30th > August > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Intel's Grove admits Rambus will take time

In an interview on CNN TV last Friday, Intel's chairman Andy Grove, acknowledged that it will be some time before Direct Rambus technology becomes part of the PC mainstream. Speaking in an interactive debate using telephones and email, Grove also forecast a continuing shrinking of silicon technology but using aluminium, rather than copper interconnects. This coming week, at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), which we will cover in full, the chip giant is expected to formally announce its plans to integrate the competing PC-133 memory technology into chipsets to integrate with its processors. At the same IDF this time last year, Intel confidently predicted that Direct Rambus modules would already be incorporated in PCs. But a combination of difficulties throughout this year has forced Intel to modify its plans in order to use PC-133 memory. Some of those difficulties are technical and others are due to the high cost of Direct Rambus modules. On the CNN telecast, Grove said that future processor speeds would demand a memory speed which could keep up. But he acknowledged, that could be some time ahead. Grove also said that it would compete with other chip manufacturers, such as AMD, by targeting them in their own space. This is not such a subtle hint that Intel's plans for Willamette may be further ahead than at first thought. The Register will have full coverage of Autumn's IDF, which starts Tuesday, through the coming week. ®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

NVIDIA to go for huge tranny count

NVIDIA will announce on Tuesday details of its next generation part, numbered NV10. The technology will differ greatly from TNT2 with hardware extensions, according to Registersources. Instead, it will be new silicon, with as many as 23 million transistors and 200 BOPs -- more than the upcoming Merced and current Athlon and Pentium III. It will deliver PSX2 performance a whole year earlier than Sony, our sources claim. NVIDIA could not be contacted to comment on the reports. ®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MySQL now open source

MySQL, a multiuser, multithreaded SQL database server developed to handle very large databases an order of magnitude faster than major vendor products, is being released under a GPL. The SQL in this case is the real structured query language, and should not be confused with a Microsoft product that usurps the SQL name. A 1970s IBM research project resulted in Structured English Query Language - SEQUEL - which was subsequently abbreviated to SQL, and is now the standard for database query language. The current GPL version of MySQL, released a few days ago, is 3.20.32a, and it is planned that older releases of MySQL will be offered with a GPL, and called GNU MySQL MySQL had been previously available free for internal use, but there was a fee if it was included in a product or service; if a charge was made for installation and maintenance; or it was included in a distribution. MySQL is a Swedish development by TcX, Monty Program and Detron. ®
Graham Lea, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MS advertorial slammed by mag trade body

Microsoft has been castigated by the American Society of Magazine Editors for producing an advertisement for Microsoft Daily News that "looks like editorial", according to Marlene Kahn, the executive director of ASME. The advertisement appears as a sidebar at a number of Web sites, including Forbes, Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal. All links in the ad are of course to Microsoft's Web site. Any intention to deceive is denied by both the publishers and Microsoft, but they would say that, wouldn't they? The ASME is launching an investigation under its code of ethics, and the original complaint seems to have come from The Industry Standard, which presumably was turned down by Microsoft as a place to advertise. ASME is affiliated to the Magazine Publishers' Association, which makes the national magazine awards. If Forbes & Co are found guilty of breaking the code of ethics and refuse to withdraw future advertisements, they could be kicked out of ASME and not be eligible for MPA awards. It was curious that Microsoft advertisements adorned the online version of a laudatory article about Gates in a recent issue of Newsweek. That was just a coincidence of course. Microsoft has been running the campaign for over two years, it says. ®
Graham Lea, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

RSA-155 code cracked

The security system used in Internet transactions has been cracked as a result of an international effort at the Dutch National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science (Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica, CWI) in Amsterdam. The project was co-ordinated by Herman te Riele. The RSA-155 code (so-called because the 512-bit numbers in the code have about 155 decimals) was originally developed at MIT. What the research team has accomplished is to find the prime factors of a 512-bit number. The factored key is a model of the public key, which is used in the SSL protocol. This means that 512-bit keys are no longer safe against what the team modestly calls a "moderately powerful attacker". The consequence is that malevolent persons with access to something like a 2 Gigabyte Cray C916, plus 300 SGI and Sun workstations plus a few Pentium PCs (and a high-powered group of researchers) can now breach commercial banking, stock exchange and ecommerce transactions. It was thought that it would take 50 billion years of CPU time to crack such codes, but in the event the computing time used was about 35 years. By running in parallel, but working mostly just nights and weekends, the job took just seven months. This could apparently be reduced to a week if the project were distributed though the Internet. Mafia.net is probably already on the job, but to save them time and for the benefit of hacker Register readers, here's the answer: RSA-155 = 109417386415705274218097073220403576120037329454492059909138421314763499842889 \ 34784717997257891267332497625752899781833797076537244027146743531593354333897 = 102639592829741105772054196573991675900716567808038066803341933521790711307779 * 106603488380168454820927220360012878679207958575989291522270608237193062808643 CWI is also working on facial analysis and the synthesis of expressions, so no smirking please. ®
Graham Lea, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft to relaunch MSN in Europe

According to a report in the Berlin newspaper Die Welt am Sonntag yesterday, Microsoft will relaunch MSN in Europe sometime in the next 12 to 18 months. Bernard Vergnes, the Microsoft VP for the UK and Europe, says MSN will start anew. Country manager Gregory Gordon said that a service could kick off in October. AOL has already decided to undercut Deutsche Telekom's Internet service in Germany by offering an unlimited monthly subscription of DM9.90. MSN had only 30,000 German customers when the plug was pulled. Whether this decision comes from Richard Belluzzo, the new supremo who is supposed to start work at Microsoft's consumer division tomorrow, is uncertain but probably unlikely. If Microsoft feels it has to offer MSN free, it is hard to see how it will be able to recover its costs - and the European Commission may decide to investigate whether Microsoft is abusing its dominant position by leveraging its dominance in other markets. ®
Graham Lea, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun to announce purchase of Star Linux outfit

The rumour (see story) that Sun was going to buy Star Division for its office suite will probably be confirmed tomorrow. Sun said it will be making a significant strategic announcement on Tuesday in New York, and has been doing some behind-the-scenes briefings. It is now believed that the deal was signed on 11 August. Last year, Star Division moved its HQ from Hamburg to Freemont, California, and in recent months has stopped talking about the IPO it had been planning for 1999. The StarOffice package is currently offered for a broad range of platforms - Solaris, Sparc, x86, Linux, Java, OS/2 and Windows 3.x, 9.x and NT. The Linux and Java versions will be particularly important for Sun's needs. Sun's motivation for the deal would include selling more hardware by giving away client software, although server version are not expected to be free. It is unlikely that Sun has any immediate ambition of becoming a desktop vendor. Equally important to Sun is the boost that the move could give to Java. Corel had a brave attempt with WordPerfect for Java, but it was too soon and too slow. If StarOffice is a success, it is conceivable that Corel will offer another version, with the likely result being that the two products could extend the market rather than merely divide it. Sun is believed to be aiming Star at the consumer and small business market. With Sun offering serious Ultra 5 workstations for $2,500, the addition of an office package makes the combination more attractive. Sun's new thin-client Corona (earlier story) is now expected to be announced on 8 September at Sun's Enterprise Computing Forum. Sun evidently hopes that what is in effect Java Station II will be more successful than its predecessor as a result of the software deal. Microsoft's Office is clearly too expensive for a widening thin-client market: the Windows-only package looks like a forlorn offering in an age of heterogeneity. Confirmation that the Star deal looks good is seen in a highly-negative reaction from Ziff Davis' anchordesk person Jesse "give me a second ... I'm thinking" Berst, who spluttered that the deal was "the dumbest thing", labelled McNealy a hypocrite, and Corel a failure for attempting to compete with MS Office. The response to his piece was, overwhelmingly, that the dumb one was Berst. The acquisition of Forte Software by Sun earlier this week for $540 million strengthens Sun's tools offerings, but since Sun said it did not intend to merge Forte's pure Java SynerJ Server and would carry on with iPlanet as the only runtime, the price seems a bit high. SynerJ supports CORBA and COM, and links solidly to middleware and applications. What can be next in Sun's stellar world after reaching for a Star and developing a Corona: not an eclipse, surely? ®
Graham Lea, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

HP to roll out Linux-based thin clients

Hewlett-Packard will announce a range of thin client devices under the brand name Entria later today, hedging its bets with a CE-based model and two Linux-based variants. But the Linux ones sound more interesting. The Entria G uses a 166MHz Cyrix MediaGX chip and is intended to use CE for remote application execution in Windows environments. The Linux-based Entria L and Entria X have more beef, using a 266MHz Pentium, and are more flexible. They run Linux on an embedded core OS, and the Entria X also includes HP's ChaiVM embedded Java virtual machine. Presumably therefore HP intends to position these two as the thin client platforms of choice for use in heterogeneous and non-Windows networks (i.e., most of them). ®
John Lettice, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

MS to unveil wireless e-book design

Microsoft will announce plans for a tablet computer this week at the Seybold conference, according to an article in today's New York Times. As always, the company says it has no plans to build the device itself, but that it intends to work with hardware companies to build and sell it. Ominously, there seems to be no timescale attached, but Microsoft is also scheduled to announce delivery plans for ClearType today, and the two are likely to be linked. ClearType, which at least Microsoft thinks is a revolutionary technology that will make screens easier to read, and therefore make electronic books more feasible, will go into beta under the name Microsoft Reader in the next few months, and is intended to ship in Q1 2000. Microsoft's plans for tablet computers are closely linked to its corporate view that electronic books will be mega (again, this may be something few people outside Microsoft believe) in the near future, so you'd expect it to intend that the device should be rolling shortly after that. But that kind of depends on how ambitious its plans are. A simple writing pad sized box with wireless communications, no keyboard and touchscreen control is easily do-able today, but if Microsoft decides to push for handwriting and/or voice recognition as well the tablet will be about as real as the content of onee of Bill Gates' visions of the future videos. Microsoft has Butler Lampson and Chuck Thacker, both ex-Xerox PARC, working on the project, and that could be ominous too, given PARC's record of failure when it came to turning visions commercial. But on the other hand Microsoft is clearly worried about the success of 3Com's Palm Pilot, so could well be inclined to keep it simple in order to get a design out of the door. There is however one other difficulty. Microsoft will in effect be putting together a reference design for a go-anywhere, lightweight wireless device, and as regular readers may have noticed, both NatSemi and Intel have been working in similar areas over the past year. That could make life particularly confusing for PC companies wondering whether they should go for, say, the Microsoft design or the Intel one. Unless of course the two wind up pooling resources, as so frequently happens. ®
John Lettice, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Future looks for jam tomorrow in Netscape Online deal

AOL Europe is upping the distribution ante for its Netscape Online free service. This time it’s signed up consumer publishing house Future Network, to distribute its sign-up disks on its 60 British magazines (combined monthly circulation 2.1m). Future Network is settling for a Jam Tomorrow kind of a deal, in which no money changes hand. It will supply editorial content on Netscape Online -- for free. Future is not exactly known for its hard news, but it has a useful roster of computer magazines and it dominates the cutthroat UK needlework publishing sector. The company will set aside free advertising space in its magazines for Netscape Online, and in turn it will get an slice of the ISP’s telco, advertising and sponsorship revenues generated from the subscribers signing up through Future-distributed sign-up disks. This is an excellent deal for AOL Europe -- it gets good content from a virgin source (the news on many British consumer websites look "samey" because it mostly comes from PA). And it gets distribution on the newsstands through a fast-growing publishing house (if not quite in the Emap or IPC league). But what’s in it for Future -- aside from what will be a few hundred thousand pounds a year at very best from Netscape Online --for giving away expensively produced content? Future also operates 18 magazine-based web sites of its own -- and is planning a further three next month. This is far too many, if the company wants to be taken seriously as a Web Property. ® Related stories AOL strikes my enemy's enemy deal with Kingfisher Free AOL launches under Netscape banner Daily net finance news from The Register
Drew Cullen, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD attacks Intel Celeron with 500MHz K6-2

Chip manufacturer AMD confirmed it has introduced a 500MHz version of its K6-2 processor, with OEM prices at $167/1000. That positions the processor against the Intel Celeron chip family in terms of pricing. At the same time, AMD said IBM will use the part in some members of its consumer Aptiva range. While AMD ramps volumes of its Athlon K7 throughout the rest of this year, it will use the K6-2 to attack the Celeron in its own patch. Although the K6-2 family has been successful in the marketplace, AMD is vulnerable with its K6-III family of processors, which have not sold as well as it hoped, according to distributors close to the company's plans. According to Robert Stead, European marketing director of AMD, the K6-2 is likely to exist until the middle of next year. Meanwhile, as reported here earlier, AMD will roll out K6-IIIs using copper technology and eventually move the Athlon K7 into the volume value part of the market. ®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Micron to push high end Rambus memory Q3

Chip manufacturer Micron claimed it will deliver fast and competitively priced .18 micron Rambus memory in the autumn. But in a company statement, Micron stressed that it will also support competing products including PC-133 parts, to its customers. The company said that it has started samplying 356MHz and 400MHz chips at 128Mbit and 144Mbit capacities with data rates of 712MHz and 800MHz respectively. Micron said that its RIMMs (Rambus inline memory modules) use a proprietary fine pitch ball grid array packaging technology. Intel is an investor in both Micron and Rambus. ®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Qualcomm wins Motorola legal, starts new one

The Qualcomm Q phone does not infringe Motorola patents, a US judge has said, in a ruling that could affect future designs of mobile phones. At the same time, Qualcomm expanded its own legal action against Motorola, claiming that three products breach licensing agreements. Judge Napoleon Jones, a San Diego District Court judge, said that Qualcomm's Q phone did not infringe Motorola patents by using a clamshell design similar to the StarTAC mobile family. ®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to demonstrate Merced silicon tomorrow

Intel Developer Forum The CEO of Intel, Craig Barrett, will today demonstrate the company's 64-bit Merced chip in silicon rather than simulation. Barrett will open the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) with a keynote speech and position Merced as a solution for high end services, including e-commerce. Intel will also announce a further series of IA-64 initiatives including a specification called DIG64, intended to promote cross interoperability between Merced and other platforms. The operating systems which should run on Merced include Linux, IBM/SCOs Monterey, Win64, HP/UX, Sun Solaris and Novell Modesto. We reported recently that Intel had succeeded in producing successful silicon and had managed to boot Linux but was having problems with booting Win64 (see Merced silicon happens: Linux runs, NT doesn't). Tomorrow will demonstrate whether a small army of developers from Microsoft have been able to iron out teething problems with the silicon. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Massive security breach affects Hotmail users

Updated A catastrophic breach in Hotmail security means that anyone who has one of the freebie mail accounts can have his or her emails read by others. At the same time, the breach means that once people have logged into the system, they can send, receive and delete emails using that account to their heart's content. The breach, just tested by The Register using one of our own writer's Hotmail accounts, and found to work, uses a Web address in which you type a hotmail handle. You then have full access to that Hotmail account, with all rights. When we logged into the server, which was based in Sweden, we were able to send and receive mail from our account. The ISP hosting that site, now appears to have taken the Web interface down. Microsoft brought down Hotmail when it heard about the problem and has apparently said it has fixed the problem. But the fact it existed in the first place must pose serious questions about how safe such freemail accounts are, and whether it is possible for hackers to do the same thing again. End users were still reporting serious problems with Hotmail four hours after we filed our own story, as it attempted to cope with repeated attempts by people to use alternative Web sites that have sprung up across the world. As yet, it is impossible to assess how many end user's Hotmail accounts were hacked into before the problem was addressed.®
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel says Via bigger threat than AMD

Intel Developer Forum Senior Intel VP Pat Gelsinger said at a round table meeting today that the company saw Via as a bigger threat than AMD. In a pre-eve briefing before his keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF) tomorrow morning, Gelsinger said there were several factors which made the company paranoid about Via. He said: "We're concerned about competition. Are we paranoid about competition from Asia? Yes, we are. We're seeing more and more first class silicon from Taiwan. Furthermore, they've got cheap capital. We are paranoid about Taiwan and we expect them to be very competitive, more so than AMD. They're a very potent force and we take them seriously." Gelsinger said that Intel would respond to AMD's introduction of the Athlon K7 in the same way as it had done for the last 20 years. Intel, he said, would respond with superior branding, superior technology and better execution. "We've a roadmap to do that," he said. "We're about to launch .18 micron technology, and the Pentium III has done better than we expected. Our volume has never been better than it is now. That's how we're going to respond." He claimed that AMD introduced formidable challenges, including the move from slot technology to different packaging, the introduction of copper technology and the deployment of new fabrication plants. He would not respond to charges that Intel had used its pricing model to aggressive effect, other than to re-iterate what he said early. He said that shortages for BX/ZX chipsets were because demand was greater than Intel expected, and the company was taking steps to increase the number of wafers and fix the problem. The problem, he said, was short term. Gelsinger said in a teaser for his keynote tomorrow that he would outline the concept of the e-home as a place with a multitude of x86-based appliances and machines in every room. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel to roll Camino i820 details out this week

Intel Developer Forum Chip giant Intel will use its Developer Forum this week to give its Camino i820 chip a boost as launch date nears. The chipset, delayed for around six months, will include a random number generator, support for smart cards, so called boot integrity services and Internet protocol security. But the real question is how Intel will tackle the thorny question of support for Direct Rambus. It is expected tomorrow to outline plans for support for the rival PC-133 standard, which has gained broad acceptance by OEMs and motherboard manufacturers. Just yesterday, Taiwanese companies Via and SiS announced they had record months selling their competing chipsets. Intel's problems here have been exacerbated by shortages of older chipsets such as the ZX and BX, and limited acceptance of the i810 chipset for low cost motherboards. Launch date of the Camino chipset is likely to be at the end of September, as reported here earlier. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 30 Aug 1999