10th > September > 1999 Archive

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Intel burns desktop prices again

As revealed here earlier this week, Intel will cut desktop prices of its Pentium IIIs and Celerons in the run up to the introduction of the 533B and the 600B, which support a 133MHz FSB, on 27th of September. (Story: Intel 533B and 600B parts the reason for 12 September price cuts) We now have those price details, detailed below. Intel cut prices on several of these parts only one month ago, indicating an aggressive ramp up in the face of AMD competition. These prices are for boxed parts and include heatsinks and fans. The Celeron 400 drops by $8 to $70, the 433MHz by $13 to $85, the Celeron 466MHz by $13 to $105, and the Celeron 500MHz by $13 to $160. The Pentium III/450 and the Pentium III/500 prices remain at $185, and $254 respectively. Meanwhile, the Pentium III/550 drops by $60 to $410, while the Pentium III/600 drops by $50 to $610. The new Pentium III/533B will be introduced at $380, while the Pentium III/600B will cost $660. ®
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NatSemi on mend

The decision by National Semiconductor to get out of its fight with Intel appears to be paying dividends for its share holders. The firm reported a net profit of $47.1 million for its latest Q, compared to a net loss of $105 million in the same period last year. It still turned in an operating loss of over $1 million but the figures show that CEO Brian Halla's decision to get out of the x.86 market and concentrate on its system on a chip part, could well be the right one. Turnover for the Q, at $482 million, was similar to turnover in the same period last year. NatSemi decided earlier this year to ditch its x.86 Cyrix business, and ended up selling it off to Taiwanese manufacturer Via. Halla claimed NatSemi was ahead of its plans to return to profitability and had good orders for its Geode system on a chip part. ®
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Big Q gives Register NonStop cold shoulder

The new CEO of Compaq, Mike Capellas, was in London yesterday to talk about the company's NonStop e-business strategy. He brought along with him Enrico 'The Cloak' Pesatori, to outline Compaq's strategy. Unfortunately, we weren't invited, so can't report on what happened. And, once again unfortunately, Compaq's PR agency in the UK couldn't let us have a transcript of Capellas' address to the subjects of Her Britannic Majesty, because he's making the same speech to citizens of the French Republic today and the PR agency doesn't want us to report it ahead of the French press getting it. This is what you call stealth PR, and couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that we scooped the world on the story of Alpha NT being dumped by the Big Q. It's strange, we used to have such a good relationship with Compaq, too... ®
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AMD may trash Intel's Merced on price/performance

Intel's AL460GX chipset may not match the power of AMD's Irongate D4 chipset, which will appear in motherboards in late Q1, next year. Last week, Intel unveiled the Merced chipset at its Developer Forum in Palm Springs, but no details were given on whether its claim of 4.2Gb/s throughput on dual memory buses was for the total throughput, or referred to each bus, giving a total of 8.4GB/s. Sources close to AMD's plans say that if the first case is true, then Intel's expensive chipset is "no better" than the Irongate D4 chipset announced at the Hot Chips conference last month. Irongate D4 has dual 64-bit DDR SDRAM buses running at 266MHz each, giving a total throughput of two by 2.1Gb/s -- 4.2Gb/s. The mainboards will be priced at around $1,000 and include dual 64-bit 66MHz PCI and AGP 4X. ® For full coverage of Merced and the rest of the Intel Developer Forum, go here.
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Intel's performance figures for i820, AGP 4X flawed

Performance tests on Rambus and AGP 4X technology that Intel distributed at its Developer Forum last week, do not add up, a semiconductor analyst has claimed. Bert McComas, at InQuest, said that he had tested the program, aimed at supporting Intel's i820 Camino chipset, and believed the benchmark was "ineffective and broken". He said that the bandwidth test produces results "that defy reason and logic". According to McComas, the benchmark is a marketing tool and the test "conveniently spits out results" comparing Rambus memory to PC-100 SDRAM memory. He suggests that the Intel tool cannot be taken seriously. Last week, we reported apparent discrepancies between BX and i820 chipsets. During the Developer Forum, Intel wheeled out the Seven Dramurai™ to give a much needed boost to Rambus, while at the same time it bowed to OEM pressure by supporting PC-133 and DDR memories for its platforms. For the complete report from InQuest, go here. ® Full Intel Developer Forum coverage
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Cadence loses ground in Avant legal spat

Chip design company Cadence has lost a chunk of its legal battle against Avant, according to US reports. Cadence had alleged that Avant thefted its trade secrets, but now a US judge has ruled that a 1994 waiver meant there was no case to answer before that time. But the judge said that Cadence, if it so wishes, can pursue the matter after the 1994 waiver. That will make the lawyers happy, as it is likely Cadence will continue this part of the case. ®
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BT takes chunk of Italian ISP

BT is to acquire a 32.5 per cent stake in I.NET -- Italy's biggest business ISP-- for £13 million, the telco said today. I.NET -- which expects a turnover of more than £13.5 million this year -- manages the Net affairs of 3,500 large and medium-sized companies including the newspaper La Republica, the Italian Stock Exchange, Benetton, and the Italian bank Banca Intesa. Pat Gallagher, president of BT Europe, said: " This is an important step towards consolidating our Internet presence in Italy, one of the fastest growing markets in Europe As the fourth largest telecommunications market in Europe analysts predict that Net usage in Italy is expected to surge in the coming years. The number of corporate users on-line is predicted to rise from its current figure of 400,000 to around 3.2 million by 2005 -- an annual growth rate of 35 per cent. ® For more city news tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News
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HP Loves Linux HP/UX True?

Rumour Speculation is mounting that Hewlett-Packard may cede its Unix OS, HP/UX, in favour of Linux. Reports from insiders close to HP's plans are indicating that the firm is near to making a decision whether to continue with HP/UX or not. Well stranger things have happened at sea. However, last week HP presented details of how it will port HP/UX to the Merced platform, indicating that it has already ploughed money into that particular project. We are attempting to obtain either a denial or a confirmation of these rumours from HP itself. Interestingly, there were no presentations from Compaq at IDF about any plans it might have to port Tru64 (D/UX) to Merced, indicating that its decision to drop Alpha NT may have been a very hasty decision. ®
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Lotus cans eSuite…

Lotus has abandoned development of eSuite, its Java-based rival to Microsoft Office. The reason: too few people bought the product. eSuite was launched a couple of years ago on the back of the Network Computer movement and the concept of the 'Webtop'. Since then, the NC has conspicuously failed to take off, leaving eSuite struggling to make any headway against Wintel application suites like Office and even Lotus' own SmartSuite. That said, the timing of the move is surprising. Sun's recent acquisition of StarOffice, a Unix-based personal productivity application suite, has focused attention on this area of the software market. For instance, Applix, developer of another application suite for Unix and Linux, has seen its share price rise over the last few weeks since the StarOffice purchase. After months of hovering closely to the $9 mark, the company's stock shot up over $23 at the end of August before settling down to around $17. While this increased interest from investors and users may not drive buyers to the likes of Applix and Lotus straightaway, it nevertheless signals an opportunity. True, users may not be looking for NC-based solutions, but they are expressing an interest in desktop applications for non-Microsoft, PC-based operating systems. Or, rather, operating system, singular: Linux, in other words. Lotus, though, has missed its chance. In addition to ending the ongoing development of eSuite, it has decided to stop marketing the product, too. eSuite team members will be given other roles within Lotus -- the company said it wasn't anticipating any layoffs. Still, with the company now sure it's not going to make any more money out of eSuite, the possibility remains that it could just give the software away as a download, either as is or under an open source licence. Lotus said it will continue to support the product through 2001, but open sourcing the software would allow existing users to continue to receive updates, and provide Lotus with an easy way to see how this open source gig actually works. ® Related Stories Sun shines spotlight on Ray thin client
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Citrix shows remote app capability for Palm

Citrix's IBM roots were showing yesterday when company CEO Mark Templeton mounted a "technology demonstration" of a Palm Pilot running applications remotely from a server farm at the company's Advanced Technology Research facility in Cambridge, UK. Even during the glasnost period that immediately preceded the appearance of Chairman Lou IBM rigorously refused to discuss unannounced products, so contrived to trail them by showing them as "technology demonstrations." Citrix's Palm rig is indeed not a product, and isn't precisely going to be one either, but it's clearly a signal of where the company will be going with products and services Real Soon Now. The demo was really intended as a showcase for the sort of stuff Citrix hopes to be able to sell to wireless service providers. The Palm itself already has a wireless capability, and there's a logical associated need for mechanisms to allow its users access to remote applications. But the big bucks are going to come from the mobile phone companies, with short term demand centring on Europe's GPRS (General, aka GSM, Packet Radio System), which will be live in Europe shortly, and a little further down the line on UMTS, the next generation broadband European wireless system. The Palm demo used a version of Citrix's Vertigo protocol for connectivity. Citrix's ICA protocol isn't appropriate for devices with small screen real estate like the Palm, so under Vertigo, which is currently undergoing development, all of the objects in the user interface are actually held on the server. The server itself was more interesting still. When The Register spoke to Citrix founder Ed Iacobucci he couldn't be specific about what it was running, but the probability is that it was a flavour of Unix. Earlier in the week Citrix demoed Notes being run remotely on Solaris, so probably it was Solaris again. The Palm ran two custom apps which, according to Templeton, took only a couple of days to write. One gave stock prices, the other weather conditions, i.e. just the kind of stuff people are likely to want to access via a mobile phone. But as with the Notes demonstration, that points up the growing divergence between Citrix and Microsoft. Fort Redmond is also keen on providing server applications for wireless clients, but its roadmap, naturally, consists of NT servers and BackOffice applications. From the user's perspective it's the information that's important, not whether it conforms to the Windows Everywhere plan or not, and the wireless outfits this sort of rig is going to be sold to are going to be much more concerned about scalability and cost than they are about Windows. So Unix does kind of beckon. And on the cost front Citrix piled it on by introducing a pay as you go licensing plan today (story to follow). This again will be music to the ears of wireless outfits, and by a massive coincidence these were addressed by Citrix as a target category in the announcement of the scheme. ®
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Gap grants Jobs job

Back in May, Apple appointed the president and CEO of trendy clothing company Gap, Millard 'Mikey' Drexler, to its board of directors. Now Gap has returned the favour and found a seat on its own board for Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Curiously, Gap's release on the appointment stresses Jobs' role at Pixar above his position at Apple. This dispite the canny similarity between Apple's products and Gap's: the soon-to-ship iBook consumer notebook comes in blue and orange colour schemes -- both Gap's autumn colours. ®
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0800 ISP touts 24/7 flat-fee access

A Scottish ISP is offering unlimited 24/7 access to the Net for a flat monthly fee of £49.99. The service is part subsidised by a banner ad on the desktop that changes every 30 seconds. The management team at 08004u has already established a number of e-commerce partnerships with e-tailers such as WH Smith Online and Lastminute.com which will, no doubt, also help fund the service. Net users who just want unmetered Net access during off-peak hours without having to switch telcos, as is the case with Screaming.net and GreatXscape for example, can get limited toll-free access for £24.99 a month The move is guaranteed to make the industry's ears prickle with anticipation although a number of people have already expressed privately that they feel the monthly fee for 24/7 access may be a bit steep. That said the launch of 08004u is yet another indication of the ever increasing diversity of the ISP market in Britain and shows just how far it has come since Freeserve launched its ground-breaking service this time last year. "We're the first company in the UK to offer 0800 access for a fixed monthly fee," said MD David Banks talking to The Register this morning. "Our target is to bring down the cost of 24/7 access to about £30 a month," he said. The more ad revenue it generates, the more savings it will pass on to its customers, maintains 08004u. Banks wouldn't say which companies were providing the network infrastructure but he revealed he had agreements with several providers. "Because we'll be using multiple networks it means we shouldn't get any problems [with people trying to access the service]," he said. Although 08004u has the capacity to handle 250,000 users Banks is expecting to cater for around 100,000 Internauts. The launch of 08004u was brought forward from 1 October to last night to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime freak of time. The service officially went live at 9pm on the 9/9/99. Coincidentally, the 08004u model appears to be a carbon copy of a scheme BT is rumoured to be developing. AOL UK confirmed today it is still trialling its own plans for 0800 access. A spokeswoman for the company said no date had yet been concerning any possible launch. ® Tune into Cash Register and turn on to our daily Net Finance News
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Dell tops booming US PC market

Dell topped US PC sales in this year's second quarter, according to research by IDC. The direct seller managed to steal Compaq's thunder by selling 1.8 million units, a growth of 16.6 per cent on last year's Q2. Compaq was shoved into second place with 1.79 million units, up 16.5 per cent. IBM, Gateway and Hewlett-Packard shipped 876,000, 845,000 and 841,000 units, respectively, all showing growth of around eight per cent. Compaq still clung onto the most global PC shipments -- with 3.75 million units. It was followed by Dell with 2.8 million and IBM with 2.3 million. HP and NEC/PB NEC shipped 1.7 million and 1.3 million, respectively. IDC also forecast that worldwide PC sales for the third quarter would grow by 24.8 per cent year on year. Global volume was expected to rise 7.2 per cent from this year's strong second quarter. Japan showed the speediest year on year growth rate in Q2 -– 39 per cent -– and is expected to have a strong performance in the second half of 1999. IDC forecast 32 per cent year on year growth for Japan for Q3 thanks to heightening consumer demand, Internet shopping and interest in smaller desktop PCs. Western Europe is expected to see 16.3 per cent growth in Q3, and the US 28 per cent. IDC said that market expansion would continue to be led by global demand for increasingly cheaper PCs, healthy growth in Asian, and the strong US economy. "Prices keep coming down and consumer interest in PCs keeps going up," added John Brown, research manager of IDC's worldwide quarterly PC tracking. "IDC believes that consumer demand combined with the traditional seasonal uptick in sales will result in very healthy global demand this quarter." Regarding the vendors, IDC expected the stars of Q3 to be Dell, Gateway, IBM and Apple. It said this line-up appeared to have the "right stuff" for growth this quarter. This includes having good Internet strategies, being able to deliver portable PCs in volume, having good positioning in Western Europe, the US and Asia/Pacific, as well as being aligned with growing consumer and small business segments. ®
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Audiohighway struggles to push music player patent

Last July online music company Audiohighway.com was granted a patent that appears to give it exclusive right to the concept of a portable digital music player. This week, the company tried to persuade the great and the good of the music industry that they should be talking to it about royalties. Understandably, the music biz was having none of it. Audiohighway.com applied for the controversial patent, number 5,914,941, back in 1995. It describes the use of a "portable information storage/playback apparatus having a data interface" used to store and play back downloaded content regardless of the format that content is stored in. As we reported back in July, Audiohighway.com's patent comes from its own ListenUp digital music player, previewed at the 1997 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas but never released as a commercial product. Back then, Audiohighway.com was called Information Highway Media Corporation. But now it's payment time. Audiohighway.com has apparently contacted over 30 companies, including Diamond Multimedia, creator of the Rio PMP300 MP3 player, demanding royalties -- without much success it seems, which is why Audiohighway.com CEO Nathan Schulof this week attended the Digital Distribution and Music Industry conference to state the company's case. The trouble is, the patent is highly specific about the kind of device it covers. For instance, it states the device must hold music in some form of non-volatile memory, so presumably any player with battery-backed RAM is safe. The patent also specifies the use of a modem within the device, rather than the use of a PC as a download go-between, and other key hardware components. In any case, the patent may still be specious. As Robin Gross, staff intellectual property attorney at online free-speech group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told TechWeb: "You don't get a patent on the goal, you get a patent on the process." Audiohighway.com's line is that it's simply trying to protect its own intellectual property, but given how specific the patent is, it's unlikely that the company will find anyone who has actually infringed a significant part of it. Besides, when the CEO trots out statistics such as predicted shipments of 13 million digital music players by 2002, the deal is clearly one of making money than protecting inventions. ®
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Boffins squeeze 30x extra life into lithium ion batteries

You could soon talk on your mobile phone for much longer between battery recharge sessions, thanks to some nifty research from Tottori University in Japan. If the breakthrough gains commercial acceptance, the life of a lithium ion (Li-Ion) battery could be 30 times as long. Li-Ion batteries have a cobalt oxide cathode and an anode made of graphite. The researchers, led by Takao Esaka, found that the life of a battery was considerably extended if the graphite anode is replaced with one made of magnesium and tin. The reason for the improvement is elegant and simple. The magnesium version has a more cracked surface, hence displaying a larger surface area than its graphite equivalent. The denser material can store three times as much energy, gram for gram, making it 30 times more efficient over all. The new style battery would have applications beyond the laptop and mobile phone. Esaka says he is working with Panasonic to create a longer lasting battery for electric vehicles, but he is uncertain about production dates. ®
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Cholera virus ‘threatens’ hard drives

Cholera is threatening to break out in the IT community. The filth and squalor of the computer age has led to a new virus, labelled 'Cholera' by anit-virus specialist Computer Associates. This self-replicating, worm-like virus was found in Computer Associates' German research lab earlier this week. Its danger lies in its ability to automatically send itself to email addresses it finds on hard-drives, which could overload email servers. However, mutated versions could lead to the virus deleting data. CA said Cholera was "moderately dangerous", and it has not yet been reported out in the wild. ®
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Intel 810e futures pop up on the Web

A hardware site has blown the whistle on Intel's up and coming 810e chipset. HardOCP has come into possession of three Intel slides which outline key features of Intel's platform. As expected, the 810e will support the 133MHz front-side bus and will be pin-compatible with the 810. And again, it will support the S370 socket and Coppermine, when those processors start to appear. The slides appear to show support for PC133 as well as PC100 memory, while Intel has also pencilled in future support for USB 2.0. Intel, however, points out that the PC-133 support only comes with the graphics sub-system. We cannot expect to see PC-133 supported in the 810e. ®
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Centrica gases on the telephone

Uber-utilities conglomerate Centrica wants to play telephone companies, according to splashes all over today's papers' business news sections. The move follows a discount telecoms to Centrica's Goldfish card holders, which attracted 13,000 subscribers in eight weeks. A company spokesman commented: "There are no firm plans as yet, we are really just exploring the idea. It is too early to say what kind of package we would be offering, it would depend very much on the operating environment. At the moment, we would still have to go through BT." Centrica is currently in informal talks with many industry players, saying that it makes strategic sense to investigate all the options. "Centrica is really becoming a service provider in the broadest sense," the spokesman added. Centrica used to be part of British Gas, not normally noted for its service provision. Other strings to Centrica bow include plumbing and -- soon -- car rescue, thanks to the impending acquisition of the AA. ®
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ePotatoes shout at the Internet

Half of all office workers in Britain have sky-high blood pressure and a tendency to go off the rails and shout a lot when they use the Internet. That's the conclusion of Web company InfoLibria which discovered that workers suffered cyberstress as a result of delays in downloading vital information from the Net. Symptoms of this latest workplace scourge include anger, frustration, anxiety and "white-knuckle impatience", all of which can have serious long-term health implications. "In an abundance society the greatest scarcity is that of time," said psychologist Dr David Lewis, author of the study. "Even a few minutes waiting for information to download, especially when working against a deadline, can cause the blood pressure to rise and pulses to soar. "Both responses that can lead to long term health problems if cyberstress becomes chronic in the workplace," he said. Of course, anyone who feels it's getting all too much could always blast their PC with a Klingon Disrupter and say "to hell with it all, I'm of down the boozer". Well, it is Friday, after all... ®
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Samsung ramps up Rambus volumes

Samsung has set its stall on grabbing 60 per cent of the world's Rambus memory market this year, after saying it's the first company to begin mass-producing RDRAM chips. The Korean vendor estimated its huge slice of the Rambus cake would draw up to $250 million in sales, rising to $2 billion in the year 2000, according to Korean daily Maeil Business Newspaper. Samsung, which developed Rambus DRAMs six months before its rivals, will use its Rambus chips for 3D graphics products and use an 0.10 micron design rule. Earlier this year, Intel invested $100 million in the Korean chip giant, on the condition that Samsung used the money to ramp up production of Rambus Direct DRAM. Last October Intel also invested $500 million in Micron Technology for similar purposes. ®
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Laryngitis Bug hits voicemail

So what do you call a voicemail bug, Laryngitis? We ask only because One2One was hit by a bug this week that put some of its customers’ voicemail facilities out of action. One customer, who complained to the telecoms company, claimed to have been told that a virus had hit services. But One2One was adamant it was only a bug in the technology. A One2One representative said: "It’s not a virus. We are extending our voicemail platform, and these things sometimes happen. "It was just a bug." ®
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US helps Russia trash Islamic militant Web sites

The FBI has offered Russia a helping hand in cleaning up the Web from Islamic militants fighting in Dagestan. According to a report by the BBC the Feds have offered to trash Web sites set up by Islamic militants and "eliminate" them. Although there has been no official confirmation it would not be the first time such tactics have been used in international disputes. Earlier this year it was reported that the CIA had been given the go-ahead by President Clinton to wage a cyberwar against Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. Tim Richardson
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IO Data Device preps $180 digital music player

I-O Data Device today took the wraps off its HyperHyde micro digital music player and dictaphone. The tiny 5.4cm x 4.6cm x 1.7cm gadget is set to ship in Japan in November for Y19,800 ($178), according to reports from the Japanese Nikkei newswire. HyperHyde will play both MP3 and .WAV files, storing them on plug-in Flash memory. The base until will ship with a 32MB memory card, enough, the company claimed, for 32 minutes of music or two hours' voice recordings. The device has two memory card slots and is powered by a single AAA battery, capable of delivering up to seven hours' continuous playback. Copyright protection is built-in -- the HyperHyde is compatible with the Secure Digital Music Initiative's Phase I spec. ®
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Govt Net Snoopers Charter slammed

The IT industry has responded to Government proposals for increased Internet surveillance with a mixture of worry and irritation. The plans would mean a considerable extension of police powers in the UK, and as many as five times the current number of tapping warrants being issued. The plans, outlined in the government document 'Interception of Communications In the UK', would require ISPs to be able to intercept one telephone line in every 500 that they operate, in essence providing a back door for the government to monitor private transmissions. Malcolm Hutty, director of civil liberty group Liberty describes the proposals as 'Hideously expensive, technically unworkable, and a threat to civil liberties." Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, says in the introduction to the document that interception "..plays a crucial role in helping law enforcement agencies to combat criminal activity.." Most intercepted messages will be encrypted - at least it will be if the criminal has any sense. Decryption takes time, maybe weeks, rendering most intercepted information past its use by date. Demon Internet estimates that the infrastructure needed to fulfil the governments wishes would cost them more than one million pounds initially, and upgrades every year could be as much as 15 per cent of that again. Richard Clayton, an adviser at Demon, said: "If the government wants this information, it should pay for it." ®
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ICL slashes 700 jobs

ICL will slash 700 jobs in an effort to cut costs by 15 per cent. The company said this would include 200 job losses in the UK as part of its "Project Charlton", according to this week’s Computing magazine. The jobs will be axed from ICL’s operational services division, which employs 11,000 worldwide. A representative told The Register the losses had resulted from job duplications due to ICL linking some of its existing businesses together. The jobs lost will be in administration and support, and some service engineers will also be given the push. Staff will get 90 days’ notice with immediate effect, after which time they will be retrained or made redundant. ICL said it aimed to concentrate on e-business services and customer relationship management. The company needs to hit a six per cent operating margin before its flotation on the stock market next year. It is currently running at three per cent. ICL said the losses were not connected with drumming up finances in preparation for its float next year. ICL has 22,500 staff worldwide, and 12,500 staff in the UK.®
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Flash!Bang!Wallop! for 256MB Memcorp card

Memory Corporation has announced the release of its MemoryGold Professional 256MB PC Flash card. With an expected retail price of around $500, the Type 2 card is intended for the professional digital camera market. It will be sold through specialist distribution channels. David Savage, CEO of Memory Corp, said this complete the flash card range for both volume and professional ends of the market. He expects to see strong growth in both areas over the next 12 months. ®
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AMI boards Y2K bug fix

AMI has launched a new version of its Year 2000 BIOS fix. The Year 2000 BIOS Enabler Board, version 1.4, corrects PC Year 2000 BIOS problems - it monitors BIOS and RTC for proper century rollover. The board hooks interrupt the BIOS system and fixes the bug in case the system is powered on or off during the century rollover. Find out more here.
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Seagate bundles Mylex

Mylex has joined forces with Seagate to offer OEMs an Ultra2 SCSI RAID storage bundle. Mylex supplies the RAID controller, while Seagate supplies the drives. There's a variety of bundles on offer, with savings ranging from $80 to $133. The promotion runs until October 29. For a complete list of participating Mylex and Seagate distributors, go to here.