12th > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Compaq Wildfire to debut February 2000

Reliable sources close to Compaq's plans have said that the company's Wildfire clustering and server technology will be introduced in February of next year. The introduction of the system has been delayed for quite a while, but in recent weeks, Compaq has shown demonstrations of the high end platform both at the Telecoms show in Geneva and more recently at its US Decus event. The source, who declined to be identified by name, claimed that the benchmarks her company had compiled showed that the box offered a serious challenge to its competitors, including Sun Microsystems, in both price and performance. She added that there was no danger whatever of Compaq ceding victory to Intel, in the chip war, and pointed out that an agreement brokered by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ensured that Alpha processors would be made by the chip giant for 10 years. The source added that she was surprised Intel got so much publicity for its up-and-coming IA-64 (Merced-Itanic) platform, given that the first systems to be released, in June next year, would not offer anything like the performance of the Alpha processor and would not even be able to compete on price. Large corporations would buy Merced machines but only as an evaluation platform initially, she said. There would be no volume sales of Merced for most of next year. She said that most Compaq customers were now satisfied with the company's decision to drop support for Windows NT for the Alpha processor. While she agreed that in some respects it was a shame, it was likely that NT would take some time before it could scale to the 24-way, 48-way, 96-way and eventually 512-way CPU WildFire systems Compaq is developing. Sun, she claimed, was already very late with the development of its UltraSparc processor and we were unlikely to see new systems from the company until the end of next year. The source also suggested that cooperation between itself and AMD on Slot B technology was still on track, and that IBM would, indeed, fab Alphas using copper interconnect technology at some time in the future. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Flanders Language Valley sails into action

To the tunes of a choral fanfare, and the synthesised sound of a computer, the Belgian royal family yesterday evening opened the Flanders Language Valley park, near Ypres, the site of mass slaughter during the First World War. At the same time, the former prime minister of Belgium, Jean-Luc Dehaene, announced the future structure of the SAIL (speech artificial intelligence and language) trust, which will introduce ten similar IT parks across the world. SAIL, the idea of Jo Lernout and Pol Hauspie, who founded speech and translation firm Lernout & Hauspie, will invest $10 million dollars in each of the sites over the next three to five years. According to Pol Hauspie, he and his partner seeded the idea with money from L&H shares, but SAIL is a completely independent venture and has also received endorsement and funding from both Intel and Cisco. Microsoft and Intel each own around seven per cent of Lernout & Hauspie. Intel's CEO Craig Barrett and Cisco's CEO John Chambers, both welcomed the opening of the Flanders site. Intel has a joint venture with Lernout & Hauspie in Flanders. The 10 so called "ports" will be established across the world, with sites on the East and West coast of the USA, in the Arabian peninsula, in Latin America, in Northern Europe and in Singapore. Lernout said that his company was close to developing technology which would allow PCs and other devices to speak with the voice of their owners. General availability of this software was likely to be two years down the line, but L&H will be able by the end of next year to tailor such systems to specific customers and applications, he said. The process dissects the speech patterns and tones of an individual voice and is then re-assembled into a digital form, he said. The JV with L&H and Intel is targeted at the e-commerce market, said Lernout. Intel has a 51 per cent stake in the site, and it will develop so-called intelligent robots (not rabbits), that will be able to trawl the Web. Lernout said that in two to three years time, there will be enough MIPs on the PC platform to revolutionise the user interface of operating system software, and to perform all manner of complex speech, translation and AI tasks. He also held out the prospect of such technology being embedded into digital signal processors (DSPs) and in CPUs themselves, which would extend the power of such applications in both vertical and horizontal applications. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD future roadmap recalls World War II

The share price of AMD bounded to $28 yesterday after CEO Jerry Sanders III said the company expected to break even in its fourth financial quarter. For some months, its price had languished between $16 and $20. For once, Sanders was able to report good news on both the microprocessor and flash memory fronts, and at the same time, outlined its future roadmap for its Athlon and other processor families through 1999. AMD confirmed it was on target to deliver a 750MHz processor during this quarter, and that it had now succeeded in shifting all of the production of its Athlon processors from a .25 micron to a .18 micron process. The firm pointed out that supplies of Intel's Coppermine .18 microprocessor were still constrained. Rob Herb, senior VP of marketing at AMD, said that the company will release a K6-2 at 533MHz this quarter, and early next year will release .18 micron version of the K6-2+ with on die full speed level two cache. That means socket seven will still live until 2001, he said. The die size of the K7 has been reduced to 102 square millimetres, and between this year and next, the company will introduce the K6-III+, a .18 micron processor using the Super 7 socket. Next year, we will see processors dubbed the Thunderbird, the Spitfire and the Mustang. Thunderbird will be a .18 micron K7 device with on die cache and coming in both Slot A and Socket A configurations. Spitfire will be a chip with on-die cache and aimed at the Intel Celeron market. It will use Socket A. Mustang will be an Athlon with on-die cache of up to 2Mb, using an enhanced core and coming in both Socket A and Slot A configuration. There will be another version of Mustang aimed at the low end mobile market and coming in a Socket A configuration. Through 2000, AMD will move from a .18 aluminium interconnect to a .18 copper interconnect technology, with processor speeds at and surpassing 1GHz and using a 256MHz front side system bus. AMD will also introduce SMP Athlons for two to eight way systems, and employing the double data rate (DDR) memory configuration, having a 266MHz front side bus, and supporting 4X AGP Pro and PCI 66/64. The company will look to scale these processors even higher, using either Alpha technology or its own Hotrail technology. These developments will seriously concern Intel, because AMD will be able, for the first time in its history, to fight for market segments that the Santa Clara company considered all its own. ® See also AMD confirms 750MHz Athlon a go-go, mentions Register in despatches
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

ISPs lash out at BT

Britain's ISPs have slammed BT for misleading the public about its plans to cut the cost of dial-up Net access. In a statement issued through their trade association, ISPA, ISPs said BT's new Internet tariffs are "not a good deal for consumers or for the Internet industry in the UK". ISP's also hit out at the monster telco for not consulting with them beforehand. ISPA represents more than 80 ISPs in the UK, including AOL Bertelsmann, LineOne, FreeServe and... er... BT. Tim Pearson, chairman of ISPA, said: "While ISPA welcomes new pricing models to encourage Internet growth in the UK, ISPA believes that BT's new tariff will not lead to cheaper Internet access, and appears to be an attempt by BT to win back market share in the termination of Internet calls." ISPA also said the move might be an attempt by BT to force ISPs off competing networks since any take-up of BT's offer would appear to rule out arrangements with other telcos. Laurence Blackall, ISPA council member, said: "Clearly BT is making significant savings by handing over to ISPs the responsibility for billing and collection of these accounts. "But despite the fact that ISPs spend significant amounts to generate the traffic for these lines, the service does not appear cheap, and ISP's are affronted by what appears to be an attempt to fix their prices for them." But a spokesman for BT dismissed the criticisms saying: "If they [ISPs] don't like it, they don't have to buy it. "This deal offers a price reduction of 75 per cent on daytime call rates -- how can that not be a price reduction?" On Tuesday, BT issued a statement which said the it was about to "slash the cost of dial-up Internet access". ® Related Stories BT's knockers reject flat-rate plans BT's Bonfield: No free local calls BT's U-turn could drive competitors off the road BT U-turns on unmetered Net access Oftel calls for cheaper Net access
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

ICO wins court approval for McCaw's $150m cash injection

Our prediction of a Teledesic/ICO Global Communications merger appears to be coming true. The US bankruptcy court -- along with a pair of the same in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands; so you see where the money will end up -- approved Teledesic chairman Craig McCaw's plan to pump first $150 million into the much-troubled satellite mobile phone company, and then lead a finance drive to find up to $2.1 billion. And who reported this interesting titbit? Why, none other than Teledesic under a Teledesic/ICO banner. The financing and cash injection is subject amongst other things to a "confirmation and consummation of a reorganisation plan" -- in other words, to McCaw's elevation to the chairmanship of ICO. Given that ICO is now in the same business as Teledesic -- it wants to provide high bandwidth Net access through its still-to-be-launched satellite network rather than an Iridium-style mobile phone service -- and will soon have the same chairman (and possibly other members of the executive team), merging the two operations is the obvious next move. Like Iridium, ICO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last August. While its rival struggles to persuade its investors to allow it to restructure, ICO revealed a plan to adopt Teledesic's business model and, before McCaw's input, a further round of financing. ® Register Remarkable Coincidences No. 4001 McCaw's fellow 'name' investor in Teledesic is Bill Gates. Gates' Microsoft yesterday came to an agreement with one Richard Kerstein over the ownership of the Windows2000.com domain name. And who did Kerstein once work for? Why, McCaw Cellular, as CFO...
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Ingram loses HP Unix contract

Hewlett-Packard has dumped Ingram Micro as a Unix distributor in the UK for not supplying high enough levels of sales and support. The PC vendor said in a statement it was ending the Unix contract with Ingram because "our expectations no longer equate". But John Young, HP UK channel and partner manager, said Ingram had failed to deliver the amount of business and level of technical support needed. According to Young, Ingram is too much of a generalist for Unix distribution. "As part of the review process, our Unix resellers have particular requirements in terms of the sales, marketing and technical support needed," he said. "With Ingram, we felt that the business plans we'd put in place hadn't been achieved." Young said the move had been a UK decision, but was in the context of HP's worldwide review of its distribution strategy. "Clearly, there is a move towards rationalising the distribution network," he said. Ingram will still distribute HP's Commercial Channels Organisation in the UK, and keep its other contracts in Europe. This leaves PSL as HP's sole Unix distributor in the UK. "Distribution is changing. Companies need to offer a more specialist service to resellers rather than just products supply and logistics," said Young. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Streambox converts RealAudio to MP3

Software developer Streambox has figured out a way to crack RealNetworks' RealAudio encryption and has released a utility that will RealAudio files into MP3, WAV or Windows' MS Audio format. The software's USP is that it allows users to record streamed RealAudio files 'off the air' and play them back at a time that best suits them. Sounds a trifle dodgy, no? But Bob Hildeman, Streambox's CEO, interviewed by online music vendor MP3.com, claimed that the software, called Streambox Ripper, doesn't infringe any of RealNetworks' licensing agreements. Hildeman said that RealNetworks was aware of his product, but had not complained about it. Indeed, the company probably reckons it's a neat idea -- so we can probably expect them to add such a feature to RealJukebox, and modify their licence accordingly. Streambox Ripper costs $34.99, but the company has a time-limited, 15-day demo available from its Web site. ® Related Stories RealNetworks subsidiary's gaffe led to DVD crack RealNetworks climbs down and says sorry over CD data RealNetworks caught secretly swiping users' jukebox data
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel Sabre stab at SMP misses mark

Symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) systems which use the Sabre motherboard lack appeal because of a glitch that forces corporate users to either under-spec or over-spec their systems. According to a reliable source close to Intel's plans, the Sabre chipset still needs tweaking and performance is not as good as it should be for eight-way SMP server performance. Although Sabre boards can be populated with high-end Intel Xeon processors and offer good performance, this solution is too expensive for most corporations, the source said. If low end Xeon processors are used with Sabre motherboards, on the other hand, end users do not get the performance boost they would expect from their SMP systems. Systems which do not use the Sabre board, such as the Compaq ProLiant eight-way box, do not suffer from such performance constraints, according to the source. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Chip Sage goes for IPO

Semiconductor designer Sage is to float on Nasdaq, offering three million shares of common stock at $12 each. The company will use the cash from the IPO for working capital expenditures and general company uses, it said yesterday. The offering is being made by its underwriters managed by Robertson Stephens, Prudential Securities and Needham & Company. It will trade under the symbol SAGI. California-based Sage designs and makes digital display chips for analog to digital conversion. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Amazon could announce a profit any time it wants

Amazon.com could be profitable if it wanted to, or if investors demanded it, investment bank Goldman Sachs has claimed in a report published this morning. The GS report will no doubt come as a surprise to many -- Amazon is one of the e-conomy's most notorious loss makers, having consistently failed to report anything near a profit since its much-heralded IPO, despite regular strong revenue growth. Indeed, over the last few quarters the company has been warning that its losses will increase significantly. The reason, it claims, is its ongoing expansion into bother, broader markets than the book retailing operation that made its name. But therein lies the key, reckons GS analyst Anthony Noto, cited by Reuters. Amazon's spread of online stores is now such that it can afford to satisfy itself with the number two, three or four positions in each sector, and focus on making money rather than dominating the market. So if Barnes and Noble sells more books that Amazon, it doesn't matter because it's home improvement, consumer electronics, toys, music and video sales will leave it better off in the long run. This approach would bring Amazon over $10 billion in revenue over the next five years, Noto reckons. As the company's strategy currently stands, it will lose $1.12 per share for the current financial year, according to GS estimates, and $1.20 per share in fiscal 2000. Whatever it does, Amazon should go into the black in 2002, Noto's report claims. The question is, given what else he claims, will Amazon's shareholders want to wait that long? ®
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Ding dong Dell, profit growing well

Dell saw profit jump 26 per cent for the third quarter, despite warning last month that earnings would be hit by chip price hikes. Pre-tax profits before exceptionals were $483 million for the period ended 29 October. The direct PC seller posted sales up a whopping 41 per cent at $6.78 billion. Profit included a $194 million acquisition charge for ConvergeNet Technologies, which it bought in September. Figures were inline with Dell's previously lowered forecast last month. At the time, the Texan manufacturer said rising chip prices -- due to the Taiwanese earthquake -- would cut profits for the period. Despite profit dropping to 7.1 per cent of sales for the quarter, from eight per cent for the same period last year, Dell still managed to shame its rivals in revenue growth. Sales increased at more than twice the industry rate in Europe and the Americas. Shipments in Asia Pacific and Japan rose at three times the market average. Internet sales accounted for 43 per cent of revenues by the end of the quarter, pulling in $35 million in sales per day, Dell said. Worked out on a yearly basis, that's a massive $12 billion in sales, ranking the company in the top 125 businesses in the US. Michael Dell, the company's chairman, said small businesses were increasing sales in the face of the millennium, and he expected this to offset any Y2K effect. ® Related Stories Dell buys storage firm Taiwan quake blamed for Dell profit slip
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Two cheers for BT's latest tariff

BT's bid to "slash the cost of Internet access" has been received as well as a vegan addressing a get-together of abattoir owners on their annual works outing to Bognor. Far from causing a hot flush of excitement among ISPs, it appears to have left most lukewarm about BT's "dramatic" offering. It seems that the ISP marketplace is deciding that BT's offer is simply not worth getting excited about. Jerry Speller, spokesman for telco Energis, which has interests in ISPs Freeserve and Planet Online, among others, said: "No one has been beating a path to our door to match BT's offering. "It's an indication that ISPs simply aren't interested in BT proposals." A spokeswoman for AOL UK said the Net company would not be looking to take-up BT's offer. Indeed, AOL UK will be lodging its concerns over BT's plans with the telecomms watchdog, Oftel. Simon Preston of Telinco, which hosts services including Strayduck and Bun.com, said: "I don't understand what [BT is] trying to do -- it doesn't make much sense." Elsewhere, a spokesman for Demon said that they were looking at it "very closely" but the ISP was not leaping to any conclusions. The most positive reaction came from Nabil Shabka, MD and founder of London-based ISP, BiblioTech. "I might be interested -- but I'll have to wait until I see something concrete," he said. ® Related Stories ISPs lash out at BT BT's knockers reject flat-rate plans BT's Bonfield: No free local calls BT's U-turn could drive competitors off the road BT U-turns on unmetered Net access Oftel calls for cheaper Net access
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

New Year's Eve won't be a gas

The company responsible for providing Britain with gas, BG, has said it cannot guarantee its supplies won't be disrupted by the millennium bug. "The risks associated with the Y2K issue are unpredictable and wide-ranging," the company stated. "An extended disruption could cause the group's activities to be materially affected." What this really means is: "Get out your camping kit and blankets because you probably won't be hearing from us over the New Year." The announcement also coincides with a 96 per cent vote by offshore technicians to strike over the Christmas break over unhappiness with a 1.5 per cent pay increase. Not what you would call a good sign. But let's be practical about this. All it means is that you will be cold and hungry as well as hungover on the first day of the new millennium. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

BT's witch doctors of spin fail to cast a spell on the UK

Opinion BT's latest pricing offer for cheap rate Net access in Britain has been exposed as little more than a sham. But you have to hand it to the telco -- the press release issued on Tuesday is spellbinding. A sprinkling of key words and phrases such as "slash the cost", "reduce dramatically", and "unlimited dial-up calls to the Internet for a single monthly fee" and you have the makings of a potent hex. Indeed, this announcement from BT must have been conjured by someone exceedingly well practised in the arcane art of PR. The question remains, why did BT set out to mislead so many people with its talk of slashing the cost of Net access? There is a view that BT was responding to the clamour for unmetered Net access in the UK. With so much pressure being exerted from the government, business, Net users, campaign groups et al, this was simply a valve to release some of that pent-up steam. BT had to be seen to do something -- anything -- just so long as it made it look like it was finally going to do something positive for Internet use. In fact, some people are even thinking that this is such a poor, uncompetitive offer that BT doesn't really want anyone to take it up. And with glib remarks from BT spokesmen that ISPs can take it or leave it, there may be some truth in it. After all, that's hardly the response of someone talking-up a new product, is it? Well, BT's wish to recast themselves as market innovators may have worked -- fleetingly -- but the pressure's back on. What's more, this episode has shone a light on some of BT's activities, and it appears some people may not have liked what they have seen. ® Related Stories ISPs lash out at BT BT's knockers reject flat-rate plans BT's Bonfield: No free local calls BT's U-turn could drive competitors off the road BT U-turns on unmetered Net access Oftel calls for cheaper Net access
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

NTL to buy its way into mobile market

NTL is aiming to start its own mobile phone service by buying airtime from one of the next generation mobile networks. According to today's Financial Times, the cable company has propositioned all four existing mobile operators with cash offers to buy space on their third-generation network. It was still said to be waiting for a response. In the past the operator and its main shareholder, France Telecom, suggested they would launch a joint bid for one of the UMTS licenses. The move followed yesterday's launch of Virgin Mobile, which will use One2One's existing phone network in the UK. Virgin Mobile said it would not be trying for a third generation mobile licence, though both its parent companies would be interested in bidding. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu to cut DRAM production

Fujitsu is to reduce DRAM production for both PC and non-PC devices and outsource manufacture to companies in Taiwan. The Japanese company will expand its current outsourcing of DRAM production for PCs. It will also start looking for other companies to make DRAM for non-PC devices, AsiaBizTech newswire reported today. Although it plans to cut down on manufacture, Fujitsu will continue to develop, design and sell DRAM memory. It will also produce a small amount of DRAM for existing PC customers and for non-PC use. For this purpose, Fujitsu has signed a five-year contract with Taiwan’s Worldwide Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. Fujitsu will provide WSMC with production technology and receive 10,000 sheets of 16Mb-256Mb chips per month starting next year. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Yahoo! sued in price comparison patent clash

A New Zealand woman's lawsuit against Yahoo! for alleged patent infringement may have larger implications for the computer industry. The patent in question covers software which allows prices from different e-commerce Web sites to be pulled onto one location and compared -- something increasingly used on the Internet and is the basic idea behind Apple's MacOS-based Sherlock 2 search engine and AOL subsidiary PersonaLogic's automated buying guide technology. Yahoo! is using the technology without licence, the lawsuit claims. If the case is proved, it also raises the question of whether other companies are breaking the patent, including Apple. At the time of going to press, Apple was unable to state whether it held a licence agreement with St. Louis-based SBH -- the patent firm marketing Juliette Harrington's software. Equally, SBH was not able to provide a list of licencees. Yahoo! would not comment. A larger query remains over the patent, however, which would appear suitably vague and broad enough for companies to work unhindered within its confines. The patent's abstract states the software is: "A method of effecting commerce in a networked computer environment in a computerized system... A database of vendor product data and an associated database interface is established on a first computer. The interface allows remote access by one or more user(s). A local user interacts with the database by querying the database to specify a local users product/service specification." Sherlock allows Mac users to search multiple e-commerce sites simultaneously and produces a list of products and prices for easy, side-by-side comparison. That sounds remarkably like the kind of database Harrington's patent describes. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Korean developer ports Linux to Palm

Korean operation OSK has released what it claims is the first version of Linux for the Palm handheld organiser. In fact, it's not the first -- that honour must go to µCLinux but OSK's WindStone does appear to be the first implementation of the open source OS' kernel to provide PalmOS compatibility too. WindStone is based on three components, the Kernel Environment, which is actually based on µClinux, itself derived from version 2.0 of the Linux kernel; the Graphics Environment, which provides "a high-speed graphics engine for embedded devices"; and the Portable Environment, which is the PalmOS binary compatibility module. Right now, WindStone runs on the Palm's Motorola Dragonball CPU, but OSK says it plans to port the software over to Intel and ARM processors, at which point it can begin to promote WindStone as the basis for embedded applications. And it's going to have to push hard given that more-established Linux companies, most notably Caldera Systems' Lineo subsidiary, already developing versions of the open source OS specifically for the embedded market. OSK is not currently offering WindStone as a commercial products, but its Web site does contain a ROM image which runs under the CoPilot emulation utility for evaluation -- though it's by no means a fast site; perhaps OSK is serving it from a Palm? OSK promises to release WindStone's Kernel Environment under the Gnu Public Licence, but has yet to issue the software's source code -- we're cleaning it up for distribution, the company says. Whether the other components make it out of the door as open source remains to be seen -- certainly OSK hasn't pledged to do so, and given the company's commercial interests, we suspect they won't be so released. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

How to moan to the FTC about Intel

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) is referring all enquiries about alleged antitrust activity to the FTC. And it is being extraordinarily helpful in its advice for complainants, providing US citizens with email addresses and phone numbers. One reader got the following response from the DoJ, when he emailed their complaint line about behaviour he felt needed investigation. It said: "Thank you for contacting the Antitrust Division. Please redirect this complaint to the FTC. They have dealt with Intel in the past and I am sure would be interested in hearing your complaint. Their website is here. Also, you might want to try and call the following people: William J. Baer, at the Bureau of Competition on 202-326-2932 and/or Willard K. Tom, Bureau of Competition on 202-326-2786." But the FTC is obviously deluged with complaints. The message he received back said: " This will acknowledge receipt of your e-mail at the FTC's Bureau of Competition. We will forward your message to the persons in the Bureau who work most closely with the issues that you have identified, so that they can consider the information you have given us. Due to the volume of mail that we receive, however, we may not be able to provide you with an individualized response to your message. "We have found that comments and questions from the public are an important source of information about the state of competition in the marketplace. Thank you very much for taking the time to write us." So if US citizens really do want to complain about Intel, that's the way to do it. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

22,000 people and the 08004u security lapse

It seems the 22,000 or so people who gained totally toll-free access to the Net earlier this week courtesy of Scottish ISP, 08004u, didn't even have to blag their way past password security. That's because there was no security. It simply didn't exist. Any login ID and password would have got them into 08004u's network and onto the Web, The Register has learned. According to some of those who took advantage of the Scottish ISP's generosity, 08004u just left the doors wide open allowing anyone to walk in completely uncontested. "I could dial their 0800 number, and have the login IAMCOOL and password ANYTHING, and it would work," wrote one Net user who asked to remain anonymous. "I find this to be an insult to the people that are paying their £50 a month [for unmetered access]," he said, revealing he was one of 08004u's subscribers. It'll be interesting to know how 08004u is planning to pay for this charity...after all, there's no such thing as a free lunch. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Sega moots console hardware exit

Is Sega set to quit the games console business? According to the Gaming Intelligence Agency Web site, that's exactly what the company plans to do, in order to allow it to become an Internet and software company. Sega Enterprises chairman, Isao Okawa, apparently told a audience gathered together at the Okawa Foundation that Dreamcast, Sega's 128-bit, WindowsCE-based next-generation console would be the company's last. Some claimed that Okawa's comments had been incorrectly translated, but according to GIA, that's exactly what he said. "I will say that the future doesn't necessarily lie in the hardware business," said Okawa. "I think in the future there is the possibility of Sega becoming a software-only company... "Even if Dreamcast does sell, we will make that shift." Of course, there's no time-line for the transition, and from Okawa's comments, it's unlikely we're talking about a premature withdrawal of Dreamcast from the market. With the machine selling reasonably well in Europe, the US and Japan, and with Sony's PlayStation 2 still four months or so off, pulling out now would make little sense. But Sega is clearly worried about the effect of PlayStation 2 and Nintendo's rather more distant N64 successor, codenamed Dolphin. And it should be. The original PlayStation did for the Sega's 32-bit Saturn in no uncertain terms, and has easily outsold even the technologically superior 64-bit N64. Sony is going to promote the 128-bit PlayStation 2 is going to be promoted even harder than it did the PSX, not least because the Japanese giant has in mind a much bigger role for the device than mere games console. Even without Dolphin, that's going to hard for the much smaller Sega to compete with. The threat of Microsoft entering the market with its mooted X-Box PC-in-a-set-top machine may also have played a part in persuading Sega that it needs a new business plan. Sega's plan isn't (yet) to kill Dreamcast off, but rather to allow it to reach the end of its natural lifespan and simply not replace it with a Dreamcast 2 -- certainly it is continuing to develop peripherals for the machine. But with no upgrade path, would-be buyers may be tempted to leave Dreamcast well alone. That said, since a lack of backwards compatibility has never been a problem for Sega in the past, video gamers, unlike their PC-based brethren, might be more forgiving. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Scotland Vs England game live on the Net

It's Bravehearts versus Lionhearts, the qualifier for Euro2000, and it's due to be broadcast live on the Web 2pm tomorrow. BSkyB, which owns the viewing rights, has joined up with BT and UUNet to produce what is apparently the first live Web broadcast of an international football match. The company has said it will give the match unprecedented bandwidth to maximise image quality, but while it is an interesting first, the results are likely to be far from perfect. Unfortunately, we won't be able to tell how well the technology faired. Faced with a dodgy 2in X 3in screen on a computer at home (alone) or a perfect 200in X 300in TV screen in a pub with mates, the latter appears to have the edge. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Oftel holds private meeting with Internet A list

Telecoms watchdog, Oftel, is holding a top-level meeting next week with selected personnel from the Internet industry -- in private. Not only will the invitation-only bash be held behind closed doors, it won't be open to the scrutiny of the media or ordinary Net users. The only thing a spokesman for Oftel was able to say was that the Internet Forum event would happen on Tuesday. But he didn't know when -- or what would be on the agenda. Yeah, right, like we believe ya. Those believed to have RSVPed so far include AOL UK, BT and the Campaign for Unmetered Communications (CUT). With all the shenanigans that's happened this last week, you can expect some sparks from these guys. Just imagine it, all these people in the same room together thrashing out the ins and outs Internet strategy in the UK. It would make this weekend's fight for the title of undisputed heavyweight champion of the world look like two little girls playing with their dollies. Although Oftel said it would publish minutes after the event, it seems Oftel's little cosy get together with its "selected" industry chums will only serve to alienate it still further form ordinary Net users. Transparency...they've heard of it. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Record sales for Far East chipcos

Wafer foundries Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and United Microelectronics both reported record sales for October. The two Taiwanese chip companies saw revenues rise to NT$7.212 billion and NT$2.87 billion respectively. UMC added that the figure would hit NT$6.4 billion if the sales of its three subsidiaries – United Semiconductor Corp, United Silicon and Holtek Microelectronics – were included. A representative for Semicon said worldwide demand for chips remained strong, and the company had quickly restored production following the Taiwanese earthquake in September, according to AsiaBizTech newswire. The company shipped 169,000 wafers in October. UMC shipped 162,000 wafers in the month, which it said was largely driven by persistent foreign demand. Taiwan Semicon’s sales for the month showed a rise of 18 per cent from the previous month’s NT$6.1 billion. UMC’s sales were up 29 per cent from September. The companies shipped NT$56.65 billion and NT$23.57 billion respectively for the first 10 months of this year. This was a gain of 32.3 per cent for Taiwan Semicon and 58 per cent for UMC. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

AMD, Intel in shares see-saw

The share price of AMD fell by a couple of bucks this morning after its precipitous ramp yesterday. But it did not drop as much as Intel's price, which fell by over five dollars after Merrill Lynch issued a warning on the stocks. Merrill Lynch has shoved Intel down a notch to "accumulate" rather than "buy", following yesterday's news from AMD. Other Wall Street analysts are now promoting AMD as a buy, following reports from the firm that it could break even in Q4. More worryingly for Intel, the Merrill Lynch report expresses doubts about whether the Merced-Itanium will work wonders in the marketplace. Those doubts were also expressed by a source close to Compaq earlier today, who compared the platform unfavourably with Alpha Wildfire technology due out in February of next year. AMD's share price stood at $26 1/8th and Intel's price at $75 13/16th at the time of writing this report. Intel's close partner Rambus Ink has had a see-saw of a week too. Its share price shot up to over $90 earlier this week, but had subsided to around $85 at press time. Meanwhile, it is apparent that memory companies will try to help the i820 (Caminogate) motherboard platform out at Comdex, which starts on Sunday. Melco will show a number 800MHz and 711MHz RIMM modules at the show. Other Rambus partners are likely to follow suit. The Register will have two staffers at Comdex/Fall. ® See also AMD future roadmap recalls World War II Compaq Wildfire to debut February 2000
Mike Magee, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Singer Gary Glitter jailed for child net porn

One-time king of glam rock Gary Glitter has been jailed for four months for downloading child porn from the Internet.
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Film biz delivers legal threat to DeCSS-linking Web sites

The film industry has launched a major legal assault on Web sites promoting DVD rippers following revelations that the DVD encryption algorithm has finally been cracked. Lawyers in the US and Europe have already threatened Web site owners with court action if they fail to remove either the software that can copy a DVD's movie files to a hard drive or links to that software. As the Webmaster of the Norwegian office of DVD and MPEG specialist Sigma Designs put it: "I was contacted by an attorney from the firm Simonsen & Musaeus [representing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)] today. A lot of bla bla bla and that if the link to DeCSS was removed, no further action from their side would be taken. I know very well that they would not win in court, but they could make a big mess out of it. I simply do not have the time, nor money, to go up against these people." Meanwhile, US-based site DVD Utils was threatened with legal action by the MPAA, again threatening legal action if the site failed to remove DeCSS, the DVD ripper that first enabled DVD files to be copied to hard disk. Like Sigma Designs, DVD Utils complied with the MPAA's demands. The MPAA's strong-arm tactics are reminiscent of moves made earlier this year by Nintendo to prevent Web sites from linking to or providing the N64 emulator UltraHLE, and 3dfx's similar moves to limit the availability of 'wrappers' -- applications that allow games written for 3dfx's Glide API to run with non-Glide 3D accelerator cards. Common to all three actions are the use of the threat of legal action to scare sites into doing the industry's bidding, despite the unproven nature of the plaintiff's case. Of course, the only way to challenge the MPAA is to allow it to take its case to court, but few Webmaster can afford the legal fees or the time that such an approach might take. And while the outcome of any legal action would not be guaranteed to go in the MPAA's favour, it's certainly not certain to go against the organisation either. We've not seen the licence terms that accompany a DVD, but we'd be very surprised indeed if it didn't contain words to the effect that "unauthorised duplication is forbidden". Many of the DVD fans who have protested against the MPAA's actions insist the software is used solely to back up DVDs, but that's a pretty lame justification: is there really a need to back up a non-volatile medium? And who backs-up sell-through VHS tapes, which is a volatile medium (in its broadest sense)? The MPAA's argument holds little more water -- DeCSS and utilities like it can be used for and encourage piracy. Encouraging piracy, as far as we know, has yet to be declared illegal, and as for the act of duplication itself, that's the responsibility of the duplicator, not the provider of the means for duplication. And in some territories, such as the US, Austria and Germany, users have a right to make copies for personal use only of any copyright material. The really grey area here is that DeCSS doesn't merely copy the file, it decrypts it first, and the MPAA's lawyers could argue that that takes it beyond mere duplication -- it's not the software equivalent of a tape deck, in other words. Again, though, grey areas like this are only clarified through legislation or the courts and, as we've seen, few people are able to challenge the MPAA's viewpoint that way. Meanwhile, the MPAA is acting on behalf of the motion picture industry, which, in a sense, only has itself to blame. A number of cryptography specialists have already noted that DVD's CSS (Content Scrambling System) encoding system was not sufficiently strong to prevent it being compromised by a brute force approach, let alone the failure of one DVD licensee to encrypt its decode key. And having inflicted regionalised DVDs on consumers, the film industry really can't expect much support in its actions. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Nov 1999