Some Arizona Democrats will enjoy the luxury of voting from their houses, offices and local Internet cafes in next week's Democratic primary election, in spite of a lawsuit filed to block on-line voting on grounds that it discriminates against minorities. US District Court Judge Paul Rosenblatt denied a petition to block the scheme by a voting rights advocacy outfit calling itself the Voting Integrity Project.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer Infotech section reports unseemly scrapping between the heads of Microsoft Philippines and Lotus Philippines. Death threats are alleged on both sides, and the Lotus MD, Victor Silvino, has filed charges against MS MD Darren Lockie, claiming "grave threats."
Certain directors and former directors of InterX are selling more than 2.4 million shares in the company. This will gross a useful £75 million or so, based on yesterday's closing price of 3100p. Aside from the enormous good fortune of the sellers, there doesn't appear to be too much to read into this: the six main executive InterX shareholders will retain 47 per cent of the business, following the sale. Armed with hugely rated paper, InterX is set for a buying spree for more new media technology and content properties. This means the company will be in effect a permanently closed period (the time when directors are not allowed to comment on company performance, or sell shares). So this sale looks like the last chance the main shareholders will have for sometime to cash in some of their enormous paper assets. The sale is timed to coincide with a new share placing in which Inter-X is to raise £50 million, £20 million more than it originally said it would. The company says it has identified an another high-value sector to extend its IT Network product comparison model. Presumably, this is where the extra cash will go. We guess pharmaceuticals is the target -- it's a business with a similar channel distribution model as IT, loads of products to wade through, and more importantly big, rich vendors to tap for advertising, database marketing and sponsorship money. ®
Palm's IPO went ahead yesterday, netting the company a cool $874 million and leaving it at the end of the day valued at $21.3 billion. A success for Palm, certainly, but not one in the same league as recent Internet and Linux IPOs. Or is it? Yesterday's stock sale saw 23 million shares hit the market at $38 each, up just a little on Palm's asking price of $32, itself raised $16 on Monday from the first valuation. When Nasdaq opens today those shares will be available for the public to trade, at which point we'll finally be able to see whether the demand for Palm stock will push the price up to the levels of other hi-tech IPOs. Unlike other recently floated companies, Palm makes money: $23 million in profits on revenues of $435 million in the six months to 26 November 1999, according to Dow Jones. Nokia, Motorola and AOL also took small stakes in Palm bringing the company a further $225 million. ®
A glowing report from a US financial analyst propelled Apple's stock price to a new all-time high of 130.75 yesterday. Kevin McCarthy, the Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette analyst and not the star of the 1956 movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers, predicted the Mac maker will ship a staggering 1.05 billion machines during its current quarter, the second of fiscal 2000. Apple shipped 1.377 million machines during Q1 2000 -- which included the Christmas sales period -- so it's going to be very lucky indeed to get that up to 1.05 billion, an increase of over 76,152 per cent. We suspect McCarthy may be being a tad optimistic here -- either that or it's a typo in his report or Reuters' coverage of it. Around 1.05 million Macs is the correct figure, we'd say. McCarthy's expectation of $1.95 billion in revenue seems more reasonable. Last quarter Apple made $183 million on revenues of $2.34 billion, so a dip in sales in the traditionally slow post-Christmas period is to be expected. McCarthy reckons earnings will hit 78 cents a share, down from Q1's 103 cents a share. In all, "Apple is poised for a strong March and we see the new products driving upside to our estimates", McCarthy wrote, adding that sales of the new PowerBook G3, iBook Special Edition and faster Power Mac G4s, all unveiled last month at MacWorld Expo Tokyo, were "brisk". A clearly excited McCarthy even pointed out that G4s were "flying off the shelves" now that Apple has finally been able to ship the long-promised but until recently undelivered 500MHz machine. Calm down, Kevin, think of your heart. And Apple's deal with US ISP EarthLink is doing better than expected, he wrote: "We believe there is significant upside to the original estimate of 25-35 million in calendar year 2000 net margin dollars deriving from the EarthLink alliance announced in January." The upshot of all this enthusiasm was a new enthusiasm for Apple stock. Trading during the day saw the AAPL price peak at 130.75 before closing at 127. ®
Consumer PCs are selling faster than business PCs in Western Europe thanks to the Web stampede, according to IDC. Cheaper and more attractive hardware, as well as the rush to get onto the Internet, will drive PC sales in the home user sector up by 20.7 per cent in 2000. This compares to 18.5 per cent in the education sector, and 13.9 per cent for business PCs. IDC also expects PC sales growth to drop to 11.5 per cent in 2000 for companies with more than 100 staff. "A sharp drop in prices, down to as little as $600 for entry-level desktops, has attracted a new range of home buyers," said Catherine Pennington, research analyst for IDC's European personal computers programme. "The consumer market is one of the least saturated markets now in Western Europe. "The Internet is a driving factor. But, basically, people underestimate the power in the consumer space of attractive designs," Pennington added. "We'll start to see a lot more people pushing into this area after the success of Apple's iMac last year." The findings complement a survey released earlier this month by Dataquest. It found that the profile of the average European PC user was changing from "lone gamer, isolated and hidden away in his bedroom" into an Internet sophisticate. ® Related Stories Dell eats into Compaq's European sales European Internet users to pass US by 2003 – IDC
Pointless bickering about the future of IO is pointless, Paul Santeler, VP of enterprise servers at Compaq told us yesterday. Ultimately, he said, all of the industry players had to get together for the sake of the customer to agree a standard to take people forward with their servers. However, the Infiniband specification, which Intel confidently told us last September would be complete very soon, is unlikely to be completed for another few months, Santeler said yesterday. He waxed lyrically about how Infinibang, when it finally comes out, will allow people to slide in add-on cards into their servers, rather than get their screwdrivers out and take the machines apart. "This isn't a race," said Santeler. "Changing IO is difficult for customers. We're going to fix the things that need fixing." He agreed, however, that it might not be possible to move things forward as fast as the Infiniband people wanted. "Late 2001 is a pretty aggressive schedule," he said. ® * There's a PCI-X conference coming up midmonth at the San Jose conference centre. Go to this site for registration information.
Scientists at IBM working with colleagues at Nikon have developed a new technology that promises to boost the number of transistors built into a microprocessor by a factor of 1000. The technology, called Prevail (Projection Reduction Exposure With Variable Axis Immersion Lenses), uses beams of electrons to etch the transistors into silicon in place of the optical beams used by chip makers today. The IBM team unveiled the technology earlier this week at a meeting on the International Society for Optical Engineering, held in Santa Clara, California. To increase the transistor count using optical technology, you need to reduce the wavelength of the light used in the etching process. Today's chips contain transistors of 0.18 micron in length, roughly one hundredth of a millimeter. The next stage is to get that down to 0.1 micron. However, electrons have an effective wavelength one hundred thousand times smaller than the light used in lithography today, the upshot of which is it allows chip makers to create transistors thousands of times smaller than they can now. Electron beam technology however presents problems in terms of mass production, because the lines have to be etched one at a time. Current technology on the other hand allows multiple chips to be 'projected' at the same time. A key aspect of the IBM-Nokin breakthourgh, however, is that the electron beam can be projected in a pattern etching many lines simultaneously. IBM's proof of concept system has produced transistors at 0.08 microns -- two and a quarter times smaller than current 0.18 micron transistors, but the research team believes the technology can be refined to shrink that down to beyond 0.03 microns. However, they admit that's going to take some time - it took most of the last decade just to develop the technology and turn it into a working model. ® Related Stories Researchers beat Moore's Law with quantum magic Big Blue boffins to unveil 4.5GHz CPU breakthrough Motorola slims chip transistors to quarter of current size Boffins pave way for 400x rise in CPU transistor count US scientists develop molecular memory Gas chips to replace semiconductors, predicts boffin
Friday is butt-naked night at Nutopia, a screamingly trendy new "cyberlounge" in London's Covent Garden. The company says it will run nude surfer theme nights every Friday "until Westminster closes us down". The Wibbly Wobbly Web indeed. Nutopia also plans to run theme nights for lesbian and transsexuals (with the latter getting the run of the place on Dragnet evenings). It is also reaching out to the dance crowd, offering a chill-out space/juice bar for clubbers between 3am and 7am each evening. And it is offering a 21st Century version of the phone bar, with Webcams attached to each monitor. If you see someone at the other end of the lounge who takes your fancy, you can fire off a chat-up email. "It's a whole new era of cruising," says director Grant Mitchell (no relation to EastEnders' Grant Mitchell, who is, at any rate, a fictional character). No, we're not making this up. And neither is the Evening Standard, where we lifted the quotes from. Speaking to The Register, Mitchell said the nude surf nights were "not sleazy. There's a lot of honest naturists out there who need Internet training." Go wild in the conceptual country Based in Shelton Street, WC2, Nutopia is a cybercaff dressed up for the Wallpaper generation. The venue features Phillipe Starck (as in Starck bollock-naked) chairs, two big fish tanks and 40 Apple flat-screen monitors. Here's some blurb from the Web site: "Challenging the imagination of its competitors with interiors that steal from Kubrick's masterpiece, 2001, NUTOPIA aims to provide London with a space where technology meets creativity in an environment designed to appeal to the style conscious." And here's some more: "The inspiration behind NUTOPIA originates from a statement made by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1973... 'We announce the birth of a conceptual country, NUTOPIA. It has no land, boundaries or passports, only people...' "This statement, made back in 73, encapsulates today's Internet phenomenon." More prosaically, Nutopia offers training, video conferencing, and Web hosting and design services. We guess the Nude Surfer evenings won't last long -- this has nothing to do with Westminster Council and everything to do with an inspired but short shelf-life PR launch stunt. However, there will be at least one more nude surfing night -- on March 10. It costs a fiver to get in, and you must be topless. After that, it is up to you where you draw the clothes-off line. ® Related Story Nude Overclockers take Web by storm
Psion's second half net income was down 74 per cent, to £2.8 million, largely because of cost of investment, according to CEO David Levin. "The cost of delivering on new technology is significant," he said, and the company expects its share of Symbian-related costs to increase by at least 20 per cent. Symbian costs are however by no means the full story. Psion's modem business used to contribute substantially, but standalone modem sales are dropping off, and with the rise of wireless communications this can only get worse. Levin is also betting big on R&D to transform Psion into a more communications-oriented, consumer electronics type company, and if Psion is going to play with the big boys here, it has to shoulder heavy R&D costs. In order to fund this and future expansion the company is issuing £100 million worth of new shares. This will be used to invest in the company's online business via the newly-formed Psion Internet division. Psion put its toe into online waters last year on the launch of the Revo, and now intends to ramp this up. According to Psion Internet MD Gareth Hughes: "We will partner with the leading content and service providers to deliver an innovative and compelling advanced mobile Internet service." If Psion's going to do this on £100 million it's going to have to do a lot of leveraging of relationships with the likes of Vodafone as well, we reckon. The company's full year sales were down from £159.9 million to £150.4 millio, with profit (excluding exceptional items and te share of the Symbian costs) down 18 per cent, from £13.2 million to £10.8 million. Intriguingly, Psion has also taken a 3 per cent stake in US company Quicknet. Quicknet specialises in Internet telephony, producing PCI and PC Card adapters designed to support enhanced voice communications over the Internet. They run under Win9x and Linux, but it's not immediately clear how this fits into the Psion big picture, if at all. ®
When does 2195 not equal 2195? Why, when it refers to the build number of Windows 2000, of course. Attempting to discover why a system that ran happily under the gold code version of Win2K refused to have anything to do with AGP graphics when upgraded to the full retail version of the OS, we discovered that there are two sorts of 2195. So two versions of a Microsoft product can have the same build number, but that doesn't mean they're the same. MS technical support confirmed today that after the gold code of Win2K was released to manufacture some "licensing issues" came to light which meant some aspects of video support had to be pulled from the retail build. As a result, Win2K's rudimentary video support is worse in the retail version than it was in the final beta, although the two products are supposedly identical. Call us old fashioned, but shouldn't a different version of Win2K carry a different build number? Any users still running the gold version of build 2195 would be well advised to put off upgrading to the retail build 2195 until it reaches its next build, probably also called 2195. In the meantime, the (very helpful) MS support guy suggested a workaround: "Reinstall everything from scratch and it should be OK." Although this seems a somewhat drastic means of getting the thing to work properly, we're willing to give it a try. Watch this space and we'll let you know what happens. ®
The financial services watchdog has issued yet another notice warning investors to be wary of so called "tips" published on bulletin boards and in chat rooms. In a bulletin published yesterday, Phillip Thorpe, MD of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), said: "Following such tips blindly can seriously damage your wealth. "So the simple message is do not believe everything you read," he said. "Do some research -- the Internet can make that easy and cheap -- and make sure that your share purchases and sales are an informed decision." It is a criminal offence to deliberately create a false or misleading impression as to the market in, or the price of, any investments thereby inducing another person to acquire or dispose of those investments. Apparently. Related Stories Day traders get stiff warning FSA warns of Net trading dangers
Online travel agency Expedia.com is to take a charge of up to $6 million to cover credit card fraud costs on its site. The Microsoft spin-off said yesterday it would set aside between $4 million and $6 million from its fiscal third quarter. It added that its service had been the victim of a professional crime racket. "The company is working with federal law enforcement agencies to combat a recent increase in fraudulent transactions on the Expedia.com travel service," it said. "The fraud was committed by professional criminals who illegally obtained credit cards from non-Expedia.com sources and used those stolen cards to purchase travel online." Expedia became aware of the problem two weeks ago after it was alerted to unusual activity on its site by American Express and Microsoft's security group. Security boffins noticed an unusually high number of transactions from a small amount of credit cards. The stolen cards were not obtained from Expedia, and the site remained secure, the company insisted. According to Expedia, $500,000 is normally set aside per quarter to cover losses from credit card fraud. But the company was forced to take the extra cost after suffering a spate of attacks from scamsters between November to the beginning of February. The one-off charge represents 12 to 18 percent of Expedia's sales for the first and second quarter, which totalled $33 million.® Related Stories French credit card hacker convicted Cyber police force comes to Britain Scammer spammer gets thrown in slammer MS spins off Expedia - what do you want to IPO today? http://www.theregister.co.uk/
SGI has at last managed to flog off Cray Research to rival (and rather smaller) supercomputer manufacturer Tera Computer, according to an item in today's Wall Street Journal. Tera, it seems, hasn't been doing too well of late - a bit like SGI, in fact - and is banking on the Cray acquisition, which will see it take on the supercomputer pioneer's name, will drive a turnaround. It's hoping Cray rather poor $200 million annual revenue and what it reckons is an expanding market for supercomputers will push it into profitability. During its most recently completed financial quarter, Tera lost $7.5 million (before a one-off charge of $6.4 million) on revenues of $850,000. Neither company has commented on how much Tera has paid for Cray, but Wall Street Journal deep throats claim its in the order of $100 million. That's rather less than the $740 million SGI paid for it back in 1996, but since SGI wants rid of the operation, it's really a buyer's market. And SGI should at least be pleased it has sold Cray at all. The decision to get rid of the division was announced last August alongside a similar plan to ditch the company's Windows NT workstation business. That operation had to be shut down in the end, SGI having failed to find a buyer. ®
Insiders at Lucent (ticker LU) tell us that the spin off of its communication systems division yesterday is unlikely to be the last, and that the word is that some much more aggressive action can be expected in the future. In fact, the CEO, Rich McGinn, was asked in an internal broadcast whether other parts of the business would be spun off in the near future. The reply: "We don't have any other announcements to make at this time." Its PBX division was not performing very well, according to our source, and instead of its plans to dominate the whole arena of communications technologies, it is entirely possible that Lucent may spin off its microelectronics group and sell its manufacturing locations, contracting out the actual nuts and bolt stuff. That would lead Lucent (symbol Ring of Fire), to become a gigantic R&D and design house, with network services and consulting in there too. Well, that's the word inside Lucent. No doubt its lips are sealed as far as the outside world is concerned. ®
Sources close to Compaq's plans now tell us that it will be May before the company officially launches its much-vaunted Wildfire Alpha range. That means a further delay for the technology, which has been postponed several times already. However, our informant also adds that there are already pre-orders for the Wildfire technology, amounting to over 200, worth a cool half a billion bucks for the Big Q. Since last month, Compaq has been quietly seeding the market with Wildfire systems. Our understanding is that there are no technical problems with the Wildfire, but that the moves are part of a cunning marketing plan. Meanwhile, if you want to see Alpha's 1u form factor, codenamed Slate, have a gander at this picture here. ®
Oneswoop.com, the big VC-backed European online new car dealership, turned away potential customers, less than a day after going live. Site's back up and running now. But we have saved its door-shutting tactics for posterity.
InterX shares were up 80p today to 3,180p on news that it was increasing its proposed placing and open offer by 20 million to a total of £50 million. This is wierd psychology: shares are supposed to go down on news like this, especially when executive shareholders are flogging shares at the same time. According to AFX, dealers were also excited that that InterX is "progressing the separation" of Ideal Hardware from the group. But why should this be? The industry has known for months that Ideal Hardware was up for sale, and that Broadview, the investment bank has been engaged to find a buyer. The City has known for weeks (courtesy of trade paper CRN UK) that Ingram Micro is the favourite candidate to buy Ideal Hardware. Anyone with an ounce of sense would realise that the longer it takes to sell Ideal Hardware, the worse the price InterX will get. IT hardware distribution businesses ain't worth so much these days, and their currency is depreciating quickly. Still, the sale of Ideal Hardware should bring in at least £50 million, and maybe as much as £60 million, to InterX coffers. Related stories InterX share price goes through roof Ideal to split from parent group
Telewest has suspended registrations for its Cable Internet ISP amid reports of heavy congestion on its network. The cableco confirmed the news today, following a report yesterday on vnunet, but insisted that new registrations had only been put hold for a "couple of days". "We're adding modems to increase capacity," said Stephen Powers, a spokesman for Telewest. "It's just a short-term measure," he said. The cableco has been inundated with requests for people to join up to its SurfUnlimited tariff, which guarantees users unmetered access for just £10 a month. According to Powers, more than 100,000 people are now using Cable Internet, although he couldn't say exactly how many of those had signed up for unmetered access. Either way, its apparent popularity has led to a number of complaints about the poor quality of the service. Telewest is even compensating some users because the service they received was simply not up to scratch, although The Register has also received a number of emails praising the service. Elsewhere, Telewest business users have also complained about the service blaming SurfUnlimited users of hogging bandwidth. Tom Davis, of Cheltenham-based Webco, Webnetism, said: "Today a whole section of their (Telewest's) network has collapsed, based around Bristol according to tech support. "On Tuesday our leased line was down for six and a half hours, yesterday a couple of hours. "SurfUnlimited customers seem to be crippling the bandwidth that leased line users are supposed to be allocated," he said. Telewest said it was investigating the matter. ® Related Stories Refunds for SurfVeryLimited customers Telewest to offer unlimited Net access
Earlier this week, we reported some interesting facts about Nvidia's NV11, the follow-up to the GeForce 256. An Nvidia PR guy contacted us to confirm the accuracy of our earlier story. So now it's time to lift the veil on some more Nvidia secrets, which are also true. It's time to tell you something about the NV15 and - believe it or not - NV20. Here are the NV15's key features. It will have a 135MHz 3D core, 333MHz memory clock (obviously DDR), transfom and lighting set-up and rendering, a 256-bit rendering engine, a 540 million pixels per secound fill rate, and support up to 128MB RAM. In addition to T&L, the NV15 will offer a new feature called clipping. It will have two texture per pixel, four pixels pre-clock, memory flexibility, 128-bit SDR/DDR, 64-bit SDR/DDR, 96/48MB support (dissimilar memory sizes), an integrated single-link TMDS transmitter, support up to 1600x1200 panels. Cards based on the NV15 will use a VIP 2.0 port, the palette will have DAC/w Video overly and a digital interface for HDTV encoding. The NV15 will support both AGP and PCI buses. Based on 0.18 micron technology, it will pump out less than half the power dissipated by the GeForce 256 with which it will be 100 per cent software compatible. The NV15 should offer up to three times the performance of the GeForce. At teh same clock speed it will be faster than the GeForce, but when it's running athigher clock speeds, it will offer a two to three times improvement for multi–textured applications (like Quake III) and a 45 per cent improvement on T&L performance. Like NV11, NV15 will have dual display options such as VGA + TV out, VGA + LCD, VGA + VGA (with external DAC), LCD + TV out and LCD + LCD. It has memory flexibility and support for DDR/SDR swith 128, 96, 64, 32, 16 and 8MB frame buffers. As for the NV20, we know that the chip will be based on a massively complex architecture, containing more than 20 million transistors, and will be available at the end of 2000. NV20-based cards will be introduced six months after the NV15. It will be used in high-end systems for serious gamers and professionals (as the Quadro brand). ® Fuad Abazovic is the editor of the Bosnian IT magazine Info
Jewish.co.uk has signed up a panel of rabbis to discuss the meaning of life and other knotty issues. The rabbis promise a 72-hour turnaround in dispensing personal advice by email to Jewish.co.uk readers. Selected questions and answers will also appear on the site. The rabbis are associates of Aish UK, an "informal education organisation" (and part of the international Aish HaTorah). They aim to make Judaism more accessible to Jewish community. Jewish.co.uk says topics for discussion in its Ask The Rabbi section could incorporate anything from "discussing the afterlife through to the discovering more about the meaning of keeping kosher and following Jewish customs and law. ® Related stories Jewish Web sites slug it out Teenage dot com sensation sweeps Mystery Awards The Net is a deadly poison say rabbis
Evesham Micros has declared war on Research Machines to try and steal its customer base. The sneaky system builder today issued a statement to all schools unhappy with their Research Machines (RM) leasing agreement: ditch them for us and we'll give you a better deal. "Evesham... has today confirmed that it will offer a facility to refinance any outstanding credit agreements that any UK schools currently have with Research Machines," it said. From next week, Evesham confirmed it would start approaching RM's customers to "settle" their leasing agreements. "Evesham can then replace each school's existing computer equipment – with higher specification PCs, or with other more modern equipment if desired – without the school incurring a higher monthly payment." Evesham said it had been approached by several educational establishments eager to upgrade their PCs or install a network. "These schools wanted to buy kit from us, but they felt they couldn't because they were tied to their RM agreement," said Andy Cross, divisional sales manager at Evesham. Cross added that the company was ready for a "head-to-head contest" with RM, and would be directly approaching its education customers to nab their leasing agreements. RM was unaware of Evesham's intentions until The Register's phonecall this afternoon. After several minutes' consultation with RM HQ, a representative said the company was not fazed by the plans. "I don't see it as desperately worrying. "They are not offering anything RM doesn't already offer. And we are specialists in the market – all our helplines and software are designed for schools," said one RM representative. "There is no mention of Viglen in the Evesham statement. "Evesham is just trying to make a big noise, but it's not a big issue. I suppose if you take a pop at anyone, you take a pop at the big guys," she added.® Related stories Evesham drops the Micros for dot com Net uptake in schools fuels market growth Dealers expelled from schools market
Sales of AMD's Athlon have gone through the roof in Q1 of this year, channel players confirmed today. Steve Clark, marketing director of Microtronica Europe, said sales of the processor, particularly during February, were very strong, accounting for a large percentile rise in microprocessor sales. Microtronica, like AVNet, sells microprocessors from both Intel and AMD. However, said Clark, it was still difficult for the channel to obtain supplies of certain Intel processors, although the position had improved recently. Although it will be some time before official figures on chip market share from the likes of Dataquest and IDC hit the streets, the strength of the Athlon compared to Intel's Coppermine Pentium III technology, was also confirmed by OEMs which sell both x86 flavours. One OEM, who declined to be named, said that it had shipped so many Athlons compared with Pentium IIIs, that it had experienced shortages in the last week or two. It has upped its order for the Athlons, the OEM said. Although this particular UK OEM is part of the Direct Ship programme, and said he had had no problems sourcing Coppermine chips from Intel, customer demand for AMD's processor was strong. Another Intel-AMD distributor, based in Europe, said that although supply was tight on the lower end of the Athlon range because it was being phased out, when you disassembled the cartridge on 500MHz and 550MHz processors they showed clock speeds of 600MHz and above. A senior AMD executive confirmed that his company was able to fulfil any orders it received. Richard Baker, European marketing director at AMD, said it had experienced no problems whatever fulfilling orders. ®
World Online has bought the ISP bun.com from News International in a bid to grow its business in the UK. Financial details surrounding the acquisition were not released. However, it's clear that the move makes perfect sense for both parties. Dutch-based World Online -- which recently acquired Telinco -- gets an extra 450,000 users. Telinco was the ISP for bun.com before it was acquired by World Online. News International -- lead by its new e-outfit, News Network -- gets shot of its ISP enabling it to concentrate on its new e-commerce strategy. Last week it launched its entertainment auction site, firedup.com. World Online, Europe's biggest ISP, is controlled by the stratospherically rich Swiss family Sandoz. This month, the company IPOs in Amsterdam, giving it an expected market cap of up to US$11.8 billion. ® Related News Telinco chairman picks up £90m Murdoch gang rejigs Net offering
The Japanese government has declared any attempt to export Sony's PlayStation 2 - due to go on sale in Japan on Saturday - illegal. Well, OK, we exaggerate a little. Japan's Department of Trade and Commerce (DTC) hasn't banned exporting the eagerly anticipated console per se, but last year the Japanese government passed the International Foreign Exchange and Trade Law. This statute, according to the Nikkei newswire, forces anyone who wants to ship strong encryption technology out of Japan must obtain permission from the DTC first. And, thanks to its support for Sony's MagicGate copyright protection technology, the PlayStation 2 ships with strong encryption. So anyone expecting to ship consoles to US and Europe ahead of the official launch dates is going to have a tough time doing so. That said, it's not clear whether the law applies solely to the commercial exportation of the consoles, or takes in attempts by individuals to buy a PlayStation 2 from a Japanese supplier. Equally, we're unsure whether each exporter requires permission from the DTC or whether all it takes is for the government to say 'yes' to PlayStation exports as a whole. If the latter, then any one exporter can make the application and once granted it and others can start shipping consoles. But don't expect Sony's blessing -- it's unlikely to want to promote the export of Japanese consoles. While dedicated console gamers across the world are always willing to pay through the nose to get kit ahead of the official launch, console vendors in the past have always frowned on such cross-territory trade. Indeed, it's notable that Sony's official PlayStation Web site contains a warning that exporters need DTC permission, so it clearly is out to hinder anyone who wants to get a console out of Japan. ®
Updated Michael Kannellos, at news.com is a thoughtful and cautious reporter and when we saw his scoop about Intel dragging a 1GHz Coppermine screaming and kicking into the world this month, we had to give it credence. We understand Intel will make a formal announcement about this on Wednesday, the 8th of March. Sure enough, we are reliably informed that elements of the story, which is that Intel will ship a 1GHz Coppermine this month, are true enough. To the yes or no question we asked Intel we got no answer, and this, coupled with some chats to other folk leads us to believe it's going to happen. This piece of information also sheds some light on the postponement of the 866MHz and 850 MHz Coppermines Intel was telling its channel about in January and February. Right up until Monday last, these little items were on Intel's channel developer page. A source exceedingly close to the company said the message was a trifle ambiguous but said that the 866MHz and 850MHz were on track. Cough. Oh, and if you still don't believe us about this, look at this Intel internal memorandum that we published a while back, which gives the following information "There will be a significant price move on Intel® Pentium® III and Celeron™ processors on February 27, 2000 as Intel transitions to higher performance levels" as well as other facts and figures on the famine. And what does Intel's channel feel about this? One major German distributor said this morning that it will be nice to see 800MHz Coppermines, never mind 866MHz, 833MHz and 1GHz Coppermines -- which he hasn't been told about yet. Despite the fact that supply of CuMines is improving a tad, he said there were still "glitches", particularly during this week. The latest move is most interesting, given that we know Athlon Powers can roll out his 1GHz microprocessor, well, round about now. It's a game of call my bluff, and, unfortunately, we believe that Intel has been panicked into making this move. It's lost a heap of market share to AMD in Q1 this year, and we'll report on that little phenomenon a little later on. You can find Michael's story here. Well done, that man. An Intel representative in the UK said that he could not comment on unannounced products. ®
Spread betting companies in the City are reported to be squabbling over Lastminute.com's likely flotation price. IG Index was quoting a "grey market" price between 350p and 360p for the online retailer's IPO, according to the Financial Times. This towered above Lastminute's own estimated share price of 190p to 230p - which would value the company at £316 million. Higher still were the opening price predictions from Financial Spreads, which was quoting 495p to 505p. Financial Spread's price would give Lastminute a market capitalisation of over £1 billion on its imminent float. "We are opening Lastminute.com with the biggest percentage premium we have ever quoted on a grey market," said IG's Paul Austin. All these ponderings from City suits is no doubt bolstering spirits and purses at Lastminute's London office. It has revealed the two co-founders of the Internet goldmine, Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox, are getting hefty payrises to bring them in line with the cyber age. Hoberman's salary is set to rise from £55,000 to £150,000, while Fast Lane Foxy's modest £45,000 will jump to £120,000. Lane Fox's shareholding in Lastminute is worth at least £23 million on the £316 million valuation. The company has also revealed its sales figures for the last quarter of 1999 - revenues reached £409,000, compared to £119,000 for the same period in 1998. ® Related stories: Float announced for lastminute.com How meaningful are Lastminute.com registration numbers? The wit and wisdom of Martha Lane Fox
Those who picture hacker legend Kevin Mitnick seated before a computer tirelessly reverse-engineering operating system code and exhaustively probing remote networks for weaknesses have got the wrong idea. "The human side of computer security is easily exploited and constantly overlooked," Mitnick explained in testimony before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee on Thursday. "Companies spend millions of dollars on firewalls, encryption and secure access devices, and it's money wasted because none of these measures address the weakest link in the security chain: the people who use, administer and account for computer systems that contain protected information." Mitnick detailed for the Committee how easily he breached security at the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, simply by hacking humans instead of boxes. "I called employees within these agencies and used social engineering to obtain the name of the target computer system and the commands used by agency employees to obtain protected taxpayer information," he explained. "Once I was familiar with the agency's lingo, I was able to successfully social engineer other employees into issuing the commands required to obtain information from it, using as a pretext the idea that I was a fellow employee having computer problems." "I obtained confidential information in the same way government employees did, and I did it all without even touching a computer.....I was so successful with this line of attack that I rarely had to go towards a technical attack." Government employees with access to protected information are being manipulated with social engineering exploits every day, despite all of the current policies, procedures, guidelines and standards already in place, Mitnick said. By way of remedy, Mitnick suggested making an industrial training film that would "demonstrate somebody being manipulated over the phone, and the types of pretexts and ruses that are used...and maybe that will make somebody think, next time they get a phone call." Committee Chairman Fred Thompson (Republican, Tennessee) called Mitnick's presentation "very short but very powerful." "As I sit here and listen to you....if one individual can do what you have done, what in the world could a foreign nation do with all the assets that they would have at their disposal?" Thompson asked. Mitnick pointed out that a foreign government would find it extremely easy to plant employees in US government agencies and private corporations who could compromise operating system and application code with backdoors, or compromise existing security measures on a network. But beyond the industrial training film, he had no particular recommendation but continued vigilance among network administrators and increased training and education among all employees with access to protected information. It would appear that the affable Mitnick 'social-engineered' the Senate Committee quite ably. There were several occasions where he engaged freely in good-natured banter with Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Joseph Leiberman (Democrat, Connecticut), and Susan Collins (Republican, Maine), who observed that he'd "paid a pretty heavy price for the crime." A bit too heavy, we took her to mean. As they were wrapping up, Thompson asked Mitnick a question: "How much time did you actually serve? "Fifty-nine months and seven days," he replied with a smile. "Fifty-nine months," Thompson repeated, slowly shaking his head. "Well you know, if to get your excitement you'd raised millions of dollars for political campaigns, you'd have got probation, he quipped. ®