20th > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Apple sues eMachines over iMac looky-likey

eMachines has been hit by its second lawsuit in as many months, with Apple accusing the cut-price vendor of copying its iMac design -- Apple's second lawsuit against a would-be iMac cloner. According to reports, Steve Jobs, Apple's (still) interim CEO, said: "There is an unlimited number of original designs that eMachines could have created for their computers, but instead they chose to copy Apple's designs." The source of the row -- eMachines has launched a PC housed in a translucent blue case, much like the iMac. It even has a name which bears a resemblance to the iMac -- it's called the eOne. Apple has filed a complaint with the US District Court for the northern district of California, seeking both damages and a restraint on sales of the eOne. Last month, eMachines found itself on the wrong side of Compaq, with the PC giant alleging 13 separate counts of copyright infringement. Apple sued PC vendor Future Power and parent company Daewoo in July for allegedly basing the design of its E-Power PC on the iMac. Meanwhile, one of eMachines' sister companies is Trigem, which announced it was teaming up with CHS back in June to set up a company called The PC Way to flog cut-price entry-level machines in Europe. ® Related Stories Apple taps Gap for iBook colour scheme OS-9 developer set to battle Apple's Mac OS 9 Eclipse update: Apple PR stunt shocks World Apple debuts iBook
Sean Fleming, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Amiga president responds to Iwin

Amiga, inc. president Jim Collas yesterday held out -- albeit cautiously -- an olive branch to European hardware player Iwin, the company behind plans to release AmigaOS 3.5-compatible computers and market them under the Commodore Business Machines brand. Collas' comments, posted on the comp.sys.amiga.misc Usenet newsgroup, followed earlier posts from president Mark Steinbach claiming that Amiga, inc. had "fooled" the Amiga community. Collas is clearly taking a very pragmatic approach to Iwin. "I should caution that I am a bit sceptical of their claims given nobody in the Amiga community has heard of them before. I won't make any conclusions until I talk to them," he wrote. That said, he is clearly interested in what Iwin is proposing: "If the products they describe on their Web site are real, I would be interested in talking to them. I have always felt that advancing the current Amiga platform while we launch a next generation Amiga would help the Amiga community. This is why we are doing O/S 3.5. Given the state of affairs when I took over six months ago, I didn't believe that advancing the current Amiga hardware was feasible. We haven't had the internal resources to develop both product lines and I didn't see any external solutions. If Iwin is real, it may be an interesting option for an O/S 3.5 platform that could also run our next generation Amiga OE." Since Amiga, inc.'s moves of late seem to have alienated the more conservative elements among the Amiga community -- they believe the company has lost sight of the machine's original raison d'etre -- Iwin could provide Amiga with an opportunity to regain those users' support without hindering the development of the next-generation Amiga platform the company is currently preparing. Certainly, Iwin seems open to co-operation. For all Steinbach's claims apparently anti-Amiga, inc. comments, he also claimed the company "would like to work closely together with Amiga, inc". Collas promised to open a dialog with Iwin next week, round about the time that Iwin will release specifications for its Amiga-compatible machines. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Y2K bug eats Inland Revenue records

The Inland Revenue has apologised for threatening to seize goods from an innocent company after a Y2K glitch. The tax office believed the unnamed firm had not paid its tax and national insurance contributions, and threatened to send the bailiffs round. The Bradford Midland Tax District Office blamed "computer faults at this end", according to a report in Computing, a weekly UK IT newspaper. EDS are currently fixing the Y2K problems at the office. An Inland Revenue spokesman admitted the threatening letter was sent out during a system crash caused by EDS' Infrastructure 2000 project. "Bradford has experienced quite a lot of downtime so we sent out some letters even though we could not access the records," he said. The Inland Revenue also said that this was not the only company to have been threatened with debt collection due to Millennium bug problems. In a letter leaked to Computing, other tax offices were said to have been hit. "I cannot give details of our Year 2000 measures and progress as you will appreciate that this is confidential, government-sensitive, information," said the letter. "But I can say that the above measures are causing extreme problems with the Inland Revenue... and have been for several weeks now." ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Tesco online shopping pilot crashes PCs

UK supermarket chain cum-ISP Tesco has denied that its online retailing trials have suffered hardware problems causing shoppers' PCs to crash. A report in New Scientist claimed that e-shoppers who used a barcode scanner plugged into their PCs to compile their shopping lists were up in arms over the service. The glitch revolved around exactly where the barcode scanner was plugged. Apparently, it came fitted with a serial port plug, most often linked to the modem, instead of a Universal Serial Bus (USB) plug. This meant users had to swap devices all the time and this continual plugging and unplugging caused PCs and Macs to crash because their operating systems couldn't figure out what was plugged in where. But the allegations have been dismissed out-of-hand by Tesco. It claims the trial of handheld scanners is going swimmingly. According to its research, 84 per cent of the people two hundred or so people taking part would recommend online shopping to a friend. "They wouldn't say that if it caused their computers to crash, would they?" said a spokesman for Tesco. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sony to fight PlayStation emulator in court next month

Software developer Connectix, creator of the Virtual Game Station (VGS) Mac-based PlayStation emulator, will finally get to battle Sony in court on 14 September. The hearing will be first time the two companies' conflict has come to court since Sony won an injunction in April banning Connectix from shipping VGS or releasing updates to the software until the main case against Connectix is judged. Speaking to games-oriented Web site Mac Gamer's Ledge, Connectix CEO Roy McDonald said the company will make an oral presentation in court which, he claimed, will prove VGS was written without resource to "any documentation or design specs. from the Sony PlayStation". Sony's case centres on allegations that Connectix reverse-engineered the Palliation using Sony intellectual property. The company also claims VGS promotes piracy. Despite his confidence in Connectix's case, McDonald admitted he was "99 per cent sure" that a final ruling will not be made on 14 September. Instead, the company will have to wait at best a week or at worst three months for the court to judge the case. Watching the case closely is fellow software developer Bleem. Its Windows-based PlayStation emulator, also called Bleem, is still shipping after Sony failed to persuade a District Court judge to ban the software. Success for Sony against Connectix will almost certainly persuade the Japanese giant to renew its actions against Bleem. Meanwhile, Connectix has been continuing development of both the Mac and as yet unreleased Windows versions of VGS. Work has centred on improving game compatibility and exploring support for host computer's 3D accelerator cards, said McDonald. ® Related Stories Bleem beats Sony Connectix plans Windows launch for PlayStation emulator PlayStation emulator wins first round against Sony Sony to sue Connectix over PlayStation emulator
Tony Smith, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Novell Q3 beats street, clocks major revenue, income gains

Novell turned in some tidy figures yesterday for its third quarter, with a 20 per cent revenue increase to $327 million, and net income of $49 million, up from $27 million in the year-earlier quarter. Earnings per share doubled to 14 cents compared with the prior year. Financial analysts had anticipated 13 cents a share. Wall Street was cool to the news, having marked Novell down 75 cents before the results were known, and a further 62.5 cents in trading after the results, closing at $24.25. There is something strange about a market that values Internet losers and scorns better-than-expected profits. This makes revenue for fiscal 1999 up 18 per cent and confirms that Novell is beyond the recovery phase and into growth. Revenue for the year should be around $1.3 billion, or more if the new products being released to the market kick in during this quarter. Novell has around $1 billion in the bank, so is comfortably positioned to fund development and make acquisitions. Novell's venture capital investments have now reached $170 million, and the board has authorised a further $30 million for Novell Ventures Fund, and an additional $45 million for separate VC-managed pools. Novell is now organised into three focus areas -- server, directory and service -- and all of them showed growth. NetWare revenue was $175 million. EMEA did particularly well, up 39 per cent year-on-year (to $100 million) as a result of good sales in Germany, UK, France, Netherlands, Spain and Russia. Asia Pacific was up 27 per cent (to $24 million), while US revenue grew 13 per cent to $183 million. The business objective is to grow the platform-independent directory business with NDS in mixed network environments. A new product category is the caching of Web pages: last month, Dell and Compaq began shipping Novell's Internet Caching System. ICS allows Web pages to be delivered from any Web server, whether it's running on Solaris, Unix, Linux, NetWare or NT. Novell is now getting new products to market more quickly, and basking in the window of opportunity that the delayed Windows 2000 has created. During the quarter, Novell delivered its Single Sign-on security product. Positioning itself better for growth seems tobe a good move for Novell. As current applications servers become displaced by the Open Application Server model, Novell should be in a good position with NetWare 5 to serve this market. NetWare is not an applications server, but it does bridge the gap between new applications servers and legacy applications. SQL Integrator allows developers to access relational data anywhere on the network and to create a common record, using NDS to manage the identity and access to the data. Novell claims that NDS is the only directory service capable of scaling to more than a billion objects with sub-second response time. Novell has become pretty chummy with IBM, which is probably no bad thing since IBM has a commanding position in e-commerce. Novell's particular expertise is its Host Integration Solution, which it developed with IBM, allowing Novell to offer IBM a platform for WebSphere. SQL Integrator makes it possible to access DB2. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Via to push Gobi chip in Q4

Taiwanese wires are reporting that Via, which bought IDT's WinChip and Cyrix earlier this year, will release the latter's Gobi processor in Q4. According to the reports, the Socket 370 part will be aimed at the low end of the market. Samples have already been sent to a number of Taiwanese motherboard companies for evaluation and volume production will start in six weeks. Just last week, NatSemi fired 180 Cyrix staff, prompted by Via amidst fears that the entire future of the Gobi and Mojave projects were in jeopardy. Our understanding remains that the M3 has been consigned to oblivion. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Acer to integrate nVidia technology into chip set

The chip subsidiary of Acer has signed a deal with nVidia to put its technology into a chipset. Acer Labs Inc (ALi), will produce an integrated chipset using nVidia technology by year end. The move is part of the growing trend towards low-end, integrated systems. Yesterday, Intel acknowledged that the future of graphics chips was in integrated, low end solutions, when it axed its discrete graphics chip unit, as reported here. Neither ALi nor nVidia was available to comment at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Iridium shares up for grabs on eBay

With trading in Iridium stock officially suspended pending the troubled satellite cellphone company's move out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, canny shareholders are being approached with an alternative way of selling their shares. Nasdaq halted trading in Iridium shares last Friday. One enterprising trader yesterday suggested Iridium shareholders offer their shares through online auctioneer eBay. "You might want to sell them on eBay. They could have market value on an auction, or numismatic if [Iridium] tanks completely," suggested a posting on Yahoo!'s Iridium shareholders bulletin board. And today an Iridium shareholder apparently based in Phoenix, Arizona stepped in to offer 1300 shares via the online auctionhouse. The bidding starts at $6500. Would be owners have, at press time, nine days and eleven hours to place their bids. Private, person-to-person share trading is, of course, perfectly legal, and that's true even if trading in shares has been suspended by public markets, such as Nasdaq. However, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has yet to rule whether auctioning shares online counts as a private or a public sale. If it's the latter, Iridium shareholders would be forbidden from selling their shares this way. The eBay sale is marked a "private auction", but since that just means bidders identities are protected from view, it's unclear whether it counts legally. Still, given the problems eBay itself has been having of late with servers falling down, it might not be the ideal platform for selling shares in a potentially plummeting satellite service. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel clocking software found on Web

Updated A piece of software that appears to alter clock speed settings on some Intel motherboards from the DOS prompt is now available on a hardware Web site. Hard OCP has the 27KB utility up on its site, while over at Anandtech, the existence of the utility has attracted a stack of interest in the forum section. Meanwhile, a source inside Intel has provided more details of the utility. He said: "Only unlocked CPUs will go any faster -- the ones with 'Intel Confidential' on them. "PIII/600 'confidentials' will run at 650MHz -- but not very reliably. Also note that the latest BIOS for the original Seattle is modified to prevent people putting a PIII/500 or above in it (the VRM would blow up) so it also prevents PII 450s being newspeeded up to 500MHz - you need to go back to an earlier rev of the BIOS to do this. "Incidentally, the latest Sun River BIOS allows setting a wide variety of clock speeds in the BIOS setup for "engineering sample processor evaluation" -- you don't need newspeed at all." Meanwhile, an Intel representative has confirmed the software was designed by the company. He said: "This is a pre-production piece of software for testing system configurations. Early samples of new microprocessors are controllable through that piece of software, but it only works with the early parts." He said that the software was intended for internal use only, and not intended to be publicly available. The Webmaster of HardOCP, as well as a myriad of other individuals, are busy running the utility through its paces, and attempting to understand its function. As revealed here exclusively yesterday, NEWSPEED.EXE is a piece of software designed by Intel and available only to its own staff and its OEM customers. Minutes after we posted the story, the utility started to pop up at sites all over the place. Over the weekend, we will collate the work the hardware techies have put together about the utility. There are messages on our forum about the utility. ® Related Stories Intel has software to overclock chips
Mike Magee, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Interactive Investor slammed for running teeny-weeny ads

Investors Chronicle has taken a pop at online rival Interactive Investor (iii.co.uk) for running smaller than average banner ads (like what The Register sometimes does) It quotes an unnamed iii.co.uk advertiser, who says "The pages impressions were nothing like we anticipated. The banners were cut to half the size expected. We would not do business with this company again." But what has iii.co.uk done wrong? The company uses NetGravity's ad server, which has good reporting and auditing functions. Presumably it can show its customers how many ads it served and where it served them. Investors Chronicle goes way off beam when it discusses the general problem of sites that exaggerate their page impressions. ABC Electronic refuses to count 30-40 per cent of pages served by a typical web site. These are picked up by automated robots, spiders and real people lurking behind proxy servers. But if Net Gravity is anything like DART (which we use), iii.co.uk's ad server will not serve ads to robots or spiders. However, it will fool proxy servers into serving pages again each time a story is requested (a piece of cod database query containing a unique number in the ad tag stops the server from digging into cache). This is a useful feature for web sites -- it shows The Register that we have up to 10 per cent more readers and page impression (behind proxy servers) than ABC says we do. So what about the dwarf adlets complaint? Interactive Investor says its adverts were half normal size so would that be 234x80) until May -- and that all advertisers should have been aware of this. Where an ad is placed -- and how often the ad is shown, is more important than how big the ad is, in our experience. Size does matter, as far as the creatives are concerned. Ad agency darlings do not like have to redesign their banners, just so they fit one eccentric site. And why should they (The Register says hypocritically? So what about the response? Presumably, the disgruntled advertiser paid top dollar for his banner ads -- click-through rates are dropping and ad rates are not falling fast enough to reflect this. But we wonder whether this advertiser ran a direct mail type come-on (these work better than corporate branding). Did the advertiser impose frequency-capping (so you don't show the same ad more than three times, after which the response rate drops)? This is a must, especially where the CPM rate is high -- Were the visuals refreshed during the campaign? For other advertisers we recommend -- use only sites with recent ABCe certificates -- recent is the key, here. Be very suspicious of claims made by any site whose ABC is more than six months old. What do they have to hide? And if sites are charging commercial CPM rates (£15 and upwards) make sure they have an ad server. Insist on your right to look at the stats. ®
Drew Cullen, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

TFT shortage bites into notebook sales

Notebook sales are being held back due to a shortage of screen components. IBM, Dell are just two manufacturers struggling to meet demand for notebooks. This shortage and its effects on the notebook market were predicted by The Register back in July. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The problem may even be exacerbated next month when Apple starts shipping its first iBook laptops, according to some. Randy Guisto, IDC analyst, said: "Vendors are scrambling to get panels. They could sell a lot more, but there's a lack of LCD panels." The shortages may hit overall revenue at top vendors which rely on notebook sales to pump up figures. Nearly a quarter of Dell's $6.14 billion sales for the quarter ended 30 July stemmed from laptops, while IBM was said to be relying on the higher margins on mobile products to prop up its ailing PC business. Analysts were predicting the entire industry would be hit. IDC forecast shipments would rise just 13 per cent and 12 per cent in the third and fourth quarters, down on 26 and 30 per cent in the first and second. Dell has already admitted that shipping has been restricted by the shortages. This week Tom Meredith, Dell CFO, said: "We could have shipped more notebooks for sure." And IBM said Thinkpad deliveries had been delayed by weeks. A spokesperson for Sharp, which makes LCDs, said: "We forecast this shortage of supply will continue for a year. Our production lines are working non-stop, and we have a situation where monitors are going straight into PCs as soon as they're made." ® See also: CRT displays -- not as dead as you'd think
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Locals gang up on EDS

The good folk of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames are taking action against one of the world’s largest outsourcing and services companies. Kingston's local paper, the Kingston Informer has joined forces with local MP, Edward Davey, after a catalogue of problems concerning EDS's handling of the borough’s housing benefits system. They are calling for the company to shape up or ship out. The paper has set a deadline of 16 September - the date of the council's next full meeting - to see some action. The paper says that although it believes EDS should be sacked, the council does not have the expertise to run the system on its own. When the company was awarded the contract, the local administration had no second choice contractor in place as backup, if EDS were to go. The paper wants the council to sort out an alternative to EDS by its September deadline, to put pressure on the company to get its act together, or face losing its contract. A spokeswoman for EDS said that the company had no comment to make on the campaign, referring to it as an "old chestnut". Davey told, The Informer: "I fully support this campaign. My constituents need a solution. I am fed up with the way EDS has behaved. It is time that the council put a plan on the table to show it can take over if EDS goes." The Kingston Informer is asking for people to contact it with more EDS-related information. The paper can be contacted through Daniel Abrahams at daniela.informer@dnet.co.uk. All correspondence will be taken to the council meeting on 16 September. ® See also: Y2K bug eats Inland Revenue records Fraud row lands EDS in yet more hot water
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Quantum sheds 800 jobs worldwide

Quantum is to slash 800 jobs and re-jig its hard disk drive business following the onslaught of cheaper PCs and stiff pricing from rivals. The company said it would cut 13 per cent of staff due to increasing competition in the market and the growing popularity of sub-$750 computers. In a company statement, Quantum said it would take a $50 million charge in the quarter ending 26 September for the cuts, aimed at saving the company $100 million annually starting in fiscal 2001. 115 staff will go immediately, with the rest leaving over the next year from facilities in Milpitas, California, and Dundalk, Ireland. About 615 of the jobs will be lost from the Milpitas operation, or about 26 per cent of staff there. "The goal of this restructuring is to quickly adapt our business to the changing needs of our PC customers," said John Gannon, president of Quantum hard disk drive group. "The growth of the low-cost PC market has become a challenge for virtually every company in the PC supply chain, and Quantum is no exception. "However, we view this high growth segment of the disk drive market as a huge opportunity, and we are confident that the changes we're implementing now are going to position us strongly for the future in this important market segment," added Gannon. Quantum employs around 6,000 staff worldwide, with over 4,000 of these employed in its disk drive business. Brown said the moves, announced yesterday, were designed to adapt Quantum’s business to the low-cost PC market, as increasing numbers of customers were shifting from custom to standard configuration drives. However, he added that the changes were not expected to combat the short-term effects of competitive pricing from rivals in the disk drive market. "On that front, Quantum will continue to speak out strongly against the destructive pricing practices that are plaguing our industry," said Brown. Last week, Quantum hit out at Seagate, accusing it of selling products at below cost price. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Iomega CEO quits after ten months at helm

Iomega president and CEO Jodie Glore is bailing out of the troubled storage specialist less than a year after he climbed on board. His reason? To spend more time with his family, a euphemism much used by British politicos forced to resign in disgrace. That's not the case here: certainly Iomega's board was quick to state it is in no way dissatisfied with Glore's performance. And he isn't rushing off to another job -- he will continue to act as an advisor to the board while it finds a replacement. Chairman David Dunn will take on the role of president until a replacement for that post is found. Glore joined Iomega last October charged with returning the company to profitability, with some success. During his tenure the storage specialist underwent the usual streamlining required by almost all companies that have grown far too quickly. He also oversaw the release of the long-awaited 40MB Clik! drive and, more recently, Iomega's first CD-RW product, the ZipCD. The financial picture has improved. Iomega is still losing money, but it has already accounted for much of the cost of Glore's restructuring programme. That should begin to pay off in the current and future quarters. The snag, however, is that the company seems to have lost the innovation ball. It's most recent product, the ZipCD, is based on technology it didn't develop, and there's nothing coming down the line to replace the ageing Zip and Jaz removable storage lines. Sales of Jaz drives are falling off considerably, now that regrettable CD and CD-RW have become so cheap, and Iomega desperately needs some solid, money-making products to not only fill the gap, but push the company back into profitability. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Blair hits out at ecommerce laziness

Prime Minister Tony Blair believes UK companies aren't doing enough to exploit ecommerce. According to the FT he is to issue a "wake up call" to UK Plc warning that unless it gets to grips with ecommerce the country could be left behind. His kick-up-the-backside pep talk is scheduled to be delivered in a report due out in the autumn. But taking such a stand has left the PM open to accusations of hypocrisy. The government's own handling of the ecommerce bill and the delayed appointment of an ecommerce envoy has been widely criticised. And while the government is strong on rhetoric, it appears short on action. The former minister for ecommerce, Michael Wills, admitted the government was unable to keep pace with the development of the Internet and wired services. And the PM's warning that UK companies are falling behind the US is nothing new. The same thing was said only nine months by leading analyst firms Forrester Research and Fletcher Research/A>. Some industry insiders admitted privately that the government would do better to get its own house in order before attacking the business community. But the views of Tony Blair were endorsed by one UK entrepreneur. Martha Lane Fox, director and co-founder of Lastminute.com said UK companies do need to be encouraged to expand online or be prepared face the consequences. "There are companies doing it, but there are not enough of them," she said. She blamed the UK's lack of entrepreneurial spirit and the cautious approach of new business investors as two of the reasons for the country's poor performance. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Churchill's granddaughter to Webcast facelift

The granddaughter of former British bulldog - and Prime Minister - Sir Winston Churchill is to have her facelift operation broadcast live on the Net. Arabella Churchill will have the full facial reconstruction op sometime in November. Broadcast on CelebrityDoctor.com, the surgery will be performed by Dr Steven Bloch of Illinois. "My goal is to achieve a natural, rested appearance without altering any of her distinctive Churchillian facial features," said Dr Bloch. During the operation he will perform upper and lower lid blepharoplasty including a transconjuctival approach and erbium laser to the lower eyelid skin. He will also perform rhytidectomy and liposuction of the neck with muscle tightening, and standard rhytidectomy complete with an erbium Laser around the perioral area. Don't worry, this reporter hasn't got a clue what they're on about either but I've barfed three times just thinking about it. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Luck of the Irish hangs on ecommerce

Ireland is looking to get a slice of the increasingly juicy ecommerce pie. Market watchers are saying that the industry will be worth an elephantine $1.3 trillion by 2003. And while the vast majority of the industry - about 80 per cent - is based in the US, but Ireland wants to bring some of it to the other side of the pond. Ireland is already the world's second largest software exporter, and it has been laying the foundations to become a centre of ecommerce. The government has deregulated the telephone system and is planning to lay more cables to increase network speeds. Forfas, the industrial development body, says that it aims to take Ireland to centre stage in the online world, able to offer a clement environment for the whole spectrum of services from distribution to logistics. The country already keeps it taxes low to encourage multinationals to bring their businesses to Ireland. As so many technology firms have established bases in Ireland, the country is now finding itself with an IT skills shortage. The Irish Software Association (ISA) has warned that this lack of experience is choking the industry's development. In some cases staff turnover is approaching 20 per cent, the organisation says. Financial services giant, PricewaterhouseCoopers, says that given Ireland's relative isolation in geographical terms, ecommerce's borderless nature would be a great boon to the country's economy. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Christmas virus is coming to drive you crackers

A virus is threatening to strike this Christmas, and it'll do more than put you in bed for a week with only a temperature and a stocking for company. Labelled Win32.Kriz.9862, it may not sound as cool as the Chernobyl bug, but could be just as deadly for those affected, according to news service CNET.com. The virus is set to activate on 25 December, so is set to mess up the holiday plans of all those IT service professionals on standby over the festive period. According to Keith Peer, president of anti-virus company Central Command: "The problem is that if a virus like this gets out into the wild, there are vast amounts of computer users that don’t use virus protection or don’t update their programs regularly. This can be very devastating." Peer warned that security experts knew about the Chernobyl virus in advance, and it still managed to wreck over 300,000 computers in Asia. This Christmas cracker is similar to the Chernobyl strain, according to the experts, in that it will damage the hard drive by trying to override the Flash BIOS, or the guts of the computer. This renders the computer useless until someone fits a new Flash BIOS. However, Richard Thompson, technical director of malicious code research trade group ICSA, said there was no need to panic. "This is a nasty virus, but there are no indications that it has spread. I see nothing in this virus that makes it hard to detect so I expect everyone will have a patch for it within a few days." ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Toll-free ISP in orbit around Planet

A copycat ISP has followed in the footsteps of Screaming.net to launch a new service promising toll-free access to the Internet. Manchester-based Greatxscape.com has teamed up with ISP Planet Online to provide the service. From day one Greatxscape claims it will be able to cope with 500,000 users with none of the problems that have plagued Screaming.net. CD-Roms containing software for the service are available up and down the country in stores including Beaverbrooks, Allsports and Kookai and the UK's newest ISP hopes to attract 25,000 new users in the first month. To take advantage of toll-free calls to the Net during off-peak hours users will have to sign up to Telnet, the telco subsidiary of Greatxscape.com. Net users wary of getting caught up in another rush for free-calls might be heartened to know that Energis' ISP Planet is running things. And if Planet can cope with the million or so users of Freeserve, then Greatxscape should prove to be no bother at all. "Customer service is our number one priority," assured Greatxscape operations director Paul Dutton. And in a thinly veiled attack on Screaming.net, Dutton said: "We have learnt from the mistakes of others and we are absolutely determined not to fall into the trap of running before we can walk." Of course, that's what executives at Screaming.net said at the launch of their service. But a spokeswoman for Greatxscape told The Register that the ISP had been in contact with BT to iron out any problems people may have transferring their accounts to Telnet. As an added bonus, Greatxscapers will be issued with their own "E-card". When they make purchases online they will receive cash or credits that can be stored on their "E-card". Earlier this week The Register reported how minnow ISP Zetnet was about to offer toll-free calls to the Net at weekends in a trial arrangement with Energis. Be prepared for more toll-free announcements in the not too distant future. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

One2One man accused of spying

A former employee of One2One is the subject of a police investigation, following claims that he was passing sensitive information about the company to one of its rivals, according to The Guardiannewspaper. The man was arrested a fortnight (that's two weeks, for anyone reading this in the US - Ed) ago, but so far has not been charged with any crime. One2One employed the man on a short term contract, but became suspicious after his password was used to access the company's network after his contract had expired. One2One was able to confirm that an ex-employee was "assisting the police with their enquiries" but could not reveal further information. The Guardian reports that the man was working in a department where he would have had access to information about dealers and commissions. The man has been bailed to return on 7 September, pending further inquiries. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft gets the Spanish inquisition

Just when it seemed that Bill Gates had offended everyone, he's gone and done it again - and this time in a foreign language. The Spanish are up in arms at some of the "clearly sexist" synonyms in the dictionary part of Microsoft Word. So much so, that the Spanish government has asked the Great Satan of Software to change entries that are offending some women, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph. The words in question include the female adjective ansiosa - which Microsoft translates as: "nymphomaniac, lecherous, sexually avid". Yet the masculine version, ansioso, is described as "covetous, yearning, painstaking, ambitious". Similarly, ligera is described as "unfaithful or seductress", while the masculine version is "agile or fast". The Spanish said they had even offered to help Microsoft to modify the dictionary. Microsoft denied all knowledge of the complaint. Isn't there a synonym for that as well? ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Ingram hit by $5m lawsuit

Ingram Micro is being sued for $5 million by a US reseller alleging fraud and misrepresentation. Frank Vanderputt, president of Vandy Corp, trading as Vandy-Micro in California, said the distributor knowingly sold upgrade packages of Novell Netware to his company for unregistered users. He said Ingram did not ask for licenses when selling the upgrades, according to a report on crn.com</>. Ingram said it was defending the case, which was filed on 16 July in the Superior Court in Orange County, California. The move came after Vandy himself was successfully sued for $4.6 million by Novell in 1997 for selling illegal NetWare upgrades. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

HP plays channel lottery

Hewlett-Packard plans to put 59 resellers on Concorde as an incentive to sell its printers and scanners. More than that, it is planning to make one of them a millionaire. As if everyone in the channel isn't one already. The vendor has launched its MillionAir promotion, and is sending out scratchcards to resellers of its Hardcopy range. Scratchcards will be sent out depending on how much of this kit resellers sell, as well as their status in HP's Connect channel programme. Each scratchcard will have multiple choice questions about the Hardcopy product range. Successful entrants then go in for a draw for one of the 59 prizes of a champagne party and trip on Concorde. One of those on the flight will also get the chance to win up to £1 million by answering yet more questions. The scheme will run until 31 October. An HP representative said it was designed as a way of keeping in touch with the channel. But he refused to reveal to The Register the location of the question list. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Lone shareholder tries to scupper BT's Cellnet buy out

BT's bid to buy the 40 per cent of Cellnet that it doesn't already own, has run into trouble. A US investor in Securicor, the security company that helped set up Cellnet, has objected to the deal, saying that the bid is too low. BT needs to get the remaining shares to be able to bid for a third generation mobile licence. The objections raised by Abner Kurtin, who has a 0.5 per cent stake in Securicor, could mean BT has to renegotiate the £3.1 billion deal. Mr Kurtin says that the value attached to each subscriber - in Cellnet's case £1700 - is much lower than the £3500 estimate attributed to other mobile carriers. He commented: "There seems to be some consensus that the bid is too low, but not about how to get a higher value." He wants Securicor to either renegotiate, or spin off its security communications and distribution divisions to leave share holders with a stake in Cellnet. His alternative if these pleas fall of deaf ears is for the shareholders to block the deal. However, he may be alone in his dissent. Jim McCafferty, an analyst at SG Securities told The Times: "Securicor has quite a reasonable deal here. My advice to shareholders is to accept." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

After the flood – Demon's under fire

Demon users who've been unable to access their email for the last 36 hours or so may have a long wait on their hands. According to tech support, there's no estimate as to when the service will be up and running. A spokesman for Demon said the flood and fire alarm which hit two of Demon's buildings earlier this week were not responsible for the disruption. He also said the email servers weren't down -- they were just experiencing problems. One reader told The Register: "I know people who were getting connected to dead servers all morning and who had listened to a recorded message on their support line explaining that they were completely down. "Subsequently one of their support staff agreed they were suffering from 'major big time problems'." A spokesman for Demon said users could access their email from SMTP servers if they wanted... ® See also: Demon weathers storm as offices flooded
Tim Richardson, 20 Aug 1999