6th > January > 2000 Archive

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Turnover up, membership churn down at Freeserve

Freeserve shares rose 16.25 p (3.32 per cent) in early trading this morning despite announcing losses of £3.6 million for Q2 -- £8.6 million for the half year ended 13 November. Q2 turnover hit £3.8 million, with average weekly turnover up 49 per cent compared to Q1. A little more than half of its income (£1.93 million) came from telephony-based revenue. Advertising and ecommerce made up the some £1.85 million. The market's apparent optimism for the ISP at a time when other technology stocks are taking a hammering will no doubt bring a smile to the face of the company's CEO John Pluthero. In a statement today he said: "I am pleased to present another strong set of results which reflects our position as both the leading Internet service provider and the leading portal in the UK. "We now have the most recognised Internet brand in the country and through our arrangements with BT Cellnet and others, we are building on this to ensure that Freeserve is available wherever the Internet can be accessed," he said. The company also said it had increased its number of accounts to 1.575 million active users, up 12 per cent n the previous quarter end. Average four-weekly churn has also dropped to 7.7 per cent, down from 9.5 per cent, suggesting that the ISP is hanging onto to its customers far better than before. ®
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Net rumours boost CCM share price

CCM Distribution was surprised to find its share price leap 131 per cent earlier this week after speculation over a Web deal. The Cheshire-based company's shares climbed 5.25 pence to 9.25 pence in Tuesday's trading. Brent Cutler, CCM distribution MD, said the price surge seemed to stem from analysts predicting that CCM was about to buy an Internet company. Yesterday's FT dubbed CCM the best performer in the market on the back of new year and weekend press tips. But the distributor's only Web plans involve selling its PC products online from next month, Cutler said. "These take-over rumours are untrue. There is no Internet deal in the offing." "We don't know how the speculation started. I think people have misinterpreted what's going on and think we're going to buy an Internet company," he said. Other traditional IT companies' share prices have also benefitted from plans to take the cyber route. In November, InterX announced plans to split from its PC distribution arm Ideal Hardware to concentrate on its Web business. Since then its share price has steadily risen from 327.5 pence to today's 885 pence. "If people think you are about to be a dot.com company, you become more valuable," said Cutler. CCM's share price was today holding up at 8.5 pence. ® Related stories: CCM dips toe in e-commerce waters Falling prices dent CCM figures
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Backlogged CallNet has new year hangover

CallNet 0800 has failed to clear the backlog of unprocessed registrations for its service that plagued the ISP following its launch at the tail end of last year. The toll-free dial-up service had promised that the backlog would be clear before Christmas and that the ISP would be accepting registrations in time for the festive season. But a spokesman for the company confirmed that despite their best efforts CallNet 0800 had failed to deliver its promise. This is despite receiving a cash injection from Cisco Capital to fund the expansion of its network infrastructure which it claimed would help double capacity "prior to the New Year". The news will come as a bitter disappointment to many Net users in Britain who want to advantage of CallNet's toll-free 0800 service. Elsewhere, ISP 24/7Freecall confirmed it had delayed the launch of its flat-rate toll-free service until February. The service -- which offers users toll-free access to the Net for £24.70 a month -- was due to be launched in December last year. A spokesman for the ISP said: "We delayed the launch because we want the service to be 110 per cent right when we go live." The service is to begin undergoing trials next week. ® Related Stories: Cisco backs CallNet0800 expansion CallNet to re-open registration site CallNet boasts big numbers in spite of problems
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UK is mobile phone laggard

The UK is lagging behind its European counterparts in mobile phone use, despite surging Christmas sales. More than four million UK punters bought a mobile in the final quarter of 1999, making a total of 24 million users or almost 40 per cent of the population. Orange gained the most new subscribers, netting 1.4 million new customers - 836,000 of whom joined in December. It now boasts over five million users, second only to Vodafone's 7.94 million in the UK. Vodafone added 1.1 million customers in the Christmas quarter. All four of the country's main operators gained at least 900,000 users each in the October to December period. BT Cellnet signed up 1 million, slightly ahead of One2One's 903,000. Virgin Mobile, the joint venture between the Richard Branson empire and One2One gained 100,000 customers in its first seven weeks. Around 300,000 of new subscribers were schoolchildren. According to today's Times newspaper, mobile phones were the most requested Christmas present for British kids aged 10 to 15. But the UK is still playing catch up to much of Europe. According to figures last December, Finland had the highest percentage of users, with 65 per cent of its population owning one of the devices. This was followed by fellow Scandinavians Norway and Iceland with 61 per cent, and Sweden with 57 per cent. In fact, most of the continent had a higher percentage of users than the UK, today's Financial Times reported. Italy claimed 50 per cent, and Portugal 44 per cent. This put the UK in twelfth place, with 37 per cent of the population owning a mobile in the pre-Christmas buying rush. ® Related stories: Mobile phone boom expected for festive season One in three Brits owns a mobile phone It's official: Mobile phones give you diarrhoea
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Dotcom IPOs master the universe

Dotcom IPOs in the US yielded a massive $702bn in equity value last year - more than half of the sector's total market capitalisation. Last year, web-related IPOs generated 53 per cent of the web sector's combined stock market value of $1.32 trillion, according to a study by researchers Paul Kagan Associates. On average, 1999 web IPOs gained 253 per cent in value.
The Register breaking news

The chips were up in 1999

World chip sales increased 18 per cent last year to a value of $160 billion, with growth set to rise in 2000, according to Dataquest. The spurt from $136 billion in 1998 was the biggest for four years, with no surprises as Intel stayed on top with over a fifth of the market – notching up sales of $26 billion. Chipzilla claimed a $16 billion lead on the market's number two, NEC. Growth is expected to speed up over the next few years as the rest of the world plays catch up to the US Internet and mobile phone frenzy," said Joe D'Elia, senior analyst at Dataquest. "If you look at the industry worldwide, the driving force behind growth is the Internet. In the US, the uptake of fast modems and ADSL is much more advanced than in Europe and Japan, and the rest of the world will have to catch up," said D'Elia. Dataquest's current forecast for global chip sales growth for 2000 is 18 per cent. "But I wouldn't be surprised if it was more like 30 per cent, judging by events over the last four months," said D'Elia. D'Elia thinks the strong growth will continue until mid-2003, when the industry will see production rises causing a glut. "Collectively, we will see DRAM vendors do well this year. But if we look outside that group, the companies to watch will be those such as Texas Instruments, Lucent and ST Micro Electronics – in the communications sector, involved in data communications, cable modems and telecomms," he said. Intel may have kept the lion's share of the market, but its grip is steadily declining. NEC's sales were up 12 per cent on the previous year, giving it a market share of 5.8 per cent. Intel's slice was slightly down on the previous year at 16.1 per cent. Toshiba had sales of $7.6 billion in 1999, up 28 per cent and making it the third biggest vendor with 4.7 per cent market share. ®
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ATI launches dual-chip board for hardcore gamers

ATI Technologies today launched its RAGE Fury MAXX graphics card aimed at hardcore gamers. The device has two RAGE 128 Pro chips and 64MB memory on one 64MB board. The Rage Fury MAXX boasts 500 megapixels per second to help power-hungry gamers destroy their on-screen opponents. In the words of the Ontario-based manufacturer: "First person shooter games will be expanded and the level of background detail will dramatically improve." "For example, long range weapons in Quake III will become much more effective as enemies that would have been impossible to distinguish in 800x600... Fans of strategy games will be able to view and manage their troops more effectively while flight simulator pilots will be able to better judge their flight patterns." Described as the "top of the ladder for the serious gamer" by ATI, the board will be available this month from £189.®
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Railtrack, Lloyds of London Web hacker explains motives

Interview A member of a group which hacked into the Lloyds of London web site twice in one day has explained his intent in an exclusive interview with The Register. Over the New Year, Lloyds and a number of other sites including Railtrack UK, Eidos, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) suffered attacks to their sites from groups appearing to act in concert. The hacker, who calls himself MisterX, also claims, in the interview below, that credit card transactions across the Internet are unsafe, and that he and his group have methods for hoovering up confidential data from Web sites. Q Hackers are generally described in the press as malicious or mischievous. Is there any serious intent to this activity, is it an intellectual exercise or is it just done for "fun" or to see if it can be done? ASome people do it for intellectual challenge, others do it with malicious intent. Some do it for fame amongst the hacker community, but all they get is disrespect. My hacks were to prove a point, which I think they have done. Many large UK organisations need to revise their security strategies, or lack of them. I defaced web sites to prove this point, but I could have easily got access to other systems and caused alot of damage. I am trying to make the community, in general, aware of the threats of cyber terrorism, and how real they are. Q What are the lessons large businesses should learn from their apparent inability to protect themselves against hacking? A They could have protected themselves from the attacks I used on them if only they had kept up to date on the latest computer security developments. Q Is there a worldwide network of people who share ideas and collectively hack sites, or is it more like small groups who have little contact with each other? A There is an underground scene, which shares files unreleased to the public. [These are] files on the latest security developments hot off the press, way before the public even knows these holes exist. But good morals normally lead them into the open. As for web site defacement it is generally small groups that do this, trying to compete against each other, and these groups are not very well respected within the mainstream community. Q Are the legal penalties against hacking that many governments have instituted any deterrent at all? Are the legal penalties too heavy handed? A Some governments have ridiculous penalties, as in the case of two Chinese hackers who stole a measly amount from a bank and were sentenced to death. The UK is more lax on the law in this respect :) I would just like to delve slightly into e-commerce. I warn the public about the drastic dangers of shopping online. I, personally, could break into a number of highly used e-commerce sites and steal the credit card numbers of every customer that ever shopped there. The head of Novell that shopped online and had his credit card number snarfed, said it was due to cookies. Well, the truth is someone most probably broke into one of the sites he used it on and his wasn't the only card abused, yet the site probably would not have even know the attack had taken place, and could still be taking place. Shopping online is not safe at the moment, despite what the big companies say, and which are just trying endlessly to grab your money, and see as the Internet as just another means of doing so. They tell you that they care about your security, OK, I grant them that, maybe they do. It is not in their hands though. As I mentioned earlier, hackers have resources unavailable to the general public, meaning a system administrator may think his site is secure, but, some one some where has a method of breaking in. ® Lloyds of London, Met Office follow Railtrack UK in hack attack
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Oracle chief sues city of San Jose

If you thought the silly season ended once Christmas was out of the way, think again. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison is suing the city of San Jose. Not one of the run-of-the-mill technology patent bust-ups this one, oh no. Ellison's beef is to do with his $38 million private jet and San Jose airport's takeoff curfew. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the city of San Jose has a no-takeoff rule between the hours of 11:30pm and 6:30am for planes that weight more than 75,000 pounds, on account of the noise. Ellison owns a Gulfstream V which – with a full payload of fuel - weighs in at 90,500 pounds. Sounds fairly straightforward, no? Well, no. Ellison is claiming that his plane is certified to takeoff under the same restrictions as a 75,000 pound plane and that it is much quieter than many smaller planes. Technically this is correct, but it hasn't stopped the San Jose authorities taking a dim view of Ellison's decision to fly outside the curfew rules. Ellison's plane has busted the curfew a total of nine times so far and he has received a number of warnings from the San Jose city officials telling him this must stop. But despite threats that legal action was on the cards, none has appeared. Which is why, apparently, Ellison's lawyers have taken the initiative. The action is being taken on Ellison's behalf by the company that look's after the Oracle chief when airborne – the (not-so) optimistically named Wing & A Prayer. According to Ellison's lawyer, one Edward P Davis Jr: "The city is trying to characterize Larry as this scofflaw who doesn't care about the regulations. It's simply a matter of this has to be resolved, and the best way to resolve it is in the courts." And you thought you had problems. ®
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Gates unveils new CE and Compaq-built Web appliance

In his CES keynote last night Bill Gates went some way towards fleshing out Microsoft's strategy for the consumer electronics business, but not quite far enough for observers to see absolutely clear daylight. He demoed smart phones, a new version of CE, the latest rev of the MSN Web Companion and Auto PC, but didn't entirely nail down how all this hangs together - if it does, that is. And of course the announcements were largely iterations of existing products and/or concepts. Pre-keynote leaks had suggested that the lad intended to announce a whole new consumer strategy and a decisive refocussing for the operating system formerly known as CE, but as is so frequently the case when he speaks, Gates didn't quite get it together. But that doesn't mean the refocussing isn't happening. The Windows CE group, which wasn't directly referred to in the major Microsoft reorganisation late last year, is now part of Jim Allchin's platforms group, and is working with the Embedded NT group within a new Embedded/Appliances Platform Group. The devices Gates showed last night could be viewed as the public/consumer face of CE, but the way Microsoft has now divisionalised the OS suggests it sees at least some implementations as being sufficiently shrunk down for them to play on the less smart versions of mobile phones. At the moment Microsoft is pitching its microbrowser at these, and reserving CE for more powerful devices, but that won't be the case forever, and there's probably a lot more that we can't see going on under the covers. Last year's decision to stop calling things CE machines and call them Windows Powered instead ties in with this too, as the use of a broad Windows banner allows a certain amount of blurring. So it won't be a surprise if some of the products from the Embedded/Appliances Group turn out to be not CE at all. Gates has however injected some more blurring/confusion with the tag for the next rev of CE devices, Pocket PC. Of course they're probably still Windows Powered. Here though Gates did give a clear indication of where Microsoft sees these things going. Pocket PC devices will use ClearType and Microsoft Reader software, and Microsoft is allying with Barnes & Noble in order to produce books you can read on them. The electronic book notion, although at this point in history a seriously dumb idea, is close to Bill's heart, and obviously he thinks that it provides CE, or whatever it's called today, with a plausible route to success. Pocket PC devices will also support Windows Media Player, and that's perhaps a more serious runner. Portable MP3 players are happening, so this could provide a purpose for devices that haven't always looked like they had one. The MSN Web Companion seems to be happening too. Hilariously, Microsoft has yet to produce any seriously hard information about this box, preferring instead to whip it out during more general presentations. The one Bill showed last night however had been built by Compaq, so it looks like we've got at least one manufacturer in tow. But although the bits were interesting, overall coherence seems to be lacking. Microsoft's head consumer thinker Craig Mundie is due on tonight, however, so maybe he'll come up with a bit more form. ®
The Register breaking news

Free Net via satellite ISP to hit UK

A new venture is promising to offer free broadband access to the Net via satellite for ten million people in the US and five million people in Britain.
The Register breaking news

Security back-door leaves Intel mail servers open

A security glitch in Intel's InBusiness Email Station has left servers open to attack, according to a US security analyst. The hole was part of the original design in 1997 to allow remote control of servers in the event of serious technical problems. Without submitting a password, an intruder can issue commands to delete files, restore machines to factory settings or take over a machine completely using the secret back entrance to the server, says Kit Knox from Security site, Rootshell. Knox found the problem while evaluating the product and discovered the commands within the machine's start up instructions. Intel talking head, Mikki Fuller told CNET: "This was a back door that existed in our product. We are publishing code that will close the back door for our customers." Knox believes computer security would be improved if security software went open source. In this way there is less likelihood of there being security issues that are not known about. Which some people might interpret as an exercise in passing the buck. A similar criticism was made of Intel's Pentium III processor which it was alleged could allow Web sites or government agencies for instance to track users' Web habits. The fix update should be on Intel's support Web site late this afternoon. ®
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Gateway to use AMD because of Intel chip famine

Gateway has come clean on its plans to use AMD microprocessors in its PCs, after issuing a profits warning yesterday blaming shortages of Intel components. The company said that it expects to post earnings for its fourth financial quarter that are less than expected, because of difficulties getting hold of enough Intel processors to satisfy demand. Those parts include 400MHz and 433MHz Celerons, as well as Coppermine .18 micron processors, some of which, as we reported the day after they were launched, were almost impossible to obtain. There was also a shortage of the popular BX chipset in autumn last year. In a conference call to financial analysts, Gateway said that uncertainty over the Y2K bug would also dent its profits for the quarter. Gateway executives said that the firm will introduce PCs using AMD chips within the next week or so. AMD in the US confirmed that it had been talking to the company about supplying it with microprocessors. The decision for Gateway to second source AMD microprocessors will be a blow for Intel, which persuaded the company last year to stick with its chips and included a financial incentive to help it do so. However, as we reported late last year, Intel, for a reason so far unexplained, unilaterally decided to end this arrangement with Gateway. Gateway is unlikely to be the only company to have been affected by the Intel chip drought, and we can expect to see other PC vendors reporting similar effects in the usually lucrative selling period between September and Christmas. While Intel announced a large number of Coppermine parts on October 25th, but even two months later, on Christmas Day, supplies of its top end 733MHz Pentium III were still severely constrained. ® See also Compaq favours AMD K6-II for new notebook range Gateway stealth launches Athlon PCs Intel loses big industry face to AMD over Coppermines Intel trashes Gateway rebate scheme No Athlon from Gateway -- officially. Yes there is, unofficially AMD wins must shiver Intel's timbers Compaq, Fujitsu-Siemens switch to AMD Athlons for Yule machines Big PC vendors furious over Intel Coppermine yields Huge shortages, technical problems hit Intel Coppermine debut
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Tomb Player fire-sale knocks Gameplay over

A top games Web site played hide and seek with its regulars today after offering 4,000 copies of Tomb Raider Last Revelation for just £1. By two o'clock this afternoon (1400hr GMT)Gameplay had received 81,000 requests for the game although it insisted many of the orders were duplicated. The bargain-basement offer -- which started at midday -- caused a stampede at the site making it off limits for many people trying to cash in on the offer. Gameplay usually retails the game at £26.99 for PlayStation versions and £24.99 for PC. Earlier today it was business as usual for anyone wanting to slip into Gameplay for a bit of R 'n' R. By late morning, it was impossible as the site became swamped with users trying to get their mits on the knockdown knockout game. "We've been overwhelmed by the response," said a spokeswoman for Gameplay. We've been handling an order every six seconds," she said. Executives at the London-based Web company admitted that some of their servers simply couldn't cope with the rush but insisted the offer was a success. In July last year online booksellers, BOL, caved in under the weight of 40,000 bookworms when it decided to give away 20,000 books. ® Related items: Rush for free books knocks over BOL server Gameplay
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Compaq shows 1GHz Kryotech-AMD system

Compaq is showing a 1GHz Presario which uses Kryotech's Super G technology in combination with an AMD Athlon. Kryotech introduced the supercooled system at the end of last year, but the fact that Compaq is showing a product based on it is a plus for both it and for chip company AMD. The system is being demoed at a consumer show currently being held in Las Vegas. Compaq's director of consumer desktop marketing, Mark Vena, said that the adoption of the Super G technology meant that his company was the first major computer manufacturer to publicly demonstrate a 1GHz system. And Compaq's Web site is already showing off the 800MHz Athlon chip which will become available over the next few days, at this location on its Web site. And AMD has now formally issued its PR release about the 800MHz part, see here. ® See also 800MHz Athlon hits Intel in the face
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800MHz Athlon hits Intel in the face

Updated Chip company AMD has confirmed the release of an 800MHz Athlon, further compounding embarrassment for Intel in the Megahertz Wars. Both IBM and Compaq will use the 800MHz part in systems they will sell. Sources close to the company's plans expect the .18 micron 800MHz microprocessor to become available to PC companies on the 10th of January in quantity. Although Intel pre-announced its 800MHz Pentium III at the end of last year, that part will not become available in quantity for quite some time. As we have reported here before, AMD can just click its fingers and roll out a 1GHz Athlon when it sees fit to, according to the same sources. Intel is not expected to have a 1GHz Pentium available in quantity until the second half of this year. We have also received confirmation from highly reliable sources that AMD will cut prices on its Athlon family on the 23rd of January, with the reductions likely to be in the $80 to $25 range. This date will also see a severe rationalisation of Pentium III parts from Intel and a further round of price cuts from the chip giant. Intel started the Megahertz Wars several years ago by focusing on clock speed as the raw indicator of how powerful a microprocessor is. Although this criterion is doubtful, it has found itself in recent months being hoist by its own Megahertz petard. AMD, in the last few hours, formally announced the release of the part, in a press release which you can find here. ® Intel fine tweaks Pentium III prices Intel starts to shuffle chip prices, specs Intel will cut Coppermine prices sooner than expected Intel will sample 800MHz Pentium IIIs next Monday Intel moves 800MHz release date forward Intel's 800MHz Spinola
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China bans Win2k, developing Red Flag Linux instead

China is to ban government use of Windows 2000 and is developing its own Linux-based operating system instead, according to reports this morning from Beijing. The move, which doesn't seem to have been entirely confirmed as yet, follows on from claims last year that China intended to ban both Intel processors and Microsoft software for security reasons (China says no to PII, Win98). According to the Yangcheng Evening News, Chinese officials intend to both save money and boost local development via the move. Most of the Microsoft software used in China isn't actually paid for, but the government claims to be running a clean operation, so if it upgraded to Win2k it would cost a bundle. Unless of course it got a present from Microsoft. But while you could maybe reckon this is just a bit of price-gouging by China, the development of what seems to be called Red Flag Linux (unless you want tanks on your lawn, Mr Young, we'd caution you not to sue) is being justified for other reasons. According to Chinese officials quoted in the paper the development of an indigenous operating system is being seen as an IT parallel to the cold war leaps China made in producing nuclear weapons, missiles and satellites. Exactly (or even approximately) how China intends to conform to Linux licensing terms and conditions isn't made clear, but any geeks out there salivating over the prospect of gaining access to the source for missile control systems shouldn't hold their breath. In the strange coincidences department some of you may have noted the triumphant conclusion of a US-China trade deal last year, paving the way for China's entry to the World Trade Organisation. These moves were designed to foster free trade and thus to make it easier for overseas companies to sell their wares in China untrammelled by embargoes and tariffs. Ahem, as we say in Redmond. ®
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LinuxPPC readies retail release

Mac Linux distributor LinuxPPC is preparing to widen the appeal of its PowerPC implementation of the open source OS with a push into the Mac retail and resale channel. The drive will centre on the company's upcoming LinuxPPC 2000 release, to be made available in a box set comprising dual source and binary CDs, and, at long last, a printed manual. LinuxPPC 2000 sports upgraded kernel, utilities, application and GUI software; an improved, faster version of its graphical installation utility; and a graphical disk partitioning utility. It will also be the company's first version of Linux to boot directly off the CD. LinuxPPC 2000 is based on the popular x86-oriented Red Hat Linux. The release of the box-set, geared more towards sales through resellers than LinuxPPC's traditional off-the-Web approach, will mark the company's emergence as a more commercial entity, extending it beyond its roots servicing the once small Mac Linux community into the IT mainstream. LinuxPPC has some way to go to match the productisation of the Linux OS done by rival Mac-based Yellow Dog Linux, which has two highly targeted Linux distributions: Champion Server and the still-to-ship Gone Home. However, it is definitely moving in the right direction here, a process that will hopeful be accelerated by arrival of other Linux distributors into the Mac market, most notably European market leader SuSE. LinuxPPC 2000 is due to be released later this month. ®
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3dfx pledges native Mac support in Voodoo 4, 5

Graphics specialist 3dfx took its presence in the Mac gaming market up a notch yesterday when it announced its upcoming Voodoo 4 and 5 cards would ship with native MacOS support. The downside is that Mac gamers will have to wait a little longer than PC players for the new cards, which are based on 3dfx's Voodoo Scalable Architecture (VSA) chip and due for release late March. And further delays in the chip's development schedule may push even the PC release date back. Register Ah, so your still simulating the VSA using four Voodoo 2 boards hooked up in parallel. I was kind of hoping to see some real silicon by now. 3dfx oppo Er... yeah... so were we... Silicon issues aside, the release of the Voodoo 4 and 5 products do will mark a leap ahead for Mac support. The VSA supports the Mac's own colour formats and the big-endian PowerPC (alongside the little-endian x86 platform). 3dfx's previous efforts have been in some ways hampered by the lack of native support for Mac formatting in the Voodoo 2 chip, the basis for the company's Voodoo 2 and Voodoo 3 boards. It's a testament to 3dfx's desire to expand out of the PC market that Mac support has been built into the VSA's architecture. Of course, the way 3dfx spins it, it's all down to Apple's latest high-performance desktops and Voodoo-hungry users, but we suspect the company's shrinking marketshare in the PC gaming space and loss-making status is the real motivation. Still, it is good news for Mac gamers who seek an alternative to the under-powered ATI Rage 128-based boards Apple is currently bundling. 3dfx said it will offer Voodoo 4 and 5 boards for the Mac, but it's not yet clear whether they will be specific Mac-targeted products or the company will simply ship Mac drivers with the PC versions, which were formally introduced last November. The delay in the release of the Mac version -- due to the company's relative newness the platform, it claims -- suggests the former. ® Related Story 3dfx open sources Glide, Voodoo 2 and 3 specs.
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Apple iBook falls from top-selling notebook slot

Apple's ebullience over shipping 1.35 million Macs in the three months to 31 December 1999, as joyfully proclaimed by CEO Steve Jobs this week, was tempered today when it emerged the iBook's two-month run as the best selling notebook has come to an end. According to the November stats from market researcher PC Data, which monitors sales through US retail, online and mail order channels, the blueberry-coloured iBook was outsold by Toshiba's Satellite 1555CDS. Even so, it still notched up stronger sales than machines from Compaq, which took the number three and number four slots in PC Data's charts, and Sony (number five). At this stage it's not clear whether sales of the tangerine iBook during November would have been sufficient for the notebook's overall to keep it at the top of the tree. PC Data doesn't count the two models as one, even though they are identical apart from their colour. In October, the blueberry iMac outsold the tangerine version by a factor of 9:1, so it's unlikely that combining the two models' sales would make much of a difference to the overall score. In the desktop PC category, the iMac, in any of its forms, failed to make the top five, being pushed out by much cheaper Wintel machines, some as low as $470. Of course, that's without a monitor, but it goes to show how the perception of an ultra-low price, even if it's not matched in practice, is affecting consumer buying patterns. Still, 1.35 million Macs isn't a bad sales figure and, on the basis of previous results, should see Apple posting revenues of around $2.4 billion and profits of at least $140 million before exceptional items when it reveals the last quarter's figures, on 19 January. For the previous quarter, it posted a profit of $90 million before exceptional items and sales of $1.34 billion. ®
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Microsoft hires distinguished woman singer to throw tantrums

Good grief. Microsoft is hiring a well-known arrogant and temperamental opera singer to serve as its new consumer ambassador and "simplicity spokesperson". Her name is Stacy Elliott and she is Microsoft’s new Digital Diva. Does anyone at Microsoft know what "Diva" actually means?