9th > November > 1999 Archive
The organisers of InQuest said that they will hold a Platform 2000 conference on the 26th and 27th of January in San Jose. The conference focuses on technology initiatives, partitioning and integration strategies, bus standards, system architectures and market segments, said Bert McComas, one of the organisers of the conference. Last June, McComas brought together a number of third party chip companies across the board. He said that Platform 2000 will include more presentations from analysts and vendors, details on the double date rate (DDR) roadmap, information on chipsets, and updates on IO, microprocessors and developments in graphics. There are more details here ®
Opinion It's been some time since The Sherriff took a cheap shot at Chipzilla's marketing goons, so we reckon they're well overdue for a slapping, as some English chums might say. What is it about Intel that it seems hell bent in confusing the world+dog at every opportunity? Not content with launching ten processors a week, Chipzilla insists on devising arcane numbering systems to ensure that no one has a clue about what CPU does what. Try going into Chips 'R' Us and asking the ten-year-old sales assistant to explain to you what the A, B and EB suffixes mean -- he won't have a clue, so what chance does the average user have? To recap: The A suffix was applied to Celerons to differentiate between the original (crap) Covington part and its Mendocino replacement. For Pentium III processors, B means it's a 133MHz FSB part. E means it's a Coppermine chip built at 0.18 micron. Put an E and a B together and get E flat -- simple. Now that's reasonably simple to understand, but Chipzilla's marketing morons obviously think we've got nothing better to do than keep pace with their processor designations, because only the 300MHz Celerons were ever given the A suffix, and only PIIIs slower than 650MHz carry either a B or an E. Intel claims that only processors with the same clock speed need to carry a suffix at all, but then rather spoils the plan by introducing the only 533MHz part as the 533B, suggesting that Chipzilla is as confused as the rest of us when it comes to processor naming. Is The Sherriff alone in thinking that all Mendocino Celerons should have an A on them, all 133MHz PIIIs should carry a B and all 0.18 micron Cumines should be branded with an E? When a Coppermine Celeron appears, it would be called a Celeron E and a 133MHz FSB version would be a Celeron EB. Instead we will see the Celeron III and presumably if it gets launched at the same speed as an old Celeron, it'll have to have yet another letter tagged on to avoid any confusion. Maybe we should apply a series of suffixes to Intel's marketing department -- how about I, T, H and S (but not necessarily in that order)? ®
Lack of fast Coppermine chips from Intel is causing even big players in the PC industry to drastically adjust their schedules, costing them time, money and face. Reliable reports say that Intel will not now be able to ship its 700MHz Pentium III part until January 2000 at the earliest, while there are also availability problems with a number of other components, as previously reported. Sources close to Fujitsu Siemens have now told The Register that the giant is telling its customers of problems sourcing not only Coppermine processors but also the ZX chipset in December. The new Coppermine processors were announced to a blare of publicity in October, but large OEMs such as Fujitsu Siemens are being told they will not have stock of many of these chips until after the 15 November. Totally coincidentally, it appears, this is the date that Intel says the i820 (Caminogate) chipset will be ready. Our thanks, again, to an Israeli reader who pointed out that Timna, the codename for Intel's system-on-a-chip part, is the name of a town in the country which has a played out copper mine. ® See also Huge shortages, technical problems hit Intel Coppermine debut Intel CuMine chips: now the gold mine is official Intel's CuMine fails to dampen AMD Athlon squib Japanese punters get Coppermine trickle treat
The government is to spend £70 million over the next five years on a link-up between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MiT) and Cambridge University. The two techie powerhouses will form a joint institute aimed at encouraging UK entrepreneurs. The joint venture will also develop higher education courses and attempt to turn Britain's academic knowledge into technology-based businesses (rather than letting everyone else do it). Most of the funding will come from the DTI -- £14 million a year, for five years -- with £16 million to be raised by the universities from the UK public sector. The size of the investment caused New Labour to bring out the big guns. Gordon Brown said: "This is a path breaking innovation. By choosing the UK as its European partner, MiT has recognised our country's strengths." David Blunkett, education secretary joined in: "The institute will help place the UK at the cutting edge of the globalisation of higher education." Stephen Byers, trade secretary, got stuck in too: "Securing this is a major achievement." The government does have cause to be pleased with itself. Although the UK has the advantage of having English as a first language (and has been in bed with the US ever since Maggie and Ronnie got together), nabbing MiT's European partnership can only be a good thing. Such is the kudos of the US institute that you only need the three initials on your CV to be inundated by VC money. Tony Blair et al have been making all the right noises about technology recently but it is reassuring to see them put their money where their mouth is. With some careful handling the UK may even follow in the footsteps of MiT success stories and produce its own Hewlett Packard, Digital, Texas Instruments or Intel. ®
We like Computer Weekly and Computing. Not because they're first with the news (the Web has put paid to that) but because the politics of the venerable rival IT pubs remains hugely entertaining.
Terry Shannon, who knows Compaq, and before it DEC, better than anyone on the planet, is filing daily reports on the conference at his Web site Shannon knows Compaq. Being a good friend of the The Register, however, he has kindly allowed us to nick some of his content for our readers. According to Shannon, Compaq CEO Michael Capellas opened the symposium dressed in conventional suit but wearing an Open VMS number plate round his neck. Why he should do such a thing is unclear, but perhaps is something to do with the fact that Tru64 Unix is going well. Capellas noted that his company's decision to withdraw support for Alpha NT had caused some problems for the two per cent of customers that were committed to it. The delayed Wildfire technology is being shown at DECUS, Shannon notes. He saw a 16-CPU machine with two hard partitions and another running dual instances of Open VMS Galaxy. The Big Q is also showing the Alpha Server DS20E a rack mounted box costing less than $13,000 when configured with the Linux OS. According to Shannon, there is now a total of over one million Alphas in the installed base. For more daily updates of DECUS, look at Terry Shannon's site. ®
The controversy over disability benefit in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill has seen the first measure of the IR35 tax change pass through unnoticed. The troubled Bill -- lauded as the House of Lords' last stand -- was returned to the Commons for a second time yesterday, but this time without the amendment that a change in national insurance contributions for those working in their own service companies should be scrapped. Such was the attention and media interest paid to the disability question that the relevant clause, Clause 70, was not even discussed. As is custom, this meant the Bill was returned with it intact. Susie Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Professional Contractors Group (PCG), admitted that the battle had been lost but said the raised status of the PCG would help when the next element of IR35, income tax change, is discussed in the Finance Bill in April. ® Related Stories Hague gets bald with Blair over IR35 IR35 protesters march on Parliament
easyEverything has changed its cybercafe tariffs to charge punters more in busier periods. Rates were previously £1 per hour to use one of the terminals in the company's rapidly expanding Internet cafe empire. But a representative of the company said demand had grown so strong that a "yield management" system was implemented last month. Customers still pay £1, but the time allotted at a computer varies on how full the cafe is. For example, if 90 per cent of the computers are being used, customers only get 15 minutes of Internet time for their pound. In quieter periods, the same amount buys one whole hour. From midnight to 6am users can still surf the Net for as long as they want for £1. According to Tony Anderson, easyEverything marketing manager, this system is imported from the airline business of its sister company easyJet, where seats are cheaper in quieter periods or if booked early. "In its early days, it was not uncommon to see queues of around 100 people outside Victoria -- the first easyEverything cybercafe. "People said they were willing to pay more -- they just wanted to get a seat. We needed some way of changing the price." Anderson said the rate was being dictated by the customers. "But we know we'll always be cheaper than other cybercafes," he said. Prices vary in each cybercafe -– easyEverything currently has three, with 1350 terminals in total, in London -- and customers are advised of computer availability in different locations. This means that if there is a queue at Victoria, customers are advised to go to a quieter venue. easyEverything also has stores at Tottenham Court Road and Trafalgar Square. It plans to open more soon, including Oxford Street and High Street Kensington, bringing the number of terminals in London to 2250. It also has plans to open a store in Edinburgh with 500 computers, and Amsterdam with 700. ®
An advertising leaflet written in blood by Virgin Interactive Entertainment gave the ASA something to get its teeth into this month. Virgin sent out an unsolicited mailing for a computer game in an envelope with four bullet holes on the front and holes surrounded by blood on the back. It contained a letter, a CD, and a smaller blood stained envelope that said: "Post dis F**Ker now". It also contained a Polaroid-style photo showing a man shot dead with the words "You're next" written in blood. The copy said: "Violent, Ruthless, Cunning? You’d better be... It ain't no place to f**k around... it ain't no f**king picnic... So come on ***hole...", etc. You get the idea. The ASA dubbed the mailing "irresponsible and likely to cause serious or widespread offence". Another company that got into trouble over language this month was Vodafone. The telecomms company claimed it had "the widest global mobile network". By this, it said it meant the widest coverage. However, BT Cellnet questioned the statement, and the ASA ruled that customers would interpret the claim as meaning the number of countries they could use their mobiles in, not overall coverage. IT companies also came under scrutiny. Hewlett Packard claimed to have brought out the first colour printer to flash up on a PC screen when the cartridge needed changing. Saatchi & Saatchi challenged the claim, saying Epson already had the function on its Stylus Color 600 inkjet printer. The ASA said that although HP's 2000C printer was unique and told users when ink was getting low, it was not the only printer to flash up an icon on screen and therefore the statement was misleading. Computer Warehouse got into trouble for quoting prices without including VAT. Although its advert was aimed at business customers in a specialist magazine, the ASA said that private consumers could also read the advert. ®
The company behind the world's most popular board game has denied it is considering changing its name after Friday's ruling by the Department of Justice that Microsoft is a monopoly. A spokeswoman for Hasbro, which produces the ever-popular game Monopoly*, said there were no plans to rename it "Microsoft" in recognition of the Seattle software giant's new found status as a competition-crushing company. Some, though, might think that Hasbro has missed a trick. Microsoft's single-minded pursuit to dominate the software market is just a modern twist on the ruthless, property-purchasing capitalist board game** that has become such a firm favourite, especially among families. And the idea's not quite so stupid as it seems. Monopoly is already available in many different countries and languages; there's even a Star Wars edition. Just think, instead of trolling around a board buying properties, gamers would sit astride a mouse, keyboard or other such trinket, to try and monopolise other computer companies and their products. Once a company was suitably monopolised, gamers would acquire "panes" to put on these virtual properties. Four panes would make a window, and the object of the game would be to try and fill the board with as many Windows as was humanly possible. Of course, there would still be the usual "community choice" or "chance" pitfalls -- and everyone involved in this mucky business would want to make sure they had a get-out-of-jail-free card... you know, just in case. ® * More than 200 million sets of Monopoly have been sold since the game was devised by Charles Darrow in 1934? ** You'd be hard pressed to find a game of Monopoly on Cuba. When he came to power President Fidel Castro order that all Monopoly sets should be destroyed. Did you know...? The UK Monopoly Championships are being held this week at Liverpool Street Station in London.
More than 1,800 people have filed for divorce in the last 10 weeks using a new automated legal service available only on the Internet. Although Desktop Lawyer was only launched in July, it provided a whopping six per cent of all the UK's total divorce petitions during the same period. More than three-quarters of those people who sought to divorce their spouses using Desktop Lawyer were men. And more than 40 per cent of those looking for a clean break were in their 30s. According to Epoch Software, the ecommerce company which developed the Desktop Lawyer, the service is very easy to use. Desktop Lawyer drafts legal documents -- including a petition, legal letters, affidavit and decree nisi -- that can be downloaded once certain details have been entered online. Of course, the service is not suitable for everyone and only works if people are applying for an uncontested divorce. At just £59.99, Epoch claims it can provide a saving of around £350 on the cost of the average undefended divorce using solicitors. "Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that the legal profession can no longer afford to ignore it," said Richard Cohen, legal director of Epoch Software. That may be so, but the service has been criticised for encouraging people to divorce. But Martin Dodd, a spokesman for National Family Mediation (NFM), which deals with the emotional side of divorce, doesn't agree. He believes people will get divorced whatever, and it's up to his organisation to pick up the pieces afterwards. And his view is supported by Desktop Lawyer's own research which shows that two thirds of people don't think this cheap, simplified service will lead to more divorce. According to the latest statistics, 169,000 people filed for divorce in Britain and 153,000 were granted a legally binding end to their marriage. The Register has learned Epoch is also developing an online pre-nuptial agreement to stop thieving spouses trying to marry for money. ®
The organisers of next year's Computer Trade Show have resisted calls to postpone price increases for exhibition space, but are promising to increase the number and quality of resellers at the event. David Barr, sales manager for CTS organisers iMark, said his company was aiming to get between 6,000 and 6,500 resellers to the event in Birmingham in January. This compares to the 5,000 attendees this year. Speaking at last night's Personal Computer Association meeting, Barr said he wanted to create a "level playing field", but that the company would stick to its plan to increase prices by around 50 per cent across the board. But he guaranteed that prices would stay the same for CTS 2001. Prices will be £275 per square metre for those booking space only, and £325 for those wanting to hire space with stands. Barr said exhibitors who booked space at this year's show would get £25 per square metre deducted from the price. "We inherited a position where many people were receiving ad hoc rates," said Barr. "We want to create a level playing field to take the whole show forward for 2001." Barr said he planned for 100 distributors to exhibit at next year's show, and had already sold 70 per cent of the floor space. But some smaller distributors, like Realtime Distribution, last night said they felt they could not afford the price rises. Last month, a number of resellers petitioned iMark to drop its plans to increase the show's rates. Barr was asked whether it was more important to get big distributors and broad attendance at the show, or to get the right distributors there. He replied: "We have accepted that there will be some people who will not be able to attend with the new rates. But we cannot be all things to all people." ®
First Gander You might not be able to actually buy a Coppermine Pentium III right now, but early results from the RegMark Institute suggest you might want to put an order in - at least for one of the 100MHz FSB variants. As one of the lucky few to have a 700MHz/100MHz FSB CuMine to try, we can report that it runs just fine in an Intel Sun River SR440BX, despite the BIOS initially refusing to let it run any faster than 650MHz - a quick tweak with NEWSPEED.EXE soon put things right. Although the test machine was running Win2K RC2, which no doubt slows things down a tad, it still delivered a commendable 2029.5 MIPS and 800.7MFLOPS, according to WinTune 98. This compared pretty favourably to an identical Sun River equipped with a 500MHz Deschutes PIII running Win98SE, which returned 1452.9MIPS and 574.3MFLOPS. We also tried the 600MHz Deschutes under Win98 in a Seattle 2 mobo, where it performed roughly on a par with the Win2K machine. One of our readers memorably described Coppermine as "a chip you can't find, for a platform that doesn't work, using memory you can't afford". But the performance of the 100MHz Cumine seems to suggest that sticking with the 100MHz FSB parts might not be such a daft option after all. And having had our fingers burned (literally) by early Pentium IIIs, we were also mightily impressed by the cool performance of the 0.18 micron Cumine, which suggests it might be quite happy running a bit faster -- watch this space.
A new software package that warns parents if their children are being solicited by paedophiles is to be released at COMDEX next week. Cyber Sentinel acts as the eyes and ears of parents when they can't be there to supervise their children when the wee ones are logged onto the Net. If their kids are under threat from paedophiles, or faced with pornographic, adult or other dangerous material, the system immediately alerts parents by pager or email -- regardless of where they are. According to Chicago-based Security Software Systems, which developed the technology, Cyber Sentinel differs from site-blockers, such as Net Nanny, because it is analyses Web sites page-by-page, rather than by blocking entire sites. The system also works in chat rooms, and on emails, attached documents, search engines, and Web browsers. The developers claim it checks all the information entering and exiting a PC for blacklisted words and phrases. This includes phone numbers, address, social security numbers -- or any data that should not be given to strangers. And if there's a problem, parents can choose to be notified via email or pager so they can take immediate action to stave off any danger –- albeit after the fact. "Unfortunately, the Internet has shown a very dark side," said John Bastian, president of Security Software Systems. "It has become a magnet for paedophiles, molesters, and other predators who belong under lock and key, not online and in touch with our children. "While parents want their children to have the ability to learn and grow, and to go where their imaginations take them, many places online are now out-of-bounds. Clearly, parents must take action to protect their children," he said. Whether Cyber Sentinel provides practical effective protection remains to be seen. ®
Acer Labs has brought Nintendo's 3D graphics partner, ArtX, on board to help it integrate a graphics controller into the chipset vendor's core Socket 7 logic. According to a report in EE Times, we're not talking standard end-of-its-life graphics technology here.
The console war between Sega and Sony helped boost flagging UK retail sales in October. Demand was strong for the Sega Dreamcast console, particularly in the first few days following its release last month. And Sony cut its PlayStation price, which also helped raise slow sales growth in the high street, a survey by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported today. Overall, like-for-like sales values were 1.7 per cent higher than last October, with total sales growth for the month 4.7 per cent. This was an improvement on September's 1.2 per cent and 4.4 per cent respectively. But the BRC said stiff competition was pushing up sales at the expense of profits. "This was a dull month for retailers with very little improvement on previous months. The concerns about a boom which are exercising policy makers are not reflected in the retail sales picture," said Bridget Rosewell, chief economic adviser to BRC. "Last week's increase in interest rates is bad new for retailers and must raise concerns about the Christmas period." ®
Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer Asus told our Taipei correspondent that his company was still continuing to support the K7M. Senior executives at the firm denied that it was withdrawing support for the mobo, or that Intel had put pressure on it. And so, if you turn to this Athlon mobo page here, you will see a ringing endorsement of the platform. And no, the link's not broken -- Asus has expunged the page, leaving a 404 message as the only trace that it ever existed. Just how more eloquently could Asus put it? ® See also Asus denies Athlon mobo rumours (apparently)
British Apple resellers have banded together to form a united front in opposition to the Mac maker's policy toward its UK channel. Or have they? According to UK trade title MicroScope, the Independent Apple Dealers Association (IADA) has set up a Web site to complain not only about the companies decision to pull out of Apple Expo 2000, its inability to ship enough Power Mac G4 systems and its online direct sales operation. However, no one within the IADA seems willing to admit to it. The site claims to have "200 subscribers" to its Apple-bashing bulletin board, which, if its current contents are anything to go by, amounts to little more than a bunch of guys bitching about margins, deliveries, distributors and vendors -- all the stuff that reseller employees usually piss and moan about. Ironically, it's this very anonymity is ensuring that Apple can't talk to them and discuss their concerns -- as the vendor claims it's keen to do. So why all the mystery? Good question -- and we're awaiting IADA's official response. One 'subscriber' claims the board may have been set up by Apple to pick out malcontents, which is plausible but unlikely since it would require too much effort on Apple UK's part, we suspect. No, the trouble is that IADA doesn't actually appear to have an agenda. Or rather it has an agenda to complain, but necessarily to seek a resolution to its problems. There are numerous such organisations, where firms come together to present a united front the better to put their case, but here there seems little real motivation to do so, and for that reason, we remain sceptical. That said, one poster did suggest that "if we get enough support and can get agreement from enough people we will go public", so a more direct (and workable) plan may yet emerge. Still, we did note a consistent dislike of Computer Warehouse, and given our own problems with said Mac reseller, we can see their point (see Computer Warehouse scores zip on Register ChannelMark™)... ®
Chip contender Advanced Micro Devices is now expected to demonstrate a 1GHz Athlon using a .18 micron process technology at next week's Comdex/Fall exhibition in Las Vegas. At the same time, it will announce availability of the 750MHz Athlon, and is likely to show a .18 micron 800MHz part, either on the stand or behind closed doors. It will also introduce an ad campaign in the US this Saturday, focusing on the performance of the Athlon versus the Pentium III. The 750MHz and 800MHz parts show that AMD's roadmap, which it revealed to The Register at Fab 30 in Dresden earlier this year, appears well on track. Sources close to AMD have said that the company is likely to go with a 1GHz processor in January of next year. It already has the 750MHz Athlon in production, according to sources close to AMD, and could start shipping the 800MHz whenever it chooses to. The issues are marchitectural, rather than architectural. In other words, AMD wants to maximise sales of its current processors and not jump the gun, even though it could. The news will be a further blow to Intel, which is still unable to ship a whole clutch of .18 micron Coppermine processors it announced last month, and is still reeling from comparisons between its Pentium III and the Athlon. Intel is also smarting because AMD has managed to undercut its prices. The US nationwide advert AMD will run is targeted at Intel. According to Jill Linstedt, VP of communications: "The message we want to communicate is the AMD Athlon processor is faster than Pentium III at any clockspeed. The AMD Athlon processor is targeted at end users who are looking for superior power and performance, whether running standard productivity software or the latest cutting-edge consumer, business, and scientific applications." ® See also AMD Athlons undercut equivalent Pentium IIIs Intel beset by further Coppermine, chipset delays
The inevitable has finally happened. BT has buckled under the strain of public opinion and announced it is to "to reduce dramatically the cost of dial-up calls to the Internet". Although the exact details of the arrangement are still uncertain, the deal could mean that ISPs would be able to offer unmetered access to the Net for as little as £10 a month. The new service provider tariff will be available from mid-December once the monster telco has received the go-ahead from the watchdog, Oftel. A statement issued today reads: "This will make it possible for ISPs to launch radically new subscription tariffs which might include unlimited dial-up calls to the Internet for a single monthly fee." Bill Cockburn, group managing director of BT UK, said: "BT is continuing to develop a range of Internet access options which cater effectively for both heavy and infrequent users, ranging from individuals at home to major corporations." The company said it would invest more than £100 million over the next two financial years on technology which will optimise the network for Internet use. No one from BT was available to discuss the announcement further. ®
MS on Trial With exquisite timing, Zona Research has announced the end of the browser wars. Microsoft won, and a dead-pan Zona says there's no need to carry on chasing market share stats. But being declared the victor is hardly going to be an unalloyed pleasure for Microsoft. The company took flak for many things in Judge Jackson's findings of fact on Friday, but the section on Microsoft's campaigns against Netscape is particularly long and comprehensive. The good judge is of the opinion that Microsoft set out to hunt Netscape out of the browser market, and systematically eliminated it from distribution channels. So when Zona says Microsoft's IE chalked up a 64 per cent score as the primary browser of choice in October, against 36 per cent for Navigator, you can't help sub-consciously adding "and that's because..." Zona says that corporate browser policy has been an important factor in narrowing the market from nine browsers four years ago to two now. Today 73 per cent of companies have policies, with 69 per cent of them specifying IE and 31 per cent Navigator. At this point it's worth reprising Zona's report from a year ago. Then there was a clear difference between individual users, 60 per cent of whom preferred Netscape, and corporates - 54 per cent of those with a policy specified IE. Netscape's share of user hearts and minds was then up on the previous month. Today, Zona says: "We are witnessing a shift away from the importance of the browser technology to the content on the Internet. It is not surprising that the two dominant browser vendors now play a significant role in the burgeoning content marketplace. The question is how will the content war play itself out?" That is, the browser has become irrelevant, it's merging into the background. But how it got merged into the background is a matter for the judge. Here's what Zona said a year ago: "We see from this study that 84 per cent of IE in use as the primary browser is policy-driven. We believe this significant increase [in IE's share] is largely due to the fact that IE 4.0 is an integral part of Windows 98, that Microsoft has continued to make inroads in the corporate marketplace, and numerous distribution agreements with service providers and other software vendors." That is, Microsoft has succeeded by integrating the browser, thus making IE a no-brainer choice for customers, and by sewing up the other distribution channels via contra deals. Which we believe is what the judge said. Oh dear. ® Complete Register Trial coverage