15th > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Oracle adds support for IBM-SCO IA-64 Monterey

Oracle has announced it will be supporting IBM and SCO's Project Monterey/64 by offering Oracle Internet Directory and its database and application suites on both IBM's AIX and on Monterey/64 for Intel's IA-64. According to Oracle, AIX and Monterey/64 will be preferred Oracle platforms for strategic enterprise Unix on IBM POWER and Intel IA-64 architectures. Doug Michels of SCO, we note from the release, appears to be the only party to the deal who has both heard that IA-64 is now called Itanium and is actually prepared to call it that. Oracle expects to have Internet Directory for AIX available before the end of this year, and to ship the Monterey ports in the second half of next. We note also that IBM refers to "IBM OEMs for AIX and/or Monterey/64, including Acer, Bull, CETIA, Compaq, IBM, ICL, Samsung and Unisys..." Aside from IBM listing itself as its own OEM, which only goes to show how byzantine Big Blue's internal systems are, notice there are a couple of members of the NT fan club in there - when IA-64 Unix ships and 64-bit Windows 2000 doesn't, might they be planning an escape bid? ®
John Lettice, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Most corporate IT execs want MS strung up, says survey

Microsoft may have fewer friends in corporate IT departments than it thought it had, if a survey published in this week's issue of Computerworld is to be believed. According to the US mag, 79 per cent of IT executives surveyed in major US companies thought Microsoft should be fined, broken up, ordered to license Windows to its competitors or split into several different companies. As the DoJ has already decided it's not going to ask for financial penalties, that's actually worse than anything the government will be wanting. But the news quite probably isn't as bad as it looks for Microsoft, as Computerworld itself reckons the opinions of the execs are a mite confused. Why, for example, when they're so apparently in favour of having to company hung, drawn and quartered do 66 per cent of them reckon only moderate government intervention working with market forces is necessary? And then 67 per cent of them feel Microsoft hasn't hurt IT innovation, while they're almost equally split over whether the judge's findings of fact will have a positive, a negative, or no effect. And 93 per cent of them think the judgement will have no effect on the way they do business with Microsoft. These people represent organisations with more than 500 employees in the US, and two thirds of them, according to Computerworld, represent outfits with more than 2,500 employees. Considering how all over the place they seem to be, it seems likely that either they don't know what they're doing (we've heard this said about IT management), or there was something weird about the survey's sampling (the mag had less than five days after the findings of fact were issued to conduct it), or about the formulation of the questions. ®
John Lettice, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

New distie is Ideal for Allied Telesyn

Allied Telesyn has added Ideal Hardware to its list of UK distributors. Ideal will sell Ethernet switching and routing solutions for the networking company. Melvyn Wray, Allied Telesyn acting MD, said it had chosen Ideal because it was more services oriented than its rivals. "Our fundamental reasoning behind choosing Ideal is not only our need for a large sales team, but for one that is well educated. We want our growth in the UK to be supported by a professional team like Ideal, not purely a box shifter." This must be music to Ideal's ears as it is trying to move into services and shed its more traditional box-shifter image. The move will also expand its current portfolio of network products. Kevin Bulcock, Ideal networking product manager, said: "We fully expect the new range to open doors for Ideal in both the networking and storage arena." Ideal joins Allied Telesyn's existing three UK distributors: Anixter, ilion and Micro Peripherals. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Wave of Intel mobos set to wash over world+dog

If anyone thinks that Intel is just going to go away and sulk in his lair after watching the Athlon AMD advert on the telly, they don't know Chipzilla like we know Chipzilla. Over the weekend we reported that Intel has cunning plans to bundle Rambus memory with both its VC820 and its OR840 motherboards, and we also unveiled details of the Fairbanks-Caminogate mobo (FB820). Now we have obtained details of a whole spate of motherboards from Intel set to arrive in the first quarter of next year, all of which will use Chipzilla's rationalised coding system. (The old mobos used to have catchy code numbers such as 0532475ZX83245353). Welcome, then to the D820LP, also known as Lockport, a PGA 370 mobo which has onboard audio and networking, supports AGP4x and comes in the good old ATX form factor. Hello too, to the D820PG, or Pacific Grove, a natty MicroATX number which also supports PGA 370 and AGP4x. A round of applause for Montreal, a number which supports 810e graphics, the exciting FlexATX form factor which will act as a pouffe for CEO Craig Barrett, and also supports PGA 370. Greetings to Templeton, a number which uses the Intel FlexATX design, comes with integrated networking, video and audio, and also supports the soon-to-be ubiquitous Socket 370. And lastly, but by no means leastly, a "hi there" to the S820PN-2, a dual Slot 1 number with onboard U2 SCSI, networking, three slots for super synchronous memory on a riser card, and AGP4x. No, Chipzilla is not going to lurk in his lair at Mission Boulevard, Satan Clara for the whole of the year 2000. ® See also Intel's Rambus mobos may have memory bundled Athlon ad they could never show in Blighty
Mike Magee, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

C2000 cuts delivery charge from online orders

Computer 2000 (C2000) is offering free delivery on goods ordered through its online service, InTouch. The offer will apply for a limited period and is part of the distributor's drive to get resellers to throw off their reservations about using the Web. InTouch, which was launched around two years ago, still brings in less than 10 per cent of C2000's sales in the UK. There are 8,700 users signed up, representing 4,500 registered resellers. Despite the site getting 1,500 users per day, Andy Dow, C2000 general marketing manager, said resellers were mostly using the service to check price and availability and build quotes rather than order online. He said that chopping the freight charge, which costs an average of £15 per order, would bring more traffic to the site. "We are hoping that by offering delivery free of charge, many more [resellers] will be persuaded to use the system and realise the very real benefits it delivers to their business." The UK online sales figure is also significantly less than the US, where 40 per cent of the company's sales take place over the Net. "The US take-up of Internet trading is much higher than in the UK," said Dow. "But we hope this offer will show people that there is a cost effective way of ordering online – it will be especially attractive for SMEs and smaller orders." C2000 said this would be the first of many steps to spur UK resellers into moving from traditional ordering of kit and helping the distributor move towards an Internet model. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Computacenter axes Metrologie staff

Reseller giant Computacenter has laid off over 50 per cent of the workforce of Metrologie UK. Just two weeks after buying the former CHS Electronics division, Computacenter confirmed it had issued a notice of redundancy for 100 people. The cuts mostly affected employees from the distribution side of the acquired business, including around 30 warehouse staff. Phil Williams, head of corporate marketing at Computacenter, said: "We had to look at the overlaps with the current staff. We are trying to redeploy the 100 people within the Computacenter business." Williams said the company planned to shut down the Metrologie warehouse near High Wycombe and bring all the logistics into its warehouse in Radlet, and next year to its centre in Hatfield. On future job cuts, Williams said: "We are still restructuring the business, but this is the bulk of the redundancies". Martin Phillips, head of employment law at Kenneth Elliott & Rowe, said the redundancies could prove problematic for Computacenter. Although this whole area of employment law is extremely hazy, Phillips said: "They [the staff made redundant] may well have a case to take the company to a tribunal." "If the redundancies result from the transferring of the company to you, you can be on very sticky ground." Williams was adamant that the redundancies complied with the law. ® Related stories: Computacenter buys Metrologie
Linda Harrison, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

What celebs really, really want on the Net

We realise it is difficult to build self-worth these days without copying celebrities and so we have brought you a round-up of Access magazine's interview with a host of top famous folk talking about what they get up to online. Interesting enough, none of them said they go online hoping to find pictures of ordinary people with no clothes on. Pamela Anderson Pamie likes nothing more than checking out the Beanie Babies Web site. If she's stressed she goes to the Bubble Wrap site - where she pop bubbles (ahhh). She also recently went to a koi site (those big Japanese fish) to get some for the pond. Hugh Grant The floppy-fringe actor checks out the football scores, but that's about it. He can't quite get to grips with it. John Travolta A true Hollywood star, John gets his minions to use the Internet for him. He's working on boiling an egg. Johnny Depp Johnny Depp reckons the Net is a "pretty good alternative" to shops. He goes for CDs, books and videos, but sadly maintains the celeb aversion to the non-exclusive Internet by saying the main reason he likes it is because he doesn't have to face the public. Ron Howard Top director and Richy Cunningham star from Happy Days, Ron is a breath of fresh air. His kids got him into it and now he uses it every day. "I use it for email and sports scores, and for quick thumbnails on subjects, I find it pretty useful," he said. Sarah Michelle Gellar Actress Sarah (she of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) is the most Net literate, but, oddly, uses it for middle-aged pursuits. She likes finding and buying antique books to add to her collection, but has also recently discovered real estate. She does get a little scared at all the information there though (so much out there, such little space to put it in). ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Flower pot men tackle neighbours from hell

A judge has evicted a "nightmare neighbour" couple from their house after viewing video evidence from spy cameras planted in flower pots. Julie Spendiff and boyfriend David Colquhoun were caught performing various acts of anti-social behaviour including throwing bricks, pulling down a fence and throwing aerosol cans on a fire by the miniature cameras. Two neighbouring families bought the gadgets to document their complaints about the couple in North Tyneside. After watching the tapes, Judge Maurice Large granted an immediate repossession order, saying: "This is the sort of thing that people in their own homes ought not to have to put up with." Spendiff told the Daily Mail: "I'm absolutely appalled at the cameras - you would think we were rapists. We keep ourselves to ourselves and don't bother a soul." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Hairline cracks show in Compaq re-org

Internal strains caused by the rapid re-organisation of Compaq are taking their toll on the way the company works, according to a stream of insiders at the firm. A number of people close to the matter have told The Register that Compaq is experiencing difficulties integrating its network of European call centres, particularly at its ex-Digital Reading site, which has been designated a flagship site for the whole of the region. The Reading call centre was one of Digital's (Compaq's) open systems support centres and is intended to become a coordination centre for a number of other call centres in the European (EMEA) region. One employee at Reading has told The Register that the approach that new Compaq CEO Mike Capellas is taking, from the top down, is being obstructed by an approvals system which effectively stops rapid change, although such change is essential for the company to compete successfully. The process means that many people working at Reading who are dedicated to changing things quickly are becoming frustrated and leaving the company, according to the source. Another employee who has just handed in his notice said that the business process meant that while the salary was good, he did not feel part of the company and there was no recognition for the long hours and dedication he and other staff put into the firm. Many of the disillusioned staff were quitting to go to Compaq competitors, including the internally hated Sun Microsystems, he added. The top down process meant that managers wanting to improve the situation were restricted by a so-called "Compaq Confidential" policy from telling their own staff, and subsequently that meant the staff resisted changes which they never felt a part of from the start. The lack of consultation was causing employees at Reading to vote with their feet and take more lucrative employement elsewhere, he added. Closed door conversations were inducing an atmosphere of suspicion in the company. Staff working the 12 hour night shift have few if any facilities, he added. Highly paid consultants from outside are also undermining the atmosphere, he added, while local managers waited, sometimes for months, before getting approvals for decisions which should be made in days. The hierarchy effectively put the lowerarchy in Compaq Confidential handcuffs. Compaq was not available to comment on the reports at press time. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Oftel 'fesses up to unmetered calls debate

BT is to go head-to-head with supporters of unmetered Net access tomorrow as part of a discussion forum set up by the telecomms watchdog Oftel. AOL UK, Freeserve, Energis and the Campaign for Unmetered Telecommunications (CUT) are all lined up to take part in this exercise in jaw-jaw. The press, however, have not been asked to attend what could be a heated debate. A spokesperson for Oftel said the media had been barred because their attendance could stifle debate. Trying to be helpful, the Oftel lapdog said that journalists were perfectly free to get their information second-hand from those who attended, even though this defeats the object of barring the media in the first place. A spokeswoman for Oftel today apologised to The Register for giving misleading information about the event. It's not that the meeting is secret, it seems Oftel just doesn't want anyone to know about it. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Buy a PC for Christmas and Yule be sorry

Even though the prices of PCs have consistently dropped over the last four years, the question of whether to buy a machine is still a serious one for most families. And around this time of year, as the tinsel starts to appear, draped over otherwise unappetising looking boxes, the pressure to buy increases. The question that we at The Register are often asked by our readers is "should I buy a PC now" and, as usual, there's no clear answer to the conundrum. In this country, at least, there's a big push towards using PC technology in school. We even found our 12 year old boy putting together a spreadsheet a week or two back and because we're from Aberdeen, Scotland, can assure you it's nothing to do with the amount of pocket money he gets. But the introduction of faster technology in the shape of "Coppermine" Intel processors and Athlon "Pentium III Killers" is not irrelevant to the choice consumers make. After all, the Internet may be OK, and spreadsheets might be alright, but let's face it, people want to play games on PCs too, don't they? As we've pointed out many a time before, if you buy a machine with a Pentium III inside it, you can't be sure whether it is a Coppermine or older technology. Intel currently has a long list of Pentium IIIs on its price list and it is our understanding that there will be an attempt to rationalise this in early December. You have to be sure that the graphics subsystem is expandable or good enough for your needs too. Specify a machine with the biggest hard drive your budget can afford. Software expands to fill the space it needs now or in the future. Should you buy a machine using the AMD Athlon architecture? The company has shown steady progress at being able to deliver faster and faster microprocessors during this year, and it will carry on doing so well into next. But don't forget that there's an increasingly bitter price war in progress between Intel and AMD, and that is bound to lead to more and more frequent price cuts in the New Year. If you're constrained by your budget, do consider buying a machine with the Intel Celeron processor inside. This chip, given its performance, is a bargain, and will continue to be so for some time. But if you want the highest spec machine you can find, why not wait until the tinsel has left the trees, just after Christmas, and wait for the technological fall out generated during the last six months to give you a very fast machine at a very good price. In January 2000. Every roadmap we've seen suggests that is the best time to buy, despite the flim-flam we're all currently being exposed to. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

BSA breaks chatroom piracy ring

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has stomped on 25 individuals for allegedly peddling pirated software via a chatroom. The BSA is suing the 25 piracy minnows for their alleged part in the "warez4cable" Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel. This sees the BSA focusing its fire power not on the people that manufacture or buy pirate software, but on the middlemen. It is the first lawsuit filed against individuals using an IRC channel to peddle pirated software, the watchdog said. Each person is potentially liable for damages up to $100,000 per copyrighted work infringed. The legal action was brought after BSA raids on computer equipment in Sacramento and Downey, California, and Troy and West Bloomfield in Michigan last week. This followed months of undercover manoeuvres by the BSA to catch the suspected criminals. The unannounced inspections last week, supervised by US Marshals, led to five computers being seized. "Because of the increased access to high-speed connections, piracy in IRC channels is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to traffic in illegal software on the Internet," said Bob Kruger, BSA vice president of enforcement. "That is why the BSA is taking immediate action against this aggressive form of piracy," he said. The BSA said it was able to identify the individuals and prosecute them by using a special subpoena procedure created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998. Kruger issued a warning to pirates, saying the move meant there was now one less place for them to lurk. "Anyone who thinks that they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet to commit copyright infringement had better know that the law gives them no quarter," he said. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

First Merced-Itanium systems get cobbled together

The first samples of Intel Merced silicon have started to reach technologists and prototype IA-64 based PC systems are currently in the labs. According to sources close to Intel's plans, the company has managed to clock the Merced-Itanic to respectable and high clock speeds, but currently heat dissipation and power consumption are issues for manufacturers. Two way systems are said to be delivering clock speeds of 1000MHz each already, but each processor is demanding 140 watts of electricity, said a source. The current goal of engineers at Intel is to bring that level of juice down very sharply indeed. At power consumption like this, you could quite happily toast your waffles for breakfast. The goal of producing eight way systems also seems to be some way off. Most manufacturers are keeping their sights low, and aiming to produce two-way and four-way systems for launch in the second half of next year. Eight way systems will demand chipset modifications which are still very much in the design stage, according to our information. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Silicon Graphics will demo a 16-way clustered Itanium system later on today using a version of the Linux operating system. ®
Mike Magee, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Mannesmann rejects Vodafone's £64bn bid

Mannesmann has strongly rejected a £64 billion takeover bid from Vodafone, delivered in person by the company's chief executive. The German giant described the bid as "wholly inadequate" and "extremely unattractive", paving the way for a hostile bid, expected shortly. Vodafone is keen to get its hands on Mannesmann, which is in the process of acquiring Orange for £20 billion. Aside from the German firm's unwanted intrusion into the UK market, Vodafone wants its German, French and Italian franchises to strengthen its own position across Europe. However, with the "unsolicited" proposal rejected out of hand, Vodafone has little choice but to go for a hostile bid – something not made easier by the stolid German market which has never seen a successful hostile takeover. Despite a number of others big companies, including BT, Bell Atlantic and SBC, reportedly offering Mannesmann a safe exit through friendly mergers, it seems determined to stay the course. Whether the ballsy approach – which has included strong words, personal pledges and an arrogant self-valuation at double current share price – pays off, only time will tell. Vodafone's chances of success are slipping – made clear by a big drop in its share price. Even if it did manage to buy Mannesmann, it would have to sell Orange, and almost certainly at a loss. With the mobile market set to explode in the next few years, if Mannesmann can keep hold of its independence the opportunity to acquire it may never happen again. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel reveals details of i820 mobos

As promised, Intel has now released details of its Vancouver (VC820) and Cape Cod (CC820) boards which use the twice-delayed i820 chipset. Details of the specifications can be found on the Intel site here. The same page outlines details of how Intel is rationalising the names of its desktop motherboards. They show that the Rambus model, the VC820, indeed only has two RDRAM module connectors, following Intel's failure to make three RIMM sockets work together. The CC820, again as expected, uses PC 100 memory in two SDRAM 168 pin configurations, also supporting 512Mb of memory. Attention will now focus on the performance differences between these motherboards, now they are in full production. ® For details of Intel's Spring Collection of mobos, go here.
Mike Magee, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Click here to spy on your employees

Following its spot on Channel 4's Cutting Edge series, MIS is pushing its employer-safeguard/privacy-intruding* (delete as appropriate) software, Sessionwall 3. Featured on last week's "Snoopers at Work" programme, the software allows employers to monitor email and Internet use at work - any network activity defined as abnormal by the company is immediately reported. The TV show was careful to show both sides of the hot topic of employee monitoring. While statistics show a continued misuse of company equipment to send personal emails and access sex sites on the Internet, its detractors accuse companies of invading personal privacy and acting like Big Brother. The programme suggested a compromise: employees sign an agreement acknowledging the fact that Internet and email use is monitored and they are therefore responsible for their actions. However, the scope for abuse of the system is worryingly large. It is also fair to assume that employees will have to deal with personal (and private) situations during the day. But all this will take years of court cases and legal precedents to sort out. In the meantime, you can do it anyway with the help of Sessionwall 3. And while it may not give you sufficient grounds to dismiss someone, it doesn't hurt to know, right? The Register's advice to monitored employees: Use your noddle. Use Hotmail. Use your cunning to sow disinformation – paranoid people are the most blinkered. (Steady on! - Ed) ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Compaq becomes unwitting imPresario

Compaq has had to recall three versions of its Presario notebook in Japan because it forgot to change the keyboard settings to work with the Japanese alphabet. The manufacturer started marketing the 1246, 1928 and 1929 in mid-October. It didn't take long for the first complaint to arrive and within two days a further 16 customers had expressed their concerns. Compaq will ship all the models back after the keyboard mode has been changed to Japanese. It has also prepared a floppy disk for any unfound recipients. Alternatively, modification instructions can be found on Compaq's Japanese Web site, although when we visited, we only found a load of weird symbols. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

No time to loos at easyEverything

People using easyEverything cybercafes to access the Net are being urged to go to the loo before settling down to surf. The fast-growing chain of cybercafes may be equipped with the latest PCs, Internet technology and coffee, but they don't have any toilets. It seems people enjoying java and a surf have to make alternative arrangements when they get caught short. One crossed-legged surfer called The Register this morning to say that it was getting so bad some people were even urinating in the streets. Tony Anderson, easyEverything's marketing director, confirmed that none of the cybercafes had toilets. And he said that people using the cyberstores in Victoria and Trafalgar Square could always use the loos at the Victoria and Charing Cross railway stations. He said easyEverything had no plans to install toilets in any of its stores. ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

There will be a plane crash this Thursday

Around midnight on Thursday, we predict there will be a plane crash in China. We also predict it will be a 737 passenger jet. How come? Because in true gung-ho style, the Korean and Chinese governments have decided to test year 2000 compliance by sending up two 737s and changing the date mid-flight to the new millennium. And if they get it wrong and the planes crash, they've still got a month to get it right. You've got to admire their PR – while everyone in the West is producing reports and papers and charts, the East says "what the hell" and puts on a show. "There you go," the governments' representatives will hope to say, having wiped the sweat off their brow. "Told you it was hunky dory". Except they won't. Remember the truth about Y2K has only just started slipping out as people's consciences get the better of them. And the head of the most technologically advanced country in the Far East said but a fortnight ago that we are all going to die horribly horribly. We'll bring you more doom-laden predictions as they come in. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Red Hat to buy Cygnus?

Linux distributor Red Hat appears to be gearing up to buy development tools specialist Cygnus. The move follows on the heels of attempts to buy service and support specialist Linuxcare and fellow open source OS distributor TurboLinux. The curious thing is that the sources (cited originally by Slashdot) also suggest that the deal with Cygnus may involve the departure of "some people at Red Hat... from their senior management (founding) positions". The reason? The deal's "corporate implications". These, at least, are clear. Now Red Hat has IPO'd, it has plenty of paper money with which to entice the owners of other Linux companies. If Red Hat is to grow and prosper as a business -- and that has to be its goal, otherwise why bother with an IPO? -- it needs to expand in improve its ability to generate first revenue and then profit. Of course, such blatant commercialism is contrary to the spirit (but not the law) of the open source movement, and it's not hard to imagine more dogmatic Red Hatters becoming a little concerned by the acquisition -- especially in the context of other (admittedly unsuccessful) deals. Still, even if Red Hat had managed to swallow Linuxcare, TurboLinux and Cygnus, it's still a long from becoming what open sourcers most fear: another Microsoft. It's arguably time some members of the open source community accepted that open source and commerce are not mutually exclusive, and the pursuit of profit doesn't necessarily mean a rejection of open source principles. And deals like these do make sense. Linuxcare's strategy runs parallel Red Hat's own -- if you can't make money from selling packaged Linux, you make it selling support and service contracts. Linuxcare recent signed a deal with IBM to provide the latter's service organisation with help with some of its trickier cases. Red Hat such an arrangement itself, so what better than to bring the two Linux organisations under one roof? A TurboLinux acquisition is less synergistic, and could be seen with a degree of cynicism: Red Hat gets rid of a competitor by buying it out. Not true to the open source philosophy, admittedly, but neither is it an unreasonable business practice, and it would give Red Hat access to TurboLinux's Far East market and its expertise in developing localised version of Linux for said. As for Cygnus, the match is less clear. Given Linux already ships with open source development tools, you might think buying a tools developer none too smart a deal. That said, if Linux is to attract wider software developer support, it's going to need high quality professional-oriented IDEs of the kind Cygnus and Metrowerks (Metrowerks would be an ideal buy, but since Motorola got there first, Cygnus is all that's left) already offer. And since professional developers will generally pay good money for this stuff, the financial implications for Red Hat here are clear. But what about the claim that some of Red Hat's founding fathers bailing out? The truth here may lie in Bob Young and Marc Ewing's foundation of the Red Hat Center for Open Source (RHCOS), a research organisation looking at how the open source philosophy can be applied to other markets than the software business. Ewing, for one, will be devoting a lot of time to RHCOS, so it's entirely plausible that a decision by Young and Ewing will be spending more time there could be mistaken for a plan to quit Red Hat. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Workers turn to the Web for a little R'n'R

Workers looking to snatch a break from the usual humdrum of office life are turning to the Internet for a little mental work out. Two thirds of those quizzed in poll said they prefer to surf the Web when they want to take a break. The rest simply head for the coffee machine, water fountain, stationery cupboard -- or walk around aimlessly annoying everyone else. Almost 85 per cent of those surveyed agreed that taking mental breaks at work relieved stress. Four out of five people said it helped increase performance and productivity. Just under half of all those people who take their time-outs on the Web play games. Surprisingly, more women than men enjoy playing games online during their breaks. What's not surprising is that the research, commissioned by NabiscoWorld.com, has been published to coincide with the launch of a new gaming and entertainment site from the snack company. Don't that just take the biscuit? ®
Tim Richardson, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Westcom/Pine fined for false soundcard claims

Westcom Technology Ltd has been fined £2,500 for making false claims about its Yamaha soundcards. The distributor, which trades as Pine Technology UK, pleaded guilty at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court on 5 November to making "misleading indications" about the cards. According to Milton Keynes Trading Standards Office - the prosecutors in the case - Westcom was selling cards that it claimed were made by Yamaha. But only the chipset was from the Japanese vendor. The rest of the soundcard had been made by Westcom's parent company, Pine Group, in China. Westcom also pleaded guilty to carrying misleading data with the cards. The packaging said the card contained the latest technology from Yamaha, but Yamaha claimed the technology was 12 years old. According to Trading Standards, the statements "16-bit Yamaha Stereo Wavetable Sound Card" and "Latest Technology from Yamaha" were both false and in breach of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968. The company was fined £2000, and £500 for legal costs. The soundcards had been in circulation for a year prior to the start of the inquiry last September. Around 34,000 of the cards were distributed in the UK, and another 30,000 throughout Europe. Marnie Sutton, VP of sales, marketing and procurement at Pine Technology, admitted the wording was misleading. However, he said the company had withdrawn the products as soon as it was aware of the complaint. And he disputed that the technology was 12 years old. "We never went out to mislead anyone. But this has been a very big lesson to us," said Sutton. ®
Linda Harrison, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Red Hat buys Cygnus

Red Hat has bought Linux software development tool specialist Cygnus, as anticipated last week, in a stock-swap deal valued at $674 million. If Cygnus shareholders approve the plan, the two companies will become one before the end of January 2000. The move makes good sense for both companies, but Red Hat is the main beneficiary. Cygnus' lucrative development tool business is not only lucrative -- which is handy for the loss-making Red Hat -- but it broadens Red Hat's product portfolio, allowing the company to counter the perception in the business world that it's just a Linux distributor. Interestingly, Red Hat's statement outlining the acquisition also stresses Cygnus' experience with embedded applications and "post PC-centric platforms". That suggests Red Hat is also interested in breaking into the emerging market for embedded versions of Linux, one of the key areas for commercial exploitation of the open source OS. Meanwhile, the executive reshuffle at Red Hat the Cygnus takeover was rumoured to have provoked appears to have pretty much gone as we expected. In place of the rumoured senior resignations, co-founder Bob Young has handed over his CEO badge to the company's president, Matthew Szulik. Young will continue in the role of company chairman. Making Szulik CEO is essentially about putting the running of the business in the hands of the business guy. Post IPO and with expansion on the agenda, Red Hat needs to be taken seriously as a major software company, and part of that means broadening the product line -- hence Cygnus -- and putting day-to-day and strategic control in the hands of someone with more business credibility that Red Hat's more techie founders. ®
Tony Smith, 15 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

3dfx launches Voodoo 4 and 5

3dfx today launched its long-awaited -- and long-delayed -- next generation graphics chip, codenamed Napalm, but now officially dubbed the VSA-100, or Voodoo Scalable Architecture. Of course, with the company's arch-rival, Nvidia, launching its own high end part, the GeForce 256, 3dfx has been dropping plenty of hints about what the VSA-100 will offer for some months now. The key new features the chip offers -- full-scene anti-aliasing, texture compression and its T-buffer special effects technology -- are well known now and came as no surprise. More interesting, then, is the chip's built-in scan-line interleaving (SLI) facility. 3dfx's Voodoo 2 chip could co-operate on the rendering of a scene with a second Voodoo 2 mounted on another graphics card. The VSA-100 puts that right into the heart of the architecture (hence the 'Scalable' tag) allowing multiple VSA-100s to co-operate on a single card. The upshot is a major leap ahead in performance, as measured in polygon fill rates. 3dfx reckons that its top-end board, the Voodoo 5 6000, with four VSAs, can pump out 1.47 billion pixels per second. The company is restricting itself (for now) to no more than four VSAs, but Quantum 3D, a long-time 3dfx partner working in the high-end simulation business, will be offering boards with up to 32 processors. At the bottom end of the line, 3dfx will offer a single VSA chip on a board it's calling the Voodoo 4 4500. Now the curious thing here is that the 5000 won't offer the VSA's key anti-aliasing and T-buffer features (motion blur, depth of field focusing, and smooth shadows and reflections), primarily because they only work well when powered by two chips. Of course, 3dfx never explicitly said, so far as we can recall, that Napalm would be a single chip solution, but that's certainly what it was suggesting. And if that was the original gameplan, then clearly the company has been forced to admit it couldn't develop the silicon to do the job and has had to opt for a multi-chip approach in order to get the part out in a reasonable timeframe. The arrival of high end parts from Nvidia and S3 have already begun hitting 3dfx's bottom line, though such is its marketshare lead it does have some breathing room here. It's hard to see whether the decision to go with a baseline two-chip system was happily made possible by the VSA's multi-processor SLI architecture or whether it was always part of the gameplan. Either way, it shows that now boards rather than chips are what 3dfx is really about. The point is, it makes no real difference whether your $299 Voodoo 5 5500 AGP has two VSAs or one, as long as the resulting graphics look good. There's an issue for 3dfx in that two chips cost more than one, so it's taking a hit on margins, but that's not a problem for the customer. In fact, CTO Scott Sellars claimed the two-chip approach was actually more cost-effective since the processors are smaller therefore yields are higher than they would be if 3dfx had tried to cram two VSA cores on a single piece of silicon. And it's presumably for yield and cost reasons that 3dfx is sticking with an established 0.25-micron process for the VSA, rather than attempt to push the chip down to 0.22 micron or below. What that will do for the board's heat generation remains to be seen. Sellars admitted that 3dfx has yet to sample the VSA-100, which is why the company is still demoing T-buffer using arrays of SLI'd Voodoo 2s. Sellars said he expects first silicon "very soon". The boards themselves are unlikely to ship before the end of Q1 2000. ® 3dfx's next generation boards Voodoo 4 4500 PCI, AGP bus support, one VSA-100, 32MB VRAM, two pixels per clock cycle, 333-367 million pixels per second (MPps), US price $179. Voodoo 5 5000 PCI bus support, two VSA-100s, 64MB VRAM, four pixels per clock cycle, 667-733MPps, US price $229. Voodoo 5 5500 AGP bus support, two VSA-100s, 64MB VRAM, four pixels per clock cycle, 667-733MPps, US price $299. Voodoo 5 6000 AGP bus support, four VSA-100s, 128MB VRAM, eight pixels per clock cycle, 1.33-1.47 billion pixels per second (GPps), US price $599.
Tony Smith, 15 Nov 1999