23rd > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

New millennium will bring doom and gloom

Letter Sirs, I am writing to complain about the lack of coverage which the press has given to the Y1K problem. The fact that the ominous portents seen in the sky and Pope Silvester's homilies on the subject have not had a public airing seems suspiciously like a cover-up. The present state of Y1K preparedness will surely lead to widespread panic when the end of the world comes on December 31, 999. Are our military being honest with us when they say that there is absolutely no danger of Trebuchets going off by accident precipitating an exchange of Greek Fire that spells the end of the Gepids? Clearly world leaders are endangering the public when they refuse to allocate sufficient alms for Te Deums. The Burgundian plan to purchase pots and pans to bang together to scare off the Minions of Hell is clearly too little, too late. Of course, with the widespread delays in the Coppermines there will be insufficient pots and pans for the Order of the Emperor's Musickers ("OEM's) to play them. If this failure of leadership persists and the world somehow does survive,I would not be surprised if, in sixty or seventy years time, London were overrun by Normans. I look to The Register to expose the issue to the light of day. Very Truly yours Robert M. Schwartz (email address supplied) ®
Team Register, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobos for 750MHz .18 micron Athlons easy peasy

Concern about whether current motherboards for the Athlon K7 will support speeds of 750MHz and above have been dissipated by sources close to Advanced Micro Devices (AMD). When AMD releases its 750MHz Athlon on the 29th of this month, which will be a .18 micron part, only a minor change to motherboards and otherboards will be required. The source agreed that changes to the current motherboards are needed, but that vendors have already taken steps to make these changes. She said: "The .18 micron version of Athlon requires a VRM change on mainboard (as does Coppermine). Board vendors have already revised their designs for this." That means that the spate of third party motherboards now available for the Athlon K7 will work. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

compaQ to spend $100 mill marketing Alphas

Sources so close to Compaq that you couldn't put a cigarette paper between them and the company have confirmed the company is set to embark on a massive advertising splurge. The company will start promoting the Alpha microprocessor, its flagship chip, from the beginning of next year and will spend an estimated $100 million on an advertising campaign. As we reported last week, Compaq will introduce its Wildfire servers in February, and the money will be used to promote the benefits of Alpha 64-bit technology over competitors' offerings. The target of Compaq's money will be Sun, Hewlett Packard and IBM, all of which also have 64-bit processors. Intel is not expected to introduce its Itanium-Merced chip until June next year at the earliest. When Compaq presses the button that triggers the flood of dollars, it will come as something of a relief to members of news groups on the Web which closely follow the fortunes of the Alpha. Ex-employees of Digital, as well as present employees of Compaq, deeply resented the so-called "stealth marketing" approach DEC took in the past. Importantly for Compaq, high-end and midrange Alpha servers still have plenty of margin in them. Unlike PCs. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Database war breaks out between IBM and Oracle

Executives at Oracle are livid after IBM staged a publicity stunt at OpenWorld last week designed to promote the benefits of the Big Blue database DB2. According to a source at Big Blue, the stunt, which involved rollerbladers carrying placards pushing IBM database software, was designed to hit back at an Oracle US ad campaign which rubbished its e-commerce initiative. OpenWorld is Oracle's premier annual conference. IBM is currently pushing DB2 software hard as an alternative to the Oracle database, and the decision was made because of the relatively low profile Big Blue's software currently has. The placards said things like "IBM has created more database patents for the industry than any other vendor". The publicity stunt recalls the days when Oracle, Informix and Sybase were in a bitter fight to win the hearts, minds and wallets of corporate customers. Informix, for example, plastered the Italian city of Florence with advertising during an Oracle conference. Most observers had thought the database wars were over and Oracle had beaten Informix and Sybase. That, apparently, is not how IBM sees it. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Sex in Silicon Valley

Geeks have overtaken lawyers, doctors and rock stars as the social group most effective at using their skills to make a truckload of money -- just look at King of the Geeks, Bill Gates -- but when it comes to social skills they have a long way to go.
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Phone box freebies come to East Anglia

BT is offering free phone calls to East Anglian punters in return for them listening to a stream of adverts. The telecomms giant started the AdCall scheme at midday last Thursday in phone boxes in Cambridge, Ipswich, Norwich and Kings Lynn. A total of 340 phone boxes in the area have been equipped with the service. Most are located in Cambridge, where 175 of the 200 facilities in the town offer the freebie, a BT representative said. In return for listening to advertising spiel for 30 seconds, users get a free local or national call worth 10 pence. This amounts to 67 seconds for a local call and 43 seconds for a national call, on or off peak. Customers can choose to make a normal phone call or use the free service by pressing the "hot button" which connects them to the system. Kiosks have signs displaying that they are part of the scheme. Advertisers using the service include online auction house QXL, Mars and Fiat. AdCall was originally launched on the Isle of Wight in August. According to BT, East Anglia was chosen for the service because it provided a good mix of customers. In September BT started a pilot service based in Bristol and Newcastle called Freetime. Steve Davis, head of marketing for BT payphones, said of the Isle of Wight trial: "The response far exceeded our expectations, with more than 47,000 customers using the new service during the six-week trial." According to research by BT, most users of phone boxes in the UK are 16 to 24-years-old. 70 per cent of this age group use a payphone at least once a week. BT currently has 141,000 phone boxes in the UK. ®
Linda Harrison, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

CHS losses unveiled in full

CHS Electronics recorded losses of over $200 million for the third quarter and revealed plans to offload more subsidiaries. The distributor posted $225.3 million in net losses for the quarter ended 30 September. This compared to a profit of $6.6 million for the same period in 1998 and gives an insight into the downfall of much of the group last month. It said the figure included charges of $170.4 million related to the offloading, closure and placing into receivership of numerous subsidiaries worldwide. Sales fell slightly to $2.1 billion, from $2.2 billion the previous year. The Miami-based company said it had made a pre-tax gain of $32.7 million from the sale of its Sun Microsystems distribution business. It also cut debts to sellers by $214 million by giving back eight subsidiaries to the original owners, leaving $61.4 million owing at the end of the quarter. CHS said it was currently in talks to return an additional seven subsidiaries to their original owners, which would effectively cancel out the rest of the debt. ® Related Stories CHS Sheds Seven To Boost Confidence Computacenter Buys Metrologie
Linda Harrison, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Mobile phones going underground

A fantastic new £1.2 billion scheme will allow tragic cellphone users to tell their loved ones that they’re "on the train" from deep underground on the London tube. A consortium of leading telecommunication companies including Motorola and Racal Electronics will equip the entire network with the wonderful new system over the next 20 years -- pretty fast work, eh? A London Underground spokesman said the deal would mean "improved safety and reliability and the real prospect of using mobile phones in deep-level Tube stations". And exactly how will it do that, pray? If you really can't bear being unable to order a pizza for the two minutes you spend waiting on the platform, then maybe you should try therapy. Technical issues which so far remain unaddressed include: How will the average cellphone user manage to pack 15 minutes' worth of boring waffle into the average two to three minute gap between trains? If the new network is also to be used to provide up-to-the-minute customer information about what kind of leaves are delaying your train today, how will anyone be able to hear what you’re saying over the station's megawatt PA system? As the average ambient noise level in a tube train is between 80 and 90dBa, how will anyone be able to hear what you're saying whilst on the train? How will you retrieve your phone from the track after it's been chucked down there by irate fellow passengers? ®
Pete Sherriff, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Big Blue chins channel with direct sales plan

IBM started selling a whole host of PCs and notebooks direct through its Web site and by phone in the UK yesterday. Included in the line-up was Big Blue's ThinkPad 240 notebook for £1099, which was launched in September. Desktop PCs are included in the new line up, priced from £649. As revealed here last month, IBM is also offering its Aptiva consumer PCs direct in the UK. It is selling these as PC and printer bundles from £839. The company has also cut prices across all product sectors to customers ordering before 30 November, prompting speculation that IBM is sitting on a mountain of unsold stock this quarter which it is now desperate to shift. The offer includes giving a free £350 WorkPad C3 with every ThinkPad 600, a carry case with notebooks, and PC bundles. "It is aimed at consumers and very small businesses," the IBM representative said. "We are not going to change our channel initiative at all. This is an additional channel to market." After the initial offers end at the end of November, IBM said it would base its direct selling prices on the average reseller price. It also claimed the move was "a reaction to customer demand" and in "no way a reaction to Dell". But Big Blue and its vendor rivals continue to play catch up to direct seller Dell as it continues to steal market share. IBM refused to say if yesterday's announcement was a precursor to selling its entire range of kit direct. "At the moment, it's just the products outlined", the representative said. In April, IBM US announced it would sell its entire product range over the Internet in the US. ®
Linda Harrison, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Boffins pave way for 400x rise in CPU transistor count

Scientists at the University of California's Berkeley campus have developed a new transistor design that they claim could allow chip makers to increase the number of such devices on a given slice of silicon fourhundredfold. Full details of the new transistor, called FinFET, will be presented next month, but the device essentially contains a new gate design -- the part of the semiconductor that controls the flow of electrons through the device, and allows it to operate as a switch. In the new design, the gate provides better flow control than before, reducing current leakage and so allowing the transistor as a whole to shrink in size. Currently, the Berkeley team have cut the size of the transistor down to 18nm, ten times smaller than existing chip transistors. Team leader Chen Ming Hu, professor of electrical engineering and computer sciences at Berkeley, believes the new design can be further reduced by a factor of two. With even just 100 times as many transistors per chip (from a ten times smaller transistor), the FinFET design will allow chip makers to significantly improve the functionality of microprocessors, or to shrink chip designs to improve yields and reduce prices. Presumably, existing CPUs will have to be remodelled using the new transistor design, so we're more likely to see the technology used in future parts rather than current ones. Either way, it should ensure that the need to move to the next level of process technology, 0.15 micron, won't have to take place as soon as previously thought in order to maintain the current demand for more and more transistors within each processor. Couple this with other attempts to improve the efficiency of transistors, such as IBM's Silicon on Insulator (SOI) process, and the physical limitations on the development of semiconductors will be reached less quickly than before. Fortunately, all semiconductor manufacturers should benefit. The Berkeley team is not patenting its design in order to allow its widespread use throughout the chip industry. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

So how good is CallNet 0800?

Review Sometimes saying the simplest things can leave you tongue-tied and lost for words. Anyone who's ever struggled with "I love you", "sorry" or "no I won't have another if it's all the same, I said I'd be back over an hour ago... oh, go on then, just a small one" will know what I mean. The same is true of trying to assess the performance of CallNet 0800, the toll free dial-up Internet service backed by telco North American Gateway that launched in Britain four weeks ago. For unlike others that have gone before it, CallNet 0800 does exactly what it says it does. Simple, I know, but compared to the track record of some ISPs, CallNet 0800's achievement is quite remarkable. You dial in like any other ISP, log on to the Net and do your business. The only difference is that I don't get charged for making that local-rate phone call. Although I've never stayed logged on for more than an hour at a time. I use it extensively during the day, and only occasionally during the weekend and late into the evening. Nor have I tried to download large files or play games with some nutter in Milwaukee. No doubt those with different Net habits will and who've tried the service will have their own spin on things. I have, though, gone about my everyday working life, which revolves around the Net. And, having used the service for the last three weeks, I can find no distinguishable difference between CallNet 0800 and my subscription ClaraNet account. I've yet to encounter an engaged tone when I log on; I haven't been kicked off for any apparent reason; the service doesn't grind to a halt at peak times. In fact, the service is what any Net user would expect... should expect. One niggle is that it kicks you off automatically after five minutes of inactivity, but I can live with that. The only major snag I've had is sending and receiving my ClaraNet e-mail using CallNet 0800. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's a nuisance to keep switching between the two but there you go, if I didn't have something to bitch about then I'd really smell a rat. And after all, it is free -- and bearing in mind this could cut my phone bill by two thirds I'm certainly not about to complain. Just to make sure, I quizzed CallNet 0800 to see if the account I had was on a different dial-up number or souped up in anyway to give journalists a preferential service. A spokesman assured me this wasn't the case. So where does that leave Net user in Britain looking to cut the cost of their Net access? Significantly further up the creek than before thanks to being handed a paddle by CallNet 0800. Of course, I can only speak for the service itself. I didn't have to go through the tiresome registration process, which was swamped within hours of going live, to obtain my account. Nor have I used CallNet 0800's 30 per cent-off phone calls service either. But from what I have seen, it works -- for the time being at least. There, I've said it. ® Want to add your two-penneth worth? Then do so on The Register's online forum
Tim Richardson, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

iBook takes top slot in US retail sales

Apple's iBook went straight to number one as the best-selling notebook in US retail, online and mail-order channels last month, according to PC Data's latest figures. The upshot was a near doubling of the Mac maker's market share in the mobile arena, up to 11 per cent from 6.5 per cent in September. Not bad given the effects of the current LCD famine and last month's earthquake in Taiwan, home of most of the world's notebook production. Those problems will, of course, have hit all notebook manufacturers, but it's clear that Apple's $100 million pay-off to Samsung to ensure a solid supply of displays has helped to ensure that it has been able to meet demand for iBooks. Dell too has paid Samsung, this time $200 million, to make sure it gets sufficient screens. As an exclusively direct vendor, Dell isn't included in PC Data's numbers. Of the companies who are factored in, the iBook's boost to Apple's mobile market share puts the company in fifth place behind Sony (13.9 per cent), IBM (15 per cent), Toshiba (26 per cent) and Compaq (27.5 per cent). Given the absence of Dell's direct sales from the stats, it's not clear whether Apple's (or anyone else's, for that matter) direct sales are included or not. Even if they are, Apple still has some way to go if it's to regain a position in the top three. It will be interesting to see how iBook sales develop over time. The iMac went straight to number one, and has spent most of the intervening time in the top slot or within the top five. Only of late has it slipped out of the top five, though the introduction of new, faster models last month should have given the machine a boost. Unlike the iMac, however, the iBook has been heavily pre-ordered. While PC Data claims that most of the sales it recorded in October were for real sales -- the buyer got to take product away with them, in other words -- rather than pre-orders, it's not clear how many of those real sales were the fulfilment of pre-orders. If so, iBook sales could drop off rapidly, once initial demand has been satisfied. Apple, of course, is banking on iMac and iBook sales over the Christmas period for another record-breaking quarter, something that's particularly import to achieve after the last quarter's better than expected but still below par results. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Computer kit grabbed at gun-point

Armed thieves disguised as policemen made off with a lorry-load of computer games and chips on Friday afternoon. The robbery took place in Hayes, Middlesex. The driver of the seven and a half ton lorry was forced to stop when a Volvo estate displaying a flashing blue light on its dashboard pulled in front of him. Two men, described as white and in their mid-20s, got out of the car and told the driver they were carrying out routine checks. The driver then had a gun held to his head before he was tied up and bundled into the footwell of his cab. The lorry was driven West Drayton, where the stash was transferred to the Volvo. A police car on routine patrol then spotted the suspects, but lost them following a high-speed chase. The driver suffered shock but did not need hospital treatment. Police refused to reveal the make of goods stolen, but described the amount as "substantial". Information can be given to DS Stephen Lear at Uxbridge CID, 0181 246 1417. ® Related story Gunmen grab £1m Compaq machines
Linda Harrison, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Sainsbury's finds the Web

Sainsbury's has finally got around to offering its customers online shopping. The supermarket chain -- which in recent years has lost its pole position to Tesco -- has been running a very limited delivery service for 12 months, but plans to change all that through a partnership with ISP LineOne. The chain has predicted a user base of 30 million by 2003, and will offer those within the M25 about two-thirds of its goods from Sainsbury's and subsidiary Homebase from Spring next year. A representative refused to reveal the nature of the deal with LineOne, but did say Sainsbury's will be leaving the company's online access CDs in its stores. The company plans to ship online orders direct from a warehouse, as opposed to the more complex and expensive method of autonomous individual stores. However, any cost saving will not be passed onto the consumer since all store and online prices will the same. The move will allow Sainsbury's to retain some of the booming online market, but it is also a case of too little too late. With most supermarkets already offering online shopping -- Tesco set up its service in 1996 -- it will have to build up the service very quickly if it is to keep up with competitors. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Nasdaq de-lists Iridium

Iridium has had its stock removed from the Nasdaq stock exchange list. The move comes almost three months to the day after the company entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- an action that, in turn, saw trading of Iridium stock (under the IRIQE tag) suspended. Iridium was notified of the de-listing back in October. The troubled satellite mobile phone company decided not to appeal against Nasdaq's decision since its ongoing Chapter 11 status means it will "not be able to meet the requirements for continued listing of the company's stock". That's no great surprise, but it does suggest that a solution to Iridium's problems -- the restructure the company's management wants to put in place and which it's now desperately trying to persuade Iridium's investment bank backers to allow it to put in motion -- is just as far off as it was at the time of the August bankruptcy declaration. Should that restructure go ahead, Iridium could well return to Nasdaq's list, with public trading taking place once it has come out of Chapter 11. ® Related Stories ICO wins court approval for McCaw's $150m cash injection Teledesic raises more cash -- but global broadband is still dream Iridium rival ICO plans Teledesic makeover Iridium asks shareholders to cut stakes by 40 per cent Iridium to enter Chapter 11
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Dell unveils Blackberry pager

Dell launched itself against Palm Computing yesterday when it released its first non-PC product: the much-rumoured Blackberry two-way pager. Not the most obvious area to move into, you might think - pagers are ten a penny these days - but Blackberry's interest lies in the fact that it's actually more wireless organiser than pager.
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Corel CEO insider trading pre-trial date set

The Canadian authorities' legal action against Corel CEO Michael Cowpland will enter its pre-trial phase on 14 January 2000 to determine when and how the allegations of insider trading will be heard. According to Reuters, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC), Canada's financial regulator, will soon release details of its case against Cowpland. Cowpland's legal counsel, Michael Edelson, predicted the case "won't be as simple as you anticipate". The OSC charged Cowpland on 14 October on three counts of insider trading centering on the Corel boss' sale company stock in August 1997. The sale brought Cowpland C$20.4 million ($13.96 million). The sale took place mere weeks before Corel announced a Q3 loss of $32 million, which saw its share price fall 40 per cent. Cowpland claims he acted without reference to the company's financial state -- the sale was made to pay off personal debts, he said. The OSC also charged Cowpland's holding company, MCJC Holdings, with one count of insider trading. A guilty verdict would leave Cowpland facing a fine of C$1 million ($680,000) plus three times any profit he made on the sale, and a stint of up to two years in gaol. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Confidential information leaked on Net

Someone allegedly masquerading as a BT engineer has leaked confidential information about a new ISP on the Internet. The private phone numbers, ISDN lines and freephone POP (Points of Presence) number were reportedly posted on newsgroups earlier today by someone calling themselves "An [sic] BT Engineer". The posting also contained details of the number of lines operated by the company. Tom Defty, MD of City Connections, confirmed the numbers were his but dismissed allegations that the confidential information was published by a BT engineer. He was unable to suggest an alternative source of the leak. "This is private information," he said. "This information should never have got out." "It's not life threatening, but it is a nuisance," he said. For security reasons Defty wouldn't confirm or deny whether the 0800 number published was one of City Connections' freephone POP numbers. But he did warn anyone who might have seen the posting not to try and access the Net using it. "I'm going to speak to BT and any unauthorised calls (to the freephone number) will be charged at the national rate," he said. "No one will get connected who shouldn't," he said. Although the incident is unfortunate, Defty said it would not delay the launch of the new ISP on 1 December. A spokesman for BT said the information was so vague it was impossible to comment on the allegations. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Caminogate IV – We have no idea what you did last summer

The world+dog knows that Chipzilla's chipset from Hell, Camino, has a problem counting above two when it comes to RDRAM DIMMS. Less well-known is the fact that two is -- by a remarkable coincidence -- also the maximum number of PC100 SDRAM modules that Intel's Cape Cod i820 mobo can deal with. Worse than that, if you want to mix and match DIMMs, you need to adhere to a mind-numbingly complex table to be found on the Intel web site if you want the damn thing to work. With only one bit of memory, you must put it in bank 0. With two identical DIMMs, just bung 'em in. If you have two different sized DIMMs, the big one has to go in bank 0 and the little one in bank 1. If you're foolish enough to have two same sized DIMMs but one is single-sided and the other double-sided, the single-sided one has to go in the first bank and the double-sided one in the second bank. The creaky, but increasingly well-loved BX chipset allows you to slap DIMMs in whichever slot you fancied (and there were usually three or four slots to choose from, all of which worked) Isn't progress marvellous? ®
Pete Sherriff, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Rising chip fab kit sales signal recovery

Chip manufacturing equipment trade organisation Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) today said orders for fabrication kit from US suppliers were generating increased revenues, putting the business on a clear road to recovery. SEMI bases its claim on the book-to-bill ratio -- the difference between the value of companies' orders and the value of product shipped. According to SEMI, the book-to-bill ration was 1.07 in September (the industry took $107 in orders for every $100 in product it shipped). In October, it had risen to 1.09. "The October numbers show that equipment orders are back on track for full recovery," said SEMI president Stanley Myers in a statement. "The resurgence of the global semiconductor industry, coupled with positive economic and industry forecasts for 2000, appear to be finally spurring growth in capital spending." October's three-month average for worldwide shipments of fabrication equipment hit $1.47 billion, up 72 per cent on the same period last year and four per cent up on September's figure. The three-month average for orders reached $1.59 billion, up 150 per cent on October 1998's figure of $638 million. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel brokers Russian entry into Europe

While world leaders were putting their feet up and enjoy a relaxing weekend in Florence, Italy, Chipzilla's negotiators have obviously been beavering away if a map at Intel’s channel website here is to be believed. For the former Soviet Union is labelled 'Europe' with the last e a couple of hundred miles due north of Vladivostock. Meanwhile, the French will no doubt set a few lorries on fire and ban some more beef when they discover that according to the Intel map, their country is now part of the Middle East, along with Germany, Switzerland, and the more westerly parts of China. Alternatively, the map could simply be a product of the same mysterious and ill-informed Intel department which produced Chipzilla's now legendary guide to dealing with the European press. ®
Pete Sherriff, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

CCTV nabs dog-flap cat burglar

Builder Gary Horner got a nasty surprise when he captured his mate on camera sneaking into his house through the dog flap and stealing money. Gary, who had been best man to the thief, Neil Bolderson, had installed a number of mini-cameras around his house when money kept disappearing, according to the Daily Mail. Initially, both Gary and his other half Julie, thought the other was spending the money. But when it continued to vanish, without so much of a sound from their ten-stone guard dog Roscoe, the couple suspected it must be someone they know. They secretly installed £800 worth of surveillance cameras and not long after caught Bolderson clambering into their house and nonchalantly pocketing a wad of cash. Gary said that when he saw the tape, he felt "physically sick". He doesn't want to see his mate of 18 years again. A police spokesman applauded the builder's actions, saying the police encouraged community assistance in solving crime. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Micro$oft besieged by righteous lawyers

Judge Thomas Jackson's unfavourable finding of fact in the MS trial has emboldened a Lilliputian army of lawyers to file suit on behalf of gulled consumers across the USA. State and federal lawsuits have been filed so far in California, New York, Alabama and Louisiana, and more are expected. One such class-action lawsuit, filed with the California state court in San Francisco (where else?), alleges that overpriced Microsoft products caused consumers to pay too much for PCs pre-loaded with Windows. Consumers were overcharged approximately US $40, the class reckons. Only seventeen states and the District of Columbia permit such suits by indirect purchasers. The class will bear the burden of proof in demonstrating that Windows-equipped desktop prices are inflated. The Register wonders how they are going to manage it. So few PCs come outfitted with other operating systems that there is virtually no basis for comparison. The lawyers may be salivating, but death by a thousand cuts is by no means assured. Judge Jackson's current finding offers little foundation for specific legal action, though his final ruling may well do so if the DoJ and Microsoft fail to reach a settlement in the mean time. Clearly this gives Microsoft an added motivation to settle; and if the lawsuits mount as they are expected to do, the pressure will increase and so strengthen DoJ's hand in the negotiations. As for consumers, they ought not to expect a great deal. Class-action lawsuits generally go a long way towards enriching the lawyers who pursue them, which explains the popularity of such selfless acts of public service; but when the haul is tallied and fees are calculated, the payout to the class is often comically small. We might expect a few tens of millions to show up in the advocates' coffers, and perhaps a few discount coupons good on purchases of Microsoft products for the aggrieved class. Big Blue successfully fended off similar opportunistic lawsuits during its lengthy antitrust battle with Uncle Sam, eventually paying out something like two percent on the total claims brought to bear. With that in mind, no one is hanging crepe for the Redmond giant just yet. A cynical Wall Street laughed off the lawsuits yesterday, as Microsoft shares closed up $4.19, for a gain of nearly five percent. So there. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

PC security for the masses

Burall Infosys has announced the release of B_Safe, a PC security system that allows multiple users to work on the same PC without risk. The system allows for the selective encryption of files for different users and also restricts Internet access. Burall used its expertise in Smart card technology to build the system. A card reader is attached to the PC's serial port and in conjunction with an installed software program locks unauthorised data. A system administrator can decide the degree of access. If the system was rolled out company-wide, an individual would only need a single key to use any PC in the building. Keys can also be programmed to allow access to others' files. B_Safe is expected to cost under £100 and will be available in the New Year. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Aureal goes consumer

Aureal has announced its will go direct to consumers with its two new soundcards, the Vortex SQ1500 and Vortex2 SQ2500. The two cards are designed for mainstream computer users. The SQ1500 is for your average gamer or music fan and supports two and four speaker set-ups. The SQ2500 is for the more serious gamer and comes with enhanced 3D sound. Both cards are bundled with a range of applications and games and can be updated online. Pricing is not fixed, but the SQ1500 is expected to cost around £40 and the SQ2500 around £65. Both will be available by the end of the year. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Net breaks up families

More than a million Net users in the UK spend more time online than they do asleep, according to the latest survey from Continental Research. This soporific stat is just one of a bundle of titbits that researchers say depict online trends in Britain. Another, is that a third of Britain's regular 11.1 million Net users spend more time online than they do watching TV. And 11 per cent spend less time with their families as a result of their Internet use. To top the lowlights from Continental Research’s Fifth Annual report analysts claim nearly £2 billion was spent online during the last year by Net users in Britain. Given that an estimated £194 billion was spent in the high street in the last year, online sales only accounted for a measly 1 per cent of all retail purchases. That's despite the fact that the number of people hooked up to the Net has doubled over the last year. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

Intel's Top Ten Laws of the Millennium

Intel is rightly famous for Moore's Law. But were you aware of the others. Here they go... 1. Moore’s Law: The power of microprocessors will double every 18 months 2. More’s Law: Intel will always make at least ten times as much money as AMD 3. Poor’s Law: AMD stockholders rarely have anything to smile about 4. Pause Law: Intel chipsets can never be launched on time 5. Flaws Law: Intel chipsets can never be launched on time 6. Bore’s Law: Stories on ZDNet UK become twice as boring every 18 months 7. Jaws Law: Oracle CEOs are rarely quiet for long 8. Whore’s Law: You will never become Mayor of London 9. Door’s Law: Unless you’re the pretty, dead one, no one will remember your name 10. Coldsore’s Law: Don’t share your toothbrush with anyone Reader Peter Boulding writes: You forgot Cole's Law. Pickled cabbage and carrots. ®
The Register breaking news

No Athlon from Gateway…officially

Updated The rumours that Gateway will introduce a machine that uses the AMD Athlon processor may well be true, but if so the European sales force doesn't seem to know about the machine due to be launched very soon indeed. A phone call to Gateway's call centre in Dublin this morning seemed to suggest that the company has no plans to intro such a machine. After checking with his supervisor, the salesman we talked to said that as far as he was aware, Gateway had no plans to introduce such a machine. He said: "It's not as fast as people are making out. There's no real [performance] difference between the Pentium III and the Athlon." He added that Gateway could do such a machine but instead is majoring on the Pentium III/700 range as the top end machine. It could be, however, that the US wing of Gateway might start selling Athlons, according to AMD Zone, leaving us poor Europeans in the (temporary?) lurch. A more likely explanation is that supplied to us by an insider at Gateway in the US. He said: "The representative you spoke to in Dublin, as we do, has no information about any Athlon plans. And because of how Gateway operates in the U.K. he wouldn't know. We were notified about the Astro only weeks before its introduction by the company. Gateway doesn't have a stellar record of communicating with employees." We asked whether Gateway had an Intel Pentium III/733 available either and he said no. So we'll have to wait and see, won't we? ®
Mike Magee, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

More Millennium madness

If you're not ill at ease over the millennium yet, if you think it's just small fry panicking unnecessarily, then perhaps you'll listen to Scotland Yard and the New York Federal Reserve. Senior UK police officers have warned there is a "genuine and real" threat of a mainland bombing campaign over the New Year holiday by a coalition of terrorists, including former IRA members, who wish to disrupt the Northern Ireland peace process. Senior politicians and military staff will be taking extra precautions and security around Westminster, the City and Docklands has been increased. Police have been placed on an alert status one below a full-scale bombing attack. On the other side of the Atlantic, the New York Federal Reserve has sold $370 billion (£228 billion) worth of assets to banks in an attempt to reduce millennium bug fear. The Reserve deals with the stock market side of the US Federal Reserve and has said there will be more unscheduled auctions soon. Bankers were expecting ready cash to dry up as the new year approached, but the Reserve's heavy investment appears to have helped allay some fears. Now don't tell us this isn't getting a little worrying. ® Register footnote: One of our readers contacted us to say he thought we were milking the Y2k bug thread. If anyone can tell us how to milk bugs - millennial or otherwise - please get in touch.
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

How much is that ADSL in the window?

Buckinghamshire-based ISP, Nildram Ltd, has carried out its own analysis into how much broadband ADSL access could cost when it's introduced in Britain next year. According to MD Adrian Mardlin, the question of hidden charges remains a problem for consumers. And although it's already been touted that businesses could be forced to fork out around £200 a month for ADSL access, he also thinks consumers could also be asked to shell out a similar amount. He says installation charges will start at £260 + VAT while annual wholesale rental for the basic service, which provides a 512kbps download speed and 256kbps upload speed, with a contention ratio of 20:1, will work out at £1,065 + VAT. "In addition to these charges, any ISP providing the service will have to pay for a connection to BT to deliver the data inwards," said Mardlin. "At its cheapest, this will work out at an additional £50 per annum, and at its most expensive, £745 per annum, although this all depends on volume. On top of that, we then have to deliver your data across the Internet and make a charge for that." "You can probably see from these figures that unless BT does some drastic price cutting, we are still a long way off from the £40 a month figures that the press like to dream about," Mardlin said. "More like £150 - £200 a month, we suspect." ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Nov 1999
The Register breaking news

BA computer expert swindles £250,000

A British Airways computer expert conned the airline out of £250,000 over three years by transferring income from in-flight purchases into accounts held by himself and his wife. The fiddle only came to light when a passenger noticed he had been billed twice for the same item. A routine check unearthed the scam, but had not stopped Nicholas Mann and his wife Andrea from enjoying a high-rolling lifestyle. The couple had an off-road vehicle and a sports car, flew abroad regularly and ate at swanky restaurants. However, all good things must come to an end. And Judge John Crocker doled out 18 months and nine months respectively to Mann and his wife for bad behaviour. Mann deserves special mention however for his answer to a Daily Mail reporter about why he had stolen so much: "Good question! I guess the lure of something I could do. I probably thought I could get away with it. The lifestyle was a significant factor." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Nov 1999