1st > December > 1999 Archive
Nine stories about the Millennium Bug
More Millennium madness Chinese government disputes Register story Y2K bug smokes Fire station like a kipper Millennial round-up: bug fever begins Bug busting book to save UK US, Russian militaries join hands for Y2K horror Y2K bug eats Japanese PM's backbone Y2K bug eats London's electricity Y2KY jelly eases passage of date change bug ®
The global guide to Y2K survival
December is upon us and our thoughts turn to all things seasonal - sherry, tarts, balls, stuffing, turkey and all the trimmings. But let's not forget that if you're planning to stock up on a few essentials in case you get bitten by our old friend the Y2k bug - the millennium ebola, or Mebola to his closest friends - time is running out. So, if you need inspiration, here's The Register's round up of how preparations are going in different parts of the world.
Bill Clinton offers on-line shopping tips
City Connections MD pulls our leg
The MD of new ISP City Connections appears to have an identity crisis. Operations manager Tim Smith sent out an email yesterday announcing that ISP City Connections had launched its service on Monday. So The Register called Smith to discuss the details of the service. "Hi, can I speak to Tim Smith, please. "Speaking." "Great, my name is... hang on a minute, aren't you Tom Defty?" Silence. Defty is the MD of City Connections. "Tim Smith is my other name..." "Tim Smith's your other name?" Defty then deftly passes off his identity-swapping action as a game he likes to play with the press. "So, can I speak to Tim Smith please?" "No, he doesn't take calls." "Doesn't take calls?" Defty assured The Register that Smith does exist and that he is not some fictional character devised to make it appear that City Connections is an even bigger operation than it really is... ® Related Stories Confidential information leaked on Net Net users leap on leaked ISP freefone number
815 comes alive with PC-133 support
A chart on a French hardware site has confirmed our report in early November that Intel is adapting its 815 (Solano) chipset to give better support for AGP. The chart, which can be found here, shows that the 815 chipset is an evolution of Intel's current i810e chipset, as we reported. According to the site, Intel will introduce the modified 815 chipset in the second quarter of next year, although we have good reason to believe that it will come earlier than that. It will support PC-133 synchronous DRAM. Intel has had mixed success selling the i810e. Many PC manufacturers have complained because although in some respects it is a good chipset, machines built to its spec have indifferent graphics performance. The 815, as we reported, will have the ability to support an AGP slot, unlike the i810e, meaning that PC companies can add AGP compliant boards to their machines. ® See also Intel's Solano, Amador only a bubble'n'squeak away Intel likely to bring Solano chipset forward
Is this the Future? PwC's Team of Champions
The secret, if you're PricewaterhouseCoopers*, it's epileptic video, a techno soundtrack and a riveting combo of talent on the stage. Of course, getting Sun and Microsoft to share a podium without bloodshed is probably an achievement worth trumpeting, even if their seats were separated by the head of ad agency BAM/SSB. The combined talents of the four outfits, being marketed under the name Determinet (one hopes the ad agency doesn't have to take creative blame for that one...) form a services offering which has every mother-droid statement covered. Want the "e" in your e-business? Got it. Want compelling, creative site design? Got that, too. Ditto strategy, architecture, enterprise app integration and security. Determinet is being kicked off in Australia -- only the unkind would say it's being test marketed somewhere where failures can be buried in unmarked graves -- and PWC is adamant that its plans stretch to an early 2000 launch in the other territories slated for Determinet: Japan, Europe and the US. For those who don't much care about intellectual property rights, Determinet has an offer too good to refuse: pay them to raid their object library to build your Website, then hand over ownership of any new objects you paid for in your site, so that the suits can on-sell the objects to the next sucker. A how-to in outsourcing: how to outsource your R&D investment to your customers. If you're really lucky, maybe the ad agency partner in your territory will even prep your executive presentation for you. Then you too can launch your company's e-biz strategy accompanied to the "Eye of the Tiger" intro played on a Hammond organ... ® * This kindofconcatenationisjustabsolutelystupid -- Ed. But PcW's logo is even dafter. It looks like the writing of a Register hack after 12 pints of lager.
Be preps BeOS-in-Windows ‘Trojan Horse’
Alternative OS developer Be is preparing a version of its BeOS that operates as an application under Windows - described by the company's CEO, Jean-Louis Gassee as "the ultimate Trojan Horse".
Apple stock passes $100 milestone
Apple's ever-increasing share price nudged past the $100 mark in trading yesterday, hitting a peak of $103.75 before closing the day down at $97.375. Apple's stock has been edging upwards from around the $40 mark since April, and despite a few dips has maintained steady growth over that period. Analysts were quick to upgrade their estimations of Apple's stock performance on the news. J.P. Morgan raised Apple's price target to $115, and again raised the 'buy' flag over the stock, according to MacWeek, while Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette analyst Kevin McCarthy upped his 12-month target to $140 from $95. Of course, that level of growth will depend on solid sales during the current, Christmas quarter. Other analysts cited by MacWeek reckon that's exactly what Apple will get, despite market researcher PC Data's discovery that, for October at least, the growth in PC sales through US retail, mail order and online channels was lower than it has been in the past. Looking ahead, however, the prospects look better for Apple, not only as its chip supply problems are set to be sorted out by the end of 1999, but with new PowerBooks due to be announced early 2000, possible an Apple-branded Palm-based handheld and, in particular, the company's move into retail, the company's profile in the consumer market should grow significantly with (hopefully) a commensurate increase in sales. ®
Hacks at Register demand Yule freebies
One of our regular readers has brought to our attention that some Web journalists, at least, are being showered with Yuletide presents. We regret to say we are not, with one noticeable exception, which we will return to later. Janelle Brown at Salon, writes that she is the most popular girl in Cyberspace, and reports that "every other technology journalist" arrives at work to find loads of pressies waiting to be opened. Would that were the case here at Vulture Central. Thus far, we have received only one gift and we do not believe it was for Christmas. An anonymous donor from The Big Q sent us 18 cans of UK beer London Pride, presumably because he'd seen our tariff (see right). No chips, no motherboards, no PCs, no iBook, no... nothing... Take, for example, chip design company Cadence. Last week, it invited a Register hack to a whisky tasting in Edinburgh, sent us the airline tickets, then at the last minute withdrew the invite. It didn't even send us a bottle of whisky as an apology but made us return the tickets at our own expense... In fact, all you PR bunnies out there, we're not getting enough presents or invites to the usual whirl of Christmas parties out there in IT land. Our understanding is that there is a grand total of four parties tonight. And we haven't been invited to any of them.... All we seem to get is press releases, which in reality should be emailed here. Is there any justice in Cyberspace, we ask? ®
Information Highway cripples roads
Kent County Council is calling for more powers to control roadworks, following chaos in the county caused by a Fujitsu-"managed" telephony cable-laying programme.
Work stopped at Microworkz?
UpdatedWhat's going on at controversial budget PC supplier Microworkz? Earlier this month, company founder Rick Latman told PC World magazine that Microworkz had become just a software company, but now it appears that it's not even that.
Cyber anarchists fail to rock City
The City of London escaped a major cyber attack yesterday despite fears that the financial centre was the focus of an orchestrated assault by disaffected hackers. While anarchists demonstrating against capitalism trashed Seattle and parts of London, a similar onslaught against computer systems failed to materialise.
Silence reigns as MS mediation talks begin
Microsoft antitrust case mediator Judge Richard Posner held an exploratory meeting in Chicago yesterday, but although the intended 'secret' location was tracked by the press, nothing about the proceedings seems to have leaked out yet. This apparent absence of spin could in itself be a good sign for a settlement. Posner has been recruited in order to explore the possibility of a negotiated settlement between Microsoft, the DoJ and the states before trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson moves on to the next phase of the case (when the baseball bat will come out). Considering that the public positions of the two sides are virtually diametrically opposite, he's quite possibly on a hiding to nothing here, but it's just possible Microsoft may now be ready to deal. Previous scenes in the case have tended to be punctuated by a source close to Microsoft's legal team (company counsel Bill Neukom, inevitably) spinning furiously, the objective being to try to win the propaganda war, even if the legal one is going south. We can't make a firm judgement on the basis of just the one two hour exploratory meeting, but if silence continues to reign this can probably be viewed as a signal that Microsoft thinks it can get something constructive out of the talks. That still leaves a hill to climb, as what Microsoft and the opposition think are likely to be two separate things. The DoJ has been burned by talks with Microsoft once, over the consent decree. Then, Microsoft contrived an agreed wording that really did give it carte blanche to integrate anything it cared to into the OS. The DoJ won't want to get swindled like this again, but Microsoft being Microsoft, the methodology employed then - attorneys at the conference table, Bill Gates screaming on the phone to over-rule them - is likely to show up once more. ®
Corel chief denies Red Hat takeover bid
Corel chairman Mike Cowpland has poured cold water on the rumour that his company was being stalked by Red Hat, adding somewhat improbably that it was Corel's new product announcements that sent its stock soaring, rather than Red Hat's alleged interest. Instead, Cowpland expects increased revenue to be feeding through soon, and is making noises about Corel buying-in new technology, rather than being acquired itself. In his view, it appears, Corel is now a stable financial proposition with prospects, and doesn't need to get together with anybody else. This might however turn out to be a little bit premature. Corel does now seem to be in a position to benefit from the Linux boom, but the company's had a rocky road to follow over the past few years, and has had to undergo a deal of refocusing. The situation now might look a lot better than it was, but it's early days to be shouting 'renaissance' too loudly. ®
DRAM spot price slide continues
The 30-day average spot price for 64Mb DRAM has fallen for the fourth week in a row. So too has the price for PC100 64MB DIMMs, taking the price of such parts to the point they'd reach just before September's Taiwan earthquake, according to market researcher ICIS-LOR, cited by Japan's Nikkei newswire. Between 14 October and 12 November, 64Mb 8x8 PC100 DRAM prices for large customers hit $10.47 in North America, $11.09 in Europe and $10.14 in Asia. For 64MB DIMMs, the prices reached $83.59 in North America (down 7.19 per cent), $86.52 in Europe (down 9.53 per cent) and $85.61 in Asia (down 8.99 per cent). ®
WAP demand to hit warp ten claim supporters
Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) supporters Nokia and Phone.com are claiming that demand for WAP, a technology that allows mobile phones to access the Web, is set to skyrocket. Jorma Ollila, cellphone vendor Nokia's chairman and chief executive, said this week the company had shipped over 100,000 WAP phones since the end of September -- a level of demand, Matti Alahuhta, the executive in charge of Nokia's mobile phone production, described as "unprecedented". Ollila said Nokia was pushing hard to ramp up prduction to meed that demand. Certainly, the company is having a job getting sufficient volumes of its Nokia 7110 WAP-enabled handset out there. Even Orange, the UK mobile phone network, which last week opened its Web-based data service, was unable to provide 7110s at the launch, as promised. Meanwhile, Phone.com, formerly Unwired Planet, this week predicted that by 2003, more than half of the world's one billion mobile phone subscribers will be connected to the Internet via WAP-enabled devices. "The millions [WAP phone sales] will come in the first and second quarter of next year," Malcolm Bird, the company's MD and European VP told Reuters. Possibly, but since WAP uses a derivative of XML, called WML, to format Web pages for display on a WAP-enabled device's screen, requiring sites to run WAP sites in parallel with their existing HTML-based pages, it will be interesting to see whether those millions of phones will actually have much Internet content to display. ®
Microsoft officially joins Bluetooth alliance
Microsoft has finally come out as a full-fledged supporter of Bluetooth, and as a top table member of an expanded Bluetooth steering group. Four new companies in all, Microsoft, 3Com, Lucent and Motorola, have been added to the original group of five founders, forming a new "Bluetooth Promoter Group." An announcement that Microsoft would join the wireless connectivity group has been expected for some time now, particularly as Microsoft accidentally tipped its hand by advertising for Bluetooth developers last month. (see story) Microsoft had previously been critical of the way the 1,200-strong Bluetooth SIG had been managed by the five founders, Intel, IBM, Ericsson, Nokia and Toshiba, but the company's new status among the leaders will have overcome this and any residual Not Invented Here prejudices. But although Microsoft's presence is a useful propaganda coup for Bluetooth, 3Com, Lucent and Motorola may turn out to be more important, from the point of view of added heft in telecommunications and networking. Bluetooth is intended as a cheap, ubiquitous connectivity system for all classes of electronic device, but early roadmaps called only for its appearance in headphones and as an IRDA-style cable replacement. Connectivity with, for example, home and office network systems was seen as being further down the road, and was dealt with a lot more vaguely, but the latest recruits can be expected to accelerate this somewhat. But overall, the new Promoter Group is going to have to get its act together. Bluetooth headsets and handsets have started to appear in demo form, but won't be shipping until next year, while despite some recent radical surgery the validation process won't be generating approved, interoperable products until the middle of next year. That probably constitutes at least six months slippage on the product roadmap - presumably the Bluetooth SIG will be trying to avoid having Microsoft bringing its own special, er, talents in this area to the party. ®
Online porn to be pulled off the Web?
A Canadian Internet company wants to clear the Web of porn by creating a new regulated network that prevents children and others from accidentally stumbling across adult material. If successful, it would ghettoise porn into a sealed-off area accessible only by those who actively chose to interact with the adult material. It's understood to be one of the first examples of the Web-based porn industry trying to keep its own house in order and protect the wider audience on the Net. Developed by Vancouver-based Nescom Systems Corporation, Adult Cyberspace (ACS) is a closed network of porn sites that can only be accessed by those who have the ACS browser. It is this which ACS claims should help make it difficult for children to enter this "adult-only" area. Although Nescom concedes no amount of software can replace proper parental supervision, its claims the ACS browser has a built-in 'childlock' that helps prevent kids from accessing the network or temporary Internet files. The software can also permanently disable PCs from being able to download the ACS software or gain access to the network. Jackie Barnard, ACS' VP marketing, said: "It was obvious that with the ongoing child pornography problem, and legal cases against Internet Service Providers, along with the potential for Internet censorship, the online adult industry had to come up with a solution." "In essence we've created a self-contained, self-regulated community that celebrates sex, and enfranchises adults to enjoy top-notch adult-related Web sites. At the same time it makes it virtually impossible for minors to join in and excludes illegal materials." Around 160 Webmasters representing thousands of porn sites have already signed up to ACS although a spokeswoman said they had not ceased publishing their material on the Web. Kelly Boje, a spokeswoman for ACS, admitted that convincing Web masters to abandon the Web in favour of a walled sub-network would not be easy, but that was Nescom's intention. While this flaw could ultimately undermine the credibility of the whole scheme, Ruth Dixon of the Internet Watch Foundation said that anything that meant that users were less likely to stumble across porn was a good thing. But she questioned whether the practicalities of such a move would stand in the way of Nescom's vision of cleaning up the Net by creating a separate adult network. ® Related Stories A selection of the oh, so many porn stories we've written Where The Law stands on Net porn Singer Gary Glitter jailed for kiddie Net porn Bishops bash Web pornmongers Intel porno squatters want $400k -- bare faced cheek The naked civil servant -- online Down Under Hardcore porn ads sneak past Excite filters And there's plenty more where that little lot came from, oh yes!
Siemens German digital signature chip hacked
Hackers have succeeded in cracking the Siemens digital signature card used in cashless payment systems and access control systems across the country. The German Digital Signature was ratified by the European Union only a few days ago, after intense lobbying for a secure system for transactions. The serious breach of security means that anyone using the so-called Geldkarte system stands the risk of having money transferred without their knowing it. A dissasembled dump of the SLC44/66 chipcard CPU in TeX, along with two pages of German text explaining the design has been available on bulletin boards for some time, according to the source. The dump is currently being re-engineered and commented, according to a source, and the knowledge gained has already been used to get hold of Telesec private keys. ®
Intel, now Dell acknowledge Coppermine bug
UpdatedChip giant Intel has confirmed that it found a bug (erratum) in its .18 micron Coppermine processor which has caused it to tighten up its quality control procedures. And now Dell US has confirmed that it has put a temporary stop on shipping its GX110 PC range because of the problem. Some Coppermine processors intermittently seize up between power-up and power-down cycles. The problem applies only to some Coppermine processors. The rumours, which we have now confirmed, were posted on JC's pages, yesterday. An Intel representative confirmed there is a problem with Coppermine processors and said the bug will be fixed in the next stepping (Intel calls chip bugs errata.) In the meantime, it is tightening up its quality control checks. He said: "An intermittent issue which resulted in failure to start the boot process was reported in lab environments on a very small number of "Coppermine" (0.18-micron) Pentium® III processor-based systems. The issue does not result in any data corruption." Intel, he says, has discovered the root cause of the problem and has tightened its testing procedures to minimise problems. That probably means a further quality control test at fabrication time. He added: "This issue is considered as errata and will be eliminated in a future stepping. The Coppermine ramp is healthy. OEMs have been shipping 0.18-micron Pentium® III processor based systems in all frequencies." The representative from Dell US said that it had initiated the stop ship notice just before the Thanksgiving holiday last week. The actual stop ship too effect at the beginning of this week. "This is a dual due diligence move," she said. "We're implementing a screen for the erratum. To date, we haven't experienced any problems and we're just implementing it as an extra precaution." She said that the Optiplex GX110 was sold to corporate and institutional customers, who expected quality machines that worked every time, which is why Dell had taken the precaution. The Dell move must mean that other PC manufacturers are either already taking steps to screen chips and products, or are about to. The GX110 does not ship with Rambus memory, the representative said. Dell is still testing and qualifying this type of memory for use with its flagship corporate product. The errata list on Coppermines is already rather long for a new family of processors. You can download the latest list from Intel's site as a PDF document to check it out for yourself. The latest erratumnotbug does not yet seem to have found its way onto the list. The news could not have come at a worse time for Intel, already beleagured by other problems and stiff competition from AMD. It could also go some way towards explaining why Coppermine chips have been as scarce as hen's teeth. ® See also Intel moves to re-assure industry on bugs Why Intel Coppermines are like hen's teeth
Gateway to start shipping Athlon PCs this week
We have now received information from highly placed sources within Gateway confirming that it will sell PCs using AMD's Athlon processors. According to our source, the first sample machines using the Athlon processor will start shipping during the course of this week. That represents a major victory for AMD in its current battle with Intel over market share. At the beginning of this week, AMD announced that it was shipping a 750MHz processor. Intel had persuaded Gateway earlier this year to be an all-Intel company by offering it a rather handsome incentive in the shape of a $50 rebate on all of the processors it bought. But, recently, Intel pulled the rug on that deal, meaning there was no reason for Gateway not to use AMD processors any more. ® See also AMD share price soars, Intel's relaxes