1st > September > 1999 Archive

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Apple unwraps ‘desktop supercomputer’

Steve Jobs, no stranger to the dramatic announcement, introduced the Power Mac G4 yesterday in San Francisco, dubbing it "the first desktop supercomputer" and the fastest PC ever created -- 'PC', you'll note, not 'workstation'. It has a specification and price makes it a very attractive offering, and as it is capable of one Gigaflop (a billion floating point operations per second) it can't be exported to countries like China, Iraq or North Korea. Jobs claimed the machine is 2.94 times faster than a 600MHz Pentium III according to data found on an Intel Web site, but Apple's product spec. more modestly credits it with being 100-200 per cent faster than the fastest PIIIs in CPU and Adobe Photoshop tests. Incidentally, Adobe's John Warnock was on-stage with Jobs to give it his blessing, and he looked much more comfortable than when he shared a platform with Bill Gates at Comdex some years ago. The processor is a Motorola PowerPC 7400, which includes what Apple is calling a 'velocity Engine', but Motorola calls AltiVec, its vector processing module. The velocity engine, the integer unit and the floating point unit all operate independently and simultaneously. Four simultaneous 32-bit data streams can be pre-fetched in each clock cycle. There are 32 128 bit registers - eight times as many as on the PIII. There are three core models at 400MHz ($1599 and available now), 450MHz ($2499, available in mid-September) and 500MHz ($3495, expected to be available in Octobet), with built-to-order options as well. The Power Mac G4 has 1MB of backside L2 cache running at half the speed of the processor, with a 100MHz system bus that allows a 800MBps throughput. The built-in network is 10/100Base-T Ethernet. All three G4s have 128-bit internal memory data paths. Sensibly, the hard disks are either 10GB, 20GB or 27GB, and up to a total of 100GB is possible. The optical drives may be a 32x CD-ROM, DVD-ROM or DVD-RAM (both with video playback). There is a 100MB Zip drive, and support for two internal Ultra ATA-66 drives or three external SCSI drives (with an optional SCSI card). The graphics support consists of the ATI Rage 128 card with 16MB of SDRAM. There is support for 1600 x 1200 pixels at 32 bits per pixel and an 85Hz refresh rate. Up to 1.5GB of SDRAM is possible, with a maximum of 999MB per application. There are four expansion slots, though one of these contains the Rage graphics card. Up to 100 gigabytes of internal hard disc can be supported. Jobs' final turn was to unveil a 22in flat LCD monitor, called the Apple Cinema Display, which he claimed is the largest on the market. It will only be available with a high-end G4, at $3999 exclusively through the Apple Store in mid-October. It can display a 11 x 17in page, which is three-quarters of an inch shorter but half an inch wider than A3 -- and double the non-International standard American 8.5 x 11in page. It is said to be twice as bright as a CRT monitor. The resolution is 1600 x 1024. Apple still sees itself in its traditional niche markets -- "We realise they're not for everyone," said Jobs -- but it looks as though the niches will get bigger, especially in the education sector where students have little in the way of legacy data. Its use in digital video, multimedia and graphics generally should also expand the market further, especially with Apple's Final Cut Pro software. Eat your heart out, Intel. ® Power Mac G4 Coverage Apple's G4: the real Windows challenger?
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Apple's G4 – the real Windows challenger?

Microsoft's modest $150 million investment in Apple (when Jobs was booed for accepting it in return for Internet Explorer being the default browser) may be Microsoft's best ever use of its cash in that Apple shares may zoom up further -- they hit $65 at close of play Monday. Past may not be prelude in that the money that Microsoft makes from Mac applications may not continue indefinitely -- and developers could return to write serious apps for the platform. Although Apple has rounded up some 60 developers for the launch, it is too soon to say whether it will attract a critical mass to accelerate Apple's move back to its days of glory. The G4's potential for compressing QuickTime or MP3 files is clear. It was only two years ago that a custom-built one gigaflop supercomputer for the University of California at Irvine cost $50,000. Now it's $1599 -- that's progress. Seymour Cray, the founder of Cray Research and the father of supercomputers, was amused when he heard some years ago that Apple had bought a Cray to simulate Apple design: he was using an Apple to simulate the Cray-3. It is just possible that Microsoft will find itself challenged more by the G4 than the likes of Java, CORBA, NDS, or even the Department of Justice. The key factor will be whether Apple will be able to meet the demand, and whether the quality will be good. The timing looks just good enough to capture some purchases that would have otherwise have gone to Windows 2000 PCs. It is beginning to look increasingly likely that Microsoft will announce Windows 2000 at Comdex (yet again), but not ship it until well into next year, especially with the likes of IBM banging on about the need for quality. A key indicator yesterday was Dell's announcement that it would now be offering a free upgrade to Windows 2000 to those who bought a Dell Windows NT 4 PC. For some curious reason, Dell said that this free upgrade program would be available "through February". Is there a message here? ® Power Mac G4 Coverage Apple unwraps 'desktop supercomputer'
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ASA awards brickbats to IT firms

The ASA has been kept busy despite the holiday season judging by its report this month. Exchequer Software was pulled up for using scare tactics in an accountancy software advertisement. Pegasus Software objected to the Bournemouth company’s ad, which showed a man being hung over a cauldron with the words: "VAT & EMU. A nasty concoction". It went on to say that most PC systems would be unable to cope with the changes taking place. The Authority noted the advert: "exaggerated the need for companies to change their accountancy software now that the Euro had been introduced elsewhere," and was misleading. The mobile phone war heated up after a national ad by One2One which attacked its rivals’ rates. It compared its own daytime rates against Cellnet’s non-discounted rates, which Cellnet said was unfair. One2One was told to state in future ads that it had excluded the optional discount schemes from prices. Software Warehouse was also in hot water over what it said was a misprinted price. It claimed: "Borland Developer Workshop Pro…Worth £1,297 separately bundle price £594, save £703, now only £49..Stock Code SYM261." The complainants tried to order the product, but were told it was not available at the price advertised. Software Warehouse blamed a printing error, saying the £49 referred to a Symantec product on a different page. And finally, Tiny Computers got a knuckle-rapping for not clearly including the £34 plus VAT delivery charge in the advertised price for its Power Online System 450. The ASA considered the ad misleading because few customers would buy a computer without paying the delivery fee.®
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Is MS lobbying Compaq for more Merced Win64 help?

Microsoft is engaged in high level discussions with Compaq in an attempt to keep the latter's developers working on the Intel version of 64-bit Windows, and it's prepared to pay, according to informed sources. The claim comes, appropriately enough, as Microsoft demoed 64-bit Windows "booting and running" on Merced silicon, and promised a shipping OS next year. Microsoft and Intel were positively ecstatic about this massive breakthrough, glossing over the fact that Win64 didn't seem to do anything on Merced yet, whereas the Linux demo on the same silicon could run Apache. MS promises a Win64 beta for first half of next year, and the full OS when Merced ships, but the it's possible that everything in the garden isn't entirely lovely, unless Compaq can be induced to help out. Compaq has ceased development of Windows 2000 for Alpha, and in what we interpreted as a retaliatory strike, Microsoft abandoned all development for Alpha, leaving Compaq's apparent claim that it was still working with MS on 64-bit NT for Alpha looking pretty lame. Compaq director of corporate technical strategy Jim Boak wrote us a long email explaining why the companies were still chums and how we were exaggerating horribly. Said Boak: "Compaq has no intention of reducing the number of people or the level of hardware and infrastructure support we provide to Microsoft for [the Win64] effort. "We have met several times with the 64-bit development team to assure that we do not impact their ability to continue development. We intend to increase our investment in this development as the product moves closer to completion and the number of linked efforts, such as related Microsoft and third-party products, increases." This suggests that our more recent sources are gravely mistaken, as they claim that Microsoft VP Jim Allchin (long-suffering and long-time keeper of the OS shipment schedule) is currently negotiating with a Compaq exec called, er, Jim Boak with a view to paying Compaq to maintain a core group of Win64 developers at the DECWest facility. From what Boak said to us, however, there's no question of money changing hands. "Our benefit is in the in-depth understanding of the operating system, which translates into better integrated products for our customers and ISV partners and faster time to market for our platforms." In the interests of balance we should note that it is possible that our sources are boiling things down a little too thoroughly. In his recent visits to Redmond Boak will most certainly have been talking to Allchin about Win64, and Compaq's involvement in Win64 will certainly be deeply embedded in complex and wide-ranging strategic alliances between the two companies. But we're inclined to think an arrangement that simply gave Compaq stacks of green ones would be far too simple and tacky. MDA (Market Development Agreement) money now, that's more of a possibility. It does however seem to be the case that Compaq retains numerous cards when it comes to Win64 development. The key change in Compaq's strategy late last month, according to Boak, was that the company decided not to productise 64-bit Windows on Alpha (in which case Enrico Pesatori put it extraordinarily badly in his leaked internal memo, which majored on the cancellation of Alpha Win2k, and at best seemed to fuzz on 64-bit). Despite this, Alpha remains vital to Win64 for IA-64, he says. Windows 32-bit code for Alpha and Intel differs substantially, but "from the beginning" Win64 development has targeted a common codeline for IA-64 and Alpha, and as Alpha hardware is currently a lot more real than IA-64, Alpha (and therefore Compaq's developers) will remain vital for IA-64 Windows development. Confusingly, Microsoft says "both the 32-bit Windows 2000 family and 64-bit Windows use a common source code base," but although that might seem to contradict Boak, it could just as well be seen as giving an indication of the level of resources Compaq would have needed to get an Alpha version of Win2k (32-bit) out of the door. The common 64-bit codeline, on the contrary, means that work Compaq does on the Alpha platform gains it ground for the future IA-64 one, and while you might reckon Compaq of old would be keen to obtain a more concrete bottom line than that, Eckhard "ROI" Pfeiffer is no longer with the company. And actually, being of vital importance to the development of a Microsoft OS can be seen as being a pretty concrete return. Microsoft likes to have leverage against its partners, not the other way around, and Compaq can no doubt make something of this. But here's an interesting puzzle. If common code makes it a lot easier to develop Win64 for both IA-64 and Alpha, then why not continue with the Alpha version as well? Compaq would have saved money by skipping the more complicated Win2k project, but could then have swung back onto a far more cost-effective joint platform development roadmap. And that of course is what we initially interpreted (wrongly, says Boak) the Pesatori email as meaning. But Boak tells us: "Compaq placed an endpoint on our development of Alpha NT. It was our decision, made based on a number of good business reasons, foremost among them feedback from our customers... Microsoft was not involved in the decision. They have worked hard to adjust their own product plans and communications in response to our decision, but it was Compaq who made the call." Readers will have noticed that Microsoft had claimed that it had cancelled development of 32-bit and 64-bit Alpha products, but presumably this just means that MS didn't want its good buddies at Compaq to have to take all the flak... ®
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Whoops – Dell suggests Win2k ship date slips into next year

Microsoft's top hardware buddies at Dell have unexpectedly supplied evidence that Windows 2000 might not ship until February - at the earliest. We noted last week that Bill Gates (speaking to a Dell audience) might have been suggesting more delays, and we also had a tip tip that the big launch would be in January, but Dell's Win2k marketing nuts and bolts are now going into place, and they signpost some time after February. Dell yesterday announced a free upgrade programme to Win2k professional for purchasers of Dell machines with the English language version of NT 4.0 preinstalled. But the programme is "valid for purchases made through February 2000." Reverse-engineer that and you get a probable release to manufacture of Win2k in late December (Bill was "pretty sure" MS would have the final build by then), and a probable big bang launch in January, with Win2k preinstalls going out on OEM machines in the March-April timeframe. On the positive side, Dell's inadvertent leak signals that Microsoft and Dell are almost certain that this new later schedule can be achieved. Microsoft does not like dishing out free upgrades, and nor do PC OEMs. Somebody is going to have to pick up the tab for Dell's free upgrades, and whoever it is will want to keep its size down. If it's Dell, then it'll be paying two licence fees per machine "through February 2000," and if it's Microsoft it'll be losing an upgrade fee on each of those machines. But probably it's a bit of both. Bill Gates and Michael Dell were both speaking at Dell's gleefest last week, and no doubt they'll have taken the time to share thoughts and visions of the roadmap ahead, and how the tolls are to be paid. ®
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Witch casts spell on Vodafone

A white witch claims to have put a hex on Vodafone following the company's plans to erect a phone mast in the English countryside. Kevin Carlyon, self-proclaimed King of the White Witches, carried out a pagan ritual to stop Vodafone putting the mast up in East Sussex. Carlyon called upon the services of the spirits of earth, air, fire and water to halt Vodafone's plans to place the mast near the Long Man of Wilmington, a priapically-enhanced chalk carving. All of which is in marked contrast to the CofE, which has added its support to the lucrative mobile phone business by allowing broadcast masts to be erected in church spires. According to news site Electronics Weekly, Vodafone has not been fazed by the curse. "We have applied for planning permission to build a mast," confirmed one Vodafone representative. "They claim to have put a spell on us." Vodafone told The Register that it would take more than a bit of hocus-pocus to frighten it. "No, we're not scared. The fact is that the coverage that will ensure [from the mast] will benefit a lot of people," said a Vodafone representative, no doubt crossing his fingers while trying not to drop his rabbit's foot. ®
The Register breaking news

Responsibility for Net security rests with users

Demon Internet believes Net users should take greater personal responsibility for protecting themselves online from hackers and saboteurs. Richard Clayton, Internet Expert at Demon (we didn't make that up, that's what it says on his business card0 -- Ed) made the appeal in response to the meltdown of Microsoft Hotmail on Monday. He didn't single out Microsoft for the problem but instead used the opportunity to hit out at the UK government's dithering approach to encryption. "The government should be encouraging encryption, not going around putting people off. Its current stand is damaging society and lessons need to be learned from this incident," he said. According to Clayton, the Hotmail debacle is the most concrete reason there is for the introduction of "end-to-end encryption". "What this incident proves is that if you want security you have to provide it yourself," he said. ®
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Apple's Power Mac G4: a tale of two boxes

Analysis Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs yesterday unveiled the long-awaited Power Mac G4 during his keynote at the Seybold conference. Jobs was understandably interested primarily in pushing the crowd-wowing "desktop supercomputer" one sustain gigaflop performance statistic and the Intel-beating benchmarks -- did those Windows Photoshop tests really make use of the Pentium III's Streaming SIMD Extensions, we wonder... -- than going into the finer points of the machines' specifications. You'll note the use of the plural 'machines' there. The reason for that is the new Power Mac G4 line actually comprises two separate hardware systems -- not configurations, mind, but different motherboards, just as we reported last week. So much for the attempt by Jobs -- and his predecessor, Gil Amelio, -- to slim down the number of basic boxes the company produces. Yesterday, Apple went from four models to five. The 400MHz Power Mac G4 machine, due to go on sale in the US today, doesn't offer most of the important new features of the 450MHz and 500MHz models, due September and October, respectively. For a start, the 400MHz model lacks support for Intel's Advanced Graphics Port (AGP), which significantly accelerates graphics performance by providing a dedicated connection between graphics card and CPU. It doesn't support Apple's AirPort wireless network technology, and uses the same internal modem and UltraATA-33 hard drive chain as the blue'n'white Power Mac G3. The faster models support AGP 2x (but not, you'll note the latest 4x spec., as predicted), AirPort networking, software DVD decoding (the 400MHz machine still requires a hardware add-in for this, as did the blue'n'white G3), UltraATA-66 support and a new, more advanced modem. The G4's other specs. -- 1MB L2 cache, 800Mbps 100MHz system bus, PC100 SDRAM support, dual USB ports, dual FireWire ports, and 10/100 Ethernet -- are consistent across the range. So what we have here is one machine -- the 400MHz model -- based on the Yikes! motherboard, a modified version of the original blue'n'white G3 mobo, and a second box, to be made available in 450MHz and 500MHz versions, based on the Sawtooth mobo, problems with which led to the development of Yikes! Whether the delay in shipping the Sawtooth-based machines is due to still-to-be-resolved issues with that mobo remains to be seen -- more likely, it's a result of Motorola's PowerPC 7400 production ramp. Still, you have to wonder why, if Sawtooth is ready to go, why Apple bothered with Yikes! at all. Perhaps there are indeed one or two things the company still has to fix. Nevertheless, whenever Sawtooth-based Macs actually do ship, it will be way ahead of the predicted ship date. All of Apple's benchmarks were based on the 500MHz PPC 7400, presumably running on a Sawtooth mobo. No great surprise, that, since all vendors select their best machines for such testing, but we do wonder how far below that standard the 400MHz, Yikes!-based machine will be. Better than the blue'n'white G3, true, but perhaps not the leap ahead that many buyers will be expecting. Indeed, we suspect many will continue to wait, delaying their long-anticipated G4 purchase for the Sawtooth box. And, it has to be said, the Sawtooth-based machines are impressively-specced, despite the lack of AGP 4x support. True, Apple does bundle the very decent ATI Rage 128, but it would have been nice to have had the option to upgrade to a faster 4x graphics card -- Voodoo 4, anyone? -- at a later date. AGP 4x is rapidly becoming the standard for high-speed graphics in the Wintel world, so it's surprising Apple is willing to pass on an opportunity to strengthen its position here. Graphics are what Apple's professional machines are all about, after all. With the slick glossy silver casing, the new G4s also look rather more 'serious' than their predecessor's more iMac-like bondi blue shell. Perhaps Apple would like to offer we blue'n'white G3 owners a case upgrade... ® Power Mac G4 Coverage Apple unwraps 'desktop supercomputer' Apple unwraps 'desktop supercomputer'
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VAT man caught in Web of e-commerce tax dodges

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned that the government could lose up to £10 billion per year in VAT revenues, thanks to the Internet. It says that the scale of online shopping will make it impossible for authorities to track all transactions. The biggest threat comes from products such as software or music, that can be bought electronically from abroad. Meanwhile, spending on e-commerce looks set to increase. Research group NOP says that most people expect to be spending at least twice as much online in the next year. The IoD is calling for government action, but even it will admit there is no easy solution. Taxing goods in the country of origin would be fine within the EU, but more complex outside it, and may even create VAT havens if only one country did not support the scheme. ®
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Carrera pumps up Athlon to 800MHz

The Maurice Greene* of processors is now available from British system builder Carrera. This clever lot have super-charged AMD's Athlon processor, which now runs at a staggering 800MHz, and put it in a workstation -- the Octan Frio. The Athlon processor is cooled to 40 degrees below zero by a patented cryochamber, made by Kryotech. The conductivity of the metal in the processor is increased as the temperature is lowered, making these speeds possible. The system has been designed for users working with image processing, CAD/CAE, scientific applications or digital content creation. But at the product launch, the company demonstrated its power at a gaming session. Carrera says the machine will appeal to those using 3D gaming, entertainment, Internet, and personal productivity software. This machine is not cheap, however, for playing Quake. For £3799 (ex. VAT) you get the rather zippy 800MHz Athlon processor, 256MB 100MHz SDRAM, a 37GB Ultra ATA hard drive, 3D Labs GVX-1 32MB AGP graphics card, 40x CD-ROM drive, Aureal Vortex 2 3D soundcard and a 3Com Ethernet adaptor. The package also includes a keyboard, 19in monitor, mouse and two-year on-site maintenance. ® * Maurice Greene is the fastest man in the world over 100 metres.
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LocalTel MD blasts BT

Jeremy Stokes, the MD of Surrey-based telco LocalTel, says the blame for the problems that have plagued Screaming.net over the last four months lies squarely on the shoulders of BT. He told The Register how BT's inability to handle the transfer of BT customers to LocalTel caused confusion, disruption and untold misery for many of his customers. "If BT had done what they should have done, we wouldn't have had 80 per cent of the problems we've experienced. Instead of handling customer enquiries and growing our business we've spent the last three months firefighting," he claimed. His comments support a ruling last week by watchdog Oftel which concluded that BT failed to provide a proper service to LocalTel. An eight-week investigation into complaints found that "defects in the transition process were causing major problems for consumers" with some being left without a telephone for up to 33 days. Stokes is seeking compensation from BT for the damage to his business, but he acknowledges that any amount of money won't repair the damage done to LocalTel's reputation. However, things are now improving. The company claims to have 150,000 users and currently handles more than one hundred million minutes of Internet call time a month. It is planning to launch its redesigned portal within the week and has plans to offer cheaper dial-up Internet access during the day. LocalTel is also in the process of opening a dedicated call centre in Ramsgate. The centre will be open in six weeks' time and employ up to 50 people. Stokes also confirmed LocalTel was also in talks "two other major telcos" about possible future partnerships. ® Related Story Screaming.net takes legal cudgels against 'copycat' ISP
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Unisys demands $5k licence fee for use of GIFs

Greedy bean-counters at Unisys are proposing to milk great swathes of the Web for $5,000 a pop in licence fees. The company's scheme, which came to light in the last couple of days, is effectively a souped-up reprise of the its 1994-95 attempt to enforce patent rights concerning GIF files. Unisys owns the patent to the LZW compression algorithm, which is used in GIF files. CompuServe discovered the patent last time around shortly after standardising on the GIF format, but the position was regularised then by CompuServe taking out a licence from Unisys. But this time Unisys seems to be after bigger bucks, from what appears to be practically anybody using GIF format graphics or other types that use LZW. The latest bid is wide-ranging, but looks difficult to enforce. Unisys is asking for a $5,000 licence fee from company Intranet sites and what it calls Billboard Web sites. The latter it describes as a site "fully open to the general public without cost or other consideration (that is, no restricted access or user cost of any kind or form)." So apparently Unisys wishes to enforce the patent for limited access company Intranets, commercial Web sites and non-commercial ones. Unisys does seem to make a kind of partial exception for use of graphics generated by software from developers who already have a licence, but it's still restrictive: "If you use any of the types of images specified above [GIF, TIFF-LZW, PDF-LZW images or other LZW graphical formats] on your Web site that you received from an unlicensed software developer or service, you should have a license from Unisys to use the LZW patent. Or even if the developer or service provider has a license, but it doesn't cover your use of the particular application you received, you should have a license from Unisys to use the LZW patent..." The company doesn't however make it clear either how you're supposed to identify whether or not your GIF is hot, or how it proposes to determine this in order to collect its fees. Rather than generating money for the company, the net effect is more likely to be to expose it to widespread loathing, and to trigger widespread abandonment of formats using LZW.The move has already generated the aptly-named burnallgifs.org ®
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Compel rings the changes with new division

Compel Group has renamed two of its three divisions and added a separate IT consultancy arm to its organisation. The reseller and services company today launched Compelscope, which consists of more than 60 consultants drawn mostly from the Compel Group, according to a company statement. Services include IT advice to businesses, design consultancy and implementation. Compelscope is headed up by its newly appointed MD, Julian Morgan, formerly a director of consultancy AT Kearney, an EDS subsidiary. The business has been formed by Compel Group taking out its various consultancy parts and consolidating them into a separate division. It will include staff from acquired companies Info'Products and Abtex, as well as from its own call-centre business. The expected turnover of Compelsource is over £10 million, compared to the group’s £300 million. The name changes involve Compel plc, the reseller and services part of the group, which from today will be known as Compelsource. It will concentrate on providing managed services for network computing and growing its outsourced services. Hamilton Systems, Compel's subsidiary mid-range reseller, has been renamed Compelsolve. Compel's PC rental business, Hamilton Rentals, is keeping its name. Neville Davis, Compel Group chairman and CEO, said: "The group now comprises four substantial and clearly focused businesses, each offering distinct services to meet the strongly growing needs of large organisations." Compel is one of the few resellers which seems to be able to successfully integrate the companies it takes over. Last December it bought struggling reseller Info'Products for £1, taking on £10 million of its debts. The remainder of Info’Products has now been integrated into Compelsource. In 1997 it also acquired P&P Rentals, Computer Microrentals and Scottish reseller Abtex. The two rental companies were then merged into Hamilton Rentals. Abtex has also been integrated into Compelsource. ®
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BTCellnet/Barclaycard caught out by customer demand

Barclaycard has apologised after being unable to cope with a barrage of applications for its free mobile phone offer. Customers flocked in their droves to get one of the free handsets, worth £89.99, in a joint promotion between Barclaycard and BTCellnet. But over half the applicants, 185,000, suffered delays with the offer. Many did not get their Easylife pre-paid phone within the promised 28 days, while others were unable to get it to connect when they did finally receive it. Barclaycard sent a letter to customers, admitting the offer had: "fallen well short of the standards we set ourselves", according to a report in today's Daily Mail. The "exceptionally popular" offer had proved too much for Barclaycard and BTCellnet, and they were unable to provide enough of the Philips phones to meet demand, it continued. Barclaycard harked back to the summer supermarket sweep of mobile phones. It blamed the price war between shops such as Tesco and Asda, saying it had caused a huge sales surge which had led to connection delays. The credit card company said the problem had now been sorted out. BTCellnet added: "We were not expecting it to be quite so popular." ®
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Online insult mars Freenetnames launch

Updated Net users who tried to register with Freenetnames, the UK's newest subscription-free ISP, were greeted today with the words: "Sorry, I don't like you." The offending page, in simple black on white text, was hurriedly whipped down at lunchtime today but that won't have prevented hundreds -- if not thousands -- of Net users from reading the offending words. It's not known yet whether this was an inside job at Internet Technology Group (ITG), which is behind the Freenetnames ISP, or whether the site was broken into and hacked. "We have not suffered a security breach," said Rhian Ball of ITG. "All our logs are complete and reflect what is expected: no data is missing. Our security measures would have detected an attempted intrusion at the earliest stages and this has not occurred," she added. Which means the appearance of the insult "Sorry, I don't like you" remains a mystery. Happily for ITG, the site now appears to be up and running. All well and god, but ITG has still been left with egg on its face. It has spent a fortune on blanket advertising today in the national press and on radio to promote the service. There can be little doubt that being forced to deal with such a clanger on its opening day will come as acute embarrassment to one of the UK's leading Net companies. Freenetnames claims it is the "only complete Internet package to offer a free domain name, free Internet access, free technical support and free Web space". By eliminating what is typically a £100 fee, and automating the registration process, individual users should find it simpler to create their own Web identity on the Internet, it claims. In a statement prepared before it encountered the online banana skin, Laurence Blackall, chief executive of ITG, said: "The biggest challenge to subscription free ISPs has been shown to be retaining users. "We feel that the combination of award winning service, a lifetime identity and a free helpdesk will be a compelling offer to both new users and existing users of subscription free services," he said. The Register reckons the biggest challenge to subscription free ISPs is delivering what they promise. ®
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Nvidia Sucks big time in domain registration blizzard

Our thanks to reader Tjark Verhoeven for this little Nvidia gem. It seems that Nvidia doesn't want anyone to "steal" the name of its precious new toy: NV Corp (GE-FORCE5-DOM) GE-FORCE256.COM NV Corp (GE-FORCE6-DOM) GE-FORCE256.NET NV Corp (NVIDIASUCKS3-DOM) NVIDIASUCKS.COM NV Corp (GEFORCE3-DOM) GEFORCE256.COM NV Corp (GEFORCESUCKS3-DOM) GEFORCESUCKS.ORG NV Corp (NVIDIASUCKS2-DOM) NVIDIASUCKS.NET NV Corp (GE-FORCESUCKS3-DOM) GE-FORCESUCKS.COM NV Corp (GE-FORCESUCKS2-DOM) GE-FORCESUCKS.NET NV Corp (GEFORCESUCKS2-DOM) GEFORCESUCKS.COM NV Corp (GEFORCE5-DOM) GEFORCE256.ORG NV Corp (GE-FORCESUCKS-DOM) GE-FORCESUCKS.ORG NV Corp (GEFORCE4-DOM) GEFORCE256.NET NV Corp (GEFORCESUCKS-DOM) GEFORCESUCKS.NET NV Corp (NVIDIASUCKS-DOM) NVIDIASUCKS.ORG NV Corp (GE-FORCE4-DOM) GE-FORCE256.ORG NV Corp (GEFORCE6-DOM) GEFORCE.COM NV Corp (GEFORCE-DOM) GEFORCE.ORG NV Corp (GEFORCE2-DOM) GEFORCE.NET NV Corp (GE-FORCE2-DOM) GE-FORCE.COM NV Corp (GE-FORCE-DOM) GE-FORCE.ORG NV Corp (GE-FORCE3-DOM) GE-FORCE.NET The names were registered on 2 July, so if we'd been more on the ball we could have outed the new Nvidia chip two months as opposed to two days (still a world scoop) early. ® ®
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Intel claims IA64 will outperform Risc offerings

Intel Developer Forum Our busy day in Palm Springs yesterday finished off with a dinner with the Merced team. You might remember that at the Spring Intel Developer Forum (IDF), we took snaps of the Merced cartridge, which was then siliconless, courtesy of Steve Smith, GM of the Merced group. This time, everyone was advised to bring a camera and Smith beamed away as he held the precious cargo, much as a proud dad might hold a new-born baby. At dinner we sat with Mike Pope, director of enterprise server software programmes, and the man who talks to the different operating system and application vendors. He's also got an involvement with the IA-64 fund, which has $250 million still sloshing around. Pope said that there will be Linux products by the middle of next year, and added that he is currently in discussion with a total of 30 application vendors. He told us that we will see good robust operating systems working in systems with 100s of CPUs "to satisfy most computing needs". He also made this, in our opinion, rather bold claim: "IA64 will outperform any Risc platform on price performance." However, he said that Risc vendors had had time to work on other developments during the lengthy gestation period of the Merced processor. We were interested in whether IA64 would eventually displace IA32 and Pope seemed to hedge his bets here. "Relatively speaking," he said, "Merced will be low volume." But, almost in the same breath, he said that Intel would create Merced in line with its policy of volume economics. On the scale of things, Merced, he analogised, would be sold at prices above the Pentium III Xeons. So the parts will be expensive at launch time. But as volume ramps up, that could well change. This familiar Intel formula makes sense with parts like the Pentium II and the Pentium III, of course, but the pool of people waiting for Merced is potentially much smaller if the company is selling them into the workstation and server markets. Intel managed to keep the price of the Pentium Pro high for about two years, but Merced only has a short time to sell before McKinley tips up, allegedly at .13 micron. He said: "The sales proposition with Merced is an IA64 operating system. We will also validate an IA32 OS with Merced. The base level will be a 64-bit OS. From an applications point of view, you don’t have to port the whole application to take advantage of the 64-bit [architecture]." We have written about the IA64 babes-in-the-wood that Intel has hired throughout this year, and asked Pope about this. He said that Intel is still taking on staff. "I'd expect most activity to happen in the first half of next year," he said. Merced is in silicon, but there is a great deal of debugging to be done, as with any new processor, he added. Intel is currently somewhat limited in engineering samples of its new baby, but will up the number as the debug process continues. So where is Merced positioned? According to Pope it is aimed at the workstation and high end enterprise server markets. He repeated Craig Barrett's line earlier in the day that it would be driven by the need for greater processing power in the Internet. Intel will continue to develop IA32 and if it is aiming at applications, such as database applications and net applications which take advantage of 64-bit architecture, will it sell enough of the beasties to achieve its famous volume model? ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
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Dead Dell deal costs ATI dearly

ATI's share price dropped 13 per cent yesterday as investors' nerves frayed over the collapse of a deal with Dell. After the graphics card maker lost the bidding for the Dell contract to rival 3D graphics specialist Nvidia, ATI shares plummeted. The price fell C$2.40 (£1) to C$17.60 before mid-morning trading was stopped on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Before this, it had dropped as low as C$17.50, its lowest point since 13 January. ATI confirmed that the lost chip supply deal would cost the company $10 million in sales per quarter. But the company pointed out that Dell was still a customer -– it will continue to supply Rage Mobility components for Dell's notebooks. But its agreement to supply Dell's OptiPlex desktops has finished after more than 18 months. ATI refused to name the competitor to which it had lost the Dell deal. But a representative said the drop in stock price "had to do with Nvidia making an announcement on the next-generation product and some design wins with that product". ® Related Stories Nvidia unveils '256-CPU Cray' GeForce 3D chip S3 unveils Savage 2000
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Yeeh Hah! Register promised Barrett-on-horse-pic

Long-time readers may remember that we have been chasing a copy of a picture of Craig Barrett on a horse for some months now. We are happy to tell our readers that the picture, in wide circulation inside Intel in the US, is almost within our grasp. US PR folk have told us they see no reason why we cannot have a copy of the picture. We cannot wait. Meanwhile, fresh news of Craig's cowboy activities has reached our ken. He has, apparently, a complex of 20 deluxe log cabins in his place in the country. While here, we have learnt that many Intel executives feel like Barrett workhorses. One senior VP said yesterday he's had Barrett on his back for some time, while Pat "Kicking" Gelsinger described him as "a ruthless dictator". ®
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Intel branches into drink business

The Wyndham Hotel, Palm Springs, has stacks of Intel personnel staying. And it seems to have struck a deal with the chip giant to provide the right kind of drinks during chill-out time. So, for example, at the bar you can buy the IntelRoyalMartini in two flavours -- vodka and gin; not to mention the famous IntelSierraNevada beer. The latter, unfortunately, has already run out after a gaggle of UK journalists got thirsty the first night...
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Intel applies more pressure on Alpha as IA64 ramps

Intel Developer Forum At a keynote speech this morning, John Miner, who heads up Intel's enterprise division, said that the company would move high end Pentium Xeons lower in the market as it ramps up the Merced and IA64 platform. And there is no need for large companies to use competing platforms like the Alpha, Miner said. Miner said that IA64 would outperform non Intel architectures by a factor of 10 to one. Miner said "When the 32-bit family hasn't the right capability, IA64 will be there for customer needs." It will sell Xeons with 256K, 512K, 1Mb and 2Mb caches at "an affordable low level". He said: "When Merced is in volume, it will outperform non-Intel systems. Merced will outperform Alpha systems." That's not very likely, according to sources close to Alpha plans. In Q3 of 2000, we will see a 1.5GHz 21264 with large on chip level two cache, supporting 8Mb level three one gigahertz DDRAM and knocking out 90 SpecInt95 and 150 SpecFp95. He said there was no reason for corporate users to take any other non-Intel route when Merced and the rest of the IA64 family will have a range of operating systems and vendor support unparalleled by other chip manufacturers. This could be interesting after Compaq's decision to pull the plug on Win64 for the Alpha platform. While Compaq will have Linux and its own D/UX (Tru64) running on Alphas, the only platform to have Win64 will be IA64 chips from Intel. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) might well be interested in Intel's latest claims. You may remember that the FTC was very concerned to ensure the survival of the Alpha platform. It is very much worth looking at this story: FTC to appoint guardians for Alpha Compaq's (or Microsoft's) decision to dump Win64 for the Alpha, coupled with the Intel statements above, may well be of interest to the guardians of competition in the US. ®
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Fight breaks out between rival telcos

A war of words has broken out between two rival telcos after LocalTel accused Telnet of being in breach of copyright and the Trades Descriptions Act. On Friday, LocalTel issued a statement threatening legal action against Telnet, the telco behind two-week old ISP GreatXscape, unless it withdrew from circulation all CDs, packaging and any marketing or advertising information that "may bear the false or misleading statement". Today, Nigel Warr, MD of Telnet, said the accusations were a "load of baloney". He said he would not comply with LocalTel's request to remove CDs from shops adding that reports that CDs had already been withdrawn were simply not true. "We will look at any reasonable complaint," said Warr. "But I think they [LocalTel] are trying to mix it. I think the frustrations of the last few months have helped contribute to this anti-competitive behaviour," he said. Jeremy Stokes, MD for LocalTel, which is behind ISP Screaming.net, said he hoped that the matter would be resolved shortly. ®
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DIY networking hits the high street

Microcomputer Research International (MRi) is to sell its 'Mr Network' branded network start-up kit through Tempo Superstores outlets. This is a new market for MRi, since networking is traditionally the domain of the IT expert, not the average end user. Ian Ross, sales director at MRi commented: "No other manufacturer offers such a high degree of connectivity in one package. We have designed the product so that literally anyone can use it." The kit is designed to allow consumer users to network up to five PCs without tech support, and is the first networking kit to be carried by the retail giant. Ross said that the product would consolidate the company's position in the communications solutions field by making networking user friendly. The two products initially available are: Mr Network Start-up Kit 10mb/s (MRi HUBK 10) and the Mr Network 100mb/s (MRi HUBK 100). Recommended retail prices are £99 and £149 respectively. ®
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New multimedia cards are Absolutely Outrageous

Absolute multimedia has launched its 'Outrageous' line of sound and graphics cards in the UK. The company's offering includes the 3D Sound, 3D Graphics and 3D Graphics Ultra. 3D sound is based on the Aureal 8830 chip. It offers surround sound and supports A3D, Digital Dolby Surround and AC3. The package includes Music Match Jukebox and Real Jukebox, DVD player software from Intervideo and is bundled with Half Life, HereticII, Descent3 and Thief. RRP is £59. The graphics cards are based on the nVidia TNT-2 and Ultra chips for the standard and Ultra versions, in that order. The standard card offers a 128-bit graphics engine and 32Mb of fast SDRAM, is compatible with TV output and is bundled with 'Software Choice'. The Ultra version is faster and will be available in 32Mb or 64Mb versions, supporting 5ns SDRAM memory. RRP is £129 for the standard graphics card or £159 for the shiny version. ®
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Intel acquires another firm as IXA mycelium spreads

Intel Developer Forum Intel announced this morning it has brought another networking company, Netboost, as part of its move to become a leader in the networking market. At the same time, Intel will roll out its IXA architecture and proudly announce its network chip, the IXP 1200. These details were leaked out by two US publications at the end of last week, and Chipzilla is furious about this. Netboost specialises in infrastructure including VPNs (virtual private networks) and RMON. And watch out for WindRiver's share price today. As we reported earlier, its real time operating system is getting to be pervasive. It's not only at the heart of System IO, formerly known as Future IO and NGIO, but it's also to be found in the new marchitecture that corporate vice president Mark Christensen is currently outlining. The Intel Internet Exchange Architecture (IXA) offers five levels of components in both Lans and Wans, Christensen told us yesterday. It, and the sexily named IXP 1200 which will cost around $200, will appear in products for small to medium sized businesses up to terabit routers. Customers are giants like Cisco, Nortel and Lucent, and if Intel is successful in selling to these type of customers, IXA will spread across the global network in a similar way to how fungal mycelium gets everywhere. Its IXA architecture will even reach into the carrier clouds, said Miner. Intel will licence the IXA spex to all and sundry, but will keep the intellectual property rights of the component based architecture, he said. Christensen said that the sexily named IXP 1200 will replace the more expensive custom ASICs normally used in network equipment. Intel will put up $200 million in the form of an investment fund for startups who want to jump onto the IXA bandwagon. Each of the "building blocks" which are part of the IXA has different competitors, he said. The control engine of the sexily named IXP 1200 has a StrongARM core, while it includes support for the PCI bus and also has a new IX bus, which allows multiple devices to be used in parallel. The business will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, he predicted. But we can't help thinking that if IXA takes off, the building blocks will be a bit like fungal mycelium, and will pervade every part of the Internet rapidly, giving Intel unprecedented control of the worldwide network. Mycelium is the underlying infrastructure of what crop up as toadstools and mushrooms. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
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Free ISP carrier makes a profit

Telinco -- the outfit behind the Sun's CurrantBun.com and TheMutual.net -- claims it is the first major subscription-free ISP to make a profit. With 600,000 registered customers and 78 subscription-free ISPs on its client list, Cheshire-based Telinco said its business has grown tenfold over the last year. Telinco said it retains around half of the all the money earned from the telephone call when a Net user goes on line. It has recently invested £10 million in its network infrastructure. Despite claiming success it did not divulge any numbers. No one from the company was available for comment today. ® Related Stories Daily net Finance News
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3dfx, S3 merger talks still on

Register sources reckon 3dfx's subtle plan to take control of the 3D graphics industry and more is still a runner. The plan, which emerged back in June, has 3dfx launching a bid to buy rival 3D graphics specialist S3. Since details of the scheme emerged, of course, S3 announced its decision to buy Diamond Multimedia through a $175 million share trade. The Diamond acquisition, which still needs shareholder approval, would give S3 access to Diamond's home networking, digital music technology and, more importantly, its board manufacturing operation. The S3/Diamond deal is due to go before Diamond shareholders on 20 September. The Diamond board has recommended the deal. That seemed to be that, as far as 3dfx's plan went, but according to our source, talks between the two companies have continued despite -- or, more likely, because of -- S3's Diamond acquisition. According to our source, the two companies have agreed in principle to merge -- the haggling centres on the financial details and the make up of the merged operation's management structure. The financial aspect is probably the most important sticking point. 3dfx's results haven't been too hot of late, whereas S3 is clearly moving on and up. That suggests that if the plan goes ahead, it will have to be a true combination of interests rather than a takeover by any other name. Successful negotiations would lead to a business that combined two key 3D graphics players with Diamond's broader consumer product portfolio generating a powerful force in the PC add-in market. Both S3 and 3dfx are desperate to wrest leadership of the graphics market from ATI -- and together they might well be able to do so. S3 brings some powerful technologies to the table -- it's texture compression facility, for one -- which 3dfx brings the best-known graphics brandname: Voodoo. Of course, all this remains 85 per cent rumour -- even if the two companies are talking (and well they might), that doesn't guarantee the outcome would be a merger -- and some salt may need to be pinched here. However, the prospects for both businesses if a merger did go ahead are such that talks cannot yet be ruled out. ® Related Stories Dead Dell deal costs ATI dearly Nvidia unveils '256-CPU Cray' GeForce 3D chip S3 unveils Savage 2000 3dfx stock drops on ongoing losses
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Iridium US user figures up 25 per cent

Troubled cellphone-by-satellite provider Iridium today trumpeted its North American sales operation's successful attempt to boost its subscriber base. So, Iridium North America now has 25 per cent more subscribers than it did since it cut call and phone prices back in June. It's a shame, though, the company neglected to mention how many users started off with, making it impossible to tell whether this latest increase is in anyway significant. By the end of March, the company had 10,000 subscribers worldwide. The latest hints from the company put that at just over 20,000. Certainly since the company issued the original figure, the US government has bought at least 1000 accounts, so that will have helped pump up Iridium North America's share of the subscriber-base. On that basis alone, Iridium has just 5000 US subscribers now. The figure is probably somewhat higher, but it's still not really enough to inspire confidence. ® Related Stories eBay bans $6500 Iridium share auction Iridium shares up for grabs on eBay Iridium asks shareholders to cut stakes by 40 per cent Iridium to enter Chapter 11
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Compaq may be forced to back down on Alpha NT

Sources said that Compaq was coming under pressure to reverse its decision not to support Win64 on Alpha NT. Information received today indicated that a Fortune 500 company is so irritated at Compaq's decision that it has asked its legal department to look closer at the matter. The Fortune 500 firm, which we cannot name for legal reasons, had been persuaded to spend $1 million to move from VMS to Alpha NT. The firm had started talking to Digital three years ago and continued those discussions with Compaq, completing the deal just a few months back. The bills are mounting up on this side of The Pond too -- an unnamed Compaq reseller today told UK channel mag PC Dealer that it had lost a £500K deal to supply a customer with Alpha NT boxes. Bad timing, or what? Compaq said Alpha NT accounted for only two per cent of its sales on the microprocessor. But for those two per cent of customers, it's a 100 per cent turnaround which has them fuming. There are also other customers who are putting pressure on Compaq to back off from the decision. One wrote to The Register, saying: "As a former Alpha NT customer/user all I can say is the hell with them! I will strictly buy from resellers and/or API and go with Linux and DUnix. If Q and M$ did change their minds they would only be appeasing the FTC abd some folks. Most of the AphaNT camp has already started on the road to Linux". So it seems as though the damage has now been done to the two per cent of Compaq customers it affects. Even if Compaq agreed to perform such a humiliating u-turn, it would have to get the agreement of Microsoft. No one from Compaq was available to comment at press time. (But if you'd care to email us, we'd be happy to add your comments). ®
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Merced could be a great games machine

Intel Developer Forum When the Merced, with 4Mb of on die cache, and at speeds of 750MHz on a .18 micron process, and a set of slightly different Screaming Cindy extensions, starts to appear in volume next year, it could be the perfect gamer's machine. The microprocessor is being positioned as a heavyweight beast for the corporate server marketplace, but with tweaking could run the fastest Quake on the planet, it has emerged. Although Intel is still publicly denying that it will eventually replace the IA32 platform, it's likely that clever mobo manufacturers may turn out models to do the business for the lucrative games market. High-end gamers are undeterred by the high price such a machine would attract, as long as it could pound the opposition into the ground. And Intel might end up selling more Merceds than it thought it might, once the games companies wrote the right code for the 64-bit chip. Intel is expected to start production of Merced at a modest 750MHz or so, but will rapidly increase speeds on the platform. It's just a thought, OK? ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
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Cumine 7xx processors confirmed for late October

Intel Developer Forum A US distributor told The Register today that he had been promised delivery of 7xx Coppermine Pentium IIIs by the end of October. He said his Intel representative would not be pinned down on the exact speed of the chips, but would get them, in quantity, at the end of October or in very early November. Yesterday, Craig Barrett, Intel's CEO, tasked senior VP Pat Gelsinger to produce Coppermine Pentium IIIs in October. Said the distributor: "I had originally been told that I would have supplies of the Pentium III towards the end of the year. But, last week, I had a call telling me that the date had been brought forward." The distributor, who told us on strict conditions of anonymity, said he viewed the move as a reaction to AMD's Athlon K7. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
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Net Finance News: 22-28 Aug 1999

27 Aug 1999 ICANN moves on cybersquatting
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Intel in full cunning strategic retreat over PC-133

Intel Developer Forum Chip giant Intel has now bent to inevitable pressure and said that, after evaluation, it will now support PC-133. The news came from Peter MacWilliams, an Intel fellow, at an announcement at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF). MacWilliams said that Intel had realised the difficulties some companies had in moving from synchronous memory to Rambus technology. "We have come to a better understanding of how difficult the transition might be," he said. "We don't see a change in the basic fundamentals." MacWilliams said that major vendors are already building PC100/PC133 compliant systems, so Intel did not see any major need to update specifications. The first PC133 systems will arrive in the first half of next year, he said. "We'll look at validation for our own chipsets," he said. The change means that Intel will now design specs to provide two sockets for RIMMs and two sockets for PC133, after "overwhelming" requests from OEMs. "We're not supporting S-RIMM," he said, "and DIMM riser enabling is no longer supported. On Rambus technology, he said that the consortium (See Seven Dramurai story yesterday), will attempt to reduce prices on die overheads, packaging, RIMMs, component and RIMM testing and PCBs. "We take cost reduction extremely seriously," he said. Rambus manufacturers will have to follow guidelines closely to ensure the best results. MacWilliams refused to be drawn on which chipsets would support PC-133, but said the standard will not be supported in either workstations or servers. In fifteen minutes time, Intel will hold a press conference on the topic. We will update this story as necessary." ®
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Amiga president bails

So farewell, then, Jim Collas. You were president of Amiga, inc. but now you have quit to pursue "personal interests", as your former employer puts it. Did you jump -- or were you pushed? Actually, we suspect the former. Collas was put in charge of Amiga in an attempt to make something of the moribund operation PC vendor Gateway bought a couple of years ago and arguably allowed to get into a worse state by the time Collas took over. Since then Collas helmed Amiga's shift away from its roots, in an Apple-style attempt to rebuild the company on new lines, preserving its original approach and philosophy rather than its technology. The snag was, that approach narked the more conservative Amiga fans, many of whom seem more interested in preserving the computer rather than the company -- forgetting, in the process, that you can't have the former without the latter. That view was typified by the hostility that the company's shift away from QNX to Linux as the basis for its next-generation operating environment, a hostility based less on any superiority of QNX -- that's not to say it isn’t a decent real-time OS -- and more on the false assumption that since Linux is a PC technology, it's adoption by Amiga was a sign that the company wanted to move away from its heritage and closer to the PC world. Given the vitriol directed at Collas personally, you can't blame him for getting out. More likely he has simply had a better offer from another company -- or perhaps he sees less of a future in the Amiga platform (which has a market share that makes even Apple look like a dominant player) than the die-hards would care to admit. Collas recently registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 118,000 Gateway shares -- implying that he doesn't have another salary to go to and his move was indeed inspired by a degree of disillusionment with the Amiga community, Amiga, inc. and/or Gateway's plans for it. Collas has, however, yet to issue a statement on his decision to quit. Meanwhile, Amiga VP and COO Tom Schmidt has been named president in his place. ®