30th > December > 1999 Archive

Intel best company in cosmos

It must be a little worrying for any of Intel's 68,000 or so employees worldwide when one of the local bosses stands up and tells a journalist what a great employer it is. Excuse our cynicism, but generally this seems to happen just before a big company gives bad news to its employees. Yesterday's edition of the Malaysia Star featured an interview with Intel local boss Wong Siew Hai, saying that his company has sent 1,000 people abroad to re-train over recent years, mostly engineers. And even operators are getting sent abroad, the local boss says. The newspaper quotes him as saying: "Right now we want to consolidate ourselves" and that operators were being given "megatronic" training. Intel in Malaysia is the largest user of freight, he added. Intel is such a great place to work that people stay there for as long as 25 years, he said. This news might be of interest to regular Intel Irritant Ken Hamidi, who has just posted a piece about, yes you guessed it, disgruntled Merced employees at his Face Intel agitprop site. According to one of the latest postings there, Intel attempts to make sure that when there are married couples working at the same fab, they work on different shifts. Although that decision seems like common sense, people wearing the infamous Bunny Suits would have a hell of a job getting up to any hanky panky. Thus, in our estimation, there would be very little danger of any stray human particulates contaminating those shiny silicon wafers and affecting yields. ® * Tomorrow, Old Mother Chipton, who forecast that the end of the world would occur in the year 1999, will give her forecasts for chip technology in the year 2000...
Mike Magee, 30 Dec 1999

Uri Geller bent on legal action over Pokemon likenesses

Cutlery-bender Uri Geller (53) is up in arms at Nintendo about two "Un-Geller" Pokemon trading cards. Yesterday's Guardian UK daily newspaper reported that Geller is considering sueing Nintendo because of the likenesses on the cards, one of which portrays a "good" Un-Geller and the other a "bad" Un-Geller. The newspaper reported that Geller is likely to seek £60 million in damages for using his image without permission. The trading cards, which are highly popular with children, sell for as much as £15 here. Geller, who was in Tokyo last week, is reported to have said that he was startled when he was mobbed by kids thrusting Un-Geller cards at him and asking him to put his moniker on them. The image on the Un-Geller Pokemon cards shows a monster carrying two spoons in his hands. In the West, one of the Pokemon characters is called Alakazam, and is only called Un-Geller in Japan. The other character, Cadabra over here, also holds spoons in his hands. ® The Guardian
Team Register, 30 Dec 1999

Judge refuses DVD biz' DeCSS ban request

DVD industry attempts to block the distribution of DeCSS at least until 14 January 2000, the controversial DVD file decryption software, failed yesterday. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge William Efving threw out a request for a temporary order to force 72 Web sites to cease offering the software for download. The request was made on Monday by the DVD Copy Control Association (DCCA) on behalf of the movie industry, hardware manufacturers and technology licensing bodies like itself. Efving did not give his reasons for refusing the DCCA request. ®
Tony Smith, 30 Dec 1999

Qualcomm leads NASDAQ to unprecedented heights

The Nasdaq composite index closed above 4,000 points yesterday, only months after amazing analysts by breaking 3,000. This is the result of unprecedented investor optimism over technology stocks, many of which have risen by more than 500 percent this year alone. By far the largest winner is Qualcomm, whose shares rose $97 to $756 in London this morning, after gaining $156 in New York yesterday. The company's shares are up a spectacular 2,400 percent this year. Other technology stocks have gained monumentally this year too. Yahoo, Intuit, i2, CMGI and Broadvision have all doubled in the past two months, during the period when the NASDAQ rose from 3,000 to over 4,000. The NASDAQ has risen proportionally more this year than any American index in history. This is especially surprising when one considers that the majority of issues driving the index have been expanding ahead of profits, and have seen their share values outstripping earnings by a hefty margin. Their high value is purely a function of earnings expectations; while the expectations are purely the product of widespread optimism regarding the Internet's potential to serve one day as some colossal engine of global wealth. The party can go on indefinitely so long as everyone remains convinced that the Internet is all it's cracked up to be; but if the vast wealth it is supposed to create turns out a disappointment, there will eventually have to be a realistic assessment of the value of companies whose fortunes are tied to it. There is a limit to the faith one can place in a company that produces no real profits. In times of economic stress, one is far more likely to hold shares in a company that creates actual wealth rather than creating the mere expectation of wealth. To us it all seems a bit mad, really; but since The Register's fortunes are as much tied to the Internet as anyone else's, we can't help wishing that the rest of the world would turn a blind eye to the pitfalls and risks, and join us in a toast to future earnings based on a whole lot of investors declining to ask any very difficult questions. Cheers! ®
Thomas C Greene, 30 Dec 1999

eToys softens under grassroots pressure

Online toy mega-merchant eToys conceded that popular support for the Swiss art group etoy encouraged it to offer a settlement to an old domain-name contest. The company offered to withdraw its suit if etoy withdraws its counter suit. eToys reportedly offered the Swiss artistes as much as US $1 million for the right to their domain name, etoy.com, but was spurned. The dispute reached an impasse, and eToys filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against etoy in September. In November, eToys won an injunction against the art group, forcing it to shut down its site. For its part, etoy say it has been around longer, and that this is a case of reverse hijacking. But now things appear to be moving towards co-existence, with one remaining sticky bit: the company has requested that etoy remove the more vulgar examples of its fine-arts offerings to a different site if it should keep the disputed domain name, so as to preserve the virtue of innocent women and children who might otherwise stumble upon an obscenity in their quest of such wholesome toys as the "Psycho Mantis" action figure, of which the company says: "This horrific former KGB agent has a face that only a mother could love. However, she died during childbirth so that would explain why Psycho Mantis is devoid of any emotion. His accessories include an NBC (Nuclear/Biological/Chemical) gas mask used to hide his grotesque visage and to focus his deadly psycho-kinetic powers." Or the "Quake Series Iron Maiden," advertised thus: "This may not be the kind of girl you take home to meet the parents, but hey, she does have the distinction of being a Strogg alien bent on destroying the human race. Her interchangeable limbs include a machine gun arm to rip holes in marine's armour and a cybernetic blade arm to shred what remains." Both toys are recommended for children aged nine and over. Support for the artsy group has increased as a result of the suit, and probably comes from people more concerned with checking the power of commercial entities on the Web than with the artistic message of this particular underdog. But regardless of its motives, etoy has mounted an effective shame-campaign to which the upstart retailer has responded. It all makes for a most intriguing precedent, one which, we are sure, will be watched with great interest by a number of companies whose names might be in dispute. ®
Thomas C Greene, 30 Dec 1999

Nigerian govt. kills Millennium bug

The Nigerian government on Wednesday authorised its state-run telephone company to disconnect private carriers which it deemed ill prepared to face the Y2K rollover. The company, Nitel, promptly responded by cutting off something like 20,000 private lines. "This is necessary in order to protect the integrity of the national network and avoid disruption of services," Nitel explained in a prepared statement. One private company representative called the statement "nonsense". "All Nitel's facilities nation-wide are Y2K compliant and will not experience any disruption to telecommunications services during the transition from this to the next Millennium," Nitel claimed. The government strategy may prove be a double-edged sword. Nitel will have no scapegoat if things should go awry on 1 January. A bit risky, but we admire the confidence with which the company has isolated itself as the only possible cause of any telephone stuff-ups that might occur. We hope it all works out; though if it doesn't, perhaps one benefit will be an acceleration of Nitel's long-promised privatisation. ®
Thomas C Greene, 30 Dec 1999

Vatican defences survive three-day hack attack

A three-day mass hack attack on the Vatican Web site over Christmas failed to breach the defences of the online wing of the Roman Catholic Church. But the site nearly buckled under the barrage. Crackers attempted to replace itineraries for pilgrims posted on the site with pornography and blasphemy, The Guardian reports. It gets worse: the attackers "wanted to plant bugs that would block pages and crash the site". That sounds like eternal hellfire and damnation to us. Following the crack, The Vatican has recruited a former hacker to help shore up its Web security. ® www.vatican.va
Drew Cullen, 30 Dec 1999

VIA pays for world to pray

VIA, the Taiwanese chip firm led by devout Christian Wen Chi Chen, is sponsoring the new www.worldpray.com Web site. This will provide an "interactive global forum for people to post their prayers and aspirations for the new millennium" The site features an interactive Millennium Prayerboard, where people can post their prayers and thoughts for the new Millennium. There is also a "Heavenly Portal section which contains hundreds of links to leading Christian churches and educational, entertainment, and bible reading resources on the Internet". Material is published in English and Chinese. VIA boss Chen said: "The worldpray.com Web site allows us to leverage the power of modern high technology to provide a place where people from different countries and cultural and social backgrounds can come together over the Internet and find peace through the glory of God." VIA is promoting the site with an big advertising push, both online and in English and Chinese print media. The company's ultimate goal is to make "worldpray.com one of the leading global Christian communities on the Internet", Chen revealed Sponsorship of the site is in accordance with VIA's Christian values, he said. ®
Team Register, 30 Dec 1999