7th > September > 1999 Archive
Psion is climbing into bed with LineOne, as part of a move to make the handheld company more Net-friendly. LineOne will supply content for Psion's new portal site, Planet Psion. The site already has content from the Met Office. Psion wants the portal site to become a free ISP in its own right (with LineOne providing the infrastructure). The way things are going these days, it could "create" far greater shareholder value by building an online community of Psion users, than by building Psion hardware. Screen size and processing speed are obvious brakes on the amount and kind of data Psion machines can handle. So, taking a leaf from the Palm Psalm book, Psion is tailoring all content to best suit its handheld computers. A spokesman for the company said: "This is only one step in our strategy for the Internet. Mobile communications shouldn't be about processors and memory, it should be about having access to information." ®
It's heartening to see the ad boys at AOL's new subscription free ISP Netscape Online being so in yer face about their rivals. Quarter page ads taken out in this weekend's papers read: "Amazing news! FREE internet access from the electronics shop, the hi-fi shop, county council, newspaper, bank, disco, the internet company. Of course, most the list is scrubbed out so that it just reads FREE internet access from...the internet company." If ever someone at AOL was taking a sideswipe at Freeswerve, Tempo, The Sun etc then at least these guys have the guts to stand up and be counted. And you can bet your bottom dollar the AOL press office didn't approve -- they wouldn't say boo to a goose. Just ask them what they thought of BT's "price cuts" last week... ®
Down and out in the Rhondda Valley? Check out that Call Centre in Milton Keynes. Unemployed in Sheffield? Become a cleaner in Weybridge. The Government is opening a monster.com-style -- but much more downmarket -- recruitment site. This will feature every job vacancy currently listed on High Street state-run Job Centres. Now there will be no excuse for people to stay at home on benefit and not taking jobs on offer, Chancellor Gordon Brown said. Except jobs (there are currently one million vacancies in Britain) are often not where unemployed people are. And low-rent jobs don't pay enough for people to move from employment black spots to employment hot spots. The Government is pumping in £18 million into the new service, most of which looks likely to fund public access terminals. Job hunters can also log-in from home to see what vacancies there are and can register CVs for prospective employers to wade through. David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, commented: "Modern IT facilities have a major role to play in backing our drive to get people off welfare and into work. The new service is the shape of things to come, with easy access, tailored data provision and a two way search process involving employers as well as employees." EDS is to be lead contractor for the programme. The services giant is not exactly a household name when it comes to Web site design, so it would seem reasonable safe to infer it will appoint a subbie to handle this part of the business. ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register
A UK cyber porn baron, suspected of netting millions from schoolgirl and farmyard sex Web sites, has escaped jail --because he's sick. Graham Waddon, 28, pocketed over £126,000 from his Web venture, but yesterday had a prison term suspended after complaining of thyroid and leg problems. Judge Christopher Hardy told Southwark Crown Court it was "with hesitation and some regrets" that he had been persuaded to suspend the 18-month sentence for two years. Waddon is believed to have netted millions of pounds from the 12 American-based sites -- with names like Farmsex, Europerv and Schoolgirls'R'Us -- he oversaw from his terraced Surrey home. For a £20 monthly subscription, punters could access the array of cyber vice. One site alone made £19,000 in one day. Detectives have so far been unable to trace the bulk of the profits, which are believed to be nestling in offshore accounts. The court heard that Waddon squandered his share of over £126,000 on pizzas and Chinese take-aways as well as a legitimate Web design business. His partner in crime, former fireman Raymond McArthur-Jones, is currently in custody in the US serving a 23-month sentence after pleading guilty to child pornography. Waddon hit the headlines in July when his case showed that sites on servers outside the UK could still fall under British jurisdiction. ®
Apple will introduce its next-generation iMac -- the so-called 'C2 Revision', codenamed Kihei -- next week at Apple Expo Paris, according to a Korean source cited by Mac-oriented Web site Japan Apple Watch. JAW doesn't offer any clues as to the authenticity of its source, but with Apple now outsourcing the bulk of its iMac manufacturing to Korean giant LG, JAW's "confidential" source could well be close to Apple's plans. That said, there are issues with the information he or she has provided. According to the source, Apple is preparing two models: one with a 13in TFT display, the other with a 15.8in LCD screen. The former will ship with a built-in CD-ROM drive, the latter with a DVD-ROM unit. Both machines, the site says, will support Apple's AirPort wireless networking technology, but since this is a key part of Apple's product strategy, AirPort support was always a given. Apple will ship the machine in a variety of colours, including a more sober white and grey model aimed at offices. All of this sounds plausible given what's leaked out about the next iMac already. Current specs. include a 400MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) processor with 512K backside L2 cache, 64MB RAM, 8GB UltraDMA/66 hard drive and a couple of much-requested FireWire/IEEE1394 ports. The decision to offer two versions of the machine -- if accurate -- is curious given Apple's strategy of keeping its consumer product lines as simple as possible. That said, since Apple will have to face up to the supply problems in the TFT display market -- which is why it recently bunged Samsung $100 million to give it first pick of displays -- so offering a cheaper but more readily available screen alongside a better but in shorter supply machine makes some sense. The other question mark over the JAW info is the announcement date -- according to US sources, the iMac will be unveiled later in the year, possibly as late as mid-November. It has to be said, though, that while that makes sense as a ship date, it's a little late for the unveiling of a product so important to Apple's ongoing success. That puts Apple Expo Paris back in the frame, particularly since interim CEO Steve Jobs has finally been persuaded to leave the US for a while and give the show's keynote. ®
US software developer Integrated Systems yesterday said it is working with Japanese giant Mitsubishi on an operating system for hand-held Internet access devices. The project essentially has Integrated building an OS for a series of microcontrollers coming from Mitsubishi. Around that core, the duo will develop a complete device along the lines of the current crop of Windows CE and Palm devices, an Integrated spokesman told Japanese daily Nihon Keizai. Whether Mitsubishi will offer the device itself isn't known, but the Integrated spokesman said that Hitachi, NEC and Fujitsu are interested in getting involved with the project. With all the projections pointing to a massive increase in sales of portable Net-access machines over the next three years, it's no surprise that all these companies are keen to break into the market. What is interesting, however, is their decision to develop a fourth platform alongside Windows CE, the Palm OS and Psion/Symbian's EPOC32. It's also noteworthy that both Hitachi and NEC are already Windows CE licensees, albeit for their handheld PC offerings rather than palmtop machines. Their interest in the Integrated/Mitsubishi project would seem to suggest neither company is too happy with CE as a basis for future products. ®
AOL UK has affirmed its credentials as a protector of family values by offering a "walled garden" of safe content where children aged 2-12 are free to roam without fear of coming across disturbing or adult material. Although AOL UK maintains the "kids only" accounts are no substitution for parental supervision, it claims the protected environment will go some way to easing parents' fears about letting their kids wandering around the Net. Alan Griffin, Group Editor for AOL UK's Kids Channe,l said: "Kids Only is like a walled garden with all the excitement of an adventure playground -- so kids can still explore the Internet, but without the risks of unfiltered access." AOL UK's stand bid to protect youngsters has been backed by ChildLine, the free national helpline for children in trouble or danger. It applauded AOL UK for creating a safe environment for children and young people on the Internet. Gill Keep, Senior Policy Officer at ChildLine, said: "The Internet is a fantastic resource, but parents are rightly worried that children might come across illegal, offensive or exploitative web sites. "Parents teach their children to become streetwise, so why not teach them to be Netwise too?" Almost a million children in Britain claim they have been 'upset' by something they have found on the Internet, according to poll by NOP in July.
BT is touting a new range of wireless networking products for the home and for small businesses. The system has four components: a controller, data sockets, phone sockets and hand sets. All connections are wireless. It will support all major standards, including ISDN and ADSL. BT says that this product is part of the 'Interactive Home' concept, and should attract more than five million UK consumer users, and up to 10 million small busineses or teleworkers, within the next five years. First year sales are expected to top £35 million in the UK. The new system is the result of BT-funded research by US start up, Home Wireless Networks. The collaboration began last year, in response to the huge rise in popularity of the Internet and ecommerce. Nigel Stagg, BT's general consumer manager, commented: "In the USA, home networking has emerged as one of the growth markets in telecommunications, due to the need for shared Internet access and the ability to work more effevtively." Currently the spec is as follows, but BT says that as new standards emerge, the will be incorporated into the network. The system operates through an 'intelligent gateway' which supports a number of industry protocols, including DECT - with 10 frequency channels available - and TCP/IP, and the wirless ethernet standard IEEE 802.11. Both DECT and the 802.11 radios (wireless ethernet) have a range of about 300m in line of sight or 50-75m coverage in a building. Any single controller can support up to 16 wireless devices, of which 12 can be online at once. The range ships in the New Year®
Two ex-Kwik-Fit employees are suing their former bosses for unfair dismissal, after they were sacked for sending smutty emails on the company network. They claim that the company had no clear policy covering email use or content at work.
The Korean press is reporting that Hyundai Semicon, formed from the merger LG Semicon, is to release a Java processor aimed at the digital TV market. It will also release an embedded processor with the core design licensed from UK company Arm, and will be a 32-bit chip. Production of the processor and the Java chip is set to start December, The Korea Times says. Hyundai has ploughed 20 billion won into the non-memory venture. ®
Old people are increasingly playing games on PCs and on the Net. They are more likely to have played games online than any other age group, including youngsters aged between 15 and 24, according to an NOP survey commissioned by Intel. Twenty eight per cent of people playing games on the Net were were aged 65 and over, with many participating as a means of improving concentration. But 38 per cent of home PC owners in the UK have never played a game on their machines, perhaps preferring to do bean counting or word processing. One compelling reason for PCs is email, the survey reveals, with most people using the software to stay in touch with their nearest and dearest. An overwhelming majority of people said they get more up to date news from the Internet. But only 37 per cent of the 1,000 people surveyed believed a computer was a good tool to organise their homes. Intel has a challenge on its hands in turning PCs into the centre of the family home life. ®
A Spanish developer of a cheap software copy protection system has claimed that his solution is being ignored by the games console industry. Elias Megido says his firm has developed and patented a one peseta system that will prevent illicit use of games on Sony and Sega machines. But although he has a prototype it wants to show to the industry, no-one from the major games companies has answered his mailings or telephone calls. He said: "We must suppose the industry is very interested in piracy bacause our system has no electrical or software components and it cost less than one peseta for each disk we protect. Many games producers told us that they don't want to know anything unless we have the approval of the major companies. We cannot understand it." Megido can be contacted by email here ®
By Alan Stanley, MD Dane-Elec The roller coaster ride continues. Just two months ago anybody that had to sell memory was complaining that there was a glut of memory in the market. Now, look what's happened, a sad lack of abundance. Nitto, nil, diddlysquat, sums up the state of play in today's memory market. Six weeks ago I was asked where I thought the price would be going in the following month. Ha, I said, we are at $5.00 a 64Mb DRAM now. The price will probably rise; it will go up to as much as $6.00. An astronomical price rise in itself, and one that many would never have been believed would happen. Anybody that had predicted it and actually believed that it would happen would have gone on a wild buying spree. But we did not see it. Users have been used to prices falling all this year. Previously, you would seriously question having to pay the same price that you paid the previous week. Most replies I got were not polite. Nobody heeded the warnings and stocked up at a slightly higher price. Well rise it did, I assured people that the $6.00 ceiling was going to sort the market out, that everybody would be happy and we would reach equilibrium. What has in fact been witnessed though has astounded most. Nobody really seems to know exactly what has happened, but at the time of writing, a 64Mb DRAM was difficult to find at $8.00. Amazingly enough a 33 per cent price rise in four weeks is difficult to believe. Hard to grasp for some, others however will remember the days of the Japanese plastics factory fire. A five per cent price rise in two to three days. That mini crisis pushed prices up for 3 months. Manufacturing output has been reduced. Worldwide memory overproduction was flooding the market, resulting in constantly falling prices. The manufacturers had their fingers burnt. Some stopped DRAM production altogether. Others cut back production. The problem was that they were not making money. Price rigging? Not me I have been accused in the past of suggesting price rigging by manufacturers. What people do not understand is that new products don't just happen. New products take many years and millions and millions of dollars to produce. What use is a semiconductor industry that does not make a profit? If we all want bigger, better, faster computers we have to allow these people to make a living. A good living, because profit is needed to finance research and development. So what holds for the future? There has to be a let up in the constant price rises. But they will only occur if and when DRAM produces increase their output. After the lessons they have learnt in the past, it might not be the easiest thing to do. You just can't turn on a tap and double the output of DRAM. Most manufacturers are on allocation, something that three months ago we didn't think possible. They do not (or say they don't) have product stockpiles around the world in warehouses. OEM customers are still getting supplies that they have committed to take from the DRAM manufacturers. What there is very little of is opportune business. You cannot telephone a DRAM OEM today, order some product and expect delivery this side of December. So what's the outcome of all this for the memory user? Well there is a marked decrease in the amount of grey market product. Meaning better quality and stable prices within a defined high and low of about five percent unlike the 20 odd per cent differences that we experienced earlier this year. Prices may continue to rise as the market adjusts itself to the new found levels. Just think of it in the way that you are now paying for all the cheap product that you purchased earlier this year. DRAM OEM's now have to gross 45 per cent more to pay for their losses and leave them with a positive balance sheet before the year 2000. ®
Acer UK has poached Scott Dodds from Compaq to be its sales director. Dodds was Compaq UK's general manager for channel sales and spent six years at the company. He reeled in over $2 billion of Compaq's direct and indirect business in the UK, according to Acer. The appointment of Dodds is part of a shake-up of Acer's sales and marketing activities in the UK. He replaces Clive Matkin (where he gone?) It promises the channel more revenues from services - and says some local pre-sales configuration will now be switched to accredited resellers. The UK changes are being made by Acer Group in conjunction with management consultants McKinsey & Co. Acer aims to strengthen its brand name and increase its penetration of the UK notebook market - especially in areas such as education, the company said. ®
eBay, the notorious online auctioneer, has created a bit of a stir with its recent offerings. Three people had separately put unborn babies under the virtual hammer. eBay has now taken down the postings which are thought to be hoaxes. One couple, claiming to be a pair of law students, offered an unborn baby boy due later this month. This drew a bid of over $100,000. The prospective 'parents' could also contact the seller to request the couple's IQ test results. This flurry of attempted slave trading follows hot on the heels of a man who offered to sell a kidney. eBay officials belive that this offer was also a hoax, but it attracted bids of up to $5.6 million. eBay officials said that the kidney sale could have inspired this latest round of silliness. Selling children is illegal, but eBay would not say whether there was an official investigation being carried out. ®
A telly for under a fiver? You'd have to be either insane or just back from the updated Argos website, where a Sony TV was on sale for a mere £3.00. The price has now been changed, but the company says it has received a number of multiple orders from online customers. Argos has just updated its site for the autumn season. Over 500 new products -- including the bargain TV were added to the site yesterday. The official line is that there was a 'transcription error' somewhere between Argos and the company that maintains its web site. However, the exact source of the error has yet to be tracked down. Those who spotted the mistake and ordered the Sony television will be disappointed, as Argos has no plans to actually sell the TVs for £3.00. Until money has changed hands, Argos has no contract with its customers, and is under no obligation to fulfill the orders. Which is just as well, since the people who spotted the bargain, put in orders for ten or fifteen TVs. The television is now advertised at the correct price of £299.99. A spokeswoman for Argos commented: "We cannot fulfill the orders we have received - even as a gesture of goodwill. It would simply be too expensive." She was not sure how many orders had been received, but assured The Register that it was a significant number. Expect some disgruntled would-be buyers to sue. The courts make take a different view on consumer contracts than Argos. ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register
For those times when parking the Mercedes is simply too tiresome in central London, Harrods is launching an upmarket online shopping service. From next week, shoppers will be able to virtually peruse the food halls and other departments and get Harrods to deliver the order to their doorstep -- be it here or abroad. The Knightsbridge tourist-puller is hoping to boost overseas sales through the harrods.com website. Overseas sales currently account for around 20 per cent of Harrods’ turnover. The store, owned by Mohamed Fayed, is currently asking visitors to its website to put in requests for the products they would like to see available online. Now, what was that Harrods once said about elephants? ® Daily Net Finance News from The Register
BT has declared war against The Register. Its tactics are straightforward -- to drown us in its Kafkaesque bureacracy. Today, BT's ISDN 30 maintenance team told us that it would not investigate problems with our voice/data lines until 13 September. Why the delay? Well, according to BT, The Register does not have an ISDN 30 circuit. It has never had an ISDN 30 circuit. Therefore it could not have had our ISDN 30 circuit taken out of commission. This is curious, as we have been using an ISDN 30 circuit since 26 May until the weekend before last when BT asked us for permission to take it out of commission for testing. And then forgot to turn it back on again. Or rather did not forget to turn it back on again as it was never on in the first place, so it could not have been turned off. Our predicament -- one voice line and one data line currently shared between nine people -- is of little concern of the BT ISDN 30 maintenance team, who tell us that we are a "sales problem". So what does this mean that some BT sales Johnny failed to complete the proper paperwork? What's the odds there's an audit trail here to uncover the lamebrain within BT who's been dicking around with our business. Roughly equivalent to finding Elvis Presley on the moon. ® And here's our earlier story about BT from 3 September. Our apologies to anyone who has tried to call us over the last couple of weeks and found the phones engaged -- we're have a little local difficulty with BT. In July we reported a fault with our BT ISDN 30 circuit. In the jargon, this is a "bearer problem" -- in other words, there's nothing wrong with our equipment. Two sets of engineers and innumerable site visits later, and the problem is still unsolved. But it gets worse. Last week BT took out a circuit for "testing" -- without our permission -- leaving us with one data line and one voice line to share between nine people. It took two days of badgering by our telco reseller to get the circuit back into commission again. BT asked us for -- and received -- our permission to take out the circuit at the weekend for more testing. Then the incompetent dolts failed to turn it back on again. We have been "running" on one voice and one data line all week. Most staff are working from home. Our BT file now contains ten fault references and 23 pages of notes -- but the problem is still unresolved. At 11.30am this morning, BT informed the internal rep we deal with that it had brought our circuit back into operation. So why are the phones and the data line still not working? This would bring us back to the status quo ante -- BT still has to repair the original fault we reported two months ago. Imagine the treatment we would receive if we weren't an outspoken IT publication, with more than 60,000 readers coming to our site every day. ® Are you a small business? Do you have a BT horror story, you'd care to share with your fellow readers? email them to me and I'll personally make sure they are all published in some shape or form on The Register.
1 Sept 1999 Free ISP carrier makes a profit