14th March 2000 Archive
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Graphics world squares up for big fight
ATI has seen the future of PC Gaming. And it's called T&L (transform and lighting). The graphics giant has revealed plans to launch two products which support the technology. ATI's motherboard chipset will have an integrated 3D graphic card in the chipset with a T&L feature. This solution will be similar to Intel's i810 chipset except the graphics card will be more serious then Intel's. Integrated T&L on a chipsets will bring cool features to many consumer (low end market) homes. Mainboards based on this chipset will hit the market very soon, perhaps as early as this spring. ATI is also developing its next generation technology, which will have T&L with a new Clipping feature. Nvidia already has that in its NV15 and NV11 chips. Its new chip will support DX7 and some new things from chip will be supported in DirectX 8. So far there is no news about a mobile chip from ATI, but with NV11 on the market soon, we suggest it won't be long before the company jumps on that bandwagon too. ATI remains the world's top manufacturer for graphics adapters, but its position in the 3D gaming market has been seriously damaged by Nvidia, and others. Its current AFR technology and 64MB RAM on its ATI fury MAXX cards is just not good enough to fight the Nvidia GPUs, especially in the future. ATI could lose the battle in the 3D gaming arena with its two chip solution. Besides 64MB of memory, there's also got to be some good T&L technology. In the short term, this does not matter -- as there is not much in the way of T&L product in the market. Yet. However, leading game developers have committed to T&L, and more than 30 titles based on this technology - and which will only work well with this technology -- will be available in the Autumn. Nvidia had T&L (transform and lighting) as early as last November, according to some reports. But when you look at this Nvidia page, you've got to wonder whether this transform and lighting stuff is worth a brass penny. It claims that the real world looks like this. ®
Business 14 07:45
Harsh biz practice not the same as monopolies
The writing on the wall for Intergraph in its solo fight against alleged Intel antitrust activities came yesterday with the failure of its attempt to take the chip giant to the cleaners. Intergraph's case, which was that Intel had breached the Sherman Antitrust Act, by cutting off access to future technology, has been thrown out by an Alabama district court judge. The federal suit against Intel was thrown out yesterday by the same court which ruled last year that Intergraph patents had not been breached by Intel. That leaves only charges of unfair business practice and breach of contract to be considered by the same court. Although Intergraph was left home alone pursuing its case against Intel, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has not stopped watching the chip giant. As part of the agreement it made with Intel last year, it has to tread a careful line and be far more of a caring, sharing firm than it used to be. We are still waiting to hear whether Intel's case against Via, which it referred to US body the International Trade Commission (ITC) earlier this year, is going in its favour. US reports say that ITC commissioners generally react speedily to such cases. Intel wants to prevent Via from importing chipsets into the US because of alleged patent violations. ®
Business 14 08:11
There are movements in the channel...
Chip giant Intel has notified its distributors and dealers, sorry resellers, that they can expect to see product introductions as well as a set of price cuts on processors aimed at the notebook market. But the price cuts will not be across the range, Intel has warned. The changes will come on March 26th, and follow the inability of Intel to provide as many of its boxed notebook chips as it wanted to. Large OEMs, rather than distributors and system builders, were the first to benefit from the introduction of a range of Coppermine notebook microprocessors. In a confidential note to its system builders, Intel said: "Boxed Mobile Processor Pricing Update - March 26, 2000. This is a notice to inform you of an upcoming price move on Intel's boxed mobile processors. On March 26, 2000, Intel will be reducing prices on select boxed mobile Pentium® III processors sold through authorized distributors. "With this price move, Intel is delivering higher performance and better value in the performance mobile market segment. We will have more information available the week of the price move. Please contact your authorized Intel distributor, after March 26, for specific pricing and availability details." We will attempt to get these prices for you ahead of the due system builder date. ®
Business 14 08:21
Go RMBS, go!
The big question with the Rambus Ink share price is now not whether it will reach $500 but when it will reach $500. Yesterday, the stratospheric stock managed to hit $459 during the day's trading on Wall Street, and rose over $24 on the day, closing at $445.0625. Fuelled by its use in what will undoubtedly be the successful introduction of the PlayStation 2, and in the moderately successful i820 chipset, people at The Reg are now placing bets with each other on when Rambus Ink breaches the speed of sound. Some have even suggested that RMBS will fly through the $500 barrier, no problems, and manage to reach $750 on the stock market before the 4:1 stock split which is now due later this spring. A quick check at SMC Direct this morning showed that a 64MB module of PC 700 memory stood at £300 excluding VAT (~$474), which is uncannily close to the price of one individual share in Rambus stock. However, the same site shows there is a temporary shortage of these pieces. A 128MB piece, with a lead time of two days, costs £500 excluding VAT (~$790), which may be an unduly prescient piece of forecasting about the eventual share price. At The Register, we are unclear whether it is or is not legal to put side bets on share stock. ® * Register staff do not trade in stocks they write about. See also Flame of the Week: Register scum sucking whores
Business 14 08:38
Why isn't it 'just talking' to Alpha Queensferry?
Chip giant Intel is in talks with Hyundai over a mothballed Welsh memory factory which used to belong to LG Semicon, it confirmed today. But that doesn't mean Intel is about to rescue the memory fab and its former workers from their plight, a representative said. He confirmed that Intel was in talks about this factory with its Korean owners but stressed that was part of an "ongoing" attempt to increase capacity worldwide. Earlier this year, Intel took over a former Rockwell fab in order to boost its Flash production. There is currently a worldwide shortage of Flash memory, a lucrative component in many electronic gadgets. It is unlikely that the former LG Semicon fab would be suitable for converting into a microprocessor production centre, and it is unclear that if Intel's talks with Hyundai are fruitful, whether it would receive grants from the Welsh government, in a similar fashion to LG. LG Semicon was acquired by Hyundai early last year after the South Korean government brokered a merger. While Intel is talking about fabs, we suggest it look at the former Alpha fab in Queensferry, Scotland. This was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II to huge fanfare maybe nine years back. The local authority paid for a multimillion motorway spur to go straight to the fab, and taxpayers there are still having to foot the bill for its maintenance. When the old DEC (now Compaq) closed it down, we are reliably informed that AMD seriously considered acquiring the Queensferry plant, but lack of liquidity at the time ruled that out. The fab, we are reliably informed by an Alpha geezer, is currently manned by a small band of security guards, who wait, forlornly, for the motorway spur to be filled with traffic headed their way. Or else Motorola is still using the 150mm technology. We wouldn't know, being in London. ®
Business 14 09:09
Does not believe in miracles
Amazing what a research note can do to a company's shares: yesterday chip designer ARM Holdings fell eight per cent on publication of a sell recommendation from Nomura.
Business 14 09:22
The foreign cash cow is sacred after all
The People's Republic has softened its previously Draconian stance on encryption products with the announcement of a substantial and welcome list of exceptions, Reuters reports. The Chinese State Encryption Management Commission sent a "clarification" letter to U.S. business organizations last week easing the position it took in late January which required all business and private users to register products with encryption capabilities. The original scheme would have banned foreign made crypto-enabled products and required everyone to apply for permission to use those available domestically. But the government has given it a bit of a re-think, probably inspired by threats that foreign investment revenues would dry up in response to fears of trade-secret piracy on a mass scale. Now, the restrictions will affect only "specialized hardware and software for which encryption and decoding operations are core functions," the letter says. "Other products, including wireless telephones, Windows software, browser software, etc., are not included," it said. China "will not carry out encryption key trusteeship of foreign encryption products and equipment containing encryption technology," it said. "Foreign businesses do not need to be worried about this point." The announcement is not surprising. The PRC government had already approved the sale of Windows 2000, which includes strong cryptographic capabilities, to the ten or twenty percent of Chinese who have not already bought the cracked, pirated versions which have been available in shopping centres throughout the Republic for months. ®
Business 14 09:34
There must be an angel
Be warned. We are about to point to some Intel confidential information which will stagger you. The second warning is that this file, from the Intel FTP server, is a big Excel file, amounting to over 800,000 bytes, so unless you got one of those fancy DSL, ADSL thingummijobs, don't bother. If you can't be bothered, the Excel file contains a number of photographs, none of them pornographic but some of them most interesting. Our favourite is of a female Centaur, dressed in a green top and with long black hair, who appears to be a toting a gun outside of what is called in the USA, the White House. There also seems to be a picture of Good King Wenceslas fighting some kind of knight in a snowy scene. Third warning. Get them while you can from this this place. You'll have to enter an anonymous user name but it's likely the file will disappear once someone in Santa Clara wakes up to the import of all this.... PS. We're still trying to get hold of that picture of CEO Craig Barrett on his horse which we know exists. ®
Business 14 10:16
The Euro and the Dollar play together
German conglomerate Siemens, fresh from its success in floating Infineon on both the NYSE and on the Frankfurt Dax market yesterday, has bought Entex, the US reseller. Siemens' HQ in Munich said today that the price it paid to acquire Entex was confidential. That's a secret, to you and me. The new subsidiary has a turnover of $500 million and will be dubbed "Entex IT Service: A Siemens Company". Siemens claims it is now one of the top five IT services companies with sales exceeding E2.2 billion (Euros) and with a combined staff of 13,000 worldwide. The move is part of Siemens' attempt to become a global player in all sectors, according to a representative. On April Fool's Day (1 April) next, Siemens is to merge its own business with subsidiary Siemens Business Services (SBS). Entex has long been held in regard in the US as an independent servicer of corporate IT strategies. That position will remain unchanged, Siemens said. ®
Business 14 10:33
Flat screen makers go flat out
The LCD screen market has been hit by a component shortage that is drying up TFT production. The problem concerns LCD driver ICs, according to a report on the EETimes Web site (www.eetimes.com). One of the leading manufacturers of the driver chips is NEC - the company has put all customers on allocation and there are three month lead times on all shipments. NEC has outsourced some of its production to Sanyo, the report says, in an attempt to boost production by four million units per month. But with demand outstripping supply by 20 per cent, the problem won't be going away over night. NEC reckons the market for LCD driver chips will double by the year 2002 to 700 million units per year. The driver chip supply problems are affecting all market sectors that use flat screens - from notebook PCs to handheld games machines like the GameBoy, the EETimes piece says, but the explosion in demand for mobile phones has caught the industry on the hop, fuelling the problem. What exacerbated the situation was that TFT driver makers shifted production to handset compatible STN drivers, but that left a shortfall in the TFT market. ® Related stories: TFT shortages to end this year Taiwan beefs up TFT facilities
Business 14 10:37
Everyone gets something
Lastminute shares jumped 40 per cent this morning in hectic first day trading, taking its market cap comfortably above the £1bn mark. But there is going to be an awful lot of disappointed would-be investors. In an effort to keep everyone happy (but sure to please no-one) Morgan Stanley Dean Witter has decided to dish out shares to all 200,000+plus people who applied for the IPO. Twenty per cent of the share offering -- around 6.6 million shares -- is reserved for the public, so that means around 35 shares each, worth less than £150 at the issue price. It is simply not worth the hassle to deal in such a puny amount -- dealing costs will take out a hefty chunk of any profit on the shares. The alternative -- a ballot for a meaningful number of shares was rejected by MSDW. However, the investment bank has headed off a potential PR disaster: Lastminute will repay with interest money received for shares not satisfied in the IPO. ®
Business 14 10:47
yeah, but what a racket
Freeserve announced today that it is to offer unmetered access to the Net, as reported by The Register last week. Hedging it's bets the monster ISP has decided to opt for BT's discredited SurfTime product and offer users unmetered off-peak access for £6.99 a month. This option will be made available from May. It's also extending its "Freeserve Time" offer in association with the telco, Energis. Users who spend more than £10 a month routing their voice calls via Energis will receive unmetered 24/7 access to the Net. To prevent the service being swamped with users, it is restricting registrations to just 10,000 a week. This combined telephony and Internet model is taking the lead as the way ISPs can offer users unmetered access to the Net. What's clear is that Freeserve has been forced to act -- and act quickly -- following a spate of announcements concerning unmetered Net access. Far from the being the innovator in this marketplace (apologies to The X-Stream Network) Freeserve has had its hand forced. It has had no choice but to react. Last week Freeserve's share price fell by a third. By mid morning it had rallied somewhat, up 35.25p. No one from Freeserve or Energis was available for comment this morning. ® Related Stories Freeserve dampens Observer speculation on toll-free times Freeserve strikes back with unmetered service Freeserve hops on board the free calls bandwagon AOL hits out at BT
Business 14 10:50
Red Hat connection delivers further OS
Connectix has started shipping its implementation of Virtual PC with Red Hat Linux, at an expected street price of $99. Virtual PC is intended to allow Mac users to run PC operating systems alongside the Mac environment on their machines, and is now available in Dos, Win9x and Linux flavours, with Win2k promised for the end of March. The Red Hat Linux version was announced last month, and according to Connectix comes with Linux "pre-installed." Only sort of, obviously, but a lot easier than a ground-up Linux installation. It allows you to toggle between Linux and Mac, promises seamless access to PC networks, and allows a single Internet address to be shared between the two operating systems. Mac hardware continues to be supported even when you're running Red Hat. ®
Business 14 11:18
$15bn by 2002? Saliva a-go-go at nascent Avenade...
Steve Ballmer has accidentally revealed the real reason for Microsoft's $1 billion joint venture with Andersen Consulting, which is being called Avanade. He says it's all to do with competing with IBM Global Services, Sun and Oracle in the services business, and was quoted by Reuters as saying that: "We've never been able to form a partnership to serve this market super, super well." The claimed scale of the venture is considerable. Microsoft is putting in $385 million of cash, but there's a bit of a mystery as to how the figure of $1 billion is arrived at: perhaps they are valuing their contributions to the organisation at their consultancy rates? Quite apart from the joint venture, 25,000 Anderson consultants are to get "enhanced" Microsoft training. Avanade would have as CEO Michael Hill of Andersen, with Microsoft having on the board its CFO, John Connors, and Paul Maritz, who nowadays looks after developers at Microsoft. The company hopes to get 5,000 "certified technical experts", although the initial plan is to find "3,000 technologists with expertise in Microsoft's products". To get going, the venture plans to draw on staff from Andersen, Microsoft's product support services, and Microsoft's consulting services. Andersen has "conservatively" estimated that Avanade could turn over $15 billion by 2002, but that does seem rather fanciful, especially as Anderson is only an $8.3 billion outfit itself. The plan to take Avanade public "at some future date" may be overly premature and optimistic, because there's the initial hurdle of gaining regulatory approval for setting up Avanade in the first place. It would be surprising if Sun CEO Scott McNealy isn't already poised to bang on the doors of the FTC and the DoJ, protesting against the proposal, following his call for a remedy in the Microsoft case that would include curtailing Microsoft's expansion. News of this deal may not make pleasant reading for KPMG, following the announcement a month ago of a lesser deal which would result in KPMG hiring 500 people in the next 18 months to offer services to dot.com companies, using Microsoft's software of course. The only consolation might be that while Andersen gets to work with Microsoft on the Fortune 500, KPMG will be given the smaller guys. There's a disturbing dimension to the Andersen deal, and indeed more generally with relationships between vendors and consultancy firms. Although we have no reason to doubt the integrity of the consultants concerned, the closeness of the embrace with a vendor, and the probable absence of any advocacy of alternative software, will for many people destroy the credibility of the consulting firm as being able to offer independent advice. The consultancy becomes a sales agent of the vendor, and gets to offer services in addition. It is highly undesirable that if such consultants also advise Microsoft's competitors, their integrity will have to depend on the thickness of their Chinese walls. ®
Business 14 11:18
It's out, how much will it cost, how fast can we upgrade?
Fear of consumer having their bank accounts debited via fraudulent smart card transactions has gripped France, but the potential victims of the cracking of the security code would be the French banks, and not individuals. Nevertheless, Gallic pride in the "puce" - or flea, as the French call the chips in their smart card - has been damaged by Serge Humpich's proof that the system was not "inviolate and inviolable", as was being claimed. Last night Roland Moreno, the French smart card inventor, offered a million francs to anyone who could get the code from three cards and a smart card reader. Moreno formulated the conditions of his challenge carefully, in an attempt to keep public confidence in the system, but he has had to admit that it is possible to crack the 320-bit (96-digit) RSI key and to make a fraudulent card that could be accepted by smart-card readers. Humpich says he did not post the key he cracked three years ago, and which appeared anonymously earlier this month in fr.misc.cryptologie - and which is now of course in many other sites. Fraudsters will only need to buy a smart-card reader (less than $400) and acquire a little knowledge, and they are potentially in business producing cards acceptable to any smart-card vending machine not permanently online to a bank computer. Authentication for smaller transactions is carried out by the smart-card reader, with the user keying-in a four digit PIN. Fraudulent cards could only be used for smaller purchases where there is no online or telephone authorisation. It has been suggested that not all ATM machines are directly connected to bank computers, so they could also be vulnerable. Other targets are likely to be petrol and railway ticket purchases, where data is transmitted to a central computer from the vending machine only once a day. It seems only a matter of time before French phone cards (télécartes) are compromised as well: bank cards can be used in telephone boxes in France. Jean-Louis Desvignes, head of the computer security branch of the Défence Nationale confirmed that "the banks must launch a wide-ranging action to improve the security of smart cards, which could imply replacing millions of smart card readers". Desvignes claims that bank card fraud in France is at the 0.02 per cent level, compared with 3-4 per cent in the US for magnetic stripe cards. The next generation of smart cards will be able to use a 2048-bit code, according to a French manufacturer, but its claim that this would give protection for "hundreds of years" is disputed by Paul Zimmermann, a mathematician at the Institut de Recherche en Information et en Automatique, who suggests that by 2023 such keys could be cracked. Robert Harley of INRIA noted that it now only takes a few days of computer time to factor the 320-bit code. The Groupement des Cartes Bancaires is in denial that its security is compromised, but the security claim now leans on the difficulty of faking the hologram, which only has some value in face-to-face transactions. The cards are of course widely used in Europe, with some 200 banks relying on the security integrity. All security experts are scornful at the arrogance of GCB in maintaining that security methods appropriate in 1980 could still be appropriate today. There is a move under way to use longer codes, but it may be too late to prevent fraud on a massive scale. The security problem does not affect the British and US magnetic stripe cards. There can sometimes be difficulties using such cards in France, and wise travellers are geared up to tell the merchant to telephone the authorisation centre to get the card accepted if it could not be read by the smart-card reader. It isn't yet meltdown time for the banks, but it could be later this year. They will presumably wait to see whether the anticipated wave of fraudulent card use becomes serious enough to make it essential to replace the POS machines earlier than planned. It could cost up to $5 billion, it has been estimated, to introduce a new generation of 2048-bit smart cards, but it would take time to manufacture and install the readers and to distribute the 34 million cards in use in France. As long ago as 1983, it was suggested that the 96-digit code used in smart cards was not long enough, and that larger composite integers should be used. Cracking the RSA code (named after MIT researchers Rivest, Shamir & Adleman) is not exactly easy. We reported in The Register last August how an international effort co-ordinated by Herman te Riele at the Centrum voor Wiskunde en Informatica (National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science) in Amsterdam broke the 512-bit RSA using distributed computing power. Humpich apparently used algorithms derived from a polynomial quadratic sieve for his 320-bit crack, and made the mistake of telling GCB. In a flash, his phone was tapped and he was fired from his job. He now acts as a consultant to Sony, designing digital video security devices, pending an appeal against his suspended prison sentence. ® Related stories: French credit card hacker convicted RSA-155 code cracked
Business 14 12:08
Latest chip & chipset aimed at sub-$1,000 PCs
Graphics giant Nvidia has officially launched its latest chip and chipset, the Vanta LT3D and Aladdin TNT2, respectively. Nvidia has described them as being aimed at OEMs in the value end of the PC market, which translates as sub-$1,000 boxes. Eurotrade quoted Nvidia senior VP for marketing, Dan Vivoli, saying: "The sub-$1000 PC has been hamstrung by inferior graphics for too long," said Dan Vivoli, NVIDIA senior vice president of marketing. "The addition of the Aladdin TNT2 and Vanta LT offers system builders an unprecedented combination of high-performance 3D solutions specifically targeted at the fastest growing segment of the PC market - the value segment." The Vanta LT is a low-cost, 128-bit TwiN Texel, 2D/3D graphics processor, with video, software and hardware DVD playback support. It's drivers are forward and backward compatible with the Detonator driver family. The Aladdin TNT2 is based on the Riva TNT2 processor. It offers 32-bit rendering, 32-bit Z/stencil buffer and up to 32MB of dedicated frame buffer. It also comes with 128-bit TwiN Texel graphics pipeline (two texture-mapped, lit pixels per clock), video in, TV out and TMDS or Digital Flat Panel support up to 1280 x 1024 resolution, Eurotrade said. Nvidia says that the Vanta and Aladdin will bring top quality graphics for applications such as playing games, video playback and using the Net to the low end of the PC market where such functionality has been missing. The two products will be sold through Nvidia's Select Builder channel programme. ® See also: Nvidia's Virtual AGP design... Nvidia NV20, NV15 details leak Nvidia hides NV11, NV15 under CeBIT bushel
Business 14 12:30
Trust Spinola, he's a doctor
Having trouble with your brand new machine or with the lovely application software that's cost you an arm and a leg? Our very own PC paramedic, Dr Spinola will guide you through the hardware morass. Q Which 1GHz PC should I buy? A Before even contemplating buying a machine which uses either the AMD or the Intel 1GHz microprocessor, you should consider very carefully how much cash is involved. Cash is a technical term in the semiconductor industry and our information is that while Intel's Coppermine technology runs at full cash, AMD's Athlon only runs at one third the cash. Get your computer dealer to explain the distinction between one kind of cash and another. Q Can I trust a PC that's wearing either a beard or a moustache? A There are two points here. First of all, over last weekend, it emerged that New Labour wanted mayoral candidate Frank Dobson to shave his Father Christmas-style beard off because women don't like men with beards. Secondly, a recent report says that people wearing moustaches waste beer because of the absorbency of the hair, amounting to as many as 162,719 pints of Guinness a year. Don't be afraid of a PC with whiskers, he or she is as likely to tell you the time or point you in the right direction as one without. Q A pair of glasses appeared beside a message when I clicked on it in Outlook Express News. What does this mean? A You don't say what type of glasses they were. Were they designer frames? Were they Noniks? Generally speaking, if I'm working at my computer and a pair of glasses appears, it generally means I've drunk so much I've got double vision. Q Where can I find more information about burning music and data CDs? A It depends where you live. Most local authorities, at least in Britain, do not approve of bonfires any more. Further, CDs are pretty hard to burn. The best way to get rid of old music and data CDs is in the first case to give them to the local charity shop, and in the second place see if Computer Exchange will give you money for them. Q Someone has told me that you don't need a PC to surf the Web. Is this true, and if so, how can I do it. A This is quite true, and you do it by not buying a PC. Q What is the difference between a PC of similar specifications but from different vendors like HP, IBM, Compaq and Dell? A If you look at the front of the PC, you will see that each has a different badge on it. It used to be there was often a tacky little Intel Inside sticker there too, but there don't seem to be as many of them around as there used to be. ® See also How can I stop hairs getting in my PC My PC doesn't work. What shall I do?
Business 14 12:34
Isn't that a fertilizer?
Computacenter has outlined plans to IPO its Biomni subsidiary after posting soaring profits for 1999. The reseller giant today said it would float its 50 per cent share in the business-to-business e-commerce "in the first six months of the year". The announcement came four months after Biomni was started with Computacenter's sister company Computasofte-Commerce. Biomni provides corporates with software to order office must-haves - from PCs to paperclips. Computacenter saw profits and turnover grow for the seventeenth successive year. Pre-tax profit was up 16.3 per cent to £75.1 million, while sales rose 11 per cent to £1.76 billion for the year ended December 31 1999. "We were very pleased with the good earnings performance, and we've got through the Millennium part one - the slowdown at the back end of 1999 which was quite drastic - and we've produced these results despite that slowdown," said Mike Norris, Computacenter chairman and CEO. "We do expect a slow start to 2000, in effect the mirror image to the slow quarter of last year." "Just like 1999, 2000 will be a game of two halves," said Norris. "In 1999 we went in at half time well up, and hung on well in the second half. This year it's going to be the other way around. "We're already seeing demand recover, we're already seeing our utilisation get close to capacity again, and our pipeline for Q2 is extremely buoyant."® Related story Computacenter touts e-commerce for the corporate rich
Business 14 13:06
Children and babies are especially vulnerable to electrosmog
A Northampton company was reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)after it used scare tactics to sell anti-radiation mobile phone products.
Business 14 13:11
Don't spend your pocket money all at once
The unified school district for Chandler in Arizona has received a $5 million grant for technology from chip giant Intel. This is good news, according to local newspaper The East Valley Tribune, because it means that the money, spent over five years, will help the kids (and teachers, lest we forget) to implement technology education in the local schools. The newspaper quotes Intel executive Carlene Ellis as saying this is a "fast-go initiative with a little money behind it". She made the announcement to 2,100 employees at the local Chandler fabrication fab, many, doubtless, who either have or will have kids in the area. Superintendent Camille Casteel, who runs the district, welcomed the Intel money, and said it would help the schools to go to the next level. Further, Intel is giving money to both the Arizona State University and to the Chandler Gilbert Community College in Chandler itself to help students with their maths, their science, and their technology. There was a time, not so long ago, when pianoforte firms sold so many of their keyboards they could afford to make similar donations, in scaleable terms, but those days have long gone. Now, a keyboard is a keyboard is a keyboard. Well done, Intel, we say, for promoting convergence. There's nothing like enlightened self-interest, we say. Particularly as Intel is vastly expanding its Chandler fab. ® See Also Let them eat email
Business 14 13:55
Stalinised, but it's definitely not Microsoft's fault
Graphics board manufacturer Creative Labs has been forced to point irate users to its posting guidelines, after its product forums were deluged about drivers for the Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system. The problems started with a question to Creative asking when CT 7160 drivers would be available for Windows 2000, which was posted on the 9th of February. This drew a reply from a forum moderator, who said the RTM versions of W2k were only available before February 17th on OEM PCs and MSN members. The moderator said: "We will support it as soon as it available to the general public...we still consider it a beta operating system and drivers are not available at this time." But on the 6th of March, the company said: "Creative will not be providing Windows 2000 drivers for the Inlay (CT7160) Board. Developers or customers with advanced programming skill can obtain chip specific code director from Luxsonor's web site here." That led to a flood of complaints from users, some of which used rather naughty language, suitable only for Flames of the Week and the like. One said: "I hope that you enjoy your job fabricating lies so that we will support Creative just a little bit longer, b****!" The moderator replied: "I did not lie. At no time did I state that the Inlay (CT7160) Windows 2000 drivers were in the process of being betatested.I was not aware that drivers would not be released for this card and this information has only been released to everyone within the last few days. I am not involved in these decisions, I have simply passed on the information as it was given to me." The abusers were then referred to the Guidelines page. But these message have all now been deleted so if you try and find them now you will never find a trace of them. ® See also Intel censors Pentium III forums
Business 14 14:51
In Brief: Appoints Guildsoft
TurboLinux is setting up in the UK with the help of Guildsoft, a local remarketing and republishing company. In effect, Guildsoft is to act as TurboLinux's UK arm, supplying distribution, marketing, sales, technical and distribution for the territory. TurboLinux describes itself as the world's fastest growing Linux company. ®
Business 14 14:56
Your tax dollars at work
The US Department of Justice launched a Web site devoted to electronic crime called cybercrime.gov on Monday. The site is maintained by the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to provide information on crimes related to the Internet, focusing on hackers and intellectual property violations. Sections cover such topics as protecting infrastructure, intellectual property, and the scourge of cryptography, which the Department still entertains hopes of defeating. "We anticipate that market forces will make key recovery products a de facto industry standard and thus preserve the balance of privacy and public safety that our Constitution embodies," the DoJ predicts. The text of a controversial DoJ report which we described here is also provided. Other areas include discussions of e-commerce issues, detailed guidance for snitches, and a common-sense FAQ for kids to surf the Web in relative safety. Sprouts are also warned not to get involved in hacking: "If you like computers, don't use your brains to hack systems, invade other people's privacy, and take away their networks. Hacking can get you in a whole lot more trouble than you think and is a completely creepy thing to do. If you're so smart, use that computer to do great things!" The site contains a substantial legal reference library and numerous handbooks and guidance documents, the chief purpose of which appears to be coaching law enforcement agents in what they can and can't get away with when pursuing evidence of an electronic crime. Some of it makes interesting reading. For example, we were intrigued by the open reference to monitoring the communications of a "target" for whom a search warrant has not yet been obtained: "If a target's screen is displaying evidence which agents reasonably believe to be in danger [of destruction], the 'exigent circumstances' doctrine would justify downloading the information before obtaining a warrant. For example, agents may know that the incriminating data is not actually stored on the suspect's machine, but is only temporarily on line from a second network storage site in another building, city, or district." Other advice speaks to preserving evidence, and to conducting warrantless searches which the courts will recognise. "Under the 'exigent circumstances' exception to the warrant requirement, agents can search without a warrant if the circumstances would cause a reasonable person to believe it to be necessary," the guidance explains. However, "courts have suppressed evidence where the officers had time to get a warrant but failed to do so. Some courts have even ruled that exigent circumstances did not exist if the law enforcement officers had time to obtain a warrant by telephone," it warns. We also learned that third-party authority to search a computer "rests rather on mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control for most purposes, so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-inhabitants has the right to permit the inspection in his own right and that the others have assumed the risk that one of their number might permit the common area to be searched." This means that your flatmate can authorise the Feds to search your computer. But there are always exceptions, and this one is worth noting: "Courts may honor claims to privacy where the defendant has taken some special steps to protect his personal effects from the scrutiny of others, and others lack ready access. The Fourth Circuit held that a mother's authority to permit police officers to inspect her 23-year-old son's room did not include his locked footlocker in the room." Translation for power users? If you encrypt your files, your flatmate's consent to search a computer which you both share does not extend to your protected data. Hence the constant DoJ harping on the need for cryptographic controls and "recovery products", we suppose. ® Related Stories Reno, FBI feast on bad network security Janet Reno proposes on-line police squad Congress clarifies spy warrant legislation Janet Reno dismisses central cyber-security agency Law enforcers the 'absolute worst people' for Net security - former Fed Crypto must be controlled -- FBI director How the FBI can r00t your hard drive FBI seeks to apply RICO laws to hackers FBI phone-snoop regs challenged by Net privacy groups US anti-smut bill may go too far Clinton's Big Plan against cyberterror US crypto plan aims to bug PCs
Business 14 15:20
RegMark 2000 raises its eyes over parapet
It is a truth universally acknowledged that early adopters (aka people with more money than sense) pay through the nose to be the first kid on the block with the latest, greatest processor. A 1.0GHz Pentium III would set you back a cool $990 apiece if you could find 1,000 of them. An Athlon of the same speed comes in at $1,299. That equates to roughly $1 per MHz for the Intel part and $1.30 for the AMD Athlon. But there is a much cheaper way of getting 1GHz performance. The 500MHz Pentium III - which, let us not forget, was the bees knees in terms of performance and desirability a few short months ago - may be about to shuffle off to the Gulag, but is still available at a knockdown $193. That means you can buy five of them for the price of a single 1GHz part and still have enough change for a night on the town - that's 2.5GHz worth of performance for the price of 1GHz. Put another way, you could build a pseudo-gigahertz workstation with dual 500MHz CPUs and pay just 39 cents per Megahertz instead of 99 cents. Which makes the best economic sense? ®
Business 14 15:24
Can Linux make room for another Cinderella story?
Once upon a time, there was a little-known operating system that built up its support base, incorporated some hefty enterprise-directed source code, got a distributor, and went on to become a major player in the open source market. Though the key factors are similar, this particular tale does not belong to Linux. Rather, it's the possible Cinderella story of FreeBSD, an open source version of BSD Unix whose future is attracting interest due to the recent merger of Berkeley Software Design, Inc., makers of commercial BSD/OS, and Walnut Creek CDROM, which distributes FreeBSD. One possible outcome of the merger is that the two BSD flavors, which both derived from BSD Unix, may be reunited. BSD Unix has been around for longer than Linux. Originating as early as 1976 in the hands of Bill Joy, Chuck Haley, and others at UC Berkeley's computer science department, BSD Unix has long been the darling OS for ISPs, and works behind the scenes on Yahoo and even Hotmail. The reason it never became as well-known as Linux may be a matter of bad timing: UC Berkeley and BSDI, which had begun distributing commercially-supported code, were hit with a lawsuit by AT&T in 1992 over the copyright of Unix. At the same time the BSD movement was entrenched in legal troubles -- making companies hesitant to jump on board -- Linus Torvalds was creating Linux and soliciting all the involvement he could. BSD eventually lost its funding from UC Berkeley, and split off into a number of different projects. These included FreeBSD, an open source group focused on optimizing BSD to work on the Intel platform, and Berkeley Software Design, Inc. (BSDI), which focused on selling BSD/OS commercially and providing commercial support. The relaxed BSD license essentially says developers can do whatever they want with software created under it -- even incorporate it into proprietary software -- as long as credit is given where credit is due. FreeBSD took the open source path and formed the FreeBSD Project to coordinate the efforts of its developers, while BSDI used the flexibility of the BSD license to incorporate proprietary code into its efforts to create a highly secure operating system. The license issue is one of the obvious differences between Linux and BSD. Linux was created under the "copyleft" GNU Public License, which states that the code must be open source, and can't be incorporated into proprietary software. While FreeBSD and Linux have rarely tangled on the license issue, the fact that the BSD/OS distribution includes proprietary code raises eyebrows for staunch GPL enforcers. But news that FreeBSD and the considerably closed BSD/OS would be sharing their codebases and possibly moving them into one package has been largely welcomed by the open source community. Eric Raymond is a vocal proponent of the BSDI's moves. "I think this merger is a good thing for the open source community, which is why I encouraged BSDI's top people to go for it when they asked my opinion months ago. One of its effects will be that BSD/OS is going to go truly open source, eliminating their traditional license restrictions; the FreeBSD wouldn't have consented to the [deal] otherwise." While BSDI points out that 15 percent of all Internet sites run BSD systems, the runner-up OS in fact makes up only a tiny fraction of the commercial server market that Linux has been steadily infiltrating. In its survey of revenue-producing, worldwide server OS shipments, IDC lumps BSD into its "other" category, a set that makes up only 2.6 percent of the market compared to Linux's 24.6 percent. But the BSDI and Walnut Creek combination represent what could be BSD's last big chance to grab more market share. According to Mike Prettejohn, analyst at market research group Netcraft, the two companies together make up about 95 percent of the commercial market for BSD OS sales while FreeBSD and BSDI represent about 90 percent of the BSD flavors powering Internet sites. In other words, the future of BSD rests on making this merger work. Eric Raymond points out that some stiffer Linux competition would do the open source market some good. "I welcome [the merger], and so should any intelligent Linux fan. I still think that Linux is more likely to win for the open-source revolution than the BSDs, but I welcome the BSDs getting stronger... As Eric Allman says, 'the high bit is open source'; what the Linux people have in common with the BSD people is vastly more important than their minor theological differences." The long-term effects of BSDI's moves on the open source market, however, are unclear. One possible downside of the merger is that the confusion over BSD could splinter the competitive inroads Linux has made against Microsoft and other well-funded competition. While Raymond has commended the total release of BSDI's proprietary code, the company acknowledges that it's actually going to take some time to decide what will be free or closed. Says new CEO Gary Johnson, "Both of the products [FreeBSD and BSD/OS] have a place in the marketplace and they will continue to have a place in the marketplace in the future. Will everything [that we can open source] go open source? We're evaluating that process and the technologies and have at this time made no final decisions. It's certainly not going to happen tomorrow or the next day. In the long run, the final decision will be pinned on customer response." And BSDI will have to sort out more than just the codebase for its future distributions. Though BSDI offers a secure, stable product with good support, the distribution side is scrambling to refocus. A bulletin on Friday announced Walnut Creek's intentions to split Slackware, another Linux distribution, into its own company, and the distributor's other offerings will have to be accounted for as well. IDC industry analyst Dan Kusnetzky points out that BSDI's effects on the market will depend in part on spin control. "If they lead with being 'open source' it could tend to help support the community as a whole. If they lead with being 'the only open source UNIX,' it may tend to cause difficulties." Where BSDI will fall on that trajectory is yet to be seen, but if there's more room for another commercial, open-source OS in the community, CEO Gary Johnson is poised to take it. "We believe the bridging of open source innovation and the commercial sector is going to be the wave of the future." BSD has some catching up to do in the marketplace, but Johnson seems confident that there are no breakers ahead. "BSD," he says, "is here to stay." ® Wide Open News is a partner of The Register. It's good. Check it out.
Business 14 15:32
Patch produces large void - distribution frozen, pending fix
Microsoft has told IEAK (IE Administration Kit) partners to freeze distribution of builds of IE5, following the discovery of a "serious problem" that stops Win2k users logging on to their machines. The gotcha relates to the installation of the 128-bit security patch for IE 5.0, 5.0a and 5.0b on Win2k as part of an IE5 IEAK package, and is caused by "important security files" in a Win2k installation being overwritten by older ones. Older files already, and it's just started shipping. But the problem doesn't affect Win95 or Win98. The files get overwritten Win2k on installations created (according to instructions) using the command line switches "/q:a /r:n /n:v", with the /n:v switch being the problem. Users get the message "System cannot log you on because the domain Computername [i.e. Your domain name] is not available, and the culprit overwritten files are saenh.dll and schannel.dll. According to a warning sent out by Microsoft yesterday: "It is critical that you freeze distribution of IE 5.0, 5.0a or 5.0b builds that incorporate the 128-bit security patch with these switches. Please take immediate action to help prevent more customers from encountering this issue." ®
Business 14 16:44
Points worth noting
When the gigglehurts started to bubble at the beginning of last week, we thought it would probably take some time for a measured judgement on the AMD and Intel announcements, given the amount of PR flak generated. Now Tom Pabst has written a piece about the whole 1GHz affair which you can find here. In summary, the good doctor says that the race to 1GHz brings something of a smile to his face, but there are more serious issues involved. Tom takes a look at the benchmarks and points out a certain lack of scalability with the Athlon. He also makes an important point about the production lines for Intel's GHz technology, which we have also mentioned. ®
Business 14 18:05
Boy Wonder soon to be Man Wonder
Anand Shimpi, the super-achieving Boy Wonder of Anandtech fame, draws an annual salary of $250,000, according to something called Young Biz. This figure seems to have been plucked from the air, as Anand ain't saying how much he's paying himself. For all we, or Young Biz, know he could be ploughing the site's profits back into the business. However, Anand does reveal in an interview with Nando Times that his mother is working for him, for free. And his parents had to move to a bigger house in June to "accommodate his business. In August, his mother, Razieh Shimpi, quit her bank job to become his accountant and bookkeeper. She doesn't draw a salary, Anand explains. 'She's doing that because she's my mother'. According to industry estimates, Anandtech will pull in $1 million-plus of ad revenue this year. Couldn't Young Shimpi passed just a little of this his mother's way? Anandtech is one of the world's top three hardware sites, Nando reports. We know that Tom's Hardware Guide is number one in the readership stakes, and we thought Anand was number two -- so who is number three (or two)? Finally, we are going to have to stop calling Anand the Boy Wonder. He's 17 now and is getting on a bit. ® Nando Times: 17-year-old thriving with AnandTech
Business 14 22:07
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- Google embiggens its fat vid pipe Chromecast with TEN new supported apps
- Exploits no more! Firefox 26 blocks all Java plugins by default
- Review Hey Linux newbie: If you've never had a taste, try perfect Petra ... mmm, smells like Mint 16