmen 4) Wise Chinese Proverb: "Fed up of your computer winning at chess? Try it at kick-boxing instead!" Patrick Kirk 5) Alligator circumcision by appointment only. (spotted in an email signature from a vet in Michigan) Martin A. Zaluski 6) Show me a man who has both feet on the ground, and I'll show you a man who can't put on his trousers. Elfed Lewis 7) Support bacteria. It's the only culture some people have. Lloyd Evoy 8) VMS is today what Microsoft wants Windows NT V8.0 to be!" Compaq, 22-Sep-1998 Steve Lindsey 9) Your mouse has moved. Windows must be restarted for the change to take effect. Reboot now? [OK] Steve Lindsey 10) The box said, "Requires Windows 95 or Better", so I bought a Mac. Steve Lindsey ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Virgin sues customer for spamming

Virgin Net -- which has 175,000 subscribers in the UK -- has followed the lead of independent Net company BiblioTech to try and stamp out spam. In what it is believed to be the first legal action of its kind in the UK (BiblioTech prefers to chase offenders through the US courts), Virgin Net is suing a Surrey businessman for sending out more than a quarter of a million junk emails using a Virgin Net account. Virgin Net alleges that Adrian Paris, trading under the company name ProPhoto UK sent out a series of bulk junk emails, (spam) prompting thousands of complaints and causing disruption to Virgin Net’s computer system. Davis Johnson, business development director at Virgin Net, hopes the case will send out a clear message to spammers. "Spamming is a nuisance to our customers and a reputation issue for us," he said. “As an ISP we have a responsibility to protect our customers from potential spamming and by pursuing this case we hope that spammers will think twice before sending any unsolicited email out in the future. "In addition Mr Paris’ spamming has caused us to suffer a loss of goodwill from our existing and potential customers," he said. The European Parliament is set to vote on the legalisation of unsolicited email later this week. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Net users seek personality

Email signatures are the hi-tech equivalent of car bumper stickers and attempt to display a slice of individualism in an otherwise impersonal digital world. Instead of such witty sayings as "My other car's a Porsche" or "You smasha my car, I smasha your face" email signatures range from the downright stupid to the eclectic. Register reader, M Vogel echoed the views of many people when he to tell us: "Sounds to me like the kind of mediocre and pointless thing some people like to attempt to make themselves sound profound, and to hide the fact that they don't really have anything notable to say." But Dr Mark Griffiths, Reader in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, is less dismissive and takes a more objective approach to the phenomenon. "It's just a way for people to project their own image," he said. "Just as they can be identified by the music they listen to or the books they read." He claims that email signatures are a way of enhancing identity in an otherwise personality-free medium. But his colleague, Dr Hugh Miller, a lecturer in Psychology and an authority on the Web warned that email signatures could be dangerous if used unwisely. "You have to be aware that other people may not comprehend your signature as you intended," he said. What some people may find amusing, profound, or uplifting may fall completely flat for another, he said. He also said that if signatures are used, they should be simple and informative. "Experienced Net users tend to use simple signatures -- and they tend to frown upon more complex ones that may includes pictures, for example," said Dr Miller. ® See earlier stories Silly email signatures come under fire Tire kickers slam Register silly email signatures report Silly signatures - the saga continues
Tim Richardson, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Come on Eckhard, do the decent thing

The cost of laying off 20,000 people could come back to haunt Eckhard Pfeiffer as it emerged the value of his shares is over $200,000,000. The figure would have been double that but unfortunately the share price halved on reports of poor profitability on results it will post Wednesday. After Pfeiffer master-minded the takeover of Digital, over 20,000 people were given their pink slips and P45s in Europe just before and just after Christmas. If Pfeiffer decides to dole out the money his shares are worth, each redundant person could collect $1,000, or so. Will he do it? The world awaits. In the two weeks before Eckhard and CFO Earl Mason were removed from the centre of things, barrages of class actions assailed the big Q. ® See also Deep schisms mar Compaq 64-bit plans
Mike Magee, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

ThinkPads become fashion items

Down in the Tube this morning, we were astonished to see IBM's new ThinkPad advert. Labelled "It's a style item", a ThinkPad is draped over a designer coathanger. What happened to Lou's FootWare initiative, then? ®
Loot the Boots, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Hyundai seeks billion bucks to pay for LG

The Korean press is reporting today that Hyundai will attempt to raise $1.24 billion to finance its takeover of LG Semicon and to hone its own internal structure. According to reports, Hyundai wants $1.5 billion in foreign capital by the end of 1998. It has made $350 million by putting Maxtor onto the New York stock exchange. However, it still has a large share in Maxtor and rumours on the street are that the hard drive manufacturer is doing so well that other disk companies, including Seagate, could take it over. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Camino delay saves BX chipset

A proven, (old) chipset has managed to live to fight another day. The Venerable 440 BX will now run up to 700MHz, according to sources close to Intel's plans. The ageing Intel 440BX chipset has earned a reprieve from the chip gulag. Chipzilla's problems in getting the replacement i820 (aka Camino) to market means that the BX is now set to be validated to support Pentium IIIs running at up to 700MHz. While this might sound like good news for users with existing motherboards, Pentium IIIs at this kind of speed will be power-hungry (even at 0.18 micron) and require a rev to the voltage regulation to meet the VRM 8.4 spec, so unless you're handy with a soldering iron, a new motherboard will be in order. It seems likely that the next speed bump for the PIII, the 550MHz variant due out next month, will need beefier VRMs too. Who ever said upgrading was supposed to be easy? ®
Pete Sherriff, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

VIP attacks channel death rumour mill

VIP Computers has sent out an open letter to the industry, calling for the end of what it sees as the dog-eat-dog attitude of the IT sector. The Manchester-based components distributor warns that careless whispers following one company’s demise can often damage innocent suppliers or competitors. The letter, signed by VIP director Stan Cookson, urges the industry to take collective responsibility for its own actions. Otherwise, he warns: "The current perceived instability will continue and full credibility, for no fault of the companies that aspire to it, will remain an ideal." His letter follows: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COMPUTER COMPONENT INDUSTRY It is understandable that when a company significant within this industry ceases to trade, for whatever reason -- voluntary liquidation, bankruptcy, the lack of ‘legal integrity’ -- there is fierce competition for the resultant free business. Rarely in today’s climate, however, could this competition be classed healthy, constructive or fair. Invariably -- no, without exception-- the demise of one company brings rumours predicting the instability of its most likely successor, or successors. In the vast majority of cases, these negative "whispers" are malicious, totally unfounded, cowardly and based upon ignorance. Always they are of unknown origin. Despite consistent year on year growth since 1990 and being in a demonstrably stable financial position, my own company has reputedly been "going down the tubes" no fewer than six times over the past twelve months. It is frustrating in the extreme that the perpetrators of such smears neither realise nor understand the harm they’re doing, not only to specific companies but also to the industry as a whole. First, they undermine customers’ confidence in a company’s ability to provide continuity and, more importantly, in the value of their own judgement. Second, and fundamental to everyone involved in the supply chain, is that the damage caused by an uncertain credit insurance industry can be devastating in terms of relationships with OEM’s and principal suppliers of componentry. Rumour mongers know that it takes time and effort to re-build bridges with both. If as an entity we are to expand as a credible business force, providing permanence and being worthy of the technologies we sell, the totally unnecessary "dog eat dog" malaise must be wiped-out. Collectively, the industry must work to self-imposed voluntary controls, develop its own ethics, and stop acting like the comparative infant that, in reality, it still is. Development cannot continue at a true rate of evolution in the negative environment of insecurity and instability: when an engaged telephone number automatically prompts the question ‘are they still in business?’ Yours sincerely, Stan Cookson Director VIP Computer Centre Ltd ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Technology takes second place to Teletubbies

The IT sector is still confined to the sidelines of geekiness, despite all the hype from the government that information technology is the way forward for the UK. If proof of this was needed, it can be seen in the latest list of Millennium Products as drawn up by the Design Council. Among the list of ground breaking products, the Teletubbies and Viagra have been picked to represent the heights of innovation and design in the country. Some 201 new products have been announced in this third selection batch, but only 12 of them come from the IT sector. A representative of the Design Council said that considering the number of different categories there are in the selection process, the 12 IT products selected actually make up a large proportion of all selections. Closely behind the cuddly toys with TVs in their tummies and the magic little blue pill comes Hairnet, the number one IT Millennium Product. Hairnet is an attempt to bring the world of the Internet to blue rinsed grannies – once they’ve got the hang of it presumably they can get stuck into a game of Tomb Raider, another Millennium Product. Hairnet is hotly pursued by a Hindi word processor for Windows and a software application designed to help companies calculate their packaging obligations – whatever that means! Some other Millennium products that you may never have heard of include Insidetrak, bar-code scanning software allowing customers to see product information and Clementine, software which finds patterns in data to help to reduce junkmail, uncover fraud, discover new medicines and predict demand or sales. In fact the only IT product selected so far which might be recognised by the man on the street is the Psion series 5. So for all those who were wondering who the Millennium Dome is actually for, we now have the answer. It’s for Internet surfing, Hindi speaking grannies! ®
Laura Mason, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Schoolboys fight BT

Three teenage schoolboys from the UK are going head-to-head with one of the world's most powerful companies after launching an on-line petition designed to end the practice of metered charging for phone calls. Matthew Day, Alex Dean and Dominic Drane -- all from Swindon in Wiltshire -- have set up the Web site to lobby BT and the telecomms watchdog OFTEL to introduce unmetered call charges to help reduce the cost of Net access in the UK. "BT are the most successful telecommunications company in Europe, making more profit than any other company," they write in the preface to the petition. "They owe it to us, their loyal customers, to give us this small piece of gratitude. "Only one thinkg (sic) stops them," it continues. "The government inaugurated 'Offtell' (sic) are here, giving us all a hard time." Speaking to The Register from a bedroom somewhere in Swindon after he'd finished school for the day, Alex Dean said that more than 300 signatures had already been gathered from like-minded Net users. "We hope to hand in the petition to BT and OFTEL when we get enough signatures," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Duke of Edinburgh hits out at Web porn

Prince Philip slammed the Net porn epidemic today, just weeks after the palace was allegedly targeted by paedophile material. The Duke of Edinburgh got on his soap box in front of business bosses in South Korea, warning of the corrupting influence of cyber-filth on future generations. He called the Internet "a fantastic development", but was concerned about its potential to reap untold damage when "exploited by the peddlers of pornography and other crooks." HRH told a UK-Korean business conference in Seoul: "Innovation and globalisation sound splendid, provided they are not being led by unscrupulous managers and clever criminals. "Information technology has produced immense benefits for humanity but only when it is used with honesty and integrity. The opportunities that technology offers to humanity are greater than ever but so are the risks.” The speech follows unconfirmed reports that Buckingham Palace was sent hard-core paedophile material by a Belgian pressure group to raise awareness of Internet pornography. See earlier story ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Linux needs MS Office to make breakthrough – report

A forthcoming IDC report on the future of the European Linux market says that by 2003 Linux will have either 4 million "mainstream" users - or 40,000. The research outfit is hedging its bets because of the Microsoft Office factor; MS, IDC reckons, has the ability to decide whether or not Linux will start to challenge Windows on the desktop. This isn't what Linus Torvalds himself was reckoning at his Comdex Prenote yesterday, of course, but if it's what Microsoft reckons then the chances of MS Office for Linux are surely nil. In Torvalds' view Linux will make the breakthrough so long as productivity software offering at least equivalent features to MS Office is available. But he also thinks that it will be another three years before Linux starts going mainstream, and being used on a wide scale by non-technical customers. IDC's projected numbers, incidentally, seem a little on the guesstimate side to us. With an Office port (or at least a commitment to one), Linux will get 50,000 mainstream users in Europe this year, and then we'll just see a compound tripling up to 2003, where we arrive at 4,050,000. If the port doesn't happen, there will be 10,000, and a further 10k extra will arrive each year to achieve 40,000 by 2003. Dubious? Don't tell us... The Register's two cents worth is that Linus is absolutely right to throw sand on the Office for Linux rumours. Microsoft won't do it if it will help Linux, and won't have a commercial justification to do it if it won't help Linux (no sales, right?). Plus Microsoft can't do it - too many huge resource commitments elsewhere, not enough knowledge. And actually, although MS Office is currently the best seller and the corporate standard, there's no reason for that to be so forever. Microsoft has succeeded with Office so far on the back of intensive integration (translation - you need it to read other people's MS Office files) and ruthlessly effective distribution. But the more of the former Microsoft puts in, the more likely the products are to collapse because of their own internal contradictions. And although Office didn't make it into the DoJ case in the end, MS is going to have to go carefully with more of the latter. But you want that report, don't you? Bad news - it's not out yet. We hear IDC is still reviewing it. ®
John Lettice, 20 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates climbs back onto Windows convergence train

Double take time folks. Microsoft abandoned its convergence plans for Win9x and NT earlier this year. That's why it's shipping Windows 98 Second Edition RSN, plus at least one more before they call it off. But Microsoft is puffing Win2k like crazy at Comdex this week, and Bill Gates yesterday seems to have announced, er, a convergence roadmap. We suspect that Bill isn't altogether keeping pace with what his development people say is and is not achievable. The earlier plan, announced by, er, Bill at last year's WinHEC, was to move to a common codebase when Win2k shipped. Windows 98 was going to be the last of the line. This was totally non-feasible by the beginning of this year, and even with the Win2k rollout now sort of roadmapped there will be hot-fixes for it flying into the closing months of this year, at the very least. Microsoft can't start on honing this codebase down for a consumer version until next year, at the earliest (we believe we keep saying this). Bill's new/old plan, however, seems to be for a Win2k kernel update next year, and then a consumer version update of the kernel in 18-24 months. On the 18 month figure that puts us into Q3-Q4 2000, so in the unlikely event of this being achieved Windows 2000, Consumer Edition would be next year's big release. Which might clash a little bit with the consumer edition of Win9x that's been pencilled in for 2000 in the past few weeks. But they won't even make 24 months for the full OS, of course, and it will be worth watching to see how much resource Microsoft deploys on this project compared to Win2k business edition, and Win9x consumer. Here's another suspicious thought though. Say you were freezing Win2k code like crazy in order to ship it this year rather than next. There would likely be things you'd want to do to the kernel which you couldn't, because you didn't have the time. So a kernel refresh next year? Aha! Maybe Bill is keeping up with what's going on. ®
John Lettice, 20 Apr 1999