3rd > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Linus Torvalds more popular than Bill Gates

In a bid to discover the most influential person of the last 100 years, Time Magazine is holding a whizzo online poll to discover the Person of the Century. While the usual suspects appear -- Elvis Presley, Adolf Hitler, Albert Einstein and Ronald Reagan(?) -- some less obvious candidates are creeping up the most popular dude list. Of whom do we speak? Step forward please, Mr Linus Torvalds, currently riding high at No. 15 in the charts, ahead of Nelson Mandela, the lovely Princess Diana (sob) and Saddam Hussein. Most important, Superhero Linus is currently ahead of the antichrist Bill Gates. Now we all realise that these polls are a bit of a laugh and not to be taken seriously as they reflect the hordes who just gotta vote for their heroes -- how else can we explain the inclusion of Ronnie Reagan? And would it be seditious to suggest that all those Linux geeks love SuperLinus so much that they would consider casting only one vote for their hero? Do you honestly believe that there aren't thousands of Penguin-powered systems out there bombarding the Time site with a vote a second for good ol' Linus? Thought not. But all is not lost. If you visit the poll site here, you will find a category for the biggest fraud, shyster or phoney of the Century. Simply enter Torvalds in this section and you will bring even more insanity to the result. Cast your vote now, I already have. NB Pete Sherriff is mad
Pete Sherriff, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Home Internet take-up rockets in UK

Home Internet access in the UK has jumped from five per cent to 17 per cent in just 18 months, according to a report published by Continental Research. The report breaks the figures down into school, home and work access, as well as figures for total use. The report says that 37 per cent of the population now have access to the Internet, and 22 per cent of adults -- or 6.5 million people -- have access at home. Of these, 40 per cent are social group AB and typically aged under 55, the marketing man’s ideal target, which should encourage companies to pursue to ecommerce. But the section of society most represented online is the student over 15. A massive 83 per cent of students are online, almost double the figure for the rest of the population. Frequency of use is also on the increase. A hefty slice of users, 44 per cent, go online every day, up from 28 per cent two years ago, and a further 19 per cent access the Web every two days. Continental Research's director, Colin Shaddick, said: "Chief contributors to growth are the introduction of free access services, such as Dixon's Freeserve, alongside the Christmas and January sales period." "Over the next six months, estimated take-up of home Internet access will jump by nearly 800,000 to bring the total to just under five million households. A further 750,000 individuals will get connected [away from home]." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobile war spreads to supermarkets

Supermarkets were sparring over pre-paid mobile phones yesterday, after Tesco cut prices by almost 40 per cent. The supermarket chain slashed prices on four models -- Cellnet, One2One, Orange and Vodafone -- from £79.99 to £49.99. Sainsbury's said it would match the offer and Asda said it would beat it -- Asda will sell Cellnet pre-paid mobiles for £39.99 from today. Sainsbury's will sell Vodafone and One2One for £49.99 from tomorrow. Safeway has also slashed its prices to match Asda. This puts enormous pressure on high street retailers such as Carphone Warehouse, where the packages sell for between £70 and £80. Carphone Warehouse said it would match any supermarket cuts on particular brands. The Link, a Carphone Warehouse rival, said it would match Asda's Cellnet £39.99 price. Tesco said it planned to introduce pre-paid phones from the other three main network operators. John Gildersleeve, Tesco commercial director, said: "We are introducing some real price competition. "We want to do the same to the mobile phone market as we have done to the computer market -- making them easily accessible at realistic prices." It appeared that the moves were ruffling a few feathers amongst the network operators. One2One criticised the supermarkets in today's Metro newspaper: "It's the handset manufacturers that should be asked to bring their prices down, not us," said a One2One representative. "We are not actually a charity... We subsidise every handset by about £200 and there is no way we can bring down the price any further." ®
Linda Harrison, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Gates donation without foundation

How strange that the PR of the Gates' foundations, Trevor Neilson, should now claim that the Gates pere et mere have "no imminent plans to give away the entirety of their wealth". In fact the Sunday Times did not suggest this. It said that some new programmes would be announced within the next three months. It also noted that the plan was to make the donation to the foundations "within their lifetimes". But what's happened behind the scenes to create this panic reaction? Most likely, Bill Gates Sr has been told off for speaking to the Sunday Times without going through Neilson. The new press release, which adds nothing at all, is a way of keeping the story warm for the reasons we suggested yesterday. It's just special pleading for Judge Jackson to treat Microsoft less harshly. Yesterday, Neilson denied the link between Gates' intention to donate most of his wealth to charity and what was called the "monopoly case" in the Sunday Times report. He said "the couple has expressed a desire to return the majority of their wealth back to society". That's one way of putting it. There are however millions of unhealthy users in society who have multiple copies of Windows and who would rather like a refund for the copies they no longer have in use on older hardware. Microsoft effectively prevented them from buying new PCs without Windows preloaded, and then transferring Windows from a PC that was being retired. ®
Graham Lea, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Motorola turns to Caldera for Linux push

Motorola will next week leap onto the Linux bandwagon through a technology partnership with Caldera. The deal with Caldera takes in both sides to the company: its role as a Linux distributor, and as a developer of Linux technology for embedded applications through its Lineo subsidiary. Motorola's interest is primarily in the latter, and it seems likely that its agreement with Lineo will see the latter's Embedix OS, its embedded version of Linux, ported to Motorola's key embedded CPU families: PowerPC, mCore and the still-popular 680x0 series. With more and more of Motorola's customers looking to Linux as a low-cost OS for their applications, it makes sense for the company to make it as easy as it can for them to adopt the open source OS. The deal with Caldera Systems, Caldera's desktop and server Linux operation, would presumably extend that help to customers working in the information appliance arena, where you're developing what are essentially cut-down PCs rather than true embedded systems. Hopefully, the result will be a version of OpenLinux for the PowerPC processor. Users of PowerPC-based systems can choose between LinuxPPC and Yellow Dog Linux distributions of the open source OS, but winning the support of a 'name' distributor would provide the platform with a major boost, particularly for Motorola and Apple, both keen to win business away from Intel. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

EarthLink sues Microworkz to recover fees

US ISP EarthLink yesterday confirmed it has begun legal action against Internet appliance and ultra-cheap PC vendor Microworkz. The move follows last week's suspension of the contract between the two companies. Then, EarthLink said it had severed the deal because Microworkz had allegedly breached the terms of the contract. EarthLink refused to specify what Microworkz had done to provoke its ire, but yesterday it emerged the vendor had yet to pay what it owed the ISP for bundling Net access. Microworkz immediately went on the defensive -- the company told US newswires it was planning to file a countersuit alleging it's business was hurt by EarthLink. It claims EarthLink's software is faulty, and that the ISP didn't correctly teach Microworkz' technical staff about getting it up and running on the computer it was being bundled with. That, claimed Microworkz, "slowed shipping of WEBzter machines to a crawl". ®
Tony Smith, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Yahoo! wants Excite but @Home can stay at home

Yahoo! could be about to buy Excite@Home. Unnamed sources close to the companies concerned said that the Net giants have been talking about a possible acquisition for the last six weeks or so. What's more, Business Week Online's snouts said that Yahoo! is prepared to pay more than $17 billion -- believed to be the market value -- for the Internet-come-cable company. Snag is Yahoo! doesn't want the @Home part of the company and AT&T -- the controlling shareholder in Excite@Home -- wants to retain some control in it. Confused? Well Business Week Online goes to some length explaining just some of the many possible scenarios that could happen for this deal to work. Frankly, life's too short to repeat them here. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD positions K7 Athlon for enterprise

A senior executive at AMD has outlined the marketing and positioning the company will use to attack Intel in the mid and high-end server markets. Robert Stead, marketing director of AMD Europe, said the company would brand the K7 the Athlon Ultra for the server and workstation market For the high performance PC market, it would be called the Athlon Professional, while the K7 may well move into the value PC area, he said. Currently, that space is occupied by the K6-III and the K6-2, according to Stead. He added: "The comparison between an Athlon and a Pentium Xeon is extremely similar. Our Athlon architecture has extremely high levels of performance on integer, FP and 3D benchmarks. We're producing performance levels of 150 per cent more than the Pentium III using the Athlon 550 on floating point." Stead re-iterated that AMD wanted 30 per cent of the x86 market by the year 2001. AMD had deliberately and successfully developed the small business and consumer markets, he said. "The K designation said it was a product which fitted into the value PC market. That logic drove us to the conclusion that with the Athlon, we needed a separate identity and helped us understand it was necessary to have different brands," he said. He claimed that although reviewers were comparing the K7 to the Pentium III processor, the real comparison was between the Athlon and Intel's up and coming Willamette architecture. "So where is it?" Stead asked. He claimed the lack of Willamette gave AMD a good chance of surpassing Intel on performance. The K6 family would "live and prosper for some time", and there was a possibility there could be a K6-III/600MHz part next year, he said. He acknowledged that the positioning of the Athlon in the workstation and server market would likely mean AMD will pitch against the Alpha processor from Compaq and API. ® See also: AMD positions K7 Athlon for enterprise AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD brings forward Athlon to 10 August AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD fabs first copper parts, 1GHz Athlon by year end?
Mike Magee, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Gov't e-commerce policy a shambles

Opinion British Prime Minister Tony Blair has the best Web site of all the political leaders in the European Union, it's been revealed. He can now wear his anorak with pride after his site was lauded by a bunch of academic computer experts at two universities in Holland. Still, just as you shouldn't judge a book by its cover -- or a Web site by its flashy gifs -- neither should Blair be hailed as some kind of Web hero. Since coming to power in May 1997 Blair has had no fewer than four people in charge of e-commerce. Peter Mandelson and Barbara Roche shared the responsibility until Mandy left the Government under a financial cloud. That nice Michael Wills had the job afterwards but now he's been booted off to another department following the Government reshuffle that never was. Enter Miss Patricia Hewitt -- MP for Leicester West and a former director of research at Andersen Consulting -- for she is now taking up the job although how long she'll last is anyone's guess. A spokeswoman for the Government said that the rapid turnover of ministerial staff was not restricted to the Department of Trade and Industry. Apparently it's commonplace. This, it seems, is how Government works. All those companies and pressure groups that spent time and effort influencing the decision-makers will now have to start schmoozing all over again. And all those ministers who've gained a little knowledge now have to gen up on something else instead. What a waste. A bit like the Government's indecision over the appointment of the e-commerce envoy to represent the country's best interests in the wired world. Apparently, the decision was left with the 10 Downing Street-- Tony Blair, to be specific -- in March but not a word has been said since. You don't think Tony has been so busy tweaking his Web site and staying up late at nights to surf the Web that he's forgotten to do anything about the envoy? Nah, me neither... ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Bitboys unveils embedded DRAM 3D graphics chip

Finnish 3D graphics accelerator developer Bitboys yesterday took the wraps off its upcoming Glaze 3D technology, and announced two versions of the chipset, the 1200 and 2400. The company claims Glaze offers significant performance improvements over current 3D accelerators by eliminating the key bottleneck within a graphics card: the memory bus. The 150MHz Glaze chip will contain not only a graphics rendering core but up to 18MB of 0.2-micron embedded DRAM acting as a frame buffer. The technology also supports up to 256MB of SDRAM on an external 128-bit bus. According to Bitboys, a configuration of 72Mb embedded DRAM "gives the user a full memory bandwidth of 12GBps, compared with the 3GBps attainable with external SDRAM". The chipset supports a unified memory architecture so that texture data and various buffers can be shared across embedded DRAM, card SDRAM and system RAM via the AGP bus. Bitboys claimed the 150MHz Glaze 3D 1200 and 2400 will pump out 1200 million and 2400 million 32-bit texels per second, respectively. The chipset will also offer texture compression, single-pass trilinear filtering and environment-mapped bump-mapping. The Glaze 3D 1200 will contain 9MB of embedded DRAM and support 128MB of external SDRAM on the card; the 2400 sports 18MB of embedded DRAM and supports 256MB external DRAM. Both chipsets support DirectX 7.0, OpenGL 1.2, PCI and 4x AGP. Both versions also incorporate 2D acceleration, video in and MPEG-2 motion-compensated playback. They will be available in volume during Q1 2000, the company said. Bitboys' roadmap points to a Glaze 3D 4800, due for release later next year, which will combine four Glaze 3D chips for 36MB of embedded frame buffer and up to 512MB of external SDRAM. The company didn't reveal how the chips work together, but it claimed they do so without splitting the screen into discrete rendering areas or by interleaving scan lines. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Free Macs for sale

Another company is giving away free iMacs with a paid-for ISP subscription. FreeMac.com will dish out one million iMacs over the next two years. The company is starting its bonanza this September with 10,000 freebies to get the ball rolling. Perhaps inspired by Register story earlier this year (see More home computers to be given away as direct-marketing tools), FreeMac.com will be using the giveaway as an opportunity to get marketing material into subscriber’s homes. The terms and conditions prove that there really is no such thing as a free iMac. As well as making themselves a legitimate spam target, customers must sign a three-year contract with Earthlink, FreeMac's chosen ISP, at $20 a month. As well as the iMac, subscribers will get a Visa credit card, with the number pre-loaded in the machine for easy online shopping. But according to Jonathan Strum, founder of FreeMac.com, each offer will be so well targeted that customers will be grateful for this service. "At the end of three years, I want customers to say the free computer was not the best part of the deal," he told the FT. The iMac is a fully functioning PC -- not a stripped-down Internet access device. It will come with 32MB of internal memory and a 6GB hard drive. Basic hardware upgrades can be purchased at the time of ordering. Interested parties should register at the company's web site. FreeMac.com says it will send early details to people registered on its site. ® See also EarthLink sues Microworkz to recover fees
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Via-AMD finalise chipset deal

Taiwanese chipset designer VIA Technologies will formally announce a K7/Athlon chipset on 10 August, a source at the company's Taipei office said today (5.30pm Taipei time). The unnamed chipset will be announced at an AMD press conference in Taipei. According to the VIA source, AMD is already incorporating one of VIA's south bridge chips in a provisional chipset for the Athlon CPU -- used mainly for testing purposes. However, said the VIA source, VIA's new chipset "has many more high-end features than AMD's chipset". The chipset's specs include AGP 4x, PC133 memory, UDMA-66 and a lot of other integrated features, said the source. "It's got the same features as say, the MVP4." The VIA MVP4 chipset includes integrated 2D/3D graphics and AC-97 audio. VIA's Athlon chipset was relatively easy to design, said the source. "Basically all we did was take an upcoming [Intel-compatible] chipset, and just put in an AMD EV-6 front side bus, every other feature is the same." Competing chipset maker, Silicon Integrated Systems (SiS), will "officially announce a solution supporting Athlon sometime in the fourth quarter," said Sylvia Lin, the company's senior corporate marketing manager, today. Acer Labs (AL), Taiwan's third major chipset maker, is also believed to be working on an Athlon chipset -- AL's spokesman was not available for comment today. ®
Simon Burns, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun MAJC CPU set for Java-style public licencing

More details of Sun's Microprocessor Architecture for Java Computing (MAJC - aka 'Magic') CPU have emerged following yesterday's revelations that the company is working on a new processor aimed at the Internet appliance market. According to Sun's group marketing manager for Magic, Jeff O'Neal, the device is based on a VLIW (Very Long Instruction Word) core, and that the chip will contain multiple cores. Designed to process multiple data types -- but streamed data for video, audio, 3D and comms applications in particular -- Magic has a very high I/O bandwidth and provides DSP-like functionality through a more simple, more generic programming interface, O'Neal told The Register. In that respect, Magic sounds rather like Motorola's upcoming PowerPC 7400 (aka G4), or at least the next version of it. That release, codenamed v'ger, is due late next year and, in addition to the 7400's AltiVec vector processing module, will provide a 'multiple cores on a single die' architecture. According to O'Neal, the key difference between architectures like PowerPC and Intel's Pentium III with its Streaming SIMD Extensions, and Magic is that Sun's chip was designed from the start with all these advanced features in mind. "We took a bet on Java four and a half years ago, and that's when we began developing Magic," he said. "Marc Tremblay [head of the Magic design project] started the chip on a clean sheet of paper." Other architectures, he said, are all essentially over 20 years old. They started out with integer units, later got FPUs bolted on and, more recently, media-oriented technologies -- Magic has had all these features from the start. Still, Motorola, Intel and others have come a long way with their approach, and Sun will have to compete directly with them in the gap between the PC market and the more deeply embedded arena, currently targeted by Sun's picoJava CPU. Sun's approach, according to O'Neal, is to focus on media-rich applications and, while the company is keen to point out Magic isn't a Java-only architecture, to play the Java card. Market research company Dataquest claims 72 per cent of the Fortune 1000 companies are using Java for application development, said O'Neal. "The last thing ISVs want is another ISA (Instruction Set Architecture)," he said. "With Java they can use Magic through a language they already know, using Java 2D, 3D, Advanced Imaging etc." Magic, he said, is a "black box" to the user -- you just write your apps as you do today, compile them and then run them on the new platform. Applications are one thing, but the new architecture will need operating systems too, and O'Neal said Sun was already talking to "all of the Real Time Operating System players". The only OS O'Neal would specifically say would be ported to Magic was ChorusOS, the real-time system Sun acquired in 1997, but embedded versions of Linux have to be on the cards too. Magic would even provide a handy outlet for post-Amiga QNX. For that matter, it would prove a neat chip for Amiga's next-generation architecture, too -- particularly given the close ties between Java, AmigaObjects and the new Amiga Operating Environment. Magic will be launched formally at the HotChips conference in a couple of weeks' time, with a more detailed presentation to follow in October at the Microprocessor Forum. The chip should be released early next year. O'Neal wouldn't comment on how Magic would be licensed, but he added that an open Java Public Licence-style approach -- you can use the technology for free; you only pay up if you make commercial use of it -- had "not been ruled out". In fact Sun almost certainly take that route, not least now that Motorola has begun offering free licences for its mCore embedded CPU family and is likely to extend that to other embedded architectures, and it's already offering picoJava under just such a licence and will issue UltraSparc the same way by year end. ®
Tony Smith, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Rumours ramp about Rise guys' demise

Reports from Taiwan suggested that Rise had laid staff off last week. The staff no longer working there, according to a source who worked there, include the human resource and finance teams, as well as engineers. The source said that the company could now be up for sale. If true, that would mean another x86 rival to Intel has fallen by the wayside. Rise promised the world at CeBIT earlier this year that it would announce its fab partner and a big investor within weeks of the trade show at the Messe. So far, no confirmation of either partner has been received. Rise could not be contacted at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Alpha IBM copper is a blinking whopper

The Big Q has now confirmed that Big Blue has not shipped Alpha processors to Compaq as reported on some US wires last week. For the whole of this year, rumours have circulated that IBM was licensing bits and pieces of its technology to Big Q to help produce the fastest processor in the West. But Richard George, Alpha marketing director at CompaQ UK, moved swiftly today to squash those rumours. It has not happened, he confirmed. ® See also: IBM-Compaq in Alpha copper fever talks
Mike Magee, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

From e-by-gum to e-business

Yorkshire is a county split by dual economies, it has been revealed. The land where pudding is eaten first and cricket rules is seeing an ever increasing divide between rich and poor. Where certain areas like Leeds are prospering, former coalfield communities face worsening health, housing and crime issues. But a development agency called Yorkshire Forward has appointed itself the region’s knight in shining armour. Yorkshire and the Humber are to get an "e-business" region to unite their populations. And they thought they’d just get a nice fat government grant. Yorkshire Forward says these Northern folk need to forge links between business and education to help their poorest areas. They also need to use their best assets like the Humber ports. The plan is that cities in Yorkshire and the Humber will be linked to push technology forward for growth in the next decade. This will include the creation of a "virtual business school", linked to local universities. The agency also aims to encourage new businesses and expansions in the area via backing from a regional venture capital fund. And who knows, they might even get electricity up there soon.®
Linda Harrison, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Natsemi, Via ink $167 mill Cyrix deal

As expected, Natsemi confirmed today it has signed a definitive agreement with Taiwanese chipset company Via to buy its Cyrix x.86 business. The sale is likely to be completed in around a month, said NatSemi, and includes the MII x.86 family and the Mojave and Gobi products up and coming. Via will pay Natsemi $167 million. Natsemi bought Cyrix for well over $550 million. Within that period, there will be frantic moves to shift existing partners from NatSemi to the new Cyrix owner. Decisions on staffing will also be made. NatSemi will hang onto the Media GX technology, which is included in its system on a chip family, the Geode. As reported here last month, NatSemi will also hang onto some of the designers. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MS master-slave ratings drop

Fewer users have a favourable image of Microsoft than two years ago according to polls undertaken for the New York Times. These show that Microsoft's image has dropped 19 per cent, with only 60 per cent now having a favourable opinion of the company. In the latest NYT survey, 53 per cent thought that Microsoft had a monopoly, and 60 per cent thought the case should continue. Gates (or maybe his wealth) is viewed positively by 39 per cent, and unfavourably by 8 per cent - but there's an awful lot of "don't knows". Susan Fournier of Harvard Business School, who uses relationship theory to track consumer attitudes, said that the relationship that Microsoft has with its users is "master-slave". We'd go along with that. Apple, however, is seen as "a close friend". In another study, Techtel found that Microsoft's net positive rating (the positive opinions minus the negative opinions) had dropped from 60 per cent two years ago to 44 per cent now. Microsoft says its own research does not find any erosion in its public image, and claims its favourable ratings hold steady at 75 per cent. Probably Microsoft is using the same methodology it demonstrated to Judge Jackson. There has not been a great deal of US press coverage about the case other than in a few serious papers and magazines, so the average reader of the locally produced "newspaper" would not be informed about the details of the trial (and 26 per cent of NYT respondents said they had "heard nothing about it"). Microsoft's objective all along has been to drag the case out to keep it off the front pages, and in this at least it has succeeded. ®
Graham Lea, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Fire stops (game)play entrepreneur

An entrepreneur who yesterday netted an extra £1.5 million in his company's stock market debut, was stopped from hearing the news due to a fire at his stockbrokers. Dylan Wilk, 25-year-old excecutive director at gameplay.com, turned up to the offices of Peele Hunt in Threadneedle Street, London, to watch the morning's trading. Instead, he found the building burning down, and was forced to spend the first hour's trading standing on the pavement outside. After the blaze was extinguished, he entered the building, only to be trapped in the lift. He heard the later that morning that shares in the business he part owned had almost doubled. Wilk set up Interactive Commercial Enterprises (ICE) in Leeds five years ago with £2000 from the Prince's Youth Business Trust. The Bradford lad sold the business, which sold computer games by mail order, telephone and fax, for £5.1 million last month to gameplay.com. He was promised 1.8 million shares in gameplay.com when it floated as half of the payment. Yesterday, gameplay.com's shares rose from 135 pence to 221 pence on AIM, boosting his stake from £2.5 million to almost £4 million. Wilk, who was raised by his single-parent mum, is also to become an executive director of the company, on a salary of £76,000. Wilk described yesterday's trading as "absolutely brilliant". "But this is where the hard work starts," he told The Register. "I've been paid in advance for the work I'm going to have to do." Wilk said his long-term goal in starting ICE had always been to "make a lot of money". But he has kept his Yorkshire roots: "Money doesn't buy happiness, but it buys freedom. "And with freedom comes happiness," he said. Gameplay.com was worth about £88 million at yesterday's close of trading. It is understood the flotation was eight times oversubscribed. Wilk said the company planned to launch its own TV channel and expand into Europe. He also said he was going to lavish some presents on his mum. ®
Linda Harrison, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Big Ron joins AOL as Director of Football

Ron Atkinson -- one of association football's most colourful figures -- is AOL UK's new Director of Football. He will head "You're The Boss" on AOL, although the post is not thought to be full-time. "You're The Boss" is an imaginary game where people who think they know a lot about footie can immerse themselves in a fantasy world for the next nine months and pretend to be something they're not. "The lure of getting involved with football on the Internet was too hard to resist," said Big Ron. "The fact that you can find out about the latest transfer news or results as they happen is ideal for the fast-paced world of football in this country," he said. If he thinks footie is fast-paced, wait until he tries to get to grips with the Net -- he won't know what's hit him. Ron's recent track record could be worrying for AOL UK supporters. His stewardship at Nottingham Forest at the end of last season saw this once great club slip out of the Premiership. Let's hope that AOL UK's high profile pre-season signing doesn't end up leading the OSP towards relegation. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft dishes free software to US charities

Microsoft today announced it is donating "more than $7.1 million in software" to 10 US charities. Well, not quite really, because that's "the software's estimated retail value" -- the cost to Microsoft is minimal, and there are several significant advantages. Not least, it's tax deductible for Microsoft. It also stops the charities considering less-expensive alternatives to Microsoft's gift, although they will of course need hefty PCs to run it, and would be prevented from recycling donated surplus 386s or 486s. Greater kudos would be gained if Microsoft gave money and allowed the charities to choose the hardware and software that would be most useful for their circumstances. If they happened to choose non-Microsoft software, nobody need be told. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society volunteered to Waggener Edstrom, MS PR firm,for the press release that its "$2,001,000 grant" was the largest single corporate grant ever made to the Society. But that's at retail value of course. Could the cost to Microsoft have exceeded $10,000? We doubt it. We also suspect that the PR administrative costs of these "gifts" exceed the cost of the product to Microsoft. The next stage in the Microsoft trial is in a week's time. ®
Graham Lea, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD and its Dresden Sandpit: Part I

One of the guys flying into Dresden first thing yesterday morning said to us: "Hey, is that the AMD Fab?" We looked out of the window and saw a great big facility with the AMD green and this is what alerted our travelling companion, a streetwise native New Yorker, to the possibility. But although he knew Dresden was hammered to destruction by the Brits et al in World War II, he didn't know about Kurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five -- more of that later… The man was right. After tipping into Dresden airport and passing a sign for Meitwagen, we came to a new stretch of road and AMD was marked on the street furniture. So we knew we had arrived, because Fab 30 -- called that because AMD is 30 years old -- doesn't have an AMD sign or logo on the outside. This could be handy if last week's reports in the Wall Street Journal are true, and AMD wants a partner, maybe Motorola, to bankroll the copper whopper. It was made absolutely clear to us that we would absolutely not be allowed to bunny up and see the big clean room. Before we spill facts and figures about the fab, here are the fables: There will be a 750MHz K7 Athlon around end of September. Before we awaited the arrival of Geschaftsfuhrer Doktor Hans Deppe, we were shown a 15 minute video with a most laconic voice over. This mostly repeated the facts and figures in a press release that the builder of the fab released early…oops. The Italian architect of Fab 30, in Wilschdorf, just a stone's throw from Maxim Gorky Strasse (!) wasn't shown in the video but there were some so-called milestones from the breaking of the 42-hectare site on the 7th of October 1996 to date. The breaking of the ground bit was good. The prime minister of Saxony and divers others, eagerly dug their stainless steel spades into the Dresden turf, prompting the voice over geezer to quip: "Here are all the senior people playing in their sandpit." Jerry "Only Real Men Have Fabs" Sanders III, on the 22nd of May 1997, laid the foundation stone of Fab 30, a hollow object which contained a cylinder to preserve the AMD logo for posterity. At this ceremony, Sanders said: "Bless Dresden, Bless Saxony, Bless AMD's microelectronics centre, may we be successful together." OK. AMD calls its boxes of eight inch wafers "pods" and, like Intel at Albuquerque, has some fancy software which sends the pods to the different spots they should occupy (more of spots later). This system is called the SMIF (standard mechanical interface). Each wafer has its own code, while the big and very expensive boxes which we weren't allowed to see, by the way, use automated copper (Kupfer) tools -- whatever they are. Fab 30 is dedicated to the future of the copper Athlons -- there's no way that process can be transferred back to Austin -- the cost is prohibitive. This, by the way, is the reason why Intel won't move to copper quick. Here's some more facts about the fab. There's nearly $2 billion worth of investment in Dresden. The plant itself uses 60,000 cubic metres of concrete, 8,000 tons of steel, and 2,000 kilometres of cable. It cost DM 500 million to build, and took three million construction hours. Ireland was AMD's first choice for the fab and Dresden came to the game late. Dresden was chosen, claims AMD, because of government subsidies of $500 million. Dresden was formerly a Communist centre for microprocessors. A one megabit chip was developed there in 1987/1988. Said a representative: "We profited from the communists to build Dresden as a high tech centre". There are two local universities and 20 research centres while just across the strasse from Fab 30 is Infineon's 12-inch wafer fab. Rumours abound it will stop building DRAM here soon… The local government, in the shape of the Prime Minister of Saxony, engineered a power supply exclusively for Fab 30, while there is also a city pipeline of H2O from the river Elbe. According to said representative: "Since we started, the quality of water in the Elbe has improved. You can now catch as much as one kilogram of fish per month from the river." By the way, we can vouch for the utter stinkiness of the Elbe. Later in the day, we had dinner on a floating boat and the stench put us right off our fish… (Tomorrow: The Geschaftsfuhrer speaks and we reveal more fab facts and figures) ® See also: AMD positions K7 Athlon for enterprise AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD brings forward Athlon to 10 August AMD succeeds in producing copper K6 AMD fabs first copper parts, 1GHz Athlon by year end?
Mike Magee, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

BT bundles modems in ADSL campaign

BT has confirmed that early adopters of its broadband technology will not have to pay for an ADSL modem on top of the monthly subscription. A spokesman said BT engineers would install the ADSL modems and that the cost would be inclusive in the tariff. ADSL users in other countries such as Canada have to buy their own ADSL modems separately to get online. Elsewhere, BT has apologised for a breach of confidentiality that affected 800 people taking part in its ADSL trial in London. The telco accidentally published the e-mail addresses when it issued an update on the trial. "We can only explain that the member of the helpdesk staff who sent the e-mail inadvertently clicked on 'Send to' instead of 'Blind Carbon Copy' and this is what caused this error," wrote Bill Bennett of the BT Interactive Helpdesk. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AOL to put Net terminals into cinemas, shops

AOL today took a stake in Atlanta, Georgia-based Radiant Systems, a developer of point-of-sale devices. The size of AOL's investment wasn't revealed, but the company did say it will be working with Radiant on a series of Net access systems for retail environments. It described the deal as a "multi-year agreement". It's not hard to understand AOL's interest. AOL has long touted its 'AOL Anywhere' strategy, and the Radiant deal makes it possible. Radiant provides it with the expertise to build kiosks to promote its online content in a wide range of locations. Think traffic news systems in garage forecourts, restaurant guides and movie times systems in town centres. Think 'AOL absolutely everywhere'. Whether AOL will try and charge users 25c (or whatever) a pop to access each unit, or will make its money through advertising remains to be seen -- probably both, knowing AOL. ® Daily Net finance news from The Register
Tony Smith, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

FAST claims world's biggest search engine

The Norwegian boffins behind a new search engine reckon it will be able to catalogue the entire Internet by next year. They claim alltheweb.com will be capable of searching "all the Web all the time" thanks to the Dell technology powering the service. It took scientists at Fast Search & Transfer (FAST) ten years to develop alltheweb.com which they've already described as the "world's biggest search engine". With more than 200 million unique URLs in its database, alltheweb.com is almost twice the size of search engine reseller Inktomi and three to four times bigger than several popular search engines. FAST intends to sell the technology to portals and other search services in much the same way as rival Inktomi. And it claims that the technology is so good, it can search its entire database in less than one second. So The Register decided to put it to the test. Amazingly, it took just 0.6830 seconds to find 154,446 documents relating to The Register. Unfortunately, none of them pointed to the home page -- just individual pages from as far back as 1997. If this is the kind of response users get it could turn searching the Web into a lifetime's quest. Size, it seems, isn't everything. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Slavery returns with eBay auction

Time is running out in perhaps the most exciting online auction of the year. EBay is selling a British Male, Ian Harris, to the highest bidder. When we first wrote this, the bidding has reached a staggering $5.00. Surely someone out there can beat that, we said. And we were right. Last time we checked, 12 bidders had frenzied up the bidding to an astonishing $31. Truly, this shows the power of The Register. Ian describes himself as "slightly used", but says that he has had various careful owners. His built-in compliments feature must be a winner, but don't overlook a limited artificial intelligence, the ability to buy drinks and use a wallet. Rare talents indeed. All parts are, allegedly, accounted for although this reporter has not verified this in person. The British male can be installed on a couch near to a television. We did not inquire about an uninstall feature. Oh, it is indeed the silly season. If you fancy bidding for Mr. Harris, surf your way here. You have six days. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Hackers exploit MS design flaws

Bugs in Microsoft software have given rise to a new class of security problem for which antivirus software is completely ineffective. The problem arises because Microsoft decrees that IE can "trust" MS Office 97 programs and it is therefore possible for hackers to slip in something destructive through this route. This design loophole affects Windows 9x and NT, including Windows 2000. Microsoft acknowledged the problem only because of the publicity in a NYT article on Saturday. Andrew Dixon, the group product manager for MS Office, said Microsoft was "working on testing a solution". An AP follow-up revealed that Microsoft expected "to have an Office fix ready as early as Tuesday". These latest bugs involve a DLL in Office 97, where the JET version 3.5 engine "trusts" Office. The problem is not confined to versions of Office with Access, because JET is included with the standard version as well. Microsoft knew about this, and updated JET to version 4 in Windows 2000 to deal with the particular problem. With version 3.5, JET queries to databases can trigger commands to erase files or discs, as a result of a request from Office for data. Microsoft suggested downloading 8 megabytes of JET 4.0, but then withdrew this suggestion. Juan Carlos Cuartango, a programmer who had previously identified problems in IE and Navigator, found that the trust relationship was at fault, and could allow Trojan Horses to gallop in. Dangerous ActiveX controls An second problem is being experienced by users of recent Compaq and HP PCs, with Compaq admitting it and HP in denial. This concerns a digitally-signed applet that can execute programs when directed by a Web page. Even worse -- it is possible to email the applet. Again, Microsoft knew about this, starting with its discovery in November by Frank Farance of Farance Inc, and its more recent rediscovery by Richard Smith of Pharlap on an HP Pavilion last month. Smith pointed out that two ActiveX controls were dangerous, and could be used on a Web page to embed script code in an HTML email in Outlook or even Eudora. The ActiveX controls allow programs to read and write the Windows registry. As a result, Smith noted, a virus of malicious software could be installed; Windows security checking could be switched off; personal files could be read [by Microsoft for example]; documents could be deleted; and systems files could be removed to stop booting. Smith found four different ActiveX controls on the HP from three different vendors compromised security. He suggested that PC makers should take a closer look at the ActiveX controls that they ship with their hardware. Until Microsoft comes clean about all the problems that have been identified, it may be politic for users to switch off ActiveX controls in IE. ®
Graham Lea, 03 Aug 1999