22nd > December > 1999 Archive
Ex-Infoseek exec Patrick Naughton will not be allowed out of jail for Christmas, a US judge has ruled. Naughton was arrested in September for trying to solicit sex with a 13-year-old girl. Child porn pictures were also found on his laptop. Last Thursday he was taken away from court in handcuffs after being found guilty of possession of child porn. The jury remains undecided on the other two counts -- soliciting sex with the underage girl over the Net, and interstate travel to have sex with her. US District Judge Edward Rafeedie refused to free 34-year-old Naughton, leaving him behind bars until his sentencing in March, the Associated Press reported. Before the ruling, lawyers on both sides said they expected 34-year-old Naughton to be released on $100,000 bail pending sentence. ® Related Stories Disney exec found guilty in pedo sting Child sex Disney exec admitted offence Porno hacker fingered by AOpen
A pint-sized UK publisher is suing Amazon.com for claiming to sell its books. Liverpool-based The Toby Press is taking legal action against the online giant after it advertised Toby books on its Web site. Toby sells its books solely through its own mail order catalogue or via the Toby Press Web site. Until recently, potential customers trawling the Amazon site for Toby-published books were informed that all goods were out of stock, and were advised to try again in a few weeks. Toby Press felt this was damaging its own direct sales, according to reports. Matthew Miller, founder and MD of Toby Press, said: "We have been very frustrated in dealing with Amazon, and I regret that we have had to take this action. "We do not distribute books to book shops, Web shops or other third parties. We only sell direct on our own Web site and by mail order." All traces of Toby Press books have now been wiped from the Amazon site. Amazon declined to comment. ® Related Story Amazon sues Amazon
Net sage Mary Meeker has warned that the online bubble will burst for many Web companies in the New Year. The Morgan Stanley Dean Witter top analyst believes that a whopping 90 per cent of listed Internet companies are overvalued. "I think there will be an ecommerce shake-out in the first quarter of 2000," she told financial journal Barron. Seen as the leading analyst on the cyber industry, she also voiced concerns over start-up companies spending too much cash on advertising to make a splash in the sector. Meeker, who is set to reap $15 million from the Internet revolution this year, said: "Customer acquisition costs for a lot of companies have gone through the roof. "I worry - I lived through the early days of the PC business in the early 1980s, when every PC business was going to the moon." However, Amazon, Yahoo and AOL were not among those companies causing Ms Meeker’s worry lines. "There’s a good chance that the capital markets will remain robust, in large part because there are a lot of new market opportunities for new Internet players that are truly changing the way business it done," she said. ®
Expedia, the Microsoft travel subsidiary, has asked a federal judge to dismiss the patent suit brought by Priceline.com in October. Earlier this month, Expedia added a name-your-price feature for airline tickets similar to the disputed hotel room service that Priceline wants shut down. The basis for Microsoft's request is that it says the ownership of the patent is disputed, and that Priceline has "failed to include a necessary party [Marketel International] to the case". Bill Gates is personally involved, since he is claimed to have told Priceline CEO Jay Walker that "he would not allow patents to stand in the way of his business objectives" and that many companies were suing Microsoft for patent infringement, so "Priceline could get in line with the others". William Perell of Marketel challenged the August 1998 Priceline patent in January this year, before Priceline's action against Microsoft, and says that he came up with the idea and showed it under NDA to Walker in 1988. Marketel claims that Priceline misappropriated trade secrets, breached its contract, breached a confidential relationship, infringed copyright, committed fraud, engaged in unfair competition, and advertised falsely. But that's far from the whole story. There's also an additional challenge from Thomas Woolston, who claims that his patent for an electronic market for used and collectible goods was filed 17 months earlier. Priceline had to admit in its 10-Q filing to the SEC that if Woolston won on patent infringement, Priceline would have to obtain licences from Woolston, and that this could "significantly adversely affect Priceline.com's business", but if the win included interference, then Priceline might have to shut the service. Despite Priceline's huge market capitalisation, the viability of the business is in question in view of its accumulated deficit. The validity of the Priceline patent is still highly questionable. Priceline is vulnerable since its business model can be easily copied, so it has to try to enforce the patent, either through litigation or through a major licensing agreement. Amazon has successfully obtained a preliminary injunction to prevent Barnesandnoble.com from offering a service similar to its so-called one-click buying technology, but this could be reversed at trial. Interestingly, Priceline has not asked for a preliminary injunction, which tends to suggest less confidence in the worth of the patent. Priceline says this is because Priceline has additional patents pending, and has not yet been harmed competitively. Greg Aharonian, the scourge of the US Patent and Trademark Office, noted in Patnews that Microsoft's challenge would have to be based on prior art, in view of a Supreme Court decision not to overturn the US Court of Appeals in DC in October in the Signature Financial Group case, which upheld the belief, at least in the USA, that business methods are patentable. Aharonian expects the Priceline patent to be invalidated, "as should most of the software/Internet/business patents the PTO is issuing in its incompetence". He argues that the Priceline patent has three main aspects: reverse auctions, secure networking auctioning, and bidding contracts. The first two are not novel, and the third is a computerisation of well-known business practices, he says. The Priceline patent went through an expedited application procedure called a Petition To Make Special, but the required extra searching of databases demonstrated that the application excluded the main engineering, computing and economics databases, as well as terms like "auction". Ironically, although Microsoft is likely to do a thorough job in fighting the Priceline patent, its searches for its own patents are "pathetic", according to Aharonian. What is very surprising is that there appears to be no Internet patent re-examination request filed with the US PTO. Perhaps Aharonian is right in his assertion that the PTO caters to the interests of big business at the expense of the general public. If so, any re-examination request could expose the house of cards built on invalidly-awarded Internet and business process patents. But there is also a greater dimension: the US is using patents as part of a trade war, and international procedures are clumsy and have not been invoked to question the whole issue of patents on business practices. So absurd is the situation, it is possible to imagine patents being granted for business franchising, Dutch auctions, or even The Register's inimitable style. ® Related items Priceline-MS lawsuit: shark versus shark? Amazon sues Barnes & Noble over checkout system Reed sues MS and Expedia over travel database
MS on Trial Microsoft quietly filed a brief on 9 December asking Judge Jackson to fire Lawrence Lessig as an amicus curiae (friend of the court), following his invitation on 19 November. On Monday, the judge ordered that the objection be overruled. Close examination shows that Microsoft is evidently rattled by the Lessig re-appointment, despite being allowed to produce its own amicus curiae brief. The DoJ and the States are also allowed to nominate one amicus to act for them both. Microsoft did not post the text of its brief on its Web site until after it had become known that it had objected, and there appears to be a special reason for this. Its main argument cites an opinion in another case by Judge Posner, the mediator, in which an amicus did not satisfy three conditions specified. Judge Jackson said in his memorandum that Lessig's CV showed he was "uniquely qualified to offer advice on a subject few other academics in the country are sufficiently knowledgeable to address at all..." Moreover he had "no financial or professional interest in the outcome", and although he had been invited by the Court to address issues of his choice, "he has advised the court (as Microsoft has been informed) he will submit his views exclusively on the issue of technical tying". So there we have it: Judge Posner's Opinion in another case did not help, and Microsoft's concern is that it will take the fall for technological tying of Windows and IE. Judge Jackson observed that the sides held "starkly divergent views on what is and is not lawful business conduct on Microsoft's part, and both proclaim that they have the best interests of the public in mind. The Court suspects that there may be valid legal analyses to be made of its Findings of Fact which would comport fully with neither position likely to be taken by the parties, but which the Court itself might find more consistent with the public interest. It was in anticipation that Professor Lessig might offer just such an analysis that the Court extended the invitation to him..." Microsoft's second objection was to suggest: "There is reason for Microsoft to believe that Professor Lessig may not be an impartial 'friend of the court'... on grounds of bias", and to proceed to detail two concerns about his impartiality. "Red Hat, a competitor of Microsoft in developing and marketing operating system software, announced on November 2, 1999 that Professor Lessig had accepted appointment to the advisory board of the Red Hat Center for Open Source, a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting open source products like Linux that compete directly with Microsoft products like Windows 98 and Windows NT. Advocates of the open source movement have historically been antagonistic to Microsoft and other commercial software vendors." Red Hat will no doubt be delighted to be recognised as a competitor of Microsoft, even though it can't make a profit at it. Lumping Red Hat and open source advocates in an opposing camp to "Microsoft and other commercial software vendors" is also not a sensible position to take when the Linux market has shown itself to be so commercial. Microsoft's second objection was that: "On a program recently broadcast on WBUR, a Boston radio station, and available on the Internet... Professor Lessig made various statements about Microsoft in the context of the Court's findings of fact that apparently reflect a bias against the company. Among other things, he asserted that Microsoft's supposed control of 'a huge segment of the basic architecture of cyberspace' constitutes a 'threat to innovation.' He also asserted that the Internet was born 'when the government stepped in and broke up AT&T' because AT&T could no longer decide which innovations in the field of telecommunications were good and bad, and he opined that this was 'the same issue' that 'the government and Judge Jackson is [sic] attempting to wrestle with in the Microsoft case'." The Web references cited by Microsoft did not work this morning, and have presumably been disabled for the time being. Judge Jackson's confident and chiding response was that "the Court itself perceives no such bias as evident from the examples of Professor Lessig's public utterances Microsoft has tendered, and... the Court is confident of its ability to assess Professor Lessig's submission critically without being affected by any occult bias of which he might be possessed." It was two years ago that Lessig was appointed by Judge Jackson to be a special master to help on technical issues in the contempt case. Microsoft asked, 13 days after the appointment, for Lessig to be dropped. Judge Jackson ruled in January last year that Microsoft's comments on Lessig were "defamatory, and the Court finds that they were not made in good faith. Had they been made in a more formal manner [meaning on oath, but Microsoft had carefully avoided this] they might have incurred sanctions." Microsoft appealed five days later, and seventeen days later the Court of Appeals stayed the appointment without ruling on any bias by Lessig. These actions tend to suggest the mediation is not going well enough for Microsoft to abandon any weaponry. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that Microsoft will go to the Court of Appeals over the issue early in the new year, but the public and industry climate has changed in the interim. It will be difficult for the appellate court to side with Microsoft again without calling in the national guard. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
Chip company Intel may have had a bit of an annus horribilis on the old execution side in 1999, but there's one for thing for sure, it delivers like no-other on the old return on investment (ROI) front. That keeps the shareholders happy, and all you need to do is to look at its performance over the last 10 years to see that it's been a sound investment. That seems to be all that Wall Street cares about... Let's start with the net annual earnings per share Chipzilla has delivered since 1989. In 1989, that figure was $0.13, rising to $0.65 for year end 1993 and the same figure for year end 1994. For its year end 1996, it showed a spectacular rise to $1.45 per share, topping that the next year to $1.94, and only slightly falling for the year ended 1998 to $1.73. The figure for year end 1999 is likely to be slightly below that but the graph is pretty phenomenal. Just taking the last four years of Chipzilla's history shows the kind of growth the company has delivered to its shareholders. Turnover for the 1994 financial year amounted to $11.5 billion, for 1995 $16.2 billion, for 1996 $20.9 billion, for 1997 $25 billion, and for 1998 $26.3 billion, with net profitability rising from $2.2 billion in 1994 to $6 billion in 1998. So how will Chipzilla 2000 fare? Many analysts maintain that its move to become, in its own words, "an Internet building block" company is likely to work. Faced now with real competition from its upstart rival Advanced Micro Devices, it's likely that we'll all be able to crank our machines to faster and faster speeds for less and less money through next year. There's no doubt whatever in our mind that Intel's experience with the Athlon, and the various other things it has failed to do properly are taken seriously in Satan Clara. Up at the higher levels of management, we are given to understand it's a little like Red China's Cultural Revolution, with a cyber Gang of Four demanding a re-evaluation at all levels of the firm. Unless Old Mother Shipton (passim) was right and the world comes to an end in 1999, we see no reason why Chipzilla 2000 should fail to continue turning in exceptional revenues for the foreseeable future. ®
Many of our readers have kindly responded after we reviewed some email software called The Bat earlier this week. You may remember that La Registra was clogged to the gills by the unexpected present of a 20MB PowerPoint presentation that downed us and Windows 98 towards the end of last week. As well as a number of emails pointing us to other email software which is easy to use and do the trick, we've also received some other suggestions that also do the trick. One reader said it is possible to use Outlook to get rid of huge attachments: "I use Outlook Express 4.5 for Mac. In the account setup, click the advanced tab, and put a checkmark next to "Allow online access" and click OK. This will show the email server at the left from then on. When you click on it, a list of what is actually on the mail server will be displayed. It does not download the attachments. Just click on the email and hit delete. The file will be deleted directly from the server. I can't imagine the Windows version of Outlook not having this capability (but who knows with Microsoft). You might look for it to prevent having to download and run another program." Another journalist wrote to us to recommend That Web, which claims to allow you to access your email anywhere in the world. He said that a similar problem had occurred to him when he was in Berlin a month ago -- someone unkindly sent him a 1MB PDF file while he was trying to download his mail over a GSM connection. A couple of people suggested we use the Messenger module of Netscrape, which seems to perform similar functions to Ye Batte. And here's one for the techies among you. Several people sent us this solution: #telnet mailserver 110 Trying 127.0.0.1... Connected to localhost. Escape character is '^]'. +OK QPOP (version 2.x) at vr1-workhorse1 starting. <14666.945696403@vr1-workhorse1> user james +OK Password required for james. pass ******* +OK james has 7 messages (396563 octets). list +OK 7 messages (396563 octets) 1 3042 2 3712 3 2371 4 2708 5 3443 6 26040000 7 2619 . dele 6 +OK Message 6 has been deleted. quit +OK Pop server at vr1-workhorse1 signing off. Connection closed by foreign host. # This reader added: "If you're using Windoze, you may need to put local echo on the client because that telnet client that ships with windows couldn't get any worse unless they made the font white. (on white). "Obviously you can then connect with your normal client and download the rest of your messages with the offending one deleted." Thanks to all of you who took the trouble to help. ® See also The Bat flies out of Microsoft Hell
US wire Electronics Buyers' News is reporting that 3D Labs has licensed its entire patent portfolio to Intel, in an effort to raise some hard needed cash. According to the wire, the licensing deal will be worth around $7.5 million to 3D Labs. Intel already has a small share holding in 3D Labs of 1.5 per cent. The story suggests that 3D Labs'patents will be used in future PC chipsets, but both Intel and 3D are refusing to comment on precise details of the deal. One of Intel's bigger blunders this year was to admit that it wasn't really up to bothering with discrete graphics chips -- an expensive mistake which started when the company bought Chips & Technologies for nearly half a billion last year. Yesterday, we reported that S3 was in possible takeover talks with arch-Intel chipset rival Via. Earlier this year, Intel and S3 signed a patent cross licensing deal while more recently Via and S3 agreed to put money into a joint venture. So it's all getting slightly interesting again. ® Related Stories Intel abandons chip -- half a billion lost at sea Via-S3 merger would make Intel really grumpy
S3 and Nvidia are at each others' throats today, following the launch of legal action against its rival by Nvidia for alleged patent infringement. The suit was filed last week with the US District Court for Northern California in San Francisco and assigned to Judge Vaughn R Walker -- the judge who presided over Apple's 1988 GUI copyright infringement case against Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft, and ruled in the defendants' favour. This time, Nvidia is asking for a jury to adjudicate. Nvidia wouldn't say why it had launched the action -- "You'll have to call S3," said a company spokesman -- or reveal its grounds for claiming S3 has violated its intellectual property. We did, but no one from S3 was available for comment as we went to press, which isn't surprising since the company has still digesting details of its decision to buy 3D graphics specialist Number Nine. We suspect -- and given the silence from both parties it is just a suspicion -- that the case may centre on S3's transform and lighting engine, a key part of its Savage 2000 chip. Nvidia's own top-end graphics processor, the GeForce 256, also contains a transform and lighting engine, to improve game performance by taking complex geometry set-up operations off the host CPU. That said, of Nvidia's 27 patents, none specifically refer to T&L engines, so it could be anything. ® Related Stories Via-S3 merger would make Intel really grumpy Intel grabs 3D Labs portfolio
Sales of Palm Computing handhelds held 3Com's profits up for its second quarter, keeping at bay the effects of serious decline in sales of the company's traditional comms and networking product lines.
Andy Martin, who first came to some modest attention in IT circles when he founded a pressure group five years ago called the Committee to Fight Microsoft Corporation, is campaigning in New Hampshire to become the Republican party candidate for US President next year. He's a Florida-based public interest lawyer, legal activist and the self-dubbed "first consumer activist of cyberspace". Yesterday he released a proposed statute to protect privacy, which he claimed was in response to a Washington Post article drawing attention to how telemarketers could obtain telephone information from blocked and unlisted telephone numbers. Martin favours the breakup of Microsoft and the banning of contracts between the divested enterprises. Despite Martin's frequent press releases, his CTFM has been shunned. Martin announced that he had mailed consumer fraud charges against Microsoft to all 50 state attorney generals, because Windows 95 did not work with 4Mb of RAM, as Microsoft had claimed, but it is unlikely that this affected the decision of 20 of them to join the DoJ in its action against Microsoft. Martin protested outside a New York store selling Windows 95 when it was released, which apparently resulted in the police controlling a crowd that formed. He was invited to appear on the CNBC television programme America's Talking that evening, but at the very last moment, when Martin was at the studios, he was told that the program segment was cancelled. Microsoft has a business relationship with NBC. An infuriated Martin announced the burning of Gates and Windows 95 in effigy in Florida, a funeral for Windows 95, and a "Boycott Bill Gates for Christmas" campaign, adding that he was suing NBC Television, General Electric and Microsoft for $50 million. He also tried to promote a ban on Windows 98. Wags have suggested that CTFM was quietly funded by Microsoft to forestall any more serious opposition. ®
Sources said that Intel has an important meeting with industry standards body Jedec at the beginning of next year. Jedec is a semiconductor standards body which brings together a number of important manufacturers to agree specifications for future technology. One of those future technologies is SDRAM and double data rate (DDR) memory, standards which Intel is being forced to accept in the face of industry teeth. According to our source, Intel will meet the Jedec standards people early in the new year and will discuss how it and the industry can successfully promote PC-133 and double data rate (DDR) memory. Intel will also talk to AMI on how to implement support for these controversial memory standards in the BIOS. As we reported earlier this year, Intel is attempting to rush out chipsets Solano II and Amador after coming under pressure from its PC customers to, as it were, go with the flow, rather than back Rambus Ink all the way. If you wish to view what Jedec standards are like, have a decko at these DDR and SDRAM pages. ®
It's Christmas in Seattle, and the good folks of Washington State are engaging in traditional festive activities. Like blazing away at wildlife from the comfort of your own four wheel drive, apparently. Hello Microsoft OEM chief, star of subpoenaed emails and antitrust trials Joachim Kempin. Also now, it would seem, a noted gunslinger who is helping local Redmond police with their enquiries.
Armchair Armageddon watchers looking to see the New Year in with a Y2K bang can find out whether the doom-mongers were right by checking out a fiery Web site just seconds into the new millennium. Inferno2000.com is to rig up connections with what it claims are 2000 of the most important Internet servers in the world, including aol.com, msn.com and victoriassecrets.com. It will also survey servers belonging to nuclear power plants. Within 30 seconds of the date changing from "99" to "00" Inferno2000 will know whether these crucial sites will have survived the much hyped date transition. If the light next to each Web site remains green then all is well. If they flash red, then the site is not responding, although it may not necessarily de down to the bug. If over five per cent of the servers polled are down, economic collapse could be just around the corner, say those behind the site. Which is a nice cheery thought so close to Christmas, don't you think. ®
Young Kyle Bennett at Hard OCP has got his mitts on some internal Intel roadmaps for the year 2000. And very interesting reading they make too. Some of the information, in the form of an Asia Pacific presentation, we knew about already, in particular the 866MHz Pentium III being released at the end of Q1, and which we've already written about. But Intel is also going to introduce an 850MHz part in the same time frame, while a 1GHz IA-32 processor is going to peep into the world. We also knew that Intel planned to kill Slot 1 as soon as it could, but one of the slides seems to suggest that Intel will migrate 80 per cent of its Pentium III production to Coppermine by the end of Q1 next year. There are also some hilarious bits and pieces. Solano, which we first revealed back in early October, is now called Solano 2, the BX chipset will last much longer than anyone ever thought. And, this is really the cream of the jest, Intel will introduce Camino 2 in Q2 2000 as part of its business roadmap. We thought Caminogate was up to rev IV or V already? ®
Palm Computing's first machine to be equipped with a colour display will ship in February as the Palm IIIc, according to sources close to the company cited by CNET.
A Kent schoolboy has passed one of Novell's top engineering examinations, notching up his second IT qualification this year. Fifteen-year-old Mark Wickings gained the Certified Novell Engineer (CNE) certificate, Novell's equivalent to the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), after a 22-day training programme sponsored by networking distributor Azlan. The IT whizzkid, who attends Archbishop's School in Canterbury, first came across Azlan after being thrown out of an IT exhibition in London earlier this year. The lad was deemed too young to be a serious computer user by the exhibition chiefs. Unwilling to waste his train ticket to the Big Smoke, he decided to sit part of the Microsoft Certified System Engineer exam there and then, and turned up at Azlan Training's office in the City. Wickings went on to get the qualification, along with Novell's CNE, and has become Azlan's child prodigy. His achievement is particularly impressive as he is dyslexic and has only been in full-time eduation for six years. Freddie Jones, Azlan MD, was full of praise: "It's rare for someone as young as Mark to have reached such a depth of IT skill as the CNE certification. "Particularly at an age when his contemporaries are more likely to be playing football or computer games. We’ll be keeping a close eye on Mark’s next move." ®
A man who used the Net to allege that a former teacher was a paedophile was jailed yesterday for two-and-a-half years by a court in Ireland. The defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, spread the malicious rumours using bulletin boards and email during a six-month period between December 1997 and June 1998.
UK system builder Mesh Computers is claiming it will be among the first to launch a Pentium III 800MHz PC in January, despite still not receiving a sample of the chip from Intel. The London-based company said orders for its Millennium 800 PC would be taken from the second week of next month, with deliveries starting one week later. But although Intel has announced the launch of the PIII 800MHz, and sent out the odd sample, there has been no guarantee of when shipments of the new chip will start for many UK OEMs. Mesh general manager Paul Kinsler said: "We expect to get the 800MHz products in the second week of January. I’ve been told by the distributors that there will be product.” However, Mesh has still not yet received a sample of the chip from Intel - it is hoping to see it in the first week of January - and Kinsler said he would not be able to actually confirm delivery to customers in the third week of January. Another system builder said it was been told by Intel this week not to expect shipments until the end of January. Evesham Micros director Luke Ireland said his company would not be launching with the chip until Intel could guarantee delivery. "Even with the PIII 733MHz chips we had to wait about four weeks for delivery," said Ireland. Leeds-based PC builder Panrix said it would also hold off launching machines with the chip until it was more certain over delivery times. Intel was this afternoon unable to say exactly when shipping would take place. The Mesh Millennium 800 machine, costing £1,899 ex VAT, will have 128MB SDRAM, 27GB hard drive, 10x DVD-ROM drive, 32MB GForce Nvdia graphics card, 19 inch monitor and 56K modem. It will come with Windows 98 and Corel WordPerfect Office 2000. ® Related stories: Intel will sample 800MHz Pentium IIIs next Monday Intel CuMine chips pre-announced, pre-announced again