7th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Samsung could buy Compaq out of Alpha hole

IBM's fabbing of the Alpha processor has been delayed because of a possibility Compaq might offload the whole lot onto its partner Samsung, sources said at the weekend. According to the one source, if Samsung bites, Compaq would continue to source Alphas from the Korean company. That would also allow Compaq to be "architecture neutral", meaning it would get out of the hole it has dug itself into with Intel. If true, Samsung certainly would not want Big Blue queering its Alpha pitch. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

More heads to roll at the Big Q?

Additional rumours from insiders at Compaq are suggesting that other senior heads are likely to roll during the course of the week. According to our source, who wishes to remain unnamed, there is speculation that senior exec Bill Strecker's job could be threatened as Ben, Frank and Ted continue their purge at Compaq. Enrica Pesatori, who has taken over John Rose's job, was known when he worked at DEC as Dracula, as he wore a cape to work, we are given to understand. Meanwhile, to show willing, our insider has sent us the entire internal memo which Ben, Frank and Ted sent to their staff to explain the staff changes: From: Office of the CEO Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 1999 8:47 AM Subject: Realigning Our Organization To: Compaq Worldwide Team During the past six weeks, we have spent a significant amount of time meeting with customers and employees to get a better understanding of what we need to do to meet their needs and, in turn, to re-ignite Compaq's growth. Today we are taking some significant, initial steps to realign our organization to simplify operations, improve execution of our strategy and sharpen our focus on customers. We are pleased to announce the appointment of Michael Capellas, Currently Compaq's senior vice president for information management, as acting Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the company, reporting to the Office of the Chief Executive. Michael has a strong background in both information management and operations. Before joining Compaq in August 1998, he was senior vice president and general manager of Oracle's global energy business. He also spent 18 years with Schlumberger Limited in a variety of management positions. Reporting to Michael will be the Enterprise Computing Group, Personal Computer Products Group, Consumer Products Group, North America, Europe Middle East, and Africa, Global Regions and the Supply Chain Management organization. Services, Corporate Marketing, Finance and Administration, Human Resources and Environment, Legal, Technology and Corporate Development, and AltaVista will continue to report directly to the Office of the Chief Executive. Enrico Pesatori, currently senior vice president and general manager of Global Regions, has been named senior vice president and group general manager of the Enterprise Computing Group. He will continue to act as senior vice president of Corporate Marketing until a successor is named. The Global Regions will report directly to Michael Capellas. John Rose, senior vice president and group general manager of ECG, has resigned. Fred Jones will assume the position of acting chief information officer while Michael Capellas serves as COO. We realize that these are major changes that raise questions about the Roles and responsibilities that each of you has, and that change, for some, is difficult. The process of realignment, however, should not distract us from our core goals and strategies. The objective of these changes is to simplify operations and improve execution. They will put Compaq in a stronger position to achieve enterprise leadership and to maintain our PC leadership. They will help us align our products, services and solutions more effectively behind our NonStop eBusiness strategy. And they will enable us to make an even stronger commitment to our customers. We will provide further detail about the realignment shortly. We ask for your support as we take this bold step together. Ben Frank Ted Meanwhile, a witch hunt is underway at the Big Q for the individuals who leaked us info about a 128-bit Alpha, even though we doubt such a creature exists except in fantasy. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel carries on recruiting Merced babes-in-wood

To tape-out or not to tape-out, that is the question many are asking as a whole slew of IA-64 jobs came up for grabs at Intel at the end of last week. Our source close to the employment agency has sent us a massive list of job vacancies at Intel, all of which suggests there are still a few problems with screwdrivers at the chip giant. Here is the list, in full: 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Marketing Manager - Enterprise Server Group -- Portland, OR 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Product Marketing Analyst - Enterprise Server Group -- Portland, OR 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Software Engineer (OS Internals) - Enterprise Server Group -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Strategic Product Planner - Enterprise Server Group -- Portland, OR 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Architecture Validation Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- I/O Timing Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Logic/Micro-architecture Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Merced(tm) Circuit Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Merced(tm) Design Automation Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Merced(tm) Logic Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Merced(tm) Microarchitecture and Firmware Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Platform Validation Architect - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Project Manager (Microprocessor Packaging) - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Design Automation Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Design/Product Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Package Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Physical Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Product Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Software Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Software Development Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Software Engineer - Microcomputer Labs -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Software Engineer - Microcomputer Labs -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Software Engineer - Microcomputer Labs -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Software Engineers (Senior & Staff) - Microcomputer Labs -- Phoenix, AZ 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Staff Software Engineer - Microcomputer Labs -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- System Hardware Design Engineer - IA-64 Processor Division -- Santa Clara, CA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Graphics Programmer - Workstation Products Group -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Graphics Programmer - Workstation Products Group -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Software Performance Engineer - Workstation Products Group -- Seattle-Tacoma, WA 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Technical Marketing Engineer - Corporate -- Portland, OR 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Performance Analyst - -- Portland, OR 02-JUN-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Performance Analyst - Microprocessor Products Group -- Santa Clara, CA 12-MAY-99 -- Intel Corporation -- Senior Technical Marketing Engineer - Corporate -- Portland, OR However, it looks as though Intel has now filled the Performance Analyst slot, advertised earlier. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Merced hotter, harder slower

Letter from architect A scientist who has taken time out to read Intel's IA-64 material is concluding that the processor may well be a pup. The boffin, who has supplied his name and address to The Register, is concluding that Intel may have a real problem persuading the world+dog that its IA-64 architecture is a goer. He said: "Like many other computer architecture techno-junkies I downloaded Intel's IA-64 instruction set document. As a scientist, I'm fascinated; the most informative experiments are those that fail to produce the predicted results. "But from an engineering point of view it's pretty bad. My fairly confident prediction: instead of Merced being a poor start which will be triumphantly reversed by later models, IA-64 CPUs will remain slower, hotter and much harder to build than CPUs using simpler instruction sets. Only if that competition evaporates completely, and Intel still feel the need to move on from x86, will IA-64 succeed. Oddly, nobody seems to be saying that in public. "IA-64 is a bizarre portmanteau of ideas - some, individually, quite good - with little sense of overall direction. The design committee obviously found it easier to add ideas than to keep them out. "Its complexity has delayed it for at least a year. Even Microprocessor Report (big Intel fans) suggest the new features will deliver no better than a 20% performance increase over a simple (eg Alpha/MIPS) RISC; but you need at least 40% to justify an extra year in development. "History suggests that the compiler support IA-64 performance depends on won't happen. In any case CPU application loads are increasingly going to be interpreted code - even if its not Java - and it would be hard to imagine any CPU more hostile to 'just-in-time' and other interpretation tricks. "Particularly bizarre are several features from the "tried that, didn't work" category, including: only one addressing mode for load/store (AM29K); hardware register windows (Sparc, Pyramid). "And there's the dog that didn't bark. All current, competitive, high-performance processors are register-renaming out-of-order (RR/OOO) machines where the hardware schedules instruction flow. "IA-64 was conceived at a time when the first painful attempts at RR/OOO had left many shell-shocked project casualties determined that there must be a better way. But there wasn't. IA-64, born at the wrong time, is hostile to RR/OOO technology. It nicely replays the late 80's challenge of pipelining the x86 instruction set. "Locally catastrophic is that IA-64's x86 emulation is not in a separate unit (as the Register predicted, and as a wiser architect would have done it) but spread thinly across the whole machine. It seems unlikely that an IA-64 machine will come close to equalling the performance/MHz of Pentium-Pro's many descendants - and that surely is a key feature for success. "PS: If I ran Intel, I'd have a backroom team building an RR/OOO implementation of a simple MIPS/Alpha-style 64-bit RISC instruction set with a (perhaps entirely separate) Pentium-III on the same die, sharing second-level cache and memory. Launching such a thing would be bad for loyal partner HP, but easily justified - amid floods of tears - by the need to rescue those committed to the late and disappointing IA64 CPUs." ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
Wire strippers at Computex

Our Computex 99 coverage

Despite being afflicted by the threat of typhoon Maggie, a minor earthquake and Cathay Pacific pilots going on strike, The Register managed to make it back to Blighty. Below is a list of the stories so far filed from the show. We will also provide separate product roundups from the show during the course of the week.
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Someone registers AMD domain name

A domain name called ADVANCEDMICRODEVICES.COM was registered last week but it is unclear whether AMD itself has taken out the name. Ten days ago, we reported that AMD had registered the name Advanced Micro Devices as a trademark. That is trademark no 75-659234, with the application taken out on the 12th of March last. This domain is registered by one Sanaxay Phommachanh, of Downey, CA, who doesn't sound like one of Atiq Raza's or Dana Krelle's acolytes or lieutenants. We are still waiting to see what AMD does with its domain name ALEREON.COM, which we have confirmation is definitely one of theirs. While AMD has recently re-vamped its Web site, looks like we'll just have to wait to see how it positions the Alereon vs the Celeron… ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Watch the horses when the earthquakes strike

Just after a tremor caused the Imperial Inter-Continental Taipei to wobble like a jelly last week, we decided to look again at the innkeeper's limitation of liability document again. Thank god we did. The opening par tells us that: "No innkeeper shall be liable to make good to his guest any loss of or money to goods or property brought to his Inn, not being a horse or other live animal, or any gear pertaining thereto, or any car or carriage, to a greater amount that the sum $NT69,000 except..." And the exceptions are that if such goods or property were deposited expressly for safe custody with the innkeeper, or sealed in a box or other receptacle. Luckily, we'd stowed our horse, our chickens, our sheep, our Porsche and our Hackney Cab in the room's safe before the earthquake struck... Phew. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel uses Russia military technologies

Former Elbrus employee, Vladimir Pentkovski is a leading Intel processor architect. The core of the Russian Elbrus team has been together for over 40 years, developing supercomputers for the former Soviet Union's defence establishments. Pentkovski carried to Intel many advanced Elbrus technologies. According to microprocessor expert Keith Diefendorff: "Elbrus has developed computers based on superscalar, shared memory multiprocessing, and EPIC techniques, long before papers on those subjects appeared in the West." At Elbrus, by that time transformed into the Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computing Equipment of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Pentkovski took part in the development of Elbrus-1 (1978) and Elbrus-2 (1984) supercomputers and led the development of El-90 superscalar 32-bit microprocessors. Superscalar architecture was invented in Russia. According to Keith Diefendorff, in 1978 almost 15 years ahead of Western superscalar processors, Elbrus implemented a two-issue out-of-order processor with register renaming and speculative execution. The chief architect of Elbrus supercomputers, Boris A. Babaian, says: "In 1978 we developed world-first superscalar computer, Elbrus-1. At present all Western superscalar processor have just the same architecture. The first Western superscalar processor appeared in 1992 while ours arrived in 1978. Moreover, our variant of superscalar is analogous to the Pentium Pro introduced by Intel in 1995." The Elbrus-1 processor instruction set (named El-76) was very complicated. Complex El-76 instructions were translated by special units to simple micro-operations. In 1984, the Elbrus-2 was built. It had essentially the same architecture. In 1986 the 32-bit El-90 microprocessor project was started by a team headed by Vladimir M. Pentkovski. The technical statement of work was created in 1987. The first El-90 prototypes were built in 1990. The El-90 architecture reflects a combination of RISC and Elbrus-2 ideas. El-90 featured - half a million transistors - 32-bit - simplified instruction set (as comparad with Elbrus-2), the majority of which could be executed in one cycle - superscalar architecture capable of executing two instructions per clock cycle - speculative execution - out-of-order execution - branch prediction - register renaming - high-performance pipelined floating point unit - sufficient cache - 10-way multiprocessing support - debugging support In 1990 Pentkovski begun work on El-91S, the successor to the El-90. But due to political and economical changings in Russia financing ceased. For a period from 1991 to 1999, we don't know what Pentkovski was doing. In 1999 his name has appeared again, in the Intel Technical Journal. According to it, Vladimir Pentkovski led the development of Pentium III processor architecture. You can find this reference to Pentkovski here. We would also like to remind you that in 1993 Intel introduced 32-bit Pentium processor with lots of new features - x86 instruction set is very complicated. Pentium has a special unit which translates complex x86 instructions to simple RISC-like ones - superscalar architecture capable of executing two instructions per cycle - branch prediction - pipelined floating point unit - sufficient cache - 2-way multiprocessing support - debugging support In 1995 Intel introduced better architecture, the Pentium Pro - improved x86 instruction decoder unit - improved superscalar architecture - speculative execution - out-of-order execution - branch prediction - register renaming - high-performance pipelined floating point unit - improved 2-way multiprocessing support - debugging support It could be that the Pentium is named after Pentkovski. And now Pentkovski's former chief, Boris Babaian, is going to bash Intel with a revolutionary new Elbrus E2k micropocessor. ® Andrei Fatkullin is a journalist at Russian wire Computerra
The Register breaking news

Is pizza delivery the killer couch potato app?

Microsoft has taken a $30 million stake in an interactive cable TV outfit aiming at the impulse buy end of the market. The company, Wink, has a system that allows couch potatoes to view the ads then buy the products with the aid of nothing but their TV remote control. Is this the killer app interactive TV has been searching for? The break comes on halfway through the big movie, you feel you could use a pizza and a six-pack, the ad comes on and click… Wink can of course also be used for more elevated purposes. Aside from Wink-enabled ads, programming can be Wink-enabled so that you can get background information and more detail on request. The system is running in Japan, and on a relatively small scale in the US, with 120,000 customers projected to be expanded to 1.5 million in the next few months. Microsoft, as usual, will be working with Wink to develop common standards for interactive TV. Among Wink's other investors is the ubiquitous Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and the owner of a large quantity of US cable TV real estate. ®
John Lettice, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Red Hat to be first major Linux IPO

As predicted here las t April Red Hat is to be the first major Linux IPO. The company, which has been strengthening its management recently, is to make an offering of $96.6 million. Red Hat has won a series of high-profile investors, including Intel, IBM, Netscape, Oracle and SAP, within the past year. These and the lucky management team -- some of whom have only just got there -- should now be in a position to recoup their investment, presuming of course that all goes well. But it's not necessarily all roses for Red Hat. As also predicted here, the company's relationships with 'normal' commercial outfits, the increased profile associated with these and the fact that it is itself turning into a more conventional operation have started to create stresses within the Linux community. An opinion piece on Linux Today, for example, is headed "Linux is not Red Hat," and is critical of "Red Hat's fast and furious deal-making." In particular, author Arne Flones is worried that following a deal with Red Hat "Metrowerks is releasing CodeWarrior not as CodeWarrior for Linux but as CodeWarrior for Red Hat Linux." Flones fears that this and similar deal may mean that "the balkanisation of Linux becomes a reality." His views aren't those of Linux Today, but they seem to be a reasonable reflection of a fairly widely-expressed concern in the Linux community. Outfits like Red Hat are being perceived by the outside worlds as 'growing up,' but as they do so they'll inevitably be accused of selling out. ®
John Lettice, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

MS caught searching for massaged Netscape sales data

MS on Trial Microsoft seems totally unable to learn from its earlier unpleasant trial experiences, if one of the most recent published email exchanges is to be believed. It took place this year, when Microsoft's legal team would already have searching for material to shore up its case in the rebuttal phase of the trial, and yes folks, it's one of those 'find me some data that shows' ones. Several times already Microsoft has been caught deciding on what it wants to prove and then finding or fixing the survey data that proves it. This time it was company spokesman Greg Shaw writing: "What data can we find right away that shows Netscape browser share is still healthy? It would help if you could send me some reports showing their market share healthy and holding. This is for press purposes." Windows product manager Robert Bennett answered that all of the analysts seemed to agree that Netscape's share was in decline while Microsoft's was growing. He added, helpfully, that as Microsoft had been saying it was winning because it had better technology, having Microsoft saying Netscape was doing well would be contradictory. Tricky. But our old friend Yusef Mehdi put Bennett right: "Rob, this is for the trial so let's provide the more negative analysts to Greg so he can source counterpoints," he said. ® Complete Register trial coverage
John Lettice, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

NASA downed in hack attack

A reader has reported that the NASA government site was the latest in a list of US .gov sites to be hacked last week. Although NASA boffins quickly got it up again the next day, for some time people interested in the Space Shuttle et al got the following message, which we have slightly edited, adding asterisks, to avoid profanity. Werd UP this is CNT AND moo0 to all y0 f3ds out there..ph33r us coz u cant SECURE SH*T!' werd up to the israely ghost and our paranoid friend who wont mention his name. AND A BIG F*CK U TO The ANAL-lyzer which have n0 sk1llz what so ever, w3 israely ak3rz consider u as a F*CKING SELLOUT. anywayz..u got owned and and theres NOTHING y3W F00z cud do bout it. TATA AND EXPECT MORE OF US U B*TCHEz. (we didnt use 31337 \/\/r17in6 c0z 1ts lame.) ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Dixons says yes to Freeserve IPO

Dixons has confirmed it is to spin-off part of Freeserve in a move that will surely test the UK's appetite for Net stocks. It has also said it intends to register part of the offering in the US -- a move that would tap into the US' dwindling craving for Net stocks. The move also quashes speculation that Freeserve may have been the target of a take-over by another ISP. The worry is that its decision to capitalise on its success may have come too late. A report in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph claimed that up to 70 per cent had been wiped big name Internet stocks. The jury is still out on whether this is just a correction -- a massive correction, mind -- or the sound of the Internet bubble bursting. Today's announcement follows the appointment of CreditSuisse First Boston and Cazenove & Co in April to explore the potential of an initial public offering (IPO) for the highly successful ISP. Dixons has already appointed a syndicate of banks to participate in the IPO and further information will be release shortly. Freeserve has also bolstered its management team by appointing Nicholas Backhouse as CFO, formerly at ING Barings LTD. John Pluthero, CE of Freeserve said: "This is a significant step in Freeserve's strategic development and represents an important opportunity to continue to build on the quality of content and services that have made Freeserve a leading UK Internet portal." How much Freeserve is worth is still up for grabs. Depending who you speak to, it could be worth anywhere between £100 million and £4 billion. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Japanese giants propose mini-1394

The compact, easy to use IEEE 1394 connector is clearly not sufficiently compact or easy to use for a band of seven Japanese consumer electronics companies. Sony, Toshiba, Matsushita, Hitachi cable and three others have just proposed a smaller, half-size version of the IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) connector for home networking products. The exact spec. of the connector the seven want to see will be published in draft form later this month, with the final version due in just under a year's time. That at least should ensure the connector issue doesn't impede the adoption of the connectivity technology, as the controversy over Apple's IP royalty changes (now resolved through a patent ownership consortium) and Intel's advocacy of a faster version of the Universal Serial Bus threatened to do. ® See also Sony adds data protection to 1394 Intel back-tracks on IEEE1394 support
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

S3 launches mobile graphics market attack

Updated Intel's favourite 3D graphics company, S3, will today unveil its bid to dominate the emerging notebook graphics market, as we reported here back in March. Based on S3's Savage 4 architecture, the Savage IX and Savage MX are aimed at OEMs keen to target power-hungry gamers and business users, respectively. Traditionally, the notebook market hasn't been noted for fast graphics, largely because the screens couldn't hack it. But with fast TFT displays now standard, as near as dammit, graphics companies are scenting OEM sales opportunities. Of course, given the biggest base of 3D acceleration products are gamers, and gamers would probably rather buy a top-spec. desktop than a notebook containing a processor knobbled by the need to keep its power consumption down, it's questionable how much of an opportunity this really is. Still, with OEMs never keener to differentiate their products as margins plummet, maybe the punters don't matter too much at this stage. And with S3 trying to regain its former glory as the leading supplier graphics of graphics to OEMs, you can't really blame it for pursuing the notebook side of the business. S3 claimed both chips offer "desktop equivalent" performance, and that they were over three times faster than the nearest "would be" competitor. S3's main rival here is, of course, ATI -- its Mobility chip scored 150 on WinBench 3D, said S3, compared to the S3 part's 500. The tests were performed on a 450MHz Pentium III, and its curious that S3 doesn't mention whether any or all of the drivers used support the PIII's Streaming SIMD Extensions. Both chips are engineered at 0.18 microns and come with up to 16MB of integrated video RAM. Both offer DVD playback, 2D acceleration and support the connection of up to five displays. The chips are AGP 2x compatible. The IX version is available in 4MB, 8MB and 16MB configurations for $49, $56 and $68, respectively. The MX release, only available with 4MB, costs $42. S3 said it expects notebooks based on the parts to begin shipping in September. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Erotic exhibitor options IPO to fund online expansion

Investors with a fetish should be turned on by the latest Internet company to make noises about going public. Erotica is planning to float on the UK's Alternative Investment Market (AIM) or NASDAQ next year, according to a story in the Observer newspaper. The company, which organises adult trade shows, is looking to expand its e-commerce activities although it will need to raise £8 million before it can do so. It wants to jump on the Net and get its hands on the estimated $3 billion predicted to be spent on the online adult entertainment industry within the next five years. Apparently, adult content currently accounts for 69 per cent of the $1.4 billion online content market, according to a report by Datamonitor. "The sex industry is the biggest unformalised industry in the world," said John Caswell, CEO of ROCQM which is advising Erotica. "There are lot of poor sites out there. "We have to understand the consumer is buying profile and create a model which can be taken forward," he told the Observer. Last week Germany's biggest chain of sex shops went public. Demand for Beate Uhse was so great its shares swelled by 80 per cent on the first day of trading. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Architect talks unto Architect about IA-64

A letter from an architect who thought IA-64 marchitecture does not cut it was described by another, Australian architect, as "total crap" today. The Aussie architect, who does not wish to be named on the grounds that he wants to work in the future, was responding to a letter which claimed Merced would run "hotter, harder and slower" from a British architect. But the Aussie architect said: "This is a load of crap. As both a chip designer and a member of SPEC (www.spec.org) I think I'm qualified to say that IA-64 allows processors to run cooler, and faster, than more traditional RISC (or CISC or VLIW or whathaveyou) architectures." Our mate, down under, has pointed us to the following sites for validation of his Great Architect of the Universe argument. He suggested readers take a peek here, and said this enormous PDF file is worth a look too, given you have the bandwidth. The Aussie continued: "Harder, to design, yes, but here's guessing Intel can and will pull it off. UIUC's IMPACT group have done all the research over the past 10 years to show, quite plainly, that this is true. The usual figure of merit bandied about is "around 80 per cent". "Now, Merced might be shoddy, heck, every single IA-64 Intel product might be quite terrible. I doubt this will happen, but if it does (I give this 15 per cent or so odds) it won't be because of the architecture that the chips fail. "IA-64 is the best thing to happen to computing since the microprocessor. I mean it. IA-64 cuts through Microsoft bloat like nothing else. It guns through floating point grunt code like a T3D. Here's hoping it takes off! "And please keep me anonymous for this one :)" We await readers' comments with interests. First thing tomorrow, we shall attempt to collate every IA-64 story together and also refer you back to our Intel sources which said Coppermine is better than the whole lot put together. We shall also look at the arguments for and against our Russian stringer Andy Fatkullin's story... Actually, I thought Taipei was bad but IA-64 land is worse... ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Celestica, Big Q laugh at IBM-Acer deal

A sense of chagrin seemed likely to kick in at Compaq's HQ in Houston today as it realises the extent of the manufacturing deals Big Blue has struck so far this year. Except that Compaq has just signed a deal with mystery firm Celestica, according to our sources. A really funny but true fact is that Celestica was a division of IBM, now spun off. Look here, if you doubt it in the slightest... In the natural process of things, Celestica also became very close to ICL. Almost a sort of partner (see below). Big Blue signed a big deal with Taiwanese company Acer last Friday, complementing the deal it made with Dell earlier on in the year. But Celestica, a former ICL subsidiary, as well as a Big Blue spinoff, seems set to grin like a Cheshire Cat as sources close to Compaq tell The Register it may grab most, if not all, of the Houston company's assembly plants. It's all a bit like famous RAID company Xyratex. Celestica has stayed in the background for the last two years, cognisant of the fact that for large PC manufacturers, assembly is no longer the name of the game, it being expensive, time consuming and the rest. Quietly, Celestica has bought up all sorts of assembly operations worldwide and is perhaps the quietist of the scene. Nevertheless, it winning Compaq's business is a coup and it is likely Big Blue will turn into Big Green when it sees the size of the big win. ®
Mike Magee, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

PowerPC G4 not late, says Motorola

Motorola today called The Register to stress that it's PowerPC G4 production process is still running to plan. That contradicts a story posted last week on Apple-oriented Web site AppleInsider, which cited unnamed Motorola sources who claimed that the company had fallen way behind schedule. Motorola's head PowerPC spin-paramedic, director of PowerPC marketing Will Swearingen, said those claims were completely untrue, and that the company was still on course to roll-out the PowerPC G4, aka the PowerPC 7400, in volume around about the middle of this year. That's the timeframe Motorola PowerPC project manager Paul Reed unveiled at last October's Microprocessor Forum. Swearingen also promised Motorola would make a major announcement about the G4 "in the third quarter", when the company would be joined by "multiple companies from multiple markets". He would give no further details, but said the announcement might be comparable to a typical Intel product launch where "by the World's greatest coincidence 25 computer vendors announce they're shipping machines based on that product that very day". Swearingen's point was that Intel can do that by getting production up ahead of the announcement to allow those vendors to make that statement, and by implication that's what Motorola's going to do this time round. And, since the announcement takes place in Q3, that would suggest volume shipments in the July timeframe -- right where Motorola originally said it would be. We shall see. Annoucements of announcements, like announcements of products are subject to change, so the onus is now on Motorola to make that Q3 deadline. Still, it's good news for Apple, which presumably won't now have to put its upcoming Power Mac G4 back by six months. Swearingen would not confirm whether Apple would be at the big announcement or not -- or anyone else's attendance, for that matter -- but it would surely be a major disappointment if Apple, as Motorola's prime desktop customer, wasn't there. Still, there's always Amiga... ®
Tony Smith, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Euro Net strike “great success” claims organiser

Yesterday's Europe-wide Internet boycott has been hailed "a great success" by the organisers of the action. Fifteen countries took part in the strike in the hope of forcing telcos and governments to cut the cost of Net access in Europe. In Spain the use of e-mail plummeted by 90 per cent compared to a normal Sunday. The use of chat rooms fell by around 60 per cent and visits to Web sites were also down by 36 per cent. In Greece, three of the seven major political parties went as far as to release official statements about the strike. A spokesman for the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) said the strike had been a "great success". "We've had massive amounts of press coverage," said Erol Ziya. "The number of people pledging their support has gone up by a factor of ten and membership of CUT is up by 40 per cent." Of course, the biggest coup for the lobby group was AOL's declaration of support for CUT. On Wednesday, Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb is to tackle the Government in the House of Commons on whether it thinks Europe's rigid telco pricing structure means it is lagging behind the US on the take-up of wired technologies. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

UK Govt called to account for Net charges

The Government is to be tackled in the House of Commons about the cost of Net access in the UK. Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb has half-an-hour on Wednesday to find out the Government's position on the cost of Net access and whether it believes anything needs to be done. It will also shed more light on the Government's wired credentials. In an interview with The Register the MP for Northavon, near Bristol, said that he hoped the motion would help raise awareness about the problem of metered call charges for Net access. He also hopes it will force the Government to come clean and state its position once and for all. "The key question is whether Europe is lagging behind the US in terms of growth of the Internet because of the cost of phone calls," said Webb. "If it is, is there a role for Government [to remedy this]?" The Government's view is that telco charges are not high and that it is for the market to decide what those charges should be. But Webb thinks that pricing structures for Net access are not just a case of rudimentary economics. He believes it is so important that it transcends such arguments and deserves Government intervention. "The Government has to say what is in the best interest of society," said Webb, "and want a convincing answer from them." Webb's motion, Regulation of telecommunications and the growth of the Internet, will be heard at 1.00pm this Wednesday. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Jun 1999
The Register breaking news

Nelson Mandela is IT mandala

Exclusive to The Register South Africa may sit at the bottom end of the Dark Continent, but when its citizens went to the polls last week (2 June) in the country's second fully-democratic election, technology helped to make the process as painless as possible. Memories are still fresh of the two and three-day queues that voters endured to make their mark in the 1994 election and the Independent Election Commission (IEC) - the body charged with ensuring a free and fair election - was determined that this shouldn't happen again. Howard Sackstein, chief director: delimitation & planning at the IEC, comments: "We realised that disparities could either be perpetuated or wiped out through technology." The first challenge the organisation needed to overcome was that of basic information. "We didn't know where people live," says Sackstein. "So the first process was to create a map of the country." With technology partner Andersen Consulting - which developed and co-ordinated the entire technology effort of the election systems - the IEC created an electoral map of South Africa using a geographical information system (GIS). The Surveyor-General supplied maps of South Africa and these were overlaid with data from last year's census, telecommunications infrastructure supplied by Telkom and even information on the location of schools from the Department of Education. To produce the 75 000 maps created using GIS technology, the IEC set up the largest print centre in the world, deploying 10 large-format Hewlett-Packard plotters. More significantly, setting up the entire GIS system and producing workable and informative maps of the country took just 13 months - a task that could more realistically be expected to have taken three to five years. The next challenge was to create a technology infrastructure in the field. "We embarked on a study of what technology we could use to communicate with 435 electoral offices in the field - many of them in rural areas," says Sackstein. Because of the lack of existing basic infrastructure in many areas the IEC decided to leapfrog ahead into the satellite era. Telkom therefore installed satellite dishes and wide area networking capabilities to all the offices. Together with Telkom, IT reseller and system integrator Datacentrix installed a Gigabit Ethernet WAN infrastructure running on Cabletron equipment. With a total of 1500 computers to be placed in the 435 local electoral offices, many of them in outlying areas, training and education became the next real issue. "We really had to build the capacity of the people of South Africa," says Sackstein. "In many areas people had never seen a computer before. It was an invigorating learning experience." The logistics of installing this number of computers alone is staggering. Tenders for all aspects of the supply and installation of the IEC Election 99 system had been won by Datacentrix, to a total value of about R50-million, and the company was given just 17 days to install 1500 PCs, 44 servers and related local area networks in the field. The equipment had been pre-ordered from Hewlett-Packard's production and co-ordination facilities in Europe, and cargo space on incoming flights was also pre-ordered to hasten the delivery of the computers. With an order of this magnitude, the IEC insisted that part of the business be passed on to black economic empowerment companies. Datacentrix, in a joint venture with Kwetliso, therefore identified a number of relevant companies that would be involved in the vast undertaking. During the 16 working days it took to install the remote sites, services from black economic empowerment companies Langraphix, Axion, Micro Tech, ACL, Ubuntu, PDK, DTP and Camelot were employed. Siltek Distribution Dynamics installed and configured the pre-determined software on all machines. Once all the electoral offices were up and running, and communicating effectively, the IEC turned its energy to finding an efficient way of registering the voting population. "We realised the only way to do it was to not have to data capture all the information," says Sackstein. "In addition, we had to find a way that was convenient for people who were not necessarily literate. "So we searched for technology that would enable us to use barcode reading machines in the 15,000 registration stations around the country. "This allowed a registering voter's barcode to be scanned in about 30 seconds, and in nine working days we had registered 80% of the eligible population of South Africa. "Once again we had relied on technology to deliver an enabling process. Using a satellite-based WAN and the barcode readers we were able to compile, consolidate, verify and compile the voters' roll in a unique period of time.” On election day itself and the days following it, the compilation and consolidation of information from the polling stations become the next priority. "We realised that nine days to consolidate and verify the election results is not acceptable," says Sackstein. "Each day that goes by erodes the credibility of the election - and in the last election a lot of information was closed to the media. "So we developed a system that allowed us to use technology to effectively manage what was happening in the 15,000 polling stations around the country. "We needed sufficient infrastructure to allow the 261 000 staff members to report problems and successes, voter turnout and other issues." Telephone communications at all the polling stations was set up by Telkom, using fixed-line services, with the last of 1600 new lines going in on the morning of 2 June. All information - and problems - from polling stations and local electoral offices was consolidated at the IEC's election headquarters at the Pretoria showgrounds. Once again, logistics played an important role: the 12,000 square meter building was rented for one month, and setting-up began on 15 May. A staggering 600-PC network, with 25 high-end file, application and database servers was installed and working in record time, by Datacentrix and black economic empowerment partner Yashu. Connecting this infrastructure was 35,000 meters of UTP (universal twisted pair) cabling and 3000 meter of fibre optic cabling as well as 3000 meters of electrical cable. In addition, electronic replicas of the national and provincial ballot papers with LEDs were constructed to display election results as they were captured on the system. The R3,5 million worth of software donated by Microsoft SA formed an Internet-based system running a common user interface. Systems on the back-end included NT Server, SQL Server, Internet Information Server, Transaction Server and Microsoft Exchange. Client-side PCs were loaded with Internet Explorer as the front-end running applications and Microsoft Office. Telkom provided a 350-agent call centre as well as a mobile exchange, fibre-optic and microwave technology. This necessitated the installation of an additional microwave tower and an additional cellular tower. "The infrastructure allowed us to take all the unique elements of the election and consolidate them under one roof," says Sackstein. "It also gave us the ability to manage information while offering a level of transparency for the political parties and the media - the election was no longer behind closed doors. "The database was developed not just to collect the election results but also to allow us to manage what was happening in the files." On election day itself, once the doors of the polling stations were closed at 21:00, IEC staff members counted the votes, which were then signed off by the party agents. They then telephoned the results through to the IEC's call centre in Pretoria, where 350 data capturers input the data into the SQL Server database on the HP PC-based network. Back at the polling station, staff announced the results and stuck a copy of the results to the door of the polling station. They then loaded up the ballot boxes and, taking their copy of the results, travelled in to the local electoral office. Results were then faxed to the IEC from the 435 local electoral offices, using the satellite and telecommunications infrastructure already laid down. Arriving through 120 lines dedicated to this purpose, they were data captured once again and the results compared with those already called in. Meanwhile, each polling station's results were also captured by local electoral officials in the local electoral offices and transmitted to the IEC, thus allowing a third check to be made. If all the figures tallied, the results were displayed as confirmed, while any mismatches went back to the verification officers to be checked. "We have seen that the deployment of relevant technology has been remarkably effective, delivering a service to the people of South Africa that we can be proud of," concludes Sackstein. ®
Kathy Gibson, 07 Jun 1999