10th > May > 1999 Archive

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Intel seeks deal with FTC

A year ago From The Register No. 75 May 1998 Negotiations between Intel and the Federal Trading Commission may hand Intergraph a victory of sorts in its antitrust action against the company.
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Compaq unveils EV6 DS10 family

Today Compaq is expected to introduce its DS10, 466MHz EV6 machine in a further bid to capture market share at the expense of Intel. According to industry analyst Terry Shannon who edits Shannon knows Compaq, the product is a replacement for the Alpha Server 800. It comes in a desktop box, and includes 2Mb of level two cache, a 300W power supply, four PCI slots, dual 10/100 Ethernet ports, CD, floppy and will support up to three hard drives. The box uses a cut down version of the Tsnunami chipset in the DS20, says Shannon. Preliminary benchmarks indicate 24 SPECint95 and 45 SPECfp95. It will be available for Linux, NT, Open VMS and Compaq’s own Tru64 Unix. K7 watchers, who are legion, are likely to inspect the performance and pricing of the box closely for clues to how AMD’s new processor will work out. A Linux version with a 10Gb hard drive and 64Mb of memory is likely to cost around $3,500, says Shannon. ®
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Rise close to announcing fab partner

Cyrix may be languishing in the x.86 boondocks (whatever they are), but Rise is not lying down with the lambs, sources said today. The company, a Taiwanese startup with serious investment capital behind it, is expected to announce who its fab partner will be over the next few weeks. Our information is that it is ST Microelectronics (formerly SG Thomsen). ST Microelectronics at one time provided part of the fab capacity for Cyrix, along with IBM. That means it has access to a whole range of cross licences. If no-one snaps up what’s left of Cyrix, its disappearance from the discrete x.86 market will give it a chance to mop up some market share, our source said, indiscreetly. ®
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Deutsche Telekom bidding for UK cellular outfit?

One2One, the struggling number four UK cellular network operator, is the subject of a £10 billion takeover bid by Deutsche Telekom, according to Sunday Business. Could it be that Deutsche Telekom suspects its planned merger with Telecom Italia will not go through, so it is seeking a consolation prize? The Telecom Italia deal has been handled in a ham-fisted way by the Germans, but at least the roadshow intended to convince shareholders that there was merit in it kicked off in Milan rather than in Germany. Meanwhile, Olivetti is pushing its own bid via newspaper advertisements. Probably DT subscribers would rather DT reduced its high charges. One2One owner Cable & Wireless wants rid of the subsidiary. Earlier this year, C&W and partner MediaOne (the International part of Baby Bell US West, was believed to be considering the possibility of an $8 billion IPO for One2One. This would have made it possible for C&W to bid for new-generation cellular licences. It was thought at the time that C&W would concentrate on carrying data. If the story is true -- and C&W isn't commenting -- it is likely that there will be rival bidders, such as Bell Atlantic, Mannesmann, France Telecom, or even Microsoft. ®
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FCC employee in nun joke spam shock

We regret to have to report two recent cases of email abuse. The Federal Communications Commission, a body charged with keeping the ether free of offensive radio or television programmes, has itself had to take disciplinary action against an employee who sent an off-colour joke to 6000 bureaucrats and journalists instead of the daily news report. The embarrassed FCC issued an apology. If anybody has seen the joke, entitled "Nuns in Heaven", please forward it to The Register so we can use it for training purposes. As predicted by The Register, the FCC chairman William Kennard Friday warned on his eponymous day that the AT&T acquisition of MediaOne would require an "extensive review". Meanwhile, brokerage Edward Jones has fired 25 staff and suspended a further 48 people. Again it seems that off-colour jokes, and forwarded pornography, could have been the reason. The brokerage, number nine in the world, is known for being passionate about monitoring employee email and telephone calls. Curiously, a spokeswomen said that the issue was the non-business-related purpose that caused the problem, rather than the possible offensiveness of the email. ®
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Insight swallows Action in $150 million deal

Insight has confirmed that it is the mystery suitor for Action Computer Supplies, through an agreed $150 million bid for the UK direct marketer. The Arizona-headquartered reseller already operates in Europe with subsidiaries in the UK and Germany. But this deal will see it increase business in Europe massively. Action is the UK's biggest direct marketer of PCs and peripherals, and it also maintains a small to middling-sized operation in Spain. Last month, the company issued a profits warning, following a slump in PC sales to corporates in January and February. In March, Action confirmed it was in takeover talks with an unnamed company, following a leak in the Daily Mail. Industry speculation centered Insight and US rival Global Direct Mail, which bought UK PC build Simply Computers earlier this year. Insight's all share offer works out 260.7p per Action share, based on the company's closing share price of $26.625 on 7 May. This is 28 per cent higher than Action's closing share price on the same day. Insight will issue 5.64 million new shares to fund the deal. Post-acquisition, Action shareholders will own 18 per cent of the enlarged Insight group. An all share deal looks sensible, although Action's small shareholders may be unhappy with the transfer of their stock to the US. Even so, the deal is not hugely generous. Action's shares have been in the doldrums recently, and bid talk has lifted the share price only back to where it used to be. On the other hand, who would want to pay hard cash these days for a low-margin cash-eating computer dealership? ®
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Free services take UK into Web lead

Survey 'Free' Internet access (well, with BT's tariffs, not really) has propelled UK home users to the lead in Europe, according to new market data from Datamonitor and NOP. Although there are more PCs in Germany per adult (46 per cent compared with 39 per cent in the UK), only 15 per cent of the Germans ( a third of PC owners) are connected to the Internet, whereas in the UK it is now 19 per cent (half). The French, Italians and Spaniards lag with only around a quarter of the PCs being linked to the Internet. It is surprising that the survey puts Spain (39 per cent) ahead of France and Italy (32 per cent each) in PCs per adult capita. Of particular interest is the finding, from interviews of 12,500 consumers, that free services are used as the only provider for 76 per cent of users. AOL is second, with 74 per cent of its users accessing only AOL. It is expected that the proportion of users with multiple accounts will increase from the present 11 per cent. Dixon's Freeserve is the free leader. LineOne -- pushed by News International (the Murdoch press: Times, Sun, News of the World) and BT -- has achieved 240,000 users. The consequences for AOL, Demon and their ilk cannot be very good, but the potential advent of free telecom access, albeit with advertising to pay the way, could change the situation dramatically again, since most non-free service users probably spend more on telecom charges then Internet access charges. The impact of telecom charges for Internet access may not yet have registered with new users, in view of BT's quarterly billing. What remains to be seen is how the quality of service of the free services holds up. Freeserve satisfaction rates were 92 per cent, compared with 90 per cent for AOL, according to the survey, but users may have been confused between being satisfied with "free" rather than a good quality of service. In addition, users without previous experience of access through a non-free ISP may be more easily satisfied than those who have had a reasonable ISP. It will be interesting to see whether free access services have a significant impact on online shopping. ®
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Take your clothes off when you surf

In yet another bizarre attempt to make the Internet fab, groovy and interesting, Microsoft's fast-shrinking MSN has located four losers who are to spend 100 hours locked in a room with no human contact and no food. Oh, and they have to be naked too. While this might make some kind of publicity sense for nubile 20-year-old actresses, it is perhaps less appetising when one of the participants is a 67-year-old retired man. The experiment is aimed at seeing if the naked surfers can survive by ordering take out pizzas and Jolt Cola via the Web, while perhaps trying to find more lucrative employment at the same time (as Pizza delivery persons?) Of course the whole scam could backfire badly if MSN's tragic reliability rate comes into play -- what price four naked skeletons, starved to death while trying to connect to The Microsoft Network? ®
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UK Hacks give up the struggle

That mainstay of the British IT establishment, Computer Weekly, is turning to ever more deperate ideas to get out of the area known as 'terribly dull' and move into the 'slightly less dull' arena. So it was that this week's issue had a guest editor from the industry who "oversaw news reporting, chose features and wrote the leader". In fact, the only area of Computer Weakly that remained in the hands of its skilled editorial team was the tragically unfunny 'Downtime' column. We look forward to Bill Gates' turn at the helm, if only to cut down on the number of terminally dull Linux stories. Perhaps Craig Barrett could get a few more features in about log cabins and fly fishing. Phillipe Kahn might give us some tips on saxaphone technique and Eckhard Pfeiffer could no doubt write an interesting editorial on how to run a successful business. The only question that remains is what exactly CW's hacks were up to while the group IT controller of Blue Circle was at the helm? Controlling Blue Circle's IT, perhaps? Sounds like a good swap to us - someone with no journalistic experience running Computer Weekly and a bunch of hacks with no IT experience looking after a multi-million dollar IT department. ®
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Stan lax compatibility

Guess which Email client can't read attachments sent by Microsoft Outlook 98 and Microsoft Outlook 2000? Try Microsoft Outlook Express. And to think people are worried the Great Stan of Software is taking over the World. Not if it plans to do it by email, it ain't. ®
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‘Under-performing’ staff will lose from MS pay reorg

Microsoft's 'millionaire machine' may be about to run out of steam. Despite relatively low wages employees have historically made large amounts out of stock options, but the introduction of a new compensation scheme makes it clear that Redmond thinks that period is drawing to a close. A memo sent out by company president Steve Ballmer late last month informed staff of the glad tidings of pay rises and better promotion chances. But there's a sting in the tail, and quite a nasty on at that. Speaking to the Wall Street Journal Microsoft VP of human (surely shome mishtake?) resources Chris Williams makes it clear that under-performers are going to get whacked. We at The Register are of course perversely interested in that little flip side of the Ballmer announcement. Ballmer says that Microsoft will now be aiming to pay salaries at levels higher than two thirds of the software industry, whereas previously MS had aimed at the halfway mark, and frequently missed it. It will also increase the number of non-executive job functions from 12 to 22, so employees can get promoted more often, but obviously not so impressively. The changes are being made because employees already are losing out on stock options. The stock price hasn't been rising spectacularly enough for them to get the same levels of reward as earlier generations of Microserfs, many of whom have been able to buy themselves medium-sized countries on the strength of their winnings. Increasing salaries will theoretically hit Microsoft's margins, but this is where we think the sting comes in. According to Williams, the new job titles will be given out in August after the annual performance reviews. Not everybody will get promoted and, he tells the WSJ, "people whose performance has declined will see less compensation of any sort". So, Microserfs, you've got three months to demonstrate how hard-working, committed and effective you are. If you bleed at the ears over the summer you'll get that promotion, and a pay hike. But if it looks like you're maybe not entirely with the programme, the outcome will likely be somewhat different. We at The Register would not be at all surprised if the pay restructuring activities turned out not to impact Microsoft's net margins in the slightest. Wonder how high a bodycount that would take? ®
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China and Balkans on IT industry's mind

Three days of demonstrations against the Nato bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade is likely to have an impact on US IT companies hoping to capitalise on the country's trade opportunities. And fears are arising that China will also take a tougher stand on Taiwan, which it claims as part of its territory. The Chinese government today cut off contacts with the US government at the highest level on discussions on arms and human rights. That will have an impact on China's proposed admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). And anti-Western feeling is growing in China's major cities, with the UK government advising Britons not to travel unless absolutely necessary, while Western journalists have also been threatened by the mob. China periodically rattles its sabre at Taiwan, which is the engine of the IT industry, but the mainland has been keen to allow the island to flourish, because of the knock-on effect it has on its own economy. Four Chinese citizens, including two journalists, were killed in Belgrade when a "smart bomb" smashed into the country's embassy. The US government and NATO have blamed the CIA for giving wrong information. While NATO has apologised to the Chinese government, the latter has rejected its apology as "wholly inadequate". ®
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More woes for Lycos/USA Networks deal

USA Networks could be about to throw in the towel and admit defeat over its planned acquisition of portal giant Lycos. A report in the Wall Street Journal Interactive claims that USA Networks may ditch plans to buy Lycos, quoting unnamed sources close to the deal. Although the WSJ reports that executives at USA Networks haven't finally made up their minds, they are now starting to concede that they are unlikely to win a vote by shareholders due to take place in July. The shareholder revolt led by CMGI, Lycos' largest stockholder, followed by ranks of shareholders miffed that this high-profile Internet deal would not reap a large premium. A fortnight ago Lycos VP Bo Peabody told The Register that he didn't hold out much hope for the deal. "The deal is still in limbo," said Peabody. "The market will decide if it will go ahead, but it's clear that the market doesn't like it," he said. ®
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AMD could buy Cyrix business

Updated Sources close to National Semiconductor told The Register today that the company has two potential buyers for its Cyrix and x.86 fab business. And one of them is likely to be AMD, according to the source, who said that IBM was definitely not in the frame. NatSemi wants to conclude a sale within the month, the source said. Joe D'Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest Europe, pointed out that AMD has a lot on its plate at the moment. "They've got to maintain K6-2, the K6-III and get the K7 out, plus they're doing mobile versions. Buying Cyrix, however, would give them a proven design technology. They'd buy a name and a design team with an innovative set of products, which is what they did with NexGen." He speculated that ST Microelectronics might also be interested, following rumours that it has fallen out with the x.86 core company Metaware it was wooing last year. "They could do with that design team," he said. Samsung could also be a contender, D'Elia thought. "They might just realise that Alpha won't be a ten million a year product," he said. ®
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Lucent debuts Netphone-on-a-chip

Lucent today announced what it claims is the world's first phone-on-a-chip product for Internet-based telephony. The company reckons the move will stimulate the netphone market considerably, primarily by reducing the cost of a handset from around $250 to $150. According to market researcher Dataquest, the market for netphones will grow to 8.8 million units by 2002 -- an average growth rate of 250 per cent over the next three years. The new chip won't be available immediately, however. First, Lucent will offer a dual-chip solution (a microprocessor and a DSP) which wil ship in Q4. Later -- though it didn't specify when -- the company will ship the single-chip version. The single netphone chip's microprocessor will be based on the Intel ARM architecture. It will support 10/100 Ethernet and provide repeater functionality to allow the host phone to share a single Ethernet port with a desktop PC. Curiously, it will also support USB. ®
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Merced just a development platform for McKinley

Intel still refuses to comment on the $200 million+ IA-64 initiative it will announce in California when people on the West Coast wake up later today. (See story: Intel in desperate cash bid to rescue Merced) But every indication now is that Intel will build the fund to position McKinley as the premier IA-64 platform, with Merced effectively becoming a development platform for future growth. Willamette IA-32 technology, due out in the middle of next year, could even beat Merced on price and performance. Joe D'Elia, senior semiconductor analyst at Dataquest Europe, said that if Intel was to set up such a fund, it would make sense for the chip company. He said: "If you look at the IA-64, it has slipped relative to their orginal time scales. Everything else has caught up with it. "The important thing for Intel is that they've got to get it out there so there's software development going on," he said. He said: "Merced is a performance concept and a development tool, rather than something deployed in anger. If you look at silicon technology, the deployment has speeded up and if we look at future IA-32 devices in the middle of next year, they could even offer higher performance [than Merced]." D'Elia said that Compaq could afford to support an IA-64 initiative because of the leverage it had with the Alpha platform. Hewlett Packard, however, had been entirely consistent, saying that it would support McKinley. McKinley incorporates HP's EPIC technology. ®
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Al Gore threatens IT industry leaders

US vice president Al Gore has been accused of using strong-arm tactics against IT industry leaders in an attempt to gain support for his crusade to promote moral decency on the Internet. His threatening behaviour and "abuse of power" was allegedly directed at those IT top dogs who were undecided about attending the launch of the One Click Away Internet resource. The child-friendly Net resource was set up in the wake of the killings in Littleton, Colorado. A report by the The Washington Times claims that one of Gore's top policy advisors "threatened to demonise computer on-line industry executives in the media if they didn't attend a press conference where Mr Gore claimed credit for creating an Internet child protection tool". The Washington Times reported that Mr Kohlenberger, Gore's aide, told industry execs: "The vice president has invited high-tech leaders to this press conference and looks forward to your participation." "If you do not show up he will notice, and he has a very long memory for these things. If you don't come, the way it will play out in the press will make the industry look very immature." The threats were allegedly made last Tuesday two days before Gore announced One Click Away. The Washington Times didn't reveal its sources but said that the story had been corroborated by several different sources. A spokesman for Gore refused to comment on the allegations and accused the people behind the story of playing politics. Senator Bob Kerrey, a Nebraska Democrat, told The Washington Times: "If he did that, it is an abuse of power." "I don't care who you are, anyone who would do that is abusing their power." ®
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Secret service eliminates ex-spy’s Web site

A former James Bond wannabe had his Web site shut down by MI6 last week after threatening to expose some of Britain's top secrets. Richard Tomlinson's site aimed to shake up and stir MI6 by identifying its officers and site locations around the world, according to a report in The Mail on Sunday. Tomlinson also warned that he would publish a book synopsis of his own MI6 career –- an act he was jailed for last year. Top government law officer Anthony Hammond, got the injunction banning the site, which is based in Switzerland, where Tomlinson now lives. The site, run by Lausanne ISP IPWorldcom, stated: "The objective of MI6 is to steal the secrets of other countries. Most of the secrets are stolen by MI6 officers working abroad under cover as British diplomats." The map of MI6 office sites was said to be "coming soon". Another page showed Tomlinson wearing a silly hat and grinning in front of the MI6 headquarters at Vauxhall Cross in London. When the site was opened up it played the theme tune to Monty Python's Flying Circus. Last week, Tomlinson said he would appeal against the injunction. Meanwhile, the cheeky Web wizard had switched the pages to a site run by California-based Geocities.com. Again he was closed down after the Swiss injunction was pointed out to Geocities. According to Tomlinson, MI6 was breaking the law around the globe by its activities, as well as playing with his liberty. "They are trying to obstruct my freedom to travel and I have already been banned from entering France, the USA and Australia," he told the MoS. "There would be no need to put up this Web site if they stopped messing me about. I have already lost one job by being prevented from entering France." ®
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SiS intros integrated “non legacy” chipset

Taiwanese chip manufacturer Silicon Integrated System has now delivered prices and delivery dates for its SiS 630 chipset. The 630 will cost $35/10K and be available in volume this summer. It integrates north and south bridges, includes super I/O, integrated 128-bit 3D, phoneline networking support, soft modem, TV out and soft DVD capabilities. A combination of five USB ports, Ultra ATA 66IDE and four PCI slots can be built into motherboards. There is an AC97 codec for stereo sound and 3D surround sound is supported through software. If manufacturers still want to include so-called "legacy" ISA slots, they can do so. SiS claims the chipset will support 3D Winbench at 700 by poroduction time. The chipset also includes PC-133 and PC-266 memory support, demonstrating that Intel will have to get a move on if it doesn't want to miss this particular boat as it leaves the jetty. There is support for Socket 7 as well as Pentium II and Pentium III, but SiS did not say whether a future version will support the socketed Pentium III we reported here recently. ®
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Mobile phone chip ends radiation fears

US boffins are working on a chip for use in mobile phones that will shield users from potentially lethal radiation. Called the EMF Chip, it is embedded in the phone's battery, according to a report in top people's tabloid The Mail. The chip's developer, Prof Theodore Litovitz, of the Catholic University of America in Washington, claims putting the chip in the battery will not affect its performance, not that of the phone. No time scale has bee set for the release of the chip, The Mail said, but it is expected soon. It is expected to sell for around £25 and anyone wanting to save their brain from being fried any further will need to buy a new battery for their handset. Despite a growing amount of concern -– and coverage -– the potential threat posed by mobile phone radiation is still an unknown quantity. The UK government has set up an independent working group to look into the matter. Among the many concerns voiced about the threat of mobile phones, was the fear that the radiation can damage short term memory. ®
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Typhoon hits Logitek in wake of Osmosis fall-out

An ironic twist of fate has seen Osmosis lose the UK distribution of Typhoon products to rival distie Logitek. Typhoon's multimedia tools will be distributed by the Lancashire company from today. Logitek said it was approached by Hong Kong Typhoon parent company Anubis and given the contract for the £2 million-a-year brand. The move followed Osmosis pulling out of hardware late last month to try and stem its financial troubles. At the time, the Middlesex-based distributor blamed bad debts, some of which stemmed from the collapse of fellow companies Roldec and Memsolve. Both these businesses went down owing millions to creditors earlier this year. At the press conference in April, Osmosis admitted it was in dire financial straits, but pledged to honour all creditors. Chris Walmsley, former Memsolve sales and marketing manager, is now a sales manager at Logitek distribution. He said: "We are very excited by the potential and it shows we're making progress." ®
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School kids bung up the Web

A group of school children in Canada have learnt a valuable lesson about Netiquette after a school project they were working on went horribly wrong. Children in the fifth grade at Mill Cove Elementary School, Nova Scotia, wanted to track the progress of a single email to see how far it would travel around the globe. But as their chain email was forwarded to more and more people, their mail server was unable to cope with the torrent of replies they received. "The response has been absolutely overwhelming!" wrote the children on their Web site. "We received 9000 messages within the first week alone. They were coming in at a rate of about 150 per hour! Our inbox was flooded, and our computer was unable to handle the tremendous amount of email." In their keenness to explore the wonders of the Internet, this particular class of would-be Internauts was simply unaware of the potential repercussions of sending such a message. The school's ISP, Global Linx, has decided to reject all electronic mail sent to the class email address until the torrent slows to a manageable trickle. Staff and students of Mill Cove School have apologised for any trouble they may have caused. ®
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Called to the bar

MS on Trial What are we to make of the list of rebuttal witnesses in the Microsoft trial? The choice by each side shows the aspects of the case they consider to be important. The DoJ seems to have a better selection than Microsoft, all things considered. For Microsoft, the AOL takeover of Netscape is seen to be important evidence that Microsoft has competition, and Microsoft will be mindful that Judge Jackson expressed some surprise at the deal which Microsoft interpreted as a rare example of something favourable to its case. Consequently, Microsoft is risking again calling David Colburn, AOL senior VP for business affairs, as a hostile witness. But since AOL subsequently renewed its agreement to use Internet Explorer as its preferred browser, and also found itself paying twice as much for Netscape as a result of AOL shares having risen steeply after the announcement, the merger does not now look so good. Microsoft is still suggesting that the merger undermines the DoJ's case, and further suggests that Colburn's prior testimony was not complete or candid, based on new documents and depositions since the merger. AOL CEO Steve Case was expected to be called, but Microsoft may well have thought he would be a more difficult witness to control than Colburn. A further blow to AOL came last week since it now looks as though AOL is going to get effectively locked out of being the Internet service provider for cable in the US. Microsoft and AT&T intend that AOL will only be offered as an additional service for a fee, and not as the main service provider, which will act as a significant disincentive for users to pay for Internet access twice just to get AOL's proprietary content. Gordon Eubanks, former CEO of Symantec (and before that he was at IBM), has been less antagonistic to Microsoft than most, despite open warfare from Microsoft in the utilities market. He is noted for having said to Forbes in 1991: "Bill wants to have as much of the software industry as he can swallow, and he's got a very big appetite." And in 1995 to the San Jose Mercury that "software tends to gravitate towards monopoly, because of the benefits of standards. That's balanced by the speed of change in technology, and low barriers of entry in the software business". Eubanks left Symantec in April after the stock had declined 34 per cent so far in the year. He was replaced by John Thompson, former general manager of IBM Americas. Eubanks now runs Oblix, a Web software company. Microsoft wants Eubanks to say how dynamic the competition is in the industry, and the benefits of competition. It will be interesting to see whether Microsoft gives any kind of backhander to Oblix after the trial, but before that, David Boies, the DoJ special trial counsel, will have some questions about the lack of dynamic competition in the operating systems market. The DoJ is recalling Edward Felten, whom Microsoft negated by adjusting Windows with te result that his prototype program to disable the browsing capability of IE in Windows did not work as it had in the laboratory. Felten will be pretty peeved, but have the advantage of the superior program developed in Australia to remove a great deal more of IE from the "integrated" Windows. He and his boys are unlikely to be caught out by a dirty trick this time. Although Felten's contribution was something of a sideshow, the DoJ is evidently still trying to get a remedy that prevents Microsoft offering Windows 98 as an "integrated" product. A lucid summary as to just how Microsoft has set about making it difficult to separate IE from Windows can be expected. Felten will also elaborate on how browsers work with BeOS, Linux and MacOS are readily removable or replaceable, and why it is not necessary for browsing to be hard-wired into Windows, so making IE non-optional and non-removable. If Eubanks was surprise witness for Microsoft, then Garry Norris, previously director of software strategy and strategic relations for the IBM PC company, (from 1995 to 1997) is a greater surprise. However, his evidence will probably be the most interesting and damaging. Norris started with IBM on the marketing side in 1982, so he will have seen the whole Microsoft saga develop. He negotiated Windows licensing agreements with Microsoft, as well as the so-called market development agreements that Microsoft uses to allow discounts for those who toe the line. So far the DoJ has presented very little evidence from PC makers as to just how they were treated by Microsoft. Since Norris is no longer with IBM, he is likely to be much more outspoken than John Soyring, who was a very low-key IBM witness. Norris will have a great deal of dirt that, if presented, could have a significant impact on the trial. The remaining two witnesses are both economists who have already given an abundance of ill-founded and error-rich evidence. They are Franklin Fisher for the DoJ, and Richard Schmalensee for Microsoft. Although arguments by economists have played a major part in antitrust cases in the past, there is a significant change of climate in the US -- particularly in New York and Washington -- since economists have failed to predict economic outcomes because their models are based on an industrial society, whereas in reality we are in a post-industrial age. Nonetheless, interminable flawed arguments can be expected, but it seems unlikely that they will influence Judge Jackson, who has shown that he has a sound enough grasp on the technical aspects of the case to see through some of the silliness that is likely to emerge. Assuming Judge Jackson continues with his four day weeks, it is likely that the rebuttal witnesses will take a month or so. A spokeswoman from the prosecutor's office in Jude Jackson's present drugs case told The Register that she expected that trial to be sent to the jury in about a week, so the Microsoft trial may restart next week. Complete Register trial coverage
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MS Slate admits editorial defeat

Microsoft has admitted defeat with its venture into the world of magazines, Slate, at least from the point of view of editorial. It said today it will sell more things on its site. This is the second u-turn Microsoft has made after its much-hyped venture into the editorial market. Earlier this year, it was forced to remove subscriptions from Slate. While Microsoft recognises that content is important, the move means that there will be adverts everywhere on the site. Social satire and political comment does not, then, seem to have had the impact CEO Bill Gates had hoped for. ®
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FBI fights fraud in cyberspace

The FBI is taking its fight against crime into cyberspace with the launch of the Internet Fraud Council (IFC). Officially launched today in partnership with a number of private sector agencies, the IFC is designed to combat fraud and investigate the growing number of customer complaints from Net users. Although details are still sketchy, USA Today said today that the new fraud-busting outfit will open its doors in late summer. Due to be based in West Virginia, the IFC was created following a personal request from President Clinton. It's mandate is to "devise new ways to fight crimes in cyberspace, from credit card fraud to stock manipulation to get-rich-quick schemes", USA Today said. Although the launch of such a focused organisation is to be welcomed, no one should underestimate the task it faces. Scams, hoaxes, cons and frauds are an everyday part of Internet life. While many would simply become rendered useless if people weren't so gullible and didn't believe they could make £50,000 from doing diddlysquat, the Net has been responsible for some other, more serious, scams. Earlier this month, a man appear before a federal judge in Los Angeles accused of masterminding what is believed to be the biggest credit card scam in history. Kenneth Taves, 47, allegedly "earned" $49.4 million last year before concealing it in an offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands. While some of the money was generated from legitimate charges for access to porn sites run by Taves' company, Netfill, how he got the rest of the cash is still a mystery. Last month, respected online information providers Bloomberg found themselves in the middle of a financial scam when a hoaxer went to the trouble of mocking up a fake Bloomberg news story alleging that Pairgain had agreed to be bought by Israel-based ECI Telecom. It was hoped that the stunt would create a run on the stock price for California-based telecomms company, Pairgain Technologies, netting someone a rather dishonest profit. A man is helping police with their enquiries. ®
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US exchange issues CPU spot marketing details

NECX, which is a global tracker of CPU prices, has sent us its latest set of CPU figures. And very interesting reading they make too. While Intel, AMD and other microprocessor manufacturers sell chips in quantities of 1,000 through their OEMs and distributors, NECX keeps its finger closer to the pulse than that. The prices reflect spot buying and selling in the worldwide chip market, which the chip manufacturers are unable to control, they say, so the prices should be contrasted with other available figures. NECX, who provided these figures, and also look at memory prices and obsolete stock, are here ®
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Oh dear, it’s processor serial number time again

Those awfully clever Zero Knowledge folks have placed a cookie on the web here which it claims can read your Pentium III serial number even if it’s turned off. See The Sherriff's earlier story: PSN back from the dead We tried it on The Register’s P3 system (which had the serial number turned on). It was hardly, shall we say, sneaky and underhand. The system fell in a heap and had to be restarted from cold (which is what Chipzilla has always said you need to do in order to enable the serial number), so the chances of your number being read without your knowledge are rather slim unless you have brain cells numbering in single figures. Oh and by the way, the utility stripped a bunch of zeros out of the number, so it got it wrong anyway. Zero Knowledge says we’re number 0672226fa25d71bf The actual number is 00000672000226FA025D71BF Take The Register challenge: OK, my little Zeroes, if you’re so smart, you tell us the name of the individual who uses this system. If you can’t do this, the whole privacy issue surrounding serial numbers is a load of bullshit. You have 24 hours from the non-ISO date and time shown on this story... ®
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Distributors cut to quick by Compaq

Compaq will slay most of its US distribution channel, leaving only a skeleton crew of four. The PC heavyweight announced it would keep only Ingram Micro, TechData, Merisel and Inacom, according to today's Wall Street Journal. The move, effective from 1 August, will address the tangle of 39 US distributors which Compaq partly blamed for its poor first quarter figures. Analysts said the reductions would help Compaq seek better terms from the remaining distributors, according to today's Financial Times. They added that the streamlining would also give Compaq a clearer picture of demand. Two months ago, Compaq gave Tech Data and Ingram Micro permission to final-assemble and distribute its Prosignia range of PCs for small businesses. At the time, it said the authorisation would be extended to Compaq's entire commercial PC products. ®
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EMC stabs HP in the front

Storage company EMC has responded to HP's full frontal attack on it last week by claiming it was being opportunistic for the sake of profit. Last week, HP said EMC Symmetrix technology, which it re-sold for several years, was ageing and proprietary. (Story: EMC and HP: war declared) But Mark Fredrickson, head of global PR at EMC in the US, said: "HP has a credibility problem because they told their corporate users they had the ultimate storage solution on Tuesday and on Wednesday they'd changed their mind." He said: "This makes it very clear that HP's real strategy is to do with their own bottom line and the urgency they have to pull more profits out of a big market." Fredrickson said that the statements would not affect EMC's corporate customers because HP was merely a reseller. "We've had a big response from both corporate customers and resellers asking for continuity," he said. "Our reseller strategy is intact as we speak." He said that HP sales of EMC Symmetrix kit represented $700 million last year, and accounted for only 13 per cent in its first quarter. "Wall Street thinks we'll do $5.2 billion this year and so it's under $700 million [of sales] he said." He admitted that HP's agreement to sell Symmetrix kit was a large part of EMC business, but "EMC has had full customer agreement in every account. The machines are installed and serviced by EMC." He said: "Clearly HP's strategy is not driven by customer concern." So there is a war. ®
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Ingram Micro UK loses its head

Sandy Scott has left Ingram Micro UK. The news broke this afternoon after rumours had started circulating in the channel at lunchtime. A number of sources were quick to tell The Register that Scott had gone, but the debate was still raging over whether he jumped or was pushed. Either way, don’t forget, you read it here first. This is one that could have caught some of the channel weekly papers napping. Microscope is unlikely to have got it, PC Dealer definitely has and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether Computer Reseller News UK will have it. Scott’s swift departure followed the announcement in March that the US distributor would cut 1,400 jobs. Ingram also admitted earlier this month that it was being forced to raise prices due to market pressure. One source suggested that the distributor’s poor performance had resulted in Scott having to fall on his sword. He joined Ingram last year from private health insurance company PPP, with a plan to revitalise the distributor. ®
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Web name registrar bans lewd language

Places like Scunthorpe will have problems registering domain names if US company Network Solutions has its way. The business, which is responsible for registering .com addresses, is refusing to register URLs that include words it deems offensive. This has sparked a legal row with Seven Words, another US company, which claims it is an infringement on freedom of speech. Nancy Huddlestone of Network Solutions told the Sunday Times: "We used to reject domains with ‘shit’ in them. A lot of Japanese words contain that, and in particular a lot of shiitake mushroom growers were upset, so we let them through." Hence the problems innocent locations like Scunthorpe or Arsenal may encounter. Jay Spillane, solicitor for Seven Words, was out flying the flag for places like Middlesex: "In the US we all have a right to free speech, as part of the First Amendment, and this company is not allowing that," she said. "It’s something it just can’t do, and we will fight to get the names released." The names in question have been placed on hold until the result of the court hearing. The words were not named, but were likely to refer to sexual acts. Ivan Pope, founder of UK NetNames that also registers domains, described Network Solutions as a law unto itself. "It pretty much makes up its own rules. It says what is offensive and what isn’t. It was quite happy to register nigger.com, for instance, which is probably far more offensive to people than the names it witholds,” he told the Sunday Times. The US Justice Department is to investigate Network Solutions’ monopoly. The UK has no restrictions on .co.uk domain names. British company Funmail recently registered hundreds of offensive names to stop them falling into the wrong hands. ®
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Merced is a zombie

We just took a quick glance at Intel's release about the quarter of a billion greenbacks it is pushing into its IA 64 platform and realised we were right, earlier this year. IA-64 is undead. Go to its web site to check it out. For the sake of our worldwide readers who don't know what this phrase "undead" means, we shall explain. The famous island of Haiti, populated as it is mostly by West Africans, has a native religion, mixed with Catholicism. The Tsumba is a West African phrase and unluckily for Haitian souls, the slaves brought by Western European countries including Portugal, Great Britain and Spain, found it a lucrative trade to ship said souls west. Tsumba means "the living undead" in one of the many native Nigerian languages. Oops. Western Europeans were being a tad shortsighted. It was ever thus... So thank gods for Abraham Lincoln. ®