8th > February > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

AMD copperwhopper Intel heartstopper

Just micro-seconds after Intel said how it had tweaked aluminium so that it was able to produce a 1GHz Pentium III at .18µ (micron), Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) showed a 1.1GHz Athlon using copper interconnects with integrated cache on the chip. Both AMD and Intel make microprocessors, which many believe to be the brain in a personal computer. What this means is that AMD has successfully moved its manufacturing process from aluminium to copper, meaning that electrons whizz along the tiny wires faster, as the latter element is less resistant than the former. A micron is approximately 1/100th of the thickness of a typical human hair. What this also means is that AMD is ready to ship these 1.1GHz microprocessors just whenever it chooses to do so, and that its Dresden fab, known to some OEMs and distributors as Deathstar, is bang on course to produce Cu-Athlons starting from now. In a prepared statement, AMD said that it expected to get money from sales of these fast processors by the end of the second quarter, this year. ® See also Intel claims volume 1GHz on Coppermine RSN™ Race to 1GHz bad for end users The Quick Guide to Register Jargon
Mike Magee, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Acer finds Ideal channel partner

Ideal Hardware has become a distributor of Acer notebook PCs, adding the Taiwanese manufacturing giant to its portfolio of systems. Although the agreement will cover the full range of Acer PC-based products, the initial emphasis will be on mobile computing, according to a statement issued by Ideal. The Chessington-based storage-to-servers distributor said it sees part of its role is to raise Acer's profile in the UK channel. This is certainly a moot point, as even though it is one of the world's top three manufacturers and has made PCs for a raft of major brand names, Acer still suffers from a lack of serious brand equity. That said, it has made significant gains in the UK notebook market, where it now holds around four per cent market share, putting it in the number six position, according to year-to-date Q2 99 figures from Dataquest. It is also a big hitter in mainland Europe and has long been the leading notebook vendor in Italy. Mark Walker, product manager and director at Ideal Hardware, said: "Acer has hidden its light under a bushel for too long and we look forward to helping it develop its brand perception and market share within the UK." And the addition last year of Scott Dodds to the Acer UK team should also go some way to raising this profile. Dodds, Acer UK's sales director, was formerly Compaq UK channel sales manager. They don't come much more high profile than that. Getting another distributor such as Ideal on board also ties in neatly with Acer's move to trim back on the amount of finished stock it holds and the end of all notebook shipments coming out of Taiwan. Instead, from now on, incomplete notebooks will be sent to local facilities where they will go through the final build and test phase. In the case of Europe, that will take place in Tilburg, Holland. Ideal's warehousing will no doubt come in very handy should Acer want to cut back further on inventory levels. ® Related stories: Ideal to split from parent group Acer turns to Compaq for sales director
Sean Fleming, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Gateway 600MHz Athlon box spotted

They said it could never happen, but it did. And now European sceptics can get to see it with their own eyes -- an Athlon-powered Gateway PC is on sale across the manufacturer's Europe, Middle East and Africa territory. The Gateway Select 600 is based on the (you guessed it) 600MHz AMD Athlon and is available now, so Gateway says. Priced at £999 (exc. VAT) the Select 600 also has 128MB RAM, 10GB HDD, 1373 digital sound and 16MB Voodoo 3 graphics card, CD-RW, 17in monitor, DVD V + Soft DVD drive and a 56kbps modem. You also get a printer and the PC comes with Win 98 and MS Works Suite 2000 thrown in. Gateway is also offering a £49 per month purchase scheme on the Select 600. Mike Maloney, Gateway consumer sales director, said the Athlon-based machine offers "our customers excellent performance coupled with great value and supports our philosophy of presenting our customers with leading-edge, cost-effective solutions that meet their technology requirements". So, nothing to do with a dearth of Intel chips and the damage that may have already caused the PC maker. First inklings that Gateway was ready to talk turkey with AMD started to reach Vulture Central shortly before Christmas, courtesy of tech support details for the Athlon cropping up on part of Gateway's Web site. These references soon disappeared, but shortly after the so-called Millennium celebrations came to a halt, the cow-friendly PC outfit came clean and -- as reported on The Register -- said it would, indeed, be using non-Intel chips, leaving Intel with only one faithful and trusty servant among the big name PC makers -- Dell. ® Related Stories Gateway to use AMD because of Intel chip famine Gateway stealth-launches Athlon PCs
Sean Fleming, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DRAM VAT ‘scam’ nets £20m

Two memory brokers exploited the VAT-free status of goods moved from one EU country to another to make millions of pounds from crooked trading in DRAM, a British court heard yesterday. In the dock are Daniel O'Connell, 46, Bernadette Devine, 33, and their "trusted lieutenant", Bernard Dawson, 58. O'Connell, from West London, Devine, from Limerick, Ireland and Dawson, from Swansea deny cheating the public revenue and five charges of tax evasion. The case continues at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DRAM VAT ‘scam’ nets £20m

Two memory brokers exploited the VAT-free status of goods moved from one EU country to another, to make millions of pounds from crooked trading in DRAM, a British court heard yesterday. In the dock are Daniel O'Connell, 46, Bernadette Devine, 33, and their "trusted lieutenant" Bernard Dawson, 58. O'Connell, from West London, Devine, from Limerick, Ireland and Dawson, from Swansea deny cheating the public revenue and five charges of tax evasion. The case continues at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Tabloid trumpets Net IPO with binman's £20m fortune

When a Net IPO story makes front page of The Sun, you know the Bubble Economy is near to bursting. Yesterday, Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper splashed the "£20 million Web fortune of (former binman) Anthony Ashcroft, 23" just as if he had won the National Lottery. Which, in a way he has, only with paper rather than real money falling from the sky. Dad of one Anthony bags his £20 million through the £60 million flotation of Commercial Net Works, a low-end Web services firm he set up one year ago with Bob McCallum, a 44-year old ex-carpet fitter. The Nelson, Lancs company has ramped up quickly, employing 60 staff (mostly college leavers) and has Harrods and BT among its customers. So why the fuss? Well, Ashcroft's youth and blue collar background may make him a working class hero for Sun readers (at least that's what the paper's highly paid, share owning editors think). Yesterday's Sun also trumpeted the £1.1 million sale of Surfworld by Alex Lambert, 27. He is taking 45 per cent in cash. Wise man. This site attracts 40,000 visitors a month on the back of no advertising. The new owner, Name123.com, a subsidiary of Phase 8, wants to build a one-stop Surf shop around a great URL. Lambert, who set up the site two years ago with £100, received a Prince's Trust Award for £10,000 a while back. We hope he now repays it, with interest. Commercial Works and Surfworld could well be sound commercial prospects -- but being talked up on the main news pages of The Sun is an ominous portent. Still, there's some way to go before the UK reachs the IT money fever pitch in America, where last week I overheard a porter at the Sheraton Manhattan recommending the purchase of Oracle stock, on the basis of a conversation with an "executive" staying at the hotel. It brings to mind the saying (yes, I know it's a paraphrase): you know it's time to get out of the market when the bell hop starts tipping shares. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel stake in Esoft? 666,666 shares…

The investment wing of Intel, Intel Capital, is busying itself in the financial markets. Last November, the chip firm invested in Linux company Esoft, as the Intel press release here describes. But, according to US law, forms must be filed with the Security and Equities Commission (SEC) for transactions of this type. And the filing, yesterday, shows that Intel has 666,666 shares in the Linux company. That cannot be a coincidence, can it? It also bought five per cent shareholdings in Centerspan Communications, and in Bamboo.com on the 28th of January. That latter URL points to a firm called Ipix, the Internet Pictures Corporation. Intel Capital is now making waves in the investment community. Last year, its financial brains, Les Vadasz, explained to The Register the basis of the firm's investment decisions. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MS makes its play to own Web voice APIs

The timing of the re-announcement that Microsoft will be incorporating DirectPlay Voice into DirectX is interesting. It has been known that Microsoft was serious about getting real-time voice into games ever since it acquired Canadian company ShadowFactor Software last June, when it announced that its Battlefield Communicator real-time sound functionality would appear in DirectX 8.0 in "late summer" 2000. Microsoft also mentioned some additional possible non-gaming uses for voice over the Internet, but did not seem to be in a hurry to develop them, and just waffled about "enhancing the experience" of Internet use. The four University of Waterloo graduates who founded ShadowFactor were quickly moved to Redmond as Microsoft rushed to be the first to define what it hoped would be the definitive APIs for real-time Internet voice. Curiously, some games that have optionally offered voice communication have found that many players were not using it. BattleCom had first appeared around November 1998, and by June last year sales were believed to have reached a modest $100,000. Microsoft has now announced that instead of BattleCom continuing to be available for purchase from the ShadowFactor web site, from 18 February it will be available as a free download until "this summer" when DirectX 8.0 would be released. So just what prompted the early re-announcement of this generosity by Microsoft? Could it be that Microsoft didn't like the news that rival Firetalk was going to announce its Firetalk Virtual Auditorium product at the Demo 2000 meeting in Indian Wells, California yesterday? With the real battle being to control the APIs for real-time voice, Microsoft looks determined to prevail, and is even prepared to sacrifice the revenue from BattleCom in a re-run of what would appear to be the cutting off of oxygen (money, again) from competitors by making it difficult for them to charge for their products. There are some other competitors in the field too, although MPath seems to have become very quiet recently. ThrustMaster sold its brand last July to the French Carentoir (Guillemot Corporation) with a view to relaunching itself in Internet communications. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Was Mattel CEO pushed from Microsoft's board?

The unanswered question following the resignation last week of Jill Barad as CEO and Chairman of toymaker Mattel is, was she pushed to resign from the Microsoft board as well last September? We can be pretty sure that Microsoft would not like to have a member of its board running an unsuccessful company. The problems at Mattel were well enough known: losses in three of the last four quarters, and a particularly steep loss in Q4, with earnings per share around half that anticipated. The principal cash sink was The Learning Company, bought for $3.6 billion in the hope of using its software to make interactive toys. Barad, a former actress and beauty consultant, claimed that she hadn't been fully briefed about the impending losses by executives. Last year Fortune magazine had placed her on its list of five CEOs who "need to wake up fast". The Mattel board decided that The Learning Company results were unacceptable, so she resigned. Gates was evidently pleased to get her on the board in 1996 (she was the first female since Portia Isaacson in 1986-7), but her resignation in late September must have occurred when she knew that the Q3 financial outcome of Mattel would not be good. She said at the time that "in three years with Microsoft and Bill Gates, I gleaned more about where the world is going than I could have in a lifetime." When she stepped down from the board, she sold all her Microsoft shares. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel unveils cunning network mobo plan

Chip giant Intel yesterday said it had designed a specification for ATX motherboards to support modem, networking and audio elements in chip sets. The communication and networking riser (CNR) specification will be made available to OEMs with the idea that they include it in future PCs used at home. The spec offers a riser interface for microATX, ATX and FlexATX mobos, said Intel, apparently with the aim of cutting down costs. CNR will provide interfaces for multi-channel sound, v90 modems, twisted pair home networks and 10/100 Ethernet networking. The specification is available on this Intel page. ®
Team Register, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Boffins beat Moore's Law with quantum magic

IBM scientists believe they may have found a way to beat the physical limitations imposed on microprocessors as the chips' circuits become too small to support an electrical current. The technique, dubbed the Quantum Mirage Effect (QME), is positively mind-boggling. Essentially, information about an atom at point A appears at point B even though there is no physical connection between the two points. "We call it a mirage because we project information about one atom to another spot where there is no atom," said Donald Eigler, head of the research project at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. "This is a fundamentally new way of guiding information through a solid." QME is analogous the way sound and light can be guided by curved surfaces, such as parabolic reflectors, from one point to another, except this time the information is transmitted by electrons, which, according to quantum theory, can behave either as particles (which they do in a traditional electrical circuit, say) or as waves. The IBM team created an ellipse-shaped ring of cobalt atoms on a surface of copper, creating the quantum equivalent of a parabolic dish. Placing an atom of magnetic cobalt at one focus of the ellipse, the atom's quantum state was replicated at the other focus. So, were you to alter the atom's quantum state -- the spatial distribution of its electrons and their energies -- that information would be transmitted to the other focus instantaneously. The interest here for the processor industry here is that as chips are produced with ever-smaller (in accordance with Moore's Law) electrical circuits, the point will soon be reached where there are too few electrons to support a current. Researchers reckon the limit will be hit in around ten years' time as fabrication processes drop beyond 0.1 micron. The IBM discovery is a long way off being applied to practical processor circuitry, but it does offer one way of shrinking chip technology beyond its current limits. The IBM team have produced ellipses that are 20 nanometres long -- around ten times smaller than the wiring within a 0.22 micron chip. ® Related Story Big Blue boffins to unveil 4.5GHz CPU breakthrough
Tony Smith, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

QXL splashes £38 million in red ink

QXL.com lost a whopping £38 million in Q3, the European online auction house reported today. Operating losses for Q3 up to 31 January 1999 accounted for £10.7 million (£8.1 million in the previous quarter) and acquisition related charges added a further £12.6 million (£2.9 million). National Insurance provisions of £14.8 million (to cover stock options) also made a big dent in QXL.com's figures. Turnover eased £1.9 million in Q2 to 1.5 million in Q3, with the fall attributed from a move from a principal (where the company buys stock for resale) to agency sales model. The losses cast a shadow over other key figures relating to QXL.com's performance. According to the company, membership is up, the number of items auctioned is up, and page impressions served are up. Jim Rose, CEO, said: "These strong results illustrate that we are establishing a solid platform from which to continue to accelerate our growth strategy in the auction market. "Beyond this strong growth, we have delivered on three key strategic objectives: we have migrated the business to a non-inventory based model, we implemented success fees on our consumer-to-consumer auctions and we have strengthened our European presence with nearly 50 per cent of our membership now outside of the UK." ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

1999 a record year for chip sales

The world clearly can't get enough silicon, as demand for products made out of it shows. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), global sales of semiconductors hit a record $149 billion during 1999, an increase of 19 per cent on the previous year. The big sellers were memory chips and embedded processors targeted at communications and Internet applications, the SIA said, pushing way ahead of traditional bestsellers like PC microprocessors. So while December 1999's chip sales were up 23 per cent on the December 1998's figures, PC processors accounted for only 25 per cent of the total number of chips shipped, down from around 50 per cent in 1995, when records began. Last December's chip sales totalled $14.7 billion, up from $14.2 billion in November. Flash memory sales hit $4.6 billion during 1999, an increase of 83 per cent on the previous year. The DRAM market grew 48 per cent to $20.7 billion, despite the autumn's supply issues caused by the Taiwan earthquake. Of course, after a ropy 1998 and the dips in sales seen since 1996, the fact that the arrival of a big new market -- the Internet -- should drive silicon sales up again by such a degree shouldn't surprise anyone. The SIA reckons that the degree of growth seen in 1999 will continue over the next couple of years, with sales increasing 20 per cent this year and 21 per cent in 2001, as demand for mobile comms kit and Net access devices continue to drive the market. Cellphone shipments will reach one billion units in 2003, the SIA predicts, up from 200 million last year. In 1999, 200 million PCs and Internet access items shipped, too, but the SIA believes that will grow to just 700 million units in 2003. ®
Tony Smith, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

HP lens focuses Itanium-Merced strategy

It's time to revisit Intel's Merced-Itanium strategy, but this time through the curved lens of partner Hewlett Packard. As we have reported here earlier, initial speeds of Merced will be 800MHz+, the IA-64 at its heart will be a .18 micron processor, it will have cache of four megabytes plus and a frontside bus speed of 133MHz, and the CPUs will scale between 256 and 512. It will also have three levels of cache. It will not use Rambus memory, but DDR memory instead. This, at any rate, is how close Intel partner Hewlett Packard sees the future of the Itanium. It presents a technology case for the IA-64 architecture against the present shape of things to come. According to HP, the cost performance of architectures such as PA-RISC eventually reach the point where cost versus performance reaches the point of diminishing returns. IA-64, on the other hand, avoids these problems, and HP's point of view is that although there is a so-called "level playing field" it will support more OSes than any other vendor, including Linux-64, MPE, HP/UX and Windows NT 64. HP has opened a software and system development lab on the Microsoft campus to port applications, and believes that it will be able to provide a high level of binary compatibility and native re-compiling which will allow it to have more applications available at launch time than its x.86 competitors. The lab at Redmond is concentrating on NT scalability and availability on IA-32 and IA-64 platforms, working on enterprise middleware, and on development tools and environments. Although HP, like many another Intel partner, will announce systems in the middle of the year, it realistically suspects that it will be autumn when production ramps up. HP's competitors, like Compaq, on the other hand, believe that it has extended its PA-RISC architecture up to the year 2003, in order to satisfy its corporate buyers. HP suggests that the Alpha Wildfire system, which is being trickle treated into the marketplace, is the last throw of this particular die. Next week, Intel is expected to spend a considerable amount of time at its Developer Forum on how it sees the future of the IA-64 platform. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Riot police prep batons for MS Demo 2000

The Seattle Robo Cops were out in force yesterday, this time to protect the Microsoft Redmond, Washington campus from 60 or so anarchist protestors. Two dozen police, dressed in full riot gear (and boy do those guys look mean) faced down 60 marchers protesting the "globalization of corporate power" and what they called -- AP gingerly reports -- "Microsoft's monopolistic practices". Fresh from their triumphant display of community policing at the World Trade Organisation talks 29 November to 3 December, Seattle's Finest were this time in no mood to take prisoners. Except for one guy, arrested for ignoring orders to stay out of a verboten street. In the blandest of bland statements, Microsoft spokesman Dan Leach said: "We respect everyone's right to express their views." Yes, but did the MS security guards really need to call on paramilitary back-up to display respect for the constitutional rights of their 60 adversaries? So what were the marchers protesting about, again? Over to AP for the quotes: "I think it's important that we constantly remind institutions of power that there's people out there questioning that power," protester David Hyde told KIRO-TV." The marchers said they represented Direct Action Network, organisers behind last year's WTO demo in Seattle which turned into a $2.5 million carnival of destruction, and left a huge black mark on the city's reputation. ®
Drew Cullen, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Teenage dot com sensation sweeps Mystery Awards

British teenage dot com sensation Benjamin Cohen has scooped a bag-full of awards celebrating his e-ntrepreneurial skills and the massive contribution he has made to the industry. He was ranked second place in the Internet Icon category behind Lastminute.com's Martha Lane Fox. He was also voted sexiest male webmaster. His portal, CyberBritain.com, was voted Web site of the year and a former concern, JewishNet.co.uk, was ranked number seven. CyberBritain.com also topped the list of best search engines of the year ahead of the likes of Yahoo!, Excite, Lycos and AltaVista. JewishNet.co.uk also walked away with the top award for a community portal. None of Cohen's Web sites featured in the category of top ten e-commerce British Web sites, although DesktopLawyer, run by his father and uncle, did feature at number five. The only category in which Cohen failed to make any impression was sexiest female webmaster. Cohen's amazing achievement is published on Internet Awards. Although the site was registered by Internet Awards Company last month, efforts to track down those behind InternetAwards have so far proved fruitless. The awards' organisers have also failed to reply to an e-mail asking for further details about the awards. Yesterday, a modest Cohen played down his success saying that he only learnt about how he swept the board via an e-mail. Unfortunately, he couldn't say who had sent it to him. CyberBritain has now removed a link it had to Internetawards.co.uk. Drew Cullen writes: Described by today's Guardian as a "rudimentary search engine that is none the less growing faster than any online network", CyberBritain.com is certainly news to The Register. And we're supposed to know about such things. In a press release issued yesterday, CyberBritain explains that has grown quietly since its launch in July 1998 to "becoming (sic) one of the leading online services in Europe. It claims a "staggering 420 million page impressions" served -- but that's from July, 1998 to now. CyberBritain.com consists of "nine leading portals including CyberBritain.co.uk, (the UK's number one Search Agent), BritishMP3.co.uk (The UK's number one MP3 Search Engine) and SoAsian.com (The UK's number one Asian Community Portal)". Not mentioned on the press release are two other leading portals KosherSex.co.uk and SexySearch.co.uk, as well as old favourites JewishNet.co.uk, DesktopLawyer.net and (who the hell are they)Hermia.com and E-U.co.uk. In other words it is a portal of not very well-known portals. That no-one's heard of. Which is counting all the page impressions of the other nine sites as its own. Retroactively. Young Cohen is the founder of JewishNet, since Durlacher-ised and renamed SoJewish.com, in pre-IPO branding. This is an undoubted success, even if Cohen no longer has anything to do with day-to-day running of the business (he is on the payroll as creative and development director with - he tells us -special responsibility for ecommerce). But with CyberBritain.com, it appears his ego is doing most of the talking. He needs to walk, before he learns to run.®
Tim Richardson, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Akamai snaps up rival for $2.8bn

Internet acceleration specialist Akamai yesterday agreed to hand over $2.8 billion in stock to buy up streaming media company InterVu. InterVu shareholders will receive roughly 0.6 Akamai shares for each InterVu share they own. Akamai said it would issue 9.3 million common shares to cover the swap. The combined operation -- the deal is expected to be completed sometime next quarter, regulators and shareholders permitting -- will take Akamai's customer tally to 1000, and expand its network of mirrored servers to some 3000 machines around the world, which strengthens its ability to bring customers' content closer to users. It also neatly eliminates one of the company's chief competitors. It's all classic growth-by-acquisition stuff, combing customer and technology bases to bring the combined operation closer to profitability in a way that's more efficient than simply going out and buying more servers. Certainly neither Akamai nor InterVu are both in the red. As of Q3 1999, InterVu has lost $15.7 million during its current fiscal year on sales on $6.6 million. For fiscal 1999, Akamai lost $44.2 million on sales of just under $4 million. Savings made by eliminating duplicate staff and facilities will be ploughed back into expanding Akamai's network, company president Paul Sagan said. He added that the acquisition will grow the company's revenues, but he wouldn't comment on the likely effects of the deal on Akamai's profitability. ® Related Stories Akamai profits plummet despite 206 per cent revenue rise Akamai to launch app delivery service Apple, Cisco invest in Net content delivery service
Tony Smith, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MP3.com countersues music industry trade body

Online music company MP3.com has countersued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and its president and CEO, Hilary Rosen, following legal action launched by the RIAA against it last month. MP3.com is alleging the RIAA is essentially attempting to beat up on it for its pro-MP3 stance. In a sense, MP3.com only has itself to blame. It's spent the last year or so setting itself up as the voice of the MP3 user community, so it's no surprise that it should attract the attention of the RIAA, the voice of the US music industry. And if you don't want to be shot at, don't stick your head over the parapet. CEO Michael Robertson's statement on the countersuit is full of words and phrases like 'bullying tactics', 'aggressive tactics' and 'unfair business practices'. It's clear MP3.com is taking the RIAA's actions very personally indeed and reckons the trade body is out to get it. Easy enough to say, of course, but rather more difficult to prove. Robertson's statement says: "After we get to the bottom of all of their actions toward MP3.com, we will vigorously pursue all of our legal remedies." Which kind of implies the company doesn't yet have really solid evidence of active RIAA hostility toward it beyond last month's lawsuit. That case centres on MP3.com's MyMP3.com 'virtual CD player' service, which allows users to play music they own on any PC via a Web browser and downloaded MP3 files. The RIAA says this is a massive copyright infringement. MP3.com denies the charge, claiming that users have to own the track before they can listen to it. The downloaded tracks come from MP3.com's own collection of albums, but since the user already has a CD of the track they want to hear, the company argues that the download is legally tantamount to the user copying their CD for personal use. It's a thorny case that can be well-argued from both sides. The RIAA's claims are not baseless, so you can't entirely blame the RIAA for launching it -- it's not exclusively about tying MP3.com up with legalities to hinder the company's business, as MP3.com alleges. That said, MP3.com claims to have been willing to work with RIAA officials to show that the service doesn't violate artists' and labels' rights, but that the RIAA sternly refused to co-operate, so it too has a point. ® Related Story Music biz sues Napster
Tony Smith, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DDD: system claims to circumvent Internet

Updated A system called DDD, which removes the need for an ISP for connecting to various devices including PCs, mobile phones, and interactive television, is causing a stir in the City. Several multinationals, computer and telecomms firms are talking to London-based Keith Grant to acquire the technology, according to what could be "a leaked report". Investor site, UK Invest reported its hunt for the mysterious Grant yesterday. DDD is claimed to offer fast data transfer to a client, whether it's a mobile or a PC, without using the TCP/IP Internet protocols. It can cut out Internet retailers and internet service providers (ISPs), while also offering electronic mail systems and free telephone access. We contacted Keith Grant, who emailed back, saying: "I do not know how information about DDD has been obtained. DDD is protected by confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements between all parties concerned. I am not prepared to get into any discussions or disclose the companies negotiating for the purchase of DDD or at what stage negotiations are." And so there we are. We don't know what DDD stands for, we don't know what it does, and in fact we know next to nothing about it, or even if it's real. If it is real, a lot of .com companies and ISPs will be very worried. ® So have you seen DDD in action? Do you know what the acronym stands for? Then give us a shout here.
Mike Magee, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Callnet backlog claims come under fire

CallNet 0800's claims yesterday that it has successfully cleared the backlog of Net users trying to register for its service has been challenged by users who say they have been ignored by the ISP. A number of users have contacted The Register attacking the ISP for mishandling its heavily over-subscribed launch last year. Yesterday, a spokesman for CallNet said that the backlog had now been cleared. Not so, says Guy Turnbull, for one. "I'm one person who called CallNet in the week they launched, and never heard a peep back from them," he said. Patrick Chamberlain said: "Oh really? I've been trying to sign up since a couple of days before they launched, by phone, by email and online. "I've never heard a thing from them. Have they cleared their backlog by wiping their records and starting again?" A spokesman for CallNet said he couldn't comment on individual cases. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Say hello to hologram RAM

Japanese researchers have finally figured out how to plug the data leak that is preventing the widespread use of holographic memory -- a high-density, high read speed storage optical system that works on the same principle as the 3D security labels on credit cards. Holographic memory itself isn't new. Just as a visual hologram can record a complete three-dimensional object in a single sheet of photographic film, it can also be used to store data to a very high density. The data is written with a laser beam which pulses on and off to represent binary 1s and 0s. A second beam crosses the first at a set angle generating an interference pattern -- a pattern that's recorded in a special storage material as positive and negative charges. Whole stacks of interference patterns can be laid on top of each other, each pattern being produced by setting the first, data laser and the second, reference beam at different angles. Reading the data back is simply a matter of shining a laser onto the material. It interacts with the interference pattern to reproduce the original pulsing data beam. The snag has always been that the process of reading back the interference pattern -- and thus the data -- over time changes those charges, in the process damaging the information stored. According to science journal Nature, the Japanese team solved the problem by adding iron and a rare metal called terbium to the standard lithium niobate storage material. Terbium becomes coloured when it's exposed to ultraviolet light and, more to the point, once coloured this way helps the lithium niobate retain its data-encoding charges. The team, from the National Institute for Research in Inorganic Materials in Tsukuba, claims the modified storage medium will retain data without deterioration for up to two years if it's not exposed to light, and that it holds data safely for at least nine hours if the information is constantly exposed to a read laser. Clearly there's still someway to go before holographic memory becomes a practical reality -- who wants to re-archive all their data every two years? -- but it is a major step toward that goal. ® Related Stories Boffins beat Moore's Law with quantum magic Storage tech boffins to demo 140GB 'CD-ROM' US researchers develop molecular memory UK boffins unveil $35 '2300GB on a PC Card' RAM breakthrough
Tony Smith, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Net Q&A for UK home secretary

UK home secretary, Jack Straw, is to face the online electorate tomorrow in an Internet Q&A session courtesy of The Guardian’s news site, newsunlimited.co.uk. The site – there’s a link at the foot of this story – is inviting the UK public to email questions for the country’s second most powerful politician to answer tomorrow at 1:15GMT. “Post early to make sure you don’t miss out” – the site says. But anyone who views such events as democracy in action with the wired world helping to put Jo Public in touch with the powers that be is kidding themselves. This is little more than a publicity coup for The Guardian Online. For a kick-off, the submitted questions will be vetted and edited by newsunlimited staff and/or government spin doctors before the chosen few are answered. Even if one assumes no malice on the part of those with the job of picking the lucky few questions, the time restrictions mean that there will, inevitably, be a selection process. Worse than that, the conspiracy theorists out there may want proof that the home secretary will actually be sat at PC in the newsunlimited offices at the allotted time and that the questions won’t be picked (and answered) in advance by one of his press aides. In which case, it almost seems worthless having readers send in their questions. Perhaps the only way to flush out the truth would be if readers of The Register draft some particularly sticky questions for Jack Straw and file them with newsunlimited. If they get answered then all to the good. An obvious one might be: “Jack, is that really you?” But chances are, there’s an answer for that one at the ready. ® Want to quiz the home secretary? Go here.
Sean Fleming, 08 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Via, AMD, others strike back at Intel riser plans

Only a few hours after Intel announced it would release a specification for a comms riser card, a group of vendors including AMD and Via announced their alternative. The advanced communications riser special interest group (ACRSiG) includes AMD, Acer, 3Com, Via, Nvidia, Lucent, Motorola, Conexant, and Texas Instruments among its members. The SiG will work to produce a riser to open standards for analogue modems, Ethernet, phoneline networking, DSL, audio and wireless networking, it said. The specification will define a physical design and interfaces for the riser. The move doesn't entirely leave Intel on its own with its specification, but the question must be why everyone doesn't just chip in together. For example, Motorola, like the Collosus at Rhodos, manages to have a foot on each side of the harbour. ® See also Intel unveils cunning network mobo plan
Mike Magee, 08 Feb 2000