2nd > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Bug busting book to save UK

Every home in the UK is to get a free book for Christmas. The government has announced plans to send out 26 million copies of its What everyone should know about the Y2K Bug booklet. Oh joy. The 24-page publication, part of a £9.4 million campaign, will encourage Brits not to hoard food or wood-burning stoves. Gwynneth Flower, managing director of Action 2000, said: "This leaflet helps consumers to understand the myths about the Millennium Bug. "The end of the year is a time for celebration, not for unnecessary worry. Banks are not going to lose your financial records and your central heating will come on." Leader of the House of Commons Margaret Beckett added: "Everyone can be confident that the UK is as well prepared as any country in the world." Let's just hope that one country the UK is better prepared than is Japan. In Japan, the government has issued a campaign advising the Japanese people to prepare for the worst. ®
The Register breaking news

Santa's gonna surf down yer chimney

Britain's about to go on a festive spending spree that will make this year an online Christmas to remember. According to pollsters MORI, a third of Net users -- 3.6 million people -- are set to use the Net to buy Chrimbo pressies this year. Five hundred people were quizzed in the poll and reckon they'll each spend £130 online this year -- contributing to some £450 million in online sales. The most popular items destined for the Christmas stocking this year are CDs and books followed by videos and DVDs. Which is lucky really, since the research was commissioned by BlackStar, which -- you guessed it -- sells videos and DVDs online. Jeremy Glover, co-founder and director of BlackStar said: "Santa has swapped his sleigh for a surfboard this year." (Where do they dig them up? -- Ed) "This doesn't just represent a step up for Christmas cyber shopping compared to last year, it's a gigantic leap. 1999 will truly be Britain's first cyber Christmas," he said. Ho, ho, ho... Not. ®
The Register breaking news

FIC responds to Intel's legal action

Taiwanese firm First International Computer (FIC) has released a statement responding to Intel's legal action against the firm. And the firm is figuratively waving two fingers at Chipzilla, saying that it will carry on making motherboards using Via chipsets. FIC said that it would respect any court decisions, but is surprised that it has received a summons from lawyers at the Santa Clara firm for the use of Via chipsets. The case between Via and Intel has yet to be settled, the statement points out, and FIC will continue to manufacture motherboards and otherboards that use the chipset. The statement adds that FIC and Via are two independent companies, neither financially or technically related. It says that this year it will selll six million motherboards to PC manufacturers and others, and supplies Via chipsets because the market demands them. FIC sees the action by Intel as an "isolated incident", and hopes there will be no change in the working relationship it has with Chipzilla. This, of course, is a faint hope. When your erstwhile friend issues a legal challenge to you, it somewhat damages the relationship in the world of human beings. The lawsuit will not affect product deliveries, FIC stressed. The patent violations it is accused of cannot be divulged at present, says FIC. It will respond to Intel's allegations within 20 days. ® See also Intel Santa Clarifies Via legal pursuit More Taiwanese mobo makers get jitters after Intel suit
The Register breaking news

Trade: MS and Boeing get ready to rock with Rocky

Microsoft and Boeing will figure prominently when the next phase of the US-EU trade battle kicks off on their home turf later this month. The World Trade Organisation Ministerial meeting takes place in Seattle from 29 November to 3 December. The US has already filed an appeal against a WTO ruling that declared that export subsidies in the form of tax breaks for US companies' operations outside the US were illegal under WTO rules (see story). Charlene Barshefsky, the US trade representative, claimed that the WTO trade panel had erred legally on substantive and procedural issues. The ruling was made in repsonse to a complaint by the EU. The appeal is expected to take until the end of January. If upheld, the ruling will require the US government to enact legislation to stop the tax breaks. Major beneficiaries of the existing tax regime include Boeing, Microsoft and General Motors. The cost to Microsoft if the US loses the appeal, which looks likely, may well be in excess of $1 billion/year. The WTO Seattle meeting looks like being not just a media circus but a protestors' open season as well. Protestors - mostly labour, environmental and consumer activists - are organising protests against corporate globalisation. The first day of the meeting has been declared a "global day of action, resistance, and carnival against the global capitalist system" (and dubbed "n30" for November 30th). Volunteers are being recruited and trained for greeting delegates and journalists, providing concierge services, operating cybercafés, and the like. Of course, Microsoft is helping as much as it can by encouraging its staff to volunteer and to put the Microsoft view to those attending. Already Rocky Ruggiero, the director general of the WTO, has been the victim of a lemon pie topped with whipped cream and thrown in London by a British imitator of Noel Godin, the Belgian entarteur who scored a direct hit on Gates. Ruggiero boasts of having rewritten the rules of the global economy so that "free trade" takes precedence over working conditions, wages and environmental protection. The most outrageous action so far by the Seattle Host Organisation was an attempt to restrict schmoozing with the top trade officials attending by selling access to them. "Emerald" level donors would, for a minimum of $250,000, be allowed to bring five guests to the opening and closing receptions and a dinner, as well as four guests to a business conference. Stingy "bronze" donors at the $5,000 level would only get to push a brochure and have a mention on the SHO Web site. Naturally, the co-chairs, Microsoft and Boeing, are emerald members. After some seriously adverse reaction to the SHO fundraising letter announcing this, US Trade Representative officials told the SHO to stop the attempt to restrict access, and to clear the texts of future letters with them before they were sent out. The prospect of an escalation of a US-EU trade war appears to be growing. The skirmishes so far have included the EU's ban on four antibiotics that are fed to animals; retaliatory US tariffs on EU produce, and the notorious banana wars. The WTO enforces trade rules such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); Trade Related Intellectual Property Measures (TRIPS); and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Uruguay Round expanded GATT rules to cover non-tariff barriers to trade, such as product standards. The WTO rules allow challenges of national laws and regulations, although the dispute settlement process is quaintly managed by three trade bureaucrats who may have vested interests and little understanding of domestic laws and government responsibilities. EU strategy for the Seattle talks is far from homogenised, with Germany wanting a strict stance on labour standards and France wanting a "cultural exception" to allow it to subsidise its film, music and TV industries from the forces of the free market. The EU and Japan have accused the US of trying to skew the agenda to increase the prominence of issues that favour US trade. The Finns, who of course have the presidency, will have a tough time trying to persuade European "partners" to agree to a common stance. The WTO meeting could also see an attempt to resuscitate the draft Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) that was defeated a year ago at the OECD. Ironically, in April the home-team Seattle City Council unanimously opposed the MAI, which it saw as being against local initiatives, fair labour practices and the environment. Microsoft is believed to be pro-MAI. The choice of Seattle as the venue was made, according to strategists TransAtlantic Futures, because Microsoft and Boeing offered to cover the cost of the meeting as co-hosts. The previous two WTO ministerial meetings had been funded by the host nations. Although both Boeing and Microsoft are concerned about losing their export tax subsidies, both have additional concerns. Boeing doesn't like losing orders to Airbus and is believed to be considering taking action against the EU. Microsoft's hormonal beef is to get piracy on the WTO agenda and to try to get trade sanctions against any country that does not toe the Microsoft line on piracy. Perhaps we'll see some more of those agreements whereby Microsoft "regularises" the pirated software of a government in exchange for some degree of anti-piracy enforcement. ®
The Register breaking news

FTC should re-open Intel investigation

Opinion In hindsight, Intel's statement about why it has extended its law suit to comprise not just Via but a clutch of other firms more or less related to the Taiwanese company doesn't make as much sense as it seems. First of all, of course Intel has a duty to its shareholders. And of course it has a duty to its other licensees. But its latest legal maneuverings make it look petty, vindictive and scheming, even if it isn't. It isn't just little Everex which uses Via chipsets. HP, IBM and Compaq use this technology too. But rather than take on the giants like a real Chipzilla would, Intel gives the impression of choosing to stomp all over the little people instead. The mighty legal department at Chipzilla used to, maybe still does, operate on a profit and loss basis. It routinely churned out law suits against any company which looked like it might be a rival. It tied AMD up in one legal case for six years, and when Cyrix looked like it might steal some of its thunder, did the same with the small chip company. FIC, as it has pointed out in its official response to the Intel legal actions, makes six million motherboards a year. Some of its customers are respected international PC manufacturers, such as Compaq and IBM. Intel has come under a lot of flak recently and has been accused of bullying motherboard vendors to not publicise their AMD offerings. It has been accused of holding back BX shipments to vendors because it wants to promote its i810e chipset to the world. It vehemently denies these charges. As we have pointed out before, it does itself no favours by launching legal actions, and merely makes itself look like the bullying giant that many already see it as. Why, for example, doesn't Intel take out a system board patent action against Compaq? The response from sources inside the giant seems to be that it has cross-licensing agreements with Compaq that mean the Big Q doesn't violate patents. However, the deepa and abiding suspicion in the industry is that the reason Intel doesn't sue Compaq is because that would be a fight between giants that Chipzilla might well lose. In such a situation, Intel has a very clear duty, and that is to support the whole industry as well as its shareholders and licensees. It says in one breath that it supports competition, but was open at the last Intel Developer Forum about how paranoid Via makes it feel. Perhaps Warren Steiner's open letter that suggests the Federal Trade Commission should investigate these goings on would be the best course of action. An unbiased look at Intel's actions would clear the air and in the circumstances would be a timely intervention. ®
The Register breaking news

Caribbean bookies takes on the world's brokers

IndexTrade.com is to offer Web users the opportunity to buy and sell from stock market indices usually only available to professional traders, even though the company has nothing more than a gaming licence from the government of Antigua. The service allows investors to bet on whether major indices such as the Dow Jones or FTSE100 index will go up or down during that day or week. As such, it is cutting deeper into the privileged financial options of market insiders and breaking down old-school financial barriers. However, any dealings in derivatives come with a host of warnings, and the site is being investigated by the UK's Financial Services Authority (FSA). Betting on indices is an extremely risky business and not for the uninitiated. The IndexTrade service is only the latest instalment in an ongoing argument over the pros and cons of online trading. Brokers have taken the high ground and warned of ignorant individuals bankrupting themselves and destabilising the economy. On the other hand, traders attack the elitist approach of brokers who have a vested interest in protecting transaction costs. Those investing their own cash are more likely to be careful. Plus, say critics, no Internet user is likely to lose £860 million in one transaction -- as Nick Lesson did when he bet on the Nikkei 225 index rising. It didn't and Barings Bank fell. With one in four stock trades now taking place over the Internet, online services will become increasingly important and are set to outstrip legal constraints. With IndexTrade, the FSA has admitted it has no authority to prevent UK surfers from taking advantage of its service. ® Related Stories Woman walks away from $70k online gambling debt
The Register breaking news

Karma MBO confirmed

Andy Chandler today confirmed he would be the new skipper at the helm of Karma UK. Chandler expressed his surprise at the past few weeks' events, which saw the distributor dragged into administrative receivership in the wake of its sister companies CHS Electronics Plc and Metrologie. On Friday at 9pm, Chandler and an internal team at Karma signed an MBO for an undisclosed amount from receivers BDO Stoy Hayward. Chandler is now managing director of the company, which will trade as Karma International in the UK. "The company was very profitable, and we couldn't believe it when it was put in this position," he told The Register. Chandler, former general manager at Karma UK, said he would keep the majority of staff at the Reading-based distributor. ®
The Register breaking news

Win2k smoke and mirrors – how MS is hiking OS prices

For reasons that aren't at the moment entirely clear, Microsoft has released prices for Windows 2000, although it was only the other day that the company said it wasn't going to do the big product rollout until 17th February. Ordinarily Microsoft releases the prices when the product itself is released. The data released so far doesn't however telegraph any possible changes in Microsoft's pricing strategy, although the company has said it will be moving over to a 'services' model, and that means, sooner or later, it will have to switch from the current pricing system to some kind of fee-based model. But the prices so far show clear traces of spin - they're being presented as in line with prices for current operating systems, but that kind of depends where you're sitting. The full estimated retail cost for Windows 2000 Professional will be $319. An upgrade from NT will cost $149, and upgrades from Windows 95 and 98 $219. The price for the full product is pretty much in line with the full theoretical price for NT, but as the latter is now pretty much on close-out it can be had for $90-200, depending on where you look. The Windows 9x upgrade costs on the other hand represent a hefty hike over previous upgrade costs for the 'consumer' type operating systems. A Windows 98 upgrade will currently cost you $90 max, while the full product is $170. These numbers mean several interesting things. First, Microsoft will not be pushing Win2k at retail initially. No way is the company going to get killed in the rush of people trying to spend $219 on upgrade from 9x. Second, isn't the OEM market going to be interesting? If OEM prices are going to be in line with NT rather than Win9x ones, then Microsoft's revenue levels will be dictated by how hard the OEMs are going to push Win2k. NT pricing levels haven't previously been a major factor in Microsoft's consumer revenues, because NT uptake, where it's happened, has been in business. But if the OEMs increasingly sell Win2k to consumers as well, and start to phase out Win9x (this will happen, you know it will), then Microsoft will be able to get substantially increased revenues per PC, while at the same time being able to claim prices haven't gone up, because they're in line with NT pricing. At this level the consumer will obviously pay, and as OEMs won't be in a position to increase their prices or margins, the extra tab will go straight to Microsoft. But how does this fit with Microsoft's intention to push Win2k hard into the market? Well, so long as the OEMs can be induced to switch over to Win2k fairly quickly, customers won't have much choice, and in this area the extra cost of the OS will be hidden in the total price of the PC. Getting it into the corporate arena might be trickier, but at the client level there are plausible arguments (which were recently bought by IBM) that Win2k is actually a money saver. And then of course at corporate level there are going to be all sorts of pricing and discount schedules designed to induce IT management to switch early. So lots more revenue, Win2k sales performance 'above expectations' in the first full quarter, and a high speed transition to the new product as well. It's a wonderful business to be in, isn't it? And by the way, have you considered how useful it will be for Microsoft not to have a cheaper consumer OS like Millennium available in the early stages of the Win2k switchover? ®
The Register breaking news

Bluetooth newsletter migrates to the Web

Incisor, fount of most wisdom on Bluetooth, has discovered the joys of HTML. The free email newsletter has struck a deal with the IT Network which will see its content published on the Web for the first time. Give the Bluetooth Network a whirl, if you're interested in Bluetooth and/or cable replacement technology. In fact, why don't you check it out anyway? This shameless plug has nothing to do with the fact that Incisor editor Marc Ambasna Jones is an occasional contributor to The Register, and a former colleague from our VNU days. ®
The Register breaking news

Partisanship kills US e-signatures bill

The US House of Representatives failed to pass a bill which would have given legal weight to electronic signatures, primarily due to party posturing in anticipation of the 2000 elections. Democrats were particularly loath to support the bill in the face of criticism that it could undermine consumer protections by enabling strictly electronic contract disclosures from vendors. In practice, such concerns could be addressed by requiring both email and snail mail notice of contractual terms, alterations, and warranty recall advisories. But no one wishes to enter the election season with so much as the appearance that they might be less than vigilant in defending consumers against exploitation by mendacious Capitalist hustlers. And of course by distancing themselves now, Congressional Democrats can accuse their Republican opponents of collaborating with Big Business when they hit the campaign trail. The White House, too, stepped away, almost certainly for the same reason, but on the novel pretext that the bill would usurp states' rights to govern commerce within their own borders. "The bill being considered by the House would preempt state laws unnecessarily, both in degree and duration," the White House said via a prepared statement. This may be an historic moment, marking the first time the Clinton Administration has acted in favour of states' rights. But then again, perhaps not, as political ammunition, innuendo and "spin" have always been the Administration's most finely-crafted and successful products. Had the bill passed, it would have gone to Conference Committee for reconciliation with a Senate version, and might possibly have issued forth from 106th Congress as law before the Winter recess. It will now be for the 107th to take up in the more sober political environment afforded by two years' distance from the next election cycle. ®
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Compaq hit with floppy drive lawsuit

With Toshiba's blood still fresh on their hands, a group of Texas solicitors have hit Compaq with a similar lawsuit over faulty floppy disk drives. The lawyers, from Orgain, Bell & Tucker, filed the suit in the same federal court in Beaumont, Texas. They allege that Compaq has for years been selling PCs with defective floppy drives that can corrupt user data, according to the Wall Street Journal. But Compaq said it would not surrender as easily as Toshiba. Last week, the Japanese heavyweight agreed to fork out more than $1 billion to counter alleged problems with floppy drive controllers in its notebooks. Toshiba denied any liability, but the lawyers now say that the same problem also lives in micro-controller chips for floppy drives other vendors have been using for over a decade. Compaq yesterday labelled the class action suit "vague", claiming the law firm was trying to cash in on its recent win. "The complaint filed against Compaq appears to be a copycat suit filed in an attempt to exploit the recent settlement by Toshiba," said Compaq. "The issues raised in that suit dealt with micro-code problems specific to Toshiba laptop computers. We're confident Compaq products have no problems," the company said. ®
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Via-S3 unite in graphics deal

Chip maker VIA Technologies yesterday announced details of a closer union with US graphics chip designer S3, days after Intel stepped up its legal battle with the Taiwanese company. Under the terms of the deal, S3 and VIA will set up a joint venture, tentatively named S3-VIA inc, to produce chips combining their respective technical expertise. The two companies have been working together informally for about a year. S3 will hold 51 per cent of the joint venture, with VIA controlling the remainder of the shares and the board. VIA has also taken a $25 million stake in S3. The graphics chip maker plans to reciprocate with a similar investment in VIA, although the complexity of Taiwan's legal system has delayed this, said S3's president and CEO, Ken Potashner. The joint venture will produce chipsets which incorporate S3's 3D graphics technology. Chipsets are a vital component used on the main circuit board of all PCs. PCs with graphics integrated into the chipset cost less than PCs which use a separate graphics chip. Increasing competition in the markets for both chipsets and graphics chips is encouraging companies to cooperate. VIA and S3 are already manufacturing samples of the new chipset, said CEO Wen-Chi Chen, and would start mass production "early next year." Different versions of the chipset will be available to support desktop and notebook PCs. A version which supports Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon CPU is also under development. Potashner said his company planned to integrate its next generation graphics technology into VIA chipsets, as the technology is developed. VIA shipped 3.1 million chipsets last month, exceeding predictions, said Chen, and would have sold four million if last month's earthquake had not interrupted production. According to Taiwan's Market Intelligence Center, VIA supplies around 25 per cent of global chipset demand, with Intel controlling around 50 per cent. Industry observers say that increased competition from VIA is behind recent lawsuits filed by Intel. The suits charge VIA, and some of its customers, including sister company First International Computer (FIC), with patent infringement. The first chipset to be developed by the partnership, the Savage 4NB, will also use the patented Intel technology at the centre of the dispute. However, Chen said he was confident his company would win the legal battle. In a press statement today, FIC said the suit would not affect its production of motherboards using the disputed VIA chipset. A source at VIA said that relations with another US graphics chip design house, Trident, had been patched up following an acrimonious dispute earlier this year. Trident took legal action accusing VIA of poaching its employees. A chipset incorporating Trident's graphics technology will be released before the Savage 4NB, the source said. ®
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Teledesic's McCaw to bail out ICO

Troubled satellite mobile phone service ICO Global Communications yesterday received a major financial shot in the arm, according to the Wall Street Journal. The investment, which could reach $1.2 billion, will come from Craig McCaw, one of the key investors in Teledesic, the satellite-based broadband networking company ICO now plans to emulate. And given McCaw's connection with Teledesic, we'd be very surprised if the two companies don't pool their interests real soon now. Launched in 1995, ICO was formed to develop and a global mobile phone service along the lines of Iridium. Like Iridium, ICO was declared bankrupt this summer. However, unlike its rival, ICO has in where it goes forward now it's clear demand for satellite telephony isn't quite as high as predicted. ICO's plan is to convert its satellites -- currently being assembled by Hughes -- into broadband network carriers, which is pretty much what Teledesic is out to do. McCaw's investment should allow ICO to reach the total of $4.7 billion it reckons it needs to get its business up and running. Cash injections from various institutional investors already total well over $3 billion. The WSJ noted that McCaw is expected to take control of ICO by taking a position on the company's board. McCaw is, of course, Teledesic's chairman and CEO, so it's not hard to imagine that if the guy's doing the same job at two companies that are also doing the same job, he may well come to the conclusion that he may as well merge them into a single operation. McCaw is also considering an investment in Iridium, and if that is provided on the same terms as the ICO stake, it's entirely plausible that Iridium could be subsumed into Teledesic too. It's clear from the example of both Iridium and ICO that the cost of establishing, maintaining and satellite communications systems isn't something that individual companies can easily handle, and that some sort of consolidation has to take place. Teledesic's advantage here is that it's seen what the other guys got wrong and can plan accordingly. ®
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Intel makes a pint of Guinness taste nicer

The San Jose Mercury News reminded us Sunday of our trip to Intel's Fab 11 in Albuquerque, one of its bigger plants which pumps out Pentium IIIs and a whole load of flash memory. The trouble with Albuquerque, as one of our tour guides pointed out to us earlier in the year, is that there isn't much water left. And because Intel uses a whole heap of water to flush away the corrosive chemicals used to make chips, and also because Albuquerque is growing pretty fast, that's a problem for the locals. Local authorities have hit out at the chip giant for using so much water since it expanded Fab 11 in 1993. The plant was first built in 1980 and Intel is aware of the local furore. It uses something like three million gallons of H20 a day, not from the deep aquifers but from surface, or groundwater. But Intel is conscious of its obligations, it insists. When it expanded its Leixlip plant (Fab 10/14) near Dublin some years back, we visited the construction site and asked the locals about the implications for an average pint of Guinness. The plant is upstream of the Guinness factory on the Liffey. In fact, a reader points out, Intel's site is on the River Rye, which feeds into the Liffey at Leixlip. Further, Leixlip was where Arthur Guinness brewed his first pint of the black stuff. We can also provide you with this further factoid, that the Intel Fab was formerly the site of a stud farm (horses, that is, not porn stars). According to the local Intel officials there, a pint of Guinness tastes better after having washed thousands of Pentiums and motherboards.... ® To see how Intel's Albuquerque fab works and one of The Register's staff in a bunny suit, refer to these articles. Intel makes The Register sweat III Intel makes The Register sweat II Intel makes The Register sweat I
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Stac edges back towards profit

Stac has reported its Q4 results, with revenue for the quarter up 28 per cent on the year-earlier quarter, and 7 per cent on the previous quarter. Revenue increased quarter by quarter through the financial year. The net loss for continuing operations was $221,000, but after restructuring costs Stac would have been just in profit. A year earlier, the quarterly loss was $7.8 million. During the last quarter, Stac included a valuation allowance for deferred tax assets, with a one-time charge of $6.4 million for income taxes. Stac has around $30 million in cash and no debt, or some $5 per share. With the share price at $3.625 (closing 5 per cent down last night) this is rather remarkable. During the financial year, Stac spun-off its semiconductor subsidiary and paid a dividend to shareholders. John Ticer, Stac's CEO, said he thought the company was now well-positioned for growth in the new fiscal year, with a product line based on support for the remote recovery of unmanaged remote systems. Stac's 15 minutes of fame came in 1993 when it sued Microsoft after its demand for a worldwide license to use Stac's software as part of DOS. Microsoft steadfastly refused to pay Stac any royalty for its patented data-compression technology and simply incorporated Stac's intellectual property directly into DOS. After a four week trial and a less-than-stellar performance in the witness box by Gates, a federal jury found Microsoft guilty of infringing Stac's data compression patents and awarded Stac $120 million in damages. Microsoft settled the case by acquiring a 15 per cent interest in Stac, and obtained a license to Stac's vital data compression technology for a fraction of the jury's verdict. ®
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Palm points to pints

Having long billed itself as brewer of the beer that refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach, Heineken has finally figured out how to help you reach the bars other boozers cannot reach. The Dutch grog giant's system, dubbed BarTrek (ahem...), combines a Palm organiser and a GPS tracking system with an online database of bars located in 15 cities worldwide. Described as "first-and-foremost a fun application" but also "a global experiment in technologically-enabled social life", BarTrek allows users to log in, download the relevant city map, and let their Palm direct them right to the front door of the nearest decent alehouse. Well, sort of. The Register checked out Heineken's listing of good bars in London, a boozers heaven if there ever was one, and found a list of just eight sites, most of them music venues or tourist-oriented burger joints -- not quite the wide selection of gin palaces and pubs we'd recommend or even fall out of sometime during the wee small hours. In fact, we'd happily offer Heineken our services as reviewers of London's (or anywhere else, for that matter) pub scene. Said Frazer Thompson, Heineken's international marketing manager: "We hope BarTrek will encourage people out from behind their PC screens, and into the street, to leave their hotel rooms and meet people." And get roaringly bladdered, too, presumably... ®
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Y2K bug snacks on ComputerLand's profits

ComputerLand UK issued a profit warning yesterday, blaming poor product sales and delays over Y2K. The IT services company said that product sales in September and October had been lower than expected and would result in "disappointing" full-year results. This latest move added to a list of cautions ComputerLand has issued over its performance. Yesterday shares closed unchanged at 56.5 pence, valuing the company at £5.2 million. This was well down on last year's 30 November value of £25.7 million. The group said it expected recent cost-cutting measures to prompt "a modest improvement" for the second half-year results. ®
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BT's cheap Net access deal is not so cheap

BT is set to offer cut-price Net access to key public organisations as part of its bid to get Britain online. Libraries, Citizens Advice Bureaux and further education colleges have been earmarked to receive discounts on Net access charges of up to 50 per cent as part of the initiative. It builds on the Schools Internet Caller scheme launched by BT last year, which enables schools to gain Net access at a fixed cost. According to a BT spokesman, 14,000 schools have signed up to the scheme so far. It means they can get unlimited daytime access to the Internet for £600 a year over an ordinary phone line, or £1,200 a year for a higher speed ISDN line with free connection. Evening charges start at £150 a year for ordinary lines and £300 for ISDN. No doubt BT's latest announcement will be welcomed by this group of cash-strapped organisations and the monster telco will be lauded for putting the general public ahead of profit. But the offer -- announced by the Prime Minister Tony Blair as he addressed delegates at the Confederation of British Industry's annual conference in Birmingham today -- is not all it seems. Checkout the small print and BT's philanthropic gesture works out more expensive than broadband ADSL access. The cost of daytime unmetered dial-up access to the Net now being offered to these worthy public organisations -- £600 a year -- is the same as BT is currently charging people for always-on high speed ADSL access as part of it pre-rollout trial. Add on its night time tariff -- £150 a year -- and gaining ordinary 24/7 unmetered access to the Net costs £62.50 a month. Pre-trial ADSL access is currently positioned at £49.99 a month -- the price that is widely being touted as the figure consumers will have to pay for ADSL access when it goes live in spring next year. So libraries, FE colleges, consumer help groups and schools will have to decide whether they want to pay more than £60 a month for traditional super slow dial-up up access -- or £50 a month for broadband ADSL access come the spring. Of course, the proposals still have to be approved by the regulator, Oftel, but with such a stage-managed high-profile public announcement it seems unlikely to receive any opposition from the watchdog. It's up to the public organisations to read the small print and ensure they don't get hoodwinked by BT's latest wheeze. ®
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Apple rebuts Dell's claim to education top spot

Riled by Dell's assertion that it had knocked Apple off the top US education PC vendor throne, the Mac maker yesterday claimed the direct supplier had got its sums wrong. Citing IDC numbers -- Dell used stats from Dataquest -- Apple claimed that it was still number one in the second calendar quarter of 1999, with a 22.2 per cent share of the market. Dell came in fourth with 15.8 per cent, behind Compaq (19.1 per cent) and Gateway (17.2 per cent). Dell said it had a 21 per cent share in Q2, having already overtaken Apple in Q1. It's interesting that Apple's rebuttal fails to provide figures for Q1. Apple said that Dell's numbers failed to include Apple's direct sales channel, focusing instead on reseller-driven shipments -- ironic given Dell's role as the doyen of direct PC sales. Of course, anyone can play the numbers game, and when one market researcher puts out some figures, you can usually a second market researcher with numbers that tell a slightly different story. Still, since both Dataquest and IDC invariably come up with comparable stats, we suspect Apple may have a point here. That said, even IDC's numbers show that Apple doesn't have the commanding position it once did, and if Dell isn't biting at its heels, there are some equally tough competitors who are. Its lead over Compaq was just 3.1 per cent -- less then the five per cent lead Dell claimed it had over Apple. The new iMacs and the iBook may improve Apple's position, but, as we said when we originally covered Dell's claims, the Mac maker really can't afford to get cocky here. ®
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SiS to provide backward Socket 370 compatibility

Intel may not want to have people to plug shiny new Coppermine processors into old socket 370 mobos, but sources claim such a solution is on the way from Taiwanese vendor SiS. According to reliable information received, SiS will build functions into its 630 chipset which will allow end users to swap freely between old Socket 370 chips and the newer, flip chip Coppermines. We're unlikely to see new flip chip Socket 370s until the New Year, according to a number of motherboard manufacturers. According to reader Diego von Deschwanden, who wrote this piece for us yesterday, Intel has changed the function of an important pin on the new socket design, presumably in an effort to make sure it sells bright and shiny new mobos to go with the Coppermine processors. But SiS seems have circumvented those rather devious plans rather smartly... ®
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RealNetworks climbs down and says sorry over CD data

RealNetworks has executed an almost instant cave-in following the storm over its surreptitious gathering of data on its customers music listening habits. The company's RealJukebox, it was revealed over the weekend, sends data to RealNetworks on the fly if a CD is being played while the user is connected to the Internet (see story). Company chairman and CEO Rob Glaser issued an apology yesterday, and at the same time RealNetworks posted a patch which can be used to disable the offending features. "We made a mistake in not being clear enough to our users about what kinds of data was being generated and transmitted by the use of RealJukebox," he said in a statement. The software patch is also being integrated into the downloadable version of RealJukebox, and will be available later this week. RealNetworks has most likely been dumb rather than shifty in getting into this mess, but the discontinuation of the process can still be seen as something of a reverse for the company. It has obvious ambitions in the arenas of portals and e-commerce, and therefore the kind of customer data it was gathering had some value to it. But its mistakes were first, not to tell users it was gathering the data, and second to fail to set up systems which obviously separated individual registration data from statistical usage data. Privacy expert Richard Smith spotted this potential association when exposing the RealNetworks system. RealNetworks insists that the data wasn't used in this way, but it clearly could have been, and that's what separates the company from others, Microsoft included, who gather similar kinds of user data. Microsoft's Media Player uses a GUID system, but as there's no need to register the product, the association can't be made. Or more properly, can't be made yet. Microsoft has been working very hard to increase the registration levels of its products, and it's pretty clear that sooner or later these are intended to be 100 per cent. When software companies get to the point where they know who all, or even a substantial proportion of, their users are it will be perfectly feasible for information about individual users to be associated with their registration details. The data that could be derived from this will be intensely valuable, and it seems fairly clear that left to their own devices, plenty of companies will have no scruples about building the data, and using it. ®
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Apple dashes to buy Raycer

Apple is to buy graphics chip designer Raycer for as much as $20 million, according to sources cited by US newswires. Given how much money Apple now has on paper thanks to its Akamai stake, it could easily afford to buy Raycer -- and a number of other technology companies besides. If the claims are accurate, it's a curious move. Raycer's business centres on the development of 3D graphics acceleration technologies specifically something it calls the Spatial Data Processor, for high-end applications. Apple's gets technology it can use to enhance its professional Macs' 3D performance, something it's already promoting through the Power Mac G4's vector processing technology, AltiVec, part of the machine's PowerPC 7400 (aka G4) CPU. Then again, Apple has a close relationship with 3D graphics company ATI, which currently supplies all of the Mac maker's graphics acceleration chips. Apple is also nurturing 3dfx's new-found support for the Mac, which is now providing reference drivers to allow Mac owners to install and use Voodoo-based boards in their machines. So why risk annoying these 3D big guns by buying a company ostensibly to replace their products with Raycer-derived chips of its own? The close relationship with ATI is largely what's kept the likes of Nvidia and S3 from supporting the Mac. 3dfx's support is probably more down to its rivals' lack of it than any specific Mac-friendliness on its part. However, the deal may well centre not on Raycer's products per se but on its portfolio of patents and the expertise of its designers. Apple buys in that expertise then leverages it through licensing deals with, say, ATI to ensure it gets access to the best graphics technology but still maintains a relationship with a third-party supplier. The acquisition of intellectual property appears to be a prime motivation in the 3D business these days. That's certainly why Intel snapped up Real3D's remains, even as ATI was re-employing many of the failed graphics company's former staff. Intel clearly has a vested interest in bringing workstation-class graphics technologies to the PC, as has Apple. The move could always be tactical. On Intel's Web site, Jay Duluk, Raycer's CTO and co-founder, says: "Intel-based professional graphics platform will be the first choice for the most demanding artist, designer and developer." (An identical quote is attributed on the site to Dave Epstein, Raycer's CEO and other co-founder.) Maybe Apple is out to ensure that it controls the companies that might make that happen... ®
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The quick guide to Register jargon

The Register has gained so many readers this year that we've prepared a rough guide to the jargon we use, after receiving a couple of emails asking us what words like Chipzilla and The Big Q mean. Beast of Redmond, The Microsoft. 'Nuff (enough) said. Caminogate Camino was Intel's codename for the i820 chipset. The "gate" suffix was added to demonstrate the depths of the debacle into which Intel fell. qv Seven Dramurai. The Big Q Our new name for Compaq, which was formerly described as The Great Satan of Haircuts, this being a reference to Eckhard Pfeiffer, its former CEO, who seemed to have a change of hairstyle every so often. Compaq is now described as The Big Q because its logo is a big letter q. Benchmarketing oops sorry Benchmarking Somewhere in the UK there used to be an uncryogenically cooled bit of material called the yard. This strange measure undoubtedly is related to other archaisms such as the furlong, the perch and the fathom. But, unlike the last, the process of benchmarketing is unfathomable. Big Blur It's IBM, otherwise known as Big Blue, but when its marchitectural plans get disrupted, it gets known as Blur because no-one knows what's going on, including its customers. It's hard to turn a big ship like Big Blur round as it's heading into the wrong port. DEC, also known as the Great Satan of Walk-in Wardrobes (qv), used to be known as Little Blur. Boffin British tabloid term for a scientist. Not to be confused with buffoon. Chipzilla One of our patois words for Intel, which is also variously described as The Great Satan of Chips, The Great Stan of Chips and Satan Clara. A cross between Godzilla and a dinosaur, Chipzilla is a carnivore which tramps over different landscapes and munches up small, harmless but competitive companies. DeCadence The irresistible corruption of chip designer Cadence. Dosh Money. Rhymes with nosh (qv). Sometimes, it is the name of a PC operating system when the person saying it is an old drunk. E-Potato The online equivalent of the couch potato (people who laze all evening watching the TV). Geezer and thus also Geezerette. A person of the humanzilla persuasion, usually old. Not to be confused with Geezerville, an Intel technology, where lots of old Geezers and Geezerettes discuss the future of mobile computing. Gulag, The A place where old Intel chips go, otherwise described as the embedded market. Great Satan of Taperecorders, The This describes AMD. Some years back, two staffers at The Register were astonished to find the PR flunky calmly switching on a tape recorder as we interviewed an executive at a very expensive restaurant. We started singing and refused to chat properly unless the machine was switched off. It was. AMD is also sometimes called Chimpzilla, after its CEO Jerry Sanders III compared his company to a chimpanzee and Intel to a gorilla. Other Great Satans in the PC industry include Microsoft (Software), Dell (Hardware), Cisco (Networks) and Apple (Fruit). IT As in, "you're IT", or the "IT girl", or ITMA (It's that man again). Sometimes applied to information technology, which should really be misinformation technology (MIT). Itanic Our name for Intel's IA-64 Itanium, formerly called Merced, which was kindly contributed to us by a reader. Marchitecture Newly coined, this one is a combination of the words architecture and marketing. Companies with big PR departments and big budgets, such as Chipzilla (qv), can afford to spend big marketing bucks promoting things which might not necessarily be as good or as useful as other offerings from other people. Mempolitik Like realpolitik, except it's the unrealpolitik of the combination of microprocessor firms, PC vendors and semiconductor manufacturers, which gives rise to strange anomalies which ultimately affect every one who uses a PC. Mobo It's a motherboard. Coined by the self-referential hardware sites, it struck a chord with us because it reminded us that in Soho, in the sixties, there was a song that went "I've got my mojo working". In recent times, Athlon Powers, in the Hollywood presentation The i820 that Sagged on Me, re-jigged the song in the modern way Netzilla Cisco. Nosh Food. Rhymes with dosh. (qv) Oftel the winged watchdog. A mythical beast from days of yore and "powerful kings". Sometimes known as Offal, from the Norse word for "gutsy". Famous for the dogged determination with which it avoids confrontation. Old Mother Shipton or Old Mother Chipton Legendary, cave-dwelling ancient Yorkshire lady supposedly able to foresee the future. Ms Shipton predicted three hundred or so years ago that the world would come to an end in 1999. Events proved her wrong and she was fired on the 1st of January 2000. ® Phonezilla AT&T. Punter Originally a term for a person who went to racecourses and put bets on nags (horses) in the hope they might come in and win and save their individual financial bacon, the term is now, in Britain, extended to anyone who makes a bet on anything, whatever -- such as whether their PCs will work. A punter in Britain is not, as one of our readers pointed out applies in his country, a Canadian kind of boat. A reader contributes RegipaQ which he describes as "The cunning manipulation of a multinational hardware vendor by a web based IT site. The principal aim being to replace their overworked servers". Spinola A sultan of spin, that is to say a public relations person, a sort of a combination between Spinoza and Payola. The best type of this species is known as a Paraspinmedic (qv). Screaming Cindy or Screaming Sindie. A woman who seems to accompany every new release of a Pentium microprocessor and has various extensions which allow her to scream ever more loudly. Suit An executive of a technology company, borrowed from the now defunct Great Satan of Walk-In Wardrobes (DEC). DEC (Digital) was taken over by The Big Q when it was still the Great Satan of Haircuts but was headed by Robert Palmer, who was rumoured to have a walk-in wardrobe in his office. Those rumours have never been substantiated. Palmer is now a director of The Great Satan of Taperecorders, otherwise known as Chimpzilla. Seven Dramurai, The A hastily put together consortium of memory manufacturers which included Rambus Ink and Intel, intended to promote the benefits of Direct RDRAM. Three weeks after the Seven Dramurai was formed, Intel announced there was a problem with Rambus memory on its i820 mobos, and withdrew the lot. Spin Paramedic An unusual sort of Suit (qv), who will go out of her or his way to save a journalists life. So far, only restricted to PRs in the pay of Chipzilla (qv). Not quite a spin doctor, but infinitely more useful if you're in a near-death experience. T-Zilla, aka Tiranazilla or Tyrannazilla. The tyranny of either Mr Hoxha, former CEO of small Balkans country Albania, or AMD. World+Dog This means everyone, as in the hackneyed phrase every man and his dog, and includes women with dogs too, which is why we turned it into a neutral phrase, not yet hackneyed. Any other jargon you either don't understand or feel like contributing? Email us here
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Computer controlled houses go on the market

Where is the centre of wired Britain? Scotland's Silicon Glen, Cambridgeshire's Silicon Fen? Nah -- it's Watford, innit. Strange but true, Watford is the location for an estate of high-tech houses. All the appliances are connected to a central computer, allowing its occupants to control their environment remotely, should they feel the need, from a Web pad. You can also access the house from the Internet, so that if -- for example -- you are working late you can adjust the heating, put some washing on, start cooking your dinner and even water the garden. That way when you arrive home late after a long day in the office you can find your dirty laundry spread evenly across your lawn, your dinner in the dishwasher and your best china baking in the oven. Pundits are saying the take-up of such techno-homes could be slow at first, according to an item on the BBC. And let's face it, only an idiot would entrust their home to a bunch of computers. Oh, an idiot and Bill Gates, that is. Priced at £500,000, with around £20,000 of that making up the cost of the in-house IT, the houses have all been sold. Barnum was right, there really is one born every minute. ®
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Daewoo overhaul sees founder go

An emergency bloodletting plan for the troubled Daewoo Group has seen the resignations of its founder Kim Woo-choong, after 30 years with the company, and the presidents of 12 Daewoo affiliates. The group was brought to its knees by the Asian economic crisis, which hit soon after Daewoo had over-borrowed to fund expansion. The company was unable to pay when banks called in the debts in 1997, and despite concerted efforts, had to implement a emergency debt plan in July this year. The executive board resignations formed part of the plan. ® See also: Daewoo faces foreign debt crisis
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CFO's poor show causes IBM demotion

The CFO of IBM has been demoted following the company's shock third quarter results two weeks ago. Douglas Maine has taken the blame for the poor results, which caused the largest single-day drop in Big Blue's share price since Lou Gerstner was brought in as CEO to reverse the giant's fortunes. Maine will lose his senior VP status and become head of a new Internet based direct-sales team. He is to be replaced by John Joyce, currently head of sales in Asia. The third-quarter results, complete with a profit and earnings warning for the next two quarters, fell below expectations and were blamed on a sales slowdown due to the year 2000. The setback, which came at a time when confidence in IBM was on a new high, is unlikely to have impressed Gerstner, especially since the year 2000 problems had earlier been dismissed by Maine. Maine said there was no connection between the poor results and his new job, stating that he had always wanted to work on the operations side. It seems likely Gerstner was only too pleased to grant Maine's wish - a move which will see him learn about PC sales on a first-hand basis. John Joyce is widely viewed as a possible future head of IBM and his move to the high-profile CFO job could prove a defining moment. ®
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When it rains it pours: Taiwan hit again

Taiwan was hit but yet another earthquake this morning, making it the third since 21 September. Measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale, the quake hit the island's east coast in the early hours of the morning. In contrast to the previous two major earthquakes, the quake has caused little damage and no casualties have been reported. However, while Taiwanese production has not been affected, the third quake has hit local stock market confidence, prompting a fall in electronics stocks. The first quake, measuring 7.4, hit central Taiwan causing widespread damage and loss of life. That was followed a month later by another in the south, measuring 6.4. Now a third, albeit less destructive, earthquake has struck the centre of worldwide IT production, share prices are being nervously monitored. The Taiwanese earthquake has been cited by a range of IT companies, including IBM, Gateway and Dell, as the main reason behind disappointing results. Reduced production following the first quake pushed DRAM and motherboard prices through the roof. A reader has kindly pointed us to this link, a constantly updated earthquake report. ® Related Stories Massive quake hits Taiwan Earthquake costs Taiwan semicon industry $300m Taiwan quake blamed for Dell profit slip
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NEC follows Tosh, Compaq into Texas legal wrangle

NEC has become the third major PC company in less than a week to be sued in Texas. The Japanese chipmaker faces a similar lawsuit to Toshiba, which led to it paying out over $1 billion last week, and Compaq. The same law firm, Texas-based Orgain, Bell & Tucker, has brought the lawsuits against all three vendors. It claims that defective microcontroller chips in floppy disk drives could lead to data being corrupted. NEC saw its share price dive 5.1 per cent to Y1984 yesterday, its lowest closing price since 9 September. About 13 million shares changed hands. NEC said neither it or its US subsidiary Packard Bell had been notified of this latest lawsuit, according to Bloomberg. In the 80s, NEC found a defect in its microcontroller chips for floppy drives, but moved to correct the bug in 1987. The problems had not recurred, the company said. ®
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Hackers tax the stupid

Romanian pranksters have hacked into a government Web site to levy a tax on the stupid. The group broke through top level security at the Romanian finance ministry's site to change government information. One of their alterations included placing a tax on stupidity. And the more important the person, the higher the tax. The cash collected from this would then be used to bribe NATO into accepting Romania into the fold, according to the new look Web site. Romanian officials said they had started an investigation into the security breach. A group of UK hackers were also believed to have tried a similar attempt on their own government's Central Office of Information Web site. However, they were forced to abandon the task after the site crashed repeatedly due to "hardware problems". ®
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UK ISPs play the numbers game

Britain's largest independent ISP, Internet Technology Group (ITG), has attracted more than 150,000 Net users in the last two months, the company said today. Thanks to the recent launch of new branded ISP services, including Waitrose.com and Freenetname, ITG now boasts more than 300,000 Net users. By contrast, Cheshire-based Telinco claims to look after 850,000 Net users in Britain through its branded services including bun.com, strayduck.com and Themutual.net. AOL UK -- part of AOL Europe -- reckons its brands (AOL UK, Netscape Online and CompuServe) amount to one million users. Freeserve still leads the way with a soupcon under 1.5 million. This figure could swell even more after it announced today that it would also support Mac users with the launch of a new software CD. ®
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AMD warns it may take charge for Q4

Documents AMD has filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission are warning that the firm may be forced to take a restructuring charge for its fourth quarter. According to news service CNN, AMD has managed to reduce expenses but is still failing to make enough money from sales of its microprocessors. That is despite demand for its Athlon and K6-III parts being strong. Last week we reported that it had run out of the K6-III/400 part. As well as making CPUs, AMD also does sound and very profitable flash memory business, but earlier this year sold off its programmable logic division and also made a relatively small number of employees, mostly administrative, redundant. AMD has around 13,000 staff across different worldwide locations. Although AMD's Athlon microprocessor has been greeted to acclaim by many reviewers, in order to push the technology to the limit it has been forced to strike a complex deal with the government of Saxony and a consortium of banks to finance its Dresden, Fab 30 factory. That state-of-the-art factory will come onstream in the first half of next year and will manufacture faster Athlons using copper interconnect technology. There have been persistent rumours that AMD is looking for partners to help share the load of the expensive Dresden Fab. Motorola, which is AMD's copper partner, is the most favoured candidate but others, including Infineon (formerly a Siemens subsidiary), has also been in the frame. ® See also AMD and its Dresden sandpit I AMD and its Dresden sandpit II
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i820 pushed back to week 48; Amador emerges

Almost every day for the last two weeks we've been forced to write a story about Rambus and the famous i820 chip debacle. But we've got a new codename and some hard information. We vowed we wouldn't, today, but a snippet of information came our way which has big implications for the entire industry. First, it now appears that a 2+0 i820 Rambus motherboard, that is a board with two RIMM sockets to hold only two of the costly memory modules, will arrive in week 48. Week 48 is the last week in November. Unfortunately, although that will help save face with Rambus and its cohorts, PC vendors are unlikely to jump up and down in delight. A two RIMM solution is not good enough to satisfy the performance needs of people who want the most out of their motherboards (mobo, see glossary). Although we were fast asleep in our beds when the Intel execs had their conference call with financial analysts last week, we are reliably informed that the said suits (see glossary) told the assembly that the company was looking to an alternative chipset technology from Rambus at the high-end. But, as our friend pointed out to us, wasn't the i840 workstation/server supposed to be that very thing? Meanwhile, we hear tell of a new code name for Intel's new PC-133 solution. Codenamed Amador, it will, as we revealed here, appear in Q1 of next year. And there will be a DDR version in the second half of next year. We will follow this up tomorrow. At Cyberpress time, Intel would only repeat its mantra: "The i820 chipset will be delivered in this quarter". ®
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LinuxOne takes more than a leaf out of Red Hat's book

Back in September, The Register reported on the upcoming IPO of a new Linux distributor called LinuxOne. Everyone knows that doing an IPO with nothing to show on the profit front is now commonplace, but LinuxOne appeared to be taking that to its logical conclusion IPO-ing without a product. Since then we've received emails from several sources claiming to have a close knowledge of LinuxOne's business. None of them were in any way complimentary. Last week, we received noted Bay Area-based Linux advocate Rick Moen's first look at a beta release of LinuxOne's distribution. As you'll see, it bears a very close resemblance to a certain Red Hat's Linux release... Some thoughts about LinuxOne beta 0.3 Some readers may recall the sudden appearance of Mountain View, California startup LinuxOne, Inc. on 2 September, with the announcement that that firm had helped MandrakeSoft open development centres in Beijing and Shanghai. That announcement had this to say about the company: "LinuxOne, One Stop for Linux, provides world-class quality UNIX (Linux) software targeted to the server, workstation and home environments and is distinguished by the unchallenged availability of applications and platform support, ease of installation and use, support, and commitment to lead in the development of timely extensions that address the requirements of the market for new functionality that provides stability, security, and usability for the software. LinuxOne expects to become the highest rated supplier of Linux solutions based on packaging, support, and capability worldwide." This was interesting, since none of us Bay Area Linux community folk seemed to have ever heard of the company. It seemed a pleasant surprise, and so many of us checked out its Web site, www.linuxone.net. There we read about its Linux distribution, the LinuxOne OS, which was promised to be available as a beta CD-ROM for $9.95, soon. The initial name for that product was LinuxOpen, but I can no longer find that reference on the Web site -- perhaps Caldera was displeased? The company's Web pages show clear signs of having been developed in Microsoft Word and possibly Front Page. A little checking revealed that the Web site is (still) running a very generic (and very insecure -- they allow Internet access to linuxconf) Red Hat 6.0 build with Apache, connected via a Pacific Bell aDSL line. It's interesting to note that the don't run their own distribution. Further digging revealed that LinuxOne was incorporated in March by Wun C. Chiou, Sr., PhD, founder of NetUSA (formerly Pacific Microelectronics), whose recent lines of business have included unsolicited commercial e-mail. Then, on 22 September, LinuxOne filed for IPO with the Securities Exchange Commission, announcing an intent to sell three million shares at $6-8 each. In the filing, LinuxOne reported zero revenue and a $17,000 operating loss for its initial quarter. Despite this, the firm reports having $150,000 in the bank, apparently from private stock placements. Of the executive officers, none but president and CEO Chiou owns any stock (as reported on the S1 filing). LinuxOne's IPO offering has no underwriters: according to the filing, shares "will be offered for sale by our management" for 180 days with a possible extension for 90 more days. The filing projected 9.2 million shares outstanding after IPO, representing 33 per cent equity of a $73 million market value, assuming an $8 share price. The $8 figure was said to have been "arbitrarily established by us" to raise about $23 million after expenses and "bears no relationship whatsoever to our assets, earnings, book value, or other criteria of value". Commentators soon pronounced LinuxOne's S1 filing virtually identical to Red Hat Software's (except for the lack of securities underwriters). At least one of the Web site's employment opportunities listings is word-for-word identical to a job listing at Red Hat's 'situations vacant' page. Asked about this, LinuxOne declined to return calls. Meanwhile, we've all been waiting to see the promised beta of LinuxOne OS. I've recently received a copy of Beta 0.3, and have been looking it over. Now, I've seen a lot of Red Hat 6.0 for Intel CD-ROMs in my day, and I must say that this one is very nearly a spitting image. At the top level, it has a "LinuxOne" directory instead of a "RedHat" one, but the directory layout and filenames seem otherwise identical. The top-level README file includes the following comment: "All the LinuxOne specific packages come with their sources in the source CD (PowerPack Edition). Please use FTP servers for sources. In the case where you don't have Internet access, Linux-Mandrake can send you a sources archive for very little charge." Browsing through the directory structure, it looks, right down the line, pretty much exactly like Red Hat 6.0. It includes KDE 1.1.1 (and I can't remember whether RH 6.0 included that), and at least one package from MandrakeSoft: MandrakeUpdate-6.0-5.i586.rpm The documentation directory looks familiar: Red Hat Getting Started, Official Red Hat 6.0 Installation Guide, Red Hat Linux 5.9 Alpha Installation Addendum, Red Hat sample "kickstart" configuration, and the standard collection of LDP FAQ and HOWTO documents (packaged exactly as in Red Hat 6.0). The CD's top-level README acknowledges the copyright and trademarks of Red Hat Software and MandrakeSoft, and states that some work is LinuxOne's -- but it's difficult to find any work actually by them. I booted the CD and found myself in what appeared to be the Red Hat 6.0 installer, unchanged except for the word "LinuxOne" globally substituted for "Red Hat", and LinuxOne's URL instead of Red Hat's. Since I didn't really want to sacrifice a perfectly good machine installation, I quit immediately before the installer would have begun unpacking RPMs, but literally could not find anything but Red Hat 6.0, as far as I got. I'll be curious about any reports by people who've looked deeper, but I believe I've personally seen enough. ® If anyone has looked deeper, we at The Register would like to hear from you. Email Tony Smith with your experiences of this curious Linux distribution. A longer version of Rick's study of LinuxOne's distribution can be found over at LinuxWorld
Rick Moen, 02 1999
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Amiga US goes silent – has Gateway shut it down?

Gateway may have finally pulled the plug on its Amiga subsidiary -- at least in its US incarnation -- if attempts by members of the Amiga user community to contact the company are anything to go by. According to Amiga community members, all attempts to contact the Amiga, inc. have been repelled, usually with "this number has been disconnected or is no longer in service" messages. Calls to Amiga staff made via Gateway have apparently also proved unsuccessful. According to one source, even Amiga Germany VP Petro Tyschtschenko has found it impossible to contact his peers in the US. And Amiga's own Web site no longer lists US members of staff or gives their contact details -- only general office locations. At this stage, we're trying to get confirmation of the claims, so concerned Amiga users should not necessarily assume the worst. The problems could easily be the result of a glitch with the company's phone system, for example. That said, so frequent have been the upheavals the company has experienced over the last three or four months -- the loss of president Jim Collas, the decision to abandon its hardware development plans, the shift to a software-only strategy, Gateway's own decision to adopt Cobalt kit for non-PC products -- that closure certainly can't be ruled out. As we receive more information, we'll keep you posted. ®
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US Senator denounces the ‘IT Revolution’

US Senator Fritz Hollings (D--South Carolina) had a nice rant today on the Senate floor about the grossly exaggerated importance of information technology to the US economy. Citing an article in this week's Economist, which he submitted for the record, Hollings loudly denounced the false hopes American businesses and politicians have placed in IT and e-commerce. The cost of this misplaced faith has been widespread Pollyannaish optimism in the face of quietly deteriorating economic conditions. "The American industrial base is being hollowed out," Hollings warned, adding, with some cynicism, that "Wal-Mart now employs more people than General Motors." The technology sector has long been touted as a saviour to US workers trapped in Wal-Mart and other low-paying service positions, which Americans refer to sarcastically as "McJobs". Hollings quoted aloud from the magazine article. The Economist, in turn, quoted a study by Goldman Sachs which finds that technological investment and growth is grossly overestimated by such simple errors as failure to adjust for current dollar values, and by including the value of investments in anything with an electric cord attached, including such routine items as telephones and radios, which were in every company's budget many decades before the Technology Revolution began. Furthermore, Internet-based sales are vastly inflated by adding the total value of goods and services traded on line, the production of which has nothing whatever to do with the Internet. "The value added of Internet sales -- i.e., its contribution to GDP -- would be much less, probably little more than 1 per cent of GDP," the authors reckon. Beyond that, gross sales of computers are often taken as evidence of IT growth, but in reality a hefty portion of those purchases are made merely to replace outdated equipment, with no real expansion going on. And even taking such sales in their best light, "computers still account for only two percent of America's total net capital stock," the study finds. The purpose of Hollings' speech was to discourage passage of a Senate bill offering tariff exemptions and other incentives to stimulate economic development in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean. The Senator fears that the USA simply can't afford to give the competition a break, especially now, as we can see that the IT sector is but a faint reflection what it's cracked up to be. The bill has broad, bi-partisan support, however, and is likely to pass regardless of whether the Technology Revolution performs the expected miracles or not. ®
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Xerox gunman kills seven

Updated The man wanted by Hawaii police in connection with the killing of seven employees at the Xerox warehouse in Honolulu has given himself up. The man, named as Byron Uesugi, was said to be a copy machine repairman at Xerox -- the seven confirmed dead were all members of his work crew. All seven were men, they had been shot with a 9mm handgun. Five of the bodies were grouped together in a conference room, with two nearby. No other injuries were reported. The killer fled the scence of the crime in a Xerox van. Although details were sketchy at press time, some reports said Uesugi's neighbours described him as mild-mannered and a recluse. He is understood to have had 17 guns registered in his name and was a member of his high school shooting team. He gave himself up after a five-hour stand-off with police. A Xerox representative said there would normally only have been four people working in the warehouse but a meeting had been called, which led to there being more of Uesugi's colleagues present. ®