17th > December > 1999 Archive
CHS gets shot of subsidiaries
CHS Electronics has shed more of its European, US and Latin American subsidiaries. The European deal, which excludes CHS Germany, CHS Austria and Frank & Walter, will give back control of operations to a group of senior managers in Europe under the company name "Newco". The transaction, announced on Tuesday, is believed to be worth around $300 million. Under the terms of the agreement, CHS will get $11 million cash, or will escape paying back the same amount of debt. Claudio Osorio, CHS chairman and CEO, said the deal would eliminate almost all of the company's long term debt. He added that CHS would be starting a new company called CHS.com to ship product online in Europe from its core distribution centre in The Netherlands. It also said it would continue The PC Way, its PC assembly joint venture with Trigem Computer. Mark Keough, CHS COO and leader of the MBO, was optimistic: "With the capital issues resolved, we look forward to refocusing our efforts of customers and suppliers. "We expect the new company to be among the top three distributors in Europe," he said Tuesday. The next day CHS revealed it had also completed the sale of certain Latin American subsidiaries. Start-up company DistributionTech.com, led by former CHS management, agreed to pay $23.5 million for the companies, as well as taking on debts from other CHS Latin American subsidiaries. CHS will have a 49 per cent stake in DistributionTech.com. The buy out was headed by Gonzalo DeVelasco, ex-MD of CHS Mexico, and Ray Bautista, former CFO of CHS Latin America. The subsidiaries included in the new company are in Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Uruguay and Miami. ® Related stories: CHS quizzed over money laundering claims CHS losses revealed in full
Red Hat to buy Be?
Even as rumours that Red Hat is about to buy Corel are moving back onto the Linux watcher's radar screen, so has a further item of tittle-tattle that the best-known open source operation is about to buy alternative OS vendor Be. Indeed, Be's shares rose 49 per cent yesterday, to $37.56, apparently on the back of the rumour. Neither company has yet commented on the claim. One analyst, Charles Payne of Wall Street Strategies, cited by Bloomberg, said Be's software would add applications that Red Hat's software doesn't offer -- neglecting to realise that the two operating systems, while structurally similar (kernel, shell, graphical UI) aren't compatible, and BeOS is no less proprietary than Windows 2000. That said, those very structural similarities would make BeOS a candidate for a move into the open source world. Strip out the existing (and handily Unix-like) kernel and slide in a modified version of the Linux kernel with BeOS' rather fine journaling file system tacked-on, and you've got a version of Linux with an series of media-oriented API and a top-notch GUI light years ahead of KDE and Gnome. Sounds an interesting plan, but the Linuxisation of BeOS would be tantamount to an admission of failure on Be's part, a confession that it can't after all compete with the open source OS. Be itself is doing reasonably well an OS vendor, with a small but solid band of supporters, and is pushing hard to make it big in the information appliance market. From that perspective, it doesn't need Red Hat. So unless Jean-Louis Gassee wants to cash in his shares or swap them for more valuable Red Hat ones (assuming some kind of share-for-shares acquisition), he's little reason to shake hands with Bob Young, Matthew Szulik and co. Red Hat, on the other hand, needs Be rather more. Getting Be's technology and putting it into the Linux domain would give its distribution a major lead in functionality. But such is the open source philosophy, Red Hat would have hand it over to everyone else, and any advantage would soon be lost. Of course, Red Hat could offer the Be shell, GUI and APIs separately under its own, non-GNU licence, but that would surely nuke the company's open source credibility. The alternative is to offer BeOS as an operating system in its own right, but again that presents a conflict with Red Hat's open source roots and would surely lead to a blurring of Red Hat's message: is it a Linux company or not? All of which would suggest the details of the rumour are incorrect, and that the two companies have probably been talking about Red Hat taking investing in Be, licensing some of its technology or both. The latter course would involve a shift by Be towards the open source model, but Gassee's a shrewd enough guy to see the advantages of moving that way without going the whole hog -- just as his alma mater, Apple, has done with its Darwin open source project. One thing does seem clear: the guys at Be and Red Hat have probably been chatting. Whether anything comes of their conversation -- apart from a small lift to Be's share price -- we'll just have to wait and see. ® Related Stories Be to bundle Opera Web browser Be preps BeOS-in-Windows 'Trojan Horse' Be's Stinger OS selected for Nat Semi WebPad
Cisco backs CallNet0800 expansion
World CallNet, owner of hard-pressed toll-free operator CallNet 0800, has secured a huge boost from Cisco's money arm. Cisco Capital is using lease finance to fund the expansion of World CallNet's network infrastructure. At the same time, it has brought on board Siemens Network Systems, one of Britain's biggest network resellers, to design and plan future network upgrades, based of course around Cisco equipment. This is great news for CallNet 0800 subscribers. World CallNet had a great idea , so great that it got swamped by wannabe customers. It lacked the wherewithal to handle this on its own. With backing from the big boys, CallNet 0800 should fly. But not immediately. It's going to take a few days to ramp up on the router front. CallNet 0800 says it will double its existing UK capacity by adding more Cisco ports "prior to the New Year". The company anticipates "continued growth of its CallNet0800 service, which following its launch on the 1st November 1999 achieved 105,000 registrations by 3rd December 1999". World CallNet also operates M@ilTV. ® Related stories CallNet to re-open registration site So how good is CallNet 0800? TV brings email to the masses
Tories shortlist techie for London mayor
An IT consultant has made the shortlist to be the Tory candidate for London mayor. Andrew Boff, MD of Shoreditch-based consultancy Creative Juices, has become the main challenger to ex-philanderer Steven Norris. Boff's experience in the heady world of politics includes a spell leading Hillingdon Council. He told The Register that his policies would favour privatising the London Underground. And his IT ideas for the city include starting a Web site detailing all road works and street repairs. Boff also said he planned to put every mayoral document of a non-personal nature on the Web – including his own bank account details. Which should give us all a chance to see how lucrative the consultancy field really is. "My government will be the most open in the world," he promised. Regarding his battle with high-profile Norris, Boff said: "We can get into the celebrity cult thing, or get into the skills the candidates have. I think Londoners want someone whose feet are firmly on the ground." But he's no stranger to infamy and power struggles. Boff, 41, is a nephew of Roy "Little Legs" Smith – who at 4 foot 2 inches claimed to be the smallest member of the infamous Kray Twins' gang. "He was my favourite uncle, not least because he was the first one I was taller than," Boff told today's Times newspaper. Boff came third the last time the Tories voted for their candidate – beaten by Jeffrey Archer and Norris. The odds of him becoming mayor are quoted 100-1. His consultancy, Creative Juices was started three months ago. Boff has previously worked for Virgin and computer games company GT Interactive. Voting to see whether the Conservatives will choose a techie to lead them into the mayoral contest closes on 17 January. ®
Santa Vulture wishes you all a Happy Christmas
This year the emails have come scudding in from PR companies, hacks and suppliers telling us that they are not sending Christmas cards. Instead, they are donating to Charity the money they would have spent on Christmas cards. Inspiring, huh? Well it works for us. So much so we thought we'd do something similar. All the money we weren't going to spend on Christmas cards, we are now not going to spend on Charity. Instead, we will make a hefty donation to a Christmas party. Our Christmas party. So Register readers, the drinks are on us. No let's rephrase that: the drinks are in us. ®
Hacker thwarted in newspaper plot
The Express newspaper foiled a hacker's plot to bring down its arch-rival's computer system yesterday. The man phoned the paper and offered to stop production of fellow tabloids the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday for £600,000 on 7 January. In true Good Samaritan mode, The Express alerted police, who arrested the 55-year-old suspect from Worthing, East Sussex. He was being questioned under the Computer Misuse Act, The Express said. ® Related stories: MS failed to spot Hotmail hack threat Saucy hacker whips Feds' Web into shape I did it to show off, says hacker Register hacked but not cracked
Sportal bags $50m for Asia/Europe roll-out
Can't be too long now before an IPO rears its beautiful head for Sportal, capitalised at $170m, after raising $50m in its latest fund raising round.
Chinese court rejects Microsoft piracy suit
Microsoft appears to have sued the wrong company for software piracy, the Beijing Number One Intermediate Court ruled on Friday. The court remained unconvinced that the foreign mega-corporation had identified the correct defendant. Not that being a foreign corporation could possibly have influenced the decision.
Akamai to launch app delivery service
Just after announcing plans to devise a standard mechanism for bringing Web-based content and applications closer to the client, Net acceleration specialist Akamai added an application delivery system to its portfolio. And -- guess what -- it's based on Akamai's newly-proposed standard, Internet Content Adaptation Protocol (IDAP). The system, called EdgeAdvantage, runs applications on Akamai FreeFlow caching servers, which interoperate to distribute content data between each server in order to get the data as close to the browser as possible. Akamai senior product manager Kieran Taylor said EdgeAdvantage applications include e-commerce transaction processing, virus scanning, customised ad delivery and profiling. Akamai's system also tailors the delivery of each application's services to the abilities of specific devices like PDAs, PCs and so on. The company said there are over 1700 FreeFlow servers currently operating on 100 networks in 30 countries around the world -- many more than even the biggest content providers currently have installed, which is why Akamai has attracted customers like Apple and Microsoft to deliver not only content but software updates and the like. EdgeAdvantage is set to be launched during the first half of next year. ®
Canadian reseller tries to sue Apple for CA$5m
Apple Canada has been sued by a local reseller, Computer Buyer's Warehouse Direct (CBWD), for alleged antitrust actions.
AllAdvantage coughs-up Register bribe
In November we challenged AllAdvantage to make a donation to charity, in exchange for a story appearing on The Register. In the true spirit of Christmas, AllAdvantage sent us a cheque made payable to Children In Need. Now we keep our half of the bargain.
Lycos snaps up FAST stake
Lycos is buying up to 15 per cent in Fast Search & Transfer (FAST), the vastly superior search engine firm. Like Google.com, FAST concentrates on doing the boring old build a better a search engine routine. It leaves the sexy portal stuff to others. Which is where Lycos comes in. The two companies are already in cahoots - FAST technology powers much of Lycos, including MP3 search, multimedia search, music hosting and FTP search. FAST is based in Norway and numbers Dell among its investors. Searching stuff FAST is here Lycos, FAST launch multimedia search engine Pokemon more popular than MP3, sex Brains better than computers, but not for long Yahoo best sex site, according to Google
Virgin shortage hits Branson's mobile venture
Richard Branson's dabble with the mobile phone market is reported to be suffering from a shortage of handsets. Virgin Mobile signed up more than 75,000 customers in its first month, putting it on course to net over 100,000 phone sales by the end of 1999, and a million in its first year. According to Branson, around 20 per cent of sales were online. The company, a 50-50 joint venture with One2One, also said it would start offering email via phones from January. And demand for the devices was understood to be outstripping supply, with today's Financial Times claiming the company's sales were being restrained by handset shortages. ®
Samsung to spend $3bn on Rambus boost
Samsung Electronics is to spend $2.8 billion on a new chip plant and research facilities. The company said chip production facility Line 10 would initially make 128MB, 256MB and Rambus chips. Situated in Hwasung-gun, Kyonggi Province in Korea on a one million square metre site, it will be capable of making 32,000 eight-inch wafer starts per month. Samsung will spend around $1.8 billion on Line 10 by the first quarter of 2001, with the first phase due to open in September. At that time, the company said it expected the plant to be turning out 16,000 wafer starts per month. The move is part of plans to invest $2.2 billion in factory building. The plant adds to Samsung's existing 1.3 million square metre operation in Kiheung, and is the South Korean company's tenth production line. Samsung plans to build a further seven. Samsung semiconductor business president and CEO Y.W. Lee said: "Samsung's semiconductor operations will maintain a six month to one year lead in the industry for new product development. "We will complete development of 0.12-micron processing technology within one year and the 0.10-micron design rule by 2001." Samsung Electronics Semiconductor expects sales to reach $9.3 billion in 1999, with memory accounting for $6 billion. The company also said it would spend $600,000 on its research department in 2000, which would include hiring an extra 400 staff. ® See also Korean IT sector has a bumper 1999 IBM, Samsung square up for Compaq Alpha contract Samsung to double Rambus production
Disney exec found guilty in pedo sting
Former Disney exec and Java creator Patrick Naughton was found guilty of child porn possession at trial Thursday, but the jury hung on the more serious charge of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor.
Avnet puts staff on Y2K bug watch
Avnet will lay on global Y2K 24-hour call centres over the New Year period. Business and IT staff will be on red alert for any Millennium bug problem stalking the industry from 30 December. The distributor's Year 2000 Command Centres, serving Asia, EMEA and the Americas, will monitor problems in the industry 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the company said. Staff will report all Millennium IT madness to the company's core centre in Phoenix, Arizona. That's providing their own networks and phones aren't down, of course. ® Related stories: The global guide to Y2K survival More Millennium madness Y2K bug eats Japanese PM's backbone Our tongue-in-cheek Y2k coverage
Playmate wins right to use Playboy trademarks in her metas
Ex-Playboy Playmate of the Year Terri Welles has won the right to describe herself as such on her Web site -- and not only on the site's front end, but in the hidden code that describes the pages' content to search engines and the like. Playboy Enterprises, owner of the Playboy and Playboy Playmate of the Year trademarks launched a trademark infringement case against Welles last year. The company's case centred on the use of those trademarks in the visible and 'invisible' parts of Welles' site. It's that 'invisible' aspect that makes the case different from other trademark infringement suits, most of which have been used to wrest control of company names from cybersquatters. Welles' defence essentially claimed that her use of the term Playboy Playmate of the Year was a reasonable use of the trademark since it accurately described the 'tits and arse' accolade she had been awarded by Playboy Enterprises. US District Court Judge Judith Keep concurred, and ruled that if Welles' display of the trademark on the visible part of the site was fair use, then so was its inclusion in the pages' Meta tags. Keep then dismissed Playboy Enterprises suit. Playboy Enterprises said it was disappointed with the decision and that it plans to appeal against the ruling. Welles uses her site to sell fans photos -- both nude and clothed -- by charging a $9.95 per month subscription for access. ® Related story Hefner huffed over Excite, Netscape for smut substitutions
Thieves grab chips at gunpoint
Police are hunting armed robbers after they abducted a van driver and stole computer chips worth £250,000. The victim's ordeal began last Friday when he was forced to stop the van after being followed by a car and another van in Chessington, Surrey. He was approached by a man carrying a gun, forced out of the driver's seat, and abducted for around two hours. He was eventually allowed out of the car in Chertsey. DS Graham Self, Kingston CID, said the van contained computer chips valued at approximately £250,000. They were said to be specialised components not suitable for a home PC, but no other information was available. Seventeen boxes of chips were taken. The van has not been found, and there was no description for the hijackers involved as they disguised themselves with either balaclavas or wigs and false moustaches. "If anyone is offered a high value load of cheap computer chips, they would be well advised to contact the police," said DS Self. "This incident was very well planned and, as with any team of criminals, there is a risk that they could strike again." ® Information can be given to Kingston CID on 0181 247 4915, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 Related Stories: Computer kit grabbed at gunpoint DRAM robberies are back Compaq robbery - five per cent of sales lost Gunmen grab £1 million Compaq machines
Russia cheerfully refutes Y2K anarchy predictions
Opinions vary on the question of whether Russia is to be plunged into darkness and chaos on 1 January as its computer clocks roll over to double zeroes.
Merced slow, slow, quick quick slow
Prototype Merced systems are failing to reach satisfactory clock speeds ... and this makes Intel CEO Craig Barrett hopping mad. Or so Forbes claims. Intel's flagship 64-bit processor is failing to perform as fast as anticipated, according to the magazine The prototype machines are restricted to around 400MHz, but also need huge power supplies to keep them humming, Forbes says. Two weeks ago, we reported on the basis of information from Intel partner Hewlett Packard, that we could not expect realistically to see Merced Itanium machines appear on the market until October 2000. Although this falls into the second half of next year, Intel had hoped that machines would be available earlier than that. And, again according to HP, initial systems are supposed to clock at around 800MHz. Intel's problem with the clock speed of the Merced is aggravated by competition from both Compaq with its Alpha processor and AMD with its Athlon processor. AMD, for example, is easily reaching 1GHz already with the Athlon, and is now in the happy position of being able to pick and choose when to introduce microprocessors at that speed. The AMD part is a 32-bit chip. And both Compaq and its partner API are likely to have air cooled 1GHz Alphas available before any Merced box gets out of the door. The Alpha processor is a 64-bit chip. You can find the Forbes story here. It has the title "Intel's Annum Horribilis", the headline seeming to come horribly close to the piece which we wrote called Intel's Annum Horribilis here... ®
American Y2K bugs expected to hit the poor
Considerable civil commotion could erupt as a result of bad Y2K planning which has placed social programmes for the poor at the end of the priorities list for many American states. Among the programmes least ready are unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, child support and child care, or, to put it another way, the programmess most heavily leaned on by the poorest citizens. "Clearly some [states] have cut it far too close," John Koskinen, the White House Y2K Czar, admitted. Many such Y2K computer glitches are anticipated among state governments, according to a federal government report on Y2K readiness. The report cited problems in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma and the District of Columbia. Alabama came in for especially heavy criticism in the report, but a state representative countered by saying that the federal government had published out of date information. US territories like Guam and the Virgin Islands are also thought to be hopelessly unprepared. While state spokespeople may balk, we think it should be fairly easy to spot the worst of the Y2K slackers. Just look for the states and municipalities that have budgeted the most over-time for their police forces, especially the riot-control units. ®