20th > September > 1999 Archive

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Net Finance News: 2-8 Sept 1999

8 Sept 1999 BT Lame Brain spills 0800 beans Concentric buys ITG for £146 million Frozen food supermarket chain Iceland is to offer Net-based home shopping from October 4 in an attempt to improve its trading position. The service will be free of charge -- unlike other schemes such as Tescos which make consumers pay for …
Team Register, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Net Finance News: 9-15 Sept 1999

15 Sept 1999 Financial site Motley Fool has secured $26.5 million in VC funding -- the first in the company's five-year history according to the WSJ. Brothers Tom and David Gardner plan to use the cash to launch a major ad campaign to drive more traffic to the site. Although terms of the deal were not disclosed it's understood …
Team Register, 20 Sep 1999
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Ellison slaps MS, praises Euro Net take-up

Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison was in London on Friday, to preach the gospel of the Internet to Europe's IT directors. He also revealed that on Tuesday, Oracle will be announcing a deal with a major US hardware supplier - at present nameless. Watch this space. The future according to Ellison, in case you didn't know of his plans, is one with everyone online. Each company would have a few big servers dotted around the globe, holding all the data the business would need. These could be accessed by every employee from anywhere in the world. Two months ago, Ellison spoke of companies renting server space, and even of renting applications on a 'minute by minute basis'. He now concedes that this would be unworkable, since installation itself can take up to six months. Now there will be a three year lease arrangement, with some up-front costs to the customer. And despite our phone companies lacking proper competition until very recently, Ellison thinks that European Internet use could overtake the US inside three years. Adoption of cellular technology is much higher here than in the States, and as access devices get smaller, Europe will take the lead. Oracle has no plans to move into the hardware market itself. "Hardware is one of many things we are not good at," Ellison said. "We will stick to what we are good at." Which brings us neatly to the subject of Microsoft-bashing, something our Larry is certainly passionate about - you decide if he's any good at it or not. On the recent proposals to split Microsoft in two, Ellison had a few words to say. "Everyone agrees that Microsoft egregiously broke the law over and over; they paid people not to use the Netscape browser. Bill Gates make Rockerfella seem like a swell fellow," he said. The only relevant question in Ellison's opinion, is whether Microsoft knew it was breaking the law. "You can either believe they knew or that they didn't. You know, they're a bunch of young programmers in Seattle, 'what we can't use our monopoly to force them to bundle, I didn't know that was against the law, I'm not a lawyer...'," Ellison clearly thinks Microsoft knew what it was doing, but that it was a calculated risk. The US government's powers are limited. And Microsoft decided that any punishment inflicted would be outweighed by the benefits of pushing Netscape out of the market. "And it worked," he said. "Netscape is gone, disappeared. They get to keep the money, and the government doesn't dare do anything. Those guys are really smart." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
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Looking for a good time? Don't consult the Oracle

They will not go down in history as one of the world's greatest double acts. It is more likely that the day will be recorded as having seen one of the most toe-curlingly embarrassing displays of infomercial style sales patter. Larry Ellison had spent the best part of an hour outlining his vision of electronic business, when out of the blue, he seemed to develop a weird memory disorder and forgot everything he had just said. The CEO of Oracle and his UK marketing boss proceeded to demonstrate exactly how one would use the Internet to do business, using role play. Larry was The Sceptic, and the marketing guy had to convince him of the merits of these new-fangled computers. If Laurel & Hardy had been up there, it might have been funny. Ellison may be an astute business man, but he is no Eddie Izzard. A room full of journalists from around Europe watched in absolute horror as the scene unfolded. Fortunately for those watching there was one - we think unscripted - moment which drew a laugh from the audience. It would appear that the great electronic evangelist is not very good at answering his emails. But take heart, Mr Ellison. I have it on good authority that when Mr. Gates attempted a similar dialogue in a presentation, it was much worse than yours. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Nokia, HP sign WAP agreement

HP and Nokia have signed a deal to deliver Internet facilities on mobile phones. The deal, is attractive to Nokia because of its e-services, said Gerhard Roman, VP of marketing at Nokia. Roman demonstrated two applications on mobile phones that would use HP's expertise. Those were mobile airline ticketing services and online banking, where money could be transferred from one account to another using WAP services. Peter van der Fluit, VP of HP alliance programme in Europe, said: "By 2003, 50 per cent of mobile phones will be WAP enabled." That meant that 80,000 servers would be needed by 2003 to handle the transactions. Those would mostly be HP servers, he hoped. But IBM immediately attempted to steal HP's thunder. It has just released a statement saying that it will sign a deal with Nokia next week. Nokia must just be lapping all this attention up. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

HP says NT not robust enough for new L-boxes

The NT operating system is not suitable for HP's entry level L-Series machines, which the company introduces today. Instead, HP will use its own flavour of Unix for the L1000 and 2000 boxes, aimed at the entry level market. Speculation is mounting that HP's CEO, Carla Fiorina, will make the split official. She will host a conference call to be held in the US tomorrow. Janice Chaffin, GM of HP's business critical unit, said: "We see NT as quite successful in more collaborative applications. NT does not have the same robustness as HP/UX." HP claims that its L1000 and L2000 boxes, which will initially ship with PA-RISC and later IA-64 chips, will help it capture the midrange market. Chaffin said that while there was no doubt that HP has the largest market share in the enterprise on Unix boxes, it would pursue an "aggressive" campaign to wrest market share from competitors including Sun, Compaq and IBM in the midrange. The L1000, which comes in a two way configuration, is upgradeable to the four way L2000. HP claims that the range out-performs offering from Sun on both price and performance. The collaboration HP has with Puffin to port Linux to the PA-RISC platform will bear fruit early next year, HP said. At the same time, it is helping to port Linux to the IA-64 platform. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Daewoo faces foreign debt crisis

Stricken industrial giant Daewoo has been knocked back by creditors after asking them to agree to a six month moratorium, which would have given it a much needed break from its crippling debt repayments. It had offered collateral, in the form of shares in the company, in return for the payment break, but this was rejected over the weekend. The group's foreign debt adds up to more than $5 billion and, according to The Korea Herald, Daewoo's foreign creditors have demanded that either the Korean government, or Korean banks, underwrite the debt. The conglomerate is committed to repaying $3 billion by the end of the year. Despite the seemingly unending series of financial hurdles the Daewoo group has to get over, its PC subsidiary is one division that looks like it may have a viable future. In recent months it has secured two huge PC supply contracts – one of which was the largest Korean PC export deal. The first was in August and saw Daewoo sell 1.4 million PCs – at a value of $700 million. But this was topped this month when Daewoo won a contract to supply $840 million worth of PCs (1.92 million units in all) to US retail chain Enpointe. Daewoo is said to considering setting up a joint venture with Enpointe to capitalise upon recent success in the US market. With sales to the US market alone at over $1.5 billion after just two deals, the PC company could be in a position to turn the corner for Daewoo. Winning deals of this magnitude can only be done by the group using its massive purchasing power to squeeze its margins to a point many manufacturers simply could follow. But with only a modest increase in price per unit, the Daewoo PC company could realise significant increases in revenue. ®
Sean Fleming, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD suffers further Gateway blow

Chip manufacturer AMD suffered a further setback over the weekend after Gateway said it would shift to an Intel-only policy. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, it will begin to phase out K6-2s and K6-IIIs from its platform. Earlier this year, Gateway declined to use AMD's Athlon K7 in its products. That is believed to have happened after Intel offered Gateway more favourable deals on its microprocessors, estimated to be worth a cool $20 million. AMD has a number of top OEMs using its microprocessors, including Compaq and IBM. Gateway was understood to have been preparing the launch ofan Athlon machine before the overtures of Chipzilla convinced it of the errors of its ways. ® Related story Gateway walks away from Athlon
Mike Magee, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

ADSL gets green light from Freeserve

Freeserve is to begin trialling broadband ADSL technology in November, the company said today. It will provide the high speed Net access using BT's ADSL network although the exact details of the trial have not been disclosed. The ISP said the cost of the always-on service will be published on its Web site. No one from Freeserve was available for comment this morning, but in a prepared statement Freeserve chief executive John Pluthero said: "The trial of ADSL reinforces Freeserve's position at the forefront of Internet service provision. "ADSL will form an essential element of our broadband proposition and will enable us to extend and further develop services we offer our users in the future," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Nasdaq hacked through MS security hole

Flaws in Microsoft's Internet Information Servers have been blamed for the hack attack on the Nasdaq and American Stock Exchange Web site last week. The weaknesses allowed hackers to breach security and trash one of the most high profile Web sites in the US. The allegation was made by London-based mi2g software which carried out a post mortem of the hack attack. "Initial analysis suggests that well publicised vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Information Server have been exploited," said the report. "Whilst Microsoft has been regularly issuing software patches for holes found, there is no guarantee that all patches may have been applied by the network administrators," it said. The attack -- which left graffiti all over the walls of the financial Web site -- was allegedly carried out by the hacker group "United Loan Gunmen" (ULG). The most sensitive aspect of the attack is a claim by the ULG that it set up an email account on Nasdaq's computers. If this proves to be true, it would mean that ULG obtained "deep access" to the Nasdaq computer system severely compromising the security of the site. "On-line financial institutions, bourses and shopping sites ought to be aware that they need to put Internet security at the top of the board agenda," warned DK Matai, MD of mi2g software. Despite being contacted on Friday to discuss the matter, no one from Microsoft was available for comment by press time. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

How MS can hold onto the market while embracing XML

The sight of Microsoft enthusiastically embracing open standards, really meaning it, and being believed as well is novel, but as far as XML is concerned, it's becoming less so. Microsoft really is driving XML, Paul Maritz really (probably) means it when he says Web services architectures should be open and standards-based, and the Microsoft strategy revealed so far seems remarkably short on proprietary catches. Mostly. The company's big bang announcement of its Windows DNA 2000 platform strategy did indeed outline a future where there would at least theoretically be room for all sorts of different platforms, but under the covers there are a few catches that make the open strategy not quite so open, and therefore more traditionally Microsoft, after all. Microsoft will be introducing native XML support across its entire product line, and will develop COM to provide full support for its Web services model, the result being that the architecture will be available to virtually any system using XML. This in itself is an intriguing one - Microsoft has been bashing the COM tub for years, but apparently, it was only kidding. The COM transport now becomes XML messages, rather than the default architecture of choice, and we can perhaps expect some development discontinuity as this hop is performed. Said Maritz: "What this means is that in the future, as we evolve COM, the native way that COM objects interact with each other will be through XML messages, over an HTTP transport. So the way that you send a message or invoke a method on an object transport will be to essentially formulate and XML message, have it flow as an Internet message, and be picked up by the object on the other end, which will then cause the code to be invoked. So we will make native use of Internet standards." The demonstrations themselves lacked any obvious catches. For example, Microsoft Outlook was shown using exposed 'back-end' XMLised data stores to create composite Web pages, i.e. a 'personal portal,' i.e. Gates' Digital Dashboard. It looked clean - it used Microsoft BizTalk Server, and it isn't exactly going to be easy to make an XML data store proprietary. More protestations from Maritz: "So by natively using XML as our format, we also believe we have a great interoperability story, and people don't actually have to buy into our whole programming infrastructure to interoperate us with them, or them with us. So we believe that this is a very open, Internet-friendly way of evolving." Novel, certainly. But with Gates still bashing on about the "great interoperability" between Microsoft products, you can see which way the wind's blowing. And here's the gag, possibly. Say that in a few years time all of the servers are serving composite Web pages in neutral XML, then everybody should be happy, and Microsoft will at last have demonstrated that it really is into open standards after all, right? But in that case, the client side software that can actually read the XML is what's important, and who currently dominates the client side? Who, for that matter, whipped up the Digital Dashboard concept a little while back? Digital Dashboard, you'll note, can in some senses be seen as what happens to the client when it starts tracking and organising personal portal type information, and maybe moves off the PC while it's about it. So you could start to detect a Microsoft cunning plan to maintain control via its core area of strength, the client, and if Microsoft holds on to this, it doesn't matter if standards are open, and everybody else can theoretically compete. Microsoft's bald-headed enthusiasm for XML meanwhile adds further spin to this, because the company can increase its chances of holding onto the client by keeping in the lead in terms of development. Cunning - and it may even be legal. ® Analysis - Inside AppCenter Windows becomes the Internet platform How pure is IE5's XML? The march away from COM
John Lettice, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Inside AppCenter – the march away from COM

With only around 10 per cent of so-called secure Web sites being created with Windows NT, Microsoft is concerned that it is at present the Web site dunce. Last week, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer made his pitch to change that. Ballmer has to pay homage to Gates in his speeches. This time it was an obeisance to what Gates had been calling mega-services for some years, but which are apparently "re-usable building blocks on the Web or reusable Web services". The transubstantiation of this idea of Gates, to be delivered "next year", is a new product to be called the "Applications Center Server" for business process integration. It is supposed to provide host integration services, with BizTalk creating the applications, and the next version of MS Commerce Server (previously called Site Server) providing the XML. Ballmer did remark that he didn't think that Microsoft would be the only deliverer of these "standard reusable" building blocks - the sub-text of course being blocks that work only with Microsoft products. It's worth recalling that there was once a time when Microsoft had suggested that in componentising its Office suite, it might be possible for developers to provide alternative components. In the event of course, Microsoft did not really want this, and never provided any APIs to make it realistically possible. Picking up the ball, MS vp Paul Maritz said that the second phase of the Microsoft announcement was aligned around the W2K Datacenter and Windows DNA 2000. He and a sidekick claimed to show that in combination with old-hat Microsoft products like Visual Studio 6, then 10,000 to 11,000 concurrent users could be served more than 3 billion pages a day. This was compared with Yahoo, which was said to serve around 450 million pages/day (which was interesting since Yahoo had said 310 million the same week). Of course it would have been more impressive if a real user with real data had achieved this, but there was no mention of the real world. There was a stumble during the presentation when the use of the performance monitor console was quickly skipped, giving rise to some suspicion about what was being claimed. The third phase, Maritz said, was unlikely to have Java at its centre, interacting through Jini services. For Maritz, the future model starts "with Internet standards as its premise, and it builds on that". Maritz admitted that Microsoft was "in the midst of a very fundamental effort to reform the services that we offer to developers, in particular to evolve our COM object models to take this into account. What this means is that in the future, as we evolve COM, the native way that COM objects interact with each other will be through XML messages over an HTTP transport." This should allow interoperability with existing COM architecture, but it does sound as though there will be something of a discontinuity in the future. Microsoft envisages using XML for interoperability, but whether that will be two-way interoperability remains to be seen, and invites suspicion. A Maritz minion gave a demo in which XML was a core part of VB, and the audience laughed when it was described as "miraculous". What was shown was the passing of XML by VB between a Web page and a business object. It looks as though Microsoft is trying to go along the road behind the OMG. ® Analysis - Inside AppCenter Windows becomes the Internet platform How pure is IE5's XML? The march away from COM
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

MS IE5 XML not entirely pure, and what's this patent?

Great emphasis is being given by Microsoft to XML, prompting the suspicion that it won't be long before we read of impure XML. Parsing Ballmer's recent comments and looking at the sub-text, when he said that software would "metamorphose", and that it could not do so "in today's environment of monolithic server code", it was clear that Ballmer was working from a carefully prepared text, behaving uncharacteristically, and was not at all playing his usual cheerleader role. What had focussed Ballmer was the role that XML was to play in Microsoft's future plans. If there's one thing we can be certain about, it's that Microsoft's intentions towards XML are less that honourable. It is true that Microsoft was active with W3C in bringing about XML, and that it has made a number of moves towards incorporating XML in its products. If this were Java, it would just be a matter of time before Microsoft's route from so-called monolithic Web sites to integration was only possible with a Microsoft version of XML. Is, as some analysts are saying, XML to big for Microsoft to be able to do this? We'll see. But the nature of the XML support in IE5, and some related patenting shenanigans are causes for concern. XML is already in IE5, Ballmer said (or Windows 2000, as the press release put it, politically correctly), and in extensions for Office 2000, with "a very fast native XML parser". MS SQL also supports XML, as does/will SOAP (simple object access protocol), the Babylon integration server (which is an XML transaction integrator), and the BizTalk framework. He also said: "IE is the first browser to support XML." But a different version of this was included in a press release on 31 March this year, entitled: "Microsoft delivers industry's first XML-compliant browser. Comprehensive XML support enables developers to build new generation of data-driven applications". It was said that "Internet Explorer 5 is the first commercially available browser software" to support XML. There are three things wrong with this statement. First, IE is not the first browser to incorporate XML: it wasn't, since the first was Jumbo, from the Virtual School of Molecular Science and the Virtual Information Technology College. This is a Java application to demonstrate XML and appears to be the world's first XML browser. Second, Microsoft qualifies "first" with "commercially", which is a bad mistake for a defendant in an antitrust case that has been saying that IE was "free". Third, IE is not XML compliant in many respects, nor in intention, it would seem. The Web Standards Project is a ginger group of leading developers that attempts to get software developers to follow Internet standards. It has promoted an Open Letter to Microsoft urging that the standards be followed exactly, and castigated both Netscape and Microsoft for proprietary extensions. WSP said in a press release that IE5 should have been delayed as it did not fully support key standards. So far as XML is concerned, WSP identified bugs in its interpretation of XML data despite there being freeware XML parsers available since 1997. There is also deliberate violation in IE's handling of XML namespaces, preventing a developer using more than one XML-based language in the same Web page. It is not as though Microsoft does not understand where it is at fault, since it played a role in the development of the XML specification. IE also has hard-wired support for the "html" prefix, so that users cannot override this, as should be possible. IE also defaults to XSL (extensible stylesheet language, still not stable and experimental) if XSL and CSS (cascading style sheets) are present in the same page. It's no surprise that Microsoft's implementation of XSL has proprietary keywords and syntax not in the W3C drafts. Consequently, IE5 is not compatible with the XML standard. Another important concern is Microsoft's use of key concepts from W3C's cascading style sheets in US patent 5860073, which is assigned to Microsoft and was granted on 12 January 1999. The WSP feels that Microsoft should assign the patent to W3C. It was unethical for Microsoft to have participated in the W3C standardisation process and not inform W3C (as did Intermind about its patent for P3P - Platform for Privacy Preferences) or assign the patent to W3C. The Microsoft patent also appears to incorporate part of a 1989 Open Text Corporation patent. The industry needs to watch very closely any further XML deviations by Microsoft. How just it would be if it were illegal for those who did not achieve compatibility with a de jure standard to be legally denied the use of the names like XML. Perhaps this is one for Judge Jackson. ® Next part: The march away from COM Analysis - Inside AppCenter Windows becomes the Internet platform How pure is IE5's XML? The march away from COM
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Inside AppCenter – Windows becomes the Internet platform

Last week's web applications development announcements from Microsoft contain little that is really new, and it seems to be a move to snatch some media attention from announcements by HP and other vendors. The focus was on what Microsoft is calling an AppCenter Server, described as a component of Windows DNA 2000. The announcement was cobbled-together effort presented as an architecture based on "existing technologies and tools". The announcements need careful parsing and more than a cursory knowledge of Microsoft-speak to get at any truth. Microsoft is trying to do what it said it feared Netscape would do, according to its evidence in the Washington antitrust case: create an Internet platform for applications, but using Windows rather than a browser. Microsoft says it is creating a new architecture to build "universally programmable building blocks," and the sub-text is maybe more sophisticated than usual. Theoretically it's open to non-Microsoft products, but it's a raging certainty that MS is banking on its own products being dominant. The Microsoft executive leading the development is Charles Fitzgerald, a hard-liner. He claims the Web will evolve from hyperlinked text and graphics to "a new generation of web services .... capable of doing tasks that are almost unimaginable today". There's a strong whiff that this implies a good deal of buying-in of expertise, and for many developers, their number-one objective is to be bought by Microsoft, since many do not have the wherewithal to kick an IPO into touch. It emerged from the announcements that Microsoft has possibly found a crafty way to persuade e-commerce traders to go with Microsoft: by creating an extranet of potential supplier intranets, it would be possible for an enterprise to look for the best deal when purchasing - if there were a common format. This will of course be XML. ® Next part: HREF="http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/6875.html">How pure is IE5's XML? Analysis - Inside AppCenter Windows becomes the Internet platform How pure is IE5's XML? The march away from COM
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

BT moves to pacify Northern Irish Net users

Net users in Northern Ireland were outraged last week after discovering that an offer to buy a Fujitsu PC and receive toll-free weekend access to the Net via BTInternet was not available outside mainland Britain. They were so incensed that the offer didn't extend to Northern Ireland they were prepared to close their BTInternet accounts in protest. "A couple of friends of mine tried for this offer and BT accepted the details," said one aggrieved Register reader. "BT then phoned back to say that it was only available to UK mainland users -- this is not on to say the least," he said. However The Register can confirm that as of Friday afternoon the offer now applies to Northern Ireland. A spokesman for BTInternet said there was a delay in appointing contractors to carry out the installation and home tutoring which comes as standard with the offer. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Tempo eases off Screaming.net distribution

Tempo has confirmed that it could be up to a month before it starts re-stocking its stores with Screaming.net software. It means anyone hoping to join the ISP will have to wait up to six weeks to take advantage of off-peak toll-free calls to the Internet. Tempo stopped stocking the CD-ROMS a week ago and said it took the decision to ensure that existing users benefited from improvements in its service. With around 120,000 Net users now transferred to telco Localtel as part of the initiative to offer free off-peak calls to the Net, the retailer wants to ensure that the problems that have plagued Screaming.net are sorted out before any more new users sign up for the ISP. A statement on Tempo's site reads: "For a limited period, we will not be issuing Screaming.net CDs through our stores. "This is a temporary measure to ensure that existing users experience a rapid increase in the quality of their service." However, the tone of the announcement on Tempo's Web site appeared strained with the retailer saying that the "measures to improve the service must originate from Localtel". But it also recognises that Localtel could not be blamed for all the problems. "We would like to reassure potential subscribers to Screaming.net that we anticipate only a brief pause in distribution," said Tempo. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Speedy Net access on the move

Microcomputer Research International (MRi) has launch a new range of mobile communications devices, for use with a laptop and mobile phone. It claims the range is the cheapest set of branded mobile comms products on the market. The MRI-56GSM modem is compatible with all major GSM handsets. For just 90 of your earth pounds, you get download speeds of 56Kbps, data transfer at 33.6Kbps and fax at 14.4Kbps, enabling access to the Internet at good speeds while on the move. There is a combined modem and Ethernet card - the MRI 10/100/56P - which for £160, allows simultaneous access to the LAN and dial-up connection. And Finally.... the MRI ISDN PCM card offering download speeds of 128Kbps has a street price of £129. The two 64K channels can be used separately as two different phone lines. MRi says that this card is designed to cope with downloads of large, graphics heavy files and presentations. The range is being sold through high street outlets Tempo and Tandy. More information is available here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

HP's curious NT tale gets curiouser

The L-boxes HP launched earlier today, and which will be available in mid-October, are intended to bridge the gap when IA-64 arrives, said Patrick Rogers, system solutions marketing manager at HP US. Rogers filled in more details about HP's strategy with its OS and confirmed that even though it will compete with its own Intel server division, it is serious about NT not being robust enough an OS for the platform. Nor, said Rogers, did Linux cut it in a mission critical environment, even though he acknowledged the level of support HP was giving to the IA-64 port. It's HP/UX all the way. And if Compaq ever dumped its Tru64 Unix for Linux, that would be a major blunder, said Rogers. He said: "We won't recommend Linux for mission critical environments, because we're not sure we can support it." At the same time, he said, many people were switching to Linux on Intel servers. "Why shell out $2,000 to $3,000 for NT when you can get Linux for free?" He said: "We're taking a stand against NT, even though we'll be competing against our own NT division." Rogers claimed that HP has 30 to 32 per cent market share worldwide at the high end, while it has 20 to 25 per cent in the low end -- which the L1000 and L2000 boxes occupy. While HP has not yet managed to boot its flavour of Unix on Merced yet, it is only a matter of time, he said. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Kingston upgrade kit extends life of notebooks

Kingston Technology reckons it has just extended the life expectancy of your notebook PC by one year, thanks to a hard disk upgrade kit. StrataDrive Plus is described by Kingston as a hardware and software solution for such upgrades. The product will initially be aimed at corporate users, but Maria Garcia Martin, product manager at Kingston, said that the arrival of a simple upgrade solution could make a laptop a more attractive proposition for the consumer market as well. Currently 85 per cent of notebook PCs are bought by the corporate world, and of these, 80 per cent have a hard drive with less than 1GB capacity. By upgrading with StrataDrive, older machines can boost capacity to anything from 3.2GB to 14GB. The new hard drive comes in a static-proof jacket to protect data during the transfer, and the StrataDrive Plus version comes with the software, StrataMove, to simplify the data transfer. In theory, this means upgrades can be carried out by non-techies. An extra tool, Disk Manager allows users to reorganise data on the new hard drive, and ensure that there is no transfer of corrupted material from one disk to another. It is available without the software, for those who like to do these things by hand. Research from IDC indicates that notebooks are growing in popularity. Currently the market accounts for 20 per cent of total computer shipments, but it is expected to reach 24.5 per cent by 2001. This represents a compound annual growth rate of 13.9 per cent between 1999 and 2002. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Disney Web exec on kiddie porn charge

Less than 24 hours after Disney's three little pigs launched a Mickey Mouse initiative to protect children from online pervs, the FBI arrested a senior Infoseek executive for trying to solicit sex with a 13-year-old girl. Thirty four year-old Patrick Naughton, a top executive at Infoseek and the man in charge of Disney's Web sites, has already been sacked from his job. The Feds began investigating Naughton six months ago when one of its officers stumbled across the executive in a perv chat room. Despite the undercover agent repeatedly identifying himself as a "13-year-old girl" Naughton continued to engage the "girl" in lurid conversation. At one point Naughton asked the "girl" to strip naked for him before sending her to a site bearing a picture of male genitalia which he said were his own. Naughton's paedophile activities finally came to an end when he arranged to meet the girl. He was apprehended by law enforcement officers in Los Angeles who also discovered numerous kiddie porn pictures on Naughton's laptop. The incident will come as acute embarrassment to Disney which only last week launched an initiative in Europe warning youngsters about steering clear of strangers on the Net. In a reworking of the popular fairy tale, the three little pigs warn kids of the dangers of the "big bad wolves" that stalk the Net. The initiative is part of a Disney education programme designed to help to stamp out kiddie porn on the Net. If convicted Naughton could be jailed for up to 15 years. Naughton was named executive VP responsible for content and technology for Go Networks in January, a JV between Disney and Infoseek. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

BT pagers still not available in Welsh

Five month old story surfaces in national (news) paper Two cheers for the hacks at the Daily Torygraph. We spotted a News In Brief item in today's issue saying that BT has been criticised for not carrying pager messages in Welsh. Sounds familiar, we thought. And so it was, because we wrote about it on 13 April. And here it is. Today, the Telegraph said: "Now BT has promised to remedy the situation after protests from the Welsh National Assembly and the Welsh Language Board." We don't know the source for the Telegraph NIB, but we got our inspiration from a BBC Radio 4 programme. ®
Sean Fleming, 20 Sep 1999
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Notebook prices will plunge – - but when?

Notebook prices are set to plummet -- but only when LCD shortages end sometime in 2001. Compared to historical levels, the cost of LCD panels is now so high that notebook price reductions seem inevitable when the shortage ends. By 2001 at the latest, Mr Wang (he of little first name) of Twinhead International expects an oversupply of LCDs, which will bring prices down at least to pre-1999 levels. Mr Wang would not speculate on the precise extent of any notebook price fall, but agreed that reductions of US$50 to $100 were quite possible. ING Barings' estimated price for 13.3-inch LCD screens (the most commonly-used size) next year is just over US$500, said Angela Soh, an analyst at ING Barings in Taipei. Taken together with Twinheads's prediction of a 17 per cent price drop when shortages ease in early 2001, this suggests a material cost saving for notebook makers of about US$85. Prices of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels may fall a little at the end of the fourth quarter, but will probably remain high but stable throughout next year, despite the gradual introduction of new production capacity, according to Soh. "Basically you have production capacity coming up in Taiwan, Korea and from Sharp in Japan. Additional capacity is not so great that prices would collapse, but we are looking for a more significant price decline in 2001 -- right now we're looking for about a 17 per cent decline." There is a slim possibility that the shortage will ease next year, speculated Wang De Shou, vice president for purchasing at notebook manufacturer, Twinhead International. "There are some quite different perceptions about the shortage," he said, "some are saying that it will be over next year, other people say it will last until the end of next year." This uncertainty is one reason why Twinhead has still not committed to a long term supply contract with a manufacturer, he added. "One of the major reasons to anticipate a continuing shortages is the lack of basic components for LCDs," Wang said, "That's still unclear, but if you're are just lookng from the LCD manufacturing capacity point of view, then I think the shortage should be over next year, in the first or second quarter. But if the components shortage continues then the situation will be worse." The hard-to-find components include colour filters, driver chips, and ITO (Indium-Tin Oxide) glass. Supplies of ITO glass, also known as mother glass, are particularly uncertain, Wang said. A large number of Taiwanese companies are trying to break into the LCD components market. This is obviously good news for makers of LCD panels, said Angel Soh, but she is skeptical about the chances of some of the newcomers. Most of the new component makers have little relevant experience, but are trying to buy technology or form joint-ventures with Japanese and Korean companies. Industry sources say that one of the newest entrants, Taiwan Salt, appears to have been rebuffed by its intended Korean technology partner. "It's actually not a terribly exciting area to be in, because for color filter, ITO glass, polarizers, these kind of support industries, you already have a few companies with very, very large market share, it will be quite difficult for Taiwanese companies to break in there." ®
Simon Burns, 20 Sep 1999
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Seagate shakes dead chicken image

Why did the chicken cross the road – it's an old gag construct but it's now been given a new lease of life, courtesy of Seagate. According to Eurotrademag.com, Seagate's latest HDDs – the U8 series – are so robust they will help the company get away from the nickname its Medalist HDD range acquired -- the dead chicken -- so called because it was so poor at shock absorption. The name dead chicken came about because, we are told, the Taiwanese pronunciation of Seagate sounds like the word for a dead chicken. All of which begs the question, if the U8 is a more robust drive, should it be called the rubber chicken? ®
Sean Fleming, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

BT curries SME favour with HP sauce

Hewlett Packard and BT are launching a range of PCs aimed at Internet novices in the SME market. The two giants will offer Web-ready HP Brio PCs to small businesses from 1 October. The machines form a package that promises to hold SMEs' hands and take them through using the Internet step by step. The five models are priced from £529 + VAT to £999 + VAT. The entry level HP Brio BA400 comes with Celeron 433MHz, 32MB SDRAM, 4.3GB hard drive and Windows 98. Top of the range is the Brio BA600, with Pentium III 550MHz, 128MB SDRAM, 8.4GB hard drive, Matrox Millennium G200 graphics and Windows 98. All machines come with monthly payment options spread over three years. Upgrades will be available after 18, 24 or 36 months, and HP will take back and recycle any unwanted kit after it is upgraded. The PCs are also ready for ADSL. All the PCs come with software to help Internet virgins. They have a Reuters news feed, information on travel and events - such as trade shows - and offer the user a free domain name. The Trellix Web design package is included to talk users through setting up a Web site. There is legal advice and a credit check facility for companies – which are optional and charged for. BT said 66 per cent of the estimated 1.2 million SMEs in the UK were not online. And over 75 per cent of those not connected were still without the correct kit to get started. Bill Hill, HP UK SMB manager, said the new PCs were aimed at businesses who had no experience of cyberspace. "The PCs will take you through the Web step by step. Today's announcement provides an easy, affordable solution for hooking up to the Internet." Grant Broster, head of BT's Internet for business division, said: "This offer will create a very reliable platform for SMBs, and will be low risk due to the established brand names of HP and BT." ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

MS France in shock Linux availability claim

The French authorities seem to be trying to limit the reverberations of their investigation of Microsoft, which leaked out last week. The French competition and anti-fraud directorate (DNERF) of the ministry of finance's probe is in response to complaints by consumers that they do not want to have Windows pre-loaded. Just one person in France is known to have been successful in obtaining a refund for Windows 98: Remi Lacombe, a teacher, received FF1690 by not accepting the end user licence agreement. But there's a separate spat going on in France; the French Canadian version of Windows is sold for around half the price of the French version, so distributors are bringing in grey versions. DNERF apparently does not want this issue to escalate and it points out that this could be a contract law matter, rather than a competition law issue. If the same complaints are found to in other EU countries and cross-border trade is involved (perhaps to francophone Belgium), it is quite possible that DNERF would boot the problem to the European Commission's DGIV competition directorate. Roberto Di Cosmo, a computer scientist with the ENS in Paris and well-known consumer advocate, told Le Parisien, which originally broke the story, that "When you buy a PC, you buy the machine and the software that goes with it, and even if the software represents 20 per cent of the cost, it's never disclosed." Di Cosmo is best known for his book (with Dominique Nora) Hijacking the world: the dark side of Microsoft, which is available in English as well as French. Microsoft's reaction so far is bizarre. John Frank, Microsoft's Paris-based head lawyer in Europe, said that even though OEMs have MDAs (market development agreements) to ship an operating system with new PCs, they were at liberty to install competing operating systems. If true - and Microsoft is unlikely to disclose any details of its contracts unless compelled to do so - then Microsoft could conceivably be paying OEMs some MDA dollars to load Linux. But we have our doubts about MDAs that permit that sort of stuff. Frank made a point that Linux PCs were available from HP, Dell, Compaq and IBM. Adam Sohn, a Microsoft Redmond spokesman, said that "Customers who do not want to buy Windows do not have to put Windows on their PC." Hmmm. All this is somewhat embarrassing for Microsoft since its European headquarters is in France, and so political considerations will undoubtedly be taken into account, as Microsoft could easily move its European HQ somewhere else. Don't hold your breath on this one. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
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Overclocking – just say yes/no/maybe

Well, at least we now know there’s a subject which generates as much passion as Linux out there in RegisterLand. Three days after our look at overclocking and the risks it poses (Story: Overclocking -- just say no), we have received almost 150 responses from readers. Some agree that overclocking is ill-advised; some say that scumsucker Pete Sherriff should watch his back; but most say: "Who gives a damn if it blows up – I’m gonna replace it within six months, anyhow". Some of the more rabid emails (which were probably originally written in green crayon) claim that Sherriff is in the pay of evil Chipzilla. Would that this were the case (Note to Intel – bank account details available on request). Some folks were genuinely concerned and asked for technical advice on whether their graphics cards and hard disks were also at risk. Interestingly, a number of people said that they had personal experience of dead hard disks and graphics cards in overclocked machines. Others said it was about time someone spoke out about the potential dangers of overclocking. But almost two thirds of replies took the view that due to the speed with which chip makers are introducing faster processors, reducing the life of a CPU from 10 to two years made no difference to them. Why? Because by the time their overclocked chip blew up, a newer, faster, cheaper equivalent would be on the market which could in turn be overclocked, and so on, ad infinitum. And for all you clockaholics out there, the record (unverified by us) for overclocking was a 300A Celeron running at a reported 750MHz. Sounds like a contribution to Global Warming to us. Anyone beat that? ®
Pete Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
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Gates' maths fails – can't count his millions

Bill Gates has historically been presented as a boy wonder with prodigious ability at arithmetic, but The Register can expose the myth with its own superior sums. Last week, Gates said that "now we're up at over 40,000 transactions per minute" with SQL. "In the course of a day, that would be 120 million transactions," he added. Well Bill, that's not true. If you multiply 40,000 by 60 to get transactions/hour, and then by 24 hours, you actually get 57,600,000 transactions/day. We know you have this tendency to improve the truth, Bill, to make it more interesting, but this is ridiculous. Gates went on to point out that Visa does "less than a third of that" many transactions/day, and even the NY Stock Exchange doesn't reach that number of transactions/day. His naive conclusion was: "So here we have on a single machine, running the latest SQL Server, enough head room that nobody is going to have to worry whether they reach those limitations". Does Gates really think that a single Server could really cope with the Visa and NYSE load? This makes Microsoft's talk of server farms rather puzzling. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

MetaStor pushes open SAN channel scheme

MetaStor Storage Solutions, a division of Logic Storage Systems, starts its first channel scheme for open SAN solutions tomorrow. The storage company is launching its Channel Alliance Partner Programme. This will give resellers sales support, technical training and customer education on open SAN solutions – a package where MetaStor products are compatible with other vendors' hardware and software. MetaStor will carry out interoperability testing for products. It will also set up a support line where resellers can call for advice on all vendors' hardware or software. To qualify for the scheme, Certified Integration Partners must sell at least one SAN solution, including all SAN components offered by MetaStor. MetaStor currently sells SAN through five resellers in the UK – Byte Technology, RedStor, Westek, Teknik and Screen. It is looking to recruit another two resellers by the end of the year. Bill Reed, MetaStor Storage Solutions MD, said the company would stay committed to the indirect channel. He said that resellers' importance was growing due to the shifting position of storage. "For a very long time, storage systems were viewed as server centric; now they are storage centric. "Therefore, end customers require help in defining and fully understanding their system needs in relation to what is offered. Other storage vendors who sell direct cut out the middleman and, in doing so, cut out their expertise." MetaStor's Channel Alliance Partner Programme was launched in the US last week. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Software developed to tell if you're lying

Programmers from the University of Pittsburgh claim to have developed revolutionary new software, that can actually tell if you are lying. Based on a 20 year-old system, the program analyses facial movements using electronic markers and can tell if someone is trying to conceal an emotion. Genuine expressions are more complex than they seem, and when a person is trying to deceive they may not move all the muscles the real expression involves. For example, a real smile involves narrowing of eyes, raising cheeks and widening the mouth. Fakers will often miss the subtler movements and only smile with their mouths. The program is designed to pick up the tiny flashes of the true emotion that would pass too quickly to be seen by the naked eye. Not everyone is convinced of the system's merits. A spokesman for the American Polygraph Association said that as facial muscles could be controlled at will, they were too unreliable to be used in the detection of a crime. While that may be true it would be interesting if the program were installed on computers in the Houses of Parliament. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
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MS snared for bankrolling pro-MS ads

Things aren't what they purport to be in advertisements supporting Microsoft, even if they are what you'd expect. It has been confirmed that the 240 Californian academics who "supported" Microsoft in its antitrust woes by putting their names to a round robin letter pushed by the Independent Institute did not know that Microsoft had paid for "making the support visible" in advertisements in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Simon Hakim, an economist at Temple University is cross, and whinged: "It's not right to use people as a vehicle for special interests" and added that he would not have signed the letter had he known that Microsoft was paying for the ads. Microsoft has of course done a great deal behind the scenes with PR agencies to lubricate opinion. The NYT was up-front and disclosed that internal Independent Institute documents had shown that Microsoft was one of the group's largest benefactors last year, to the tune of $150,000, plus advertisement costs. The proof came in documentation provided by an undisclosed Microsoft adversary. However, David Theroux, president and founder on the Institute, dismissed the idea that Microsoft had any influence, claiming it was "ridiculous". The support for Microsoft is of course mostly political, rather than based on merit, because the academics would be mostly Republicans opposed to antitrust law. Some would undoubtedly also be Microsoft shareholders, which hardly increases their objectivity. So much for the independence of the Independent Institute. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Paul Allen cleared in sex harassment case

The sexual harassment suit filed against Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, has been dismissed by a judge in Los Angeles. The suit was filed by his former business partner (no, not Bill) Abbie Phillips. The case was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be retried. Phillips claimed she had been forced out of Storyopolis Investment, which she was managing for Allen, after she resisted a sexual advance made by the billionaire. In the suit, she was claiming damages for lost earnings, lost employment, emotional distress and punitive damages, having quit the company in April 1997. The case was filed on 2 April 1998. Allen followed this with a statement refuting the charge. He claimed that Phillips had left the company after he confronted her about misappropriating business money. He then filed papers for the case to be dismissed. The case was actually dismissed in February this year, but given the reluctance of either party to make the result public, it has taken until now to come to light. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Crackers get £1m ransom from banks

A disturbing new trend is emerging in the world of online finance. Crackers (naughty hackers) are holding banks to ransom, threatening to cripple their systems or make public sensitive information, demanding huge sums of money. In Germany last week, Noris Verbraucherbank offered a DM10,000 (£3,000) reward to catch a cracker who was demanding a ransom of £300,000 not to reveal the bank's customers' private access codes. An ATM machine is thought to have captured the man on camera. The picture appeared in the German press. But Germany is not alone. City investigators in London have confirmed two separate cases where financial institutions have paid out ransom totalling more than £1 million. Around 30 international banks said that they had been victims of serious cracker attacks in the last year. The International Chamber of Commerce said that it was aware that such attacks had occurred, but it would not discuss details. A spokesman for the organisation - which is ready to launch a unit to tackle online crime - told London paper Metro: "We have had cases of extortion, and the matter has been investigated internally and the threat removed. I don't think you will find many companies who admit that there is a problem." The UK government has set up a team to investigate the phenomenon. The Communications Electronics Security Group, will be on hand to check out sensitive equipment for flaws. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel takes on Olicom R&D team

Olicom, the moribund networking equipment vendor, has sold its 220-strong R&D team to Intel for an undisclosed sum. Intel has an affinity with Denmark and networking: in 1997 it stumped up £46 million for the Danish operations of Case,(the rump of which is now called Anite) to take it into Fast Ethernet for the first time. Through Olicom’s R&D team, Intel gains new staff in Copenhagen and Gdansk, in Poland. But technology? We'll let you know as soon as someone tells us. All that’s left of Olicom is a controlling stake in a company called Digianswer. Olicom says it expects to sell this share for a substantial premium to book value. Which is not saying much. As group book value is currently hovering around zero. Following the disposal of the Diginswer business, Olicom will become a shell company. Earlier this month, it sold its major going concern, the Token Ring business, to rival player Madge for $15 million cash and unspecified royalty payments for three years. ®
Drew Cullen, 20 Sep 1999
The Register breaking news

MS Softway purchase – could it unleash ‘Linux for Windows’

On Friday Microsoft announced it had bought small San Francisco Unix developer Softway Systems, explaining that the deal was intended to strengthen Unix-Windows interoperability. But there's more to this than meets the eye - Softway had been putting its toes into the waters of open source and Linux on Windows, so despite the public statements, Microsoft may be tipping its hand. According to the press statement it's a case of small Unix developer engulfed, not many dead. And anyway, Softway had already been close to MS, announcing a co-marketing deal in May. The release says, deadpan, that Microsoft customers "will benefit from this acquisition through future expanded and integrated tools and utilities, via products such as Microsoft Services for Unix, which provide interoperability between Unix and Windows." Says Keith White, marketing director of MS Business and Enterprise: "While we recommend that customers migrate their software solutions to native 32-bit Windows, today's announcement allows certain customers to move rapidly to a Windows NT-based solution during that transition process." So Microsoft has only bought Softway in order to provide a bridge to allow Unix defectors to switch to Windows, allegedly. But there are a few problems with that pitch. First of all, Microsoft has plenty of bridges of this sort already, and has torched a couple of them already. The company just recently escaped from an antitrust action mounted by one of them, Bristol, but it has more. Softway, as an independent company, was one of them. So it's difficult to believe that there's much point to the Softway acquisition, and to the addition of "many members" of its development team to Microsoft's headcount. Nor does the Microsoft acquisition release mention the L-word. But Softway did earlier this year. Softway's Interix products use a POSIX-compliant subsystem on NT in order to allow Unix apps to run on NT. But back in June Softway CEO Doug Miller suggested something else: effectively, Linux for Windows. He outlined a product under development which would be a Linux-friendly release of Interix which would include "most of what you would find on a popular commercial Linux distribution (e.g. rpm, Gimp, Apache, Sendmail etc. etc.)." He sought feedback, and said Softway was planning to use an open source model (although actually he seemed to be aiming at some kind of semi-open source model, rather than the full whack). There were obvious problems with this, possibly explaining the silence from Softway since. It's not absolutely clear why Linux fans would want to run Linux apps on top of NT when they could just run them on Linux. And they certainly wouldn't want to pay for the privilege. Miller anticipated giving it away free for education, but charging for business users. Plus, Linux users who're at all bothered about Windows would prefer it the other way round - the ability to run Windows apps on Linux. But you can maybe see why a Redmond worried about developer momentum in the Linux market might see reason for acquiring Softway, and the (possibly embryonic) Linux for Windows. Softway's expertise could possibly be used as part of a Microsoft 'embrace and smother' campaign, and as a worst possible case, Microsoft could give Linux for Windows away with its own software in order to offer its users the best of both worlds. That of course would probably only happen if it looked like Linux was winning the apps war. Whatever, the purchase is clearly a move against Linux, rather than a minor addition to Microsoft's tools for migrating Unix shops. As the Bristol trial documentation showed, Microsoft is no longer much concerned about Unix - but it's deeply worried by Linux. ®
John Lettice, 20 Sep 1999
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How much of Tandem's IP does Compaq own?

The owners of Tandem took care to ensure their intellectual property was vested in a third party company, reliable sources said. Although Compaq took over Tandem a couple of years ago, a former employee said today it was unable to buy the entire intellectual property. Tandem is trusted by people, worldwide, because of its undoubted lead in non stop computing -- which such firms describe in terms such as .99999 recurring. Before Tandem was bought, we understand, some of the intellectual property was secured in a third party company. It is unclear how much of this IP Compaq owns. Further, owners of the intellectual property are in negotiations with some of Compaq's competitors, the source added. Compaq could not be contacted at press time for comment, although we're very willing to hear from the firm, anytime, anywhere. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Sep 1999