27th > April > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Cyrix revamps CPU roadmap

The latest roadmap from National Semiconductor subsidiary Cyrix has demonstrated the limits of its x.86 ambitions. The company is determined not to be caught in the crossfire as Intel and AMD battle it out during 1999 and next year, the roadmap reveals. Nevertheless, the modest position Cyrix is taking shows it is determined to carry on chipping away at the others. It will produce "entry level solutions that match Intel's midrange characteristics", the roadmap claims. In one slide, Cyrix says: "The MII roadmap matches Intel's Celeron." This quarter, Cyrix will introduce an MII-400 on .25 micron technology, in Q3 it will move its MII-466, MII-433 and MII-400 to .18 micron technology and use what it labels as "industry standard bus speeds". Gobi, with the Cayenne core, is still slated for release in summer 1999, while Mojave, with the Jalapeno core, will appear in summer 2000, according to another slide. Target speeds are 600+MHz, the slides show. The MII-400 will sample in May and reach Volume in June using a 95/285 bus/core model; the MII-433 will sample in June and reach volume in July, using a 100/300 bus/core; while the MII-466 wil sample in August and reach volume in September, using a 95/333 bus/core. These three parts will be 2.2 volts, with clock multipliers of 3.5, 3 and 3.5 respectively. The motherboards, still using socket seven, support 95 and 100MHz front side buses (FSBs). And, for the first time, Cyrix has made a public statement on Slot One and socket 370. One slide says: "Today we support Socket 7. There are no technical or legal barriers to National Semiconductor producing slot 1 or socket 370 based solutions." ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Market forces Osmosis out of hardware business

Osmosis today ceased dealing in hardware, but despite obviously difficulties, will continue to sell software. The Middlesex-based distributor is telling suppliers that it no longer sells hardware, peripherals or PCs. But Alex Campbell, Osmosis products and marketing director, was at pains to stress that the company was still trading. An official statement will be made on Wednesday, but Campbell told The Register: "At the moment, we’re not dealing in hardware. But we are still trading on the software side." Campbell said: "The constraints of the market have made it difficult for distributors like us to compete. We have had to decide on a series of actions to enable us to keep trading." He was unable to give more details, but admitted that "major changes" were in the pipeline. He stressed time and time again that the company had not gone into liquidation or voluntary administration. Osmosis has over 100 staff, with offices in Ireland, Scotland and Canada. ®
Linda Harrison, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Computacenter to sign pledge with racial equality group

The UK’s largest reseller is taking advice from the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in a move which could result in the whole industry improving its track record of recruiting staff from ethnic minorities. The Register has learned the CRE and Computacenter are to sign an agreement covering race equality issues. A spokesman for CRE said more information would be forthcoming next month, once the agreement had been signed. The agreement follows on from a four year investigation under the Race Relations Act, which was instigated following complaints from former Computacenter employees. The CRE has operates a programme called the Leadership Challenge, which is aimed at targeting leading businesses in particular industry sectors. The idea of this approach is that it encourages others in that sector to follow best practice procedures. Chris Myant, spokesman for the CRE said: “We are looking to encourage industry sector leaders to become model equal opportunity employers. We would hope that Computacenter can achieve such an outcome.” The investigation into Computacenter began in 1994 after two engineers complained of discrimination. When contacted, Comnputacenter said that the CRE had found no evidence to support a finding of discrimination on grounds of race. The CRE rarely launches a formal investigation. Th Computacenter case was one of only 100 held since the CRE was set up about 20 years ago. ®
Sandy Mann, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Caldera closes UK thin client development unit

Events have overtaken our report (Earlier Story) that Caldera Thin Clients work was carrying on in Andover, UK. Following a decision by the Caldera board, the British Caldera development team has disbanded, although it is anticipated that some work will continue in Salt Lake City, with a new team. But it may prove hard to recruit people wishing to work in a DOS environment, although it would appear that there is enough DOS business to make the operation viable. Caldera CEO Bryan Sparks and PR manager Lyle Ball told The Register that it had proved too expensive to coordinate activities between Salt Lake City and Andover, especially with the time difference. Caldera's main thin client thrust is to sell a DR-DOS + Web Spyder set-top box combination as a WebTV killer, although efforts in the embedded market eill also continue. Sparks also said that Caldera has a JVM for Web Spyder in prototype for delivery at the end of the year. The previous team was contracted to finish some work on the Web Spyder browser development. A problem at present is that WebSpyder does not support plug-ins. Caldera's other unit, Caldera Systems, sees its competitor as Microsoft and NT, rather than Red Hat. PR Nancy Pomeroy commented that a rising tide lifts all ships, so that Caldera is pleased at the corporate investments in Linux obtained by Red Hat. Caldera has one investment, apart from former Novell CEO Ray Noorda's support, from Anaheim-based MTI, a data storage management specialist, but says it has no special need for cash. In Caldera's antitrust case against Microsoft, which centres on moves allegedly made by Microsoft to exclude DR-DOS from the market, there will be a series of five hearings in May and June on Microsoft's various manoeuvres to have the case dismissed. It is likely that many of the documents at present under seal will also be made public, following decisions in Microsoft's Washington trial. ®
Graham Lea, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Gem, the GUI that beat Windows to market, goes open source

Gem, the PC GUI that beat Windows to market, has finally gone open source. It was originally developed in 1984, when Windows was still a shaky beta. Current Gem owner Caldera has now made it available under a GNU public licence. Caldera inherited it from Novell, which in turn obtained it when Novell acquired Digital Research, where it was developed. Following the disbanding of the Andover, UK-based Caldera Thin Client team (see separate story), Caldera decided the time was right to make Gem open source - Caldera no longer has any particular plans for it. The GEM source code is being made available by Tim Olmstead at the Finnish site, with two US mirror sites. Gem was developed at the instigation the late Gary Kildall, the originator of CP/M. In many ways Kildall was the founder of the open software movement, for he was the first to isolate system-specific hardware interfaces in a set of basic I/O system routines - the bios - so that applications could be machine independent. Kildall also developed the filing system and data structures for CD-ROMs. GEM was released in October 1984, five months after a similar but less-flexible interface from Quarterdeck called DESQ (later DESQview). Apple, inspired by the Xerox PARC work, developed its GUI, and Bill Gates was shown a prototype by Steve Jobs in the summer of 1981. In September, Gates initiated the Interface Manager project, which was to be called Windows from 1983. Along the way, Microsoft benefited from being able to examine in detail a Xerox Star (a commercial derivative of the Alto) which Gates bought for $100,000 in 1981, and a prototype of the Mac in early 1982. Meanwhile, VisiCorp had developed VisiOn, a GUI that worked with MS-DOS. At the 1982 Comdex show, where it was first seen, Gates was reported to be transfixed and to have watched the demo three times. In 1985, IBM produced TopView, which it had announced in 1983, but it was unsuccessful. One of the hitherto-secret Gem documents available for download contains fascinating references to Gem DOS (version 13) for the Motorola 68000. This requires just 128K RAM, 160K ROM, a video controller card with 320 by 200 resolution, and a mouse. It is dated May 1985. (DR-DOS, for Intel processors of course, first appeared in May 1988, when Microsoft was offering MS-DOS 3.) There is even a German version of Gem, and some Turbo Pascal libraries commented in German. The Gem Desktop version 3 requires up to 1.6 megabytes. Gem was also modified for the Atari and the Tandy 1000 series. There are Gem applications such as Draw, Graph, Paint and Write. The downloads provide a fascinating insight as to how it might have been, had Digital Research decided to compete with MS-DOS in 1985, but the decision to compete was taken two or three years later by Richard Williams, the new CEO, after Gary Kildall had left. It is likely that Gem will be dusted down and incorporated into software for special situations, where fast rendering, small size, and above all, low cost, are important. It provides a useful alternative to X-Windows - and it's free. ®
Graham Lea, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Caldera spin-off pushes Linux thin clients

iCentrix is a Hampshire-based Internet software company formed by some former Caldera employees, led by Roger Gross, after the Caldera operation in Andover was closed (separate story). iCentrix sees its main thrust as being to develop browsing for very thin clients by putting the browser on the server and using a Linux client. In this way, the same performance can be achieved with a low-powered 486 as with the latest Pentium, and at a fraction of the price, since old PCs can be used as clients or network computers. There is no user data to back up, and there is a high degree of security and reliability because of the design, since the server can be kept in a secure physical location, with only the terminal, monitor and mouse exposed to the user. iCentrix' first product, just released, is the AMD-based MarioNet Internet appliance for the educational market, and consists of legacy PCs linked to a MarioNet Internet appliance, and then to the Internet via an ISDN router. It uses Navigator as the browser. The first customer was a school in Hampshire, which went live recently. The cost per seat is around £300, which compares with some £750 for a networked PC. Gross says there appears to be no problem with a supply of donated PCs. To keep costs down, schools are credited with the value of any legacy PCs that they already have, or obtain, for an installation. Another type of market that iCentrix is actively investigating is in South African schools in remote areas. Internet access by satellite is followed by wireless distribution over the last kilometre or so: it is usually not possible to lay copper wire, because it gets ripped out and sold. Gross claims that the iCentrix OPTIC protocol (optimal protocol for the transmission of Internet content) is superior to Citrix' method of passing data between the client and server for Internet access. In the case of black and white screen wireless devices, iCentrix uses the server to reduce the amount of data transmitted by sending only three bits for a grey scale pixel, rather than 24 bits. In addition, in wireless modes the iCentrix client only needs to resend if necessary the parts that have not been received, rather than the whole file. Parsing and rendering is performed on the MarioNet server, which stores information about the screen resolution, colour depth and video memory of the client. Pre-formatted web pages can then be sent to the client, to optimise transmission and ensure correct display. The technique suits ultra-thin clients that cannot sensibly run a browser, but can connect to the Internet via a LAN, wireless connection, or dial-up connection. Products with this technology are planned at the end of the year. MarioNet can also be used with software that iCentrix is developing to access PDAs. It is likely that Windows CE devices will be targeted before other devices (including Epoch), because a Win32 development environment is being used, which is a little strange for a group with its roots in open source. So far, the emphasis has been to produce a low-cost, child- and vandal-proof Internet access system, for use in schools. Future plans include improved browsing capability for cell phones and other thin clients, and in devices at youth clubs, public libraries, museums, cellular telephones, bus shelter arrival indicators and kiosks generally. It would be possible to add word processing and a spread sheet, for example, from the Star Office suite, although this is not being planned initially because Gross believes that such software will come from the Internet. For very thin clients, the heat and power consumption of x86 processors is often too great, especially as browsers are fast approaching 30 megabytes. Putting the browser on the server conserves client power supply needs, and lessens the heat generated. Gross himself evidently has a fair understanding of these power issues since he holds a US patent for a software idle detection system for power management, which is the basis for advanced power management. At present, iCentrix is using its own Linux distribution, but it expects to make arrangements to endorse both the Caldera and Red Hat distributions. iCentrix may even act as a Caldera reseller. Resellers are being appointed, and Gross says he is determined not to compete with the channel: business leads will be passed on. ®
Graham Lea, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell to preinstall Red Hat Linux 6.0 on 4-way servers

Dell is to factory install Red Hat Linux 6.0, released yesterday, (Earlier Story) on a range of servers, workstations and desktops from next month. The machines covered will include the 4-way PowerEdge 6300 server and dual processor Precision workstations. Dell is the first company to receive multiprocessor certification from Red Hat for its machines, and is also expected by Red Hat to be the first company to deliver Red Hat MP servers and workstations. IBM however is expected to follow swiftly. Also yesterday IBM released ViaVoice voice recognition for Linux - Red Hat is to distribute this as part of Red Hat 6.0. The appearance of Dell preconfigured high-spec multiprocessor servers and workstations running Linux will be bad news for Microsoft. Historically Dell has been a down-the-line Microsoft adherent, but the company now appears willing to run Linux as an alternative to Microsoft across its entire range. The first systems will be out in the US, but Dell also now says it plans to ship "select system configurations" in Europe. This is a slight improvement on the 'no data' European situation earlier this month, but a possible explanation for why Europe is always being accused of being behind in IT/Internet/e-commerce. ®
John Lettice, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

i752 on the road

A day after it released its i810 "Whitney" chip set, Intel has rolled out its i752 chip set aimed at business and consumer software applications. As already revealed here, the i752 includes 2D graphics, 3D rendering and digital video acceleration. (See story: Intel has (late) designs on your graphics) According to Gary Thomas, GM of the Intel Graphics Components Division, this is an "all terrain graphics accelerator". Intel is making an attempt to "scale" its chip sets, meaning there will be a common graphics instruction set and software compatibility between the i752 and the i810. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

SCO boss blows stack over Linux, Linus

SCO president and CEO Doug Michels has lashed-out at Linux, describing it as "not particularly scalable" and some kind of packaging operation that has turned into a religion. Michels' reckless assault comes in an interview published this week by Computerworld - as yet we have no reports of vengeful mullahs camped on his lawn. But they may not have noticed Michels' outrageous attack on Linus Torvalds yet. Casting doubt on the viability of the Linux licensing model and, as far as we can make out, Torvalds' parentage, maturity and integrity, Mouthie Mikey says: "The last thing [major companies] want is some kid from Norway to sue for $100 million for misappropriation of intellectual property." Surely Michels means Torvalds here, but if he'd care to supply us with the names of some sample litigious kids from Norway we'll be happy to pubish a correction. The rise of Linux presents a pretty clear threat to SCO's core x86 business, so Michels' willingness to lash-out is understandable. Dell shipping Red Hat on multiprocessor systems is ominous news for him, as is Intel's apparent support for early IA-64 Linux implementations . SCO is hoping to make great strides by getting its own Unix on IA-64 early, so go figure. Taking a pop at Intel and Dell favourite Red Hat, Michels describes it as Linux technology with a lot less value added [than SCO does, we presume he means], and packaged as "better than SCO." Whixh he says it isn't. He says Linux didn't break ground, but is just a re-engineered lightweight kernel that implements Unix APIs. Linux is "just a kernel" that "some punk young kids" have engineered pieces around. It also has weaknesses in that there's no control of the roadmap, it doesn't have millions spent on reliability testing, which he says "isn't stuff that people do for fun at home with volunteers," and it doesn't scale, or handle multiprocessors well. Over to Dell, Intel, and the mullahs on that one then. Goodbye, Doug... ®
John Lettice, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

UK's GEC buys Fore

Fore Systems is set to become a wholly owned subsidiary of General Electric Company (GEC) after the networking company agreed to be acquired for $4.2 billion ($2.8 billion). GEC offered to buy FORE at an agreed price of $35 per share -—a premium of 43 per cent above the closing price of Fore's stock last Friday. Not only does this acquisition strengthen GEC's presence in the US, the world's biggest market for telecomms equipment, it also gives the company access to the high growth enterprise data networking market, which is becoming increasingly integrated with the carrier market. Tom Gill will continue as Fore Systems' CEO and President, and will report directly to George Simpson, CE of GEC. Fore Systems will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of GEC and continue to trade under its own name. "This acquisition reinforces our position as a leading supplier of voice and data networking technology," said Simpson. "The purchase of Fore Systems provides us with access to new markets and new customers and extends our product portfolio into the increasingly important ATM and IP switching sector." Fore Systems reported sales of $632 million for the year to 31 March 1999 -- an increase of 35 per cent on the year before. Operating income before interest, taxes and non-recurring items was $55.4 million in 1999 -- up 48 per cent from $37.5 million in 1998. As of 31 March 1999, Fore Systems had net assets of $680 million including cash and short term investments of $361 million. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's copper to Cu real soon now

Sources only a cat's whisker away from Intel's plans have told us that its future copper (Cu) technology will arrive far sooner than anyone has thought. The copper technology is included in the .13 micron P860 process, and Intel already has test structures and test chips functioning with copper interconnects and .13 micron lithography, the source claimed. Although not yet included in a processor product, the logic and memory structures are, however, built and tested electricity. "It works and it works damned well," the source said. "P860 is much further along than you might think and is being produced alongside P858 (Coppermine) technology". Another source said: "Coppermine is by no means a marketing ploy. I remember the name floating around long before IBM and Moto made their respective copper announcements and before copper was really being talked about at all. "While many are speculating that they'll do copper in .13 micron, there has also been a great deal of discussion about them switching to 12 inch wafers for .13 micron too. To do both in .13 micron, in Intel-speak, would be too "high risk". I expect them to roll out copper near the end of .18 micron with the introduction of Willamette - they may have to in order to keep power levels down and hit the frequency targets they're forecasting." He added: "It's pretty smart for them [Intel] to let IBM and Moto do all the R&D on copper, wait for that info to filter back through the likes of Applied Materials and then implement copper." ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Hard facts emerge about Willamette

Intel's eagerly anticipated Willamette IA-32 technology is taking shape as hard details have emerged from highly authoritative sources. Few details from Intel have been available, although at the Intel Developer Forum in Palm Springs in February, senior VP Paul Otellini said the technology was on time and was a completely new IA-32 architecture. Our source, based at Intel Germany, claimed that Willamette could have as many as 450 pins in its socket design, use dual channel Rambus memory and employ a chipset called Tehama. She said that K7 floating point (FP) numbers we posted last week were "disappointing" and that Willamette architecture would have no problems if its FP was as low as we reported. Willamette, as well as Merced, have existed as design concepts for seven years so far, she added. "They called Merced P7 then and Willamette P68," she said. She said: "Look for much larger level one ROP (RISC-like) storing 'trace' aches in Willamette. Coppermine and its derivatives will likely be the last of the P6 line." There could be as much as 128K level one data cache on Willamette processors, it has emerged. According to our source, who wishes to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, the cache and the core of Willamette architecture are totally different from P6 technology. The L2 cache, which is likely to be 1Mb, is broken into hundreds of squares, suggesting a massively parallel schema, she claimed. Intel architects have dedicated a lot of space to decoding instructions in Willamette. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Iridium boldly going… nowhere

Pity poor Iridium. A damn clever idea, this satellite-driven go-anywhere mobile phone service, but that hasn't helped company behind it attract a solid base of users. Or make money. In the first quarter of its current fiscal year, Iridium received revenues of $1.45 million, nowhere near enough to offset the company's loss of $505 million -- that's $300 million more down the pan compared to the same period last year. Iridium also release its latest subscription base figures, which showed just 10,294 people were using the system, the vast majority (7188) using the satellite service and the rest split 1:2 between cellular and paging customers. Company spokesman Leo Mondele said Iridium's focus from this point on centred upon sales and marketing. He was wary of making predictions on the success of the company's strategy here, an understandable response given Iridium's most recent projection reckoned it would have 27,000 subscribers and a turnover of $4 million by now. Clearly, it has quite some way to go here. Mondele also said Iridium was rethinking its service offerings and pricing plans the better to attract the significant demand the company believes there is for a satellite phone service. The company also reckons it will soon have its problems of limited handset availability solved thanks to Motorola's efforts to ramp up production. Motorola is, of course, Iridium's biggest shareholder, so you would expect it to take a keener interest than most. Indeed, said Mondele, it will be building a direct sales force to promote Iridium phones. Clearly it's worried by Iridium's own sales team, which even Iridium dismissed as "weak". Such efforts may help, but the company still has to face up to the negative impact of the abrupt departure of CEO Ed Staiano and the departing CFO Roy Grant (see Iridium CEO breaks orbit). High-level resignations won't aid its ongoing attempts to win the support of its bank, which has given it until the end of May to refinance its $800 million debt. "Clearly we have a great deal of work to do to improve our marketing, distribution and sales," said interim CEO John Richardson. Indeed. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

ARM acquisition sees Acorn dismembered

ARM is organising a share buyback, through the imaginative device of acquiring its former parent company Acorn. After the agreed acquisition, Acorn effectively no longer exists. The company is selling off one operating business -- the set-top box business to Pace Micro Technology and its second operating business -- the DSP design business to managers. (Do they still want to call this business Element 14 ?). In January, Acorn sold its half share in Xemplar, the education dealership, to fellow shareholder Apple for £3 million. Presumably there is still some cash in the Acorn business and this will stay with the management. But who will retain rights -- and the royalty cheques -- for the Acorn RISC OS? Acorn currently holds a 15 per cent stake in RISC OS Ltd, a company set up by die-hard Acorn dealers, developers and enthusiasts, to peddle Risc OS4, the long awaited upgrade for the Acorn platform. Costing £120, Risc OS is available for advance orders from this week. Tidying up ARM’s acquisition represent a neat tidying up exercise, for which advisers Close Brothers deserve a fat fee. Acorn currently holds 24.2 per cent of ARM, but financial constraints mean that a: it could never be anything more than a very passive shareholder and b: a predator could tunnel into ARM through Acorn. ARM is offering two ARM shares for every five Acorn shares, valuing Acorn at £269.8 million or 279p. This is a 14 per cent premium over Acorn’s closing price yesterday and a premium of 35.7 per cent to the average discount of "15.8 per cent. at which Acorn Ordinary Shares have traded to the post-tax value per share of Acorn's investment in ARM Holdings over the six months prior to the date of this announcement". So the patience of long-suffering Acorn shareholders, and arrivistes who were looking for a cheap way into ARM, a relatively illiquid stock, will get their reward by directly owning ARM shares. Acorn downturn Almost incidentally, Acorn announced its results today. The headline figure of £11.1 million pre-tax profit for the year to 31 December,1998 (1997: £2.9 million) is altogether less impressive, when the company’s one-off profits of £18.1 million on the sale of ARM shares are taken into account. Acorn’s withdrawal from its own Acorn platform hardware business is reflected in sales that tumbled in half to £11.5 million for the year. The operating loss tripled to a spectacular £9.9 million. ® ARM revenues show huge boost Wise men save Acorn PC
Drew Cullen, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Celeron trashes PII in new RegMark™ tests

Celeron delivers five more Bangs Per Buck than PII The Celeron is Intel's best processor right now. The embarrassment of the original Covington's lack of performance panicked Chipzilla into rushing out the far-superior Mendocino version complete with on-die L2 cache. This certainly did the trick as far as addressing the performance shortcomings of the tragic non-cached part, but also posed a serious threat to the Celeron's big brother, Pentium II. Intel blindly threw all its considerable marketing might behind Celeron in a bid to stomp on upstarts AMD and Cyrix in the sub $1,000 market, and at the same time took its eye off the ball with the cash cow Pentium II. The result is that despite Intel's continued protestations that Celeron isn't making much of an impact in corporate space, little Celeron is, in fact, blowing PII into the weeds. While this is great news for Celeron, it's not quite so clever for Chipzilla itself. The margins on PII parts are several orders of magnitude greater than on Celerons, even given that the PII is far more costly to fabricate - buying in and then soldering separate L2 cache chips onto the processor daughterboard and putting the whole thing into a shiny black cartridge all add $$$s to manufacturing costs. So how does Intel protect the PII against this onslaught and protect its margins? Terribly difficult Simple. By making it terribly difficult to compare directly the performance of the budget Celeron with the mainstream Pentium II. Corporates can continue to buy the upmarket and expensive PII and get a nice warm feeling that they're getting a premium product at a premium price. They ain't. Even though Celeron has only a quarter of the L2 cache of its big brother, because it's on the same piece of silicon, it can run at the full core speed as the CPU. And 128K running at 400MHz is more than a match for 512K running at 200MHz in all but a very few instances such as the enormous spreadsheets Chipzilla uses to calculate its profits. Intel posts pretty performance graphs for Celeron and Pentium II, but rather neatly only compares Celerons with Celerons and PIIs with PIIs in anodyne overall performance terms. In fact it took some considerable browsing to discover any numbers which could be used to compare the two ranges. The Register is the first to admit that the comparison below is far from scientific, but in the absence of Intel having the guts to publish performance figures for its entire range, on one graph, it's the best you'll get. The only other figure we could find to compare the two was the price. Source: Intel benchmarks
Pete Sherriff, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple beats schoolboy

Apple's attempt to wrest ownership of the Appleimac.com domain name from a Canadian schoolboy succeeded last week when he agreed to hand it over.
Tony Smith, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Police issue Net appeal to find Dando's killer

Police in London are using the Internet to help track down the killer of one of Britain's most popular TV presenters after she was found outside her Fulham home yesterday with a single gunshot wound to her head. Jill Dando -- the golden girl of broadcasting famous for her endearing personality and easy-going charm -- was adored by millions of Britons and news of her murder has stunned the country. The Metropolitan Police routinely posts details of crimes on its Web site --which receives 50,000 hits a month -- as part of its effort to catch criminals. The brutal murder of 37-year-old Jill Dando is no exception and police are already following up a lead that a smartly dressed man in his late 30s to 40s was seen hurrying away from the scene shortly after witnesses heard a scream. "Details of the incident went up (on the Web site)yesterday," said Emma Bott, a spokeswoman for the Met. "Any other information that we get will also be posted there as and when we get it." She also confirmed that an electronic photo-fit picture of the murder suspect will be posted, when it becomes available, on the Met's "Most Wanted" section of its Web site. Police are still trying to find out why someone would want to kill the "girl next door" TV personality. As the anchor woman on the popular crime fighting BBC TV programme Crimewatch, it's possible that she may have been the subject of a contract killing at the behest of some underworld gang. According to some reports, Miss Dando had already alerted the authorities about her security fears when she worked on the programme. Another line of enquiry focuses on the idea that she may have been the victim of a stalker. A report in today's Daily Mail says that there are a number of Web sites dedicated to Miss Dando, some of which vow "to satisfy the private fantasies of some of her male fans". ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Worldwide PC sales beat doom merchants

The number of PCs shipped throughout the world during the first three months of the year grew by 19 per cent year-on-year, according to the latest stats from IDC. The US saw the greatest growth, rising 24 per cent to 9.8 million units out of the total 24.5 million machines shipped globally during the period. Curiously, IDC identified strong demand for mid-range machines as well as low-end boxes among consumers, suggesting that those buying machines for use at home are increasingly basing their purchase decision on speed rather than price. That said, IDC said the Pentium III roll-out saw the new CPU come it at a very competitive price point, pushing Pentium II prices down and persuading many consumers to go for the new processor, notably as an upgrade to PII boxes. Chipzilla's advertising blitz will have played a major part too. Strong consumer demand defined the growth in the main European markets, too, and helped return the Japanese PC market to growth. The Far East is clearly getting into the habit of buying new PCs again, after last year's turmoil. From a vendor perspective, Dell continued to lead on growth, selling 55 per cent and 52 per cent more PCs in the US and globally, respectively. Compaq retained its marketshare lead, but experienced only ten per cent US growth and 16 per cent global growth. In the US, IBM, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard all achieved growth well ahead of the industry as a whole, increasing sales by 26 per cent, 40 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively. The first two did well worldwide, notching up growth of 30 per cent and 16 per cent, respectively. ® Top Five PC Vendors Worldwide, Q1 99
Tony Smith, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Kingfisher swoops on free Net access

Europe is on the verge of an all-out Internet revolution following the announcement this morning that UK-based Kingfisher has joined forces with the investment house Group Arnault to offer subscription-free Net access throughout the Continent. Initially, it will only be available in France but both companies have plans to roll out the service throughout the rest of Europe, including the UK. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in France have reacted swiftly to the proposed launch of Libertysurf. In what can only be described as a knee-jerk reaction, Infonie and World Online France have both said today they will offer subscription-free Net access for a year to a limited number of people in response to the initiative. The panic, it seems, has already set in. Kingfisher and Group Arnault will each hold a 40 per cent stake in the new joint venture and the remaining 20 per cent will be held by parties providing management and technical support. "There is huge potential for Libertysurf and we have ambitious but achievable growth targets for the new service," said Bernard Arnault, chairman of France's Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group. "In Kingfisher, we have found a partner with the experience and vision to ensure the success of this venture," he said. Libertysurf -- which roughly translated means Freesurf -- closely mirrors the UK’s Freeserve in a number of ways and both Kingfisher and Arnault make no secret of the similarities. The service will be distributed through Kingfisher's chain of Darty electrical stores -- just like Dixons -- and follows the broad principles proven by the Freeserve success. It will also supply content creating a portal with a distinctive national audience base. Unfortunately, more details as to exactly how Libertysurf will make its cash were not forthcoming. Despite announcing the service this morning, no one at Kingfisher was available for comment when The Register called – something else it has in common with Freeserve. A spokeswoman for Freeserve said that Kingfisher's move proved that the Dixons model for subscription-free access was right but refused to comment further on how this would impact upon the service. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

WRQ to boost UK channel presence

Web-to-host connectivity vendor, WRQ, is re-launching its UK reseller recruitment programme in a bid to bolster its channel. The company, which has three distributors – Wick Hill, Sphinx CST and Entropy – said it was looking to sign up a greater number of systems integrators and ISVs to its channel. WRQ channel manager for UK, Ireland and South Africa, Mairéad Lambe, said: “As we grow, the role of the reseller becomes increasingly important.” She said Sphinx had been an important signing for WRQ “due to its strong presence in the IBM market.” Last year the US-based company postponed plans to make an IPO, with UK general manager Steve Cauble saying the time was not yet right to float, although it is still on the company’s to-do list. WRQ also announced the UK launch of version 2.0 of its Reflection EnterView package, an open-platform web-to-host application aimed at ecommerce developers. It enables companies to share data within their organisations as well as with business partners and customers. It offers 168-bit encryption for US users and 56-bit encryption for the rest of the world. Shaun Wolfe, WRQ business unit manager, said EnterView 2.0 was designed to enable users to connect existing and legacy systems to their ecommerce applications. “Competing via ebusiness doesn’t require the complete re-engineering of the host applications and data that currently run the day-to-day operations of the enterprise.” The company has published a white paper on the subject, which it says addresses the need to connect legacy systems to Web applications. ®
Sean Fleming, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Japan to outlaw kiddie Net porn trade

The Japanese government is taking steps to clean up the Internet by introducing legislation to outlaw the trade in child pornography. A report in today's Guardian says the bill to ban the country's "Lolita trade" is supported by all major political parties. The bill is due to be debated today by Japan's parliament and many commentators believe it will be introduced without too much objection. According to the international police authority, Interpol, 80 per cent of all child pornography on the Internet produced by commercial operations, as opposed to small paedophile rings, comes from Japan. Any crackdown from such a dominant source should have an impact on the future supply of this type of material onto the Internet. That, though, is for the future and doesn't address the ever-growing problem of a backlog of material that is building up on servers and computers throughout the world. A fortnight ago an anti child porn group said it had sent examples of child pornography from the Internet to political leaders throughout Europe -- including the Royal Family -- in a bid to galvanise support to outlaw kiddie porn on the Net. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Now McKinley looks a tad delayed

Insiders at Intel have told The Register that while Merced remains living and breathing, McKinley, the generation after Merced, also has its problems. One Intel engineer told us today that Merced is now unlikely to be taped out until August at the earliest, while another hinted at problems with McKinley too. So the pressure is on at Intel. The McKinley problem demonstrates the compaction of job functions at Intel, an engineer explained. He said that trying to pull in too many "babes in the wood" had resulted in arguments between designers at every level in the firm. Further, he said, the market pressures had started to impact designers' "bottom lines". Most designers had job offers galore from the 120 companies in Silicon Valley, never mind the 30 startups in Austin, Texas. In those circumstances, "something had to give", he explained. Intel worldwide was unavailable for comment at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD marketing budget higher than Intel's

A close examination o the annual results of Intel compared to its closest competitor Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) has revealed a strange but true fact. While Intel is seen as being a bit of a marketing genius, somehow turning the world round into accepting its microprocessors, mainly through its Intel Inside programme, the actual facts differ from this picture. In fact, AMD has spent more on marketing than Intel in the last year, as a proportion of its spend. Intel only spent 11.7 per cent on marketing, which includes the Intel Inside programme, compared to AMD, which seems to have spent 16 per cent compared to its revenues. This is a bit astonishing really. It's the difference between a shark and a minnow. ® RegiStroid .333 A shark starts off minnow sized but unlike a minnow can attain great proportions. Unless it's eaten by a turtle, of course.
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999
The Register breaking news

Is MIPS up for sale?

MIPS, the 64-bit technology that Compaq's ex CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer loved to love, span off this time last year. Its bitter rival is Brit chip company ARM and we're talking embedded here folks, so don't get bored. Nevertheless, despite the fact that SGI owns 85 per cent of its stock, the rumour mill is currently ramping up. As in, who will buy it to save SGI from its nemesis? If you remember, SGI thought that MIPS was a smart chip company and took it into its arms. SGI, beleaguered by this and that, then thought we'll spin it off. MIPS' model is different from ARM's. The latter company sells licenses while the former doesn't but has royalty revenues. And as there are twin MIPS chips in the next iteration of the PlayStation, from Sony, others like Intel should be concerned. At next week's embedded processor forum in San Jose, California, we are given to understand that 128 bit chips from MIPS will further strengthen its bitter rivalry against ARM. As MIPS has huge OEMs backing it, this is going to be the gladiatoral contest of embedded.... Someone must have to buy it, we think. Speculation revolves around Motorola although Intel, could of course, prompt a further anti-trust case by so doing. The jury is out. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Apr 1999