30th > June > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Net-only dealer sets out Euro-stall

The UK's first Internet only computer dealer opens for business next month. Called WStore, the PC dealership says it will flog PCs and assorted paraphernalia to corporates. And it says it will be cheaper than catalogue players such as Action Computer Supplies, or Micro Warehouse. It can do this because its costs are lower, sales and marketing director Kate Hembury told VNU Newswire. "If we felt we were losing business because of higher prices then we will review that price," she said. Wstore has operated in France since October 1998. It is launching in Germany in September. In a nice, modish touch, it quotes in euros as well as prices that the natives can understand. WStore won’t be the UK's first Web-only dealership for long. At least one direct marketing heavyweight is preparing a Web-only spin-out. Everything will be handled over the Internet only -- including post-sales support. This company also the finance and the logistics in place from its existing operations to drive costs down even further. And remember, logistics is the name of the game in this web ecommerce marke. Look no further than Amazon; its second biggest expense (after marketing) is boring but necessary distribution things, like warehouses. ®
The Register breaking news

Seagate in sales doldrums

Now Seagate joins the hard drive vendors' profit doldrums club. It blames weaker than expected demand for disk drives and price deterioration for desktop products for its failure to meet previous estimates. Q4 sales from all disk drive products will be around $100 million -– around six per cent -- worse than Q3. Earnings per share were expected to be $0.45 -– now Seagate anticipates and EPS of $0.32 to 037. Both sets of forecasts exclude the effects of the sale of Seagate Software NSMG to VERITAS. Seagate’s profit warning comes a little late in the day. Its Q4 ends on 2 July and it expects to announce results after close of play on 15 July. In recent weeks, Western Digital and Maxtor have issued profit warnings. ®
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Gates, Barrett to speak to world+dog today

The twin axes of Wintel are to speak today at a workstation conference in California. According to various and sundry US wires, Craig Barrett, CEO of Intel, is expected to give an update on the Merced IA-64 platform. He may attempt to scotch rumours we have reported that Intel is having difficulties with Merced. Or he may clarify a position that has grown muddier as 1999 becomes world-wearier. Gates will beat his chest about NT being the perfect OS for workstations. Fact is, there are some Intel technology workstation announcements due soon enough, as we reported earlier this year, along with a spate of new code names. New high end Intel systems coming your way spells out a whole set of new codenames. Wintel will talk at 8.15 in the morning, Pacific time. When Barrett was in London not long back, he said that his Internet Pad allowed him to look at all the news stories about Intel round the world before he got out of bed to eat his Cheerios. So if you're reading this one, Craig, clarify those muddy waters... Watch out for it. ®
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Mobo makers wavering over Intel-Via lawsuit

Taiwanese title Eurotrade is reporting that both Gigabyte and Asus may delay PC-133 motherboards because of litigation between Intel and chipset manufacturer Via. The magazine quotes a senior executive of Via as saying that the company will continue shipping its chipsets, confident its existing patent will cover alleged infringement of an Intel Slot One patent. The same source says that Via is attempting to raise $NT 10 billion to acquire Cyrix, possibly in cooperation with Taiwanese foundry United Microelectronics Corp (UMC). The report adds that despite Via's bullishness, it may find itself in trouble because 50 per cent of its revenues are accounted for by its relationship with Intel. However, another wire claims that Via will press ahead with its plans, and is protected by its existing licences with National Semiconductor, with litigation taking up to two years to come to a head. Brian Halla, CEO of National Semiconductor, said earlier this year that if a deal had not been struck by today, he would shut Cyrix... ®
The Register breaking news

Hardware site petitions Intel over SMP Celerons

A leading hardware site has asked Intel nicely not to implement a plan to prevent the production of dual Celeron systems. (See Intel could nip dual Celeron move in bud) CPU Review has posted a petition to its site which can be viewed here. At Computex in Taiwan at the beginning of the month, a motherboard manufacturer showed a design which allowed twin Celerons to run together. The idea was originally invented by a Japanese engineer, and according to reports, Intel was unhappy with the idea, and therefore wanted to nobble such designs by disabling the feature that allowed for dual Celerons. When we spoke to Intel earlier this week, a representative pointed out that implementing dual Celerons was not part of the original system spec for the cut down Pentium II processor. CPU Review's petition reads: "We, the undersigned consumers hereby respectfully request that Intel does not disable the SMP capabilities of the Celeron processors. We believe that business users will use Pentium II, III and Xeon processors for production servers due to their large L2 cache sizes. Disabling SMP on Celerons will only hurt technical enthusiasts." We don't know if Intel responds to petitions and it's an interesting idea. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel goes hardcore with Xeon

A year ago Posted 30 June 1998 -- a year ago Intel duly unveiled its Xeon processor in London today and claimed what it described as unprecedented support of 18 PC and midrange vendors for its Slot Two solution. But the company said that the Pentium Pro still has a life, as corporate users move from the old design to the new. Rob Eckelmann, MD of Intel's EMEA group, said that the introduction of the Xeon marked a change from its previous architectural designs. "We're moving into areas which are real hardcore enterprise computing," he said. "What has been a vertical market has become much more homogeneous. This is very much a solution product, including software support and manageability features." He claimed that most of the server growth in the world is now on the Intel IA-32 platforms, which showed 53 per cent growth in the UK in 1996-1997, compared to negative growth of 11 per cent for non Intel platforms, according to Dataquest. Vendors present at the UK launch included Compaq, IBM, NCR, Sequent, Unisys and Data General, with many announcing four-way SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) systems. Alan Priestley, product marketing manager at the Intel architecture group, said: "Towards the end of this year, we'll see eight way systems. If you are running four way systems, running, for example, SAP software, you can support 200 users." He said that Intel customers were still rolling out Pentium Pro based systems. "Servers have a long roll out period and so their life will continue," he said. "It won't be an instant switch." But he pointed out that the Pentium Pro 200MHz chip is now cheaper than the Xeon 400MHz parts, so many OEM customers would move fast to the platform He said the erratum-cum-bug in the Xeon architecture will be swiftly resolved. "We'll see manufacturers throughout the summer rolling out systems and volumes will ramp heavily in Q4." Intel will produce 450MHz Xeon systems towards the end of the year. He said: "The key difference between the Xeon and the Pro is scaleability of cache and management features, which are important to servers but not to desktops. At the moment, we can supply processors with two megabytes of cache." Intel also announced its 450NX chipset for the server market, as well as the 440GX chipset for workstations. The 440GX chipset supports AGP graphics. ®
The Register breaking news

Will IBM buy Sequent, will Compaq use Merced?

At the Networks Show in Birmingham yesterday, a deep throat at IBM said we should go look at the Sequent stand. We asked: "Why should we do that," and his reply was: "They're showing Monterey on their machines". This, it appears, could be just one of the reasons why IBM might buy Sequent today or tomorrow. The WSJ reported yesterday that the two companies are in talks, and Sequent has looked increasingly vulnerable ever since Tandem fell to Compaq a while back. Meanwhile, Intel is still looking vulnerable to the Compaq Alpha processor on the eight way front. Earlier this year, Paul Otellini, senior VP at the Intel Corporation, admitted there were still gaps in its product line. Some of those may be filled by Profusion, but Compaq Alpha European manager Richard George confirmed yesterday that the company is still on target for a 1GHz Alpha with copper technology for early next year. According to another source at Compaq, it is already running eight way Wildfire fireboxes. Compaq is sticking with its Alpha platform for the high end and will position IA-64 at the low end, the same source confirmed. ®
The Register breaking news

Via buys Cyrix

Updated We have just had word from Via sources in Taiwan that it has concluded a deal to buy Cyrix. According to Via, it has signed a letter of intent to buy the Cyrix stand alone x.86 PC chip business for an undisclosed amount. Via will continue to develop Cyrix CPUs. It will announce the structure and timing of the transaction next month. The deal is likely to mean that Via will have access to National Semiconductor patents. Those include Slot One patents. Indeed, last year, National Semiconductor was considering releasing a Slot One processor in 1999. The news will be welcomed by those who feared that the Cyrix line would disappear, making for less competition in the chip market. It is also likely to get Via out of the hole it was in after Intel withdrew its patent and started litigation against the chipset manufacturer. Taiwanese mobo designers are also likely to be pleased by the news, as it will reprieve PC-133 designs they were voting for. At press time, Intel was unavailable for comment.® Register Factoid 486 Several of Intel's cutesy little InBusiness range of networking widgets are powered by 486 processors. NatSemi 486 processors... See also Mobo makers wavering over Intel-VIA lawsuit Via buying Cyrix in bid to save PC-133 Intel Twister set to wreak PC havoc Computex 99 Coverage
The Register breaking news

Apple limits own iMac sales to boost channel

Analysis Well, so much for Apple's great inventory management. Last week, the US branch of the company's direct-sales operation posted a message on its Web site admitting that it will now not be able to supply iMac purchasers with their machines until the end of July. In other words, buy now, and you'll have to wait at least a month for your kit to arrive. This from a company that regularly claims its ability to keep the number of computers it manufactures in sync with demand is even more responsive to market changes than the acme of direct PC sales, Dell. Indeed, at Apple's last financial results announcement, Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson said the company had gotten its inventory management down to a fine art, with its warehouses containing only one day's worth of unsold Macs. Getting your inventory right isn't just about having as few machines as possible stacked up waiting for buyers; it's about ensuring you can satisfy however many customers you have at a given time. And it looks like Apple may be having problems here. First, the latest, "bronze" PowerBooks failed to ship on time; now we have an unforeseen, month-long iMac delay. Or do we? Perhaps the self-imposed limit on iMac shipments is actually an exercise in good inventory management -- one that shows Apple has finally got it figured out. Look at it this way: Apple has a policy of regularly updating the iMac, a plan it has followed at least twice since it launched the original version of the all-in-one consumer system last summer. Apple is known to have another update -- the so-called "C2" version -- in the works, and the latest leaks suggest it's going to ship this summer. According to the rumors, the C2 iMac is likely to debut at Macworld Expo, to be held in New York at the -- yes, you've guessed it -- end of July. The close timing between the C2's probable debut and the Apple Store's anticipated renewal of iMac shipments seems just too good to be true. But why the delay? After all, computer manufacturers typically want to shift as many old machines as they can before introducing the new model, and signaling the upgrade too early is generally seen as a sales killer. That would suggest that there's another reason for Apple's inability to ship iMacs for a month or so. To see why the delay really could signal the arrival of a new iMac, you have to remember that Apple, unlike Dell, isn't exclusively a direct-sales vendor. Apple's motivation here is clearly to avoid what happened every other time it has updated the iMac: A reseller and retail channel stuffed full of the old models they can't sell except at a potentially money-losing discount. An excess of old iMacs in the channel has been an issue ever since the machine was first updated. Over here in the UK, there's still talk in the channel of a warehouse full of Bondi-blue iMacs made unsellable by the Rev B iMac and later, the multicoloured Rev C version. And the channel quite naturally wants to get the old stock out of the way before introducing the new, faster model, which is one of the two key reasons -- the other is price, of course -- why older iMacs have generally sold in greater quantities than later versions. It's telling that the U.S. retail channel only began selling more multicolored iMacs than Bondi-blue machines in May, five long months after their introduction, according to figures from market researcher PC Data. Apple's warning is quite cleverly timed. A month is probably too long a time for most buyers to wait for their new computers. Instead, they're likely to head on down to their local independent reseller, or CompUSA or Sears and buy a machine there. In short, Apple is cutting back on its own sales to ensure its channel gets a chance to catch up. And this is no bad thing given the problems its previous approach to iMac updates caused with Best Buy and given how friendly it's now trying to be with Sears. And Apple needs its channel. The Web may be well on its way to becoming the place to buy computer equipment, but it's not there yet, so Apple still has to rely on physical stores rather than virtual ones. And when the product you're selling depends so much on looks, you need outlets where prospective buyers can actually look at what you're selling. The CompUSA store-within-a-store project is a good case in point (although if the number of e-mails we get from disappointed would-be CompUSA customers is anything to go buy, Apple needs to take a fresh look at the situation). The deal that got Macs into 800 Sears stores is another. A better example, however, appears to be Apple's mooted chain of showrooms. The idea that Apple is considering something like this emerged from a casual comment from a company executive back in early June, and has since been backed up by events at a recent meeting between Apple and its resellers, according to one Mac store owner's comments to The Register. But wherever Macs are sold, what matters here is Apple seems to have realized that channel management is just as important as inventory control. Central to that strategy is giving the channel a chance to sell machines, and you can't demonstrate that much better than by foregoing a month's worth of iMac sales. ®
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Benchmark battles – now Linux beats NT

In the wake of the latest in the round of NT versus Linux face-offs German magazine c't has published the results of its own tests of the two operating systems. The c't tests, conducted by Jurgen Schmidt, were intended to assess the two rivals in 'real life' situations of the sort Linux is supposed to be good at. Linux does a lot better than it has in the 'clash of armour' benchmarks we've seen so far, and Schmidt makes a number of eminently valid and sensible observations concerning the real operation of Web servers. (Full c't report) The tests pitted NT 4.0 and IIS against SuSE Linux 6.1 and Apache on a quad 450MHz Xeon Siemens server with two gigs RAM, twin EtherPro 100 boards and a RAID system. One of the first 'real life' differences between the c't and Mindcraft tests was the use of RAID-5 rather than RAID-0. Mindcraft's use of the latter was aimed at performance, while c't went for a more realistic performance/stability compromise. Schmidt also comments on the nature of the Mindcraft test: "Unlike for the Mindcraft test, which required the server to produce its pages through four 100-MBit interfaces we decided on a more realistic scenario. How many web servers actually serve four of these network interfaces? The majority of web servers make do with a 10-MBit interface and even in intranet one 100-MBit board should be sufficient. This was the configuration we chose for our tests. To get an impression of maximum load behaviour anyway, we made the server prove it can handle two Fast Ethernet connections." For serving a static HTML page of 4-8k, the two came out roughly even at 4k, with Linux slightly ahead at 8k. Schmidt notes that both operating systems didn't benefit to any great extent from use of multiple CPUs, although the Linux installation was running kernel 2.2.9, which is better at SMP than 2.2.5. Linux did however performs substantially better in random requests of 1,000,000 4k files. With 512 requesters NT managed to answer 30 per second, and Linux 274. In another test using a CGI Perl script, Linux delivered twice as many pages as NT on a single CPU, and 2.5 times as many with four CPUs. This isn't entirely surprising, as IIS' support for Perl isn't great. NT did however shine when using multiple network boards, and Schmidt comments: "Linux's comparatively bad results when tested with two network boards show that Mindcraft's results are quite realistic. NT and IIS are clearly superior to their free competitors if you stick to their rules." In summary, he feels that "additional CPUs for plain web server operation with static HTML pages are a waste. Even with two Fast Ethernet lines there's only a moderate less than twenty percent increase." The server wasn't needing to work to its full capacity, and the tests were simulating conditions tougher than you'd expect in most real life scenarios. "In SMP mode, Linux still exhibited clear weaknesses. Kernel developers, too, admit freely that scalability problems still exist in SMP mode if the major part of the load comes through in kernel mode. However, if user mode tasks are involved as well, as is the case with CGI scripts, Linux can benefit from additional processors, too. These SMP problems are currently the target of massive developing efforts." In the most relevant, practical areas, Linux and Apache "are already ahead by at least a nose," while if the pages don't come directly from main system memory, they're more clearly ahead. c't was also impressed by the level of support it got from the Linux community. Microsoft was slow to respond to requests for information, while "Emails to the respective [Linux] mailing lists even resulted in special kernel patches which significantly increased performance. We have, on the other hand, never heard of an NT support contract supplying NT kernels specially designed for customer problems." A very sensible report, and well worth reading in detail. ®
The Register breaking news

Naked Apple Palm PDA seen on Web

US PC magazine Maximum PC's Web site has an intriguing pic of what it claims is Apple's prototype Palm-based PDA. The prototype looks just like a standard Palm IIIx, but comes in an iMac-style translucent coloured case, though the see-through aspect isn't entirely clear from the picture. However, the Apple logo can be clearly seen up in the top right-hand corner of the device's front panel. And you can just make out the name: iPalm. All this sounds a little suspicious to us. PhotoShopped fakes of Palm IIIs adding Apple logos and Apple-style names are nothing new. Yet the colour is common to many of Apple's original Newton prototypes -- and Apple does have a technology sharing agreement with Palm Computing, and has done since interim CEO Steve Jobs' failed attempt to by Palm from its parent, 3Com. The plan provides Palm with access to Apple's Newton PDA technology, plus the Mac maker's prototype wireless networking system. And with Palm increasingly interesting these days in licensing its platform, it's not too hard to imagine Apple gaining a Palm licence in return for all that technology. ®
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Win98 SP1 now out for download – in parts

Microsoft's service pack 1 for Windows 98 seems to be out at last - but only sort of. Microsoft produced Win98 Second Edition and SP1 in tandem, and frankly they're dashed similar, but although it's been offering both on CD from its Web site, a downloadable version of SP1 has yet to break cover. More recently Microsoft UK confused the issue by giving away an SE upgrade to existing users, while the US is still charging for it. (MS gives away free SE update) But now components of SP1 have started to pop up on the corporate download section of Microsoft's Windows Update site area. (Corporate Download site) Shall we tell you why this is, friends? Microsoft has a long-term cunning plan to supply updates and upgrades directly to individual users, but at the moment it's not working terribly well. It has to be policed properly, which means tightening up on registration and ultimately making registration compulsory, and it also requires a lot more bandwidth than users have actually got. Failure to hit the spot on both of these has led to Microsoft shipping the stuff on CDs instead, and collecting till receipts as proof of purchase rather than being able to rely on valid registrations. In deciding to give away SE updates, Microsoft UK probably made a pretty rational judgement that it wouldn't be likely to sell many, and that the exercise would be justified to some extent because it would get SP1 (SE is effectively SP1+) out there. But there's another serious problem with the Web-based Windows Update approach. Windows Update is designed to make it easy for users to keep Windows 98 PCs up to date, by integrating the local machine with the Web site. Legal issues aside, this actually isn't a bad idea - it has a certain amount in common with the automated update systems corporate networks would at least like to run, so we shouldn't sneer at it just because it's MS that's running it. But the Windows Update approach actually screws up corporates big-time. The system presupposes an individual machine with an individual profile logging on to the site and then being individually updated. This doesn't result in your being left with installation files locally, so if you've got two machines to update, or 200, you've got a problem, because you have to keep doing it, machine by machine. Howls of pain from corporate customers. So the corporate download section was instituted pretty rapidly after the introduction of Windows Update in order to allow people to get hold of installation files. Its name is a bit of a misnomer, because it's arguably of greatest importance to small shops with multiple machines, but without the kind of central console network management structure that allows them to distribute updates more easily. Now, a stash of files labeled "This is a component of the Windows 98 Service Pack 1" has appeared on the site. They're not bundled together into the mysterious SP1, but they address various issues that corporate customers will have been bitching at Microsoft about. Corporate customers aren't going to be interested in upgrading all their machines to SE (not even if they can get it free from MS UK), but they want the bug fixes, and they want them now. Of course, if MS makes stuff available in the corporate download area, it can't use that stuff to leverage registrations in the way it can with Windows Update, or indeed with Office Update. So it's worth noting what you can't get as a locally installable file at corporate download, and wondering why. IE 5, for example? Trouble is, even if one part of MS has a valid reason for not shipping a file with one thing, somebody else will probably have a valid one for shipping it with something else. Result = total confusion. The rational fix would of course be to bundle the stuff up into big piles and make it available at the corporate download site, which is more or less how we used to do things. Could happen... ®
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Packard Bell to lay off 200 staff

Ailing PC vendor Packard Bell is to axe 200 jobs from its US service and support centre. The operation, located in Magna, Utah, employs 900 people -- the 22 per cent cut will take place across the board, the company said. The move comes as PB's parent, NEC, is increasingly concerned over its subsidiary's poor financial performance, a concern that recently culminated in a statement by NEC president Kouji Nishigaki that PB would be sold off or shut down if it didn't start showing an improvement, pronto. PB VP of corporate communications Ron Fuchs told US newswires that the company was on track to cut its losses to $100 million this year, down from around $500 million, after hacking costs by 42 per cent last year. The company has lost money for the last three years running, largely as budget-priced PCs have badly eroded its marketshare, particularly in the US -- all very ironic, given PB achieved its initial success undercutting the likes of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Now it's trying to step up to the high end, largely with an iMac-esque NEC-branded $2500 system, the Z1 (see Packard Bell looks to iMac clone for survival). PB's support and service centre staff will be told on Friday who is for the chop and who isn't. Fuchs claimed the job cuts would not affect the level of support PB offers its customers. ®
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Penguin hits out at ‘artificial’ Linux benchmarks

Linux hardware outfit Penguin Computing has responded to the results of last week's Linux versus NT rematch at PC Week Labs. Penguin director of technical staff Mark Willey attended the tests, which Linux lost again, and has commented that he doesn't think the Linux community should have bothered with them. Penguin president Sam Ockman however yesterday described the tests as artificial. "Imagine," he says, "that there was a test that proved that a Ford could corner better than a Chevy at 120 m.p.h. The result of such a study, while technically accurate, would not be relevant to many customers. That is just the sort of study that we have seen." The controversy over Linux versus NT started with tests run by Mindcraft earlier this year, and tests by Ziff-Davis and then last week's 'official' rematch have followed approximately the same approach, and come up with results of at least a similar order (Mindcraft's earliest figures were extreme, and haven't been repeated). After some debate the Linux community seems to be moving towards a consensus that Linux should be assessed in more 'real life' type tests, of the sort that's just been published by c't magazine (Now Linux beats NT). Says Ockman: "Linux is far superior to Windows NT in four very important categories that were not considered in the tests: reliability, stability, security and expandability. These are some of the most important factors for any IT manager in making a purchasing decision." And then of course, Penguin adds, there's price/performance. Sour grapes? Up to a point, perhaps. The tests have given Microsoft valuable ammunition for use in the areas of the business Penguin makes its money out of, so a response of some kind was probably necessary. But it would still probably make sense for Penguin to come up with a longer term reply with some data attached to it. ®
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Analyst claims Apple ‘iBook’ to launch 21 July

Apple's shares rose a couple of dollars yesterday after Saloman Smith Barney analyst Richard Gardner said he believes Apple will launch its much-anticipated consumer notebook late next month. Gardner's comments followed much speculation on Apple-oriented Web sites that the iMac-style portable, codenamed P1, but likely to ship under the name iBook, may be delayed way beyond Apple's "sometime in 1999" deadline -- or even canned altogether. The rumours cited Apple insiders claiming the machine, prototypes of which have already been demoed to major educational institutions, one of Apple's target markets for the new portable, has so fair failed to meet the company's own production QA standards. Certainly the iBook has suffered delays -- it appears to have originally been mooted for an early 1999 launch with shipment following sometime in the first half of this year. However, Apple now appears to have moved the dates back to sometime before the end of the year. That said, a summer launch, timed to build up mindshare in time for the autumn school and university terms, would be essential for Apple to make the most of the new portable. That's one of the reasons why Gardner reckons Apple will unveil the machine on 21 July. We think so too. Earlier this year, Taiwanese OEM Alpha Top let slip it had been signed by Apple to build the iBook, and was on course to ship the portable in volume "in the second half of the year". And last week it said the machine was now on course to ship in August (see iMac notebook OEM tells all). ®
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Motorola takeover rumour propels Proxim stock

Hints are emerging that Motorola is planning to buy wireless networking specialist Proxim -- hints that pushed Proxim's shares a whisper below their year's highest figure. Proxim's shares hit $52.25 during trading yesterday, just below their 52-week high price of $52.50. The stock closed at $50 15/16. It is believed the gain came from claims on a investor-oriented Web site JagNotes.com that Motorola is interested in buying Proxim and will pay up to $65 per share for it. Motorola's interest was well signalled earlier this month when it pumped $10 million into Proxim, and the agreement between the two companies allows Motorola to increase that figure. Whether that's a sign of an immediate purchase is another matter, however, and opinion on Wall Street suggests the JagNotes rumours are pure speculation. ®
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Charities profit from pirates' ill-gotten gains

Microsoft will donate $25 million to the disadvantaged from software piracy recoveries, it announced yesterday. This self-appointed Mother Teresa of the IT world will dish out an extra $5 million a year for the next five years to spur technology access for underprivileged communities. The increased funding is targeted at non-profit organisations worldwide, as well as certain academic institutions. The donations will amount to half the cash gained from its anti-piracy settlements. "As we continue to confront a serious piracy problem, especially on a criminal scale, we think it's appropriate that Microsoft redirect monies recouped from these illegal activities into programmes that will spread the benefits of technology more broadly," one Microsoft saint said. The Giving Campaign was started in the US in 1983. It includes Microsoft's European Scholar Programme which has trained over 6000 unemployed Europeans in technology issues. Orphanages in Malaysia, wrinklies in Dallas, and the physically and mentally challenged in the Philippines have also benefited from the scheme. Microsoft recorded sales of $14 billion and net income of $4 billion for the year ended 30 June 1998. ®
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Control Data to be snapped up by BT

BT has confirmed that it is to buy US-based Control Data Systems for £217 million. Reports began to circulate yesterday that the two were engaged in advanced take-over talks. The move will add muscle to the presence of Syntegra, BT's in-house systems integration business, in the US. Syntegra's strategy is to make small and medium-sized acquisitions in the US. It would prefer a company or group of companies combining computing skills, good customer base, location and commercial performance. Control Data has two main strings to its bow: managing e-commerce solutions for companies, and system integration services support for businesses and government. It is owned by Welsh Carson, Anderson & Stowe, has over 1000 staff, and its last recorded turnover was around $180 million. ®
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Judge denies first MS motions in Caldera case

MS on Trial "It looks pretty favourable for us" Bryan Sparks, CEO of Caldera told The Register at the end of another day of hearings on Microsoft's nine motions to dismiss the case brought by Caldera against Microsoft's anticompetitive practices against DR-DOS. Judge Dee Benson, in the District Court in Salt Lake City, issued a written order denying Microsoft's first three motions, saying that although each practice of which Caldera had complained might not of itself be an antitrust violation (under section 2 of the Sherman Act), together they might form part of an illegal pattern of behaviour. The motions concerned Microsoft's disparagement of DR-DOS; Microsoft's licensing practices for MS-DOS; and Microsoft product pre-announcements intended to undermine sales of DR-DOS. Of the four Microsoft motions heard yesterday, all were denied from the bench. These were about a technology tying claim; perceived and intentional incompatibilities introduced by Microsoft to persuade users that DR-DOS was not reliable; untrue European and Japanese claims by Microsoft; and a state law claim of tortious [non-contractual] interference. The biggest headache for Microsoft is that Caldera has been successful so far in court in showing that DR-DOS could replace MS-DOS in Windows 9x. Indeed, the claim has a very sound basis for the simple reason that Caldera demonstrated this substitution at CeBIT in March 1998. That the actual operating system in Windows 9x (which is of course still DOS) can be replaced by a competitive one exposes the hollowness of Microsoft's claim that Windows 9x is an operating system. Windows (but not NT) is still a GUI shell wrapped around DOS, as was Windows 3.x, whatever Microsoft may try to claim to the contrary. This could prove to be very expensive indeed for Fort Redmond. Judge Benson was peeved that Microsoft had been "grandstanding", a reference to doing everything possible to cause delay: "Spinning this case is not helping the court with the facts," he noted. The next step is for a hearing on the two remaining motions next week, but Microsoft cannot be very optimistic about the outcome. Yesterday, Microsoft associate general counsel Tom Burt said he was disappointed with the rulings. Although Burt gave no indication, the possibility of an appeal by Microsoft cannot be ruled out. It is quite possible that Judge Jackson's ruling in Washington will be made before the Salt Lake City trial has finished. This gives extra impetus for Microsoft to seek a consent decree in Washington at the last moment, since this would technically avoid the DoJ's case from affecting the outcome in Salt Lake City. Of course, the jury would not be influenced by the niceties of such matters, and would probably see any capitulation by Microsoft as an admission of guilt, however Microsoft might have spun its "accommodation" of the DoJ's desires. The Caldera trial will start on 17 January next year, with a jury that is very likely to favour the home team. This is not as unfair as it might seem, since Microsoft has been playing from time-to-time in Washington to appeals court judges who are as a body nearly all politically unsympathetic to antitrust cases. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
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Freeserve escapes bug threat

Dixons-owned Freeserve has confirmed that a bug responsible for compromising the security of its service has been squished. The bug affects Microsoft Windows NT and could have potentially allowed anyone to hack into Freeserve's servers and do all sorts of unmentionable things, apparently. The gaping hole was discovered by security group eEye earlier this month when it claimed it had unearthed a "serious security flaw in Microsoft's Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0". Although Microsoft managed to issue a patch pretty swiftly -- with the promise of a full fix to follow -- a "confidential" newsgroup posting leaked to The Register suggested that as of Monday morning Freeserve had failed to plug the hole. A spokeswoman for Freeserve confirmed that the ISP was aware that there had been a problem and that all the relevant patches had been applied. "I can confirm our system is robust," she said. In an unrelated incident, The Sun's CurrantBun.Com web site was hacked at the weekend. ®
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French telco intros free Web calls

France Telecom is to offer limited unmetered access to the Internet in return for a flat fee of 100 French Francs (around £10) a month. The CEO of France's leading teleco, Michel Bon, made the announcement in an interview with the newspaper Le Parisien. He didn't reveal any more details about the new pricing structure or whether it would apply to all pricing tariffs. Further details will be made public before the new service is introduced on 1 August. Last week politicians in Japan decided that affordable unmetered Net access is a priority if it is to excel in the digital world. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications said that unmetered access must be introduced by next year so that ordinary people can use the Net without worrying about the size of their telephone bills. It wants families to be able to log onto the Net and stay put for as long as they like, all for around £30 a month. In a bold move that shows a clear lead to other world governments, Japan's politicians have decided that the wider social benefits of unmetered access far outweigh those of shareholders. ®
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Parliamentary Web group with no site

Any one who believes the UK's politicians are a boaring (sic) bunch of old hams that know little about the Net needs to think again. More than 100 MPs from both Houses have already joined a new all-party group that focuses on Net issues. The Associate Parliamentary Internet Group (APIG) hasn't been around that long but already it's one of the largest interest groups in the UK's seat of power. Not only does APIG provide a forum for politicians to learn more about the issues facing the Net industry and consumers, it also give the industry a chance to lobby the lawmakers. And it's got a top logo: a picture of a little porker with an @ sign for a tail. Cute, no? Chaired jointly by Derek Wyatt (Labour) and Michael Fabricant (Conservative) APIG could become a very influential body within the oak-lined corridors of power at Westminster. Unfortunately, APIG doesn't have a Web site yet but The Register has learnt from one source that a Web sty is on the way. No doubt it will contain lots of little applets. ®
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Compaq ekes out more domain names

The biggest PC hardware company in the world has added a further two domain names to its extensive list. But this time, the names are different from all of the NONSTOP sites that Compaq has busily been ordering over the last two months. The two new sites, registered just two days ago, are GEN3GAMING.COM and COMPAQ-CENTRAL.COM. The former leads you straight to the Compaq retail store, while the latter leads you no-where, so far. The proliferation of Compaq NONSTOP* sites led one wag yesterday to remember an occasion some years ago when the reason not to stop was that it could be difficult to start again. ®
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Move to 12-inch wafers likely slow

Market research company Dataquest has warned that the move to 12-inch (300mm) silicon wafers is likely to be slower than most anticipate. A report it has just published says that the move to the new fab process is not likely to mean much in the market until the year 2003. Two weeks ago, Intel confirmed that it had plans to shift technology to 12-inch wafers, while Taiwanese foundries and Siemens also announced their moves to the technology. The report, called The 300mm Wafer Size Transition: Really...When?, calls into question the speed of transition, and suggests further delays are inevitable. Part of the problem is that a 12-inch wafer is far more fragile than the eight-inch variety, and chip companies need to implement new equipment to transition from one technology to another. Such transition can be very expensive. Intel, for example, is moving very slowly to experimenting with 12-inch silicon wafers. ®
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Barrett takes Merced date to the last day of June

Sources close to Intel claimed today that Craig Barrett will announce Merced has taped out, in the next few hours. For the last month, controversy has raged within and without Intel about the tape-out date, but now Barrett is insisting on an announcement today, the last day of June. The compiler designers will be left with the results of Barrett's announcement and the issue is one of damage control, our source said. According to the source, Barrett will then present Merced demonstrations using real silicon at the next Intel Developer Forum, in September. Barrett is also likely to make some reference to the fact that Via bought Cyrix at close of play in Taiwan. The press office at Intel declined to comment. ®
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Via-Cyrix deal all about patents

Analysis We first met Jerry Rogers, an ex-TI employee, just before he had the go-ahead from his investors to launch a new type of chip company, Cyrix. Cyrix, he explained over a beer or two in bar at an ETRE conference, had a completely new way of designing microprocessors that was absolutely fabless. His company, he said, would be able to design leaner and faster microprocessors and regardless of Intel's grip on the market, was not in the slightest bit worried about patents. We saw Rogers a few years later at his HQ in Richardson, Texas, and he was proud to wave his hands at the patents Cyrix had won. He was also proud to show that whatever Intel's efforts with its so-called "profit and loss" legal department, he had overcome the chip giant. Perhaps Jerry was a tad too ebullient for Cyrix' shareholders but not long after that, he became one of the disappeared, and just a little while after, National Semiconductor in the shape of one Brian Halla, took over the x.86 wing. And now Cyrix has passed into the hands of little chipset company Via, which found the money to buy Cyrix as a standalone chip company. With the acquisition, Via will also acquire a mass of valuable patents, fought for by Cyrix' Rogers against Intel so many years back. The situation, as they say, has now changed and it is possible that tiny Via, in its turn, will be able to put pressure on mighty Intel. The cross patents are a legal tangle, and we are sure that Mr Thomas Dunlap at Intel, and a mass of other attorneys throughout corporate America, are sharpening their nibs, ready for the up-and-coming legal BeanFest. ®
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Yahoo! hijacks its users' content

Yahoo! is suffering from an acute form of megalomania. Not content with being one of the biggest sites on the Web it no wants to possess all the... er... content that passes through its portal. In a new set of "terms of service" Yahoo! has asserted its rights to own every bit of information contained within its domain -- whether it owns it or not. Section 8 of Yahoo's! TOS' now reads: "By submitting content to any Yahoo property, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such content has expressly granted, Yahoo the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive and fully sublicensable [what sort of a word is that -- Ed] right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed." One hacked off reader who alerted The Register to this said: "This crosses the line. Yahoo! is claiming that by submitting any content, I am granting an unqualified license for all of my content to be used by Yahoo! in any way it chooses, and to create any kind of derivative works. "They can profit in any way, in perpetuity, from my copyrighted works, without ever requesting my permission or providing me with any benefits (not even credit for authorship). "Things are even worse: Yahoo! won't even let me edit my GeoCities Web site or remove my content from the GeoCities service, without first accepting the new usage contract. "The company provides a contact phone number that reaches a 'permanent voicemail' box. No human staff are available at the company to respond to demands for content to be removed," he wrote. Let's be absolutely sure about this. You post anything on Yahoo! and automatically waive your rights to your work. They can make money out of it forever, do anything they want to it and still you wouldn't have a leg to stand on. So what if someone else posts your stuff without your say so -- are you going to get nabbed by the Yahoo! copyright scheme? Does this new copyright ruling cover Web sites that have registered with the mega directory? IBM, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Levi, Compaq -- have they all had to hand over ownership of their brands to Yahoo! just because they're listed on Yahoo!? All these questions and more can't be answered -- because Yahoo! can't be bothered to return a phone call. No doubt the entire staff at yodel towers is now busy scurrying through its portal to see what it can claim as its own. No doubt the two voicemails left with Yahoo! to find out what the heck it's playing at are also now subject to their TOS' on content. Hang on, this story mentions Yahoo! -- so they probably own this article too. Come to think of it, the alphabet contains letters that appear in the word "Yahoo!" -- so they must own every word ever written. Or spoken. Ever. ®
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Bets on in HP-Compaq race

The first bet on the book in the HP, Compaq desperation derby is which one will be first to declare a CEO. The more interesting bet is which runners will take over as CEO at each of the companies. There are no declared runners, so unlike a normal horse race, you can't tell which is in the stalls and which not. But here are our tips, for anyone who is placing money on the outcome, for example the shareholders of the respective two firms. We understand that David House, an ex-Intel employee who took over the tiller at Bay Networks before the Nortel takeover, is in the running for the Compaq job. A Scandinavian, understood to be currently heading a successful mobile firm, is also understood to have declared but stands little chance from the triumvirate of Ben, Frank and Ted, currently ruling the roose. Rod Canion is a rank outsider at 10,000-1. Ray Lane is also in the Houston running. At HP, Ann Livermore is still tipped for the CEO spot, but Paul Otellini, a senior VP at Intel in Santa Clara, is also in the running. There is a mystery Microsoft player too, but so far his name is just that -- a mystery. Otellini said that he would never move to Houston a few weeks back. The odds are on that one of the top two CEO jobs will be filled in the next seven days. But which one? ®
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AOL forges deal with eMachines

AOL today announced it has struck a major deal with budget-priced PC manufacturer eMachines, and while the arrangement isn't perhaps as interesting as the online supremo's talks with Microworkz, it's just as important to AOL's 'AOL anywhere' strategy. The eMachines arrangement centres on placing AOL's access software and that of its subsidiary service CompuServe onto eMachines' PC desktops. Curiously, the deal places more emphasis on CompuServe 2000 than on AOL itself, so clearly AOL is keen on maintaining the CompuServe brand's separate identity and that after years of trying to push the service as a business-oriented operation, it now wants to promote CompuServe to consumers. AOL -- and CompuServe, when it was independent -- has tried this before and failed, but what the heck, if at first you don't succeed... AOL's motivation here is essentially to tap into the emerging Internet appliance market. Sure, eMachines' PCs aren't exactly Internet appliances in the strictest sense of the term, but neither is Apple's iMac, but over 80 per cent of iMac buyers chose the machine specifically to use it to get online, either as PC novices or experienced users. The odds are goof that that's why punters have been opting for eMachines' four hundred buck machines too, especially since, at that price, the spec. isn't much to write home about. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Punters who by an eMachines computer and sign up for three years with CompuServe 2000 get $400 back in connection fee rebates, which pretty much covers the cost of the PC in the first place. AOL can easily afford to waive connection charges in this way, and it might well be just enough to persuade buyers they're getting a free PC. And if they don't stay that long, well at least AOL hasn't lost $400 revenue up front. That could even pave the way for some sort of buyout, giving AOL its own line of budget computers that it can give away completely or pay for over time using the free connection time method. That said, AOL is probably more interested in Microworkz' iToaster PC, a $199 monitor, CD-ROM and floppy drive-free computer based on the BeOS. AOL is talking to Microworkz about co-marketing deals. iToaster is far more attractive to AOL than the eMachines eTower. As a Be machine, AOL can get its software onboard without any of that irritating Microsoft stuff to confuse the buyers. Indeed with a bit of modification, the OS and the entire machine could easily be rebranded as an AOL Internet Access Machine. eMachines, having already established a brandname, unlike Microworkz, would perhaps be less willing to allow AOL to do that -- or rather, it would cost AOL more. The eMachines deal certainly doesn't imply the Microworkz talks have turned sour. AOL is operating a two-pronged strategy: test the water with eMachines and use it to push CompuServe, then really go to Internet Appliance town with Microworkz to promote AOL itself. ®
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Pirates relax as MS man changes job

Microsoft UK's anti-piracy man is to take up a new challenge and do battle with unruly journalists. David Gregory is to ditch his high-profile crackdown role to become the software giant's new head of PR in the UK. After two years of fighting the trade in copied software, Gregory now takes charge of the assembled ranks of spin doctors at Microsoft and its PR agency, Text 100. As well as having the thankless task of pacifying journalists and analysts, he will need to try and get Microsoft's "good" name in the press as often as possible. It is not clear whether the new job will leave Gregory free to pursue other interests, such as his blossoming TV career. Or whether he will continue to court the press in his individual manner. But whatever the outcome, The Register looks forward to hearing from Mr G who, we are sure, will be able to tell us how to improve our coverage of the Great Satan's good works. ®
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W3C ratifies XML spec

The World Wide Web Consortium, the organisation that oversees Web-related standards, has ratified its specification for Extensible Markup Language (XML) and its use in Web pages. The specification covers the way XML code can be implemented using Style Sheets, allowing it to be converted into HTML, the language of Web page layout. So far, only Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.0 supports XML coding -- no great surprise, this, since Microsoft came up with the XML in the first place -- but AOL's Netscape has said future versions of its browser will support it too. So will other browsers, presumably, not least because XML is being widely touted as the technology that will make e-commerce ubiquitous. XML allows any form of data to be formatted and displayed on the Web, just as HTML is used to format and display text and pictures. That makes XML useful as a method of not only sending different kinds of data to customers, but provides better ways of interacting with potential buyers -- hence the interest of the e-commerce guys. ®
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Woman hacks into husband’s PC – literally

When is a hacker not a hacker? When she's wielding a meat cleaver of course. Twenty-nine year old Kelli Michetti of Grafton, Ohio has been fined £125 after she took the concept of computer rage one step further than most. The source of this rage was her husband, who had started frequenting late night Internet chat rooms. Many women's worst nightmare. Mrs Michetti became so enraged that her husband was chatting up other women over the Web that she emulated the American folk heroine Lizzie Borden and gave her man's PC 40 whacks. According to reports, Mrs Michetti (shouldn't that be 'machete' – Ed) at first tried severing the PCs power cable. When that didn't work, she vented her anger at the machine's monitor while her husband tried to fend her off. Mrs Michetti pleaded guilty to charges of domestic violence. ® See also: Half of users attack their PCs Users smash up PCs in outbreaks of network rage
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Oftel spurns calls for Net regulations

The telecomms watchdog Oftel has dealt a massive blow to Net users today after it said that the UK was already benefiting from competition within the industry. It also threw its weight behind the government's line that the cost of Net access in the UK should not be regulated and that it should be left up to the market to decide. The statement -- part of its response to an inquiry into ecommerce by a group of MPs -- believes the explosion of subscription-free ISPs is proof that competition is working. What's more, it claims consumers are happy with the way things are -- a view that is likely to be challenged by many people. "We consider that the rapid changes which are taking place are indicative of a competitive market," said Oftel. "The market is already beginning to deliver the choice consumers want. "Oftel takes the view that the appropriate structure of tariffs is a commercial decision best left to companies themselves – provided, of course, that any proposed tariffs meet the terms and conditions of an operator’s licence. "In BT's case, this means that we need to be assured that any changes are not anti-competitive or discriminate unfairly between customers," said Oftel. ®
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MS in frame in 4m user ‘racism’ class action bid

Microsoft has been accused of racism in an action in the San Diego federal District Court by John Elijah, a black man. He complains that an image of a black couple contained in MS Publisher is displayed if a user searches the images for "monkey". Elijah, a building site worker who is married with two children, said he was humiliated, and that his wife was frightened of being attacked by skinheads as a consequence. He also added that he was not bringing the action for money, but to get the problem fixed. Microsoft's resident apologist Greg Shaw said in a stock remark that sounded about as inappropriate as you could get, that: "We regret any offence [OK so far] or inconvenience [what 'inconvenience', Shaw?]". Any inconvenience is likely to be to Microsoft, since Elijah's lawyer, Harvey Levine, is hoping to turn the action into a class suit, which could involve up to four million black and white people who have bought the product going after Microsoft for money, in most cases. ®