1st > July > 1999 Archive

The Register is five years old

Five years agoThis is Issue No. 1 of The Register, which is now five years old: ====== The Register Number 1 25 July 1994 Edited by John Lettice & Mike Magee email: connect@magee.demon.co.uk -------------------------------------------------- DISPLAY'S COLOUR FLAT PANELS SET TO DOUBLE Display Technologies, the IBM-Toshiba joint venture company set up to produce flat-panel colour displays, is to double production to 200,000 units a month. Production at an IBM plant in Shiga, Japan is being switched over from semiconductors at a cost of $400 million. In the past few months several companies, including Hyundai, Samsung and Matsushita, have said they will ramp up production, but total world capacity for large active matrix TFT displays, which on manufacturers projections will reach six million units in the next six to 12 months, still looks unlikely to keep pace with demand from the portable computer market. The critical shortages of the 10.4in units used in IBM's ThinkPads, however is likely to ease with the introduction of new plant. Most of this will be designed to handle larger pieces of glass which can produce four 10.4in panels; older plant can only produce two, plus a considerable amount of waste. The increased volume of 10.4in is likely to alter the mix of portable sales, with 10.4in becoming the de facto standard for power user portables. INTEL DROPS JAPANESE FLASH FOUNDRY Intel's strategy on flash memory looks in disarray after its decision to stop production of products at its NPNX (formerly NMB) Semiconductor plant in Japan. After the shortfall in production during late 1992 and 1993, Intel invested many millions of dollars equipping the NBM fab plant, which produced .8 micron wafers. Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of non-volatile memories at rival Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) told The Register: "I think they [Intel] are still committed to flash. Intel spent a lot of money bringing up NMB and found technology has moved away from that range of products.' He said that customers were demanding 5volt flash memory and Intel, with its SmartVoltage technology had probably not even sampled yet. "From our point of view, we are winning designs everywhere with 5volt technology," he claimed. "Intel has realised there isn't the huge market out there for older products they've got." He said Intel was "depressing the market" for flash memory and projecting prices people "would find it difficult to live with. He claimed AMD was meeting the market demand on flash products. "Our joint venture [with Fujitsu] comes on stream at the beginning of next year and our current lead times are 12 weeks," he said. Perrin claimed Intel now found itself with only two major product areas, processors and flash memory. "Intel may have been caught," he said. "A lot of the fabs aren't being built to make flash memory and I'd question how long they will be in flash. It will become a commodity and they're not very good on commodities." ARM CLOSER TO CONSUMERS A licensing deal with Asahi Chemical's semiconductor division, Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM) is likely to increase Advanced Risc Machines' chances of success in consumer markets. ARM was founded four years ago by Acorn, Apple and VLSI technology, with the brief to produce cheap, low-power Risc processors for a range of applications, including hand-held units and embedded controllers. The deal allows AKM to combine the ARM7 processor with its own CMOS mixed-signal LSI technology to produce high speed, communications-aware silicon. AKM already uses this technology to manufacture components for mobile phones and other communications devices, supplying most of the major Japanese electronics companies. ARM already does business with Cirrus Logic, GEC Plessey Semiconductors, Samsung, Sharp and TI, and its products are used in the motor industry, handheld devices and peripheral controllers. IBM SELLS ARDIS TO MOTOROLA As has been expected for several months, IBM has agreed to sell its stake in the US Ardis wireless communications system to Motorola. Ardis, which covers 400 cities and 10,000 smaller towns, span out of an internal IBM communications system, and was set up as a joint venture by the two companies in 1990. Selling out to Motorola is not a case of IBM losing interest, but is intended to help the company avoid charges of favouritism. The deal increases Motorola's strength in the wireless market, but the company will need to invest substantially in the coverage and design of the network in order to beat-off new rivals. Motorola is also likely to expand Ardis' use out of the business market, using devices like its Envoy PDA/telephone to pick up customers in the consumer market where mobile phones left off. MOTOROLA CLAIMS PRIZE IN AIM BENCHMARK TEST The Motorola Computer Group claimed victory last week over four processor offerings from AST, Data General, Digital, Sun and Unisys. The MCG Series 900 M963 was first in two categories -- best price sustained performance and best price/peak performance. The results were as follows: Best price/sustained performance $50-$100K List price AIM PR $/AIM 900 Model 963 $64773 1129 œ37 DG AviiON 8500 $77945 1271 $61 AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 998 $69 PARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 1149 $70 DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 649 $82 Unisys U6000 65 5CPUs $83950 960 $87 Unisys U6000 65 4CPUs $74950 826 $91 Best price/peak performance $50-$100K List price AIM PR $/AIM 900 Model 963 $64773 1162 $557 SPARCcenter 1000 4CPUs $80500 138.2 $582 DG AviiON 8500 Quad $77945 132.2 $590 AST Manhattan SMP-4 $68757 114.1 $603 Motorola 8000/8540 $55967 87.6 $639 DEC 3000 Model 500S $53088 82.9 $640 DEC 3000 Model 800S $93844 119.3 $787 DIGITAL DEVISES SALES CHANNEL FOR DEVICES Involuntary downsizer Digital Equipment Corporation is putting new sales channels in place in a bid to increase sales of its Alpha AXP Risc procesor and PCI chipsets. The company is to push semiconductor sales under VP of semiconductor marketing Arthur Swift, and worldwide sales manager Richard Riker. The company will appoint area sales managers for North America, Europe and Asia, who will work with application engineers, distributors and manufacturer's representatives. Digital has so far been relatively unsuccessful in establishing the Alpha as any kind of a serious Risc standard, but is nevertheless refusing to admit defeat, sees it as its major strategic line of business, and is selling off other, more profitable operations in order to dig itself out of its current crisis. Life could however get better for Alpha, as the arrival of serious mass-market Risc machines later this year will encourage down-the-line Intel supporters to look at Risc alternatives. Rumour has it that, as and when Dell decides to jump, it could well jump to Alpha. RAMBUS AND NINTENDO STRIKE DEAL OVER FAST MEMORY Nintendo claimed last week its 64-bit Ultra 64 video game system -- slated for autumn 1995 -- will give 500MHz processor to memory performance by using technology from Rambus Inc. According to Nintendo America chairman Howard Lincoln, the adoption of Rambus technology will be affordable and provide the procesing speed required to create 'a totally new' video game experience. The Ultra 64, a joint development by Silicon Graphics (SG) and Nintendo is likely to cost less than $250, the company said. Rambus uses a new type of DRAM architecture coupled with high processing speeds, according to Geoff Tate, Rambus Inc's president. Other companies incorporating the Rambus interface include NEC and Toshiba, while another eleven companies are thought to be close to signing deals for licences. Rambus Inc. is the world's leading developer of high speed interface technology, which the company licenses to semiconductor manufacturing companies. The publicly announced companies developing or delivering components that comply with the Rambus interface standard include Toshiba Corporation, NEC Corporation, Oki, Hitachi, Goldstar and others. NEC and Toshiba already offer 0.5u CMOS ASIC technology and RISC based memory controllers based on Rambus technology. INTEL SELLS PLD BUSINESS TO ALTERA Intel has sold its PLD (programmable logic device) business to San Jose company Altera for $50million. Intel will retain a 5% stake in the company and will transfer its licences and product to the company, as well as supplying it with silicon wafers. Bernie Perrin, European marketing manager of PLD products at AMD described the decision as "quite amazing." He said Intel had told customers and the press this year that they would become big in the market. "Certainly they've been quoting aggressive pricing," he said, "and really making their presence known. Quite suddenly to reverse out of a market seems strange to me and shows very little regard for customers." He though the reason for the Intel decision was that the company would have to spend a lot of money to "claw their way up the ladder. "Looking at all the reversed decisions they've made over last few months there must be some thread running through it," he added. SAMPLE RATES INTRODUCES AUDIO DSP MODULE Finnish company Sample Rates has launched a DSP module -- the M4-0202-A, which uses the 56004 signal processor and includes a stereo audio pre-amplifier, 18-bit A/D and D/A convertors and a processor controllable output level control. According to the company, the module can either operate as an evaluation platform or independently by botting up from on-board program memory. Input gain is adjustable up to 60dB, with sample rates running between 32 to 48KHz. It uses the 40MHz version of the 56004 processor, provides 32K of program memory and can use up to 4MB of data memory with a standard SIMM. It includes an expansion connector for the user interface, and costs $1995 with additional modules costing up to $695. Sample Rate also offers development tools for its systems. Phone + 358 31 3165 045 or e-mail Juha.Kuusama@mail.sci.fi. SUN-MITSUBISHI RAM DEAL Sun and Mitsubishi have developed a form of graphics RAM that increases video performance tenfold. 3D RAM is expected to sample late this year, and go into production in early 95. It uses a new frame buffer technology to render 100 pixel triangles at around 1.8 million triangles per second, compared to 210,000 per second with 2M VRAMs. The technology will appear first in high performance 3D workstations, but as its cost will ultimately be comparable to VRAM, it ought to gravitate to arcade machines, desktops and ultimately, to games consoles. Current PC processor technology is however a tad too slow to be able to use 3D RAM, so it's unlikely to make an impact in the mass market much before the arrival of the P6. FIGHT ON FOR PC POLE POSITION The battle for the top slot in the PC market is on with a vengeance, according to prelimary figures for second quarter PC sales from research outfit IDC. Compaq managed a 65 per cent increase in its sales, up to 1.15 million units, while IBM, which is usually weak in Q2, managed only a one per cent rise to 900,000. Apple shipped 855,000. The figures should not entirely be viewed as an indicator of how the market will go over the whole of 1994, although IBM's obvious screw-up indicates that the company still has a lot more work to do before it can categorically be described as 'fixed.' Despite finally starting to produce machines the market is actually impressed by, the company has been plagued by shortages and has confused the market with multiple models and brands. And if it doesn't get its act together fast, it is in danger of being entirely overtaken by Compaq in 1994. In 1993, IBM sold 4.4 million machines, Apple 3.6 million and Compaq 3 million. The prospect of a slugging match in Q3 and Q4 may well suggest where Intel's large inventory is going to go... WAFER STANDARD SET TO RISE Where do we go after 8in? The cost of trading up the standard silicon wafer size is probably too great now for any one company to contemplate, but a summit attended by companies from the US, Japan and Europe at the Semicon/West show in San Francisco earlier this month has agreed to settle on 300mm, or 12 inches as the next standard size. Some matters still have to be settled, but they are thought not to include the vexed metric/imperial question. A global task force in two segments, US/Europe and Japan/Asia Pacific, will be formed to determine how the switch will be made, and will be coordinated by Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI), which sponsored the show. The summit included representatives from Sematech of the US, JESSI from Europe and EIAJ (Electronics Industry Association of Japan). The next scheduled meeting for the task forces will be held at Semicon/Japan in Tokyo in December 1994. A timescale for the production of 12in wafers should be established by Semicon/Europa in April 1995. CHICAGO, CHICAGO -- MY KIND OF TOWN? What kind of hardware will your customers need to run Chicago? The same as before? Well, up to a point, because although for obvious reasons the manufacturers who've figured this one out are keeping pretty quiet, Chicago appears to need substantially increased cache memory in order to maintain the kind of cache hit rates you'd get under Dos/Windows. One major manufacturer which has Chicago-optimised designs waiting in the wings figures that the size of cache needed for Chicago will actually be one to two megabytes, (two to be on the safe side) and that machines with 512K cache are going to look pretty sick. Microsoft is apparently aware of the problem, but you can see why the subject's a little ticklish - the OS is after all intended to just install onto your existing hardware and magically not break anything. Maybe it's best to think of Chicago as vastly improving the performance of existing machines, but with a little more work on the design of new machines, capable of even more vastly increasing performance. Right? PENTIUM PRICES PLUMMET AS GLUT HITS MARKET Intel's aim this year to ramp up production of the Pentium has resulted in a glut and led to massive price cuts over the last month. At the beginning of July, a 60MHz Pentium cost $675 per unit but on the 1 August its price will be $418, with further cuts expected as Intel attempts to shift stocks. The price of the 60MHz is eventually expected to fall to $400 or perhaps lower as Intel prepares to start a worldwide advertising campaign to promote the use of the processor. Cuts on the 90MHz and the 100MHz are expected too. The 90MHz processor will cost around $600 at the beginning of next year while eventually the 486DX4 is expected to replace the currently popular DX2, according to Intel insiders. The price slashes mean better deals for PC buyers. Gateway 200 and Dell have already started a price war which has resulted in large cuts on their 60MHz systems. Compaq, according to an insider, is attempting to stay aloof from the fray but will inevitably be drawn in. Both Compaq and AST have the advantage that they second source processors, in Compaq's case Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and in AST's case Cyrix chips. This makes Compaq less vulnerable to price war pressure. Meanwhile AMD is expected to introduce 80MHz and 100MHz versions of its 486 chip in early Autumn. Rumours that takeup of the Pentium processor is slack are consistently denied by Intel but the company acknowledges that so far public perception of the chip is low -- hence the huge advertising spend. While the advertising campaign is primarily intended to promote the Pentium processor, Intel is also interested in damaging the credibility of the PowerPC processor as far as possible. INTEL SETS PACE ON MP SYSTEM SPEC Intel is attempting to set the agenda on multiprocessor (MP) specifications for hardware vendors and has revealed MP Spec 1.1. While Compaq officials said last week that they would support the MP spec, one insider said that its own specification had existed since the launch of the first SystemPro. 'We'll support the standard when it is released,' he said. According to Intel, the high cost of supporting multiple versions of different operating systems and platforms means it's uneconomical for MP vendors to make their products widely available using heir own proprietary system designs. The Intel Architecture Labs (IAL) has developed version 1.1 in conjunction with different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and software and BIOS vendors. Intel claims the MP spec will bring the same "shrinkwrap" benefits of the desktop market to the MP market. A system is MP Spec-compliant, according to Intel, when it uses one or more Intel Architecture processors of at least 486 class, including Pentium 735\90 and 815\100 processors, includes an MP Spec compliant BIOS, operating system, and AT, EISA, PCI, VL and MCA buses. Compliance testing is to be performed by operating system vendors and system manufacturers. Compliant systems can have from 2 to 256 processors and the MP Spec, Intel says, is royalty free and doesn't require a licence. (See diagram at end of file, uue-encoded). System manufacturers which have already said they will support the Spec include ALR, AT&T GIS, AST, Collorary, Dell, HP, Intergraph, Micronics, Olivetti and Unisys. BIOS support comes from AMI, Award, Phoenix and System Soft. Meanwhile on the operating system side, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, SCO and SunSoft are partners. However support for SMP on NetWare is not expected to be available before the end of this year. A spokesman for the company said it would be built into NetWare 4.1. The MP spec is available from Intel sales offices and literature centres (in the US 800-548-4725). WHAT'S HOT ON THE USENET COMP.ARCH There's an ongoing discussion about the relative merits SMP and MPP contrasting the merits of Cray versus Pentium based systems. One contributor from NASA said that while the Cray was 'magnificent' when it was first launched, they are not improving at the same rate as micrprocessors. However another contributor from Tandem points out that while that's true on a CPU by CPU basis, Cray now has a low end series which is more cost competitive, with EL systems starting at around $125K. The concensus appears to be that Cray needs to move to MPP or die, with the market so small that most vendors won't support them. A professor at Purdue University says that the peak of CPUs is progressing faster than current memory bandwidth can handle. A contributor from Tandem (again) provides an interesting table which shows the ratios for sustainable memory bandwidth on long vector kernels. ------------------- -------- ----------- Machine Bandwidth Ratio to (MB/s) Cray C90/16 ------------------- -------- ----------- Cray_YMP/C90_16_cpu 105497.4 1.0 Cray C90 series Cray_YMP/C90__8_cpu 55071.9 1.9 Cray_YMP/C90__4_cpu 27610.3 3.8 Cray_YMP/C90__2_cpu 13866.0 7.6 Cray_YMP/C90__1_cpu 6965.4 15.1 Cray_Y/MP_8_cpu 19291.6 5.4 Cray Y/MP Cray_Y/MP_4_cpu 9685.8 10.8 Cray_Y/MP 2426.4 43.4 Cray_T3D_256_PEs 66106.2 1.6 Cray T3D Cray_T3D_128_PEs 32973.0 3.2 Cray_T3D__64_PEs 16520.9 6.4 Cray_T3D__32_PEs 8264.9 12.8 IBM_RS6000-990 663.4 159. IBM RS/6000 IBM_RS6000-590 600.0 176. IBM_RS6000-580 275.9 382. IBM_RS6000-560 228.6 461. IBM_RS6000-950 193.9 544. IBM_RS/6000-250 71.1 1483. IBM_RS/6000-250 58.2 1812. HP_9000/755 68.6 1537. HP 9000 HP_9000/730 53.3 1979. DEC_4000/710 84.6 1247. DEC Alpha DEC_4000/710 80.4 1312. DEC_3000/500 100.4 1050. DEC_3000/300 33.4 3158. SGI_Challenge_150_MHz 58.2 1812. SGI R4000/R4400 SGI_Crimson 61.5 1715. Sun_SparcClassic 57.6 1831. Sun SPARC Sun_SparcCenter_2000 34.4 3066. Sun_SS10/41_1_cpu 48.0 2197. Sun_SS10/30 42.1 2505. ------------------- -------- ----------- COMP.SYS.INTEL A contributor asks whether he should buy a PowerMac 6100AV with a PPC601/60. It's the only PowerMac he can afford, he says, but has noticed that the Dell 90MHz Pentium costs around the same as the 6100AV with cache card. He asks about the performance difference between the machines and poses the question whether PowerMacs are superior as graphics workstations to PCs. A correspondent points out video/sound in, dual monitor support, Ethernet and speech recognitionare bundled with the 6100/66AV compared to the P5/90. He says that the PPC601/66 compares in floating-point performance but not in integer performance. Another correspondent says that the 6100 has plenty of expansion capability using the SCSI and ADB ports. UUEencoded diagram: MPSPEC.GIF Caption: The MP Spec is scalable from DP to MP. --------------------cut here------------------- The Register email: connect@magee.demon.co.uk subscribe: connect@magee.demon.co.uk All rights reserved. The Register is (c) 1994 Situation Publishing.
Team Register, 01 Jul 1999

FIC goes to Red China

Motherboard manufacturer First International Computer (FIC) said it has started making products in Red China. The company has opened three factories in Quangcho and is making mobos, peripherals and other parts there, according to trade exhibitor Computex. FIC, a company with a turnover of $150 million plus, claimed that by 2005, its factory will have 12 plants. The company did not say whether it had received assistance from the Communist government in its ambitious plans. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Via bares teeth at Intel

New chip contender Via has struck back at Intel barely a day after it acquired x.86 company Cyrix from NatSemi. In a brief statement, Via acknowledged it had received the lawsuit Intel filed on the 23 June and said it had taken "necessary legal action" to protect its rights. (See Intel outed on PC-133) It said it will continue to provide P6 chipsets, including the PC-133 solution that it wanted to show at last month's Computex show in Taiwan. Further, it said, it had told its mobo and OEM customers of the issues involved. Intel is maintaining an ashen-faced and tight-lipped stance on the situation, so far. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

PlayStation III to support SAP R/3?

Just months before Sony launches its PlayStation II, which we anticipate is set to become the home device par excellence, speculation is mounting about Rev III of the cheapo-cheapo device. According to sources, Sony will push the PlayStation II device hard against set top boxes, PCs and other Internet contenders, and has even more ambitious plans up its sleeves. Children round the world are already booting the existing PlayStation without much trouble, and asking their parents why they should have PCs, a design plagued with inefficiences and high costs. Once it has captured the home market, it might even push the device into the corporate enterprise. Well, maybe not, but it's a thought... ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

AMD walks fab funding tightrope

The Great Satan of Tape Recorders (AMD) announced yesterday that it struck a deal with a German bank consortium which meant it did not need to raise $200 million in stock. AMD said last week that its second quarter would mean a $200 million loss for the company. Part of the problem in Q2 is it has stock of chips it cannot sell. The company borrowed money to build and open its Dresden fabrication plant, number 30. That money is due to be repaid. One option for AMD would have been to attempt to raise $200 million by offering more shares on the Stock Exchange. That would have been very tricky in AMD's current circumstances. William Jeremiah Sanders III, CEO of AMD, is famous for his pithy epithet: "Only real men have fabs". ® RegisterFact We call AMD the Great Satan of Tape Recorders after an incident some years ago where the company attempted to tape record our conversation. The reason? We'd reported that Sanders was attempting to sell the company...
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Intel to slash Pentium III 500MHz price in reaction to AMD K7 wins

A German distributor has alerted us to an unexpected Intel price cut on its 500MHz Pentium III part in week 34 of the year of the lord 1999. The cut is a reaction to several major wins AMD has made both with large OEMs and local assemblers in Germany. Compaq, Fujitsu and IPC (Archtec) will introduce K7 Athlon systems in Germany in weeks 33 to 34 of the year of the lord 1999. Intel was always expected to start a bout of frenzied price slashing once K7 Athlon systems made their appearance. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Intel's Barrett acknowledges Merced late

The CEO of Intel said at a workstation conference yesterday that real silicon samples of Merced were expected "in the next two months or so". That is a tacit acknowledgement that Intel has had severe problems producing real silicon. It will put huge pressure on the chip giant to ship in Mid-2000, as it has repeatedly promised. Earlier this year, Stephen Smith, who headed up the Merced project, said that samples would arrive by June. Other Intel representatives said that samples would arrive by mid-year. Samples need to be out with Intel's customers early in order for them to thoroughly test the part, which is designed for high end usage, and therefore needs to be just right. Mid-year, in our reckoning, is June, or possibly July. The caveat "or so" is unlikely to reassure outsiders that Intel is on track with its Merced programme, although our information is that the company will go hell for leather to show a Merced processor working at the next Intel Developer Forum in September. ® RegisterFact Szechuan Publishing has now compiled the 300,000 Intel Year Book, just on time.
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

SGI up for grabs? Not likely…

There have been rumours that SGI may be the target of a takeover because its share price has edged up rather suddenly, but in the absence of some solid announcement, there is a perfectly good explanation to be had from a look at recent events. War is good for IT hardware sales and investor confidence, and SGI has been getting some good orders as a result of its sales effort for the Balkans. Today SGI announced that the US Navy had increased the size of its SGI kit to improve the safety and effectiveness of US ships and aircraft in its mobile Balkans reference sites. In addition, the US Naval Oceanographic Office has expanded its Crays (the SGI merger was in 1996) so that there is now a 816-processor T3E, with five smaller Crays and a bunch of assorted SGI kit. Last week SGI announced that Lockheed Martin had given it a contract to provide kit for networked F-16 simulators. There wasn't any mention in the press releases as to how much these contracts might be worth, but it must be a few bob. This year, Silicon Graphics has been pushing its rebranding to SGI and repositioning itself in the supercomputer space. It also launched some Wintel workstations using NT this year, as a development of last year's strategic alliance with Microsoft. We didn't feel the need to enquire whether the boys (and probably girls) in the US forces in the Balkans were protected by NT, but there seems to be enough microprocessors there to act as sandbags. The SGI feel-good factor has also been helped by some sharp moves with Linux: following last month's news that SGI was releasing an XFS journaled file system into the public domain, it was announced this week that Linux drivers by Number Nine had been developed for flat panel devices from SGI. Although we can't see anyone rushing out to buy one of these flat panels as a result of this, it is quite significant that Linux has achieved such importance in this market. All this adds up to some right moves by SGI and some cash rattling in the pockets of the gnomes of New York from their sale of some Internet shares. Takeover? We don't think so. ®
Graham Lea, 01 Jul 1999

Staff waste company money surfing all day

Eight million man-hours are lost each year in the UK by employees surfing the Net instead of doing their work. The abuse is so bad that 20 per cent of IT directors say that their organisation is "seriously effected (sic) by staff wasting time on fruitless web browsing". What's more, the authors of the Black Box Network Industry Survey said that Internet abuse is a "significant concern for the nation's companies". A third of all Net users spend an hour or more a day surfing, excluding handling email. More that ten per cent of those people surveyed said they spent more than two hours a day online. One in 40 spend more than half their working week online. "Our findings indicate clearly the need for companies to look again at their management controls over Internet access," said Patrick Hudgell, Black Box technical director. Earlier this month an IT manager was sacked for surfing the Web during her lunch hour. Lois Franxhi lost her appeal at a tribunal in Liverpool after her employer said she used the company's resources to scour the Net in search of cheap holidays. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

MS releases Linux FrontPage software

OutdatedMicrosoft nearly produces Linux applications, it would appear. Truffle-hound Mr Natural (Click for site) has found what appears to be a Linux version of FrontPage 4.0 lurking in the dungeons of the company's FTP site. But the Web is an awesome thing. Within the hour of The Register revealing Microsoft's secret activities in the Linux arena, news started coming in from readers who'd grabbed the file and investigated. And despite what the filename seems to imply, it's really only the server-side extensions to make FrontPage work with Apache, not a Linux implementation of FrontPage itself. The file is available here, and seems to have been posted quietly during a flurry of activity late last month. Mr Natural tells us that Microsoft has been up to this game for a while, having posted the same software for FrontPage 3.0 in December last year. It's not entirely obvious why Microsoft produced it, and considering that the company has so far failed to mention its existence to anyone, it'd be stretching it a bit to interpret the move as heralding a Redmond plunge into Linux support. One of our downloaders has thoughtfully sent us the readme and the licence agreement from the file, and you won't be surprised to learn there are no obvious open source breakthroughs in the latter. But even so, although we haven't got a move by MS into Linux apps yet, we certainly have got a tacit admission that Apache is too big to ignore. Later still, some killjoy informs us that FrontPage for Apache has been around since V2. So there goes that story, but it was fun while it lasted. As a peace offering our informant says: "Of course, that doesn't stop it from sucking badly - there are a number of basic implementation issues MS haven't bothered to work around, which leaves any half competent user able to drive a bus through your unix security holes." ®
John Lettice, 01 Jul 1999

Feds investigate MS over accounting ‘irregularities’

Microsoft admitted yesterday that it is being investigated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over a possible breach of SEC rules. In a conference call, CFO Greg Maffei said that the SEC is investigating the way that Microsoft treats reserves. In a crafty move to detract from the significance of the SEC move, Microsoft also announced some unrelated changes in accounting practices. Maffei also said that he was "comfortable" with the estimates being made for Q4, which has just concluded: the results will be announced on 19 July. Microsoft was told of the SEC investigation some months ago. It began in January following disclosures related to a wrongful dismissal claim brought by Microsoft's former general auditor, Charles Pancerzewski. (Earlier story) He was offered a "resign or be fired" choice in 1996 after he drew attention to accounting practice irregularities. Mike Brown, the former CFO, wrote in an email to Gates that "I believe we should do all we can to smooth our earnings and keep a steady state model". Pancerzewski was appointed in February 1995 and complained that Microsoft used its reserves to pad its earnings in lean quarters. This would mean that Microsoft misreported its earnings, in breach of SEC rules, but its share price kept rising. For its part, Wall Street does not seem to mind. It is argued, in the WSJ in particular where undoubtedly there are vested interests in keeping Microsoft's share price up, that even if the accounts had to be restated, the result would be to show more income from the secret slush fund, so there was no deception. Pancerzewski had a negative review of his work from Brown in August 1995, after which he received the quit or be fired ultimatum. The result was that he quit, but filed suit under the Whistleblowers Protection Act in 1997. Microsoft's records were subpoenaed. Judge Carolyn Dimmick dismissed some charges, including age discrimination, but said there was enough evidence to go to trial on the whistleblower charges. In November, the case was quietly settled out of court, with Pancerzewski apparently accepting $4 million in compensation. One of the terms of the settlement was a gagging agreement, of course, and the court record being sealed. Both Brown and Pancerzewski were formerly with Deloitte & Touche, Microsoft's auditors. The circumstances in which Brown left Deloitte to become CFO while the firm was the auditor have not been satisfactorily explained, and could well be against even the elastic ethical rules about jumping ship from auditor to client. Brown however head-hunted Pancerzewski to Microsoft, prior to having his head. The SEC won't comment on the case, and Microsoft is naturally protesting its innocence in the matter. But from what has been seen in the Microsoft trial, such protests must now be tempered by disclosures of unethical business practices. The big difference between the present DoJ antitrust case and being found guilty of false accounting charges is that people can go to prison for the latter. There seems to be little doubt that any manipulation of earnings results would have been to prop up the share price. There are also other matters that will concern the SEC, including the exact way in which analyst expectations are always exceeded so far as Microsoft's results are concerned. There is enough flexibility in the rules of accounting practice to make it just possible for this to be done legally, but it would be very easy to step over this boundary, and a legal challenge by the SEC cannot be ruled out. Microsoft has also been very lax in making formal statements to the SEC about changes in share ownership by Microsoft executives. An SEC rule requires that it be notified no later than the tenth day of the month following the transaction. There was a noticeable improvement in this reporting when the trial started. In addition, statements during the trial by Microsoft's economics witness Richard Schmalensee showed that Microsoft told him it did not account for Windows revenue, and that IE development costs could not be separated. There was widespread incredulity about this. With Microsoft's shares rising $2.19 to $90.19 yesterday, it would be interesting to know if Microsoft was a major buyer of its own shares yesterday, so as to ensure that the share price did not dip on the news, and start a panic. ®
Graham Lea, 01 Jul 1999

Copyright carve-up denied by Yahoo!

Yahoo! has denied that it wants to claim ownership of content posted on its portal. This contradicts the accusations levelled at the portal giant yesterday by a number of its users and suppliers. It says the changes to its Terms of Service (TOS) are not meant to abuse the copyright of others. Instead, the TOS have been introduced so that Yahoo! can serve millions of Web pages each and every day, it says. Tim Brady, of Yahoo! said: "There is no question about taking other people's intellectual property rights -- end of story." Well, not quite the end of the story. Yahoo! might think that its new choice of legal jargon poses no threat but the wording is so woolly there's nothing stopping the portal from hedging its bets for the future. With so much misunderstanding and double-speak it's not surprising that hoards of people have been enraged by the new TOS. Read it for yourself, they're certainly claiming some extraordinary powers. "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." Frankly, Yahoo!'s approach to this mirrors that of shifty politicians -- say one thing when you really mean another. Either Yahoo! rewrites its TOS to make it absolutely clear or users could still be faced with copyright issues down the road. Don't say you haven't been warned. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

Motorola to spin off two factories

Asian wires are reporting that Motorola will shortly sell its testing and packaging factories in Korea and Taiwan. A Taiwanese company, ASE, is expected to buy the factories for an undisclosed sum, the reports claim. As part of the deal, ASE will manufacture parts for Motorola for five years. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Battle resumes between HP and Xerox

The legal battle between Hewlett-Packard and Xerox continues, with HP suing for alleged breach of contract and patent infringement on its laser printing technology. This latest spat brings the number of patent suits between the printer heavyweight and Xerox to five. The complaint was filed in the US District Court in Boise, Idaho, according to Reuters. It followed what HP claimed were nine months of talks, which resulted in HP canning Xerox's license to use HP TrueRes technology, which sharpens images in colour laser printers. "Unfortunately for both of us, HP reached the point where we felt we had to take action," said Carolyn Ticknor, head of HP's LaserJet Imaging business. Xerox argued it was not in breach of contract because it understood that HP had not terminated the licensing contract. It was reviewing the suit, said a Xerox representative. The other batch of patent infringement cases pending between the two companies concern inkjet technology, touch-screen user interface and technology to enhance printer resolution. HP has been watching its back for the last two years as Xerox has been targeting its prime printer market. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Jul 1999

Alpha Processor strikes Linux deal

Compaq Alpha licensee Alpha Processor (AP) yesterday announced a partnership with Atipa Linux Solutions (ALS), a US-based developer of Linux workstations. The deal centres on ALS' use of AP-sourced Alpha processors and motherboards in a new line of ISP-oriented workstations and servers -- ALS is particularly targeting database and Internet applications, it said -- but is essentially about promoting Alpha as an better alternative to Intel as a Linux host. So far, Linux has been most widely perceived as an alternative to Windows in the Intel market, even at server level. Certainly, most of the major hardware vendors to embrace the open source OS have placed it alongside Windows NT rather than their own, proprietary Unix offerings running on Risc CPUs. Both ALS and AP are keen to show that Risc shouldn't be restricted to high-end Unix implementations, and that by combining it with Linux you get a system that's just as powerful but, more importantly, a darn sight less expensive. "We see this technology partnership as a springboard for Linux into new, volume markets," said ALS' president and CEO, Jason Talley. Sorry, Jason, but it's already doing that on Intel-based hardware, but good luck, anyway. And with Compaq probably thinking about Linux-on-Alpha, too, it's going to need it. Full financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it's interesting that it gives AP the right to take a stake in ALS, though it has not chosen to exercise that right yet. Do we have the makings of a takeover here? Maybe. It certainly wouldn't do AP any harm at all to take on board system building expertise, particularly if it's vision of volume sales of Linux/Alpha systems starts to become a reality. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Jul 1999

Hyundai-LG Semicon merger gets EU, US go-ahead

A report in the Korean press said that the merger of Hyundai and LG Semicon's memory business has been cleared by EU and US antitrust bodies. The Korea Herald said that meant Hyundai executives are likely to take over the management of the company in the next few days. LG Semicon officials will step down. According to the newspaper, the Taiwanese authorities are also likely to clear the deal. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

What tickles your thigh and has two sausage-like appendages?

If the thought of delicate tickling sensations on your thigh sends you into rapturous delight then you need to try a K-mat. But before you get too excited, though, just remember this is no kinky adult toy. For the K-mat is a curved mouse mat that fits snugly around even the most generous of thighs. And the problem of the mouse slipping to the floor when not in use is overcome with the addition of two sausage-like rolls on either side of the K-mat. The whole purpose of it is to allow people to use their mouse without having to rest their arm on the desk. For as well as sensitising your upper leg into an altogether different erogenous zone, the K-mat is being heralded as a useful tool in the battle against repetitive strain injury (RSI). According to the inventor Nicholas Mark, because the mouse is used on your lap, the arm, elbow and wrist are all resting in a neutral position. It is this that Mark claims will help sufferers of RSI combat their painful affliction. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

Porn ruling raises UK law over Net freedom

It's official -- the Internet does not make a mockery of national boundaries -- and national laws -- as a London-based smut peddler has found to his cost. At Southwark Crown Court, London, yesterday, Judge Christopher Hardy ruled that 28-year-old Graham Waddon could be prosecuted for publishing material declared illegal under the UK's Obscene Publications Act -- the most illiberal in the Western world -- even though Waddon had placed that material on servers in the US. Waddon's defence argued that since his pornography site was located in the US, it was outside UK jurisdiction and therefore safe from prosecution under UK law. However, Judge Hardy said that the act of publication took place when Waddon posted material on the site from his home in Sutton, South London, and when police downloaded the material later. Following the ruling, Waddon pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts of publishing obscene material on the Internet and one charge of possessing an obscene video featuring a dog. The case was ajourned until 30 July pending pre-sentencing procedures and reports into Waddon's medical state. From his South London home, Waddon ran a series of smut sites, including FarmSex, Europerv and Schoolgirls'R'Us, and netted £1.5 million a year charging fellow pervs £25 a month to access the sites. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Jul 1999

Girls on top in UK Web survey

Teenage girls are outnumbering their spotty male counterparts online in the UK, according to a report by Fletcher Research. The survey of over 40,000 Web users also showed that the stereotypical 'anorak', or IT-obsessed male, no longer applied to the majority of those logging on. "The Web population increasingly resembles the UK population as a whole," it found. Although 60 per cent of Web users were male, researchers found the male:female ratio varied dramatically with age. Silver surfers were mostly men, accounting for 81 per cent of users aged 55 or above. But women were showing their strength in the younger market –- they outnumbered men in users aged 17 or less. Women dominated teenage chat online -– 57 per cent used it against 44 per cent of men. Teenage boys were more likely to use the Web for entertainment, or for downloading software and music. Email was popular in both camps -– 71 per cent of girls and 77 per cent of boys used it. The overall ratio of men:women online was 3:2, down from nearly 2:1 in last December. The average age of user was slightly up -– 36 from 33. The research also looked into the rise in Web use after the launch of subscription-free ISPs like Dixons' FreeServe. It said there were ten million adults regularly using the Internet, up three million from December 1998. Fletcher Research said this confirmed its own forecasts of 18 million regular users in the UK by 2003. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Jul 1999

Tomorrow's World show gets the bird

A pigeon walked calmly into the press centre at the Tomorrow's World Live show at Earl's Court today, causing panic among the assembled group of PR bunnies and hacks. "Oh my Gawd, it's a pigeon," screamed one bunny in absolute terror. She was right. It was definitely a pigeon. It strutted past a by now silent group of terrified bunnies -- its little head bobbing from side to side -- as if it owned the place. Worryingly, it walked straight past a tray of sandwiches thoughtfully laid out by the organisers of the Tomorrow's World Live show. Maybe it knew something we didn't. There were more gasps when it nearly knocked itself out flying into a pain of glass when it was spooked by the sound of a phone ringing. Shaken, but not stirred, after its head-banging ordeal, it carried on its promenade into another room. And that's where it is now, walking around a room with nothing more than a few empty desks and some telephones for company. What upsets the people here the most isn't the fact that pigeons are disease-carrying vermin -– also known as rats of the sky -- no, no, no. They're more hacked off because this bloody bird isn't an accredited member of the press -– so it shouldn't have even been allowed in this part of the building in the first place. Vultures, yes; pigeons, no. That's why they're all so upset. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

3Com names new Palm president

3Com staffer Alan Kessler has been named president of the company's high-profile subsidiary, Palm Computing. Kessler replaces Robin Abrams, who is off to join a "Silicon Valley start-up", as 3Com put it. Abrams pioneered Palm's current programme of opening up the Palm platform, largely by licensing the hardware and operating system to third-parties keen to enter new markets. It's not yet known what is Kessler's view of Abrams' plan, but after his appointment was announced, he said: "There are lots of great plans that are part of our strategy. We want to continue to expand the Palm economy." Palm itself needs to do that to maintain its lead over Windows CE and Symbian/Psion's EPOC 32 platform, but 3Com also wants Palm to expand as other areas of its own business, most notably desktop connectivity products like modems and network interface cards, have begun to wither. Palm already accounts for over ten per cent of 3Com's revenue. ® See alsoNaked Apple Palm PDA seen on Web Palm sales give 3Com a helping hand
Tony Smith, 01 Jul 1999

Pigeon-watch – the latest on the trapped bird

The pigeon is free, this relieved reporter can reveal. Half an hour after causing a stampede in the press centre after it strolled in without so much as a by-your-leave, two burly guys from the Earl's Court Fire Department cornered the young bird under a table and nabbed him. The pigeon, nicknamed "Stooly", was taken downstairs to be reunited with his other feathered friends, who had gathered in the foyer to picket for the release of the Earl's Court One. The firemen were heralded as heroes by those who had watched as this major incident unfolded. "It's all part of the job," said the bird-friendly "Red Adair" of West London as he carried out Stooly. So far, this little episode has been the most exciting thing to happen at Tomorrow's World Live. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

S3 delivers profits boast

This is a turn-up for the books. S3 has delivered a reverse profits warning. In other words, it's going to lose less money in Q2 than had been forecast by analysts. It may even break even on $50 million-plus revenues. Analysts thought the graphics chip vendor would lose 20 cents per share for the quarter: S3 says it will beat this by 15-20 cents when it announces its results after the close of play on 15 July. The company reckons it will now make a return to profitability before its original target of the end of the year. S3 has had a good three months, notching up several big OEM contracts with, inter alia, Compaq, IBM and Packard Bell. It also won a lucrative patent deal from foundry giant UMC and $500 million-worth stock, following the reorganisation of the Taiwanese company's capital structure. This gives S3 the wherewithal to acquire companies such as Diamond Multimedia. Post completion, S3 reckons it could pull in $1 billion next year. ® See also Creative Labs to dump S3 S3-3Dfx deal had legs S3 buys Diamond Multimedia S3 gets $42 million from UMC
Drew Cullen, 01 Jul 1999

Amiga boss hints at Java-style technology

Amiga, Inc. appears to be trying to out-Java Java with its upcoming Amiga Operating Environment (AOE), its new operating system based on the QNX OS. According to company president Jim Collas, AOE will feature what Amiga is calling AmigaObjects, a "powerful software structure that enables easy integration of technology, distributed computing, high-speed network transactions and communication between applications. "They are also powerful software building blocks that will allow people to build impressive applications quickly. AmigaObjects are portable and transferable across platforms allowing AmigaObjects to proliferate throughout the network, the Internet and the world." It's an intriguing idea, one that Collas believes will allow Amiga to "build a revolutionary computer platform". The only snag is that it sounds rather like what Sun has been doing for some time and continues to do with Java, specifically with JavaBeans and its Jini networking technology, and we all know how long it has taken Sun to develop all this stuff and get users to implement it. The advantage that Amiga has, however, it that by coming from the OS side of the equation, it's in a better position to implement these features within the framework an OS provides. Sun has always had to do it the other way round -- in other words, get its technology integrated into other people's operating systems. Still, if Amiga technology is to "proliferate", the company is going to have to tackle its availability on other operating systems -- or seriously engage in porting AOE to non-Amiga hardware platforms -- and that's no easy task for a company of Amiga' size, even if its upcoming Multimedia Convergence Computer -- Amiga's version of the iMac -- sells well. Collas has promised more extensive details of AmigaObjects and AOE next week -- watch this space for full details. He also said he will soon be announcing Amiga's new CPU of choice in a few weeks' time. It's not an x86 chip, he admitted, but would say no more. Our money's on the PowerPC G4 -- or the PowerPC 7400, as it's officially known -- and Amiga's announcement would tie in nicely with the big launch Motorola has been promising the new chip will soon get. ®
Tony Smith, 01 Jul 1999

Computacenter snaps up RD Trading

As predicted by The Register three weeks ago, Computacenter has bought Datrontech's PC recycling business, RD Trading, for £1.9 million cash. Datrontech Group has been trying to offload the Wytham, Essex-based facility for some time, and last December announced it was scrapping the subsidiary's PC assembly business. "RDT is now peripheral to our core strategy of increasing the penetration of our networking businesses in the SME sector. In Eastern Europe our objective is to ensure that the region is stabilised by year end," said Mark Mulford, Datrontech Group CEO. The Group also said it had made Allan Mack COO with immediate effect. Last month Datrontech warned that pre-tax profit would only reach half of market expectations for its first half year. RDT recycles, re-markets and disposes of redundant IT kit. For the year ended 4 January 1999, RDT reported a pre-tax profit of £100,000 on sales of £6,112,000. Net assets on 4 January 1999 were £363,000. In the wake of the RD deal, all eyes will be on other parts of the Datrontech Empire watching for more disposals. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Jul 1999

Big Blue demos the PC-less PC

E-gad – IBM's got a name for something and it doesn't have "e" in front of it. It's called "pervasive computing" and although it's nothing new this is the first time it's been demonstrated in the UK. Allegedly. "Pervasive computing is about enabling people to gain immediate access to information and services anywhere, anytime, without having to use a standard PC or a modem," said Mark Bregman, worldwide general manager for IBM's pervasive computing division. "However, while mobility and wireless technology are a big part of it, it's really about making computing personal. (So, does that mean personal computing has been impersonal up until now? - Ed). "Thanks to the explosive growth of the Internet people will soon expect to be able to engage in Web-based activity effortlessly," he said. The best examples of this so far were the Screenphone that gets you onto the Net in a fraction of the time it take to boot up a PC. As its name suggests, it has a screen and a phone as well as a keyboard and it is a Web browser. The other was a V-Class Mercedes kitted out with a wired office in the back. This digital optional extra will cost you a whopping £7,000 on top of the price of the car when it becomes available in September. That said, they were both quite neat and just the thing for boys who like nothing more than fiddling with gizmos and gadgets. Uh –oh – we spoke too soon. It turns out that pervasive computing is in fact part of IBM's e-culture vision. E-f**k. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

IBM wows show with wearable PC

Most the people at the Tomorrow's World Live show are youngsters on a day-off from school. They're being given a chance to miss double French with smelly old Mrs Turbot and instead are being allowed to run riot in Earl's Court. Never one to miss a trick, IBM is pushing its e-culture down the throats of impressionable young school children in an attempt to make them think Big Blur is trendy and with-it. IBM – with one of the largest stands here – is also one of the most popular. In particular, the kids have been really impressed with IBM's "wearable PC". Slip on the head set and you get to see a computer screen by peering into what looks like a small ice cube that’s positioned in front of your eye. The headset it plugged into a computer about the size of a Sony Walkman. The kids loved it. And, no doubt, they'd have no fears about walking around the streets plugged into this prototype. But then again, if they will go out in those baggy trousers and those stupid trainers they all wear, and hats on back to front, what do you expect? I ask you, kids today, what do they look like… ® Here's some more wearable computer stories Is it a bra, or an anti-mugging device? Armageddon off with blood sports bra IBM demos wearable ThinkPad
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

SGI – expect announcement later today

Industry sources this afternoon added muscle to our earlier story about a possible takeover of SGI. (Story: SGI up for grabs -- not likely) According to an insider, who declined to be named, an announcement is expected later on today. Several senior executives have handed in their notice today, he added. As we posted this story, SGI's price on Wall Street was still riding high. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Housey housey! It's BINGO.COM

A press release on today's BUSINESSWIRE caught our attention because it said it would be accepting "bingo wagering" from "patrons" around the world. Trouble is, definitions of the famous Bingo game differ. When we were kids, back in hoary antiquity, the game was first called Housey Housey. Later that name changed to Lotto. And Tombola even made a bid to be a sort of chancy gambling game. However, given that investing in stocks and shares is a tricky endeavour at the best of times, maybe Housey Housey is easy-peasy. Bingo reckons that the worldwide gaming market will exceed $4,500,000,000 in revenue within two years. At the bottom of the press release, BINGO.COM said that its statement could actually differ materially from the company's expectations and estimates -- a standard caveat. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Consultants impose further tolls at HP

Hewlett Packard said that it had embarked on a major reconstruction of its business in the semiconductor arena. That comes just a few weeks after HP reorganised its server, finance and storage business. The restructure, in this case, is aimed at its semiconductor business. It will now concentrate on system-on-a-chip devices, RF integrated circuits, memory and parametric test systems. The company did not say whether any jobs were to be eliminated in the process. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

CompaQ gets all serious about Linux

Major hardware firm Compaq is showing that it considers Linux is pretty important to its future plans. If you turn to this page, you will see that the big Q has a little penguin on its site and is offering a Fortran compile to the bunnies who find the page. When you get there, click on the Software link. The first thing you see when you go to the site is the magic phrase, Linus Torvalds. Three days ago, at the UK Networks Show, Compaq executives were insisting that sales of Linux boxes did not have a great takeup in the corporate community. A senior executive at Compaq UK said that IT managers, although they had Linux servers and OSS running, were not prepared to admit it to their bosses. Instead, they were flocking to supported versions of Unix, such as D/UX, now known as Tru64. However, those statements were contradicted by Tikiri Wanduragala, EMEA server manager at IBM. He said: "Because we support Linux, we are finding a big uptake of systems in the corporate community. Our Linux servers are going great guns." ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Nanochip promises single chip mass storage by year-end

A suit from Nanochip contacted us early this morning to complain why we hadn't written about its up and coming alternative storage technology. Perhaps if the same suit had told us the same thing he told the EE Times at the same time, we would have done so, on the Summer Solstice. However, the company claimed it will introduce its nanochips at a cost per Meg lower than HDDs. The nanochips will replace HDDs by using stacked Nanochip technology on something the size of a credit card. But observers suggest that the Nanochip technology will be superseded in the next century by an electron-based system, and developed by Hitachi at the Cavendish labs. ®
Mike Magee, 01 Jul 1999

Eckhard Pfeiffer brain behind GM Soya?

An alert ex-Compaqteer pointed out to us last weekend that while his former boss Eckhard Pfeiffer has lost his job at the Big Q, he is still a director of General Motors (GM). He wanted to know if there was any connection between the GM Soya (a motor car), and GM Soyo (a synthetic food). We regret we were unable to enlighten him... ®
Shamus Hall, 01 Jul 1999

Old MacPSINet had a farm

UK ISP PSINet has opened one of Europe's biggest server farms in London. The £30 million hosting centre on the Isle of Dogs* has nine floors and houses 4,000 racks, with 20 servers per rack. The Centre has NT and UNIX servers from HP, and three levels of server – plus all servers have mirrored or RAID-5 grade discs. Offsite backups are available for customers. Its location means it is only a mile from Telehouse – the European connection site and home of LINX. The facility will have over 100 sales and technical staff. There are three back-up generators, uninterruptable power supplies (UPS) and three separate power feeds from the National Grid. The data centre, which opened on Tuesday, will make it cheaper for companies to get their servers hosted here in the UK. The US currently controls around 70 per cent of the world Web server farms, as well as having cheaper bandwidth. PSINet will keep its existing smaller hosting centre in London’s Docklands, rented from Telewest, and its headquarters in Cambridge, the company said. The move follows Intel's announcement to move into this server hosting area. Last month Craig Barrett, Intel CEO, breezed into London and announced plans for 10 such facilities worldwide, including one in London. In March the chip maker bought $200 million worth of US broadband network provider Williams Communications. ® *Register Mega Fact No: 704 The Isle of Dogs is thought to get its name from Henry VIII, who used to keep hunting dogs on this island in the Thames.
Linda Harrison, 01 Jul 1999

Talking toilets – whatever next

Here's an interesting device that caught the Vulture's eye while walking around Earl's Court trying to avoid being beaten up by groups of school kids today. "The Talking Potty – the potty that praises the botty" (patent number 9814371.2) was invented by a lovely woman to applaud the doings of her grandchildren. When they pee in their potty, the water completes a circuit and a little digital voice box kicks in. You can record anything you like, such as "What a good girl" or "Who's a clever boy then." (You can almost hear psychiatrists rubbing their hands together at the prospect of all that future counselling - Ed.) If you're into soccer, you could even scream "Goooooaaaaaaaaaaallllllllllll – ah" every time your nipper gets a shot on target. Or maybe not. Grandmum Iris White has also developed a device for older children that reminds them to wash their hands after going to the loo -- or whatever it is they're supposed to do. She also said that women who share their loos with the opposite sex could set it to remind men not to splash everywhere and to put the seat down when they’ve finished. Lindy Lu -- there's one in the post for you at The Register. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

Gaydar inventors tune into local wildlife

The inventors behind the Gaydar -- an electronic device that vibrates when two gay people come together within a range of six metres -– have been cock-a-hoop at the response since launching the product earlier this year. The Gaydar allows like-minded people to meet easily and safely and could have all kinds of uses once available on the open market. It is a small electronic device capable of transmitting and receiving signals from similar devices. If two get in range of one another they start vibrating, alerting the wearer that there’s another Gaydar in the area. Although the device is about to be made available worldwide there were some problems during early development stages. During the initial trials the inventors of the Gaydar experienced problems with local wildlife. Apparently, the sonic apparatus aggravated squirrels but tempted usually nocturnal badgers out into the daylight. "Could this possibly prove that there is a large gay badger community," records the Gaydar blurb. There was no recorded interference with beavers during the trial. The device should retail at around £25 (about US$35) and be available worldwide shortly. Apparently, pop idol George Michael was sent a Gaydar recently but has yet to reply. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

Is the Web full of female impersonators?

Teenage girls are an attraction for many of our readers, but today one IT professional was questioning the authenticity of females on the Web. Not satisfied with a survey showing that the majority of those under 17 logging on were women, he thought the answer to the debate lay in disguise. "You don't reckon it's blokes pretending to be girls?" he asked The Register. According to this observant reader, British males have been indulging their fantasies online, and taking names from the fairer sex in chat rooms. Yes, cybertalk is being infiltrated by Nigellas and Justines. In fact, The Register itself is aware of one such offender. Steve, 34, is a London artiste, and a well-known impersonator who likes to be known online as Stephanie. Just remember guys, the female of the species is more deadly than the male. ®
Linda Harrison, 01 Jul 1999

Site helps kids assess the Web's usefulness

Kids are being urged to be Net savvy by learning to assess for themselves the information they find on the Web. And a new Web site launched earlier this week by the Health Education Authority (HEA) is helping them do it. Called Quick – The QUality Information ChecKlist – it helps kids weigh up the validity of different sources of information. With a bunch of madcap characters to help out including Cyberquack the duck and the bearded Dr Bob this site is designed to help young people develop general critical awareness and information skills. According to the HEA, this free site helps kids decide whether the information they find on the Web is useful enough. They're taught to question everything they find on the Web. For example, is it clear who has written the information, is the info biased, does the site achieve its aims? "The sheer volume of information available can be overwhelming so it's vital that children's research and evaluation skills are sharpened when using the Internet for learning – be it in school, at home, in libraries or community services," said HEA head of multimedia, Cathy Herman. A similar site is being planned to educate adults – heaven knows, if they read The Register they might even need it. ®
Tim Richardson, 01 Jul 1999

Apple G4 box slips to May 2000

Doubt has been cast once again on the availability of Motorola's upcoming G4 CPU, also known as the PowerPC 7400 -- or, more specifically, Apple's ability to ship a Mac based on the chip. According to a Register reader who attended the event, Apple staffers speaking at a joint Adobe/Apple software promotion, held in Toronto, "said that the G4 machines would not begin shipping until at least May 2000" and "the Apple on-stage presenter consistently stated that the new G4's will be out 'next year' even though they showed the G4 tests from [May's] Worldwide Developers' Conference". What are we to make of this? Well, Motorola has been consistently saying it will ship the G4 on schedule, and though its timing isn't quite as spot-on as it would have us believe, it does broadly seem to be on course. Last month, Motorola marketing chief Will Swearingen contacted The Register to denounce rumours that the G4 had fallen way behind schedule, and that we should all expect "a major announcement" on the chip's availability in volume "in the third quarter". Swearingen's schedule was in marked contrast to the claims made on an Apple-oriented news site, allegedly by Motorola insiders, that the G4 would not in fact ship in volume before "Q1 2000". Apple does already have some G4 chips, based on Motorola's initial silicon, and that's what it has been using to design the next generation of Power Mac and to give demos of the chip of the kind it made at last May's WWDC. However, the Motorola sources behind the delay claims said that the problem lay with the second and third versions of the G4, and it was here that Motorola had fallen drastically behind. Swearingen said that was incorrect, but then again he didn't deny those claims specifically. And if Apple has been forced to put back shipments of the Power Mac G4 to May 2000, that would be broadly in line with the original claims that the PPC 7400 has been delayed. Of course, it's possible that we've been flung a dummy here -- we weren't at the Apple/Adobe meet in Toronto ourselves, so we'd love to hear from anyone who was there who can confirm or deny what was said by the Apple representatives. But if the claims are correct, where does that leave us? A couple of scenarios present themselves: either Apple's got it wrong, or Motorola has. We'll find out about the chip maker first. Swearingen set a deadline for the G4's launch party. That launch, he pledged, will feature "multiple products, from multiple companies", many of which will be available in volume on the day of the launch. Since Motorola isn't relying exclusively on Apple -- we reckon Amiga may well be party to the celebrations -- it doesn't have to wait for the Power Mac G4 to ship to prove it did what it said it would. That leaves Apple -- is it having problems building a G4-based machine? On the basis of the WWDC demo (not, it has to be said, the most trustworthy of tests), it has, and is believed to be on course for an autumn shipment for the Power Mac G4. Or is it? What's lined up the autumn is actually a machine based on the company's Sawtooth motherboard. Sawtooth brings faster system bus speeds, AGP support and a host of other upgrades, but the only basis for assuming that it will also contain a G4 has been its timing. The next-gen Power Mac must
Tony Smith, 01 Jul 1999

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