19th > May > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Police probe alleged DRAM VAT scam

A year ago From The Register, 22 May 1998 (a year ago) Greater Manchester police have questioned a number of individuals in a joint investigation with Customs and Excise into alleged VAT fraud carried out on European DRAM imports. Greater Manchester police officer David Malcolm confirmed that an investigation into memory fraud was under way, but he said that no charges had been laid. The joint Police-Customs action follows a separate Dutch investigation on 16 March when 150 police raided a number of companies to check their trading history. They found that UK and Irish companies appeared to be involved in fraudulent DRAM trading and tipped off the UK authorities. One allegation is that individuals had assumed the name and VAT details of an reputable, international memory distributor to trade in DRAM products. While VAT fraud is rife in Europe on all products, a number of memory distributors, notably Dane-Elec, have complained of inaction by UK Customs authorities. Because the VAT rate differs from country to country, it means that already slim margins are eroded by criminals who ship quantities of SIMMs across the Community. Alan Stanley, MD of Dane-Elec UK, said it was hard for honest companies like his to make a living while such practices continued. ®
Mike Magee, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

MS, Xerox ink Windows for copiers deal

Microsoft and Xerox have entered a technology and market development alliance, as predicted here earlier this week. Windows NT 4.0 will be embedded in Xerox devices, with products being delivered from the third quarter, it was claimed yesterday. The idea is for Exchange to be used for the delivery of documents, and clearly, as with Wireless Knowledge and Nextel, MS BackOffice will be skulking in the background. Microsoft President Steve Ballmer allegedly said (this is press-release-speak): "We are empowering knowledge workers by unifying the digital and paper worlds" which can be translated as "clerical workers will not need to put a photocopy in the tray for delivery - it can be sent by a complex series of keyboard, mouse and button-pressing operations to the recipient". We wonder if the cost of training will exceed the previous delivery costs by an office junior gaining work experience. An important sub-text in the announcement was that paper was not being eliminated: Xerox CEO Rick Thoman said thankfully that "the paperless office remains a difficult achievement" and predicted that by 2005, 30 to 40 per cent of office documents will still be on paper … As is standard for Microsoft technology announcements, this is far from being anything new. If anything, it is an attempt to produce an alternative to Adobe's Acrobat and PDF format, which has been gaining ground steadily. Microsoft prefers not to use Acrobat since to do so would be to legitimise it, although we have noted that Microsoft researchers use it lovingly. Microsoft's multi-page scanned exhibits in the trial have to be printed a page at a time, because MS does not have any technology to equal Acrobat. It will be very interesting to see how many millions of lines of code the embedded version of NT 4.0 takes to achieve the simple task of sending a document from a photocopier or scanner to a remote printer. And how curious that NT 4.0 is being used as the basis: why not Windows 2000? MS does not intend this to be an exclusive deal with Xerox: it is calling its product-to-be NT for Document Centre Systems. This is of course the type of deal that Microsoft has wanted in order to quell criticism that it was getting left behind in the embedded market. For Xerox, it is a way to try to regain former glory from the days when it had the xerography patent, and before mainly Japanese companies produced copiers that were more reliable. Microsoft has also licensed Xerox's WebForager, a user interface technology for browsing virtual pages on the net that was developer at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the crypt of many innovations in days of yore. ®
Graham Lea, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq asking for 20 per cent across-the-board cuts

The triumvirate currently running Compaq, which owns the letter Q, is now attempting to reduce costs by 20 per cent. As the organisation is a bare bones outfit already, it's hard to see where the slashes may be made. However, as reported here and in the excellent newsletter which we, and hopefully the rest of you, read all the time, Shannon knows Compaq, one way that the Big Q will claw back profit is by spinning off its OEM business. A letter to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is in the post, we are given to understand. The OEM group will be sold to Smart Modular Technologies in early June. Meanwhile, insiders at Compaq tell The Register that Shannon, a leading DEC analyst, is coming under even greater pressure from New York lawyers. The insiders say that Compaq now wants a disclaimer in CAPITAL LETTERS on Shannon's newsletter, and on every page. Shannon continues to refuse to comment on the legal issue. But as we reported several days ago, it is odd that Compaq should go to these lengths. Has the triumvirate never heard of IBM Today, DEC User and The Register? Journalism in the United States of America is evidently a fraught business... ®
Mike Magee, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Russian chip makers get to 0.35 micron

SRISA (Scientific Research Institute for System Analysis) has announced it will build a mini fabrication plant for microcircuit technology using a 0.35 micron process, at Russian trade show SEMI in Zelenograd. The mini-factory will begin work early in 2000. The equipment has been supplied by US outfit Applied Materials, the number one worldwide supplier of fab kit. Applied Materials officials are confident that its Russian customers will create good yields. The mini-fab is financed by several interested investors. Elbrus, which has the edge on supercomputer and 64-bit x86-like technology, is expected to sample parts using the fabrication plant. As reported here earlier, Elbrus, which has designs dubbed the Merced Killer, got financing from the Moscow government this year. Boris Babaian, CEO of Elbrus, Under the items of information from the official persons of the company, will use the mini-fab to test the designs. In fact, Elbrus' design may actually be produced before Intel's. Beware, Chipzilla, the gauntlet is down. ® Andrei Fatkullin is a journalist on Russian wire Computerra Weekly
The Register breaking news

Hitachi cracks ‘movie on a chip’ memory

Hitachi's Cambridge R&D centre has claimed a memory technology breakthrough that will allow all the images and sound from a complete movie to be stored on a single chip. The system, PLEDM, is being proposed as a next-generation memory technology that could conceivably replace hard disks. The lab, a Hitachi-backed facility of Cambridge University, is engaged in nanotechnology research, and PLED (Phase-state Low Electron(hole)-number Drive Memory, looks like becoming its first major commercial product, in around five years time. PLED moves on from standard DRAM technology, which have one transistor and one capacitor cell, by using two transistors to make a "gain cell" in a smaller area. The PLEDTR (PLED TRansistor) is stacked onto the gate in a conventional transistor. The PLED cell itself is as small as a conventional transistor, with a read/write time of less than 10nsec and a large signal even at low voltage. It's therefore fast, inherently low power, and according to Hitachi could be developed to retain memory even with power switched off. This, combined with its ability to form the basis of multi-gigabit chips in the next century, would allow it to be used as a hard disk substitute, and allow large quantities of cheap, fast, non-volatile storage to be used in pocket devices. ®
John Lettice, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Novell to ship NDS for Linux in Q4

Novell's NDS for Linux is to ship in Q4, the company said at its Brainshare conference in Nice, France yesterday. Novell already caters for Linux to some extent, but the appearance of a full version of its directory service software will help Linux gain easier acceptance in Novell sites. NDS is also viewed by Novell as a major weapon against Microsoft. NT's directory services have always been weak when compared to NetWare's and for MS it's all riding on the company's ability to deliver serious competition in Windows 2000. As and when it delivers that, that is. Novell meanwhile has been turning the tables on Microsoft by presenting NetWare as an OS that can easily support a wide range of other platforms, Linux and NT included. NDS version 8 shipped last week, and an upgraded version of NDS for NT is due in the next few months. One thing to watch out for though - a few weeks ago Microsoft's Jim Allchin seemed to be suggesting that, when Windows 2000 shipped, the new security systems might in some way interfere with the operation of NDS. We trust, having been warned by The Register already, that Novell is on the case. ®
John Lettice, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Osmosis calls in the administrators

Troubled distributor Osmosis has gone into administration after the breakdown of its rescue plan. The Brentford company has been under the control of administrators Pannell Kerr Forster since Thursday. It is believed to owe around £5 million. Last month Osmosis outlined an informal agreement to save the group, saying it would abandon its PC hardware business and concentrate on profitable grey broking, software and Internet hardware server operations. But it is understood that financial documents shown to creditors failed to instil confidence that Osmosis could honour its promises. Eddie Pacey, Ideal Hardware credit manager, said the figures he saw last week on the state of the company's affairs "did not give me comfort that the company would be able to pay off all its creditors within 12 months". Pacey said he felt there was a "substantial weakness" in Osmosis' trade debtor ledger. Other creditors are believed to include Microsoft. Last month Osmosis said it would continue as an OEM for the software giant. But The Register has learned that Osmosis had been having difficulties renewing its distributor's licence, which was due to expire in June. John Fenton, Osmosis MD, was unavailable for comment.®
Linda Harrison, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Over 50 years experience in IT PR?

Now, we know that experience counts for a great deal in the Wacky World of high tech PR, but it would appear some organizations are demanding a level of experience that few people under the age of 120 could possibly boast. The Great Satan of Hardware is currently searching for a spin paramedic in the UK and one hopeful applicant, perhaps naively, reckoned that his 27 years working with such two-bit companies as IBM, Intel, Digital and ICL would put him right in the frame for the job. No such luck. The heartless cads at Dell turned him down claiming they were looking for someone with more experience. So if you know any 99 year olds who can cobble together a press release, walk unaided and empty their own colostomy bags, point them in Dell’s direction. ®
Pete Sherriff, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel gets paid $5m to set up in Utah

Intel plans to move from rented accommodation in Salt Lake City to whizzo new offices on a 150 acre greenfield site in picturesque downtown Riverton, Utah, thanks to a whopping $5 million cash handout from the local authorities. The chip giant currently employs around 350 folks from the Systems Management Division and Network Communications Group in Salt Lake City and will develop the new site over the next 20 years, eventually housing some 8000 staff there. The Riverton site will not include fab or other manufacturing facilities and it seems likely that Intel Insiders from other locations will be relocated in sunny Utah unless Chipzilla forsees a massive increase in staffing for its networking operations in the next couple of years. Most of the network employees are currently working on Intel's InBusiness range of networking products aimed at the SME market. ®
Pete Sherriff, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

BT fraud letter outed as a fake

The letter accusing a BT customer of fraud is bogus, according to a learned reader of The Register. Matthew Garrett, a medical student at Cambridge University said: "The alleged letter from BT is a fake. "Putting it through a colour filter reveals that the BT logo in the top left corner and the bar code and footer have been scanned in and pasted on top of a computer-generated document. "Creases are also clearly visible around the staple region, but oddly enough aren't anywhere else on the page. "And as a final nail in its coffin, the background of the main page is full red, green and blue, a value that is highly unlikely to occur in nature since paper tends to be slightly off-white. "The rest of the page is plain and perfect white, which would only occur in a computer-generated image. "Hence it is fake. "If anyone can produce that with a scanner and a perfectly ordinary sheet of paper, I'd be greatly impressed. "My version of it is here, and I know there's some other enhanced copies floating around," he said. To see yesterday's story about the alleged fake letter, click here. After his thorough job on this little number it looks like Matthew will have no problems sailing through his post mortem course. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Virgin boss had a hand in Pamela Anderson’s boob job

Daredevil entrepreneur Richard Branson is planning to offer packaged holidays in outer space and claims he was the inspiration for busty Pamela Anderson to have a breast reduction. Speaking last night in a Webcast watched by hundreds of Net users, Branson told how his trendy company, Virgin, will be the first to open a hotel in space. He has already registered the name Virgin Galactic Airways and is examining ways to transport 10 people using a reusable rocket for a two-week holiday in a Virgin space hotel. During the one-hour chat, which has broken all records for Virgin Net, he also spoke about how Pamela Anderson got her idea for having a breast reduction from Virgin Cola. "When we designed the Virgin Cola Bottle in the shape of Pamela Anderson, we had to have the bottle reduced because it kept tipping over," he joked. "I believe that’s where she got the idea from," he said. He also revealed that his next daredevil challenge is to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in September faster than any one else in history. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell did bloody well

Dell's onwards and upwards continues unabated. The company's first quarter 2000 results, ended 30 April, posted yesterday, centred on profits of $434 million on revenue of $5.54 billion. The figures represent increases of 42 per cent and 41 per cent, respectively, on the same period last year. Back then, Dell recorded revenues of $3.92 billion and profits of $305 million. Earnings were in line with Street expectations, so clearly CEO Michael Dell's analyst briefings, carried out earlier this year to allay fears of below par results, seem to have done the trick. Dell also claimed to lead the industry in asset management, pointing to its six-day inventory. This contradicts Apple's claim to have beaten Dell on inventory management for three quarters in a row. The direct vendor would presumably say that what it actually means is that it stands out among Wintel PC companies, and since Apple isn't Wintel, it doesn't count. Still, when Apple achieves Dell's growth rate, maybe then it will have a right to complain. ®
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Euro slide helps double L&H Q1

Lernout & Hauspie, based in Ieper, Belgium (or Wipers as it was called by the British army during WW1) has turned in first quarter results that show a doubling of revenue to $70.7 million, and net income of $7 million before exceptional items, to wit a $5.3 million benefit, mostly from currency exchange gain. The windfall is largely related to the fall of the Euro against the dollar. L&H is slowly resolving its problems with the SEC concerning R&D write offs. The company is quoted on NASDAQ, and rather bravely, on the less than successful EASDAQ. Although consultancy and services revenue doubled, the margin is of course far less than on its products. There is a rather healthy $189 million in cash and marketable securities, with a mere $17 million of long-term debt. L&H last week obtained a fundamental European patent for a method of optimising continuous speech recognition to add to its existing US patent. Also last week, the company announced two additional tie-ups with European ISPs: Saunalahden Serveri, the number two in Finland, and World Online, based in the Netherlands (and claiming to be the largest ISP in Europe with more than a million users and 30,000 businesses). World Online is partly a joint venture between the Dutch railways and BT. They will use the L&H iTranslator, which provides human and machine translation of documents through the Internet. Moneybags Microsoft decided to exercise its warrants during the quarter and take up another $15 million of L&H stock, giving Microsoft 7 per cent of the company. ®
Graham Lea, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

How sexy do you find Freeserve?

More than a month after Dixons said it was planning spin off part of Freeserve there's still little indication about what the subscription-free ISP might be worth. This is a problem, especially for those investors eager to carve themselves a slice of the Internet pie before it goes off. Buoyed by the hype immediately following the IPO announcement, some analysts said Freeserve was worth a staggering $2.5 billion even though it looks like it will only turnover a measly £9 million in its first year. Other reports have valued the ISP at less than £100 million. Even John Clare, CEO of Dixons, has gone on record to say that it's difficult to value Freeserve. According to Fletcher Research, Freeserve's value depends on exactly what it is: portal, major e-commerce player or sexy Net company that sends the blood pressure of investors gushing through the roof. If it's just a Web site with the potential to become e-commerce portal some time in the future it could be worth anything from £200 million to £750 million, reckon the whiz kids at Fletch. Include its 1.5 million punters into the equation and upgrade it to a major e-commerce player in its own right and people will need to buy a new calculator to accommodate all the noughts. But if investors look at Freeserve like it's dressed in high heels, fishnet stockings and a tight little nurses uniform then the sky's the limit. Fletch reckons if this is the case, it could be worth more than £4 billion. Phwooar. We'll have a piece of that. ® See also Dixons explores Freeserve sell-off Dixons Freeserve tags July for £2.5 billion IPO
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx sales fall 23 per cent

The release of the long-awaited Voodoo 3 3D acceleration chipset appears to have come a little to late to rescue developer 3dfx's latest quarterly results. For the three months, Q1 1999, to 30 April, 3dfx lost $2.18 million on revenues of $40.4 million. For its previous first quarter, the company recorded profits of $7.46 million on revenues of $50 million. That represents a decline in sales of 23 per cent, so while 3dfx can say the reduction in profitability can be laid at the door of managing its acquisition of board maker STB -- "We believe the numbers we released today demonstrate that we have managed the transition from many customers to an integrated model, and have minimized any adverse impact," said CEO Greg Ballard -- the company has to work harder to rebuild momentum behind its Voodoo brand. That momentum has largely been lost to 3D graphics rival nVidia. Its TNT chipset has won a lot of support not only from buyers but from card vendors peeved at 3dfx's decision to build its own boards. For its fourth quarter, ended 31 January, nVidia made a profit of $7.7 million on revenues of $65.5 million. The company's Q1 figures are expected any day now. ®
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Lycos narrows its losses in Q3

Top portal, Lycos, reported a loss of $13.3 million for Q3 to 30 April compared to a loss of $22 million during the same period last year. The loss -- based on revenues of £35.1 million for the same period --is less than analysts predicted. "We are extremely pleased by the phenomenal growth of the Lycos Network," said Robert J Davis, president and CEO of Lycos. "The significant increase in our reach, traffic and revenues is the result of our strategy of combining high quality brand-name sites under the Lycos Network umbrella. "I am particularly pleased with the strength of our commerce business as we enjoyed our best quarter ever signing $200 million of new business," he said. The Lycos Network strengthened its position as the most visited hub on the Net with 31.9 million unique users or 52 per cent of all Net users. Average daily page views grew by 20 per cent to more than 60 million. The Lycos Network now has nearly 27 million registered members, an increase of 29 per cent over last quarter, the company said. In its 2227-word statement announcing the Q3 results, Lycos made one reference to the failed merger agreement with USA Networks. "Following the mutual agreement to terminate their merger agreement, Lycos, USA Networks and Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch have agreed to continue to work together in non-exclusive areas," it said. It's as if all that angst earlier this year never even happened. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

US crypto law cover for industrial spookery

A clandestine alliance of spooks in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has been using moves to bring European encryption regulations into line with US crypto law to steal industrial secrets from companies based in the European Union. That's the shocking conclusion of a draft report from the European Parliament's Scientific and Technological Options Assessment committee, released last week. The report alleges Microsoft, Lotus and Netscape were persuaded by the US National Security Agency to modify their software to make versions shipped overseas better able to collect information of interest transmitted across the Internet. The report even claims at least two major French companies, Thompson and Airbus Industrie lost contracts because confidential information was cracked and leaked to rival bidders. The report, revealed on TechWeb, makes for disturbing reading yet manages to sound like something out of a James Bond movie at the same time. So, while the UK/US alliance used its Echelon global espionage network to scan all international communications lines using satellites and listening stations -- the partners also developed a special submarine to sail around earwigging on Internet traffic. The report also claims the UK maintains a database of three months' worth of complete Usenet messages, through which it sorts for useful data using intelligent agent software. US crypto policy has always centred on the use of key escrow to allow law enforcement agencies to bypass encryption algorithms in pursuit of information hidden by criminals. However, in attempting to persuade the EU to align its crypto reulations with the States' own laws, "the US government misled states in the EU and the OECD about the true intention of its policy", claims the report. That "true intention" was to allow spooks to access confidential commercial information for the economic advancement of domestic businesses. The proof, reckons the report, is the lack of police representation in crypto policy making between 1993 and 1997. All this will, of course, fuel a frenzy among conspiracy theorists, but no matter how much UK and US security agencies use the system for tracking genuine terrorist activity -- their justification for monitoring the Net -- bunging stuff toward UK and US companies bidding against European rivals is not on. That said, how many of these allegations stand up -- or are simply claims made by companies who would have lost contracts anyway; it's always easier to blame others than face your own failings -- remains to be seen. But it will be equally difficult to show how frequently confidential commercial data is abused this way. ® See also D Notice MI6 geezer-journalist gets nickers in a twyst Spy leaker accuses Government of hype Web site names UK spies
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Palm VII to be launched on Monday

3Com subsidiary Palm Computing has confirmed it will debut the wireless comms-oriented Palm VII in New York next Monday. The company itself would only say it will be presenting a "sneak peek" to "the people of New York", but insiders cited on US newswires reckon Palm will launch both the handheld and its companion Internet access service, Palm.net, and announce the device is shipping. That said, it's unlikely the roll-out will take in the whole of the US or even international territories. Monday's event will begin public trials of the Palm VII's wireless technology and pared-down Internet access to test users' willingness to pay $9.95 a month for connection to Palm.net and 30 cents per kilobyte for sending and receiving data through the service when they bust the built-in 50KB limit. That pricing plan, based on cellphone tariffs, drew harsh criticism from Palm users when it was announced during April's Spring Internet World show in Los Angeles. Instead, users want an ISP-style flat-fee pricing model. However, reports also suggest Palm has cut the price of the Palm VII from the $799 it announced last December at the Palm Developers Conference to $599. Like Palm.net's pricing, the handheld's cost could change, depending on how buyers react to it. ®
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

My chip is bigger than yours

Those zany Germans are building high speed notebook PCs running faster than Intel would like -– and they’re not overclocking mobile Pentium IIs or Celerons. No, to satisfy Hans' need for speed, those Teutonic tearaways are using desktop Celeron parts in order to offer genuine 400MHz mobile performance when the fastest Intel notebook CPU currently runs at a meagre 366MHz. Sounds good, huh? Well, yes and no. While the volume market is driven by raw MHz -– hence the never ending game of speed bump cat and mouse played out between Intel and its competitors -– the ability to put a big number in your ads will continue to attract more buyers. And a 400MHz notebook will certainly outperform a 366MHz one in most instances. But – and it's a big but – don’t forget that Chipzilla's mobile processors are considerable more sophisticated than their bigger desktop brothers, not least in terms of power consumption and heat dissipation. Mobiles run at 1.6 volts, desktops at 2.2. Mobile processors run considerably cooler than desktops, so a desktop part will almost certainly need fan cooling, resulting in even higher power consumption. So the price you'll pay for owning the fastest notebook on the strasse is battery life measured in minutes rather than hours. Of course, the cool thing to do (literally) is to wait until the end of the year when Intel's awfully clever Geyserville technology hits the streets allowing notebooks to perform as well as desktops when plugged into the mains, and only a tad slower when on the move, while maintaining battery life in the region of three hours. ®
Pete Sherriff, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to demo Savage 4-based digital display card

The Digital Display Working Group (DDWG), the industry body formed to devise a standard for digital LCD panel monitors, today unveiled its first reference board, based on 3D specialist S3's Savage 4 Pro chipset and its Digital Video Interface (DVI) 1.0 spec. S3's participation in the DDWG was sponsored by Intel, so it's no surprise that it will be Chipzilla that first demonstrates the board at a conference next week. S3 is, of course, Intel's favourite 3D graphics company, and has been since it cunningly bought a series of processor patents Chipzilla had been after for some time. The patents covered Exponential Technologies' ill-fated attempt to marry mainframe processor and desktop processor design and fab technologies to create PowerPC-compatible chips way faster then anything available from Motorola or IBM -- or Intel, for that matter -- at the time. "The DVI 1.0 standard will enable flat panel displays to become as common on the desktop as they are in the notebook space today," said S3's CTO, Andy Wolfe. "We look forward to quickly transferring this technology to our customers to give them a time-to-market advantage with flat panel displays for the desktop." The commercial benefits for the once ailing, now recovering S3 are clear, and it's a testament to the leverage it has with Chipzilla thanks to those handy Exponential patents. Other graphics chipset vendors, including ATI, nVidia and 3dfx, are also adding digital connectors to their cards, but attaching itself to what's clearly going to become the standard is a real boost for S3. ®
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Holy multimedia! Great Satan of Bibles™ sets up on Web

Egghead.com, the US web site where you can buy almost anything you want, and loads of stuff you definitely don't want, is featuring The King James Multimedia Bible™, offering the chance to "view inspirational biblical illustrations, watch full-motion video or listen to psalms". How they got the monks to animate all those illuminated manuscripts is not revealed. Don't believe us? Go here to check it out. If this article offends your eyes, please email Pete Sherriff to register your concern. The editors of The Register are a bit confused by this one but we thought it worth posting because the trademark surely must be redundant by now.... ®
Pete Sherriff, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Fortune 1k CEOs mass for Bill Gates love-in

Microsoft has again persuaded around a 100 Fortune 1000 CEOs to show for a love-in with BillG at Fort Redmond. Since the ones coming mostly know nothing about computing, all that Bill needs to do is to pretend to be a guru, and invite them to his pad for beer, pizza, and their choice of cartoons to any one of their hundred favourite tunes on his state-of-the-art gramophone. The big advantage for Bill is that he gets to make his low-key pitch to batches of CEOs during the tour, whereas with heads of state, he has to travel - a disadvantage as Mrs G is expecting shortly. Another change this year is that even less information is available about what will happen -- a sure way to keep up media interest when nothing much is happening. We do know that of those coming, not one is a hacker. Dell of Dell will be there, but he probably wants to persuade Bill to have a word with Joachim Kempin to get him a better deal on Windows. Rupert Murdoch is believed to be dropping in as well, and Rupert wants to know what Bill is doing in the cable business, and whether he's going to compete in the Chinese market. Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com is there to see if Bill will buy his 68 best-selling, loss-making books at a 50 per cent discount (make up the losses with volumes?), while Harry Schimburg is there to protect the Coca-Cola concession and to keep Pepsi off the campus. There will also be the heads of a dozen or so foreign banks, but they're probably coming with empty suitcases. David Glass of Wal-Mart will be keen to explain why Wal-Mart dumped SQL Server and went with IBM DB2 -- he will reassure Bill he can still use his discount card for Wal-Mart shopping. Bob Muglia, VP of Microsoft's business productivity group, did tell reporters on that "Conversation is still the most efficient networking protocol that exists." Cunning old Microsoft is apparently substituting ChatWare for Windows 2000 vapourware, a quite brilliant move and a sure finalist for The Register's Product of the Year. Just what Muglia meant by "There are still benefits to physical person-person interaction" we did not like to contemplate, but hope those attending will have protection. ®
Graham Lea, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Bull research points out e-government failings

The government may have lofty ideals about delivering all its services electronically by 2008, but it's doing a lousy job of letting people know about it. Only one in ten people know of the government's electronic intentions although once explained to them, a hefty majority believe it will be a good thing -- if it ever happens. That's the conclusion of an e-government report by the IT company Bull, which commissioned the research. The report is the first public opinion survey to emerge following prime minister Tony Blair's high-profile announcement of government's intention to deliver all its services electronically by 2008. But while The Bull E-Government Report found that the public is "highly supportive of the concept of electronic government", it also raises concerns about the lack of knowledge about the government's plans, the low levels of technology access and concerns about privacy and security. "This is a highly important survey in terms of getting a true understanding of the issues that face the British government as it moves to an e-government model," said Barry Grisdale, CEO, Bull UK and Ireland. "The responses clearly show that the public is behind the concept of electronic government, but also that there is still a lot of education to be done to ensure that the public has a positive response to these changes. "E-government will only work if the general population accepts it and can see a personal benefit." ®
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

UK gov't doesn't know its Es from its elbow

The government's policy on e-commerce has taken a severe beating from an influential group of MPs after publishing a report calling it a "damaging and embarrassing failure." Such stinging criticism is much more than a metaphorical bloody nose for one of the government's flagship bills announced during the Queen's Speech last year. Following today's unsightly mauling, the government's policy on e-commerce is lying unconscious in intensive care. In a number of key areas, most notably cryptography, the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee said that the government was simply wide of the mark. The committee said: "Inadequate political control has been exercised over the development and determination of cryptography policy." It went on to say it was concerned at the time it has taken to establish and implement such a policy. "[The Select Committee] calls for ministers to take a firm grip of the issues from now on." "The committee is disappointed that the government should still hold a candle for key escrow and key recovery and can foresee no benefits arising from government promotion of either technology," it said. A statement from the Department of Trade and Industry welcomed the report, no doubt through a feeding tube. "We welcome the Select Committee's report on our proposals for electronic commerce and will be studying its recommendations carefully," said DTI minister Michael Wills. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Clients not too keen to think thin

Survey People rather than technology are proving the major stumbling block for companies keen to roll-out thin client systems, a survey by DataPro has revealed. According to The Reality of Deploying Thing Clients in 1999, thin clients are proving their worth, with an estimated 80 per cent support cost saving over standard desktop PCs, particularly in data entry and data look-up roles. Upgrade, installation costs are much reduced too The snag is, while factors like these make a compelling case for IT managers, convincing users of the benefits is proving rather more tricky. The report highlights findings which suggest users tend to resent the imposition of thin clients because the perceive they are getting less powerful machines with fewer features, and that they dislike the lack of control over their own environment. Of the large enterprises the report's authors surveyed, almost half use thin clients on at least 50 per cent of their desktops. And the vast majority use Windows terminals hooked up to NT 4.0 Terminal Server Edition. Java-based thin clients proved to be thin on the ground. The shift to that platform, which the report reckons would require significant changes to be made to a company's application and networking infrastructure, is proving too much for most businesses. Where Java terminals are installed, it tends to be part of a major strategic shift. Other enterprises are using Web-based applications, served from standard Web servers. Those business that have taken this route claim to have achieved better user performance than that provided by systems based on Terminal Server. ®
Tony Smith, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq confesses DEC integration isn't working

Compaq, the company that trademarked the letter Q last week, has found itself in further trouble with its shareholders. As we reported in early April this year, there is a deep rift inside Compaq. Deep schisms mar Compaq 64-bit plans. According to a filing Compaq placed today with the US Securities and Equities Commission (SEC), its turnover could drop as it moves too fast from its channel model to its direct model. The filing shows that Compaq itself is worried about the short term future, and that strategic decisions could be put on hold in the search for a CEO to replace Mr Eckhard Pfeiffer. So, if the SEC filing on Edgar is to be believed, surely Eckhard Pfeiffer should be re-instated as CEO. According to the filing, "there can be no assurance that action by the federal government will not impede Compaq's negotiated terms that give it a competitive market advantage in component purchases and under the license (sic) agreements that are necessary to operate its business in the future." ®
Mike Magee, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Senior industry figure caught in compromising situation

The CEO of one of the biggest IT corporations in the universe has been caught in an extremely compromising situation, we can reveal. And when we get the photograph which is likely in the next day or two, there will be no doubt about the message it will send to its PC vendors. It will show a tall dude. Watch out for it... ®
Mike Magee, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Software pirates go straight to gaol

A bunch of UK-based crooks who dared to cross Microsoft are today pondering their crimes behind bars. Donald Hodgson, Simon Buckley and Andrew Billington were imprisoned in April for four, seven and 12 months respectively. They were responsible for counterfeiting a whole range of software, including Office 97 professional, Windows 95 & 98, Encarta, BackOffice products and Microsoft games. An eighteen-month investigation by Surrey Trading Standards Officers and Microsoft turned up over 5000 CDs worth around £5.6 million. On Monday, the great software giant stuck again, with Norman Mockford sentenced to eight months and Christian Buxton getting 180 hours' community service for software piracy. All five were tried at Guildford Crown Court, and were believed to be involved in the same crime ring. Neil Gardiner, of Surrey Trading Standards, said such rulings were turning the tide against software pirates. This type of crime is normally punished by fines not prison sentences. David Gregory, Microsoft anti-piracy manager, said: "All too often organised crime has used software piracy to fund other areas of illegal activity because of the lucrative monetary gains and lax penalties." He said the message should be clear "that software theft is a crime" and that the authorities were cracking down. The UK loses over £400 million per year to software pirates, according to Microsoft. ®
Linda Harrison, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Pullan to head up Proxim UK

Proxim, the wireless LAN maker, this week opened a UK office. The company said it needed a presence in this country to support its channel and customers. The Oxford office, Proxim (UK), will focus directly on channel sales, giving support to resellers and distributors as well as end-user customers. It will also work with Proxim’s European headquarters in Paris, which is used for managing marketing, sales and technical support. The office will be headed by networking channel veteran - and infamous equestrian - Catherine Pullan, Proxim channel sales manager. "With the growing demand for mobility and flexibility through wireless connectivity, we recognised that additional resource was needed to support the success of channel partners and customer installations in the UK," said Bernard Picot, Proxim European general manager. Proxim is based in Mountain View, California. ®
Linda Harrison, 19 May 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel in secret deal with nine mystery companies

Intel is very, very fond of initiatives. It has them all the time. Sometimes it forgets to tell anyone it has them, but luckily, the people it has the initiatives with often blab the details before the chip behemoth has primed its spin paramedics around the World. Thus we have the strange situation where Texas Micro, one of Intel’s partners in the new Applied Computing Platform Provider Program today announced that it will participate in the new Intel Applied Computing Platform Provider programme. Rather unsettlingly, this mystery programme demands that vendors meet Intel's "strict participation criteria". "This is truly a win-win opportunity for both Texas Micro and Intel Corporation," ejaculated Michael Stewart, president and CEO, Texas Micro Inc, prematurely. "We look forward to participating in the Intel Applied Computing Platform Provider program which reinforces our position as a leading board supplier for the embedded computer industry." Intel has apparently created the Intel Applied Computing Platform Provider Program to "support customer design activity based on Pentium processors, chipsets, flash memory and other hardware and software products in the applied computing market segments". These segments allegedly include communications, transaction terminal and industrial process control applications. Texas Micro claims it is one of nine companies participating in the ACPP program worldwide. The Register feels sure that Chipzilla will eventually find time in its crowded schedule to tell the rest of the World precisely what it’s up to. Or maybe not. ®
Pete Sherriff, 19 May 1999