25th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Virgin bites bullet on Y2K problem

Virgin Atlantic has taken the decision not to fly its planes on the 31st of December this year. The information comes from a booklet sent to its Flying Club airmiles customers, but the reason for Virgin Atlantic not flying is clothed in spin. The company says: "Having talked to many of our regular flyers, most of them have told us that, whatever their plans to celebrate the Millennium, they do not want to be flying on the night itself." Virgin added that it has rescheduled its services so that its passengers can be with their friends and families "and so have decided not to fly on the night of 31 December 1999". The company did not mention the Y2K bug in any of the literature we have seen. ®
The Register breaking news

Dixons Freeserve tags July for £2.5 billion IPO

The City expects Dixons Stores Group to spin out FreeServe in a July IPO , according to yesterday's Times. The company - Britain's biggest Internet Service Provider, with 1.5 million members - will command a market cap of £2.5 billion, according to analysts. Not bad for a seven-month old Internet business that is expected to turn over just £9 million in its first year of operation. Dixons has already confirmed the appointment of investment bankCredit Suisse First Boston and stock broker Cazenove to investigate a flotation. The only questions as far as The Register was concerned, were when and how much? Times journalist Chris Ayres supplies the answers. The meat of the story comes from a City presentation made by Freeserve general manager Mark Danby on Friday, but arranged several weeks ago (April 23). This was cut short to ensure Dixons complied with Stock Exchange rules, Ayres reports. "After frantic negotiations between Dixons, CSFB and Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, the investment bank that organised the presentation, Mr. Danby agreed to give his talk, but it lasted only minutes. 'Our lawyers have blacked out most of my slides', he joked. 'I'm subject to wartime censorship.'" Dixons would be crazy not to float Freeserve -- and ASAP. The company was not the first company to launch a free Internet access service in Britain, but it's by far the most successful. Now the floodgates are open, with more than 30 companies, including a string of household names, plying free Internet access in the UK. And that will eat into Freeserve's potential customer base. The moment Freeserve's growth rate dips, the moment its valuation falls. Of course, there's plenty of mileage in getting FreeServe customers to buy more things online: in recent weeks the company has inked deals to flog books, and financial services. Sister company Jakarta will use the service to sell consumer software. However, the majority of FreeServe customers are Net newbies and they will take their time to get into the ecommerce swing. And soon, FreeServe will run out of people in the UK to hook up to the Internet. It's difficult to see how FreeServe can sustain such furious growth without a substantial acquisition or two. And that requires stock from a company commanding an Internet premium-rating. ® Dixons sues AOL Tesco will not spin off its ISP AOL will not jump on freebie bandwagon Free ISPs safe from UK watchdog No such thing as a free lunch
The Register breaking news

Labour unrest in South Korea threatens memory prices

A transport strike in South Korea over the weekend looked set to spread to other industries this coming week as unions reacted to massive chaebol re-structuring. And that could lead to a situation we saw not so long ago when workers at both LG Semicon and Hyundai walked out when their jobs looked threatened. (See Korean strikes destroying country's IT business) As reported here last week, Hyundai and LG Semicon's merger will create one of the biggest memory companies in the world. Both the European Union (EU) and the United States (US) had raised the flag of anti-trust laws before the deal was finalised. Now, LG Semicon and Hyundai will attempt to keep the lid on a situation which could leave their rival Samsung benefiting from industrial action. The last time the unions went on strike, memory prices rallied in the industry. Meanwhile, the second largest trade union in the peninsula, the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, threatened to extend its existing transport strike, which has caused riot police to arrive on the streets, to other industries. Throughout next week, the unrest is set to grow, according to the Korean press. Meanwhile, South Korea has received an unprecedented number of allegations that it is dumping products, including one from Taiwan, that it was dumping DRAM on the island. ®
The Register breaking news

BT, AT&T to take shares in Japan Telecom

It was widely predicted but today US giant AT&T and British giant BT each took 15 per cent in Japan Telecom. The move is a strategic alliance which will drastically alter the shape of telecomms worldwide. Under the terms of the agreement, execs from BT and AT&T will sit on the board of JTT. In addition, BT and AT&T will get access to JTT's next gen of mobile technology. The deal is estimated to be worth $1.83 billion. Now if only Deutsche Telekom was of a mind to share and share alike... ®
The Register breaking news

What the Hell is…Camino and Rambus all about?

Those awfully clever folks at Intel have managed to bump up processor power by around 200 times since the introduction of the 486 ten years ago. Trouble is, memory technology has only improved by a measly 20 times in the same period. Fancy caches can help a bit, but something fundamental needs to change in order to get the most system bang for your CPU buck. DRAM vendors have increased memory densities by almost 1,000 fold – that’s faster than even Microsoft’s bloatware demands – and this means that fewer memory devices are needed to reach the RAM requirements of a system, allowing new ways of enabling the CPU and memory to talk to each other to be investigated. Rambus aims to deliver more than ten times the performance of today’s memory subsystems while keeping costs down and providing a means of reusing SDRAM DIMMs. Intel’s delayed Camino (820) chipset will feature a gizmo called a Memory Translator Hub (MTH) enabling either (but not both) SDRAM DIMMs or direct RDRAM SRIMMs to be used. An 820-based system will support up to 1.5Gb of SRIMM memory or 1Gb if DIMMs are used. Camino is based on a hub architecture with a Memory Controller Hub (MCH) at its heart. The MCH in turn talks to the CPU through the host bus (at 133MHz), the graphics subsystem through the AGP bus (AGP 4X) and the memory through Rambus. Everything else is handled by the I/O Controller Hub (ICH) which has a direct link to the MCH. Clear? It gets more complex. 300MHz Rambus direct RDRAM is only supported at 100MHz FSB speeds, while 400MHz parts are happy at 133MHz too. Could this be the reason Camino is late? Who can tell? So what about the performance benefits then? Rambus will enable the CPU and memory subsystem to communicate at up to 800MHz and 1.6 Gb/second while using around a fifth of the power – that’s around three times the bandwidth of today’s conventional 100MHz SDRAM. And in the future, the ability of the MCH to talk to up to four memory channels simultaneously will bring bandwidths up to 6.4Gb/second in high-end systems. Unlike today’s memory, you’ll need to fit continuity modules in empty memory slots because Rambus daisy chains its memory a bit like SCSI devices. While this may at first sound a tad clunky, it apparently means that clocking the memory is simpler and is claimed to be electrically superior, offering active power management of individual memory modules. Find out more at Rambus ®
The Register breaking news

Intel has (late) designs on your graphics

With the lovely little 810 Whitney chipset out this week, Intel is aiming to clean up at the low end of the graphics market. But what about higher up the scale? Chipzilla managed a small blip on the radar screen with the i740 in both its own Express3D and OEM AGP cards, offering acceptable but not earth-shattering performance. And, as is always the case in the Wacky World of Graphics, today’s Top of the Pops is tomorrow’s Haircut 100. Alongside graphics, even Intel’s CPU introduction rate looks positively glacial - a month late to market and your terrific new graphics accelerator is headed for the bargain bin in PCs'R'Us. But despite getting a bloody nose with the i740, Chipzilla isn’t beaten yet. The i740 will soldier on till the middle of this year when the beefed-up 810e appears alongside the high-end i754. And in the next couple of weeks, the i740 replacement, the snappily-named i752, is due to debut. Although sharing the same core as the i754, the i752 will only feature AGP2X unlike its big brother’s AGP4X. Further down the track, at around Easter 2000, the professional graphics market has Capitola to look forward to. Intel should be coming up with some preliminary performance figures for the i752 any day now – watch this space. ®
The Register breaking news

Chipzilla just says no to particulates

Intel is hiring a stack of people at its Porland and Sacramento fabs but if you're hooked to anything at all, forget it and leave your resume on your hard drive. "Intel supports a drug-free workplace and requires that all offers of employment be contingent on satisfactory pre-employment drug test results," the job ads specify. There's a reason for this. If you're in the slightest bit sniffy, you'll be sent home from the fabs immediately in case you pollute the wafers. And if you're drunk in charge of a chip, you might spill poisonous liquids over yourself and ruin a $700 bunny suit. The ads do not specify whether or not headache cures are considered to be drugs or not. ®