29th > November > 1999 Archive

The Register breaking news

Ideal to split from parent group

Ideal Hardware and parent company InterX are to split due to the incompatibility of the group's Web and distribution businesses. InterX said today it would become an Internet-only business made up of its product information service IT Network and its 34 per cent stake in Cromwell Media. Ideal will stick to distribution, with plans to grow into a pan-European business. At the moment InterX does not know whether it is an Internet company or a distributor, sources said. The two are incompatible, but both need huge amounts of cash to go forward. In addition, all Ideal's profits are currently being ploughed into developing the IT Network. This will continue until the separation of the two parts, which is expected to be completed in the next six months. "We want Ideal to get a lot bigger than it is, and very quickly," said James Wickes, InterX CEO. He added that the distributor would be looking to find other companies to merge with. "What we can't do is drag along two Internet businesses with it," said Wickes. InterX can no longer run as a half Internet, half distributor business. Wickes said the split would give more clarity to InterX in the eyes of investors. "Initially InterX will be IT Network and Cromwell Media, but we want to leverage our expertise in product information to other vertical markets." According to Wickes, this could be "anything from watches through to cars". As for Ideal, the company looks likely to float as a separate company and grow into Europe by acquisition, sources said. ® Related stories: Ideal appoints new FD Profit slips as Ideal looks to services
The Register breaking news

AMD intros 750MHz Athlon, 533MHz K6-2

While major x.86 manufacturer Intel still struggles to supply its major customers with .18 micron Pentium IIIs at speeds of 600MHz and above, AMD will formally announce its 750MHz Athlon processor today, using a .18 micron process technology. We exclusively revealed the date of the release of the 750MHz at the end of last month, here. And AMD has also upped the speed on its K6-2 family and will announce a 533MHz member of the family today. Intel will introduce a 533MHz Celeron on the 10th of January. The Athlon is now supported by many of the largest PC companies in the world, including Compaq, Fujitsu-Siemens and IBM. Getting branded Athlon machines from the big vendors in Europe may be difficult. Last week, Big Blue told The Register it was only selling Pentium IIIs here in the UK. However, many other UK vendors are expected to offer machines with high clock speed Athlons. Gateway is expected to announce an Athlon processor today, while HP may also take that step soon. Dell is expected to remain as loyal as ever to Intel, despite having similar problems with supply of Pentium IIIs from the chip giant. Sources tell us that AMD may well still announce availability of a 1GHz Athlon on the 10 January next year. Last Friday, we revealed that Intel will intro a 750MHz Pentium on that day. The sources said that AMD will make the decision based on sales of members of its existing Athlon family, and on Intel's reaction to both the launches and on its own introductions. There is no technical reason why the 1GHz Athlon should not be introduced in early January. AMD is hoping to maximise its profits by keeping the existing prices of its Athlon processors stable. The 750MHz Athlon costs around $795/1000, while Intel's premier Coppermine, the 733MHz Pentium III with 133MHz bus speed, costs $826/1000. Intel will cut its Coppermine prices on 12th of December, we are reliably informed. Although the MHz race is a comparatively trivial matter, with both AMD and Intel playing the Tweedledee-Tweedledum game, pricing and availability of the processors is far more important. The day after Intel announced its Coppermine family, on the 25th of October, The Register saw internal documents from the chip giant which showed the extent of its problems supplying the parts. Although this position has improved in recent weeks, there are still serious problems with its high end Coppermine processor, the 733MHz Pentium III. The battle between Tweedledum and TweedleAMD AMD piles on Intel pressure with 750MHz Athlon AMD Athlons undercut equivalent Pentium IIIs Intel to intro Coppermine 750MHz PIII Jan 10th AMD wins major battle in Intel price war Intel loses big industry face to AMD over Coppermines Compaq, Fujitsu-Siemens switch to AMD Athlons for Yule machines Big PC vendors furious over Intel Coppermine yields Intel trashes huge Gateway rebate scheme Intel will cut Coppermine prices sooner than expected Pentium III 800 brought forward to Q1 next year Huge shortages, technical problems hit Intel Coppermine debut
The Register breaking news

Consumers reject clothes shopping online

With a fair wind and £200 million VC money behind you, anything is possible. Or so you would think. But what if you're flogging clothes over the Net, as Boo.com, the extravagantly-funded sportswear purveyor, is trying to do. You can tell it's got heaps of money - or how else could it afford those incomprehensible ads currently on British TV.
The Register breaking news

Show me the money, Register tells ISP

AllAdvantage.com -- the company that pays people to surf the Net -- is to hand out crisp new £10 notes at its press bash on Wednesday to celebrate its launch in Britain. Apparently, AllAdvantage is going to use the event at the Internet Exchange in Covent Garden to say how many people in Britain are using the ad-for-cash scheme, and how much cash they've divvied out since September. The "gimmick" is to promote the idea that the ad service pays people for surfing and is not intended to be an incentive to attend the event. To prove the point, the company is even providing a box for people to then donate the cash to the charity Children in Need. Unfortunately, this reporter can't make the event but would like the money all the same. No can do, said a spokesbunny for AllAdvantage's PR agency. "Well we won't write the story then," we said. "I thought you'd be above that kind of cheap financial inducement," replied Bugs. "No, you couldn't be further from the truth." So here's the rub: AllAdvantage delivers £100 in cash to The Register for us to donate to Children in Need, or we don't write the story. It's cheaper than our usual tariff, so you can't say fairer than that. ® Related stories Calling all e-potatoes: look at this ad and earn 30p an hour! Get paid to be spammed
The Register breaking news

Evesham, other UK vendors, intro 750MHz Athlon kit

UK vendors are already selling PCs using the AMD Athlon 750MHz processor, introduced today. Both Evesham Micro and Mesh plc have made machines available, the companies confirmed. There are four Evesham Athlon 750MHz machines in the range, said Luke Ireland, director of operations at the company. The TNT 2 machine costs £1,329 and the TNT 2 Ultra costs £1,699. Ireland said: "Athlon machines are selling very well. Virtually all sales of high end machines at the moment are using the AMD Athlon chip. That cannot be said of Intel-based machines." He said there was a problem with availability for Intel parts. Paul Kinsler, general manager at Mesh plc, also agreed that sales of Athlon are going well. He said: "Sales are flying. It's a good proportion of our business." Mesh is selling an Athlon machine for £1,895 in its T range, said Kinsler. ® See also AMD intros 750MHz Athlon, 533MHz K6-2
The Register breaking news

Hopeless: M&S dips toe into e-commerce water

Marks & Spencer's, the UK's snootiest High Street grocer, is throwing caution to the wind, joining the online shopping revolution after all. But don't get too excited -- online shopping is available only to the good burghers of Beaconsfield, Bucks (a very posh place indeed) and then to only 100 people. M&S will let them order groceries over the Net and in turn it will deliver goods (at a charge of £5 per delivery) until 9pm. And get this: "the company hopes to sign up another 100 people and run the experiment for a year before deciding whether to take the project nationwide", according to the Sunday Times. How lame can you get? It goes to show how difficult it is for a once-dominant company to re-invent itself. Tesconet, the online arm of Tesco, Britain's biggest grocer, claims 100,000 regular customers -- and rising. Iceland is putting on a pretty good show in the home delivery market, while Sainsbury's and Wal Mart-owned Asda are cranking up their operations. They will not be quaking in their boots. ® Check out Cash RegisterFor our daily Net Finance news Beaconsfield resident Mike Hill adds:I thought I should draw to your attention to the fact that that the original story in the Sunday Times :suggests that the orders will be delivered from the M&S store in Beaconsfield. THERE ISN'T AN M&S STORE IN BEACONSFIELD! I've lived there for 10 years, and can confidently state that there isn't, and hasn't been in the last 10 years, an M&S store in Beaconsfield. So either someone's pulling the :Sunday Times':leg, or they've got the story completely wrong! And no, I haven't been invited to take part in the trial...
The Register breaking news

Confusion reigns over Mannesmann bid

Far from the political shenanigans circling the hostile takeover bid by Vodafone of Mannesmann, another bout of confusion has appeared: just how much is the all-share offer worth? Admittedly, Mannesmann CEO Klaus Esser doesn't give a monkeys over the extent of the deal -- he'd much rather just keep his job -- but the variation in bids across the business press does put a question mark over their mathematical abilities. The following were taken from today's (29 November) stories. Any non-sterling amounts have been converted using an online currency converter and placed in brackets after the sum. Starting with the lowest:
The Register breaking news

PalmPilot accessory to credit card theft

A year on from the discovery that Palm handhelds can be used by thieves to open infra-red car locks, comes news that at least one shop assistant has apparently been using her Palm to steal credit card details. Tania Ventura, 26, an employee of posh New York department store Bloomingdale's was last week arrested after a shopper spotted her swiping his credit card twice -- once through the till and a second time through a credit card reader attached to a PalmPilot. Ventura was allegedly using her Palm to record customers' credit card numbers with the intention of using them to commit fraud, according to Associated Press. She was charged with criminal possession of forgery devices, computer material and stolen property, and unlawful duplication of computer data. If convicted, she could face up to seven years in the slammer. "[The Palm] is capable of storing thousands of credit card numbers, and obviously this individual was involved in stealing people's credit card numbers to sell or use for fraudulent purposes," said New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir. He also said that this is first time police have seen the practice in New York City, which implies that the practice is rather more widespread than this one case would otherwise suggest. So keep a keen eye on your plastic, folks... ®
The Register breaking news

1999: Annus Horribilis for Chipzilla

Analysis This time last year, there were a good few contenders in the x.86 market. Most, however, were looking a lot less robust than the Intel Corporation, which had spent most of the year thrashing its nearest competitor AMD and stomping over NatSemi's Cyrix brand. IDT's WinChip family had hardly come into the picture at all, while Rise was making noises, but not much more. What a difference a year makes... While Harrogate* visionary Mother Shipton predicted several centuries ago that the world might end in 1999, we've still six weeks or so to find out if she was right or wrong. But even if the world doesn't come a cropper on the 31st December 1999, with the firework show to end all squibfests, it certainly was the year that Intel's virtual hegemony on the market looked like it was straining at the seams. Intel has had a bad year. It started in February with the first delay of its i820 "Caminogate" chip set, followed soon afterwards by a huge furore over the processor serial number (PSN) by libertarians. But it was to get worse. Much worse. In June, at the Computex trade show in Taipei, practically every motherboard manufacturer was voting, with Via, for PC-133 synchronous memory to be adopted as the industry standard. Intel just said no, over and over again. Then, the next month, AMD introduced its Athlon K7 processor, and it looked like Intel might have serious competition, at last, at the high end and server end of the market. Worse, for Intel, AMD seemed at long last to be able to deliver on its production plans for the top end processor. In September, Intel found itself in a right old pickle over its decision to stick with its partner, Rambus, and push the high cost memory over PC-133, which Via and many people were still pushing as the standard. That resulted in the now famous "Seven Dramurai" announcement at the Intel Developer Forum, which looked all the more foolish because of developments in October. Try as it might, Intel could not make the i820 "Caminogate" chipset work with its own motherboards, and so it scrapped the Rambus versions it was making and put everything on hold. It looked like the end of October might do something to restore Intel's fortunes, with the introduction of its faster "Coppermine" processors. Alas, a day after it launched these chips on October 25th, internal documents were to show a severe shortage of high end and mobile versions of the processors. Now, in November, AMD has succeeded in producing a 750MHz x.86 based processor, overtaking Intel in the clock stakes. The processor serial number (PSN) row has re-emerged as an issue, and there's still a shortage of Intel i820 and i840 Rambus motherboards for its top tier customers. It has seen Compaq, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM and quite possibly Gateway adopt AMD processors for pre-Christmas systems. And it looks quite likely that even if Intel succeeds in pulling its 800MHz Coppermine processor earlier into Q1 2000, AMD will pip it at the post again. A year later, Cyrix processors and the IDT WinChip are under the wing of Via. NatSemi is threatening Intel's up-and-coming system on a chip, the Timna, with its Geode. Rise has stopped making noises about its Tiger range, which now looks like it may end up in set top boxes. Intel will, no doubt, hope to put 1999 behind it. But competition, in the shape of both AMD and Via, is not going to disappear soon. ® * In Mother Shipton's day, Harrogate was about 14 miles away from Knaresborough, where the old witch actually had her cave. But as Intel destroyed all of our illusions about Shipton here, we hardly care. Shipton, BTW, is a North Yorkshire town about 14 miles away from Knaresborough.
The Register breaking news

Freeserve books deal with WH Smith

Top British ISP Freeserve is cosying up to WH Smith, top British High Street book retailer, in a deal that could lead to a "combination of their web site and a merger of many of their ecommerce activities", according to the Sunday Telegraph. WH Smith boss Richard Handover and Freeserve top banana John Pluthero have been negotiating for several weeks, the paper says, although an announcement is not expected until the middle of next month. The way the Sunday Telegraph is spinning it, Freeserve will buy into WH Smith's online businesses, and will also "help in running and expanding them". Freeserve will axe its tie-up with online book retailer bol.com, which sees it take a clip on each book bought through its Web site, in favour of a similar deal with WH Smith's online book operation. WH Smith will tout Freeserve sign-up disks in its stores. According to the Telegraph, Freeserve will advertise WH Smith's Web site and services on its homepage. We guess that WH Smith's free ISP operation will soon become a thing of the past, or at best a sub-brand of Freeserve. WH Smith was far too late into the British free ISP market. Now it must make sure that Amazon and Bol don't swamp it in the online book retailing game. Freeserve and its 1.5 million subscribers is a good start for WH Smith; the deal is worth sacrificing its free ISP for. ® Daily Net finance news here at Cash Register
The Register breaking news

Oracle reseller Fulcrum snapped up

Chicago-based Whittman-Hart is buying Oracle reseller Fulcrum Solutions to expand its UK ecommerce business. The acquisition of London-based Fulcrum will add offices in Edinburgh and Manchester to Whittman Hart, which advises companies on their Internet strategy and helps them set up online. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. "With this acquisition, Whittman-Hart is now the UK's leading e-Business solutions provider for the mid-market," claimed Robert Bernard, Whittman-Hart Chairman and CEO. "We have strengthened our capacity to integrate business strategy with marketing insight and Web-enabled technologies to give our UK clients a competitive advantage in the new economy." Fulcrum also has a US office in New York. ®
The Register breaking news

GreatXscape caps off-peak free Net access

GreatXscape subscribers are up in arms following the ISP's decision to cap the number of toll-free hours its users are allowed each month. Angry Net users claim GreatXscape has welched on its original agreement that gave them unlimited toll-free access to the Net during off-peak hours. As of 9 December, this will be capped to just 20 hours a month -- less than an hour a day. Those that overrun their allotted time will be charged for the excess. In a letter sent to subscribers GreatXscape's operations manager, Adrian Hughes, said: "In order for us to keep up with the demands from new customers whilst still ensuring that we can continue to provide the high levels of availability and access times to our existing customers, we are having to cap our offer to 20 hours of off-peak free calls per month. "Those users who spend more than 20 hours a month will be charged for the service at local call rates," he said. A number of GreatXscape users have already registered their dissatisfaction with capping and have promised to cancel their contracts with Telnet, the telco that provides the service. "I am total disgusted by this," one user told The Register today. "Like many of Telnet's customers I feel that I was falsely informed of the services their provide. "I have cancelled my service contract with Telnet this morning and am advising friends to do the same." Steve Stylianou, GreatXscape's financial director apologised to his customers but said the decision was made to help "grow the business in a controlled manner". He said he refund to anyone who wanted to transfer back to BT. A spokesman for Screaming.net -- which offers uncapped toll-free off-peak access to the Net -- said the ISP had no intention of imposing any time limits or additional costs onto its users. ® Related stories: Toll-free ISP in orbit around Planet Screaming.net takes legal cudgels against 'copycat' ISP Northern ISP to charge service abusers
The Register breaking news

Infobank sells cash-cow in MBO

Infobank International Holdings is offloading its software business with a loss of around £2 million in an MBO. The UK reseller today said it would sell Internet Software Corporation for £6.5 million in an internal takeover headed by the division's founder and MD Paul Ridley. Payment will be £3 million cash, £2 million in unsecured loan notes and a pre-completion dividend of £1.5 million. Infobank may also get an additional sum if Software Corporation or Ever 1129 – the buy-out vehicle - decide to float. In June 1997, Berkshire-based Infobank bought the Software Corporation division for £8.25 million. Software Corporation was never a central plank of Infobank's business but acted as a much needed cash-cow while the company needed an additional revenue stream. The company said the agreement, which is subject to shareholder approval at the company's AGM on 16 December, will make Infobank solely an ecommerce business. It plans to pour all its investment into InTrade - its business-to-business ecommerce service. "In order to concentrate all of the Group's resources on the development of InTrade, the board has carried out a programme during 1999 for the disposal of the non-core businesses," it said in a statement this morning. "The sale of Software Corporation substantially completes this process." Infobank's share price was up 147.5 pence at 1355 pence today. Infobank was founded in 1993 and floated on AIM in February 1997. ® Related items: Infobank seeks £9 million to develop e-commerce apps Infobank shareholders lack confidence
The Register breaking news

BBC demands URL from Canadian IT club

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is using heavy-handed bullyboy tactics to get a small Canadian computer club to hand over its domain.
The Register breaking news

Intel aims for mobo, processor FUD

Remember the Intel Overdrive processors? This was Chipzilla's attempt to flog user-upgradeable processors to provide a straightforward power boost to ageing systems. A year or so back, Intel chopped the whole range claiming that hardly anyone upgraded anyway, they just went out and bought an entire new system. Now Chipzilla is going one better and making it well-high impossible for anyone to upgrade anything by the simple expedient of making the whole process so fraught with uncertainty and doubt that only a masochist would try. UK reader Rob James writes complaining he bought a Socket 370 mobo because he, like the world+dog, spotted Slot 1 boarding the train for the gulag. Now he finds that although Coppermine P3 chips come in 370-pin form, that doesn't mean they'll actually work in just any old 370 mobo. Don't take it personally, Rob, it isn't just you that's been caught out. Like all mobo makers, Intel takes the view that over-engineering is anathema. If it can save a whopping 50 cents a board by cutting back on unnecessary components such as beefy Voltage Regulator Mechanisms (VRMs), rest assured it will do so. The only problem with this approach is that when new, faster, hungrier processors appear, your cut-down mobo may not have sufficient grunt to drive it and treat you to an impromptu, expensive (and brief) light and smoke show. The upmarket and expensive Xeon variants of the PIII come with plug in VRMs allowing a sensible upgrade path. At the desktop level, the things are soldered down to the board -- no user serviceable parts inside. Hardwired VRMs are VoltageID (VID) programmable so the processor can dial up the voltage it wants, but there are limits to each level of VRM spec beyond which they cannot go. When Chipzilla launched the first Katmai PIIIs at the beginning of the year, they came in 450 and 500MHz flavours. At the time, Intel's flagship BX mobo for desktops was the Seattle (SE440BX). This suffered from weedy VRM syndrome and could only support the 450MHz version. The Seattle 2 (SE440BX-2) then appeared, with all the missing bits soldered back on to bring it up to spec. Everything was hunky dory until Coppermine appeared on the scene. Although the new 0.18 micron chips use a lower nominal voltage (1.65V compared with Katmai's 2.05V), they require VRM spec 8.4 which Seattle 2 can't meet. Enter then the Seattle 2V (SE440BX-2V) which has an uprated VRM (and also chucks out one of the PCI slots for some weird reason). Details on this latest reincarnation of the Seattle are a little hard to come by as Intel doesn't list it anywhere on its Web site. The motherboard support forum is the only place it's mentioned. So now there are three different Seattles out there (four actually, as there is also an OEM-only variant, the Seattle 3, which is a Seattle 2 with an extra PCI slot), all of them with different maximum processor speeds. What chance does Joe and Josephine Public have of correctly identifying which Seattle they have and which processors are supported? The end result of all this is that Intel is effectively making the whole process of upgrading into a lottery in much the same way it has always tried to restrict overclocking. Once it was just overclockers that Chipzilla wanted to stomp on, now it would seem respectable folks who simply want to plug in a faster CPU are being dissuaded by the sheer mind-numbing complexity of it all. And this confusion is only for Slot 1 processors. Socket 370 processors have the added benefit of changed pinouts to ensure total incompatibility. There are two possible explanations here: 1. Intel doesn't give a stuff about its users 2. Intel doesn't have a clue what it's doing Which could it be? ®
The Register breaking news

Japanese mobile comms co. moots MP3-by-cellphone kit

Japanese cellphone flavour of the month NTT DoCoMo has begun touting a wireless digital music distribution system to consumer electronics companies. Details of the scheme are scarce -- Nikkei Electronics' report was basic to say the least -- but it appears the mobile phone company has developed a reference platform for receiving digital music beamed to the customer using the IMT-2000 protocol operating over Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) next-generation cellphone link. It's not hard to imagine a hi-fi system with a built-in cellular transceiver capable of pulling down Offspring's latest single via a WAP-enabled Web site. W-CDMA is capable of data throughput speeds of around 110kbps, not unfeasible for grabbing MP3 tracks on a regular basis. Last week, Japanese CE manufacturer Kenwood announced a hi-fi system with a built-in modem for Web access and a hook into a satellite receiver to perform the actual downloads. Other CE companies, including Sony, are looking at broadband satellite access, but DoCoMo's alternative certainly seems the neater of the two. Not only is it a two-way link (which is why Kenwood has the modem), but it doesn't require the extra satellite reception hardware. Incidentally, it also ties in nicely with cellphone developer Ericcson's MP3 player module, which plugs into your phone and communicates with a pair of headphones using a Bluetooth link. DoCoMo said vendors have until the end of the year to decide whether they want in on the project. ®
The Register breaking news

Rambus RIMMs ready for receptive Intel slots

Memory manufacturers from Bangkok to Timbuktu are now readying Rambus RIMMs in preparation for the expected spate of Intel motherboards that will support them. Over the last two weeks, dealers and distributors worldwide have complained that although the i820 Vancouver board, as well as the i840 Outrigger board are supposed to be ready, it has been impossible to find them in the channel. The OR840 now seems to be shipping in some quantities, although VC820s are still hard to source. However, sources close to Intel say that the mobos are now nearly ready to ship in volume, and it is likely they will see the light of day as the chip giant makes its first bout of price cuts on Coppermine parts on the 12th of December next. Memory manufacturers have begun to ramp up their RIMM production to match this date. If anything were to go wrong with the i820 Rambus motherboard at this stage, all hell would break loose, one module manufacturer told The Register towards the end of next week. The manufacturer, who wished to stay anonymous, said that the delays had, at least, had the effect of shaking the Rambus RIMM market up. A delay in investing in the expensive Rambus test equipment meant that some manufacturers had now given up the ghost on the future shape of memory technology. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel PSN no threat to personal freedom

So Intel faces yet another threatened blockade on those pesky Pentium IIIs with their evil Processor Serial Numbers, does it? Give us strength. The STOA (scientific and technological options assessment) committee is presenting its findings to the European Parliament, in connection with the development of surveillance technology and the risk of abuse of economic information. According to the report, there is a prima facie case that the PSN breaches European protocols on security and recommends close examination of the role of both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National Security Agency (NSA), in relation to the Pentium III's embedded security number. How many times do we have to repeat that PSN is a number given to a piece of hardware, not a person. There is no way the CIA, the FSB (what used to be called the KGB) or even Intel's Thought Police can identify who is using a PC from its PSN. Look, if PSN could be used to keep tabs on dissidents and scumsucking journalists, why the Hell doesn't the Chinese government want anybody to have a PIII? Sounds like just the kind of tool for a paranoid administration to encourage. Back in May we challenged the personal freedom geeks to locate the P3 with the serial number 00000672000226FA025D71BF and tell us who was using it and what they were looking at. That machine is still connected to the Web for an average of eight hours a day and not a single person, paramilitary organisation or alien death squad from the planet Tharg has got in touch. Oh, and one question for the EU before it announces a ban on Mad Chip Disease - what is it planning to do about the millions of P3s already shipped? It sure as Hell can't locate them by PSN. ® Think it's time to beat up on The Sherriff again, or want to hand him a bouquet of pretty flowers? Either way, email him here. He feels strongly on this one... See also Intel faces possible Euro block on Pentium IIIs China says no to Pentium IIIs, chip IDs and Win 98
The Register breaking news

GreatXscape changes its mind about capping Net access

Chaos has broken out at GreatXscape after the ISP admitted it "cocked-up" today when it announced it was set to cap the amount of free time users could spend online. The letter -- which was sent to all GreatXscape subscribers -- should only have been sent to those people who are about to join the service. It informed them that as of 9 December they would only be entitled to 20 hours of toll-free off-peak access a month instead of unlimited toll-free off-peak access. Apparently, the capping only applies to those people who join GreatXscape after 9 December. Those who are using the service are unaffected by the change in terms and conditions. The U-turn has come too late for many people who've already contacted GreatXscape to cancel their contracts. A red-faced senior executive at GreatXscape -- who earlier today confirmed the story -- has subsequently said it was all a mistake, blaming it instead on an internal error within the company. "There was a cock-up with our database," admitted financial director Steve Stylianou. Not everyone is swallowing Stylianou's buck-passing excuse. There's much speculation that GreatXscape's hastily conceived U-turn was the result of a tirade of abuse from hacked off GreatXscapers looking for a quick exit from the ISP. After today's little fiasco, who can blame them? ® Related story: GreatXscape caps off-peak free Net access
The Register breaking news

Cyberstalking gets scary

Police in the US are gearing themselves up for an increase in serious cyberstalking. A new report has identified a new type of obsessive who relies on the anonymity of the Internet to wreak havoc on victims' lives. Perhaps naively, this reporter did not view cyberstalking as that serious a crime. But with the point conceded that anonymity can be found through the Internet, its abuse is limited only by an individual's sick imagination.
The Register breaking news

3dfx works its Voodoo on Mac users

3dfx continued its pursuit of non-Windows gamers by touting its latest Voodoo 3-based card, a PCI version of the Voodoo 3 3000, directly at Mac users. Well, sort of. 3dfx's Voodoo 3 2000 PCI has proved one of the company's more popular products, irrespective of platform, despite operating aat a lower clock speed than 3dfx's AGP boards.
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Intel confirms 12 December price cuts

As reported here earlier, Intel has now confirmed to its distributor and dealer channel that it will cut prices on the 12th of December next. That will also be the date that its boxed Rambus motherboard, the VC820, becomes widely available for sale. In a letter to large dealers, dated yesterday, Intel said: "On December 12, 1999, Intel will be reducing prices on boxed Pentium® III processors sold through authorised distributors. With this price move, Intel is delivering higher performance and better value in the performance desktop market segment. "We will have more information available the week of the price move. Please contact your authorized Intel distributor after December 12, 1999 for specific pricing and availability details" Another letter to dealers last week said that the VC820 will become available in mid-December. ® See also But a PC for Christmas and Yule be sorry Intel will cut Coppermine prices sooner than expected Intel to intro Coppermine 750MHz Pentium III January 10th
The Register breaking news

Oftel wimps out, again

Following an EU report earlier this week that slammed BT for overcharging on leased lines, Oftel has shown itself as the toothless watchdog yet again with the announcement of another new review into the situation. The EU's recommended monthly ceilings for leased lines, which had been heartily welcomed by UK operators, made only a footnote in Oftel's report. Oftel said it would "consider the implications" of the EU's stance. An Oftel representative said the watchdog did not agree with "aspects" of the EU's estimation, although refused to mention what any of these aspects were. Despite BT's prices coming out three times higher than the recommended maximum, the report claimed BT was "broadly in line (or in some cases slightly cheaper) than other European countries". The watchdog acknowledged that people will not be happy with the report. Perhaps dismayed, frustrated and incensed would be more accurate. Earlier in the week, major telcos including Cable & Wireless expressed their pleasure at the EU report and hoped the market would move in the same way as switched interconnections had several years earlier. But in a double blow to the telecommunications industry, Oftel not only largely disregarded the EU's findings but also announced that the new review would not be finished until October next year and will only review "the regulations concerning leased lines" and not leased line prices. If Oftel continues to show such unrealistic arrogance in the face of a fast-moving and important market, the only friend the "independent watchdog" will have left is BT. ® See related items: Even the EU thinks BT is a rip-off Unmetered access gets Oftel's backing
The Register breaking news

MS quietly dumps Windows OpenGL support

Fahrenheit, the joint Microsoft-SGI project "to define the future of graphics" has crashed in ruins, with Microsoft to all intents and purposes pulling its support for OpenGL and throwing its weight behind Direct3D. The Register has obtained correspondence from the Win2k beta tests which makes this abundantly clear, and last week SGI itself drew a final line under its involvement with Fahrenheit. In a terse note posted on the company site, SGI said: "We have decided to reduce our involvement in all aspects of the Fahrenheit project, in line with our decision to no longer make the IRIX version of Fahrenheit available." Fahrenheit had originally been intended to create a suite of APIs for DirectX on Windows and IRIX and to incorporate OpenGL. As the two companies said at the time (December 1997): "Fahrenheit low-level API will become the primary graphics API for both consumer and professional applications on Windows. The Fahrenheit low-level API will evolve from Direct3D, DirectDraw and OpenGL, while providing full backward compatibility with applications and hardware device drivers written for Microsoft Direct3D and functional compatibility with Silicon Graphics' OpenGL technologies." This is quite clearly no longer true. OpenGL support was pulled from the Win2k beta some months back, prompting a series of problem reports from testers who found OpenGL apps were running slow and/or not working properly. The responses from Microsoft staff do not entirely make the actual position clear. One suggests that drivers for a particularly graphics card were pulled because of source code issues, while another says that "we are not supporting OGL until Direct3D is 100 per cent." Which of course suggests that Microsoft support for OpenGL would crack on ahead once Win2k went gold. A later response clarifies matters further: "No driver that ships with Win2k will contain OGL support... vendors will have to supply their own post ship." All of this however fails to make clear the extent of Microsoft's abandonment of OpenGL and the Fahrenheit project with SGI. But in an email sent two weeks ago, Microsoft's Philip Taylor (senior in MS Direct3D) states the position succinctly: "Do not let your personal preference for the Quake family of games dominate your understanding of this market. OGL is not strategic for us... as the last three years of history in the multimedia space have shown... SoftImage has about 20,000 seats total. And I just about had them convinced to do a port to D3D before we sold them. Outside of the Quake family of games there are, maybe, two hands-full of apps that use OGL. Somewhere between 5-10 per cent. D3D has overwhelming support in terms of titles, yet we have a serious lack of drivers. D3D drivers are strategic for us." And Fahrenheit seems to have been a crock, as Taylor tacitly admits: "Two years ago we had a working OGL wrapper on top of D3D. we missed a window of opportunity to provide this to the IHV community so they would concentrate on D3D drivers. Six months ago we missed an opportunity to make something out of the mess that is called Fahrenheit and turn Fahrenheit low-level into a driver layer to host both the D3D and the OGL runtime on... If we could come up with a plan to remove this bottleneck and get to one graphics driver that would be a huge win." Anyone interested in pursuing the dream of OpenGL as a standard on Windows would do well to compare that last paragraph with SGI's sign-off on Fahrenheit: "Any questions concerning the current status of, or future plans for Fahrenheit should be directed to Microsoft." Fahrenheit clearly does not have much of a home at Microsoft. As Taylor puts it, the company is concentrating on "one graphics driver" (the previous policy had envisaged Direct3D for games, with the addition of OpenGL for high-end systems), and rather than pushing OpenGL as a standard, Microsoft will just let the graphics vendors produce drivers independently. This is a spectacular turnaround from the initial Fahrenheit announcement, and quite a reversal from SGI's position of a year ago, when it trumpeted Fahrenheit's importance alongside the announcement of its NT-based Visual Workstations. But the Microsoft alliance has clearly not been to the company's advantage, and in announcing its ending of support for IRIX Fahrenheit and a 'reduction' (you can't get much more reduced than saying don't hassle us, call Microsoft instead) in its overall involvement in the project, SGI indicated that the rift between the two companies may have been Linux-related. Said SGI: "The future key OS platforms for SGI will be IRIX and Linux and to a lesser extent, [our italics] Windows... While it makes sense to have Fahrenheit on all of SGI's strategic operating systems, it makes little sense to have Fahrenheit on only IRIX and Windows. After much deliberation, it was jointly decided that Fahrenheit could best continue as a Windows OS-only product; thus Microsoft will continue the Fahrenheit development process." The other obvious alternative would of course have been for Microsoft to co-operate in a Fahrenheit implementation for Linux, so the end result is hardly surprising. ®
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CHS quizzed over money laundering claims

Distributor CHS Electronics is under investigation in the US for money laundering. Hidden deep in the chasms of a financial document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on 22 November, the company revealed one of its divisions was under scrutiny in the US for allegedly breaking export laws. According to the CHS submission for the quarter ended 30 September 1999: "The Department of Commerce has commenced an investigation of the export activities of one of the company's subsidiaries and its management." This was "in relation to alleged violations of certain Federal exportation laws and other related violations including money laundering," the company said. The Department of Commerce was said to have offered to settle the matter if CHS agreed to pay a fine of $25 million as well as pleading guilty to the charges. The Department added that the costs for CHS could be much higher if the company was found guilty of having violated the export laws. CHS, based in Florida and with origins in South America, said it intended to vigorously defend itself against the claims. It was not noted which division was affected, or if it was one of the companies CHS still owned or had given back to its original owners. The distributor has been rapidly shedding divisions over the past few months to cut its debts. It was also kept a mystery as to what the "laundering" involved.® Related items: You can find full details of the CHS results on the CHS Web site Receivers called in at CHS Electronics UK CHS losses unveiled in full CHS Latin America sold for cash Computacenter buys Metrologie