3rd > February > 2000 Archive

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Torvalds hails commercialisation of Linux

For someone who "doesn't like doing talks", Linus Torvalds makes a pretty good fist of public speaking. Yesterday, the self-described Poster Boy for Linux took to the stage at the main conference hall in New York's Jacob Javits Center and played the packed audience (several thousand strong) like a seasoned pro. And, from his LinuxWorld Expo keynote speech, it's clear that Torvalds is big on other seasoned pros -- the commercial Linux community. There is, he argues, no clash between open source and commercialism. Commercial companies helped to turn Linux from a good technology which "not many people wanted to use" into a good product, he says. "It is not the point of Linux to be uncommercial -- the real point is to create something that is nice to use and for people to control what they are using." These are values that all companies should strive for, according to Torvalds. And commercial (Linux) companies, he says, do have these values -- unlike some unnamed "shamanistic" (yes, he really did use that word) companies, who "tell you what to do". So why the plug for profit-seeking Linux firms? Surely they can look after themselves? Tens of billions of dollars in market capitalisation, much of it in the hands of the major Linux distros, are represented at the 160 or so companies exhibiting on the LinuxWorld Expo show floor this year. Huge amounts of VC cash continues to swill into what is (in money terms) still a pretty small market. That's the Linux Money Pit. Back in Linux Userland where, according to Torvalds, most advances take place, many continue to oppose the commercialisation of Linux. In the nicest possible way, Torvalds is telling purists that they have lost this no-money battle, and they should feel good about it. The important thing (we guess) for Torvalds is for the entire Linux community to work in harmony towards a bigger, better OS. And if people and companies make money along the way, then so much the better. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

China shuts down Internet cafes

Officials in Shanghai have raided and shut down 127 Internet cafes because they posed a threat to state secrets. The establishments were all unlicensed and had been selling and distributing material banned by communist China. Some 192 computers and 110 CD-ROMs were seized in what was the city's fourth raid since last April, local newspaper the Shanghai News reported. One city official commented: "Unlicensed Internet cafes avoid paying taxes and disseminate pornographic CDs which corrupt the minds of young people." There are around 750 legal Internet cafes in the city, but the online boom has seen them springing up in even remote villages across China. There are an estimated nine million Internet users in the country, and the freedom of the Web is a huge headache for China's censors. The authorities need Internet cafes to be licensed to let them track authorship of emails - cafes are legally required to log the names of all users. The raids followed new regulations put into place by China last week, which made operators of Internet bulletin boards, chat rooms and news groups responsible for any breach of state security. Many could face prison as China's definition of state secrets is virtually anything not approved for publication. The authorities are also planning measures to stop Web sites hiring their own journalists. ® Related stories:China orders Web sites to guard against security leaks China gets hands on with the Net
Linda Harrison, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Channel Flannel Extra

Haven't got time to read this week's Computer Reseller News or MicroScope? Don't worry, we've read 'em for you. Here's our round-up of some of the channel weeklies' best stories. MicroScope
Linda Harrison, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

More Intel chip, chipset details leak

Overclocking site Hard OCP has published details of up and coming announcements from Intel during the year. According to the story, Solano II and Camino II will be designated the 815e and the 820e, while a 1GHz Pentium III is slated for the third quarter of this year. The roadmap shows a 933MHz Pentiun III in June, although our information is that will arrive in May, while an 866MHz Pentium III will click in by the end of this quarter. Willamette and Foster are now likely to clock at 1.4GHz at launch time, said editor Kyle Bennett, while the 133MHz system bus will be the only speed available for the Pentium IIIs. (We think that's what Kyle means, his sentence is slightly ambiguous, he actually suggests there will be no 133MHz bus by the end of the year). The piece confirms our earlier story that Intel is shortly set to introduce 2+2 Camino (i820) mobos which can include both Rambus and SDRAM memories on the same planar. ® See also Intel 993MHz Pentium III slated for May Fresh Intel i820 chipset close to completion Willamette coming real soon now
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Online store security holes let hackers buy at cut price

A security hole in some web-based shopping cart systems allows shoppers to edit the data and buy items at reduced prices, according to an ISS (Internet Security Systems) X-Force security alert issued this week. According to X-Force, 11 shopping cart applications used by e-commerce sites are vulnerable to this kind of malicious tampering. Some shopping cart applications use hidden fields in HTML forms to hold parameters for goods in an online store, and this is one potential security hole. If the attacker changes the price in the form on a local machine then loads the page into the browser, the item can be added to the cart at the modified price. If hidden discount fields are used it's also possible to modify these and get discounts on items without modifying the price in the form. From the vendors point of view this gets really nasty if credit card orders are processed in real time, and it's difficult to verify that the correct price is being used before the credit card is charged. X-Force also says that price changing is possible where an item's price is listed in a URL. "When clicking a link, the CGI program will add the item to the shopping cart with the price set in the URL. Simply changing the price in the URL will add the item to the shopping cart at the modified price. Shopping cart software should not rely on the web browser to set the price of an item." Most of the sites affected have begun modifying their software to plug the holes, says X-Force. ® Further Information: xforce.iss.net
John Lettice, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Opera debuts latest Linux browser release

Browser terrorists Opera Software this week showed off the latest Linux version of their eponymous Web viewer, Opera. Alas, Opera for Linux 4.0 remains in its alpha testing phase, leading the company to admit it "isn't usable as a full browser", but Opera is at least pushing ahead with its development programme. "[Development is] progressing fairly quickly, and I've been releasing when it works," said the Linux browser's lead programmer, Darren Starr, in a statement. "So far that has meant updates every 3 to 5 weeks." ® Opera for Linux 4.0a can be downloaded here
Team Register, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

AOL scoffs at class action

The class-action lawsuit filed against AOL, which alleges that its software displays cuckoo-like tendencies by displacing other Internet accounts when loaded, is nothing more than a storm in a teacup. Well, that's according to Rich D'Amato, the AOL spokesman who said that the lawsuit had "no basis in fact or law." Filed on behalf of eight million AOL users, the lawsuit alleges that AOL 5.0 disables other ISP services when installed on a PC. The man behind the lawsuit, Internet lawyer Kenneth Yates, is deeply unhappy about this, claiming AOL is indulging in dodgy trade practices, among other things. But AOL appears unfazed about the threat of the lawsuit -- which could cost it $8 billion (£5 billion) if it loses. In fact, far from accepting any blame, AOL reckons its users who are at fault. D'Amato said: "The 5.0 software provides users with the ability to select AOL as their default Internet connection, but only if they make the choice to do so. "It's designed to provide a more stable online environment, but it doesn't prevent users from accessing the Internet through another provider." So, the error doesn't lie with AOL 5.0 -- it's the punters' fault for selecting it as their default service. No? Anyway, that's for the courts to decide. But if you're interested, a spokesman for AOL in Britain said it had not received one single complaint about this matter from any of its users despite AOL 5.0 being the most successful and popular client ever. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Transmeta Crusoe explained

Our friends at IT Network have published a lengthy piece on their site which goes into detail into the significance of Transmeta's Crusoe technology, which caused such a stir in Silicon Valley last month. It rips apart the claim that ARM technology is in any way related to Crusoe, saying that this is an apple and oranges comparison. For the full monty, go to this page. ®
Team Register, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Sony to sell online via 9000 in-store terminals

Sony's plan to dominate e-commerce took a curious step forward today, as the company's Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) division announced a scheme to entice buyers online through kiosks to be located in over 9000 Japanese retail outlets from convenience stores to music shops. According to Reuters, SCE has signed 11 companies, most notably Seven-Eleven, Japanese video and music chain Tsutaya, owned by the Culture Convenience Club Company, and video games wholesaler DigiCube, but also including games software companies like Namco and CapCom. Seven-Eleven operates around 8000 convenience stores throughout Japan -- Tsutaya has some 970 outlets. The in-store kiosks will hook users up to Sony's recently announced PlayStation.com e-commerce site. PlayStation.com is set to go live next month to sell existing PlaySation titles plus game for the PlayStation 2, which will also debut next month. Eventually, the site will offer albums and DVD movies. All 11 companies will take a combined 20 per cent stake in PlayStation.com. The idea behind the scheme is that buyers will be able to order software online, and collect it from a local store, presumably paying for the their games at collection time rather than in advance by credit card as is typically the case with e-commerce ventures. It's a canny move that allows retail outlets to work alongside online operations, traditionally seen by many retailers as enemy number one, especially by music and movie stores who realise that since what they are selling is fundamentally just binary bits, sooner or later those bits will be sold to the customer direct via high-speed Net connections. Certainly, that's Sony's view of the future of digital media sales. In the meantime, the deal allows the likes of Tsutaya to explore new approaches to retail where stores cease to hold physical stock, but act as either collection and payment points or even individual production centres, churning out CDs, DVDs and even books to order after downloading their content from centralised databases. ® Related Story 2m PlayStation 2s to ship in first 2 days -- Sony exec Sony goes direct in Japan with online Vaio store
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

States MS brief: Bork aims to undermine appeal court ruling

MS on Trial Judge Robert Bork has been prominent on the sidelines of the Microsoft case. He's a former US solicitor general, federal appeals judge, a believer in "constitutional originalism", and the author of a much-cited antitrust tome. He's also a pal of Judge Posner, the Chicago-based mediator. Microsoft tried to recruit him to advise on its defence but he decided to accept an invitation to do this for Netscape instead, as well as to be an adviser to the anti-Microsoft ACT analogue, the Project to Promote Competition and Innovation (Procomp). Bork ended up with the consolation prize of writing the Amicus brief for the Plaintiff States. His workmanlike brief does not regurgitate the Finding of Fact, or the Joint Proposed Conclusions of Law. He decided that his job was to address three legal principles: that Microsoft has monopolised and violated section two of the Sherman Act; that Microsoft's antitrust violations have harmed consumers; and, most importantly, that "the Court of Appeals consent decree decision provides no shelter for Microsoft's illegal conduct". Bork is in no doubt that: "In fact, if this case is unusual, it is that there is so much direct evidence, much of it in explicit Microsoft internal communications, to buttress the legal assumption of consumer harm: higher prices for operating systems, suppression of innovation, and the exclusion from the marketplace of already existing technologies." Bork reserves his scorn for the appellate judges in the DC circuit, noting that the divided panel reversed Judge Jackson, and that the preliminary injunction was vacated on procedural grounds concerning notice. That procedural ruling, he says, obviously has no implications for the substance of the separate Sherman Act suit filed by the government. Bork considered that Microsoft jumped to the wrong conclusion, and that the appellate decision "has less impact upon the government's separate Sherman Act suit than Microsoft and its allies suppose. In the first place, the discussion of this subject by the Court of Appeals' majority was wholly unnecessary to its decision about the preliminary injunction. The procedural ground was sufficient, and all three members of the panel agreed on that point. "Furthermore, the District Court had not held hearings on or decided the bundling issue. Thus, there were no findings of fact, no record, and no briefing of the question. The panel majority's observations are, in the strictest sense, dicta." That's plain speaking, and there's more to come: "The non-binding character of the panel majority's remarks is clear for a much more important reason: the decree litigation did not bring before the Court the many predatory contracts required by Microsoft or the internal documents that make clear the predatory intent underlying both those contracts and the bundling of the browser and the operating system. That evidence was central to the Sherman Act litigation and to this Court's Findings of Fact." Having demolished the appellate court findings, Bork concludes that the Findings of Fact "leave no doubt that Microsoft has monopolised and attempted to monopolise in violation of Section 2 of the Sherman Act". ®
Graham Lea, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

'Monopoly, predation' – trade body brief foams at MS

MS on Trial In some ways it's a surprise that the amicus brief for the DoJ was written by the Software and Information Association Industry Association, but perhaps the DoJ knew that the Association for Competitive Technology was being invited by Microsoft to do its Amicus. Certainly, "the world's largest trade association representing the interests of firms in the software, information and Internet industry" stacks up well against the ACT, which it says was "founded in 1998 specifically to oppose the enforcement of the antitrust laws against Microsoft". Nor does the SSIA "screen prospective members to ensure a uniform point of view", as the brief says. SIIA president Ken Wasch and Washington lawyer Gary Cohen are credited with writing the brief, but it would be surprising if there had been no assistance from some heavyweight general counsels from member companies. It's a rousing call to arms, plain-spoken, and more like a speech than a brief. with accusations coming thick and fast: "textbook predation", "collecting monopoly rents" with Windows, and the like. It's also an easy read that rehearses again the arguments that have become familiar during the trial. The gist is that Microsoft's monopolistic abuses are unjustifiable, and should be condemned; that consumers have thereby been harmed and the expanding monopoly further threatens their welfare; and that enforcing the antitrust laws against Microsoft would advance innovation and consumer welfare. The brief sets out the fears of many SIIA members, but devotes little space to legal argument, preferring to quote from the business and trade press. The brief matches the somewhat rickety ACT brief by taking a relaxed view of the inadmissibility of new, unsworn evidence, and jumps in with such observations as: "in a strategy reminiscent of the trial record here, Microsoft now bundles its FrontPage Express Web authoring software with Internet Explorer (and thus with the desktop edition of Windows 2000), while bundling its Web server, IIS, with the server editions of Windows 2000. It will not be difficult for Microsoft to ensure that FrontPage adds proprietary file extensions to Web pages created or edited with that product, so that Web pages created or edited with FrontPage work properly only on IIS, which in turn works only on Windows 2000." It points out some interesting titbits that have sometimes become buried in the weight of the evidence. For example, in testimony Microsoft went on about what a threat Linux was to Windows, but on is web site it dismisses Linux as non-threatening. A useful point that does not seem to have been made previously is that OEMs and integrators are "eager to differentiate their products and services by providing additional consumer choice and customisation" but Microsoft does not allow this with its tying and boot restrictions. An interesting precedent is cited that apparently shows that: "Monopolisation may be proved even when there is no evidence 'that prices are raised and that competition actually is excluded' so long as there is proof 'that power exists to raise prices or to exclude competition when it is desired to do so'. The maintenance of a monopoly through exclusionary activity is presumed to cause consumer harm by artificially depriving consumers of the benefits of competition. That is something Microsoft surely did, by prolonging and reinforcing its monopoly through a broad array of anticompetitive acts." The SIIA fear is evidently that the antitrust courts might "avert their eyes from its anticompetitive practices to avoid inflicting harm on a smoothly running industry." ®
Graham Lea, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Supreme Court may have to decide on MS tying, says Lessig

MS on Trial Did Microsoft illegally tie Internet Explorer to Windows? That depends on how you interpret the law, and the law itself is in urgent need of clarification, according to Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig had been asked by Microsoft trial judge Thomas Penfield Jackson to produce a brief dealing with the tying issue, and in a 45 page document filed yesterday examined the issues in some considerable detail. But Lessig does not come down in favour of one side or the other - his brief, essentially, merely provides Jackson with the tools to make a decision, and it remains conceivable that Microsoft will escape the tying charge. In the Microsoft case, says Lessig, Jackson could follow the Court of Appeals ruling of June 1998 which found that combining IE and Windows did not violate the earlier consent decree, and that there was no tying if there was a "plausible benefit" to the combination. Or alternatively he could follow earlier precedents which indicate that Microsoft could be found guilty of tying. The nub of the problem is that earlier precedents don't always sit happily when applied to the software business, and we're therefore in uncharted territory. Lessig thinks it probable that it'll be the Supreme Court that finally straightens this one out. The Supreme Court has already examined tying between two service products (in the Jefferson Parish Hospital case), while another famous case, known as Eastman Kodak, dealt with a tie between a physical product (film) and a service (film developing). The Microsoft case involves a tie between two products (Windows and IE) which the Supreme Court has not considered expressly. So far as lower courts are concerned, Lessig views the Court of Appeals decision in the Microsoft case as a "prominent manifestation of... uncertainty" so far as tying is concerned. Lessig chides the courts' reluctance to get involved in "the intricacies of software design" since design decisions in other sectors are examined routinely. He suggests that they evidently believe that "code is different" and "uniquely beyond the ken of federal courts... As a matter of judicial policy, I believe it is a mistake to fetishise code in this way. While I agree that an overly invasive antitrust policy can stifle innovation, I am not a sceptic of courts' ability to understand how software functions; nor do I believe that software technology is so benign that it is advisable for courts to ignore the competitive impact of code-based restraints." Lessig says that there were three stages in the evolution of Windows 9x: initially, when OEMs were bound contractually to include IE, but the code was separate; a second stage when there was some modularisation; and a third phase when browsing and non-browsing functionality are mixed, so that browsing cannot be removed (no ADD/REMOVE) without disabling the non-browsing functions, so that contractual binding was no longer needed. Tying "per se", as it is called, has been determined by the Supreme Court to be anticompetitive and illegal. However, in other rulings, a "rule of reason" has been used which means that the facts must be examined, rather than using absolutely the assumption that tying is always anticompetitive. Lessig believes that "there is a significant probability that the Supreme Court will modify current doctrine" about tying law for software. Lessig advises Judge Jackson to decide the case under existing per se analysis, as well as under an alternative analysis. Examining the assumption that the Court of Appeals decision will be followed, Lessig points out there are two possible interpretations of it: a narrow one and a broader one. The appellate court decided that the combination of Windows with IE happens at the design stage, and not during installation - whether the products were architected to be one, rather than whether they could be one product. The court made a mistake of course in claiming that "the products do not exist separately". Following a lengthy and complex analysis, Lessig concludes that under the Court of Appeals' test of tying, Microsoft would win. Lessig than goes on to examine in even more detail the situation if the appellate court decision is not favoured by Judge Jackson. The judge is entitled to do this since the appellate court had seen no evidence and received no relevant briefs when its decision was made, so it is not unassailable. In examining whether there are one or two products, legally speaking, Lessig makes a very important point: he suggests that software products should be defined by their functionality, and not by their code. As he points out, the consumer does not care if IE functionality is provided by one file or 50. The Court of Appeals had difficulty understanding this. This suggestion favours the government's case of course. As to whether Windows 9x and IE are a single product, it all depends. Lessig notes that tying law was developed without software in mind, and criticises "a very lenient rule" that would result in Microsoft prevailing if it were applied. Lessig tells Judge Jackson that he has to decide this one under existing law. A breath of fresh air enters Lessig's brief when he points out that the whole point of the open source/free software movement is to favour modularity. Lessig goes on to suggest that the Court should craft a standard that makes sense of the values in antitrust law and of the peculiar facts about software. As the argument progresses, it becomes more and more evident that software does introduce some legal problems not previously considered or resolved. Critics of the appellate court decision say that its test is not extensive enough to deal with strategic bundling behaviour, and that a more detailed examination of the "integration" is needed. Lessig makes his own very interesting suggestion: that "two software products combined in a 'new way' would be considered a 'single product' for purposes of antitrust tying law - regardless of how they were linked (whether by code or by contract) - but this conclusion would be presumptive only. The presumption could be defeated if the plaintiff can show that the particular bundle at stake raises the risk of a particular anticompetitive harm. If, in other words, it is a bundle of the kind of products likely to cause an anticompetitive harm, then the presumption [of] finding a 'single product' would be rebutted." He gets the bullseye when he says: "The aim of any antitrust inquiry should be whether the particular bundle is a strategic bundle, aiming at anticompetitive ends, not whether the bundle achieves its interlinkage through contract or software." Lessig concludes that the Court could decide either way on whether Microsoft is guilty of tying, but the weight of his arguments certainly do not exclude the possibility of Microsoft escaping through the horns of the dilemma that Judge Jackson faces. ®
Graham Lea, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DoubleClick hit by email privacy war

The Internet's largest advertising company, DoubleClick, is under fire from a leading consumer rights group as the row over the way it collects and uses Net users' personal data escalates. The group - the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) - is calling upon Net users to bombard DoubleClick with emails urging the ads giant to rethink its privacy policies. The CDT campaign -- "I will not be targeted/Send DoubleClick the message -- has been prompted by DoubleClick's close association with other online commercial organisations. The cookies that DoubleClick uses could be combined with other companies data collection activities to produce a single database holding detailed information on millions of Net users all over the world. While the use of cookies is now commonplace, CDT argues that DoubleClick's efforts to link online activity with names, addresses and financial history is altogether more sinister. Such information would be incredibly valuable to any online marketing operation, but it is not so good for the humble user, CDT warns. The CDT site says: "DoubleClick, a company that uses "cookies" planted on the computers of many Internet users to customize online advertisements, has begun to link up online surfing habits and purchases with offline names, addresses and other identifying information, putting in place the last piece of a comprehensive Internet tracking system and threatening to deprive consumers of control over their identity online." Users are invited to send a standard email to DoubleClick and around 50 of companies it is associated with, calling for an end to such methods. Some of the Net's biggest names are being targeted along with DoubleClick, such as Alta Vista, Ask Jeeves, CBS, CompuServe, Freeserve, Hewlett Packard and Shockwave. Last week, Harriet M Judnick of California initiated legal proceedings against DoubleClick in attempt to force it to get users' prior consent before harvesting information about them. ® See also: DoubleClick sued over alleged cookie abuse The Center for Democracy & Technology
Sean Fleming, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Mirror editor in Viglen share-deal row

Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan is being investigated by the Stock Exchange after it emerged he bought shares in Viglen Technology the day before they were tipped by his paper. The share-dealing row, which has even embroiled The Register, goes back to 17 January when the tabloid editor paid £20,000 for shares in the London PC assembler. The next day the Mirror's financial page, City Slickers, ran an "exclusive" story headlined: "Sugar to join Net goldrush. Viglen Web spin-off will send shares soaring." And it did. The shares that Morgan snapped up for around £1.50 each doubled in value overnight -– at one point peaking at £4.05 and giving him a £34,000 paper profit. However, it has emerged that the crux of the allegations -- that the Mirror had a scoop story that led Morgan to buy the shares -- was not quite so exclusive after all. Back in December, Viglen chairman Sir Alan Sugar was advertising in the Sunday papers for 'unrewarded Internet entrepreneurs' to head up a then unannounced Internet division. As today's Daily Telegraph points out: "Among financial journalists, only Drew Cullen picked up on the story, including a speculative item on his Internet site Cash Register on December 14." Yesterday, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) confirmed it had launched an inquiry into Morgan's share dealings. The topic also came up in the House of Commons, with Prime Minister Tony Blair quizzed by Tory MP Sir David Madel on the incident. Morgan denies buying the shares with prior knowledge of the City Slickers article. Viglen, whose chairman Sir Alan Sugar is a regular columnist for the Mirror, was unfazed by the allegations. One representative commented: "The story the Mirror wrote in January was in the public domain back in December - it is remarkable that there is such a hue and cry". This morning Viglen's shares were up 13 pence to £2.51. ® Related stories Viglen unveils e-business division School's out of Viglen as results show healthy growth
Linda Harrison, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

The Internet will give you a lift – official

Forget brain-numbing musak next time you're in a lift (US, elevator) IBM has come up with something altogether far more irritating. Instead of piped sounds, a flat screen monitor called an e*Display will feature different pages from the Web. Of course, what's not clear is how the system will work. For example, will it need its own winding wheel at the top of the lift shaft, so that power/network cables can be wound up and down as the lift ascends and descends? While you're still trying to figure out that little conundrum, the e*Display will be launched in June and its makers reckon that the ad revenue could help to pay for the maintenance of the lifts. It's just a shame the screen wasn't installed in the Empire State Building last week. For the two hardy souls who plummeted 40-storey's probably would have had enough time to use the e*Display to sign up for life insurance and make a will. Ad revenue would have come in useful as well. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Sad geezer auctions himself on eBay

Lovesick John Alanis has put himself up for auction on eBay to try and find himself a date for Valentine's Day. Alanis -- who describes himself as 5'7", fit, and with blue eyes -- has only managed to attract $45 since bidding began last week. The auction closes tomorrow. The e-Romeo said: "The way I see it, prospective dates can bid on a romantic evening with me for February 14. "The highest bidder gets to take me out -- and spend the amount they bid -- on me!" Attempting to give potential dates an insight into his emotional side, Alanis said: "I was talking to a friend of mine (who I used to date) a few days ago, and she said something very intriguing to me: 'John, you remind me of the male character in a romance novel. "'You always seem to be doing something adventurous -- travelling all over the country, driving your business with a true, sincere passion and determination, or speaking in front of people. "'You even kind of look like a romance novel hero. You have a large chest, well-muscled arms, and a hard chin. But what I really notice about you are your piercing blue eyes. You have brooding eyes. "'Sometimes you overwhelm me with your presence, and quite frankly, sometimes you can be a real jerk.'" You ain't joking. And if you're still umming and arring about whether Alanis would make a great date, why not buy his book -- The Lazy Way to Dating Success - How to Find Your True Love From the Comfort of Your Home... in Only Minutes Per Day. Reconstructed male? No chance. ® See also: Click here for luurve
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Oi, don't get Fresh with us

There's at least 20 reasons why prospective Internet companies looking for a PR agency to do their voodoo spin work should choose London-based Fresh Communications Ltd. That's how many times they sent the same effing release today to an already overworked inbox. Nuff said. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

AMD spells out mobile plans for 2000

While mobile Athlons will not arrive until close to the end of this year, AMD aims to bridge the gap by introducing Gemini-based chips before June, it said today. Gemini is similar technology to Intel's SpeedStep mobile processors, which help to increase the length of time a notebook will stay active. Richard Baker, marketing director at AMD Northern Europe, said that the mobile K6-III+, a 100MHz front side bus part with 256K of on-die level two cache, and using .18 micron technology, will appear before June. The K6-2+ will have 128K of on chip cache. At the same time, Baker showed figures that suggested AMD has over 50 per cent market share in the US retail market. For sub-$1,000 notebooks, AMD has 88 per cent market share in the US in the retail market, the company claims. Toshiba, Compaq, HP and Fujitsu use AMD products in some of their notebooks. Judging from the open Athlon 800 that is sitting on our desk with a chip the size of a brick, it will be quite some time before AMD sorts out some of the power consumption issues involved in migrating the Athlon to a slim notebook. Intel's Coppermine mobile technology, on the other hand, seems to be just about there already. However, although AMD does have some share of the business market too, that is smaller, although the company intends to attack that area vigorously during this year. The reason for its growing market share in the retail market was because of the price performance capabilities of its mobile parts, said Baker. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Transmeta IPO: maybe this year, maybe not, says CEO

Transmeta appears to be taking its 'will they? won't they?' approach to chip announcements to the company's financial future. Speaking at a Banc of America Securities conference in San Francisco yesterday, Transmeta CEO Dave Ditzel told the assembled gathering of analysts that "it is possible we could do an IPO" during 2000. Or possibly not, he added, if circumstances change. For 'circumstances' read 'financial health of the company', and that depends on Transmeta winning sufficient customers for its x86-emulating CPU, Crusoe. The Crusoe launch was notably short on statements of support from computer and device manufacturers-- ie. there weren't any. Since then, the only significant announcement has come from S3, which has simply said it plans to ship a line of information appliances under its Diamond Multimedia brand, devices that will be based on the low-end Crusoe 3120. Ditzel said yesterday that notebooks based on the 700MHz Crusoe 5400 will appear by the end of the year. He also said Taiwanese manufacturer Quanta, which builds notebooks under contract for many of the major PC vendors (see Wanna know which firms made your branded notebooks?), had agreed to use the 5400, as reported here. Quanta produces notebooks for Gateway, Dell, IBM, Apple and Siemens. That said, it doesn't design or specify the products, the vendors do. So whether the Quanta deal will lead to big-name support for Crusoe is another matter altogether. The chips themselves won't appear until next quarter, so Ditzel's claim that devices based upon them won't arrive until late 2000 is probably about right. The big-name support that Transmeta needs to validate its technology isn't likely to come any sooner than that, and it's that kind of support that adds real lustre to an IPO opportunity. ® Related Stories When Crusoe met Speedstep Russian wannabe Merced-killer claims Transmeta credit AMD K6-III mobile may trash Transmeta on thermals Transmeta chips to run Linux, Windows, attack Intel x86
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Samsung at work on $200 ‘disposable’ PC

Samsung plans to use Intel's upcoming system-on-a-chip silicon to produce what it reckons will be the first disposable PC, coming in at a price -- under $200 -- that makes upgrading unnecessary. "At an under-$200 price point, the PC has no need to be upgraded -- it will simply be replaced," Bob Eminian, VP of marketing at Samsung's US-based Samsung Semiconductor subsidiary, told Electronics Buyers' News. In other words, Samsung is attempting to revive the early 80s' home computer. The only snag is that that's precisely what Sony is doing with the PlayStation 2, a system that's likely to be way more powerful than any Wintel kit Samsung can come up with. Samsung's scheme has its sub-$200 (ie. $199) PC shipping in time for Christmas 2001. It's likely to be based on Intel's Timna CPU, which combines key PC components -- CPU, memory manager, north bridge, I/O and 3D graphics -- on a single sliver of silicon. Eminian said the Samsung machine's chip would be like Timna, though he wouldn't say whether Intel will indeed supply the PC's CPU. Timna itself is due to be released in the middle of the year. To make sure users don't take Samsung's word for it that its PC is too inexpensive to upgrade, the unit will apparently be completely sealed ('Removing this sticker invalidates your warranty' labels being no longer sufficient, it seems). Samsung PC sits right in the blurred area between games console, information appliance, network computer and full-scale PC, and neatly shows how all these devices, each predicted to be the future of desktop computing, are essentially the same thing. What, after all, is the difference between a $200 information appliance used to access the Net and a $999 iMac used to access the Net? Answer: nothing but the price. Equally, there's no difference between a $400 Sun NC that's too basic, hardware-wise, to bother fixing when it goes wrong and a $200 PC that's so cheap that there's no need to bother fixing when it goes wrong. So the important question won't be whether a device based on a chip like Timna can compete with something like the PlayStation 2, which is said to out-perform Pentium III-class machines, but whether users will be willing to buy multiple machines for different tasks. So, while you might use your PSX 2 for home entertainment, you can also use your Samsung for email and personal productivity stuff. And at $200 a pop, why buy a single PC for $500 when you can have two for $400? ®
Tony Smith, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

IBM releases Journaled File System to open source

IBM cemented its commitment to Linux today, announcing a series of new initiatives -- including the contribution of code and four developers to building an enterprise-class journaled file system. Lack of such a system has hampered to some degree Linux's adoption by enterprise-class and ecommerce customers. And no surprise: a journaled file system is needed to ensure the integrity of data after a system failure. IBM is clearly committed pushing Linux as a key part of enterprise computing strategy. Two weeks ago it announced it would put Linux on all its server hardware product lines. "We want to bring Linux apps to all of our platforms," IBM's top Linux champion, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, said at LinuxWorld Expo. How successful IBM and other vendors will be able to take Linux to the enterprise market, Wladawsky-Berger said, depends "on the priorities of the Linux community". He referred to Linux Torvalds' earlier keynote address, where the father of Linux noted the operating system's modular ability to run on anything from a refrigerated supercomputing to a Web browser on a kitchen fridge, and everything in between. Basically, Wladawsky-Berger said that's a lot of ground to cover. What the enterprise market needs, he said, is "applications interfaces". As long as enterprise customers have applications that work and don't crash, he said, "they could care less about the plumbing underneath". He made clear the company will continue development of its enterprise-tested and proprietary Unix variant, AIX, at least until the level of demand for Linux becomes clearer. "Predicting the evolution of operating systems software, especially in mission-critical systems, is very difficult," Wladawsky-Berger said. IBM also announced availability of its ViaVoice voice recognition technology for Linux (it won't be open source); thin-client Linux systems with software from Caldera's Lineo; an application developer kit for small business apps, developed with Caldera; and a Linux beta version of NetObject's Web page design tool, TopPage. ® Read more cool open source news and views at Wide Open News, a partner of The Register.
Russ Mitchell, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel plays five per cent rule six times in three days

Intel has filed a total of six form SC 13Gs with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the last three days, showing that it has made investments of less than five per cent in the different firms. The ownership statements cover smarterkids.com, Quokka Sports Inc, Liquid Audio Inc, Launch Media Inc, VA Linux Systems Inc and Ticketmaster Online Ticket Service. The division of Intel which makes these type of investments, Intel Capital, has already a formidable array of companies that it has put money into. At the Intel Capital site, there is a formidable list of companies the chip giant has invested in. Intel explained its investment strategy to The Register last year. It sometimes dips into and out of companies but sometimes ends up buying companies that it previously made an investment in. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

UK gov to shake up telco regs

The government is planning to introduce new measures to reform the regulation of telecommunications and broadcasting in Britain. It claims the new measures are necessary to keep Britain at the "forefront of the digital age". A White Paper due to be unveiled later this year will look at a number of issues including tracking the pace and direction of change, economic regulation, cross-media ownership, competition and content regulation. Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said: "As we move into the twenty-first century and the digital age, we need to ensure that regulations covering the converging broadcasting, telecommunications and information technology industries are flexible and effective, foster competitive markets and ensure the UK remains a world leader in providing communications services." ® See also: UK telecoms market fair, Oftel claims Oftel wimps out, again
Tim Richardson, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

VA Linux buys Slashdot.org

VA Linux Systems is to buy Andover.net, owner of Slashdot, Freshmeat.net and a clutch of disparate Linux Web sites, for $1 billion in shares and some cash. Speaking at LinuxWorld Expo, Larry Augustin, VA's CEO, said the company would pull the Andover sites into a "great developer community and resource online to drive open source". Well, it's certainly a way of building bulk rapidly -- so far as Linux-friendly eyeballs are concerned. The combined sites will account for "two thirds of the total traffic of major open source sites, putting the combined network in the top 100 Web destinations world-wide". Andover.net brings 50 million page impressions per month to the party. In terms of the acquisition price, the deal's a more questionable proposition. Andover is a titchy company, turning over $2.1 million and losing $15.7 million (IPO costs account for most of the red ink) in Q3. Mind you, VA Linux ain't much bigger -- turning over $17.7 million (losses: $14.5 million) in 1999. And its market cap is $5 billion. Commercial success for the deal will depend on how well VA stitches Andover's Web properties into its own collection, including Sourcforge, Linux.com and Themes.org. The enlarged company will also "increase the opportunity for sponsorships and business partnership revenues" across the network. The open source movement is throwing up a clutch of hybrid software developer-cum-media empires, lately. In November, Red Hat launched Wide Open News (of whom The Register is a partner), and a damn fine news and comment site it is too. Andover.net is a hybrid publisher/software services site, as is VA Linux through Linux.com. Right now there could more money flogging ads and sponsorship to a tightly targeted Linux demographic, than there is distributing the software. And why should ZD, CNET, IDG,et al grab all the dough? We trust VA Linux and Red Hat will maintain their hands-off/open source kind of a relationship with their editorial titles. This may not be easy. Most publishers start out with good intentions, but they all turn into megalomaniacs. Can the Linux distros avoid this temptation? ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Linus praises ‘good fragmentation’

"Open source," according to Linus Torvalds, "forces people to live in harmony, even when they don't want to." The Linux community will not catch the "Unix Disease with lots of resources going the wrong way (through vendors catfights)". Java is dying too, because it's catching the Unix Disease, Torvalds says. During his Linux World Expo keynote this week, Torvalds attempted to answer the 64 billion dollar question: what happens if Linux fragments -- and degenerates into Unix-style factionalism? This is, he says, "such a negative question". It also misses the point. There is nothing wrong with fragmentation per-se, he says. Various iterations of Linux -- anything from Linux for Supercomputers to Linux for Fridges -- will serve customers with different needs. This segmentation is "really a good thing", and the modular strengths of Linux serve this approach well. Unsurprisingly, Torvalds is against Linux Balkanisation at the technical level, but he sees little danger on score: after all, the "open source model is very anti-fragmenting", he says. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

IBM dubs Linux as realistic champion against NT

Big Blue is embracing the open source movement in general, and Linux in particular, with a vengeance, and no doubt with the painful lessons of their spectacularly unsuccessful OS/2 still in mind. The company is moving ahead with ambitious plans to produce various network systems built around Linux, which it will be able to license at a considerable savings compared with Windows NT/2k. And Linux is not just cheaper, it's better, especially for the applications of the next decade. It is in fact the "ideal platform" for the next generation of Internet-based computing and information technologies, IBM Technology and strategy VP Irving Wladawsky-Berger asserted Thursday at the LinuxWorld conference in New York. This next generation of computing and information technology, Wladawsky-Berger believes, will depend on the flexibility of function and modular design features for which Unix and Linux are often preferred to NT. Future online computing will require integrated support for a vast array of services, voice and video, wireless access, high bandwidth landline access, supercomputing, and data storage and retrieval. All of these will be crucial for industry to take the next step in online business, Wladawsky-Berger said. Linux, he is convinced, will make that step easier and cheaper than any other platform. The company has no plans to develop its own Linux distribution, but will license from the major Linux vendors such as Red Hat, Caldera and SuSE those distros that best suit their systems on a case by case basis. We are persuaded by the wisdom of this approach already. By licensing an open source OS, Big Blue can make a very favourable impression on the thousands of small-to-medium sized business users for whom the cost of licensing NT is prohibitively high. IBM may indeed make inroads into Microsoft territory. And if so, they will finally redeem the colossal folly of OS/2, which was far too expensive to entice Windows users. It must be a painful thought to IBM strategists that if they had released the OS2 source code when they developed it, Micro$oft might not be half the Titan that it is today. ®
Thomas C Greene, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Black Douglas slaughters other Scot, native New Yorker

Knowing, as we did, that we were living life to the edge, and having to meet Mike Capellas and Enrico Pesatori the very next morning, last Tuesday evening when the office closed, we decided to take our chances and tip up and see Gervas "Black" Douglas, and his erstwhile boss, Mike Passmore. Mike was Gervas' boss at Novell, and Mr Passmore helped set up Citrix, with Ed "Grandfather of OS/2" Iacobucci. When it duly IPO'd, Mike made millions upon millions and as we learnt that evening he is only sort of retired. After a couple of Havana cigars and some truly wonderful malt whiskies, Passmore who has far from lost his marbles despite his many multi-millions, remembered the last time we had had such a night. [Here comes a digression. It was in Barcelona, and not Sophie Antopolis, as he and ourselves unerringly re-called, and we Ed, and Black Gervas, took the brave step of ducking out of the official Etre gig, ignoring Philippe Khan, whose flies were untied as he sat on the octagonal table. Oh, we wish we had taken a snap of that -- we had the technology even then, in the shape of the same camera that snapped the first shots of Merced last year. We found ourselves in a place not far from Las Ramblas where we ate the most delicious fish and entertained ourselves so well into the night that we arrived back at the hotel just as many guests were starting to leave for the airport. Right, we thought, we'll pack our stuff and just have a little nap for a few hours and see how the cookie crumbles. Luckily, our hotel room was so placed that the big Spanish sun pierced through a crack in the curtains and woke us up just in time to get up, and meet similarly situated people down at the lobby for check out. We were all flying out from Barcelona to Londinium...but maybe we'll write that story another evening. End of digression.] Passmore is just the same cool guy as he was, albeit ten years after. When he was at Novell he was a top salesman and that habit migrated with him when he helped Ed Iacobucci start up Citrix. He was born in Manhattan Avenue, in Brooklyn, NY NY and he is still as street savvy, in our humble opinion, as he was when he was born there. We asked how our old partner Ed was. He said: "He's fine. He's just been drafted onto Caldera's board." At this point, the Black Douglas interjected and said: "Does Ray Noorda really have Alzheimer's disease?". Passmore was cool and said there was no way he was in any way mind-impaired. Unlike Black Douglas and your staffer here by this point. There then followed fifteen minutes of frantic fun as both Black Douglas and Mr Passmore recounted their versions of the failed Novell-Lotus merger. This club in Ecclestone Street, Victoria, is a lot of fun. Luckily it doesn't have a Web site and so is not virtual but real. For the rest of the evening, we just caroused our time away, listening to the jazz. At the last minute, we remembered that we had to hear Capellas and Pesatori sing their Big Q corporate song in the morning. So at that point we curtailed the activities and even managed to run for a train in the morning, despite our strong addiction to nicotine, and arrive at the Big Q gig not even breathless for the start of Non Stop Computing... By this time you may be wondering why the Black Douglas is held in such revulsion by many Scots (but not this Register staffer). Go to this serious Black Douglas site for enlightenment. By the way, this is not an advertisement for the club in Ecclestone Street. Far from it. We reckon that Passmore, Magee and Douglas are far too old to carry on carousing... ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Psion wins huge UK gov contract

Psion has won a deal with the UK government to supply several hundred thousand handheld devices to civil servants, according to sources. The deal is being brokered by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, an accountancy consultant company. The Register understands the products will be used by various government departments to record information on the fly. ®
Mike Magee, 03 Feb 2000