2nd > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Atlas coughs up $13m for Acorn spin-out

Element 14, the DSP chip design house set free from Acorn, has secured $13 million in what it calls "first-round" financing. The Cambridge, UK-based company says this is the biggest sum invested in a European silicon start-up. It plans to produce its first DSP chips in Autumn 2000. Element 14's funding was led by Atlas Ventures together with Bessemer Venture Partners. Other VCs include Amadeus Capital Partners (controlled by Acorn co-founder Herman Hauser), TTP Venture Fund, Sofinnova Venture Partners and Nippon Investment & Finance Co Ltd. Element 14 is the bit of Acorn that its management team led by Stan Boland wanted to keep, when the company got dismembered earlier this year. The cult (ish) RiscOS-based PC part is now firmly in the hands of the Acorn fan base. While Acorn's shareholding in ARM now resides in MSDW. ®
Drew Cullen, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

ZD loves ZD – true

Nice to see Ziff Davis' increasingly tragic ZDNet got voted one of the top five computing web sites by, erm, Ziff Davis' PC Magazine. Come on Register readers -- tell us what your favourite web sites are, you can even include ZDNet if you like...
Pete Sherriff, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Palm to offer iMac-style organiser

Palm Computing will announce a 'special edition' of the recently released Palm IIIe organiser tomorrow, The Register has learned. Sources close to the company said the device will match the spec. of Palm's entry-level machine but take a lead from Apple's iMac with a translucent case and cover. There has been hints for some time that Palm was planning to offer a translucent Palm. Similar-sounding devices have been seen at Apple, which is believed to have a major partnership with the 3Com subsidiary and has licensed the PalmOS for a PDA of its own. With the IIIe aimed more at the consumer space than Palm's traditional executive market, some kind of iMac-style machine was always on the cards. However, Palm is playing it cautious: the special edition IIIe will only be available for a limited period, presumably to test reation to the device's styling. Translucent cases are becoming increasingly popular following the launch of the iMac. Earlier this year, Diamond Multimedia launched a limited edition of its Rio digital music player in a blue translucent shell. It's not clear what colour the new IIIe will take. ®
Team Register, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

A spoonful of email makes the medicine go down

Hell is other people – especially when they are snivelling in doctors' waiting rooms. But queuing to see your GP could soon be a thing of a past (so long as you can afford to buy a PC and a modem).
Team Register, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Free-ISP boom brings Easynet rich pickings

At least one London-based ISP has joined the rarefied ranks of Net companies that can actually claim to make money. Easynet Group posted profits of £252,000 for the first half of 1999 against a loss of £495,000 for the same period last year. Turnover increased to £12.8 million for the first six months -- an increase of 80 per cent despite a drop in revenue from its subscription services. Easynet's chairman, David Rowe, said: "The growth of free dial-up services in the UK has benefited the Easynet Telecommunications division providing a rapidly growing revenue stream to the company and an opportunity to attract large partners. "We are now well positioned to further develop our European strategy with interconnect agreements and infrastructure growth to cater for the rapidly evolving market place." The company hopes to provide local access points for corporate Internet users more than 100 European cities. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun preps Net box-oriented CPU

Sun Microsystems confirmed this weekend that it is developing a processor architecture for the emerging Internet appliance market, and that it will formally launch the chip later this month. The CPU design, dubbed the Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC) and apparently pronounced 'magic' -- what will these Sun guys think of next? -- appears to be aimed at non-PC devices, but not necessarily those based on Java. Sun has released little in the way of detail, but it seems likely that the new chip's focus is on improving the playback of Internet-transmitted multimedia data, much as Intel is doing on the desktop with its Streaming SIMD Extensions technology. Ditto Motorola's PowerPC-based AltiVec. The Java connection, for now, appears rather tenuous. Since Java, by defintion, is processor-independent -- that's why it runs within a virtual machine or through a just-in-time compiler -- there's nothing inherently 'Java' about the new CPU. That said, MAJC may well have been designed with the kind of core CPU processes in mind that will make JVMs more efficient, but we won't know this for sure until the chip is debuted at a semiconductor industry conference to be held later this month at Stanford University. Certainly, the company is claiming this is a chip designed from afresh, much like the ever-secretive Transmeta. And, according to today's New York Times, Sun is claiming that MAJC will also run software compiled from other languages more quickly than current desktop CPUs. MAJC will certainly have to deliver something new, if it's to make headway in a world of increasingly more powerful embedded CPUs, many of them aimed at specific roles, and the growing number of system-on-a-chip parts becoming available. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx touts T-buffer for next-generation games

3D graphics specialist 3dfx unwrapped new technology on Friday which it promised would bring a new level of photorealism to computer games and graphics applications. Dubbed T-buffer, the technology essentially adds a stack of optical effects which developers will be able to incorporate into their software to make rendered scenes seem more real. Top of the list is full-scene anti-aliasing, which smooths the hard edges of 3D polygons for a more photo-like look. At the moment, all 3D graphics cards anti-alias individual textures, but fail to tidy up the jagged lines where one texture crosses another. T-buffer's full-scene anti-aliasing eliminates these 'jaggies', even on titles developed without such smoothing in mind. T-buffer also adds motion blur, depth of field, and soft shadow and reflection effects. All these tricks are produced by generating multiple frames of a given scene and then realigning and combining them to create the final frame. This filtering process is only be applied to the relevant areas of the frame, allowing framerates to be kept higher rather than lower, 3dfx said. Demonstrating the technology to Maximum PC magazine, 3dfx used four Voodoo 2 boards in SLI mode, but company co-founder Scott Sellers promised T-buffer would be built into 3dfx's next generation of graphics processor, the Voodoo 4, due before the end of the year and which will bring full 32-bit rendering to 3dfx-based products for the first time. That said, he didn't specify how many cards would be needed to enable T-buffer's features. ® Screenshots showing T-buffer in action can be found here
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Energis buys into European telco market

Energis has paid £60 million for a slice of the European telco network as part of its "entry strategy into Europe". The National Grid progeny said the acquisition of the entire share capital of the Unisource Carrier Services (UCS) group of companies from Unisource NV was part of its bid to gain a foothold in the emerging pan-European telco market. Zurich-based UCS operates an ATM telecommunications network and has licences in 12 countries, national interconnect agreements in seven countries and 13 points of presence in 11 major western European countries and in the US. It provides international wholesale voice services, managed bandwidth and Internet services and has more than 70 customers. Mike Grabiner, CEO of Energis, said: "Unisource Carrier Services is a key strategic move for Energis. "It provides us with a Pan European network, which gives Energis direct access to the fast growing, fast changing European market." ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

StarGig.com seeks to dominate Net music

Terry Ellis -- manager of Jethro Tull, co-founder of Chrysalis Records and erstwhile Bob Dylan interviewer* -- is attempting to break into the Internet music business with his own version of MP3.com, the US company that successfully helmed a $300 million IPO last month. StarGig.com will provide a forum for unsigned bands to release sample tracks on an unsuspecting public. Thrilled punters can then join each group's 'fan club' for $10, which will allow them to download or receive on CD the full album. StarGig.com and the band split the proceeds 50:50. That's not so far from the approach taken by MP3.com, which uses the Net to promote its roster of artists and to sell their albums on CD. And -- surprise, surprise -- Ellis wants to take the similarity a step further with a Nasdaq stock flotation at some point in the future. To give the site a starting push, Ellis also said the company had taken a 50 per cent stake in The Band Register (no relation), an online database of the world's unsigned acts. So far, it has 255,000 artists on its list. ® *He's the bespectacled guy from the student paper His Bobness gets supremely irritated with in DA Pennebaker's 1967 Dylan, if you will, rock-umentary Don't Look Back.
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Telecomms performance hard to pin-down

The telecomms industry is defying the will of the prophets it seems. Stockbrokers and analysts are struggling to make accurate predictions about the fast moving industry according to research released by AQ Publications today. AQ measures the accuracy of analysts forecasts on an ‘accuracy quotient’ scale with a top score of 100. While the average accuracy quotient for stockbrokers is 50, the best score in the telecomms sector was 41.8. Performance forecasts are consistently off target in this sector, the worst being predictions for mobile operator, Orange. Telewest communications and Colt have also defied expectations. AQ says that the industry is hard to predict because the market is made of young fast moving companies, and because of the growth in the mobile and Internet sector, the market is not yet settled. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Filtronic fixes sights on former Fujitsu fab

UK telecoms equipment company Filtronic announced today it will buy the Newton Aycliffe, County Durham semiconductor plant Fujitsu shut down last year -- but only if the government stumps up part of the cost. Filtronic refused to say how much it was paying for the plant -- Fujitsu wrote off $490.4 million to pay for its closure -- or how much money it wants from the British taxpayer. To make the appeal for funds more tempting to the Department of Trade and Industry, the government department which would contribute to the acquisition, Filtronic chairman David Rhodes said the purchase of the plant would lead to the creation of 500 jobs in the North-East over the next five years. The agreement to buy "is conditional upon Filtronic receiving financial assistance from the DTI on terms satisfactory to Filtronic," said the company. At the time of the plant's closure, then DTI Minister Peter Mandelson pledged a £100 million aid package for the region, which had already been hit by the closure of Siemens' UK chip plant. Filtronic produces equipment for cellphone base stations and handsets. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

NTL fires first volley in Net calls price war

Cable operator NTL has cut the price of Net access in the UK to just 1p a minute. The new 24 hours a day flat-rate fee is part of a package of new measures announced today by the Hampshire-based company. Among them is a simplification of its tariff structure, a move it describes as a "breath of fresh air". From today, all calls will be charged at 3p per minute between 8am and 6pm, 2p per minute during the evening and 1p per minute at weekends. Internet access has been cut to just 1p per minute at all times. All calls will be subject to a 3.5p connection charge. For the first time ever this means no distinction between local and national calls, the company said. Those home and business premises not hooked up NTL's cable network can still take advantage of NTL's offer by subscribing to NTL's TV Internet service. Steve Wagner, group MD of NTL, said: "We know that the UK public wants the best range of services, at the best price, without having to spend hours deciphering an incredibly complex bill." Last week NTL said it planned to purchase Cable & Wireless' residential services, a move that would give NTL more than three million customers in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

US govt views Y2K rollover with fatalism

It was with calm fatalism that the US Senate Y2K Committee listened to discouraging expert testimony last week. No one in the room doubted for a moment the Millennium Bug will initiate a major, worldwide cock-up yielding, at best, an opportunity for Alpha Geeks everywhere to learn from inevitable and widespread system failures. "Since [my involvement with] Y2K, I've become aware in ways I never had before of just how vulnerable the United States is to some kind of breakdown," Committee chairman Sen. Robert Bennett (R -- Utah) said with a wry smile. Clearly he knows something we don't. The witnesses -- none of whom contradicted the Senator -- offered little comfort. The bad news is self-evident. The good news is, well, not terribly good. The Y2K rollover will, with luck, at least provide "essential lessons" and a golden opportunity to "observe the impact of cyber failure", America's Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office (CIAO) director John Tritac remarked, with something bordering on an eccentric scientist's joyful anticipation of some fascinating calamity. The sexy topics for this hearing were cyberterrorism and information warfare. The cast of witnesses included Michael Vadis, director of FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC); John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Information Coordination Center (ICC); and Richard Schaeffer, director of infrastructure and information assurance for the Department of Defence (DOD). Their theme, endlessly repeated, was that Y2K stuff-ups are going to provide an unfortunate layer of cover for terrorists and hostile military organisations belonging to various tribes without the law, enabling them to visit secret plagues upon information systems graciously maintained by decent Christian peoples. To hear them go on about it, one might imagine that the Internet is in reality a late incarnation of the Carolingian Empire. Barbarians at the Gate No one is saying whether the digital barbarians really are at the gate, or who they are if so. But regardless of how one may interpret the Good vs Evil melodrama, NIPC's Vadis claims it will be extremely difficult to distinguish between a malicious information attack and a Y2K breakdown when the rollover arrives. And he should know. With an interesting mix of hubris and humility he predicted that foreign militaries might try to "equalise their disadvantage in conventional warfare with the United States by going after our soft underbelly -- our dependence on information technology", and try to "take out" essential infrastructure services such as energy, transportation and banking. With that eventuality in mind, the Clinton administration has called for the creation of the Information Coordination Center (ICC), to be established and administered by presidential advisor John Koskinen. The ICC, Koskinen envisages, will serve as an information clearinghouse, speedily organizing and relaying real-time insights into global Y2K fiascoes to military, government, and essential private-sector service providers the world over. The ICC will perform "global situational monitoring" and relay news and advice through its several information centers, or virtual "help desks" as Koskinen calls them, which will be organised according to specific categories of industry. If there should be a problem with a traffic control system, for example, the manager would be routed to the ICC "help desk" manned by the US Department of Transportation; if an electric power grid goes down, the utility would be routed to the ICC desk maintained by the Department of Energy, and so on. Nuclear Attack No one mentioned the ultimate horror, an attack or a critical breakdown involving nuclear power facilities, but the terrible implication lurked throughout the discussion. Indeed, much of Koskinen's testimony centered on potential "energy" problems, though neither he nor anyone else dared utter the N-word. Even technocrats can be superstitious, after all. ICC will come into being on 30 December 1999, and "sunset" in March 2000, so long as Congress approves its US $40-50 million budget. Things look good so far. "As an appropriator," chairman Bennett said, "I must ask whether spending $40 to $50 million for such a brief period is wise." But Bennett is realistic: "If we spend $40 million for a weekend, and it does help us avoid a significant Y2K disaster, then it will be $40 million well spent," he observed. Clearly the ICC budget is a shoo in. Cyberwarfare Conspicuously absent from the hearing was Richard Clarke, national coordinator for infrastructure protection and counter-terrorism for the White House National Security Council (NSC). He had long been expected; but late the night before, White House lawyers acting on behalf of the NSC found a pretext to prevent him testifying. The obvious goal here was to prevent him being grilled on NSC's draft document regarding the Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNet), leaked a day earlier. He had not been "confirmed" by the Senate, the Clinton legal team discovered at the eleventh hour, and no doubt with much relief and delight. Committee co-chair Sen. Christopher Dodd (D -- Conn) was ready with a shopping list of inconvenient questions for Clarke, which he lobbed here and there at the other witnesses who had no such handy escape, and most significantly at NIPC's Vadis, who repeatedly refused to answer some of the Senator's questions. Sandbagged by the Clintonites: it wasn't Vadis but Clarke who, by rights, ought to have been squirming in the hot seat, flagrantly refusing to answer, and sounding creepy because of it. Dodd asked Vadis if there exists any "hard evidence" that hostile military organizations are cyber-attacking the US. "I wouldn't want to answer in this forum," Vadis replied. Dodd pressed him again: "I'm not going to ask for specifics; I'm just asking if there's hard evidence of that occurring." Again Vadis brushed him off, appealing to the public nature of the hearing. "Well, you raised the issue," Dodd observed with mild sarcasm. He concluded that Vadis' "reluctance to answer" offered a strong indication that such evidence must exist. Vadis did not contradict him. Anyone alarmed by all this doomsday talk might still delay the purchase of a petrol generator and the digging of a bomb shelter. Of all the witnesses, DOD's Schaeffer remained the one most optimistic and most easily confident in Christendom's state of preparation to meet the Forces of Darkness on 1 January. Since it is to his outfit that responsibility for handling the gravest misadventures will fall, we think it reasonable to judge the relative state of peril according to his rather sunny demeanour. If Scheaffer's not going to fret, why should we? Of course, we don't know the man personally; he could just be a gifted actor, and inwardly trembling with dread. Hmmm, perhaps we'll keep an eye out for deals on a petrol generator after all... ® See also US net snooping plans debunked
Thomas C Greene, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel StrataFlash ‘surpasses’ Moore's Law

Intel Corporation today announced a 3V 'StrataFlash' memory chip with threefold performance boost over its previous version. Using 0.25 micron lithography, the memory enables both code execution and data storage on a single high-density 128Mb chip. "We surpassed Moore's law with our 2-bit-per-cell multi-level cell technology," boasted Hans Geyer, Intel VP, Flash Products Division. Intel says its 3V StrataFlash memory can be used in smart phones, PC Companions, high-end set-top boxes, networking switches and routers, telecom infrastructure equipment, such as cellular base stations, and other applications. Portable devices will benefit from the lower 3V implementation, which operates within a range of 2.7-3.6 volts, for longer battery life. The new Page Mode feature allows for 44 ns effective read times, which Intel reckons is up to three times faster than with asynchronous reads. The Page Mode interface uses a separate buffer outside the Flash array for improved performance. Flash code execution and data storage capabilities will allow manufacturers to replace E2PROM, DRAM, ROM or flash cards with fast and reliable single chip flash. "Internet devices benefit from this combination of high-storage capability, fast access times, small space requirements and long battery life," said Geyer. "Code and data execution out of flash memory brings OEMs a new cost-effective design alternative." The chip offers manufacturers a 128-bit One-Time-Programmable (OTP) protection register to address industry concerns for system maintenance and security. Sixty-four bits are factory pre-programmed for system authentication and 64 bits are available for OEM programming. The product will be available in three densities. The 128Mb 3V StrataFlash devices are currently sampling, with high-volume availability planned for September at a price of US $29.90 each in 1000-unit quantities, the company said. ®
Thomas C Greene, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates' charitable foundation: gift or PR gambit?

Opinion Perhaps Bill Gates' father reads The Register because he told the Sunday Times in yesterday's edition that Bill Jr would be giving away his $100 billion fortune, which in fact is not news at all. We pointed out last Thursday that Gates was not winning in the foundation stakes. Our challenge that Gates should funnel his loot into a foundation and make it the world's largest ever has been accepted, it appears. The Gates' kids are to receive $10 million each (there's a sub-text that there will be no more Baby Bills), but the bulk is to be given for developing Aids and malaria vaccines. Gates said that: "Melinda and I want our children -- and all children -- to grow up in a world without Aids." We see grave problems with the achievement of these objectives, which were said to arise from the concern of Dr and Mrs Gates (he has an honorary doctorate from the only private Dutch university) at "the level of disease and poverty they found [sic] in developing countries". The truth is that they have absolutely minimal experience of these things from their personal travels. There are several significant hurdles to Aids vaccination: it is assumed that Aids is caused by a micro-organism; it is assumed that worldwide mass vaccination would be carried out; it is assumed that objectors to being infected with a "minor" dose of Aids (and there would of course be millions) would be ignored and compulsorily vaccinated, lest they infect anybody. We should bear in mind that in the latter days of smallpox, many more people were being killed by cowpox from the vaccination than from smallpox itself. Less and Less effective So far as malaria is concerned, anti-malarial prophylactics are becoming less and less effective, so it is likely that a long-term, effective vaccine against malaria is a pipe-dream anyway. The alternative would require eliminating static water in affected areas -- something that not even the Gates' billions could achieve, and which is anyway a geological and engineering impossibility. Spraying swamps merely makes malaria more difficult to eliminate as the strains tend to become resistant. There is of course great joy about this announcement from immunologists and pharmacologists, who see well-funded career paths and almost unlimited resources. So what are we too make of these grand, philanthropic plans? We see the announcement as little more than a attempt at special pleading for saving Microsoft from the imposition of grave remedies at the end of the trial. There are several clues that support this view. Paramount is the timing: it was chosen with PR precision (effectively giving it to the press on Monday, the best day for announcements) to allow some groundswell to develop before the next phases of the trial. The findings of fact are due from each side on 10 August. There was no need to make the announcement at this particular time, since it is made clear that the gift is an intention during their lifetime. Politically correct The emotional plea of these plans is quite clear: it is not politically correct to be anything but wholly supportive of attempts to eliminate Aids, or to advocate research funds for such unfashionable diseases as arthritis and asthma, from which many more people suffer, and which are amenable to better relief. Most expenditure on Aids has been wasted, and official prognostications have, for the main part, been proved to be entirely wrong. We should not forget the photocall possibilities of children with malaria, and how they could be saved if their lot were just a little better: imagine what that could do for the Microsoft public image. Had this announcement been made in the US, there would have been the usual carping and trying to ignore someone else's scoop. Promulgating it in the UK through the Sunday Times makes it more neutral in the US, and may be an intended small favour to the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch. Of course, it would just be another coincidence if there were some joint business announcement soon. Had Gates issued a press release, it would have looked very calculated, and been immediately deemed to be an attempt to influence the outcome of the trial. Using his father to leak the information removes Gates Jr one step further from the process, and increases the suspicion that the story is a carefully planned public relations exercise. Dies in disgrace The final clincher that this was a carefully designed PR campaign was the Sunday Times' unattributed comment that one of Gates' favourite books is Andrew Carnegie's The Gospel of Wealth in which the philanthropist wrote: "The man who dies rich dies in disgrace." The Sunday Times piece volunteered that "Gates has read it several times". We don't believe that. The purpose and the timing, we believe, was an attempt to soften American public opinion and to put pressure on Judge Jackson to deal with Microsoft leniently, in view of this charitable intention. The Gates' foundation spokesman Trevor Neilson claimed that there was no relation between the intended donations and the trial. Microsoft should not be allowed to get away with breaking the law on a massive scale, with the consequent deep and considerable repercussions on users, developers, their respective organisations, and -- if you will -- the progress of the developed world. Melinda Gates' role in this should not be minimised -- her influence on Gates is considerable, and positive it would appear. After all, he's a happy Dad with a boy and a girl, no operational concerns about Microsoft, and able to accept invitations to have his ego stroked to the end of his days. Gates' $100 billion, or whatever it turns out to be, is not a great deal of money so far as world health is concerned. It would not even fund the NHS in the UK for two years. Far better would be to use the cash to set up a health scheme for those many Americans who are denied healthcare in the US because of poverty. The availability of health care to all is a sign of civilisation. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Avoid MS Word, US appelate judges warn lawyers

MS Word has been condemned by three US Court of Appeals judges for giving an incorrect word count. Rule 32 of the appeal procedure requires briefs to be no more than 14,000 words (and reply briefs 7000 words), but the hapless party to an otherwise irrelevant case in the Northern District of Illinois was castigated for a false certificate to the court that a brief was 13,824 words long. Rule 32 says that headings, footnotes, quotations etc. count toward the word and line limitations. It turned out there were 15,056 words according to WordPerfect. The faulty product was MS Word 97, which has an option to include footnotes if invoked -- except that it is dimmed and cannot be used if any text is selected, so the count is for the number of words excluding footnotes. This is a problem because the corporate disclosure statement, the table of contents, the table of citations, and the like do not count towards the word limit, so selecting text is essential. It's a bug, of course, although we shall probably be told it is a feature. The judges said: "Current versions of Corel WordPerfect (for both Windows and Macintosh platforms) do not have this problem. WordPerfect does what lawyers may suppose that Word does (or should do): it automatically includes footnotes in its word and character counts." The endorsement of WP continued: "Lawyers who produce their documents with WordPerfect software have an easy job of things under Rule 32." So far as the future is concerned, "Long-run solutions to this problem [Ha! Claiming it's a "feature" and not a "problem" could be contempt of court] must come either from Microsoft Corporation -- which ought to make it possible to obtain a count of words in footnotes attached to a selected text... We will send copies of this Opinion to those responsible... flag this issue in the court's Practitioner's Guide... law firms should alert their staffs to the issue... our clerk's office will spot-check briefs that have been prepared on Microsoft Word." The Opinion concluded: "Counsel who use Word are not entitled to a litigating advantage over those who use WordPerfect." Quite. They deserve our sympathy, though. No wonder Sullivan & Cromwell, Microsoft's lawyers', use WordPerfect: they knew all along that they's have a lot of words to count for the Court of Appeals, and didn't want to look any sillier than necessary. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

SGI selects Linux over IRIX for IA-64

SGI has as near as damnit admitted it will not be porting its IRIX OS to Intel's upcoming IA-64 platform -- instead, the company will standardise on Linux. "Given the resources we have, we have to focus on just one [OS], and that one is Linux," SGI's strategic technologist, Hank Shiffman, told PC Week UK. That will leave SGI's Merced-based products with just two operating system options and contenders: Linux and Windows NT. IRIX will continue to be made available on SGI's MIPS-based hardware. However, the decision to pass on porting the Unix variant to Merced was made, said Shiffman, because of the relative number of applications available on the alternatives. "The ISVs I am talking to, are thinking about doing two [ports] -- NT and Linux," he said. However, Shiffman was quick to point out that an IRIX port to Merced had not been ruled out completely: "We have not closed the door finally on [it], but the current feeling from an applications standpoint is that Linux is the right answer." That said, according to Shiffman, SGI is looking at moving IRIX technology into its version of Linux, and is even developing portability APIs to simplify the process of porting IRIX-based apps over to Linux. If Linux becomes suitably souped up, there becomes little need for IRIX, and that suggests all this could be the first stage of an SGI IRIX exit strategy. It could even signal the end of SGI's support for MIPS too. ®
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD succeeds in producing copper K6

The director of AMD's Fab 30 in Dresden said today that the company had succeeded this month in producing a K6 using its copper technology. But success with the K6 in copper is merely a warm up for production of the K7 Athlon, according to Hans Jeppe, who runs the facility, He confirmed that the fab was capable of producing 5,500 wafer starts a week, but declined to say how many of the dies would be good ones. There will be 300 K7 Athlons per wafer at .18 micron. On a tour of the facility, AMD and Jeppe were keen to stress that the fab has put in place a contamination management unit which would help isolate defects from the factory. The Register was shown several examples of eight inch wafers, using the copper technology, which AMD has already produced at Fab 30. And, explained Jeppe, AMD is on target to move to .18 copper technology by year end. He said that copper technology was inherently less expensive than using aluminium interconnects. On the K6, he said: "We'll probably deliver some K6s out of this technology but this is not our target, it is our warmup technology." He said: "Our target was to use this as a transition technology and it has been successfully completed on the 7 July. .18 micron [copper] is on target for the end of this year." AMD and its partner Motorola are already working on .13 micron versions of the technology, said Jeppe. We will provide a full report on our tour of Dresden tomorrow, on our return to London. ® See also: AMD fabs first copper parts - 1GHz Athlon by year end?
Mike Magee, 02 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Ciscom ‘hate email’ employee back in court

A Ciscom employee found guilty of hacking into his former employer's system to send abusive emails, has found himself in court for the second time in five weeks. Neil Campbell appeared at Shrewsbury Employment Tribunal Office last Friday. He was ordered to pay his former employer, TNS Distribution, over £5000 for training costs. TNS paid for Campbell's CCIE (Certified Cisco Internet Expert) training on condition that he stayed with them for a minimum of two years. He broke the contract and left last October owing the company thousands, according to TNS MD Mike Harris. TNS deducted some of the cash owed from Campbell's last salary payment, and took legal proceedings against him for the rest. At Friday's tribunal, Campbell and fellow ex-TNS employee Steve Knight –- who is also now employed by Ciscom -- were ordered to re-pay around £5,000 each to TNS within 28 days. This is Campbell's second time in the dock this summer. In June he was fined £1000 for sending a sexually abusive email and hacking into TNS' network to disguise his identity. Campbell was given a warning by Middlesex-based reseller Ciscom, but was allowed to keep his job, as they said his qualifications made him too valuable to dismiss, despite his unlawful behaviour. A Ciscom representative described TNS' actions to recover the money it had spent training Campbell and Knight as "childish". "We knew when we took Neil onboard about the bitterness between him and TNS," she said. "At the end of the day he's a very good engineer," she added. ®
Linda Harrison, 02 Aug 1999