9th > July > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Stricken Mitsubishi backs off from Alpha

A year ago Posted 10 July 1998 After years of plugging away as a second source for Alpha, Mitsubishi is dumping the chip just as its future is starting to look brighter. Digital's Alpha was originally intended as a high-powered, mass-market chip that would supplant Intel, but it didn't succeed in this. Digital first blamed Intel and sued, then settled with Intel and sold out to Compaq. But while this was happening Samsung gained enthusiasm (and better licensing terms) for Alpha, and more recently Compaq has been sufficiently enthusiastic about the chip line for its future to be assured, even rosy. But apparently Mitsubishi can't afford to wait, and has also possibly been concentrating on developing for the wrong area. The Japanese giant was plenty of woes in addition to the Asian financial crisis, and as far as Alpha is concerned has been concentrating on producing versions of the chip for cheaper desktop workstations. Commoditisation of Alpha is also one of Samsung's goals, but at the moment Compaq's objective appears for the moment to be to increase sales of Alpha-based servers. Mitsubishi says it hasn't altogether abandoned Alpha, but has merely frozen development, and still has the licences to resume if it wants. But it's going to have to take a long hard look at its numbers, and at the kinds of development it will pursue, before it comes back into the game. ®
John Lettice, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Via June sales zoom by 170 per cent

Chipset company Via has sent us a copy of its monthly sales report for June. Net sales for the month amount to NT$541 million, a rise of 170 per cent over the same period last year, when sales were NT$200 million. According to the company, sales revenues between January and June of this year rose by 76 per cent, showing a net figure of NT$3.437 billion. The increased revenues in June reflect support for the company's chipset from the local motherboard market. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Hashimoto, Phonetel sue raft of IT companies

A federal litigation case by Hashimoto and Phonetel was extended earlier this week to cover a long list of important PC, networking and telecommunication companies. The case was filed on the 7th of July in Denver, Colorado. The list of defendants is as follows: AT&T Corp FKA American Telephone and Telegraph Company; Arch Communications Group, Inc; Bellsouth Corporation; Compaq Computer Corporation; Conair Corporation; Dell Computer Corporation; Fujitsu PC Corp; Gateway 2000, Inc; Hewlett-Packard Company; Lucent Technologies, Inc; Multi-Link, Inc; NEC Technologies, Inc; Northern Telecom Limited; Packard Bell NEC Inc; Paging Network, Inc; Phillips Electronics North America, Ltd; Samsung Electronics Co, Ltd; Southwestern Bell Telecommunications, Inc; TT Systems Corp; Toshiba America Consumer Products, Inc; Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc and Uniden America Corporation. Earlier this year, Hashimoto and Phonetel filed against IBM and Apple, as reported here. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

World bar MS unites on directory interop

It's hardly a surprise that when Data Connection, IBM, ISOCOR, Lotus, Novell and Oracle decide to get together in the Directory Interoperability Forum to ensure that their directory services interoperate, Microsoft is not sitting at the table. Cynics would say that could be because Microsoft has not got a directory that works, and that its revised late entrant expected in Windows 2000 is unlikely to spur any significant company to trust it at least until the third iteration. Some also remember the promise of an object-oriented directory service for Cairo that was supposed to be delivered some years back, but was quietly shelved. According to a Forrester study, Fortune 500 companies typically have a large number of directories (190 in one case), so that it is very much in the interest of the various vendors to ensure directory interoperability. The standard is already in place - the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) - and Forum members have tested IBM's SecureWay, Novell's NDS, Lotus' Domino Directory and Netscape's Directory for interoperation. So far as applications are concerned, successful testing of IBM WebSphere and BluePages, Lotus Notes, Novell GroupWise and NetPublisher, and Tivoli Management products has occurred. Members will be on more than nodding terms with IETF, and the Open Group. Allen Brown, the acting President of TOG after the unlamented departure of Joseph De Feo, was a trifle arrogant when he said that TOG was "very pleased to have the input of directory leaders to work with us ...". Since TOG sacked many of its technical staff and was a shameful custodian of some important standards, it has still to perform its act of contrition before it can hold its head up again. Its role will apparently be to act as a facilitator for standards work, in conjunction with the IETF. The Forum already has support from some of the big guys like AT&T, Cisco and Lucent, as well as high-profile vendors like Citrix and Red Hat. The main interest of the Forum is to keep directory standards open, and to encourage ISVs to write to open standards. So far there's been no response from Microsoft. The main winner is likely to be Novell, since DIF provides additional insurance against any non-standards steam-rollering of NT in the immediate future. CEO Eric Schmidt has been jumping for joy recently at NetWare 5 sales running far ahead of predictions - and the share price certainly reflects this, having nearly reached $30 for the first time since the early 1990s. But don't discount some unexpected move from Microsoft - remember the techno-sabotage of Java? It could happen to LDAP-compliant directories too. (NB Those issues with Win2k and NDS for NT, mentioned in passing by Jim Allchin earlier this year, remain - Ed) ®
Graham Lea, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Key MS schmoozing exec jumps ship for startup

Another Microsoft exec has had enough and is leaving: Sam Jadallah, who had the silly title of vp, organisation customer unit (but is also described as vp of enterprise sales) is off to an Internet start up in the Seattle area after 12 years in Redmond. Jadallah had a low-profile internationally but was one of the few Microsoft execs who had any political nous, so he frequently found himself acting as a Microsoft rep to things like Senate hearings on the disabled. He is not somebody that Microsoft should be losing. He worked closely with President Steve Ballmer, and was much involved in channel efforts like the elite solution provider MCSP and Direct Access programmes, as well as the MCP programme (which Microsoft likes to call "the industry's leading credential"). His decision to leave appears to have been made fairly quickly: he was scheduled to be the smiler-in for the Fusion meeting in San Francisco in a couple of weeks when MCSPs turn up to be stroked by Microsoft. His recent letter to the MCSPs told of the wondrous things that were happening: "We are moving into the digital age," he wrote with great profundity. Yuk. Nobody seems to have suggested that one of the best remedies that the Washington court could impose to deal with at least some of Microsoft's behaviour would be to bar many of the company's execs from office. Those who are jumping ship, going walkabout, or have just had enough of the Redmond rat race should be encouraged. ®
Graham Lea, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

MS case totters in Caldera action – $1.77bn damages?

MS on Trial Caldera has won a further round in its private antitrust suit against Microsoft. MS is making nine tries at killing the action by dividing its dismissal motion up into chunks and fighting each one of them, in the hope of narrowing the charges. The latest defeat concerned Microsoft's desire to have excluded any consideration of actions in Europe and Japan. But it turns out that Microsoft's lawyers have done a sloppy job and misstated the law concerning Caldera's sales of DR-DOS outside the US. Perhaps Microsoft should be negotiating a refund from the fees charged by its lawyers. Caldera argued that American damages stemmed from Microsoft's actions outside the US, prompting Judge Benson to say: "If this is not a case of antitrust standing, then I don't know what is" when he denied Microsoft's motion from the bench. Microsoft either fundamentally misunderstood Caldera's claims, or has chosen to ignore them, Caldera said in its Memorandum. Caldera was not making any claim for damages suffered by DRI's European or Japanese subsidiaries, but only for the loss of revenue to DRI and Novell in the US. Perhaps the weakest part of Microsoft's argument was that its own expert witness, Professor Elzinga, conceded that the relevant geographical market was the world. Another goof by Microsoft's lawyers was their failure to understand the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, which everybody knows has nothing to say about the issue of the standing of a party. The Act only deals with whether the court properly has jurisdiction with respect to the defendant's conduct. DRI was engaged in export commerce since it received agreed royalties from its overseas subsidiaries. A footnote in the Memorandum refers to an Exhibit 4 (which is not disclosed and is under seal), but it does confirm Caldera's base-case claim for damages. These are put at $590 million, which would be tripled to $1.77 billion. Only $11.9 million of the base claim is for the period prior to Novell's acquisition of DRI, so even if Caldera loses on this point (and wins on the others), it would only reduce the award by a paltry $35.7 million. Interestingly, some of the arguments by Caldera are under Utah state law rather than federal law. Caldera claims Microsoft improperly interfered with Novell's [the previous owner of DR-DOS] economic relationships. If found guilty, this could be very expensive for Microsoft under Utah law, and result in punitive damages being awarded. Microsoft's last ditch stand is to claim that the state-law claim was filed too late, since DRI/Novell was aware of the allegedly illegal tactics in 1991, and Caldera did not acquire DR-DOS until 1996. Hang on, says Caldera: Microsoft was engaging in a pattern of misconduct, and therefore the filing deadline is extended as a result of the harm suffered. Judge Benson has asked for additional briefs on this, and will hold a further hearing in mid-August. So bad does the Caldera case now look for Microsoft that even its PR machine is feeling chastened and not offering any of its usual black-is-white denials. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
Graham Lea, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Amiga to use Linux rather than QNX kernel

Updated Amiga has now confirmed that it will use Linux as the kernel for its next generation operating system. The company signed a deal to use QNX last year, but now Jim Collas, president and CEO, has confirmed Linux is the favourite. Part of the reason, according to Collas, is because of the enormous interest in Linux in the computer industry. But another reason is that endorsing Linux will allow Amiga to run with a spate of applications almost straight away. Go here for the Amiga press release. It's not immediately obvious. Go to the first paragraph headed More news from Jim Collas... Press News in the second line and then press More News. The press release points to more information in the Executive Update. There Collas says in an Open Letter to Amigans: "After months of research and in-depth discussions with all of our technology partners we have decided to use Linux as the primary OS kernel for the new Amiga Operating Environment (AOE). "I know this decision is a shock to many of you given the previous announcements and activities relative to QNX. This was a very complicated and difficult decision to make and I assure you that I didn't make this decision without a significant amount of research and deliberation. "We have been researching Linux since February but didn't finalized our decision until several weeks ago. We were planning to communicate it to the Amiga community in the technology brief that will be released in the next few days." ® See also QNX developer pleas for Amiga community support
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Canadian court rules against spam

A Canadian court has ruled that sending junk email -- or spamming -- is in breach of the Net's unwritten code of conduct. The decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice is believed to be the first time that spamming has been judged to break the abiding principles of netiquette, according to reports on US newswires. The case arose after a serial spammer sued Toronto-based Nexx Online for breach of contract after the ISP terminated his account. Nexx Online argued that since the spammer was responsible for sending 200,000 junk emails a day it was he who was in breach of the ISP's terms and condition. In particular, Nexx Online pointed to the section about adhering to netiquette -- which includes an undertaking not to send spam. "Sending unsolicited bulk commercial email is in breach of the emerging principles of netiquette, unless it is specifically permitted in the governing contract," the judge said. The ruling is in sharp contrast to Europe's approach. Here, politicians voted in May to legitimise spam. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel changes Inside plan to squeeze OEMs using competing chips

An OEM told The Register today that Intel changed its Intel Inside plan this week to put pressure on companies wanting to sell AMD, Cyrix and other competing microprocessors. But Intel was swift to rebut the suggestion, saying that the OEM had possibly misunderstood the programme and should contact his local representative. The OEM, who said he did not want to be named, said: "Until now, Intel refunded 60 per cent of an advert for PCs, as long as the many requirements about the Intel Inside logos were respected AND there was no other CPU brand in the same ad. We can understand that, who would sponsor adverts for the competition." But the rules have now changed, the OEM alleged. "Starting now, Intel is asking for OEMs to declare that in the product range or family of PCs there is no other CPU brand manufactured or offered. If there is any other brand present in the range of products, Intel will contribute zero." He said manufacturers only have two solutions, either to pull off all non-Intel CPUs in an existing range to continue to get marketing funds, or if an OEM wants to offer computers with alternative CPUs, it will have to create a new range of products with a different name or look. "We strongly suspect this is one of the main reasons many large OEMs are loyal to Intel. But it is certainly very unfair to the competition," he said. An Intel representative said that while the terms of its Intel Inside branding exercise were confidential, his understanding of the company's agreement is different. "When you enter the programme, you identify your product lines to Intel," he said. "Above and beyond that, there is no limit to the platforms you bring to market." He claimed that Intel would not impose a zero rebate on cooperative marketing funds given a situation such as the above. "He should go back to his Intel Inside representative," he said. ® See also System builders fear Intel's wrath as K7 launches
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD K7: 700MHz an easy overclock

Sources close to AMD said today that overclocking Athlon K7s is an easy matter, with systems builders easily able to achieve speeds of 700MHz. But things could get even better for overclocking freaks, because the same source said that AMD is likely to introduce a 750MHz part either late in Q3 or early in Q4 this year. If AMD continues its policy of supporting gamers willing to overclock their parts, that could mean some very fast systems will emerge, knocking spots off the Intel competition, he said. Multiprocessor boards are unlikely to arrive until early next year, however. Rana Mainee, European research director at AMD, said: "We don't recommend overclocking but we haven't done anything in K7 to prevent it. If people want to do that, they can choose to do so at their own risk." He said the majority of people using K7s would never want to open a machine but there were dedicated hobbyists who would want to tweak performance to its maximum. He said he was unable to confirm the 750MHz K7 Athlon part, but added: "The K7 core is a great core and its very scalable". ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

QNX developer pleas for Amiga community support

Even as Amiga was posting its announcement this morning that it will be using Linux as its core operating system, its erstwhile OS partner QNX Software Systems announced the first beta release of its QNX OS -- and a new GUI to go with it. In an open letter entitled 'Delivering on our promise to the Amiga community', QNX's CTO, Dan Dodge, said the QNX beta would ship in the autumn, initially on the x86 platform, "the hardware solution most widely available at low cost in the time frame that we wish to release the beta". Dodge promised that most QNX applications and device drivers are source-identical across CPUs, allowing work done using the beta to be later migrated easily to whatever platform Amiga eventually selects for its next-generation hardware. Dodge also announced Photon, a GUI designed to complement QNX. Photon is X Window compatible, and will ship with its own visual application builder, Web browser, multimedia player and 3D graphics system. Finally, Dodge unveiled the QNX Developers Network for Amigans, a programme allowing Amiga developers free access to the QNX beta development package. The company is targeting individuals and companies who want to port existing apps to QNX or create new ones. The arrangement centres on an agreement to cross-promote both the apps and QNX itself. Which makes us wonder if Dodge's comments aren't part of a standalone announcement but arose from hints that Amiga would announce its move away from QNX to Linux. Certainly, the tone of Dodge's letter when he's describing the benefits of QNX over Linux suggest that, and in many ways his comments read as a plea to the Amiga community to stand up to the management's plan and back QNX. We did what we said we'd do, Dodge appears to be saying, but Amiga has still turned away from us -- everyone in the Amiga community should make sure it doesn't get away with it. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxdata monitors progress into France

Monitor manufacturer Maxdata announced plans for its flat-panel LCD display technology today, as its Belinea range topped the UK branded monitor market. The German manufacturer announced three TFT flat panel monitors. The Belinea 101520 15in flat panel is available from today and costs £749 plus VAT. The Belinea 101540 and Belinea 101530 cost £679 and £699 plus VAT respectively, and will both be available from August. Maxdata also launched with immediate availability two CRT monitors: the Belinea 108060 21in, priced at £589 plus VAT, and the Belinea 10 6060 19in, costing £339 plus VAT. The Belinea 101810 18in flat-panel LCD display will be available from September, said the company. Today's additions extend the Belinea range to 20 models. Maxdata also said it would enter the French monitor market and has opened a French subsidiary in Evry, south of Paris. It will be run by Philippe Gounine, ex-branch manager for southern Europe at US monitor vendor Viewsonic. Maxdata is getting very busy pre-IPO. Earlier this week it announced a deal with fellow Metro subsidiary Vobis, which sees the retailer/assembler commit to a huge increase in volume purchases. Belinea became the top selling branded monitor in the UK in the first quarter of 1999, with 9.8 per cent of the market. Over 52,000 Belinea monitors were sold in the UK, according to research by consultancy Bryan Norris Associates. Belinea was introduced into the UK two years ago. ®
Linda Harrison, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Iomega lays siege to Castlewood in patent clash

Iomega has accused rival storage company Castlewood Systems of infringing on its patents and trademarks in a lawsuit earlier this week. Iomega claims Castlewood's Orb removable hard drive system violates its intellectual property, and it wants shipments of the offending product halted plus a heap of monetary damages. It's an interesting case. Castlewood was formed in 1996 by SyQuest founder Syed Iftikar. At the time, SyQuest didn't appear long for this world, and indeed, while it managed to stay alive for 18 months or so, it eventually collapsed, terminally, late last year. Enter Iomega, which bought the company's mortal remains -- including its intellectual property. That seems to have been the main motivation behind the purchase -- it sure as heck didn't want SyQuest's remaining inventory, which is why it flogged it all off to Peripheral Computer Support last month. So, did Iftikar take SyQuest expertise over to Castlewood with him -- or did Iomega buy SyQuest's IP in the hope that he did and that it could later use it to crush a competitor? In the hard-boiled world of removable storage, either outcome is possible. What is certain, however, is that Orb is a better product than Iomega's nearest alternative, Jaz. It's more capacious, rather cheaper and faster, and with Iomega have a tough time selling Jaz drives and media -- hence its current financial troubles -- it clearly would rather not have to face any competition. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Big Blue names Taiwan firm as major DRAM OEM

Reports on the Taiwanese wires said today that local company Nanya is to become a major OEM supplier for IBM. Earlier this week, IBM showed signs of wanting to leave the DRAM market when it sold its Dominion share to Toshiba. The reports claimed that Nanya will start mass producing IBM certified memories at .2 and .175 micron process in November this year. The company has already started producing .2 micron 64Mb pieces. According to the reports, emanating from the organisers of the Computex trade fair, IBM plans to completely quit making DRAM within five years. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Search engines stink, and they're getting worse

The proportion of information on the Internet that is indexed by search engines is declining, according to a recent study by Steve Lawrence and Lee Giles of the NEC Research Institute at Princeton, and reported in Nature. The engines do not index sites equally, new pages may remain unindexed for months, but worst of all, even the best engine only reaches 16 per cent of the Web. The survey was carried out in February. Furthermore, the situation is getting worse, since in December 1997 around 34 per cent of information was indexed. The problem is multifaceted. The Web has around 15 terabytes of data in some 800 million pages, plus 180 million images and is growing faster than the ability of the engines to search. The growth rate is about 3 million pages/day. There is apparently no coordination between search engine operators it seems, so that the cognoscenti could turn to a particular engine for a particular subject area. The dark side is of course that many pages that have made it to a search engine disappear without trace. So how well are the best-known engines doing? Dismally, is the answer. The best, according to Lawrence & Giles, is Northern Light, which covers a mere 16 per cent of the Web, just pipping Alta Vista's 15.5 percent (although that 0.5 per cent difference adds up to around 4 million unindexed pages). Microsoft can only manage 8.5 per cent, Yahoo 7.4 per cent, Excite 5.6 per cent, and Lycos is the dunce at 2.5 per cent. This should make people think about defaulting to using engines on portals. Of course enlightened searchers use meta-engines that use several engines and combine the results, but each has its inconveniences and idiosyncrasies we have found. The researchers found that 83 per cent of web sites have commercial content, with only a vociferous 1.5 per cent of sites being pornographic: they, at least, have found the secrets of tweaking their sites to get them indexed, it would appear. It looks as though archivists will not be out of a job for a long time, in view of this failure of the Web as a reliable and comprehensive online library. It reminds us of the persistent story that the French Bibliotheque Nationale used to store its books by size and colour in its old building. That's effectively what's happening on the Web: we don't know how much is unindexed, because it is hard to study the overlap between engines, but the odds are that half the information on the Web cannot be found with search engines at all. ®
Graham Lea, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

China says no to Pentium III, chip IDs and Win98

Intel is facing major problems in selling Pentium III into China, it would appear. Strange but true, although you'd expect the Chinese regime to be keen on control-freakery of all sorts, it has a major downer on the Personal Serial Number (PSN) built into Pentium III. According to a report in the Guangming Daily, the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry (MII) has identified "hidden perils in Pentium III and Win98" (so Microsoft's control-freakery is causing angst as well), and has advised government agencies accordingly. Said a spokesman: "We have conducted serious research and thus acquired a thorough knowledge of hidden security perils in PIII chips, Win98 as well as servers produced by different companies." So according to MII, Intel, Microsoft and PC OEMs are all in the frame. Domestic PC manufacturers will have to turn off PSN, while all government agencies should turn off PSN on the computers they buy. Not only that, computers with a PSN capability must be used either in stand-alone mode or on an intranet, never connected to the Internet. It's not entirely clear why Win98 is being picked-on too. Has MS been daft enough to insist on Chinese users adhering to a 'direct to Redmond' online registration procedure? Surely not... Considering the hopes Western countries have for sales of CPUs, software and hardware in China, and the vast growth potential they all reckon China has as far as the Internet is concerned, this is a real killer. But read on, and one begins to identify more of an agenda: "We have briefed altogether 13 domestic PC manufacturers on the latest developments and made clear our views. [They] indicated that since the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia... they have come to know more clearly the hegemonic ambitions of the United States." There you go, Craig Barrett, you're a tool of capitalist imperialism. "These domestic PC manufacturers also indicated that the most reliable way to safeguard information security is to use our own products." China is implementing rigorous security testing for "core products such as mainframe, server, processor and firewall" before they can be sold in China. Import of routers, firewalls and "network scrambler" will be banned where there are home-grown alternatives. And here's one for Chipzilla (which, we understand, has been engaged in increasingly high-level discussions with the Chinese over PSN): "Up to this day, China has not yet developed its own CPU and operating system. This is an area where China needs to speed up its efforts." ®
John Lettice, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Get paid to be spammed

A crop of new Net services has sprung up that pays Internauts to view ads and read spam. As moneymaking schemes go this one's hardly going to make anyone a millionaire but it is a start. Whether you're into small change or not, if you of the belief that -- like death and taxes -- you're going to receive spam sometime or other, then you may as well get paid for it. And it's exactly this philosophy that has prompted a new breed of Net company to cut out the middleman and pay Net users for the ads they receive. Typically, these new companies pay between 40 cents and 60 cents an hour to people who run a small ad window on their desktop or use the service's Web browser. Other companies are paying net users anything from eight cents to $2.50 to read emails containing targeted advertising. The first of these new-style services to be set up was AllAdvantage. It has already signed up close to two million people since its launch on 1 April, reportedly making it the fastest growing Internet community of all time. In the US it's being hyped as the Internet's newest craze so expect it to hit Europe sometime in the new millennium. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Toshiba staffer punts semicon sell-off

Toshiba may be planning to follow Siemens' lead an spin off its semiconductor business into an independent company. Interviewed by Dow Jones, Yoshihide Fujii, general manager of the strategic planning division of Toshiba's semicon operation, said: "I personally think the semiconductor company should be spun off from Toshiba as a legal entity." "To get flexible management, I think such a spin-off is necessary," he added. Fujii said that Toshiba would retain control of the new operation by retaining at least 50 per cent of the stock. He suggested the rest would be bought by another firm as a joint venture or by merging its own semiconductor business with Toshiba's. Since company staff who make such incautious remarks usually find themselves in the unemployment line shortly after, Fujii's remarks are likely to be semi-official, made to see what the industry's reaction might be. And if Toshiba is interested in such feedback, that suggests it's seriously considering a spin off. The precedent here is Siemens' decision first to form its own semicon business into a separate company, Infineon, and then float it off in an IPO, a process that could begin as early as October. Siemens motivation behind the move was Infineon's financial troubles, troubles largely shared by Toshiba's own semiconductor division. Like Infineon, Toshiba's operation has been losing money: last year the electronic devices and materials division, of which the semiconductor business is a part, lost Y68.72 billion. Toshiba also has the precedent of its joint venture with Sony, which will fab the so-called Emotion Engine processor that will power the upcoming PlayStation II. Then there's the Dominion DRAM company JV with IBM, though it is believed IBM wants out. Having to take on the entire company may well add impetus to Toshiba's plan to float the whole thing off. ®
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Arrow backs Virtual Chip Exchange worldwide

Arrow Electronics has taken an equity stake in the Virtual Chip Exchange, as the service launches worldwide. No details of the amount of equity was given, but it is a minority investment. Stephen Kaufman, Arrow's CEO, said: "We recognise the potential of the Interent in facilitating the resale of excess inventories...traditional distributors are not equipped to solve this problem for customers today." VCE started last year and is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. It estimates there is $30 billion of excess component stock with millions of different part numbers. Since its launch last November, VCE has registered 1100 members and has revenues worth an estimated $1 million a month. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Sage gets wrist slapped by ASA

Three IT companies were reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in its report this month. Sage was in trouble over an ad for accountancy software aimed at small businesses dealing with the euro. Pegasus Group challenged Sage's statement that: "Existing currency conversion practices simply will not work." Pegasus said converting between the pound and the euro was the same process as between the pound and the dollar. Sage said the advertisement invited enquiries and offered more information, and was intended to raise awareness among small businesses of the impact of the euro and the importance of early planning. The ASA said Sage's claim "was simplistic, exaggerated the need for companies to change their accountancy software now that the euro had been introduced elsewhere, and was misleading". London-based CACI received a complaint about an advertisement for a consumer database. "Find new customers -– Lifestyles UK is the most extensive and comprehensive consumer database available in the UK. Rank all 44 million adults individually using a customised combination of 300 lifestyle selections," it claimed. Rival Claritas said that its Lifestyles Universe database had 382 selections, more than CACI's 300, and therefore CACI's was not the "most extensive". The ASA asked CACI not to repeat its claim. Optisoft, which sets up PC systems for the optical profession, got its wrists slapped after saying it was the market leader. The York-based company said it had more users and more installed sites than any other supplier, and therefore the claim was justified. The Authority said Optisoft had not substantiated the claim, and asked them not to repeat it. ®
Linda Harrison, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Startup to open source 3D Web technology

Not so long ago, we reported on a Redmond, Washington-based start-up attempting to leverage Microsoft's DirectX as a standard for complex 3D environments on the Web. The technology, developed by WildTangent, uses scripting commands to generate interactive 3D worlds which are then rendered locally using DirectX's Direct3D component and a compatible graphics card. What made the system particularly interesting was that it was co-created by one Alex St. John, an erstwhile Microsoft employee who was one of the developers and "evangelist" of (surprise, surprise) DirectX. Now we hear that another DirectX-er, Servan Keondjian, the original author of Direct3D, is about to offer a very similar technology, through a company he co-founded, Ur Studios. But apart from an ActiveX control to patch it all into a Web browser, Ur, unlike WildTangent, appears to be taking a very non-Microsoft approach. Ur's system is called GEL (Graph Evaluation Language), and essentially allows the creation of complex, interactive 3D environments within Web browsers. Net clients essentially share a description of the object-oriented, non-polygonal 3D world in a peer-to-peer way, passing GEL messages back and forth as elements within the shared model change. Final rendering is handled through an OpenGL driver that patches in the client PC's graphics card. GEL will be released next month under an open source licence, so Ur is clearly hoping to get the technology widely adopted among the Linux community and -- more importantly -- ported over to platforms other than Windows and FreeBSD. Being tied into DirectX, WildTangent's cunningly entitled Web Driver for Streaming Interactive 2D/3D Media will only run under Windows. ® UR's GEL white paper can be found here.
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

European Web CD stores merge

The European online music retailing scene received a dose of consolidation today Swedish player Boxman buying IMVS.com, a British counterpart, for £10.4 million, in an all share deal. Post-acquisition, IMVS.com will leave Ofex (the UK's smallest stock market) and its shareholders will own a 20 per cent slug of the enlarged Boxman. Boxman is a small company with big ambitions. Through this acquisition it is bulking itself up nicely for next year's IPO. It has retained Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to advise (presumably on where it should float and how much it get away with charging for its shares). Set up in 1997, Boxman has established local operations throughout Scandinavia. This year it opened for business in the UK, France and Germany. It sells videos as well as music online, and it recorded £6 million turnover in 1998. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's IA64 EPIC like a snake swallowing a hamster

A senior architect said today that Merced may be pushed up the food chain because the possibilities to produce real silicon might well be remote. It would be a simplification, he said, while he was quaffing his jar of peanut better. The architect was responding to our story earlier this week which talked about optimising processes on real Merced silicon. Intel has not yet told us whether or not Merced has taped out. The architect quoted this saying: "a good programmer can write machine code in any language". That aphorism, he maintained, should be put to an end. He said: "At some point, programmers will need to adopt more flexible ways of expressing their algorithms." He continued in the same vein, almost turning the concept of 64-bit chips and operating systems associated with it into a philosophical discussion. "It's very hard to assess whether EPIC is a botch or a bonus," he said. "I have a gut instinct that EPIC is slicing the problem on the wrong axis." He explained that by saying Intel chose to make its instruction bundle a unit of independence, which he described as "a typical American attitude". Instead, said the architect, it should have used clusters of instruction sets. He concluded: "EPIC is an LA sprawl with six lane freeways stretching as far as the eye can see and every family member has his own car (and never has to wait for another family member to return home). My intuition would have been more like a van pool and policies to convince people who frequently have intimate dealings to live in roughly the same part of town." This, we are given to understand, is an insider's statement on Intel's fab policies. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's IA64 EPIC like a snake swallowing a hamster

A senior architect said today that Merced may be pushed up the food chain because the possibilities to produce real silicon might well be remote. It would be a simplification, he said, while he was quaffing his jar of peanut better. HP's EPIC VLIW software, he said, "is somewhat like a snake swallowing a hamster". The architect was responding to our story earlier this week which talked about optimising processes on real Merced silicon. Intel has not yet told us whether or not Merced has taped out. The architect quoted this saying: "a good programmer can write machine code in any language". That aphorism, he maintained, should be put to an end. He said: "At some point, programmers will need to adopt more flexible ways of expressing their algorithms." He continued in the same vein, almost turning the concept of 64-bit chips and operating systems associated with it into a philosophical discussion. "It's very hard to assess whether EPIC is a botch or a bonus," he said. "I have a gut instinct that EPIC is slicing the problem on the wrong axis." He explained that by saying Intel chose to make its instruction bundle a unit of independence, which he described as "a typical American attitude". Instead, said the architect, it should have used clusters of instruction sets. He concluded: "EPIC is an LA sprawl with six lane freeways stretching as far as the eye can see and every family member has his own car (and never has to wait for another family member to return home). My intuition would have been more like a van pool and policies to convince people who frequently have intimate dealings to live in roughly the same part of town." This, we are given to understand, is an insider's statement on Intel's fab policies. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Buyer for defunct PC Science?

PC Science, the North Yorkshire vendor that fell into receivership on Wednesday, faces a buy-out next week. This is according to Asda, which bought its computers solely from PC Science until it dumped the manufacturer yesterday. “They’re [PC Science] going to get bought next week,” said Kerry Stirland, Asda buyer manager. She was unable to give any potential buyer names. Asda has stopped buying PCs for the moment and Stirland said the supermarket chain’s long-term strategy on computers was still undecided. There will be no change to ASDA customer service for PCs. This is handled by Target Computer Maintenance Limited. The ASDA contract was first won by Viglen, then by Atlantic Systems (the line once sold by liquidated distributor Memsolve). PC Science started supplying ASDA with computers in March. KPMG, PC Science’s receiver, was unable to comment on potential bids for the PC company, which is based in Boroughbridge, near York. “A statement will be made when there is anything further to add,” said a KPMG representative. ®
Linda Harrison, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Godzilla becomes code name

A very major chip company has adopted the name Godzilla as its code name for a system on a chip device. Unfortunately, we have to report it is not Chipzilla (Intel) but one of its big competitors. Guess who it might be? ®
Adamson Rust, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxwell Bros have Viking Hat

Here in our offices at Maddox Street, we sometimes turn round and look at the Maxwell Bros building, opposite. However, in the last few days, we have notice the arrival of one of your famous Viking (wayfarer) hats -- a plastic jobbie with twin peaks. Why should we find this amusing? Try reading the UK Press Gazette passim... ®
Adamson Rust, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu spins off Nifty Web stuff

Infoweb, Fujitsu's ISP, is merging with Nifty Serve, the online information service of Fujitsu's Nifty Corporation subsidiary to form a new ISP called @nifty. The move combines the company's two arms of Internet involvement, which should streamline investment. Infoweb has 620,000 subscribers making it the largest ISP in Japan, where the market is worth an estimated $2.42 billion. Nifty is the country's largest online information service with its 2.73 million subscribers accounting for more that a 25 per cent market share. The new ISP will have a subscriber base of 3.5 million, making it the biggest by a huge margin. Fujitsu says that it plans to have 10 million people signed up to @nifty in five years time. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Coppers go online to talk to ‘the kids’

Thames Valley Police has launched a "groundbreaking" Web site to help its officers meet young people "on their own territory -- the Web." The site is split into two distinct sections designed to appeal to kids of all ages. "TVP4Kids" (no doubt it stands for Thames Valley Police for Kids, although this is not made clear) uses animated cartoon characters to teach children lessons about how to be a good citizen. "Out of The Blue" (wasn't that an album by ELO? - Ed) focuses on issues that should appeal to older children including those old faves drugs and crime. "Following decades of striving in vain to find common ground with the young people of Britain, a crack police squad has finally uncovered the well-kept secret of how to reach Britain's growing youth population," the PR blurb reads. ("Crack police squad"… "uncovered well-kept secret", snigger, snigger.) The site was created for the police by UK Net company community internet. According to its MD, Matthew Hare: "The Internet has become a techno-bible to young people today, with ever increasing numbers relying on it as the key medium to absorbing and disseminating information." "Techno-bible?" More like techno-notice. Young people aren't stupid. The site might be a useful resource for teachers but other than that it is hard to see how it can succeed. It will be interesting to see just how long it takes the techno-savvy teenagers of the Thames Valley to vandalise it. Our guess is not very long. And if the site is as patronising as the press release issued by Charlton Communications -- which even failed to include the site's name or URL -- then it is certainly doomed to fail. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

ZDNet starts buying thangs

Global newswire ZDNET has started to avoid CNET and instead has bought up Softseek. The buy, according to the ZD Softseek press release, was to ensure that a software download site was in the Ziff Davis portfolio. For weeks, the rumour has gone the rounds that CNET, runners of NEWS.COM was trying to acquire ZDNET. Those rumours were obviously false. ®
Adamson Rust, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Brokers challenged to spank the monkey

Forget the bulls and bears of the stock market -- there's a chimp in the US who likes nothing more than making a right monkey out of Wall Street. Raven -- a six-year-old chimpanzee -- has already increased her fortune by 55 per cent over the last six months after randomly choosing a basket of Net stocks simply by tossing arras* at a dartboard. "It's all in the wrist action,"' said Raven in a statement after she hit the bull's-eye with, among others, CMGI, Lycos and Inktomi. Now she's challenging the whiz kids of Wall Street to see if they can spank the monkey. One thousand people are being given the chance to take part in the Beat The Monkey Contest to see if they can do better than Raven at picking the top performing Net stocks. The contest begins on Monday and ends on Friday 30 July. The winner will receive a Dell PC. Before you rush off and try your hand at beating the monkey, be warned -- Raven's selections made in January have doubled the performance of the Dow and the NASDAQ composite. That's not bad considering Tarzan's right hand chimp wasn't even able to participate in any of the hot new issue offerings. "There is hardly a day that goes by that a fortune isn't won or lost by some lucky or unlucky Internet investor," said Roland Perry, editor of the Internet Stock Review and creator of the MonkeyDex. "It's truly the wild, wild west. So let's see who the best man (or monkey) truly is." MonkeyDex is the Internet's first index of Net stocks picked by a real monkey. ® * arras -- Brit slang for darts, derived from arrow, pronounced arra.
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Disk drive market on the up

Shipments of Winchester diskdrives worldwide are on the up, and are set to continue in this direction for the next year. But according to new research from IDC, this will not necessarily translate into higher revenues, as the highly competitive market will keep a lid on prices. "Shipment growth will largely be the result of steady demand for various system categories, especially PCs and PC servers. Unfortunately, overcapacity in desktop and mobile drive segments, coupled with intense competitive pressures, will put continued pressure on drive revenue growth," said Danielle Levitas, research manager at IDC. Last year, shipments rose 11 per cent to 143.6 million units, and this year growth is expected to be even stronger. IDC is expecting a jump of about 15 per cent to 166 million units by the end of the year. Entry servers and hard disk drives will both do well over the next three years, but the traditional workstation is going to be left by the wayside with its shipments falling at six per cent a year until 2003. Seagate is still the major market player having 21 per cent of the market, despite a two per cent decline in shipments. Quantum was second with 17.6 per cent. Both Maxtor and Hitachi increased their shipments by about 100 per cent in 1998. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

C2000 wins MS OEM gong

Computer 2000 has become an Authorised Microsoft OEM Product Distributor. The appointment (formerly known as a Delivery Service Partner, or DSP) is something the distributor has wanted for some time, said Graeme Watt, Computer 2000 MD. "We are delighted with their decision. Hot on the heels of our Eurodis OnBoard acquisition, this demonstrates that we mean business in the Systems Builders market. "We are well on our way to developing the lead role in UK components distribution," said Watt. Sven Mahon-Daly, general manager components division at Computer 2000, said: "With Microsoft in the portfolio we can now offer that complete one-stop service…We can now present our systems builder customers with all the elements required to build high quality, industry standard PC systems." Computer 2000 will start providing Microsoft OEM products from 1 September. ®
Linda Harrison, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Time capsule to be buried on Web

US vice president Al Gore has backed a scheme for America's youth to create a millennium time capsule in cyberspace. Instead of using a pick and shovel to turn over the sods, the National Internet Time Capsule Science Project will let high school graduates of America's "Class of 2000" bury a time capsule on the Web instead. It is hoped the cybercapsule will reflect what life was like during the last year of the 20th century. In a letter to the project organisers, Gore said: "This is an exciting initiative which should provide a fascinating historical record of the turn of the 21st century and serve as in interactive educational tool for young people worldwide. "This project will help bring American students together in a richer learning environment, he said. In September, the project's "Messages to the Future" Web site will begin providing the interactive software to enable schools to take part. Students will be able to create their own "Messages to the Future" site about what defines life for them. As well as text and pictures, they'll also be able to include audio and video files. Once complete these sites will be linked together to create a permanent, National Interactive Library already lauded as "a gift to the American people of the 21st Century." Of course, the big question is what exactly America's youth will decide to bury. Dig around a few high schools today and you might just come across a racoon skin hat, draft card, 8-track tape or even one of IBM's very first PCs. For the "Class of 2000" it could be the latest MP3 file from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, a Furby, a character from the latest Star Wars movie or the mobile phone number of their drug dealer. Who knows -- then again, who cares? ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Taiwan OEMs under pressure

Taiwan's PC makers are seeing margins plummet while being squeezed till the pips squeak. The providers of kit to the IT giants such as Compaq and Dell are having to make drastic cut backs, according to the Commercial Times, Taiwan. At last month's Computex Taipei PC show, quotations for some desktop PCs fell to under $400 per unit. Sub-$600 desktops control around a third of the US market. And one South Korean vendor plans to launch a new desktop running on Linux for under $200, reports said. In addition, the multinationals are trying out tougher strategies. Earlier this week Compaq was demanding its Taiwanese suppliers cut prices by 15 per cent. Mitac, a former major manufacturer of Compaq kit, is starting an ecommerce division to sell its kit direct. This may have been a reaction to Compaq's price cut demands, according to the Taiwanese press. Also, Dell and IBM have been giving buying orders to new partners, hoping to lower OEM costs and force older partners' prices down. One HP representative said falling PC prices and rising costs had squeezed profit margins – and the trend to build sub-$300 PCs would continue to force US PC makers to boost their outsourcing. "To consolidate orders with the world's top five PC makers, local manufacturers had better forget that they are 'computer manufacturers' and continue to come up with higher value-added products and services," he said. ®
Linda Harrison, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Rich people more likely to use Web, shock

Rich people are more likely to be online than poor people. This is the astonishing result of a survey commissioned by the US Federal Government, which is now getting its knickers in a twist about it being a race issue. Yes, these are the same people with their finger on 'the button.' Scary innit? Dubbed "the digital divide", this is quickly becoming one of the biggest economics and civil rights issues stateside. While one in four US households is online, black and hispanic households are less than half as likely to own a computer as white households. But rich black families are just as likely as rich white households to be surfing the net. So this is not a new phenomenon at all, just another example of how life is better when you have more money. Families on an income of more than $75,000 were more than 20 times as likely to be online than those at the bottom end of the scale, and they were nine times more likely to own a computer. Living in the sticks was also a significant disadvantage. The infrastructure is not up to the job -- access to high frequency transmission lines, and inefficient hook-ups are blamed for small town USA not being up and surfin'. Rural leaders say they have been left in digital dust. Presumably they are keeping an eye out for digital tumbleweed too. Technology groups are expected to use this survey to nudge congress towards easing restrictions on data transmission over the net and make investment easier, arguing that this will make it easier to give everyone access to the Web. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Pink pound flexes muscle online

E-tailers are being warned that they could miss out on a significant share of e-shopping revenue if they ignore gays and lesbians on the Web. According to a survey by California-based IT consultants, Computer Economics the worldwide population of gay and lesbian Net users is set to almost double from nine million today to 17 million in 2005. Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America will be home to the largest groups of gay and lesbian Internet users, the survey said. In North America gay and lesbian Net users will rise in number from 6.75 million this year to a little over 11 million by 2005. In Europe, the gay and lesbian population is predicted to double from 1.3 million to 2.6 million over the same period. Computer Economics predicts that South America will experience the fastest increase -- with a growth rate of 227 per cent over the next five years. "Web-based marketers need to get a clue," said Computer Economics vice president of research, Michael Erbschloe. "This is a significant market segment that cannot be ignored and certainly not alienated. The North American gay and lesbian online population will remain the largest over the next five years, but in all other regions the populations will more than double, and in some cases more than triple, he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 09 Jul 1999
The Register breaking news

Bangemann bang to rights

Four and a bit years ago From The Register No. 16 -- April 1995 ORACLE SKATEBOARDS SLOWLY ONTO THE SUPERINFORMATION HIGHWAY There's some love affair between the Brits and the city of Florence which caused people like Elizabeth Barrett Browning to like it so much she died there. Imagine our delight, therefore, to attend the European Oracle User Group a week or so ago and to witness the superhuman efforts Oracle is making to bring the computing industry into the 21st century through the information highway. The venue for the jamboree was the somewhat forbidding Fortezza de Basso, a fort which later became used as a prison. Here Oracle had built a massive tent where attendees (inmates?) were treated to keynote speeches from the like of Dr Martin Bangemann, European Union commissioner for telecommunications. Dr Bangemann is keen on deregulation of the telco industry in Europe and cited many an authority including the Pope and Olivetti's Carlo de Benedetti ("a dear old friend of mine") to stress the importance of dissolving the boundaries between European countries. One of the most effective, he thought, was the Internet. This allowed people to work from home. Sometimes he thought that people whinged too much about the isolation that brought. "An Internet contact is a real human contact," he alleged. Preoccupied by reveries about other famous Florentines including Machiavelli, the Ninja Turtles and Galileo, we missed the good Doctor's joke about women going to church in Denmark while the men sat in the pub opposite boozing. Because we were pondering about Savonarola and the Bonfire of the Vanities we totally lost the punchline to his jest about the Pope charging Brezhnev $40 for talking to God over the Vatican's hotline. A shudder at the thought of the carnage between Benedictine and Dominican monks in mediaeval Florence brought the nightmare to an end and we started to pay attention. Heard Dr Bangemann say that German car company Daimler-Benz manufactured its own chips. Walking down the grey carpeted aisles with roadmarkings to the press office to check it out, we realised to our chagrin that Oracle's promise remains a little distant. Not only was there no connection to the Internet or even to CompuServe there, we realised that two out of the three Olivetti PCs there didn't work. Keyboard error. Tried swapping the keyboards. No go. Gave up. Had already filed copy by fax from hotel day before anyway. We heard a plaintive squeak from the corner. A lone Oracle staffer was trying to use an Olivetti Portable typewriter but was complaining she couldn't get the carriage return to work. Unlocked it for her. She said: "How did you get it to work?" Explained that we used one ourselves 20 years ago. Turned round to see British hack complaining that she couldn't connect her PowerBook to the phone system. Saw her hour later transcribing copy from the screen onto paper for future faxing. Er...no printer in the press office. And only one out of three fax machines worked. With a sigh, wandered onto the grey carpet with roadmarkings outside to come across a bunch of dealers complaining that their mobiles didn't work. GSM didn't work (!). Cellnet didn't work. Vodaphone rather surprisingly does. Oracle mission statement: From here to the Information Highway. Way to go. ®
Mike Magee, 09 Jul 1999