16th > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

HP punters shout online over missing W2K driver

Hewlett-Packard customers are complaining about the vendor's lack of W2K drivers. The Yahoo.com-hosted forum aims to shame HP into making a Windows 2000 driver for the Scanjet 4200. Not much to ask for, is it? Started by a user in Georgia, the Scanjet 4200 club has collected 129 messages so far from HP punters angry at the company's tardiness. "..the problem that many users are facing is the fact that we may never see any support for Windows 2000. Many, including myself, bought this scanner because it was listed on Microsoft's HCL. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have based me [sic] decision on this but I did, oh well," wrote one. "Anyways, will HP, a world class company, write a driver for this scanner? I certainly hope so. If they don't, I am sure that they have just lost quite a few loyal customers, along with a large chunk of their reputation as customer friendly," it continued. The group has approached HP, but are still waiting for the vendor to supply the relevant software. Maybe HP has given priority to other drivers first? Graham Stewart, Microsoft alliance manager at HP, said he wasn't even aware that some drivers were missing. "I was aware we were bringing drivers to market in a timely fashion," he said. "It is our intention to have all products working under Windows 2000." And the date this was likely to happen? "I don't know. I'll have to get someone to call you back," he said. Someone more qualified than the head of HP's "Microsoft Alliance" division? Whoever it is, The Register is still awaiting the call. Microsoft itself issued the following statement: "Microsoft is working with all partners to help make the development of drivers easier. "However, there are no guidelines laid down and it has to be a business decision for all companies as to how quickly they deploy the drivers." The Scanjet 4200 Forum went live in December. Its goal is "to support the users of the Scanjet 4200 for any and all purposes". ® Related story Creative's forum gets censored now
The Register breaking news

MS wins more time in Euro antitrust case

Microsoft has been given a few more days to respond to the European Commission requirement that it provide data relating to the complaint made public last month. This was lodged by end users, SMEs and competitors (including Sun), and concerns alleged leveraging of Windows 2000 in the server market. The Complaint is under Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty of Rome, which prohibit abusive and exclusionary behaviour by undertakings in a dominant position. The grant of extra time does not yet put the Commission into the missionary position, but it is no doubt a try-on by Microsoft to see just how determined the Commission is. We know that there was sufficient substance to justify an Article 11, Regulation 17/62 complaint, and that Sun was one of the competitors, but there would appear to be a minimum of five more complainants. Mario Monti, the Italian competition commissioner, is wisely not saying how long the Commission will need to study Microsoft's response, except to call it "a considerable time". However, Microsoft will find it does not have as many legal avenues in Europe as in the US, and that the case could move along quite quickly by comparison, if the Commission makes a formal accusation after studying what it receives. ®
The Register breaking news

US-Europe privacy deal: agreeing to ignore it?

Analysis The political and cultural differences between Europe and the USA are too great to make any effective protocol on data privacy realistic. This became clear this week when EU and US negotiators announced that after two years of talks, the US "safe harbour" principles gave sufficient protection over private data on European citizens held in US computers. There was a political imperative to produce a fudge; transatlantic Internet commerce has been picking up speed, and mostly moving in an easterly direction of course. The obstacle that initiated the talks in the first place was the European Data Protection Directive 95/46 "on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data". This requires that data can only be sent outside the EU to countries that have in place adequate data protection. The directive came into force in October 1998, and gives the EU the power to block the flow of personal data to the USA - or more exactly, outside the EU. While "good-faith negotiations" were in progress, the EU agreed to a standstill in this provision, to stop any disruption of data flows across the Atlantic. The agreement now goes to the European Parliament and each member state (plus of course the US government) for approval, but that's rather a joke, since the EC is currently taking Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands to the European Court of Justice for not having enacted national data protection laws within the required time frame. In the UK, the 1998 Data Protection Act came into force on 1 March this year - but the web site is still under construction. There isn't even an agreement as to a deadline for US compliance - only an agreement to meet again in a year or so to chew over progress. To call the announcement yesterday an agreement is therefore absurd. Nevertheless, it is expected that after some cosmetic moves in the US - such as the Department of Commerce setting up an Internet database of industry self-regulators, and empowering the FTC and DoJ to take action against any organisation not complying with the law, the US will be determined to have adequate data protection around June this year. The biggest weakness is likely to be the lack of a US law to define what organisations are really obliged to do in the free-wheeling self-regulating environment. Excluded: financial services Excluded from the agreement are financial services, but there was some sophistry in the spin about this at the press conference yesterday: "Financial services are not excluded: they are simply not yet included," proclaimed David Aaron, the US under-secretary of state for international trade. John Mogg, director general of the EU internal market offered the excuse that because US legislation on financial privacy had not even been proposed yet (although it may happen in May), it would be like "painting a moving train". Well, it looked as though the train was still in the station. Financial services constitute one of the most important privacy areas, along with health information, and political/racial/religious/philosophical opinions. In principle, safe-harbour should make it possible to transfer personal data from one organisation to another only with the explicit agreement of the data subject, and to give the subject the right of access, review and correction of the data. Few believe that this will happen in practice, or that there will be any significant enforcement in the US. There's little chance of matching the essentially voluntary and self-regulating US system with the regulated but largely unenforced system in Europe. There's a distinct feeling that the EU saw the opportunity of using data protection law as a stick in trade negotiations, and a way of ensuring that most processing of personal data takes place in Europe by erecting a privacy barrier. Last month, EU Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein told Aaron: "We want a system that will make it easier for both EU authorities and the companies concerned to transfer personal data to the US and ensure that the data transferred enjoys adequate protection in the US." The bottom lines The FAQ deep inside the documentation of the talks gives the best summary of the implications of the agreement in various fields. Although it dates from last November, it gives the most practical overview of how the envisaged procedures are expected to work in practice. FAQ1 says it is not necessary for an organisation to provide a specific opt-in choice to data subjects where processing is "in the vital interests of the data subject" with five other possible cases for exceptions. FAQ2 allows journalistic exceptions, which is a weasel way of saying that the US was not going to do anything about its first amendment right of freedom of the press; personal information gathered for journalistic purposes is not subject to the safe harbour requirements. (So watch it.) FAQ3 perhaps has an upside: ISP and telecom carriers will have no secondary liability when acting as a conduit. FAQ4 balances this with a downside: it allows investment banks and auditors to do what they like with personal data if it is "necessary to meet statutory or public interest requirements [or would] prejudice the legitimate interests of the organisation". There's quite enough room for a coach and six horses to get through here. The US was curious as to whether headhunters would be granted an exception. FAQ5 gives an outline of the intended procedures for US organisations receiving European personal information, but it will of course be the practice rather than intentions that determine whether EU law is followed. FAQ6 discusses self-certification, which is probably as likely to succeed as self-criticism. FAQ7 tells us that US privacy compliance attestations and assertions can be verified through self assessment or outside compliance reviews. Auditing, random reviews, the use of decoys, and technology tools may be used. FAQ8 on the access to personal information makes it clear that the principle of proportionality or reasonableness has to be applied. Thirteen cases in which information access can be disclosed are listed. The fees chargeable for providing access are not specified, other than to say they must not be "excessive". FAQ9 gives carte blanche on human resources data if employees move from Europe to the US. FAQ10 sets out that data transferred from Europe to the US for processing will remain the responsibility of the European data controller. FAQ11 the FTC will review on a priority basis referrals from self-regulatory organisations like BBBOnline and TRUSTe. FAQ12 says that individuals can opt out of having their data used for direct marketing, but it will be interesting to see how effective this is in practice. FAQ13, on airline passenger reservations, may upset travelling vegetarians who do not always order a vegetarian meal when they fly, because their data can be passed to countries that do not accept the data protection principles, with the theoretical possibility that any vegetarian sometimes not having a vegetarian meal on Air Whateverland may find their secret exposed. It sounds silly, but that's the nature of most data protection law. FAQ14 deals with the transfer of pharmaceutical and medical product data, and its use in research. FAQ15 indicates a waiver for public-domain information that is not combined with private information. An extremely important issue that does not seem to have been addressed is the cost of legal fees for European organisations seeking redress in the US for breaches of the safe-harbour provisions. Of particular concern is the common practice of not requiring the loser of an action to pay the reasonable legal costs of the winner. On the other hand, a letter of complaint to the designated US authorities could well result in significant legal costs being paid by the subject of the complaint. There's every sign that there will be data protection breaches, especially for US marketing purposes, and little effective enforcement. The EU has to do something with the money that it extracts from EU taxpayers, but in this case, it looks like a considerable waste of money to bring about a system that is a political compromise, doomed from the start, and unlikely to achieve the stated objectives. ®
The Register breaking news

Big Blue makes 75GB hard drive

IBM, which has always been pretty nifty at hard drive technology, yesterday said it will ship a 75GB hard drive next month. The Deskstar 75GXP is aimed at the desktop market and whirrs around at 7,200 revolutions a minute. At the same time, IBM also said it will release a 40GB drive, the Deskstar 40GV, which like, the former, uses new density technology. Both drives use glass rather than aluminium platters which the company claims gives more stability at higher speeds. There is additional anti-shock technology included in the drives. IBM did not reveal the prices of the new devices, but said they were already shipping in limited quantities to Dell and Gateway, and were in some of its own PCs. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel puts whole weight behind Red China

Craig Barrett, CEO of the Intel Corporation, has put his and his company's muscle into a push to bestow permanent normal trade relations with Red China, according to a report in Electronic Buyers' News. Barrett told influential US trade body the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) yesterday that a failure by the US Congress to allow Red China to be a full member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with normalised trade relations will have a negative effect on American high tech firms. Unless Congress bestowed this move for normal trading status, said Barrett, while China might be a member of the WTO, no trade benefits were likely to accrue. The reason for the SIA's -- and Intel's concern -- is that the Chinese market for computer related kit is growing at around 40 per cent per year. The US chip firms want their share of this potentially tasty cake. Intel already has some design centres in Red China, and has for long has pushed for better relations with the regime. Andy Grove, Intel's chairman, has made several visits to the country over the last seven or eight years. But the position is complicated by the current bout of sabre rattling between Red China and Taiwan, which is just about to hold elections and wants to remain independent from the mainland. The US government has asked China in the last week to refrain from threatening Taiwan. Despite belligerent noises from Beijing in the last week, it would not be in China's interest to rock the Taiwanese boat too roughly. Taiwan is an IT powerhouse and also has many factories on the mainland. You can find the EBN report here.®
The Register breaking news

Mouse pen gets joyful mobile twist

Inventor C.L. Chung claims he has made a breakthrough in pointing devices for mobile phones and other Net appliances. The system which, includes a mouse device, an electronic pen and a joystick, will fit in a 3 cm by 2 cm area and will work with mobile phones, keyboards for Internet TVs, gaming controllers and PDA style devices, claimed Chung. The switch does not use a stylus and instead relies on movements in all directions and can also be used to input text, Chung claims. Chung has also invented two other devices using the position encoder system he is patenting. The invisible cord mouse eliminates connecton cords, while mouse board actually uses a moving keyboard to simulate mouse movements. There's a diagram and simulations of Chung's developments at this web page. ®
The Register breaking news

Zoom struts down the Free Everything catwalk

Fashion and lifestyle e-commerce portal, Zoom.co.uk, strutted down the catwalk today to offer its very own fetching design for 0800 toll-free access to the Net. Unlike a string of other offers which are based on a combined telephony/Internet model, Zoom is prepared to dig deep into its pockets to offset the cost of offering 0800 access. It claims that the revenue it makes from e-commerce and advertising is enough to cover the cost of running an 0800 service. The catch, is that users need to spend online at least £20 a quarter via the Zoom portal. A spokeswoman for Zoom wouldn't disclose how much cash people spent but she said it was a healthy amount -- sufficient enough, at least, to offset the cost of running an 0800 number. The service is due to be launched within the next six weeks. In a prepared statement Eva Pascoe, joint MD of Zoom.co.uk, said that the cost of Net access had been a major barrier to people shopping online. "It is fantastic that at the opening of the 21st Century, telecommunications are at the centre of the e-commerce revolution on consumer terms rather than under control of the telecoms companies. "Ultimately it is the online retailers, like Zoom.co.uk, that should be leading the charge and embracing this change. Pascoe claims Zoom is one of Britain's most successful e-commerce sites boasting partners including TopShop, TopMan, Racing Green, Dorothy Perkins, Beautique, Hawkshead, Principles and several other High Street brands. The portal earns revenue from e-commerce transactions, and advertising and sponsorship. The e-commerce outfit is "confident in its ability to cover the costs of offering free unlimited Internet access". Zoom launched its own ISP last year. In July 1999, Associated Newspapers, publisher of UK tabloid the Daily Mail and local paper the London Evening Standard, bought a half share in Zoom.co.uk. ® Related News Associated Newspapers takes 50% share in free ISP
The Register breaking news

FBI Web site hacked

The FBI's Web site was taken offline by a denial of service (DoS) attack for several hours on Tuesday, UPI reports. The attack interrupted an online announcement of the 50th anniversary of the Bureau's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list, a standard feature in Post Offices throughout America, which was celebrated Tuesday at FBI headquarters in Washington. A DoS attack overwhelms a Web site with anonymous requests for information. If the attack is robust enough, the server will crash as system resources are progressively tied up trying to answer the requests. There is no indication yet of whether Tuesday's attack was a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, such as those launched against high-profile commercial sites early last month, and which Bureau investigators have yet to solve. A distributed attack requires tools to be uploaded surreptitiously into unprotected client machines from which the attack is launched. The FBI continues to search for suspects in February's spate of DDoS attacks. The search has led US authorities to Canada, to seek assistance from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. There was no immediate indication Wednesday whether the attack on the FBI site was connected to any suspects wanted in the DDoS attacks. ®
The Register breaking news

Virginia passes controversial software licensing law

Virginia Governor James Gilmore (Republican) signed America's first comprehensive set of regulations governing electronic commerce into law Tuesday during an Internet summit at George Mason University. The Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act (UCITA) swiftly passed the Virginia General Assembly in spite of objections from consumer rights advocates. The law will not become effective until July 2001, pending further debate and possible amendment. "If there's any sense that things may not be quite right, there is plenty of time for people to come in under Virginia's approach and have a chance to do some amendments," Gilmore said. The Commonwealth plans to seat a committee to examine the issues raised by the law's opponents. One of Virginia's best-known e-commerce leaders, AOL Chairman Steve Case, was at the Governor's side at the signing. "UCITA provides clarity to contract law....which will make it easier for consumers and industries to conduct transactions via the Internet. This increase in electronic transactions will perpetuate the Internet revolution, promote e-commerce and foster the growth of Virginia's technology and manufacturing economies," the Governor said. Consumer groups warn that UCITA will give software companies controversial new power to disable their products if they believe the licensing agreement is being violated. Many expressed disappointment that buyers still won't always know the contents of a licensing agreement until after making a purchase. It might be to Virginia's advantage not to see the law adopted universally across the US. "If Virginia remains the only state that adopts this, then I believe that....would attract additional businesses into the Commonwealth," Gilmore observed slyly. ®
The Register breaking news

VA Linux slims servers with new acquisitions

VA Linux Systems is to spend more than $200 million to buy two hardware companies aimed at bolstering its server design and storage capabilities. California-based VA, which develops software and products for the Linux operating system, said yesterday it would buy TruSolutions and NetAttach for around $240 million. The $189 million buyout of San Diego TruSolutions will give VA a slim server design to add to its current Network Engines design. It will pay $10 million cash and 1.8 million newly issued shares and inherit an extra 60 staff. VA will use NetAttach's Linux-based technology to build storage systems made of stacks of servers bolted to racks. It will pay $10 million cash and 286,000 newly issued shares for the Santa-Clara-based company and take on its 12 employees. Larry Augustin, VA Linux CEO, said: "We believe that our focused expertise and the integrated Linux solutions ... will allow us to grow revenue faster than any other public company focused on Linux." Last month VA spent $1 billion to buy Andover.Net, and plans more acquisitions related to its Linux computer line.® Related stories VA Linux revenues rocket – but so does loss VA Linux buys Slashdot.org
The Register breaking news

No profits for Freeserve – for two, three years

Monster ISP Freeserve is not expected to make a profit for the next two or three years, its CEO said today. John Pluthero's comments were made on the BBC's Today programme after the company announced its quarterly results. Total turnover was up 36 per cent to £5.1 million during Q3, compared with the second quarter. Losses before taxation were down slightly at £3.5 million, compared to £3.6 million in the previous quarter. E-commerce and advertising revenue grew by 54 per cent to £2.8 million compared to the previous quarter. This now represents 55 per cent of Freeserve' total income. Connectivity revenues increased by 19 per cent to £2.3 million compared to the previous quarter, reflecting the increase in total minutes online and a higher percentage of minutes online at peak rates. However this revenue source could begin to dry up if Freeserve's limited and 24/7 unmetered access packages, announced earlier this week, become widely adopted among its 1.8 million users. Freeserve also announced today that it was forking out a maximum of £60 million in shares for SmartGroups.com, which provides community-based e-mail products and tools. ® Related Stories Freeserve chants 24/7 unmetered mantra
The Register breaking news

Congressional privacy commission proposed

Congressmen Asa Hutchinson (Republican, Arkansas) and Jim Moran (Democrat, Virginia) on Wednesday introduced legislation to create a bipartisan privacy protection commission. The proposed 17-member commission would make recommendations regarding online privacy, identity theft, and the protection of health, medical, financial and governmental records. "Americans....are alarmed at the accessibility of their medical records; they are worried how their financial information is being used; and they want to know that they can get on the Internet without strangers downloading personal information about them and in today’s information society," Hutchinson said. There are numerous privacy-related bills circulating about Capitol Hill in various stages of development. The Hutchinson-Moran commission would attempt to harmonise and consolidate a broad range of related legislative initiatives. Privacy has not been addressed in a comprehensive manner since the advent of the 'Information Revolution' and the pervasive impact of the Internet on American society, the proposal says. The commission would study current privacy laws, conduct field hearings around the country to entertain comments from the public, and report to Congress on its findings and recommendations for regulatory and legislative reform. It would consist of 17 members appointed in a bipartisan fashion by the President, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Minority Leader, the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, and a chairman appointed jointly by the President, the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. So much for a clean, uncomplicated start. It sounds just horrible enough to inspire some half-decent industry self-regulation. And perhaps that's the point, after all. ®
The Register breaking news

X-Stream US shareholders slam LibertySurf IPO lock-out

Shareholders in the US and Canada are revolting against the merger between The X-Stream Network and the French ISP Liberty Surf. Investors are complaining that X-Stream's management agreed to sell its shares to the French e-outfit for $1.26, when they were being traded in North America for more than $2.00 a share. What's more, investors are angry that they won't see any action when LibertySurf floats on the French Stock Exchange today. One investor said: "We in the US and Canada do not have the option of converting our shares to the new Liberty Surf IPO. "My understanding is that the UK investors will have that option. Many of us have contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission here in the US which oversees the NASDAQ exchange." Another investor said: "I have sold off my shares this morning at a loss. My holdings were not huge but it smarts when a company is trusted to "do right" by it's shareholders". Some investors said they have reported X-Stream to the Securities and Exchange Commission while there is an unconfirmed report of investors lodging a class action lawsuit against the British ISP. Greg Sukornyk, CE of The X-Stream Network, said that the decision to merge with LibertySurf was taken in "best interest of shareholders". He was unable to comment further on stockholder concerns because he said it came under the remit of securities regulation in the US. Sukornyk confirmed the company had not received any notification concerning a class action lawsuit. Earlier this month LibertySurf said it planned to merge with The X-Stream Network in a deal that values the British outfit at £47.69 million ($75.35 million). ® Related Story Liberty Surf takes X-Stream measures
The Register breaking news

Nvidia gets $200m X-Box injection

Graphics chip giant, Nvidia, is to receive a $200 million payment from Microsoft next month as an advance on multimedia development work for the X-Box. The X-Box has become one of the industry's most talked about yet-to-ship products and has seen a rows break out over who would win the supply deals for a variety of components. According to NewsTraders.com, the announcement of the $200 million payment came via Nvidia's end of year financial filings. If the deal falls through, Nvidia has to hand back half the cash along with a clutch of shares to cover the remainder. Nvidia's involvement in the project was revealed last week when the company said it would supply the graphics chip for the X-Box. Nvidia reckons its chip will handle in excess of three trillion operations per second. ® Related Stories Will X-Box win (X) Windows Everywhere for MS? AMD claims Intel giving away chips for X-Box Intel snatches X-Box victory, eats AMD Athlon's lunch X-Box: Nvidia schmoozes MS, drops huge hints X-Box vapour triggers Nvidia stock frenzy X-Box to ship fall 2001, nuke Sony, Nintendo et al
The Register breaking news

Congressman proposes more high-tech visas

Congressman David Dreier (Republican, California) has introduced legislation to increase the availability of high-tech workers by raising visa quotas for educated foreigners. Called the Helping to Improve Technology Education and Achievement (HI-TECH) Act -- yeah, we figure they chose the acronym first -- the bill would raise the cap on H1-B visas from 107,500 to 200,000 for the next three years. The act would also increase the visa application fee by an additional US $500. The extra money would be used to train and educate Americans in modern technical skills so that they might one day compete on even footing for high-tech jobs with the citizens of Third-World countries. The bill is interesting because it would allow countries to barter in unused quotas. Thus a populous country like India could buy unused visas from smaller nations or ones where citizens are more comfortable and less inclined to emigrate. It would also allow the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) to accumulate unused visas at the end of one year and issue them in addition to a future year's quota if necessary. It makes almost too much sense to pass; but if it should, it will take effect in October. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel 866, 850 prices arrive next Monday

The 866MHz and 850MHz Pentium III Coppermines which Intel delayed so it could rush a 1GHz processor out of the door will be formally announced next Monday. The prices are around $760/1000 and $660/1000 respectively, but sources both in the channel and at second tier OEMs suspect that they won't be able to supply systems using the processors for quite some time. As with the 1GHz microprocessor, supplies are likely to go to the Dells, Compaqs, HPs and IBMs of this world before they percolate down to smaller system builders and to distributors and dealers. One OEM who declined to be named said: "AMD is chasing Intel down now. Sales of Athlons now represent over 80 per cent of out slot based systems." Intel will not comment on unannounced products. ®
The Register breaking news

Rambus memory gets Dataquest vote

The future for Rambus memory in PCs is bright, a senior analyst at Dataquest forecast today. Richard Gordon, at Dataquest said that last year the future of Rambus was unclear because of conflicting messages sent out by market leaders. "Intel left the whole market in limbo," he said. But now Intel has made its position clear on Rambus, partly because existing memory technology will run out of steam. "We'll see a fairly rapid move from 1GHz to 1.5GHz by the end of next year," said Gordon. "In that time frame, current memory technology will run out of speed at 1.2GHz." He said there were also signs that large memory manufacturers were now convinced they had to take the Rambus route. "Hyundai has done a 180 degree turn on DDR (double data rate) memory," he said. "They've said they are backing Rambus." Gordon said Dataquest estimated that Rambus memories could occupy as many as 50 per cent of corporate desktops by the end of next year, although that figure could be higher. Robert Allen, senior product manager at Kingston Technology, agreed that Rambus will be needed in the future. "Internet/2 is going to need that extra bandwidth," he said." However, Allen also said that availability of Rambus chips was still not as healthy as Kingston would like, with most Rambus RIMMs being shipped to PC vendors. "We'd like more volume because the demand is there," he added. Ball park figures of the number of 128MB RIMMs shipped in the last quarter of 1999 only amounted to around three million, partly because Samsung put a hold on its production. That is a miniscule proportion of the 80 million 128MB modules shipped in Q4 1999. 64MB RIMMs only accounted for around 500 million units. The number of 128MB Rambus RIMMs shipped during this quarter is only expected to amount to 10 million. Some projections suggest that the total number of Rambus 128MB chips to ship during 2000 will amount to 100 million. (Corrected from before. We erroneously bunged the RIMM acronym in.) However, there still remains some confusion about why Intel is saying that companies should use Rambus with the up-and-coming Willamette processor, and DDR (double data rate) memory with the server version of that chip, codenamed Foster. The answer appears to be that large PC vendors prefer to design their own servers and could be happier using a memory technology they understand, after having problems validating boards using Rambus last summer. The Rambus share price (ticker:RMBS) closed up nearly nine bucks to close at $422 on Wall Street yesterday. ®
The Register breaking news

Home Office RIPs into its Big Brother critics

Home Office minister Charles Clarke has hit out at critics of the UK Government's RIP Bill by posting an open letter on the Home Office Web site. In his letter, the Minister refutes all allegations that the Bill is "an Orwellian nightmare of unfettered mass surveillance" and says the Government has struck the right balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the security forces to do their job properly." He signs off by saying: "So does the Bill mean RIP for individual rights? No. I would encourage people to read what the Bill actually says - not what some commentators say it says." Well said, Minister. Here at The Register we too would recommend people read through the Bill and make their own minds up. But we also reckon that most people are going to find the Bill pretty impenetrable. The full text of the Minister's letter can be found here. The Bill has now progressed to the Select Committee stage. The Committee will sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At the first sitting of the Committee, earlier this week, MPs discussed the interception of Internet communications, who can have the authority to issue warrants and whether it is civilised to take breakfast before 9am. &ref; Register RIP coverage: What the hell is... the UK's RIP Bill Big Brother Bill faces Select Committee storm Opposition mounts against UK's Big Brother Bill UK gov't reveals Big Brother bill The Stand Web site
The Register breaking news

eBay clamps down on hoax bids

eBay is to introduce new measures to stop hoax bids at its online auction house. Customers will have to register their credit card details before making bids of $5,000 or above, according to CNET. eBay will excommunicate anyone caught making hoax bids. The move is designed to put an end to spoof bids and it's hoped this new measure will deter would-be hoaxers.
The Register breaking news

Infineon to gift technology to Mosel-Vitelic

The Taiwanese press is reporting that Mosel-Vitelic, a memory manufacturer, is to announce an exchange of technology with Infineon, the recently spun-off Siemens semiconductor unit. As Siemens had some responsibility in helping Mosel-Vitelic to set up, perhaps the deal is not that surprising. The reports suggest that Mosel-Vitelic and Infineon's joint venture, called ProMOS, will be given access to Infineon's .15 and .13 micron process technology which will give the company better yields on memory chips. At present, Mosel-Vitelic uses .20 micron. The advanced processes are likely to start ramping at a 12-inch fab which is scheduled to start production in 2002. ® * Unconfirmed reports say that UMC invested nearly $10 million to take 40 per cent of Trecenti, a JV that is constructing a 12-inch fab in Japan.
The Register breaking news

AMD prices set to kybosh Intel's .18 Celermine plans

Sources close to Intel and AMD's plans say that up-and-coming .18 micron Celeron processors using a Coppermine core will indeed have half of their level two cache disabled. But,unlike the last time Intel performed this engineering feat, supplying Pentium IIs and Celerons based on the Pentium II but only with 128K cache, very aggressive pricing plans by AMD are likely to scupper attempts to make waves in the low end of the market. According to the sources, AMD has already forecast extremely aggressive prices for both Q2 and Q3 of this year, and its forthcoming Spitfire product will spoil Intel's plans. On an Intel roadmap we published recently, the company proposed that the .18 micron Celerons with the CuMine core would be put head-to-head against AMD Athlons. That is the first time Intel has officially recognised AMD products in its positioning of products. Perhaps a better idea for Intel would be to forget all about Celeron IIIs with castrated cache and instead sell Pentium III Coppermines at Celeron prices. That would put AMD in a sticky position, and help ready the market for the introduction of its 1.4GHz Willamette later in the year. ®
The Register breaking news

Angry employee busted after hack attack

A financial clearing facility in New York was subjected to a three-day cyber onslaught by a disgruntled employee who had demanded better pay and conditions for carrying out training duties. The man, a 31 year old database engineer called Abdelkader Smires, was arrested on Tuesday after he had disabled computers at Internet Trading Technologies – a company that processes trades electronically for members of the National Association of Securities Dealers, according an AP report in the Miami Herald. Smires is alleged – with the help of another employee – to have started his attacks on 9 March, using a computer at Queens College. He had refused to train fellow employees at the company in the use of a new operating system after his requests for improved working conditions had been turned down. The nature of his request is not known exactly, but what is known is that the day before Smires unleashed his attack, his employer had offered him a $70,000 pay rise, $50,000 in stock options and a one year contract. And he still turned them down. Smires is in court on Friday and if convicted could face up to five years in prison. ®
The Register breaking news

Sony plugs US DVD PS2 grey market

Spoilsport Sony Computer Entertainment is to plug the grey market hole that enables its Japanese-market PlayStation 2 to play US DVDs. Gaming wizards last week discovered a way of playing Region 1 DVDs on the Region 2 console by entering codes in the machine. Today it seems Sony has already made plans to stop this activity. According to British retailer Computer Exchange, the manufacturer is to produce an updated version of the DVD driver - the 1.01 – which will only play Region 2 and Region Free DVDs. The updated versions will go out on a new utility disc in PlayStation 2's next shipment to Japanese shopkeepers. However, gamers will still be able to get around Sony's rules -- if they have a friend with a first-batch driver. Hang onto that existing driver version – this will be valuable as it will also work in the forthcoming consoles. And Sony hasn't yet made any announcements regarding hardware changes to PlayStation 2.® Related stories PlayStation 2 can play US DVDs – apparently PlayStation 3 to ship in 2002
The Register breaking news

MS gives away Win2k Pro code for free

Microsoft faces something of a licensing issue in Spain, following the accidental free distribution of an estimated 100,000 copies of full, non time-limited Windows 2000. The code was cover-mounted by the Spanish edition of IDG's PC World, which we understand has had record-breaking sales for the month. In the wake of the Windows 2000 launch Microsoft has been liberally sprinkling 120 day trial versions of the product around the industry (very decently stumping up to do so via The Register, among other places). This was the version that was intended to go out with PC World, but finger-trouble somewhere let the real thing escape instead. The news first broke in thee discussion forum of Spanish news site iBrujula.com, and although it seems that in at least some cases the key printed on the CD didn't work, a key that did swiftly escaped onto the Web, and PC World's Spanish sales were instantly assured. Working on a retail price for Win2k of Pts 57,000, or $330, and assuming circulation of 100,000, that puts Microsoft's loss at a cool $33 million. We know that's not really what Microsoft has lost, because few, probably very few, of the now proud owners of a gratis Win2k would actually have bought it. But as certain software companies habitually just multiply the number of counterfeit copies by the price in order to estimate their piracy "losses," there's an exquisite irony associated with doing the sums this way. But what's Microsoft going to do about it? There now exists a large body of users with working copies of Win2k, but without legitimate licences. So if they don't turn themselves in after 120 days, does Microsoft bust them? Or if the finger trouble was at the magazine rather than Microsoft (which we doubt), should Microsoft hit IDG for a large fee, and legitimise the users? Tricky call. ® See also (in Spanish): iBrujula.com story iBrujula forum section
The Register breaking news

Mobile phones blamed for DVD-ROM drought

DVD-ROM drives are likely to stay on allocation until summer while the mobile phone industry eats up much-needed components. Soaring demand for Digital Signal Processor (DSP)chips, needed as PC punters rush to switch from CD-ROMs to DVD-ROMs, as well as for mobile phones, is to blame for the drought. Lead times are currently around 24 weeks for DSPs in the IT industry, but mostly the chips are on allocation. In the words of Les Billing, Microtronica MD, "they're like gold-dust". "Very small quantities are getting through as manufacturers try to support the channel. But everyone is capacitied out making chips for the mobile phone industry," he said. The DVD explosion seems to have taken the industry by surprise. Adrian Thompson, Carrera's marketing director, said: "Growth of the DVD-ROM business was way over what a lot of people realised it would be. Nobody realised how quickly they would take off." The same DSP component is used in CD-RWs. As demand for these devices has boomed recently – partly thanks to consumers increasingly using them for copying PC games – manufacturers have been unable to cope. The industry has been told not to expect supply to start meeting demand until May – the time when PC orders generally start to decline. The grey market isn't much help either – sources told The Register it is possible to get DVD-ROMs via the back door, but they cost the earth. And it is extremely rare to find DSP chips on the grey market. It looks like the PC industry will have to wait and play second fiddle to the mobile phone frenzy.® Related stories Stormy waters ahead for disk drive market</> DVD to dominate disk market
The Register breaking news

Tom's Hardware dissects Rambus

Tom's Hardware has produced a blockbuster article on Rambus -- and it doesn't like what it sees. Reviewer Van Smith explains why poor yields makes Rambus so costly (a whopping 750 per cent more expensive than SDRAM equivalents) and he notes the vendor "misinformation" concerning performance. "It seems to be common practice at Intel and Rambus to unload everything they can find to handicap SDRAM when comparing it with RDRAM," he says. He concludes: "Given Thomas Pabst's latest tests showing that RDRAM actually degrades system performance while doubling the system price, from our vantage point Rambus does not have much to recommend it." ® Tom's Hardware: Dissecting Rambus