26th > January > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Young DeCSS developer rudely arrested

Norwegian police, leaping to action at the bidding of American commercial powers, raided the home of 16-year-old DeCSS developer Jon Johansen on Tuesday, arresting the lad and confiscating his computers for evidence. Following several hours of questioning, young Johansen was charged with gaining unauthorised access to data and copyright infringement, serious allegations for which he could serve time in gaol if convicted. The recent release of DeCSS, a program which cracks certain security features of DVDs, has terrified the entertainment industry, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and inspiring it to pursue numerous legal remedies with an almost bloodthirsty enthusiasm. Johansen maintains that the purpose of DeCSS is merely to make DVD media viewable to Linux users. The entertainment industry sees it as means of making illegal copies of DVD media and distributing them easily via the Internet. The core issue to be decided in court is whether DeCSS poses a significant threat to copyrights. Opinions vary, but The Register received several comments from vigilant readers on a previous story where we observed that DeCSS can be used to crack DVD copyright protection, and so enable users to save DVD content to a hard disk for subsequent distribution via Internet download. We were more than once referred to a "Journalist's Fact Sheet" at OpenDVD.org, which notes that "the [DVD] encryption only hinders playback. It is possible to (illegally) copy a DVD disk without decrypting anything! You can do this because the decryption is done at play time and doesn't have anything to do with copying." Several of our readers mistook this assertion for evidence that DeCSS can't be used to make illegal, decrypted copies of DVD disks. Not quite right: the DVD Content Scrambling System (CSS) was cracked in the course of rendering the format available to 'unauthorised' media viewers such as one might use with Linux, and this means that DeCSS can in fact be abused as the MPAA fears. This is not to say that Johansen's intention in developing DeCSS is other than he claims, or to say that DeCSS will necessarily be abused, but clearly it can be (and, let's be real here, undoubtedly will be). It's the CSS decryption, not the fact that a Linux viewer can be enabled, that terrifies the MPAA. Of course one could make copies a still-encrypted DVD without DeCSS, but that's hardly what's got the MPAA in hysterics. The fear is that decrypted DVD content will find itself propagating wildly and inexpensively via Internet download throughout Russia, China, South Korea and Taiwan, where cheap, pirated copies of Western movies and music outnumber legal copies by at least a hundred to one. Now add a freeware 'unauthorised' viewer, and voila! pirate DVDs will work with your buggy, bootleg copy of Windows in Chinese too. With that in mind, we must allow that the MPAA has ample reason for concern, even if its behaviour has been irredeemably pissy and embarrassingly un-manly. ®
The Register breaking news

Charlie can surf

Surfing for fun at work is acceptable at work to the vast majority of employers, a new survey claims. A poll of 1400 US employers reveals that 82 per cent "condone Web surfing in the office". It beats giving staff more holidays, we suppose. Of the 82 per cent of employers who accept the practice of non work-related Web surfing, "74.1 per cent believe that news-oriented web sites are acceptable for employees to visit, and 48.5 per cent permit visits to stock sites". Good news for trainee day traders, then. Around half condone employees visiting message boards (including job message boards?). Travel sites head up the rear on 31.9 per cent, followed by retail (21.3 per cent) and entertainment (13.5 per cent). The survey was conducted by employee message board Vault.com which describes itself as The Workplace Network. More findings are available in a 34-page Survey of Internet Use in the Workplace. This covers topics ranging from an employer's right to monitor Web use by employees, to the Internet's effect on productivity. Recent firings at Xerox and the New York Times of porn-surfing-at-work employees prompted the study, Vault says. ®
The Register breaking news

FTSE 100 spurns Net job seekers

Brits are flocking to the Net to look for jobs but hit roadblocks when they arrive at most FTSE 100 sites. Thirty per cent of Britain's biggest companies fail to advertise recruitment opportunities on their Web sites, missing out on the huge gene pool of job-seeking surfers. Twenty five per cent of corporate Web sites target only graduates and less than ten per cent present information in a "logical and accessible" manner, a survey by Best Internet Recruitment reveals. Big companies are simply producing brochure-ware online and failing to exploit the interactive nature of the Internet, Best's Gemma Frankland said. "Not one of the FTSE top 100 companies is using the Internet to its full potential for recruitment," she claimed. The company says corporates should sell their jobs and make it easy for punters to apply. Only then can "the hidden pool of passive job seekers and the potential of the Internet be fully realised". ®
The Register breaking news

PCs on the way out for information appliances

The dominance of the PC market will decrease as information appliances take hold said Thomas Rothhaupt, National semiconductors' European Information Appliances Marketing Manager in London today. The PC could soon end up as marginalised as the mainframe computers of the 60s are today, he claimed. The mainframe saw its hay-day in the 50s and 60s and was superseded by smaller networked computers. By the 80s and 90s the PC had taken over, and Nat Semi believe that the information appliance is the next step in the evolution of desktop computing. Nat Semi reckons its business would save $30 million a year on IT costs by replacing PCs with cheaper alternatives that don't need upgrading and can connect to all the necessary Internet Services. The company believe that the power of the PC is not required by most employees. Giving call centres as an example, Rothhaupt said that the system could be quicker and if the server goes down, the system can still be used locally. Little training would be needed due to the "ease of use and silent products", which Nat Semi claims the industry wants. Security issues could be resolved claimed Rothhaupt, as the PC is the biggest cause of leaked data. A networked PC allows staff access to data on the server which could easily be taken out on a floppy disk. A bank is a good example of this where more data is stolen in this way than through hackers. Nat Semi say the interface of the future is to be more natural with voice and handwriting recognition, currently being developed. Personalised information devices they believe will be the future of technology where products are developed in conjunction with other companies. The company has been trotting out this 'post-PC era' stuff for some time now, not least because it offers the kind of integrated x86-compatible chips it hopes vendors will want to base information appliances on. ®
The Register breaking news

Britain unveils Net Time grab

Britain formally launches its bid to become the Internet's timekeeper today when industry and government join forces to launch Greenwich Electronic Time (GeT). The Government, the London Internet Exchange (LINX) and Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) are all supporting the scheme which was announced by Prime Minister Tony Blair on January 1 2000. According to its supporters, the aim of GeT is to improve the accuracy and stability of timekeeping on the Net and to support e-business. LINX has three caesium atomic clocks located on the Greenwich Meridian, which can be accessed by ISPs and Net users. Alex Allan, the Government's E-Envoy, is leading the venture on behalf of the UK Government. He said: "An accurate, easily available time standard on the Internet is a valuable tool for all involved in electronic commerce. "Trusted time stamps will be the way forward for E-business all over the world and this venture and supporting infrastructure puts the UK at the forefront of Internet development." ®
The Register breaking news

Inside-IT opens channel portal

George Evans is to launch his latest venture at the Computer Trade Show in Birmingham today. He is relaunching his Send-IT-Now! business as an online Yellow Pages for the Channel. Inside-IT.com will offer IT news -- including technology features and product reviews -- and an online directory to pinpoint manufacturers, distributors or products. We've checked it out -- it's good. The site will also have distribution and vendor deals and an online auction. In Evans’ words, "Inside-IT truly is the easiest way to find out what’s hot in the channel". Apparently, the launch is gimmick-free, so there's no chance of riding off into the sunset on Evans’ Harley Davidson like last year (or not, as the case may be – see earlier story).®
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Ad sales drive RealNetworks revenue doubling

Streaming media specialist RealNetworks yesterday saw its revenues more than double on the back of increased advertising sales during its latest completed financial quarter, Q4 1999. For the three months ended 31 December, RealNetworks notched up sales of $43.5 million, up from the $20.6 million it made in the same period last year. That led to profits of $6.1 million, knocked down from $8.3 million after a one-off item for an acquisition. Last year it posted a loss of $2.2 million. On the back of the results, RealNetworks announced a two-for-one stock split, and the acquisition of privately-held Netzip in a stock-swap valued at $268 million. NetZip develops software that improves the performance and flexibility of the downloading process -- like Netscape's SmartDownload technology, NetZip's software allows downloading to be paused and picked up later, even when a new connection has been made. It also offers media preview software. It's not hard to foresee RealNetworks building such tools into 'Pro' versions of its RealPlayer and RealJukebox software. The company noted that sales of such versions are up, with more users choosing to pay for more feature-filled versions of software RealNetworks offers for free. ®
The Register breaking news

AMD appoints Motorola man president

The ties between AMD and Motorola were strengthened yesterday when Intel's arch-rival in the x86 arena appointed the ex-head of Motorola's Semiconductor Products Sector, Hector de J Ruiz, to the posts of president and COO. At the same time, the company named 'the DJ' as the man to replace AMD chairman and CEO Jerry 'Colonel' Sanders when he leaves the company at the end of next year. "Hector and I are going to work closely together and it is my intent that he become the ultimate successor to take over for me... when my contract is over at the end of 2001," Sanders told Reuters. In the short term, Ruiz replaces Atiq Raza, who quit last July after AMD posted its biggest ever quarterly loss. AMD went on to report a profitable fourth quarter, possibly by following Raza's advice and cutting costs. One of Raza's proposed cost-cutting measures is believed to have been the sale of AMD's new Dresden, Germany fab, a plan that may have led to his falling out with Sanders. The Dresden fab is, of course, designed to produce CPUs based on Motorola's copper interconnect technology, which AMD licensed back in 1998 in exchange for licensing its own Flash memory technology to Motorola. Motorola, meanwhile, named Fred Tucker as Ruiz' replacement. Tucker was formerly an executive VP and deputy to the office of CEO. ®
The Register breaking news

Qualcomm sees Q1 profit soar

Wireless technology developer – and one-time handset maker – Qualcomm, has posted Q1 results that pipped analysts' expectations at the post. Turnover for the three months ended 26 December 1999 was up 19 per cent to £1.1 billion, from $941 million in the same period last year. Profit stood at $192 million, which equates to 25 cents per share – just ahead of the 24 cents per share that had been expected. This compares with $49 million – eight cents per share - for the last Q1. After unloading its handset division to Kyocera over the New Year, Qualcomm will be focusing on CMDA development, a market expected to balloon with the take-up of next-generation mobile devices. Shipments could suffer in Q2 though, as company hinted that the phone channel is full to bursting with product. According to Reuters, the outlook for Q2 is likely to hit the 25 cent per share earnings mark predicted by analysts. ® See also: Kyocera buys Qualcomm Terrestrial
The Register breaking news

MS: Neptune consumer Win2k not cancelled, just not happening

Microsoft has now confirmed that its Win2k development efforts have been merged into a single effort, covering both business and consumer markets, codenamed Whistler. The news, broken a few days ago by Paul Thurrott of WinInfo, effectively means that last year's triple-forked roadmap has been junked, but Microsoft's spinmeisters are still jumping through hoops to avoid using the world "cancelled." Last year's roadmaps planned for one consumer OS for 2000, Millennium, based on Win9x. In addition there was to be a Win2k-based consumer product for the 2001 timeframe, Neptune, and the next rev of Win2k for business users was codenamed Odyssey. Millennium has been substantially downscaled since then, and though it's intended to ship this year it'll create about the same waves as Win98 SE did, at the most. Odyssey and Neptune are now no more as separate projects, but although Microsoft is now conceding that the merge into Whistler has happened, it insists nothing's been cancelled. Earlier this week a company spokesman told Windows NT Magazine that it was combining and streamlining Neptune and Odyssey. This tallies with the other corporate line, that Neptune was never going to be an OS anyway, and is just a set of technologies which the company will use in Whistler. But the spokesman seems to have blown it just after by telling the paper that the combining and streamlining process will result in a product that's likely to be professional, rather than consumer. Depending on what this actually means, it might be read as throwing the Microsoft OS roadmap back into confusion just nanoseconds after it had started to look rational again. Odyssey and Neptune didn't really make sense as separate OS projects being developed in parallel, because in both cases substantial rewrites under the covers would have been needed. Bill Gates himself was saying in April last year that we'd get a Win2k kernel update this year, followed by a consumer kernel upgrade in 18-24 months. These dates would of course have been kicked back anyway because Win2k shipped rather later than Bill was hoping last April, but the important point to remember is that kernel updates were felt to be needed in the first place. The consumerised kernel you could think of as a kind of Holy Grail for Microsoft, because it's something that's obviously needed if Win2k-based code is to play in consumer markets, but it's also something that would be difficult to do, considering the footprint and compatibility issues, so actually doing it stays as an event somewhere out on the far horizon. So by merging development into Whistler and tilting Whistler towards the business end, Microsoft is setting itself a more achievable goal, while at the same time backing off from a Win2k-based consumer OS. This obviously leaves a big consumer-shaped hole in the roadmap that Millennium can't convincingly fill. The succession of minor revs to Win9x can really only be seen as stop-gaps, so that still leaves the company to decide whether to roll with the Win2k-based version at some future date (codename it Sinatra if it comes back one more time), or whether it should really do the 'exterminate Dos' rewrite of Win9x that's been rumoured (largely incorrectly) since last year. Or indeed, whether the consumer group's CE-based platforms should turn out to be the real consumer Windows. We await the next roadmap rev with interest. ® Related items: MS cancels Neptune Paul Thurrott on Windows roadmaps WinNT Mag: MS cancels plan for split roadmap
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Sony profits down but still beat expectations

Sony saw its profits fall more than ten per cent during its most recent fiscal quarter though the results weren't as bad as the company and analysts had anticipated. The Japanese giant posted a consolidated operating profit of Y164.2 billion ($1.55 billion), down 10.2 per cent on last year's figure, rather less than the 20 per cent fall analysts had predicted. Sony blamed dwindling revenues from its PlayStation business, which has seen some very heavy price-cutting in the wake of rival Sega's Dreamcast launch last autumn, and the strength of the yen against the dollar, which has hit the value of Sony's overseas sales hard. Two-thirds of the company's revenues come from outside Japan. During the quarter the yen rose 15 per cent on the dollar. PlayStation-derived profits fell 26.7 per cent to Y57.54 billion ($543 million), while profits from Sony's music and movies subsidiaries were down by 26.7 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively. Balancing those declines was an increase of 25.2 per cent in profits from Sony's various consumer electronics operations, in particular DVD systems, digital camcorders and the company's popular Vaio PC range. Electronics sales are expected to be strong throughout the current quarter, which should also be boosted by the March launch of the PlayStation 2. Conversely, that should also see revenue from the original PlayStation tail off even faster, though it could also drive sales in Europe and the US, which won't receive the new console until the autumn. Once PlayStation 2's capabilities are shown to the public -- one of which is backwards compatibility with the PlayStation 1 -- new customers may well choose to buy into PlayStation 1 in the knowledge they can upgrade painlessly later. Sony hopes to sell one million PlayStation 2s during March and six million more throughout the following financial year. Countering the revenue derived from those sales will be Sony's massive advertising campaign. ® Related Stories Sony to launch e-commerce biz to serve PlayStation 2 users Sony to become 'Web department store' says president
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£2m Bill Gates domain sale is off

It looks like one man's dream to make millions out of Bill Gates has come to nothing. Back in December we reported that the domain billgates.co.uk had been registered for Teddington-based businessman, Peter Bohn. Bohn was, apparently, planning to sell the domain for a stonking £2 million. According to The Times, the domain had been offered for sale via a UK domain registrar, Phase 8, but Phase 8's MD, John Sewell, reckons the Bill-based domain has been dropped from the for sale list. And with that, Bohn's plan to make loads of money out of His Billness has failed – which is almost a pity as it's been one-way traffic on that particular street up to now. The Times also carried a remark from Microsoft's lawyers saying they would "object to anyone taking unfair advantage of the goodwill and recognition of Mr Gates's name and reputation." Earlier this week, The Register reported on the valiant efforts of the MS legal eagles to bully MS-friendly Web site Active Windows into changing its name. ® See also: Bill Gates domain 'for sale' at £2m New challenger enters Bill Gates domain sale ring Microsoft bullies IT news site into submission
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More MS fudging from Win2k speed trials

A sharp-eyed techie working for a major OEM (he understandably wishes to remain anonymous) draws our attention to further fudging in the Windows 2000 benchmarks exposed here yesterday. He also directs us to the NT versus Win95 product comparisons Microsoft ran at the time of NT 4.0's launch when - tsk - the results were precisely the reverse of the more recent NT-knocking propaganda. Our informant notes that in the latest benchmarks, carried out by ZD, a little extra work was obviously necessary to get video performance up. "In one configuration, they replaced the video card; in another, they went for updated video drivers. All because the originals were not 'fully optimised' for Win2000?!" Given that many of the real Win2k video drivers are still staggering out of beta, he accepts there was a rational for that. "But why not go the same length with NT4 or others? For instance, the NT4 driver they used for ATI Rage IIC was default release .1 while the latest available version is .3247... Some difference, huh? Surely at least ATI and Matrox are known for constantly tweaking their drivers for optimal performance and functionality." Why not, indeed? While the Win2k hardware benefited from the replacement of a poorly-performing video card, the NT4 system was left with a dodgy sound card "even though they noticed and documented its adverse effect on system performance!" The performance hit NT took could therefore conceivably have been enough to give Win2k the edge at 32 megabytes RAM. But way back when Microsoft was saying "Running Windows 95 at work? Eight solid reasons to move to Windows NT Workstation 4.)" the company was saying, citing Business Winstone, that NT4 was on average 22 per cent faster than Win95 with 32 megs, and faster still with 64. This is not of course quite what the most recent benchmarks said. It also seems quite probable that, were the various problems with the NT4 system configuration ironed out, the headline would have had to be something like: "Win2000 20% slower than NT4! Go update!!" In addition to the DMA problem we noted in yesterday's story, our informant also points to the file system used: "OK, FAT16 is the best choice for producing comparable results. Still, they could have mentioned that using NTFS, the recommended Microsoft choice for NT4 and Win2000 in business environments, is detrimental to system performance, pure and simple. [so the file system makes the test results pretty academic] Also it would have been interesting to learn about the differences in using NTFS4 and NTFS5, or FAT32." ® See also: Microsoft fudges Win2k speed trials Great fudges in history: MS explains why NT4 is triffic
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Datrontech opens online service

Datrontech UK launched its ecommerce site in Birmingham under police guard today. The distributor was aiming to net between 15 and 20 per cent of its business via the Datrontechonline.com site by the end of the year, said newly appointed MD James Morgan. However, the half million pound investment drew the attention of more than just passing punters at today's Computer Trade Show in Birmingham. When The Register arrived at the stand, the demonstration and kit appeared to be under scrutiny by two Boys in Blue, who were "just passing" according to Morgan. The online service, which will target Datrontech's 4,000 resellers in the UK, is the first time the distributor has offered to sell components over the Web. But there is a reason for this late start, according to Morgan. "Resellers still haven't really adopted the Internet in this field yet," he said. "For some of the broadliners, the driving force for ecommerce is to take off costs. But this means the major benefits are for the distributor, not the customer." According to Morgan, Datrontechonline.com will be more useful for future than present business. And as he rightly confided out of earshot of the Old Bill, "There's also more value attached to a business if it's an Internet company." ®
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DoJ says MS guilty of monopolisation and exclusionary deals

MS on Trial Microsoft has been following the legal maxim that when the law is not on your side, argue the facts, but when you don't have the facts on your side, argue the law. That was why Microsoft cited 112 cases in its proposed conclusions of law last week (and 51 cases in its defence against the states). The Joint Reply by the DoJ and the plaintiff States, filed late yesterday, leaves Microsoft looking very exposed to the powerful remedies possible for breaching the Sherman Act. The Reply starts with Microsoft's core defence failing: it didn't take seriously Judge Jackson's finding that Microsoft has monopoly power, that it "fought a multi-front campaign, using a broad array of anticompetitive tactics that reduced rather than enhanced consumer choice, to sustain the critical barrier to entry protecting its monopoly power". It's "nearly an afterthought", the Reply states, "relegating its discussion to the back of its brief" and discussing the Sherman Act section one issues (and the attempted monopoly issue) first and without regard to the monopoly power tying claim. So far as the DoJ and the States are concerned, Microsoft "improperly evades the substantive importance of the finding of monopoly power". Microsoft addresses "straw men", uses out-of-context passages from decisions involving patently different market circumstances", and "repeatedly misstates the applicable legal standards in order to avoid the legal implications of the Court's findings" the Reply says. The Reply leaves until last Microsoft's primary and surprisingly feeble arguments that it was innocent because it was just defending its copyright and couldn't therefore be done for antitrust infringements. Throughout the case, Microsoft has leant heavily on the DC Circuit's (Court of Appeals') decisions in the case, but it was pointed out that aspects of the decisions that did not suit Microsoft are ignored. Consequently, the Reply argues, Microsoft should be done under section two for unlawfully maintaining its monopoly, and for two claims under section one: that it unlawfully tied IE to Windows, as well as entered into unlawful exclusionary agreements to maintain the monopoly. In addition, there is a further section two claim of attempted monopolisation of the browser market. It's "attempted" because when the evidence ended, it was not then provable that Microsoft had achieved a browser-market monopoly, but various actions by Microsoft were enough for the charge of attempted monopolisation. So far as the monopoly maintenance charges are concerned (and the judge had found Microsoft had a monopoly, so the arguments did not have to be repeated) it was pointless for Microsoft to wriggle over the market definition: the Mac market, network computers and middleware were different markets, the judge had decided, since none could substitute for Windows in the Intel-compatible PC operating system market. Microsoft had also tried to claim its market share was not legally conclusive evidence, but the Reply points out that it was an analysis of all the evidence that led the court to make its finding that Microsoft had monopoly power. Nor is Microsoft able to claim that it had no power over prices, since this "was confirmed by its evident lack of concern over rivals' prices and its internally recognised vast range of discretion over price". The weight of evidence and the findings of fact had reduced Microsoft to claiming that its restrictive agreements with OEMs over tying IE and Windows were not illegal because it did not absolutely "prevent Netscape from getting Navigator into the hands of consumers" (it just foreclosed the most important channels, of course). There was "no legitimate consumer-benefiting" reason for this, the Reply states. So far as Microsoft's argument that it had no duty to pre-disclose technical information about Windows 95 is concerned, the Reply points out that this had not been alleged, and that anyway, "the pertinent anticompetitive conduct was the sequence of (a) Microsoft's proposal that Netscape conspire to maintain the applications barrier to entry by withdrawing its plan to produce and distribute a browser that exposed APIs, followed by (b) Microsoft's punishing of Netscape, when Netscape declined to collude, by withholding information otherwise routinely made available to developers of software complements. "The punishment... corroborates the proof that Microsoft's proposal to Netscape was an anticompetitive scheme to exclude Netscape as a middleware threat and, second, because Microsoft's use of its power to dispense or withhold necessary operating system technical information... is an anticompetitive means of maintaining its operating system monopoly." So far as Microsoft's actions against Intel were concerned: "Microsoft does not deny that it succeeded in stopping Intel's promotion of its own NSP software and Intel's undertaking of other software initiatives. All Microsoft can say is that its success was so great that it not only stopped Intel from acting as an independent competitive force in the market but actually strengthened its monopoly by acquiring some of the very technology at issue. That acquisition aggravates, rather than alleviates, the competitive harm." Having knocked down Microsoft's attempted defence against the charge of illegal monopolisation, the Reply moves on to the illegal section one IE-Windows tying claim. Here Microsoft does not argue that Windows 98 does not combine two products, but relies on the DC Circuit's reference to a Supreme Court ruling. But the Reply points out that Microsoft's complaint under the Supreme Court's test, that it would be required "to offer OEMs and end users, a Chinese menu of options" was not a correct interpretation since separate options need only be offered when it is "efficient" to do so, and "In any event, Microsoft's argument, and its concern about testing costs and the like, ring hollow in light of the fact that Microsoft already offers end users a 'Chinese menu of options', allowing optional installation or removal through the Add/Remove utility of more than 70 software products or components shipped with Windows 98 (including most that were Internet-related, with the striking exception of Internet Explorer)." Furthermore, "Technological integration does not create a single product if it is mere 'bolting', that is, 'commingling for an anticompetitive purpose (or for no purpose at all)'; to create a single product, it must provide 'benefits when compared to a purchaser's combination of corresponding stand-alone functionalities'. In ignoring the standard, Microsoft also ignores the clear findings that Windows 98 is not a single product under even that standard; this Court's findings establish that Microsoft commingled files in Windows 98... for anticompetitive reasons and that the commingling provides no consumer benefits compared to stand-alone programs that function on their own but could be combined to achieve the integration benefits if the user wanted them." Microsoft's arguments that there were benefits in the commingling of IE and Windows are negated by the findings of fact. On the section one charge of entering into restrictive agreements, the findings of fact made it clear that they served no legitimate purpose, "that competition was substantially harmed by Netscape's foreclosure from meaningful access to the important distribution channels". Microsoft had maintained, in defence of the section two charge of attempting to monopolise the browser market, that it had no specific intent to do so, and that there was no dangerous probability of success. The Reply maintains that Microsoft's intent went "far beyond an intent to compete vigorously or to increase its market share". The findings of fact established that "a dangerous probability that Microsoft would achieve power over price (or innovation, which can effectively decrease price by increasing the value of a product even while its dollar price remains at zero). That power, as noted, may exist without 'driving non-Microsoft PC Web browsing software from the marketplace altogether'." Much of the DoJ's and the States' scorn at Microsoft's legal argument is reserved for Microsoft's arguments that it had a copyright defence to the restrictions it put on OEM licensing: "This argument is untenable". The Copyright Act was not intended to make it possible for Sherman Act constraints to be suppressed, and "as the Supreme Court has made clear, Congress 'has never accorded the copyright owner complete control over all possible uses of his work' but has instead limited the holder to those rights enumerated in the statute." Claiming that because IE and Windows were a single work because they were registered using the same form was perhaps Microsoft's most feeble argument: "The fact that a single copyright registration was employed for both Windows and Internet Explorer cannot support a claim that those two products are, for antitrust purposes or otherwise, one product. As the Copyright Office's regulations make clear, multiple copyrightable works may be registered on a single form, without thereby rendering them a single work. The number of distinct 'works' for purposes of the copyright law is determined not by the number of registration forms, but by the number of distinct copyrightable entities that are separately economically viable." The conclusion of the Reply was simple enough: "This Court should conclude that Microsoft has violated Sections 1and 2 of the Sherman Act and proceed to consider the appropriate remedy." Before that happens, Microsoft will be allowed to reply to the joint plaintiffs' Reply next week, and then have a day in court for legal argument on 22 February. ®
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DVD/CD site knowingly undersold

The online CD and DVD-ROM market is largely ignored by high street and online retailers alike, Romsdirect director Fergus Shields reckons. Romsdirect.com launches officially on 1 April with 35,000 titles for academics, professionals and consumers. Shields says: "When you look at online software and entertainment sites will see that CD-ROMS are at the bottom of the list. We are focusing on CD-ROMS, rather than software titles." But a quick visit to Jungle.com finds similar software at lower prices, which rather puts the dampener on Romsdirect's claims. The company says it will adopt the "Amazon" style of marketing providing consumer feedback, reviews and sales. Shields said there would be discounts of between 10 and 40 per cent along with an offer of free postage and delivery from 1 April for at least three months. Romsdirect launched a test site earlier this month with 3,500 titles and offer only a 20 per cent discount on games until the official launch. ®
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UK's bid for Net time standard is delayed

The formal launch of Greenwich electronic Time (GeT) was delayed by 13 minutes and 14 seconds today in a move that doesn't bode well for the new global Internet time standard. Despite having three Caesium clocks at their disposal, the GeT consortium still couldn't kick-off the briefing on time at the Royal Opera House in London's Covent Garden. It's unclear whether the delay was caused by technical difficulties or general behind-the-scenes dithering. Either way, it was not a particularly auspicious start for GeT. Once up and running, GeT will be delivered from atomic clocks using the existing Internet time protocol, NTP (Network Time Protocol). Those backing GeT -- which is based on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) -- say that its adoption is a low-cost alternative to creating a new horological standard for the Net. The alternative, would be to have one time standard for the Net -- and another for "real time". The service will be free and tools will be made available for business and home users within the next few months. The standard has already received the backing of a number of US companies, including Timex. ® Related stories: Britain unveils Net Time grab
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IT Network beefs up Where to Buy

The IT Network is boosting the "Where to Buy" facility on its Web site. Punters are currently faced with a long list of suppliers when they have chosen the product they want to buy. From next month the choices will be categorised into direct-selling vendors and authorised resellers. Customers will also be able to choose from five online resellers - E-Exchange, ace-quote.com, Hyporium Online, Action Online and Dabs Direct Online. The company - part of InterX group - will get around two per cent of these Internet sales. Alternatively, customers will be able to link directly into their preferred suppliers or into the IT Network reseller database. The service, announced today, will be available from mid-February. IT Network now has 135,000 registered individuals from 75,000 different companies. ®
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Sun gives free access to Solaris 8 source, strings attached

Sun has set itself up for some more brickbats from the open source world by opening up access to source code and giving away - sort of - the latest version of Solaris, Solaris 8. The move will inevitably be seen as a bid to steal Linux's clothes, and equally inevitably will be sneered at because it doesn't even come near making Solaris open source. But as we've said before around these parts, Sun is a smart enough company to know it couldn't get away with either of these. And frankly, viewing the company's every move as a 'get Linux' plan is excessively Linocentric. In today's announcement Sun does not say that it is making Solaris open - the 'O' word does not appear at all in the release. The company does say that it's giving "free access to the Solaris source and end-user binary code," and it also says it will no longer charge a licence fee for the use of runtime software on systems with eight processors or fewer. It will charge $75 for the cost of media, but that's it. This is obviously a substantial change in the way Sun does business, but it's equally obviously not open source, and nor is it meant as such. Sun describes the price move as being in line with its strategy of shifting to a fee-based service model, and intends to make money from the software via a new set of Solaris 8 service and support programmes. The switch to a service model is the fashion de nos jours, so the move makes general sense. Meanwhile the free access to source Sun is offering is perfectly in accord with the company's previously stated policies. It wants, for perfectly rational and not entirely altruistic reasons, to encourage a broader range of developers to work with its code, but at the same time it insists on its right to control that code's ultimate form. So anybody making modifications to Sun's source will have to clear them with Sun, and if they sell the final product to anyone, then they're going to have to pay Sun a licence fee. This is what Sun thinks. Sun does not think, and never has thought, that the open source model is appropriate for Sun, so it's really no surprise when Sun's new liberalised licensing model turns out not to look like an open source one. The latest moves can in some senses be classed as defensive against potential Linux incursions into Sun's space, but there's no justification for viewing them as an attempt by the company to out-Linux Linux, or to pretend that Solaris is the equivalent of Linux. Sun never said it was. ® See also: StarOffice chief: why Sun community source beats GPL
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Western Digital serves up Caviar for Compaq

Compaq is to include the ill-fated Western Digital Caviar hard drive in its Deskpro and Presario PC ranges. The Caviar was dubbed 'Cadaver' by some wags after being beset by failures last year. Its range has been bolstered by the addition of a 10.2GB drive. The Caviar can withstand shocks forces of up to 65G and still keep running. Having such a robust HDD could come handy, given the problems many Compaq customers had over the Christmas holiday period with Presarios that wouldn't boot up properly. At least now you can beat the living crap out of your Compaq PC and be reassured that your HDD will stand up to plenty of abuse. In a statement issued today, Compaq said customers in both business and consumer markets want higher, faster storage for multimedia and Internet applications. Western Digital reckons it provides the most cost-effective platform claiming to be 10 per cent faster than similar EIDE disks on the market. Senior Vice President of Western Digital’s Desktop Solutions said: "We agree (with Compaq) that today's more sophisticated end users expect a higher level of performance from their PC." You don't say. The latest additions to the Caviar range bulk up from 10.2GB to 20.5GB and run at 7200 Rpm. ® See also: Massive recall hits Western Digital Frozen Presarios found in Compaq support glacier
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Rambus yields fall to 10 per cent, disties claim

Rambus yields have slumped from 25 per cent to less than 10 per cent, according to dealer and distributors attending this week's Computer Trade Show. Andrew Mackenzie, head of memory broking at Rambus licensee Memory Corporations, said: "Rambus is dead. The yields are low because Intel is trying to force through the technology." He compared the idea of buying Rambus RIMMs to buying a car from a Ford dealership, which then wanted to charge an additional $6,000 for selling the steering wheel to make the system work. Other distributors at the Computer Trade Show in Birmingham also estimated Rambus yields were well below the 50 per cent that was claimed by Kingston Technology last month. A major distributor for a $500m t/o Japanese corporation said motherboard manufacturers, including Tyan, have dumped the RIMM solution in favour of synchronous DRAM. "Tyan dropped it [Direct Rambus] because of pricing issues. RIMM memory is still between three or four times the price of synchronous memory." ®
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Upgraders to Win2k face graphics drivers gotchas

Windows 98 users keen to upgrade to Windows 2000 next month might do well to hold off while graphics drivers get more battle-ready. According to Microsoft's compatibility lists, scads of video adapters meet the Windows 2000 logo programme requirements, but it would be a mistake to think that this means they'll all run properly and to their full capabilities -- yet. The WDM (Windows Driver Model) video drivers shipped by Microsoft have only limited functionality and do not provide hardware 3D, OpenGL or AGP support. To get a flavour of what users can expect when Win2K ships in a few weeks' time, we looked at a couple of adapters. We identified a problem with two separate Riva TNT AGP graphics cards which worked fine under Windows 98, but underperformed tragically with Win2k. Several readers have contacted The Register confirming that the problem was widespread with a number of graphics cards being affected. "Unfortunately, most of the 3rd party vendors involved with the Windows 2000 Beta program designed their [video] drivers to work with basic functionality," says Stuart Hudman of Microsoft Windows 2000 Support. "Over the next few months, these vendors will supply the "supercharged" versions of their drivers and hence eliminate problems such as you described." While beta drivers are available, many users -- especially gamers -- risk severe disappointment when moving from Win98 to the new operating system -- Wintune98 benchmarks show the difference 3D and AGP support makes on a Pentium III 700MHz box using Riva TNT graphics:
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Digital music threat forces Virgin to moot store closures

Virgin Megastores today threatened to pull out of music retailing if the major recording labels fail to stress their support for traditional record stores over the emerging digital music market. The rather lame threat came from Virgin Megastores' COO, Simon Wright, cited in today's Financial Times. Wright fears that the majors will soon embrace the Internet and begin selling music direct, to no one's cost but companies like Virgin Megastores. He has a point. While the major labels have be approached the Internet very tentatively to date, it's clear that they do appreciate the value to themselves of embracing it as a music delivery medium. The question, though, is one of timing. This week's merger announcement between EMI and Time Warner, itself soon to become part of AOL, has clearly got the traditional music retailers rattled. But it's by no means certain that the AOL connection will translate into a major shift towards the Net for EMI Warner Music, as the merged company will be known, shareholder and regulator support for the deal permitting. As Wright himself says in the FT, the volume of sales on the Net is "still less than one per cent in the US". If that doesn't suggest the majors aren't going to abandon more traditional record stores just yet, nothing does. The FT cites research which claims that ten per cent of all music will be bought and delivered via the Net by 2005. That still leaves 90 per cent of it being sold through traditional channels. Sony, which is probably the company that's most embracing the direct delivery of digital content isn't planning to launch such a service until 2001, on the back of its PlayStation 2. Universal, which was to have launched a digital music service late 1999 has conspicuously failed to do so. EMI is tentatively working with digital music specialists to see how the market develops before taking the plunge itself. Hardly the "shotgun" approach Wright claims they're all taking. But no matter how quickly -- or slowly -- the majors embrace the Net, Wright's whinings really amount to little more than the pleading of a protectionist. The record stores themselves, with the constant pursuit of the 'yoof' market have done more to drive customers away from traditional retail outlets than anyone. ®
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SGI open sources OpenGL Sample Implementation

SGI has released its OpenGL Sample Implementation (SI) under an open source licence. Of course, this isn't the same thing as releasing OpenGL itself as open source. The SI appears to be technology that supports the OpenGL API, much as Mesa, the open source alternative to OpenGL, does. SI and Mesa do what OpenGL does, but not 'officially'. However, applications talk to them just as they would to 'official', licensed implentations of OpenGL. Still, short of releasing OpenGL itself to the open source community this is probably as good as it gets. Open sourcing OpenGL would eliminate SGI's licensing revenue strand, so it's unlikely to happen for the time being. In any case, there may well be patent issues that prevent OpenGL being released under the GNU Public Licence or something similar. However, the opening of SI should enable hardware driver writers to produce better code. Drivers written to the SI should, according to SGI, be as near to OpenGL compliant as they can be without going through SGI's official compliance testing procedures. SGI last year released source code for GLX, which hooks the X Window windowing system, itself the basis for Linux's key GUIs, into OpenGL. The arrival of SI should also encourage the development of professional 3D graphics applications on Linux. Where this leaves Mesa is, however, another matter. Providing the same features as Mesa, SI is likely to arrive in a more complete form than Mesa, which remains a work in progress and, perhaps more to the point, not fully OpenGL compliant (though it's damn close). Interestingly, SGI is playing it very cautious here. Its SI FAQ suggests that Mesa will continue to have a role, primarily in the development of software renderers, which are likely to be too slow to be practical under the existing SI. Of course, as hardware acceleration becomes ever more commonplace, software rendering -- and, by extension, Mesa itself -- will become less relevant. SGI clearly appreciates this and its FAQ holds out the possibility of merging the two development programmes. That's not going to happen yet, and SGI reckons drivers for both OpenGL API implementations will exist side-by-side for some time. Of course, today's announcement also suggests that the proposed Linux version of OpenGL 1.2, to be developed by Nvidia, SGI and VA Linux Systems won't be quite as open as you might expect. ® Related Story id Software's Carmack calls for OpenGL watchdog
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Intel cancels Pentium III supplies for February

Intel has told distributors across the world that it cannot supply Pentium III parts in February. One major European distributor told The Register today that it has lost its February backlog allocation of 15,000 Pentium IIIs. Each part would have been worth $150 to its bottom line. The European position was confirmed by an American distributor who said his February backlog had been cancelled too. Pentium III parts are -- he reckons -- being diverted to vendors in the Chip Direct programme. AMD's backlog on Athlon parts is still intact and it has no problems meeting dealer demand, according to a European distributor. The Pentium III shortage also begs questions about the company's public position on Slot One microprocessors and the flip chip parts the company is attempting to push into the market.®