8th > September > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Beeb.com in X-Stream content deal

The X-Stream Network is to feature content from beeb.com -- the commercial site run by BBC Worldwide -- in a deal that could spark similar agreements in the future. X-Stream users will be able to get their hands on prime content from Top Gear, Top of the Pops, Radio Times, Good Homes, Holiday and Gardeners World. David Atter, S&M director at beeb.com was at pains to point out that beeb.com is not funded by the BBC's licence fee. "beeb.com is distinct from BBC Online which is the licence fee funded public service Web site looking after areas such as news and the World Service. "beeb.com is independent of licence fee funding and is a commercial organisation," he said. As well as 2D content the agreement also gives X-Stream users access to live chat sessions with TV and pop personalities. "When it comes to providing up-to-date, high quality content to users, you can't do much better than beeb.com," said Paul Myers, MD of X-Stream. And he's right. Except the deal could further inflame the debate over the role of the BBC and its association with new media. Last week the British Internet Publisher's Alliance (BIPA) tore into the BBC saying that the launch of its subscription-free ISP, Freebeeb.net, was anti-competitive and an abuse of public money. Whether BIPA blasts the BBC again over this latest venture remains to be seen. No one from BIPA or BBC Worldwide was available for comment at press time. ® Tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Register down time: we're so sorry

To anyone who tried and failed to get onto The Register yesterday: sorry. It was a bad day in Internet land: router problems, server problems and two periods of unplanned downtime. First time round, when the site was down for ten minutes or so, took us by surprise: we thought it was our ISDN connection, crippled by lamebrains at BT. Second time around, we were more prepared –- but the site was still down for more than two hours, courtesy of a MyFirstLittleSQL database crash. Thank God for back-ups. We'll try to make sure it doesn't happen again. These words will come back to haunt me within, what... hours? Days? Weeks? In the meantime, here's an apology for next time we crash. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Concentric buys ITG for £146 million

Internet Technology Group, the AIM-listed ISP chaired by PC World founder Jan Murray, has agreed to a £146 million cash and share offer for the company from Californian ISP Concentric Networks. The terms represent, in the tortuous language of Stock Exchange-approved announcement, a premium of 5.2 per cent on the mid-market price of 240.5p at close of business on the last trading day before the offer announcement. More to the point, the offer is 62.1 per cent higher than 16 August, when rumours of ITG's impending takeover hit the streets. And there is opportunity for Murray and co to create even further value for shareholders. As part of the deal, Murray is sponsoring a new company, called Red Wave, which will take on ITG's "non-core" interests. Presumably, this centres around ITG's licensing deal with Wave, the micropayments-on-a-chip company, that maybe, just maybe, could make gazillions. ITG shareholders and warrantholder will have the right to subscribe for shares in Red Wave on a pro rata basis. Murray and his fellow directors have committed their ITGshares, accounting for 26 per cent of the company, to Concentric. Of course, there is always the possibility that other shareholders could vote against the deal. But then Elvis Presley could be found on safe and well on the moon. ® Tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News
Drew Cullen, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Acer Labs to IPO next week

Taiwanese magazine Eurotrademag is reporting that ALi will float on the Taiwanese market on the 13 September. At the same time, ALi has revised its profit forecasts upwards, on the basis of more buoyancy in the chipset market. ALi's share capital is $49 million, but pre-IPO, 84 million shares have already been issued and paid for. The company said it expects to realise $128 million in turnover for its current financial year, with gross profits up to $9 million from $4 million. Earlier this week, SiS and Via both said they would vastly increase their share of the chipset market in the next two years, at the expense of Intel. ALi is in a similar business. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Merced: the Linux track

Intel Developer Forum Gregg Zahr, VP of engineering at VA Linux Systems, presented plans for the OS at the Forum last week. He said the goal of the Trillian project was to perform a single port of Linux, optimised for IA-64, and with open source available at product launch, probably around this time next year. Cygnus, HP, IBM, Intel SGI and VA Linux Systems are all contributing technology and resources to the project. Zahr showed an interesting slide of the architecture, which can be viewed here. Linux for IA-64 will have a 64-bit kernel, 64-bit virtual memory support, be able to run 32-bit Linux/x.86 binaries without recompilation, and have enterprise solutions including SMP (symmetric multiprocessing), large memory, large file systems and performance monitoring. Other features will include a kernel debugger, optimised tool chains, advanced configuration and power interface (ACPI) support, and support for an extended firmware interface (EFI). The tool chain will be standard GNU tool chain based with gcc, g++,glibc, gdb, gas, id and the like. The data model will be LP64, with little endian byte order, and the object file format will be ELF64/IA-64 and ELF32/IA-64. Page size will be 4K or 8K, with a variable page size possibly being added later, while virtual address space size will be 64-bits. The development schedule for the OS is shown in this slide. For ISVs, the group is recommending porting apps to IA-32 Linux now, then cleaning the code up for IA-64 between October and January next year. There will be a development release of Linux IA64 in early Q1 next year. Development tools include the Cygnus optimised GNUPro toolkit, using gcc, g++, gdb for Merced, with base port in this quarter. Other tools include the SGI compiler, the GNU C library and other OSS tools including Java, Perl, Python, PHP, Tcl/TK. Different OEMs will provide tools for their particular platforms. ISV resources, including "evangelism" for the platform and software downloads, can be found at the Linux IA 64 Web site. ® Complete Intel Developer Forum coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel says only small number of notebook chips duff

Chip giant Intel has now confirmed there was a problem with some mobile parts but said the problem was in the substrate and not the silicon. (Story: Tosh, Panasonic recall Intel notebooks). A UK representative said: "It wasn't a silicon issue, it was a substrate packaging issue with one of our suppliers. It is, by no means, a recall." The problem is restricted to a relatively small batch of parts, he said, although he did not say how many were affected. He said he was unable to say which geographies were affected by the problem. Intel in Japan originally issued the warning. If customers have problems booting mobiles, he said they should call their local notebook supplier for help. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

BT Lame Brain spills 0800 beans

BT could be gearing up to offer limited toll-free access to the Internet, according to a vulture-eyed reader of The Register. He was on a train when a man he believed was heading for the BT labs outside Ipswich sat opposite him. "In his hot sticky hands was a business plan for toll-free Web access, which he kindly laid down on the table while paying for his ticket," said the roving vulture reporter who asked to remain anonymous. "The plan showed that BT will have toll-free access to the Internet which will be paid for by sponsorship," he said. "The connection will only offer limited access (what this means I'm not sure) but it will include a news feed," he said. "Also listed was a community site which would contain links to other BT sites and other 'Public Info'. "On the back page of the document there was a diagram and from that I could make out that this new system would identify the caller as either a BT customer or a non-BT caller. Depending on the caller's telco it would then route them to different services. "I couldn't make out much more but it was definitely about 0800 Internet access without subscription," he said. BT has refused to comment on such wild speculation. ® Tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Apple to back-track on ‘anti upgrade’ policy?

Apple appears to be rethinking its 'anti-upgrade' policy. According to Mac-oriented Web site MacOS Rumors, "reliable" Apple sources have said the company is now planning to fix the block on PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) upgrades in a future firmware update for the blue'n'white Power Mac G3. That block was introduced in the last update, taking the G3's boot EPROM from version 1.0 to 1.1, and prevents the computer from starting up if the user has installed a PPC7400 CPU upgrade card. MacOS Rumors' sources claim Apple only made the move to prevent all those sneaky CPU upgrade merchants offering Motorola's latest processor before it was able. A fair point, but you have to wonder, about a company that feels it can't offer a more compelling PPC7400-based PC than a G4 upgrade card, especially when anyone in the market for that card isn't going to buy a new Power Mac G4 because their blue'n'white G3 isn't yet a year old. The sources also suggest that there has been much dissent among the Apple rank and file over the anti-upgrade policy -- as we reported previously, even tech support didn't appear fully up-to-date with the situation -- leading to the current turnaround. That said, we suspect talk of the block as simply being insurance against Apple being "surprise attacked" by XLR8, Newer Tech et al, being clever spin on Apple's part. Of course, there remains the issue of whether future machines will be upgradeable. There was some initial concern that the upcoming Power Mac G4s based on the Sawtooth motherboard would prevent upgrades by placing the machine's boot EPROM on the CPU daughtercard. That now appears not to be the case -- this approach was only used with prototype boards. However, Web site AppleInsider has reported that the motherboard after Sawtooth, codenamed Shark, uses this ROM-on-daughtercard system. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Separated at Birth

Has anyone ever noticed the uncanny similarity of the much-loved Intel bong and the main theme from the poptastic Tubular Bells album? We wonder if they are by any chance related, and if Mike Oldfield's lawyers are on the case?
Pete Sherriff, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Flat panel market soars

Flat panel display revenues jumped 20 per cent in Q2 on the back of eight per cent more unit shipments than Q1. With demand outstripping supply until the end of next year earliest, FPD manufacturers are beginning to look like the cat that licked the cream. Shipments of standalone displays rose 30 per cent to account for 74 per cent of the world shipments, according to DisplaySearch's quarterly report on the industry. This success was not echoed in shipments of the bundled counterparts, which fell by as much as 28 per cent in Japan, and 26 per cent worldwide. This trend, combined with the increased prices hit the home office sector hard. It dropped eight per cent on the last quarter. In the quarter, LCD market penetration was up nearly four per cent to 11.4 per cent of the total destop monitor market. Corporate customers were the major contributor to growth, soaking up one quarter of all shipments globally. Although NEC's shipments fell by 13 per cent in the quarter, the company retained its position as number one in both the standalone and bundled markets, with 21.3 per cent of the world market. The nearest competitor is Fujitsu, with a nine per cent market share, followed by Mitsubishi and Compaq, both with around six per cent of the pie. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Merced Tracks: Compaq's views on legacy

Intel Developer Forum At one of the tracks at IDF last week, Melvin Benedict, a Compaq architect, outlined what Intel's DIG64 push means for future hardware design. Benedict used much of his presentation to show that legacy items should not be used in Merced and IA-64 designs. He said legacy IO does not scale well enough, ISA cards used non-contiguous memory maps, the slots they occupy uses up precious real estate, VGA is a thing of the past, and all of this adds up to a big OS validation cost. IA-64 will catalyse the move away from these legacy platforms, while DIG64 is the opportunity to break away from such legacy problems. The abstraction of hardware functions by using EFI (extensible firmware interface) boot loader will be the key enabler for IA-64. Merced may supply optional support for IA-32 based operating systems, as well as for DOS and Windows 98 systems, he suggested. But a 64-bit platform is, he emphasised, not required to support non 64-bit OSs for compliance. That means the legacy hardware hooks on the platform can now be removed. DOS may be replaced with the EFI boot environment, he said. Serial, parallel and PS/2 ports should be replaced by USB technology in machines, he suggested, but IDE remains useful in the platform. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Analysts rain on PlayStation II parade…

In what sounds suspiciously like pro-Sega spin, a handful of Japanese analysts today cast doubt on Sony's ability to deliver its much-anticipated PlayStation II 128-bit games console on time. According to Reuters, one Takashi Mimura, an analyst at Societe Generale, said: "The production of new chips is a challenge for Sony, which is inexperienced in graphic chips. I'd say Sony's target of selling two million new PlayStations by the end of next March is ambitious. "Sales won't reach even half of that," he warned. Ant the same time, Masahiro Ono, an analyst at Warburg Dillon Read, claimed the best Sony can do will be to ship one million PlayStation IIs in early December. The consensus among these and other analysts is that Sony will be forced to drastically recalculate the PlayStation II's anticipated sales figures -- say, 200,000 to 300,000 -- or push back the launch date. Either course would be highly embarrassing. The heart of the PlayStation II is the so-called Emotion Engine CPU, jointly developed by Sony and Toshiba. Toshiba, of course, is well-experienced in the semiconductor market -- a fact that appears to have passed the analysts by -- and should be able to counter any deficiencies on Sony's part. Still, designing, fabbing and debugging a major new CPU platform is no simple task, and while the Emotion Engine isn't likely to be anywhere near as complex as Merced, the delays Intel has been forced to make on its 64-bit chip show that even the best laid plans often go wrong. Production of the chip is being handled by a Sony/Toshiba joint venture company -- Sony owns 49 per cent; Toshiba the remaining 51 per cent -- with the aim of offering the CPU to other companies. That puts pressure on the JV to get the chip right quite apart from the stress it's already in to keep Sony supplied with CPUs. Still, it's curious that a bunch of analysts have been wheeled out with some negative comments on Sony's console plans the day before Sega's rival machine, Dreamcast, is to make its much-heralded US and European debut. The PlayStation II is certainly the biggest threat to the success of the Dreamcast, despite the latter's long lead. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel 533B and 600B parts the reason for 12 September price cuts

Updated Intel will once more slash prices on the 12th September next to make way for the introduction of 533(B)MHz and 600(B)MHz parts, it has emerged. These parts will support 133MHz front side buses (FSBs). It would be a nice surprise for everyone if they were Coppermine parts, but we're not absolutely certain they are. We do know, having seen an Intel email, that the 533B and 600B are being offered to the channel early. As to the price cuts, there will be a 12 per cent price cut across the Pentium III and Celeron boards, with some parts being reduced more, and some less, than others. The 600MHz Pentium III will be reduced by eight per cent, while the highest cut will be 15 per cent on the Celeron 466. Over the weekend we reported that a fresh tranche of price cuts on Pentium IIIs and Celerons was in the offing. (See Intel to cut Celeron PIII prices 12 September) The 27th of September is the release date for Intel's i820 Camino chipset. We reported that this would happen here. These processors will plug nicely into those boards in the runup to the "corporate" introduction on the 27th, with dealers being given the chance by Intel to buy three and only three of each as part of an early programme. Meanwhile, more pictures of Camino mobos are popping up all over the Web. Here, for example, a Thai site has some pix up. Later in the day, we will provide information on the adjustments Intel will make on the 12th. Data sheets for a Socket 370 Pentium III processor were on display at the Intel Developer Forum last week. ® Full Intel Developer Forum coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

BX shortage to last until year end

Distributors close to Intel's plans have suggested that a shortage of BX and ZX chipsets will not get better until the end of the year at the earliest. At the same time, Intel is taking steps to further encourage adoption of its i810 chipset by using it for Pentium III processors as well as Celeron chips, according to Techweb. According to UK, German and US distributors, there is no let up in the scarcity of BX motherboards, with preference being given to Intel's top OEMs and Chipzilla-only distributors. A German distributor we talked to at IDF last week said that because he was not an Intel-only house, he had found himself desparate for BX mobos, in order to meet demand from customers. Last month, it was confirmed that major Taiwanese mobo manufacturers were placed on strict allocations for the parts, leading many to place orders with Intel chipset rivals Via and SiS, rather than go with the unpopular i810. Intel will shortly introduce a modified version of the unpopular i810 chipset to support the Pentium III. The chip monster, however, denies that any shortage of BX/ZX chipsets is connected with its attempts to push the i810 and the up-and-coming i820 (Camino chipset). ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel still stuck on the FireWire fence

Analysis What is Intel's problem with FireWire? Last week at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), Chipzilla's bi-annual shindig, held in Palm Springs, it once more threw its mighty weight behind Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0, just as it did at the same gig six months ago. And this week, Jason Ziller, Intel's platform marketing manager, told the Infoworld Electric Web site that the prince of processors has no plans to support FireWire -- or IEEE 1394, as it's known in the trade -- in its core motherboard chips. Now, if Intel had gotten off the fence and categorically announced it has a real downer on FireWire, that would be fine. And you might well think Ziller of 'Zilla's comments are pretty definitive on the matter. The trouble is, they aren't. The Infoworld story cites an Intel Web page promoting USB 2.0. The page goes on about how "1394 deployment into the PC platform has proceeded more slowly than expected". Why? Because, in part, of "uncertainties about cost and licensing". Pretty damning, you might think, and a further defining statement of Intel's dislike of FireWire. Wrong. The same page also says (and Infoworld curiously neglects to mention) "Intel has been strongly committed for several years to the 1394 high-speed serial bus". As for the "cost and licensing" point, the chip giant is being damn disingenuous here. Back in January, Apple came under fire for its '1$ per port' fee for the use of certain FireWire intellectual properties it owns. Apple, of course, invented FireWire, and while it submitted the technology to the IEEE, the international organisation that controls such standards, it retained (as IEEE regulations permit it to do) certain portions of the spec. Hence the fee. On hearing this, FireWire's chief supporters, most notably Compaq, Sony, Toshiba and Phillips, called foul and eventually forced Apple into a compromise: it shared out its FireWire IP among its fellow supporters, who would together manage its licensing and set a (lower) fee for each licence. At this point, Intel could still grumble about the cost and licensing issue, and company VP Pat Gelsinger did just that at the last IDF six months ago when he introduced USB 2.0 to the world. So why, then, did Intel join the FireWire patent pool just three months after Gelsinger's IDF keynote? You see what I mean? On one hand we have Intel forging ahead with USB 2.0 on the back of the technology's promise to deliver FireWire-level or greater performance, even to the extent of leaving the technology off its motherboards -- and on the other we have statements of support backed up with a direct investment in the technology's governing body. At this point, Mac users might be wondering what the heck Intel's inability to get off the fence on FireWire has to do with the price of potatoes. After all, Apple's supporting it, many of Mac peripheral makers are supporting it and it's a real big deal in the consumer electronics world. The issue is that Intel pretty much has complete control over what features 90 per cent of PCs offer. That, in turn, determines what kind of connection schemes peripherals vendors offer. In the old days, when Apple stood aside from the hordes of IBM PC-compatible computers, that didn't matter too much. Now, when it needs to fit in, what Intel does here takes on a new importance. Intel's 'in one minute, out the next' attitude to FireWire is essentially because it's not sure it can win over the consumer electronics guys to USB 2.0. There are a heck of a lot of digital video systems out there that use FireWire (although few of them use that name for it) and Intel is unsure whether they'll be willing to drop it for an incompatible technology, ie. USB 2.0, particularly since USB 2.0 won't make it out of the labs before the middle of next year. (Yes, the PlayStation 2 is supposed to support FireWire, but it's a long way off, and its specs. can and will change before the console is finally released.) In short, it doesn't want to get left out in case Sony et al, decide to stay with 1394, thank you very much. In the meantime, though, it's doing its damnedest to persuade them to hop over to USB. USB 2.0 will be fast enough for digital video connectivity, and no one will have to pay any royalty to use it. Sure, they'll have to buy USB controller chips off Intel, but since they have to buy FireWire controller chips anyway, that's no barrier to entry. Intel's persuasive techniques involved spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt over the future of FireWire, and if it succeeds here, that's going to put the Mac at a disadvantage. Apple is, to a degree, selling its machines on the back of FireWire because it's a clear point of product differentiation. If FireWire disappears or becomes perceived as an Apple-only technology, that differentiator vanishes, and Apple's sales pitch becomes harder. Of course, while USB 2.0 is in development and then while it's gaining ground in the PC marketplace, FireWire will be evolving too, and yes, it's going to get faster -- initially, doubling its throughput to 800Mbps then rising to 1.6Gbps, but so long as USB can get to FireWire's current baseline, as version 2.0 promises to, it's going to limit the need for the faster technology. That's not to say FireWire will become irrelevant overnight, but that it will increasingly find itself relegated to ever more specialist roles. All this is, at least, some way off. In practical terms, USB 2.0 is largely vapourware, as is FireWire 2.0. And in the meantime we have the prospect that other motherboard vendors will offer 1394 support even if (or more likely because) Intel isn't. However, it does highlight the very important for those companies that so support FireWire to make more of an effort to promote the technology. Harmonising on one name, whether it's FireWire, iLink or whatever, would held, by making it clear that you can connect a Sony DV camcorder to your PC. If, as is rumoured, the next-generation iMac has one or more FireWire ports, that will help, but Apple also needs to get its fellow patent poolers to do more. It's just a pity that, as a member of that pool, Intel can't just get off its fence and support the technology fully too. ® Full IDF Summer 99 Coverage Back to the start of the article
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Merced: what meaneth the Extensible Firmware Interface?

Intel Developer Forum Intel programme manager Mark Doran outlined the spec for the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) at IDF in Palm Springs last week. This will replace the current system for booting PCs. The EFI spec is superior because it's implementation-agnostic; it separates the BIOS from the operating system; it is modular and extensible and complements existing interfaces. EFI will use high level language protected mode code, and provide a level of abstraction as an OS loader, according to Doran. The new partition structure will allow 64-bit sizes, an unlimited number of partitions and will co-exist with legacy MBRs (master boot records). EFI will also support multiple OS installs and multiple system partitions. EFI will support boots from hard drives, removable media including CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, floppies, the LS-120, the Iomega Zip and Fujitsu magneto-optical (MO) drives, as well as booting from the network using the PXE BIOS support spec. Run time services will include boot time and runtime, a wakeup alarm, and system reset, while boot services will include image loading of drivers, applications and the OS loader, as well as a so-called watchdog timer. Console services will be abstracted for flexibility and will include both graphics and CLI based console services. These, and other facilities of EFI, are likely to be available in the first quarter next year, he predicted. AMI and Phoenix will both support EFI, while all of the IA-64 operating systems will be released with support. The code will be released with a simple shrinkwrap licence, while there will also be downloadable code for the implementation. ® Full IDF Summer 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Athlon Powers hasn't got his mobo working

Distributors have now confirmed the problems with the K7 MicroStar 6167 motherboard we reported last week. (Story: Athlon mobos recalled) Shipments of the 6167 were recalled last week, but supplies to make up the shortfall are not now expected until the end of September. According to further reports, the Asus motherboard has also been plagued by incompatibility problems, including VGA and overheating issues. Again, those problems are likely to be fixed at the end of September, with prices around $150. These reports were denied by Luke Ireland, operations director of Evesham Micro, a UK company. He said his company had all their mobos replaced two weeks ago. Further, he said, 25 per cent of worldwide Athlon mobo shipments go to the UK. Evesham has lots of motherboards, said Ireland. He also expected Chaintech to start shipping its AMD K7 Athlon mobos in volume in mid-October. Many American Web sites have complained they cannot get Athlons. Last week, a German distributor said that while he had many orders for the AMD Athlon since its launch date, mobo support was the problem. However, there may be better news on that front. According to Sharky Extreme, Via is close to completing its AMD Athlon chipset, which we exclusively reported when at Computex in June. That will likely make it easier for a number of other mobo makers to build K7 printed circuit boards. The same source reports confirmation that AMD is going to shift to socketed parts, as already reported here. ® Complete Computex 99 coverage
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Cadence does Intel on .18µ, .15µ pricing

The same day that Synopsis put up its pricing on its sub .18µ software suite, Cadence did the opposite and slashed its suite by around 80 per cent. Cadence said it would cut prices on its Envisia Ambit synthesis product with immediate effect. But this stuff isn't cheap. Its new European list price is $30,000. Synopsis has just raised its prices. It's sort of a symbolically abstracted Intel-AMD price war, we reckon. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

PC builders slap on DRAM surcharges

PC builders are being forced to add surcharges due to rocketing memory prices. London-based Carrera this week started adding as much as £30 to lower-end PCs, up to £60 for PCs with 128MB DRAM and £280 for higher-end boxes such as servers, on top of its advertised prices. Panrix and Mesh are also upping prices, and Dan Technology is believed to be doing the same, according to industry sources. Colin Collier, Carrera MD, said: "We tried not to pass on any price increases until it was absolutely necessary." However, he said the market had reached a point where prices had to go up. His advice was: "If anyone is thinking of buying any kit that contains memory in the next three months, get on the phone and order now." One source described the surcharge as "a bold move", but Collier said he believed many PC builders would have to follow suit. Today Panrix started adding surcharges of £50 and £25 on 128MB and 64MB upgrades respectively. It said it would make a decision on surcharges to advertised prices by the end of the week. Simon Panesar, Panrix general manager, said he had received forecasts of another 15 to 20 per cent increase in memory prices within the next three to four weeks. Memory prices have more than doubled in the last six weeks. In the first week of August, a 128MB module cost £63 and 64MB module cost £32. Since then, those prices have more than doubled, and companies were today being quoted £130 and £65 respectively. These price jumps have played havoc with businesses who rely on brokers for buying memory "just in time", and who do not keep memory stocks. And the fact that there are memory shortages is driving the price up even further. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said advertisers were within their rights to add extras to advertised prices in these circumstances. An ASA representative said: "We would expect the advertisement to be placed in good faith. "But if the company is going to repeat the ad, we would expect them to amend it with the new price at the first opportunity." ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel just won't let go of this networking equipment thing

Intel, the downmarket networking equipment manufacturer, is is beefing up its portfolio with a clutch of routers and a switch, all aimed at medium-sized companies. The 6000 Series Switch Chassis and eight-port Gigabit Module will both be available from 28 September and are expected to cost around $14,000 and $19,000 respectively. The switch is based on a modular form-factor designed to minimise network downtime. Next year Intel plans to add Intelligent Capabilities to the switch -- this refers to the ability of the switch to differentiate network data packets based on their contents. The 9500 router family is available immediately. The 9510 will cost $1449 and the 9520 will sell for $1749. The 8200 familiy will be launched by the end of this year, with pricing to be announced then. The routers are avilable in multiple configurations, depending on the needs of the user. They support a broad range of Wide Area Network (WAN) protocols and feature hardware-based compression at speeds up to 2Mbps on WAN ports to help maximise data throughput on the WAN links. John Miner, vice president at Intel, says that the growth of the Internet has triggered a greater demand for more, and better networking products. "Networking has become one of Intel's fastest growing and most successful businesses, one that will continue to grow," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Scottish Crackers declare war on Wales

It appears Braveheart hackers have carried out their threat to trash a Scottish government Web site after warning First Minister Donald Dewar that it was vulnerable to attack from cyber terrorists. A group calling itself the Hardcore Highland Haxxors (HHH) has defecated all over the Scottish Executive Web site and renamed it the Scottish H4xecutive. The new "civil servants" charged with advising Scottish politicians and enforcing their policy have also accused the "Whelsh" Office (sic) of rustling sheep. In retaliation, the HHH has declared that Scotland is now at war with Wales. "The Scottish H4xecutive has estimated that over 5000 sheep have been russled by agents of the Whelsh office in the last six months. It is of our opinion that these sheep that were destined for the butchers of Carslile will soon end up on the streets of Cardiff. "In force IMMEDIATELY is a state of WAR between us to put right the theft of our oh-so precious sheep." It's just a pity they aren't as concerned about their ability to spell as they are about their sheep, but there you go. A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said that although the incident was embarrassing there was "no threat to internal security". "Our internal system is quite separate from the information on our Web site," he said adding that all was being done to resolve the problem. The Scottish Executive Web site is hosted by Scotland Online, a subsidiary of Scottish Telecom. No one from the Web company or telco was available for comment at press time. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq signs Novell for Tru64 NDS port

Compaq yesterday threw its weight behind Novell Directory Services (NDS), pledging to optimise its ProLiant servers and integrate the technology into its OneStop solutions package in return for Novell's agreement to port NDS to the Big Q's species of Unix, Tru64. Of course, given Compaq's increasing interest in Linux, you might think this an odd course of action. Not so. The Big Q clearly doesn't want to antagonise its corporate customers who have spent big bucks on Tru64 to move over to the very much cheaper open source OS. NDS is something of a corporate crowd-pleaser, so should divert big business' attention nicely while Compaq gets on with persuading Linux buffs to shift over to Alpha hardware, which it's currently piloting in the Far East. Compaq recently released its C compiler for Alpha Linux, which is pretty similar to its Tru64 C compiler. But, unlike Tru64, Compaq is offering the Linux compiler at no charge to attract support for the Alpha platform. For its part, Novell gets further support for NDS -- a vital part of its attempt to win customers from Windows NT and back to NetWare -- and probably some financial help to pay for the porting process. Compaq's NDS announcement was accompanied by its decision to tie its upcoming AXL2000 security add-in card into the Novell product. The AXL2000 essentially does for security what a 3dfx Voodoo 3 does for graphics -- complex security-oriented algorithms can be offloaded onto the PCI card to allow the server's host processor(s) to get on with managing network traffic. The card was designed by Compaq's Atalla 'the Hun' subsidiary. ® Related Stories 1.6GHz Alpha to be fastest Quake chip on planet
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

PC builders remain significant force in America

The independent PC channel is still a mighty force in the Americas, judging by research published by the Systems Builders Summit consortium. There are over 40,000 systems builders on the two continents, and this channel accounts for more than 42 per cent of PC sales in North America and 52 per cent in Latin America, Business Wire reported. This compares with the UK, where 60 per cent of PC sales are through the indirect channel, according to figures from IDC. ®
Author, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Dixons showers shareholders with special dividend

Dixons saw shares rocket today after announcing a special dividend on the strength of higher than expected overall retail sales. Shares soared 27 pence to 1,242 pence in midday trading – making Dixons the second biggest riser in the FTSE 100. Dixons chairman Sir Stanley Kalms told today’s Annual General Meeting that sales were 20 per cent ahead of the same period last year for the 18 weeks to 4 September – and up nine per cent on a like-for-like basis. Although gross margins were slightly down, all the group’s brands had gained positive like for like growth. Kalms said sales had been particularly strong in computer products and mobile phones, as well as widescreen TVs. The company declared a surprise special interim dividend of 7.5 pence per ordinary share to be paid on 13 December. Dixon's share price had calmed down by mid-afternoon to 1,197 pence, a drop of 18 pence on this morning’s opening trading price.®
Linda Harrison, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Maxtor tops up Diamond Max Line

Maxtor has topped out the capacities of its DiamondMax and DiamondMax VL lines, timing their launch to catch the Christmas buying season. The new DiamondMax 40 has up to 10.2GB per disk, for up to 40.9GB in a four-platter configuration. It has average seek time of under 9ms, a 2MB buffer incorporating a high-speed 100MHz SDRAM memory, and is capable of transfer rates of 66MBps. Maxtor claims this is the highest capacity per platter in the mainstream desktop systems market. The DiamondMax VL 20 now has 10, 15 and 20GB capacity drives available, to pad out the budget product line. Its seek time is a little slower at 9.5ms, and it has a 512KB cache buffer. The little monsters go into production in October. Estimated retail prices for the DiamondMax 40.9GB is $349 and the 20.4GB VL is $229. Mike Cannon, Maxtor's president and CEO, said the company was targeting consumers with the new products. But this this should not compromise the needs of its commercial customers. Maxtor's new lines have sent John Monroe, chief analyst at Dataquest, into hypergush mode. "To deliver a 10GB per platter technology prior to the year 2000 is a staggering achievement," he said. "A company that can ship a rich range of higher capacities for emerging consumer and internet applications -- as well as maintaining a low-cost 10GB configuration for sub $700 PCs, should have some compelling strategic advantages at key OEM accounts." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq tries Alpha NT trade in plan

Corporate Compaq customers cussing the company for unilaterally dropping NT support on Alpha boxes are being offered a cunning and cute completion to the conundrum they face. According to sources close to Compaq, the large corporations can now trade in their Alpha servers or workstations running Windows NT, after the Big Q canned the platform two weeks ago. In the USA, if customers wish to stick with Alpha, they will be offered free Open VMS, Tru64 licences, or Unix, our sources say. Applications, we understand, are a wholly different matter. If US customers don't like the deal, they can plump for ProLiants using the Intel Profusion SMP platform. Despite many repeated calls to Compaq EMEA's PR agency, we were unable to ascertain the trade in plan here in the UK, or for that matter, in Switzerland, Germany, or any other location. But we can confirm a similar plan to the one in the US is currently being floated in Asia, with a trade back option allowing the corporations not to be caught after Compaq abruptly changed its course. The trade-in depends upon how much money individual large businesses have spent on Alpha NT boxes, with the trade up option replacing the system with a Wintel box. The size of the Wintel box depends upon how much Compaq corporate customers have committed to. Users on mainland China are particularly upset about Compaq's U-turn, according to the Newsbytes wire. Whereas Compaq sales of Alpha NT only amounted to two per cent of sales worldwide, something like 15 per cent of sites in Red Chine which needed big servers bought the boxes, and the Alpha NT business plan. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Sun shines spotlight on Ray thin client

Sun yesterday announced its re-entry into the thin client market: Ray, the thin client formerly codenamed 'Corona'. The $499 Ray will ship with no operating system of its own, just enough code to display output from NT and Solaris apps running via Ray server software. Even the graphics rendering is handled by the server, Sun said. As predicted, the slimline box contains a 100Mbps Ethernet port plus four USB connectors. Ray also contains a pair of built-in speakers. Curiously, Sun isn't just selling Ray as a box -- the machine is also being offered through a range of deals, from a simple $9.99 per month leasing arrangement through to bundles containing server, software, switch, and a stack of Rays and monitors to go with them. Sun demo'd Ray running the StarOffice personal productivity suite on a Solaris server, finally revealing why the company bought the suite in the first place -- as opposed to simply getting its hands on something it can use to compete with Microsoft Office in the Linux space. Of course, whether Ray plus StarOffice is enough to persuade all those companies putting full PCs and/or PCs as thin clients on desktops remains to be seen. Sun appears to have avoided the 'PC killer' tag -- not least because that's how the ill-fated JavaStation network computer was pitched -- but that does appear to be what we're talking about here. Previous reports have suggested Sun hopes to shift one million Rays in 2000, and it could manage to do so. The trick will be persuading companies that these zero-maintenance boxes (at the client end, at least) are way more cost-effective than budget-priced PCs. Given so many departments are equipped with powerful servers used simply for file and print sharing and which could easily be used to host a stack of Rays, the cost argument -- when you take into account the NC's novel pricing structure -- is a powerful one. That said, it's going to be tough for Sun not to use Ray as a tool to flog would-be buyers expensive server hardware -- if it fails to resist the temptation, it will probably persuade people to stick with the PC as a client, something they've spent the whole of the 90s getting used to. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Nortel/Norweb pulls plug on Internet over electricity scheme

Plans to access the Net in the home using electric wiring instead of phone lines have been scrapped -- for now. United Utilities has withdrawn its financial backing for Digital PowerLine (DPL) technology after it informed the Stock Exchange yesterday that market conditions simply didn't justify the investment. UU and Nortel Networks set up the joint venture company NOR.WEB DPL Ltd in May 1998 to develop DPL technology. DPL would have enabled data to be transferred down existing power cables directly into people's homes using protocols developed for the mobile phone world. A statement issued yesterday to those who had registered their interest in the service said: "...the supplier of Digital PowerLine equipment, NOR.WEB DPL Ltd, will close on the 30th September 1999, following the decision of Nortel Networks and United Utilities to withdraw their ongoing investment. "This decision is based on an evaluation of the future volume market potential for the Digital PowerLine (DPL) solution, although the technology itself had been well proven in the field. "Within the very competitive broadband access arena, where large scale deployments of high speed technologies are in progress and Nortel Networks has a strong portfolio, the market potential for DPL, based on current forecasts, cannot justify continued focus." The service was trialed in the North West of England. Plans to sell off the company have not been ruled out. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Merced: How do you boot Linux fast on a Merced?

Intel Developer Forum Maybe some of our readers were wondering exactly how you boot Linux fast on a big Merced beastie without an x.86 style BIOS. Here is Mindy Murdock's answer. Mindy is Intel's ISV programme manager and at the track last week it seemed to have a lot of suggestions. Never forget that Intel is OS agnostic, despite the fact it has undoubted software skill, for example building many answers into Microsoft Windows 98, as reported here earlier this year. Mindy Murdock reckoned there will be a tailored BIOS boot solution for Linux. As you all no doubt know there out in LinuxLand, a BIOS (basic input output system) is very often used in x.86 based embedded systems. Mindy reckoned in its presentation that the INIT currently being developed is not a BIOS. But Linux developers will need to work harder. A tailored boot solution will require software wizards to create a ROM region, a shadow ROM region, and also enable the serial port to allow the bootloader to re-direct boot messages to a dummy terminal. That was Mindy's message. Mork did not speak. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Stead walks the plank following Ingram profit warning

Ingram Micro today issued a profit warning and announced the exit of CEO Jerre Stead. The US distributor said it expected profit of between $15 million and $21 million for the third quarter ending 2 October. It forecast earnings of 10 to 15 cents per share, well below analysts polled by First Call who had predicted 41 cents. This compares to a year ago, when Ingram posted $60 million net income or 40 cents per share. Stead, who has been at the distributor for three years, will keep his position as CEO until a successor is found. He will then continue as chairman. The company, which will announce its third quarter results on 27 October, saw shares drop this morning by 28 per cent to 13 7/8 cents. Stead said competitive pricing, along with greater cuts in vendor rebates and incentives, had damaged Ingram’s gross margins. "In addition, its [Ingram's] efforts to raise prices in selected market segments prompted customers to evaluate other sources for their product purchases, negatively impacting Ingram Micro’s sales," the company stated. Net sales were still expected to rise, it added. "We should not let the short-term difficulties obscure the long-term potential of Ingram Micro," Stead warned. "We continue to see healthy demand for the services we provide, both in our core business as well as in our emerging businesses for reseller and vendor logistics outsourcing and for Internet retail stores." ®
Linda Harrison, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Argos BT's badly, ups price of Sony TV to £3,299.99

That story we wrote yesterday about Argos flogging television sets for a mere snip has taken two further twists, at least. (Story: Argos ****** on three quid TV net offer) One of our loyal readers, who bought two Sony tellies for £2.99 but Argos refused to deliver them, has just told us of an email he's had from the firm. Now the tellies will be sold to him for £3,299.99, each. He says he cannot afford it. Here is the text of the message from Argos customer service that our reader received: "£3, instead of the actual sale price of £299.99. Clearly, Argos had no intention to sell the TV at £3, and your order has not therefore been accepted. We apologise for the error and any inconvenience that may have been caused and can assure you that your card details have not been processed. If you still wish to purchase the TV at the current sale price of 3299.99, please place a new order on our website." UK TV service Teletext reported this morning that someone ordered 1,700 of the cheap TVs this morning. And other reports suggested other UK e-commerce sites had made similar boo-boos, which we will report tomorrow. Apologies to any of our Welsh readers who were offended by the original headline. Most of us here are of the Keltic persuasion, by and large... We do feel, however, that Argos should honour the bona fide orders made by our readers. ® Related stories So who's going to make a £3 TV options market? Argos £3 TV fiasco provokes test-case lawsuit Argos welshes on three quid TV Net 'offer'
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Microsoft set to unleash Java-killer Cool

Microsoft's 'Java killer' object-oriented language, Cool, looks set to be released publicly in the next few weeks, The Register has learned. And the language will ship with tools to translate Java source code into Cool. Cool isn't a language in its own right -- rather, it's a series of extensions to C++ designed to make C++ as easy to program as Java, in the hope that programmers will, frankly, stop using the Sun product. The technology comprises a programming framework that will hook into the next version of Microsoft's Common Object Model, COM+, part of Windows 2000. Cool started life as an internal Microsoft project to create an alternative to Sun if the latter's legal battle over the 'purity' of Microsoft's implementation of Java, from its virtual machines through to its Visual J development environment, went against the Gates Gang. The idea was first mooted last November by Microsoft VP Paul Maritz as a 'clean room' version of Java free from Sun technology. And last April, Visual C product manager Jeff Ressler said: "Sun and the lawsuit they have brought against Microsoft has directly threatened the industry's ability to innovate in Java. This has most directly affected our Visual J development tool. We continue to sell it, and apps built with it will not be subject to any limitations, but its future is not definitive [we assume he means 'definite']." Definitely coming to a conclusion, it now appears. Microsoft will continue to support its Java development environment -- ie. fix bugs -- but is now no longer developing it, according to sources close to the company's Visual Studio team. Instead, users will be given the option of porting their code over to Cool. How Cool will be released is not yet known. For instance, to what extent will Microsoft actually allude to the product as a Java alternative -- or simply push it as a superior way of accessing COM technology? More news as we get it... ®
Tony Smith, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Citrix tilts away from MS, towards Solaris, Linux

Updated Citrix today mounted a demonstration of how its MetaFrame product might run on non-NT platforms. The general idea, according to company VP of product development Dave Weiss, seems to have been to run it up the flagpole to see if anybody saluted. Any saluting at the moment is likely to be from major companies running Solaris server systems, as that's the OS that was used for the server side of Weiss' demo. Weiss showed "project Charlotte," a browser-based system which gives access to a server applications in a "Program Neighborhood." This allows any time, anywhere access to server apps with the aid of nothing more than a browser, so it's as applicable to low resource devices and appliances as it is to PC platforms. In terms of sales models, it's pretty similar to Citrix's current ICA protocol. Right now ICA is free, and Citrix makes its money out of the server, and when Charlotte ships it'll be free too. As part of the demo Weiss used the browser to access Lotus Notes running on a Solaris server working as part of a Citrix server farm. This suggested that Citrix is about to make its long-awaited move to multiple server platforms, but Weiss later told The Register that it was currently simply a technology demo, and that it would only go commercial if the customer demand existed. "We wanted to gauge what kind of interest there was," he said. "Nobody's writing new X applications today," so the target market would be outfits with a need to deal with existing apps. He suggested financial institutions as likely candidates. The conditions for closer a relationship between Sun and Citrix already exist, with Sun keen on using StarOffice within a Web applications rental model, and due to unveil its Corona product shortly. Weiss conceded that Citrix had been giving the company some help recently. We don't have a strong alliance so far, but the prospect of Citrix going multi-platform isn't terribly good news for Microsoft. Citrix technology forms the basis of Microsoft's Windows NT Terminal Server, but Microsoft has problems in fully (or even convincingly) embracing the thin client model because of the levels of revenue cannibalisation this would expose it to. If people start using browsers to access server applications then they could be doing it from any old client platform running any old operating system. They could even, good heavens, be doing it from a mobile phone, and from Microsoft's point of view all this could mean the loss of an awful lot of client OS licensing revenue. And of course, if people start accessing applications running on remote servers in volume, and don't particularly care about the OS the servers are running, Microsoft's vision of a Windows-only world is somewhat undermined. Linux clearly has to be a target platform for Citrix, but it's not as yet clear how much effort the company is putting behind Linux development at the server end. It will no doubt put resources that way, and both founder Ed Iacobucci and CEO Mark Templeton slipped blatant Linux references into their presentations, but as Citrix will be prioritising support for server platforms that are already in place in corporations in volume, Linux is likely to come second to various flavours of Unix, at least initially. At the client end, however, things seems to be moving fast. Several outfits announced as recent Citrix ICA licensees are working on thin client devices based on Linux. These include Automation Control Products, Brace AB, InsynQ Data Utilities, Rebel.com (the company which now owns NetWinder) and Sherwood Network. ®
John Lettice, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Browser apps will dent Windows' market share – IBM exec

The need for organisations to deploy new applications faster will accelerate a trend towards browser-based applications and away from client/server, IBM network computer guru Dave McAughtry told The Register today. And as this process occurs, it could spell doom for Microsoft's hold on the desktop - because if you're running your apps via a browser, why should you need or care about having Windows as your underlying operating system? McAughtry has been pushing IBM's NetWork Station thin client family for over three years now, and although he concedes it's been an uphill struggle, he says companies are now more convinced about the validity of the model, and the market itself is starting to turn in the right direction. IBM's latest models, the 2200 and the 2800, were announced today at Citrix's iForum in Orlando, Florida, and McAughtry describes them as combining the best browser, best Citrix ICA client and best Java. IBM already has already sold 12,000 2800s to a major bank, and McAughty uses banking as a prime example of why browser-based computing is taking off. "It used to be the case that business to the consumer was browser-based, while the enterprise world was Windows-based, but the speed of change in business now requires that change take place at the same speed inside the business as outside." If you're dealing with customers via the Web you can change what you offer them very rapidly, but your internal software has to keep pace with the changes you make. In the case of banks, customer-facing systems would include the Web site itself, banking teller, ATMs and call centres. All of these extend back into the bank's internal systems, so McAughtry argues that the internal systems have to be switched over to browser-based ones as well. That's not traditional client/server, but it's browser-based and server-based computing, with decreasing need for, and point to, Windows PCs on the desktop. Citrix has been evangelising server-based computing for over a year now, and is pushing the browser-based message this year in addition. McAughtry claims IBM is now number two in the Citrix marketplace, and unsurprisingly comments: "Increasingly we're finding Citrix's goals close to ours." ®
John Lettice, 08 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Several i820 mobos up Intel sleeves…

Intel will ship at least two versions of i820 Camino motherboards to coincide with the launch of the 533B and the 600B, sources say. THe chip giant is readying both the Vancouver VC820 and another mobo believed to be called the Cape Cod CC820 and also based on the Camino chip set. A board called Fairbanks (FB820) will use the NLX form factor and will include ATI Rage Pro graphics on board. Intel is hedging its memory bets, here. One board allows OEMs to move quickly from the BX set to the 820, while the other is intended to satisfy wide demand for the PC-100 SDRAM standard. The Vancouver board is intended as a channel mobo using Rambus. The Cape Cod 820 -- a separate mobo -- is the "bee's knees" for SDRAM PC-100. The boards will be available, in both varieties, in week 42, according to a German distributor familiar with these matters and Intel's plans. Intel will sell the two types of i820 board either individually or in boxes of 10, he says . Some boards will come with Soundblaster audio, while some will not. Also, the Lan configuration of the CA 810 board is on indefinite hold because the RJ45 Lan connector is not working as it should. Intel is telling its distributors that changes can happen at a moment's notice. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Sep 1999