28th > December > 1999 Archive
Alpha Processor Inc (API) may have moved fast to re-assure a number of resellers angry at delays on products but sources close to the firm have confirmed there is still a drought of UP1000 mobos and also 750MHz Slot B modules. API told The Register that the Alpha mobos were available in the channel in response to a letter written by one reseller to the firm. But our information is there are still problems with the specification which are marring delivery of the product to both channel partners and end users. Further, deliveries of the 750MHz Slot B modules have been promised as being available "next week" for around eight weeks, according to the same informant. He said: "I have heard they are having problems getting the 128 x 36 synchronous memory at a speed compatible with the 750MHz clocking." He added that Compaq had a similar problem but finally resolved that glitch by buying in the memory from IBM. API is majority owned by memory manufacturer Samsung. Earlier this year, executives at API were showing roadmaps that suggested the Alpha would proliferate in volume and into mass markets by year end. The latest problems will not have helped API's long term aims. ®
Over the festive season, Compaq has seen fit to post a document on its Web site which compares and contrasts the performance of its flagship 64-bit processor with Intel's up-and-coming Merced Itanium. And, according to the Adobe PDF document entitled Alpha and IA64, which can be found here, any dreams of world domination Intel may have with such 64-bit architecture are just that, dreams. The document cites facts, figures and benchmarketing to demonstrate that pound for pound, the Alpha outperforms Intel architecture. One soundbyte says: "Alpha will be superior to IA64 in commercial applications". Some of the material the Big Q has posted has been available before, but the important point with this document is that it is really a positioning statement. And it clearly shows Q is going to attempt, at least, to give Intel a run for its money. "IA64: a smart compiler and a dumb machine" gives a flavour of the piece. Industry pundit Terry Shannon commented on the paper: "This treatise provides ample evidence that Itanium is in no way, shape, or form an Alpha-killer." However, we at The Register believe that this particular war will be fought on the marchitecture front and not on pure Architecture. Good Intel lackeys (er, sorry partners) like HP maintain that IA64 will inevitably win in the enterprise sector, and are prepared to sacrifice PA Risc on that altar in the first five years of the zeros. (The 80s, the 90s, the 00s?). Perhaps the additional money Q, Samsung and API are pouring into the Alpha processor in 2000 will help do the trick and overturn conventional wisdom. ®
People who bought the Presario 5800 series in droves in the run up to Yule have bombarded Compaq with complaints of persistent system freezes whenever they try to use their machines. One user posted this message on Compaq's bulletin board: "I have not had a session with it [the 5838] that the system has not frozen up. When it freezes I can not even turn the system off using the power switch. This happens most of the time when I am online with Prodigy. Once it happened while using the Start button power down mode. Last night while using prodigy to down load McAfee's latest updates it hung up after using the modem performance window." Another, Australian reader, complained of the same problem saying: " I recently bought a Compaq Presario PC and my experience will interest anyone who has recently bought one or who is thinking of buying one. I loaded the same software I had on my old PC. The Compaq kept locking up. Not even Ctrl Alt Delete would kill that process and get the PC going. I would have to turn the power off and on (wait for scandisk, redo what I had been doing)" He said that Compaq's advice was to run the Quick Restore CD it supplies, which contains Win98 SE plus many proprietary Compaq programs which load on boot. He said: "Quick Restore formats your hard drive before re-installing Windows plus the Compaq programs. After doing that a few times (5 or 6 hours each time by the time I installed my software), with no improvement, I decided to try my old version of Windows. That didn't work because the Compaq needs some drivers that aren't in Windows. They're on the QuickRestore CD but not in a format that Windows can use. So I ran Quick Restore again." He said that when he logged onto the Compaq web site to see if there was any information about lockups, he got a shock. "I was amazed to find there are hundreds of postings from customers with that exact problem. They run a few programs, try to logon to the Internet and the machine locks up. Compaq's solution is to use MsConfig to stop any programs from loading at startup. A customer pointed out that he didn't want to run his PC without the sound card software and without virus protection." Compaq does have a document on its support site which gives a solution to the freeze problem on Presarios, and which can now be found here: Lockups on Presario Models. (The link was unavailable or down for several days over the holidays). Another consumer who posted a message on the Compaq support forum said that the problem could be solved by using a Windows 98 CD separate from the package and which does not load any of the Q drivers, which seem to drain system resources. We will be happy to post Compaq's response to these problems and are available by e-mail over the extended UK Yule festivities. ®
A disappointing preliminary report on the Christmas haul for online retailers Monday caused jittery investors to dump shares of several Web-oriented companies.