Corel Q1 disappoints
There was disappointment yesterday at Corel's Q1 results, probably because the company is still perceived to be mainly a hard-pressed Microsoft-competitor with WordPerfect and some graphics products, rather than as a Linux distributor merging with a tools developer as a result of the Inprise/Borland acquisition. The loss for the quarter was $12.4 million on revenues of $44.1 million, with $29.3 million in cash, compared with $18 million a quarter earlier. This was better than a year earlier - a loss of $14.6 million on $40.43 million (with half the amount of cash). However, the result, was considerably down on the previous quarter, which achieved income of $60.9 million, albeit with an exceptional item. The productivity applications contributed $22.5 million during the quarter, just over half the revenue, up relatively but down absolutely in view of the maturity of the market and the product cycle. The graphics business produced $19.4 million, and there could be some boost from a Linux version of Corel Draw later in the year. There was some financial-analyst unease at the unexpectedness of the results, but since so few deign to follow the company in detail, this was not really surprising. The criteria that have been used to judge performance in the past have largely have to be abandoned, and in any event, Corel's Linux business would appear to be in better financial shape than that of the other major Linux distributors. With CEO Michael Cowpland having forecast Linux revenue of $20 to $30 million in the financial year, there was considerable interest in the figure for Linux revenue. It turned out to be a rather disappointing $2.3 million, but in view of the fact that Corel offers a free download, again this is not so unexpected. Cowpland said he still thinks that $20 million is achievable from Linux revenue this year. He wants Corel to be judged like the other Linux distributors, where substantial losses are the norm - at least at the moment - and to receive recognition that Corel had done what it was said could not be achieved: creating a desktop market for Linux. The one cheery announcement was that WordPerfect Office for Linux was sent for manufacturing yesterday morning. There will be two editions: a standard one for $129, and a deluxe edition for $159 (recommended prices), which will have in addition Paradox, Communicator, more fonts, clip art images and photographs, as well as an entertainment pack. The standard edition includes WordPerfect 9, QuattroPro 9, Presentations 9, CorelCentral 9, and of course Corel Linux OS with updates. It was somewhat surprising that Corel does not see the WordPerfect suite making a big impact in the next two quarters, since it said it expected "results for the next two quarters will mirror those experienced this quarter". Presumably this reflects costs associated with the Inprise merger. Cowpland said that he expected shareholders of both companies to agree to the merger, probably in May, and that no changes in the terms were contemplated. ®
MS volte face embraces next generation Internet
Yesterday Microsoft released a preview version of IPv6 - the Internet Protocol version 6, sometimes known as IPng. or next generation. But why Microsoft has suddenly decided to do this, in view of negative remarks it was making six months ago? Last June, Microsoft was a founder the IPV6 Forum - along with mostly network operators and equipment manufacturers - but the company made its policy towards IPv6 clear last August in a statement to Network World: "Microsoft has made significant investments in exploring this technology. However, due to the experimental nature of IPv6, Microsoft will not support it in Windows 2000, but will continue to solicit customer feedback and explore implementations in future versions of Windows." The claim of "experimental" is untrue of course, since v6 had been a stable draft-standard protocol of the IETF for some years, replacing the 20-year old Ipv4, which is increasingly running into problems as a result of growth. It was believed last summer that Internet pioneer Vint Cerf was lined-up to nudge Bill Gates on the desirability of Microsoft adopting v6, but it came to nothing. From many points of view, a move to IPv6 is desirable as quickly as possible, but the player controlling most clients - Microsoft - didn't want to play. Indeed, there seems to have been a split in the Microsoft camp between Microsoft Research (which appeared to welcome participating in the v6 development work) and the Windows development team, which probably saw it as just another problem that it would rather forget about while it debugged Windows 2000. Consequently, Microsoft Research seems to have acted like a maverick, releasing its stack with the source code and producing experimental versions of IPv6 for NT 4.0, as well as the Windows 2000 beta. Yesterday, Microsoft made its grudging step and accepted that "an explosion in the number of users and devices connected to the Internet, combined with projections for the future, mandates the need" for IPv6. The lame excuse was that the tools were now available for the transition, Y2K worries had gone away, and that this was the time to push Windows 2000 by making an "IPv6 Technology Preview" available. But it "does not work on any version of Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows CE", and it is "not officially supported" by Microsoft. Trumpet Software of Tasmania has developed an IPv6 protocol stack for Windows 9x and NT, but its effort was unsupported by Microsoft. Microsoft also stated that the Preview "should not be deployed in a production environment". The eventual migration to v6 "will be a gradual one", Microsoft said, without explaining why it was unnecessary to work at Web speed, as it had been doing with XML development. Could this be a bluff, we wondered: would Microsoft now be secretly working flat-out in an endeavour to move ahead of the present state of the art, introducing modifications that would only work with Microsoft software? Surely not. But why was it necessary that only Microsoft's Visual C++ could be used? Was it just a coincidence that the Preview requires that "the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) supplied with Windows 2000 must be installed", and that "if you currently have an Ipv6 protocol installed, such as the Microsoft Research IPv6 protocol, you must uninstall it" first. In itself, the use of the word "uninstall" is pretty interesting, in view of Microsoft's claims about the un-uninstallability of key, integrated parts of its operating systems. But with no black-hat wearing Netscape types around, the guys in the white hats could perhaps afford to be more liberal. So far as support is concerned, "Microsoft does not provide any level of technical support", but Microsoft had graciously set up a public newsgroup for feedback, to help it with the bugs. There is some comfort however: in the End-User Licence Agreement, "Microsoft's entire liability, and your exclusive remedy under the EULA shall not exceed five dollars." But let's return to why Microsoft has decided to put a toe in the v6 water. Perhaps Microsoft has at last woken up to the realisation that there soon will be billions of WAP devices and other mass-market Internet devices needing to be linked to the Internet, and that it had better do something about controlling the market in the way it knows best - by proprietarising the standard. There's an alternative and perhaps more attractive hypothesis. Could it be that Microsoft's sudden enthusiasm for IPv6 results from its inability to deal with denial of service attacks and design limitations, so far as security is concerned? IPv6 gives the possibility of solving quite a few security problems at a network level, and could remove the need for Microsoft firemen to move from blaze to blaze, scattering urgent bug fixes. If so, we can at least take comfort from the certainty that these firemen would not lose their jobs in the switch to v6: there are many more fires smouldering away in Windowland. ® Related story: What the hell is - IPv6?
Action steals finance director from MFI
UK reseller Action Computer Supplies has named Sue Murphy its finance director. Murphy was formerly FD with MFI Furniture Group, and replaces Ian Wakelin, who resigned in January. Murphy has also worked in accounting and business analysis positions with Overseas Containers and Rank Xerox. Henry Lewis, Action chairman, said: "I am delighted to welcome Sue Murphy to Action. Her well honed financial management skills, energy and proven hands on transaction experience will be of great benefit to the Board." ® Related stories: Action to ditch paper for Net Insight deal no big deal, says Action chairman Insight walks away from Action takeover Action sees profit slip as search for buyer continues
Tubehell webcasts London mayor wannabes quiz
London's beleaguered commuters are being given the chance to quiz online four London mayoral candidates in a bid to discover their policies on the Underground. tubehell.com - the Web site for tube users to vent their anger at the state of public transport in the capital - is Webcasting live the interviews with the candidates for London Mayor. First up is Liberal Democrat, Susan Kramer, who is grilled this afternoon at 3.30pm. Steve Norris, Conservative, is interviewed tomorrow at 3.30pm followed by Darren Johnson, Green, on Thursday at 1.00pm. Ken Livingstone, Independent, will be online on Friday at 1.00pm. Labour candidate Frank Dobson has not been scheduled to be interviewed. A notice on tubehell.com reads: "Remember tubehellers, we are not sardines, we are human beings and London's next mayor needs to hear from you." Nuff said. ® See Also Anyone who wants to watch the Webcasts should go here
Time for a Coppermine – or is it April Fool?
Time Computers is to bring out PCs using Coppermine 850MHz and 866MHz chips on 1 April. The UK systems builder is hoping to make its first deliveries of machines based on the two Intel PIII processors 10-14 days later. That's providing it can get enough components from Intel. Priced at £1996 for the 850-3 CDR-TV Ultimate Time Machine, and £2113 for the 866-3, the PCs will have 30GB hard drive, 256MB SDRAM, 32MB TNT AGP x2 graphics, Integrated AC97 sound chip and 17in monitor. They will also have a DVD-ROM with MPEG-2 playback, a CD-RW and a PC-TV system with Teletext. Details of Pentium III shortages can be found here. Related Stories 866, 850 prices arrive next Monday Intel censors PIII forums Intel postpones 866MHz, 833MHz CuMine launch
Big dealer flogs cheapo car imports on the Net
A leading British car dealer is to flog cut-price imports over the Net. DC Cook, operator of more than 100 dealer showrooms in Britain, will work with Totalise, which already has an established car import business, to bring cars to the UK from Europe, where prices can be up to 40 per cent cheaper. This is another nail in the coffin for the car dealer franchise system, lovingly constructed by the major car companies over years and protected still by the European Union (its official sanction of restrictive distribution in the car sector will end soon). It is not a good time to be a motor dealer in Booming Britain, officially the world's fourth biggest economy, but a place where car sales are falling (down 11 per cent on last month). Punters have read the Rip-Off Britain articles in the national press (particularly the Sunday Times) and they don't want to pay British prices any more. It's not the car dealers who are making excess profits from British punters - for that we have to look to the manufacturers, who have been making some easy money in this country. Car dealers will find the going even tougher. New intermediaries - such as P&O, the shipping line - will deliver imported cars to British consumers' doorsteps, taking away the hassle and the paperwork, while delivering savings of thousands of pounds. OneSwoop, heavily funded, and now up and running despite a few glitches, and Virgin Cars, not out of the blocks yet, are also gunning hard for the new car business. As is Directline, the Royal Bank of Scotland subsidiary, which has signed up Dixon Motors (a big traditional dealer) to handle the fulfilment of its new online car sales business, which launches in the summer. According to RBS, 15 per cent of all new car sales in Britain will be made over the Net by 2002. But let's not forget the secondhand market: edfined.net is raising £10 million through an AIM placing in April, to take used car sales on the Net. DC Cook is fighting back: and so will other big traditional car dealers. This can only benefit British consumers. ®
3Com to ditch products and up to 3000 jobs
3Com is bailing out of the high-end router and the low-end modem markets in a reorganisation aimed at trading jobs for profits. Not that the company is doing too badly. Alongside the restructure announcement, 3Com posted Q3 profits and revenues up just a little on the same period last year. The reorganisation is a straightforward move to ditch 3Com's less profitable business in order to focus on what it reckons will be the key comms technologies over the coming years. So, out goes its analogue modem business, to be sold to Far Eastern operations Accton Technology from Taiwan and Singapore's NatSteel Electronics. The buyers will form a new company - it's not clear whether they will retain the US Robotics name - and bring over some 1600-2000 3Com employees. Also for chop is 3Com's high-end LAN and WAN business, which will result in the loss of 800-1000 jobs at the cost of $200-300 million, the company said. Both operations have contributed less and less to 3Com's bottom line over the last couple of years, thanks to tough competition from the likes of Cisco at the high-end and a slowdown in sales at the low-end, itself the result of the inherent limits in analogue modem technology. In short, analogue modems can go no faster, which is why 3Com's shift to digital versions, such as DSL and cable modems, makes plenty of sense, and it's been moving its focus toward these next-generation comms products for some time. Equally sensible is its plan to target the service provider market, offering products designed to help ISPs themselves supply a wider range of services, such as audio and video as well as data. 3Com is driving its push into this market with the acquisition of unified messaging specialist Call Technologies and partnerships with Copper Mountain Networks and Extreme Networks, and we can expect more acquisitions and alliances here over time. 3Com's third strand is SME-oriented LAN products, which sounds a curious move given the increasingly commodity nature of the business. So we'd guess that the focus here will be on wireless technologies of the kind that 3Com has already partnered with Microsoft to develop and promote. The financial impact of the restructure will be significant. The job cuts, the $90 million Call takeover and other charges will drive 3Com's net income for the next quarter into the red to the tune of $450-500 million. The charges themselves will be spread over Q4 and the following fiscal year's first quarter. The closure of the various high-end and low-end product lines will hit sales, pushing them down to around $675-750 million over the next quarter. That compares with Q3 sales of $1.42 billion, up from $1.41 billion this time last year. 3Com made a base profit of $97.4 million over the quarter, an increase of 8.6 per cent on last year's $89.7 million. Once charges and gains - primarily the result of last month's Palm flotation - net income for the quarter reached $506.3 million. 3Com won't return to profitability until Q3 2000 as sales rise during Q2 to counter charges and to cover 3Com's lost business. And speaking of the Palm IPO, 3Com said it would begin offering its stake in the mobile computing specialist to 3Com shareholders during Q1 2000, due to commence 1 June. ®
The easy way to be a Net Millionaire – win a BT raffle
BT is going to make one lucky Net user in Britain an instant millionaire as part of a major promotion to get more people online. The monster telco will give away a massive £1 million in May as part of its "BT Internet A Million" promo. It's open to all Net users in Britain. Simply answer a question from one of four categories at btinternet.com - sports and leisure, travel and entertainment, technology and education, and homes and finance - and contestants will be automatically entered into the prize draw. Entrants can answer a new question each week giving themselves up to four entries when the prize is drawn. The draw begins 31 March and only one entry per person is allowed per week. The winner will be announced on 9 May. There are also a batch of weekly draws giving people the chance to win other prizes including cars tickets and holidays. Co-sponsors of the promo include IBM, lastminute.com, sports.com and oneswoop.com. In a statement issued today, BT said: "In the battle to get Britain online, the promotion aims to generate mass awareness of the benefits of the World Wide Web and further strengthen BT Internet's position within the ISP marketplace." Ben Andradi, MD of BT Internet, said: "'BT Internet A Million' reinforces our determination to get everyone in the UK online at a price that is good value." If that's the case, how can BT Internet afford to shell out £1 million or is it being funded centrally from BT? And if BT wants "to get everyone in the UK online at a price that is good value", shouldn't it simply cut its tariffs? Now Ben, do you want to ask the audience or phone a friend? ®
MPs get 1000 anti-RIP faxes
Anti-RIP campaign group Stand is claiming a small but significant victory in its fight to block UK Government's attempts to put its so-called Big Brother legislation on the Stature book. The organisation's Web site runs a 'fax your MP' service which has sent more than 1000 faxes to MPs within just one week of launch. According to Stand, the volume of faxed objections demonstrates the online public's mistrust of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill and is a clear message for the Home Office to rethink its strategy. Danny O'Brien, a representative of Stand, said: "This shows that, despite what the Government says, UK net users and businesses are very concerned about the dangers of this new Bill." The RIP Bill seeks to empower the police and security services to in the battle against crime on the Internet. However, its critics are claiming the Bill will introduce sweeping powers which will mean an end to online privacy and could stunt the development of the UK online economy. Accusations of control freakery and snooping have been levelled at the Home Office as a result of the Bill's introduction, with many claiming that while it is of paramount importance to see an end to criminal abuse of the Internet, the RIP Bill has been drafted in such a way that the ordinary public will find online life intolerable, while the e-criminal fraternity will still be at large. ® For more Register coverage of the RIP Bill, see the following items Home Office RIPs into its Big Brother critics 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 See Also Want to get involved in the fax war? Visit the Stand Web site
Second, Scots Hyundai fab in sell-off talks
Just a week after Intel confirmed it was talking to Hyundai about the possibility of buying its mothballed LG Semicon fab in Wales, it appears that another mothballed fab is up for sale. A report on US wire Electronic Buyers News quoted a Hyundai official as saying that it was "only weeks ago" from striking a deal on the memory fab, which was also a former LG Semicon plant.
ePublisher claims it can save Iridium, turn a profit
UpdatedLas Vegas-based software developer and vanity ePublisher Merit Studios reckons it has come up with a rescue plan to save Iridium's 66 satellites and take the company to profitability. A now a second potential Iridium buyer has emerged following the closure of the ailing satellite-by-cellphone company on Friday. According to a Reuters report, Merit wants to turn Iridium's cellphone traffic-oriented satellites into a data network. The key: Merit's own data compression software. Merit's Web site doesn't mention such software, but it does offer would-be authors and independent filmmakers ePublishing and DVD release oportunities. Yes, we're not convinced either, but let's follow this one through. Merit's CEO, one Michael John, emailed Iridium's liquidation lawyers with the plan on Sunday, two days after Iridium shut its systems down. John's scheme centres on the formation of a new company in place of Iridium. Stock in the company would be split between 40:30:30 between Merit, Iridium shareholder and Iridium creditors. Creditors would also receive 20 per cent of the new company's net profits until Iridium's debts are cleared. It sounds a tempting offer. After all, if Iridium completes its liquidation, the creditors are unlikely to see the return of their investments, and at least this offers the possibility of profit. That said, switching the satellites from voice to data may prove rather more expensive than John and his unnamed investment partners can afford - and its hard to see existing creditors pumping in more cash on the off-chance the scheme will pay off. ICO Global Communications, which began life as a voice-oriented satellite network but then recast itself as a broadband networking system, could only make the switch because its satellites had yet to be launched. The conversion is costing around $60 million. That can't be done to Iridium's satellites without first bringing them to Earth (which is going to happen anyway at least), converting the hardware and then (and this is the real zinger) launching them into orbit again. This cost may have been what finally put Teledesic boss Craig McCaw off acquiring Iridium himself. Hot on the heels of Merit Studios' email proposal, another ePublisher, HotJump, has launched its own bid for Iridium's satellites, according to NUNet. And like its rival, it wants to turn Iridium into a broadband data network provider, to be up and running by 2003. Merit's compression software, on which the scheme is based - the plan calls for compressed news and advertising to be distributed via the satellite network to ISPs' customers - is said to offer a 10:1 compression ratio, which isn't much to write home about. Merit claims it is "close" to being able to offer 40:1, with the possibility of getting that to 1000:1. It seems a bit much to base the rescue of Iridium on a possibility, and we wonder whether Merit's offer is entirely serious. Has perhaps Reuters been taken in by a cunningly worded press release? The report is certainly giving the small software company and its compression technology a lot of publicity... ® Related Stories So Farewell, Iridium, shot down in flames Iridium rival satellite plunges into the sea Motorola tells Iridium customers to expect the worst Iridium steels itself to decomission satellites Craig McCaw cuts losses and abandons Iridium
Staffordshire town wires schools to giant Intranet
A Staffordshire town has become the first in the UK to get all its schools wired via an intranet. Seventeen schools in the market town of Rugeley are connected through schoolmaster.net, a free education Web system with more than 100,000 users in the UK. The online community, which also includes Rugeley Town Hall, is aimed at letting kids, parents and teachers communicate safely by email, chatrooms and discussion forums. The system, monitored by schoolmaster.net to keep out anyone not registered, is also able to link up with foreign schools, as it is used in 43 other countries. Manou Marzban, sales director at schoolmaster.net, said: "Parents are petrified about what their kids may find on the Internet - especially regarding the high rise in paedophiles targeting kids via chatrooms. There are no standards on the Web." Chris Perkins, deputy headteacher at Etching Hill Primary School in Rugeley, said: "Our teachers are using this first ever town wide Internet community to share their ideas with each other, to set homework and provide online help to their pupils." Perkins said pupils were using schoolmaster.net to set up homework support groups and find out more about other societies and cultures. A trial virtual shared lesson has already taken place between Rugely and schools in Western Springs, Illinois. Schoolmaster.net is used in around 1,300 British schools and was voted the best software for secondary schools at the BETT 2000 technology show. It has 120,000 users worldwide. Rugeley's other claim to fame is that it was the starting point for the first public transatlantic telephone call, via the Telstar satellite, in 1962. ® Related Stories Schools inspector slams mobiles & the Net Blair gov offers half-price PCs to teachers RM makes the grade with latest figures
Big Blue boffins make big storage breakthrough
Boffins at Big Blue said at the end of last week that they have devised a method that may, one day, produce data storage systems with 100 times the capacity of today's drives. The method uses a combination of nanotechnology and chemistry which produces what the scientists describe as a "radically new class of magnetic materials". The chemical reactions IBM has identified cause minute magnetic particles made up of only thousands of atoms to arrange themselves into arrays, each particle separated from the other by the same distance. 20,000 of the so-called nanoparticles would make up the thickness of an average human hair, with each particle four billionths of a metre (a nanometre) in length. But it's likely to be some while before IBM hardware boffins manage to put these nanoparticles together into a sensible arrangement which will carry the no-doubt massive operating systems of the future, the company warned. Said Currie Munce, IBM's storage R&D director: "It's an exciting and promising laboratory development." ® Related Stories IBM boffins unveil 0.08 micron chip process Researchers beat Moore's Law with quantum magic Big Blue boffins to unveil 4.5GHz CPU breakthrough Motorola slims chip transistors to quarter of current size Boffins pave way for 400x rise in CPU transistor count US scientists develop molecular memory Gas chips to replace semiconductors, predicts boffin
Netware 3.x hits end of the road
Novell said today that it will finally stop selling versions of Netware 3.x on the 31st October this year.* The company has already alerted its channel and other partners, including IBM,of the move. The firm will continue to support the products until the year 2002. Netware 3.x was first introduced at the end of the 1980s, and followed up with other revisions, although the most popular version 3.11, proved to be the most successful, and is still used in many corporate settings. But, according to our sources, many big businesses are still using Netware 3.11 and have been forced to switch from it in the face of the Millennium Bug. Novell will offer promotions and other sweeteners in a bid to persuade existing users to switch to newer versions of its network operating system. The company hopes that such users will not make the move straight away to Windows-based operating systems. ® * Article now reconstructed. MM.
Demon ‘uncensored Internet’ harms child porn clampdown – Observer
Demon Internet has come under fire for allegedly not doing enough to prevent child pornography from appearing in newsgroups and on its news servers. In a story entitled "Exposed: where child porn lurks on the Net", The Observer claimed that Demon's bias towards "an uncensored Internet" was at the expense of curtailing child pornography from the Web. While other ISPs restricted access to certain newsgroups, Demon, The Observer claimed, continued to carry a number of the newsgroups banned by other ISPs. A spokeswoman for Demon refused to comment on the story. Asked whether Demon would change its libertarian approach and ban more newsgroups from its server, she said that the ISP was "evaluating all possibilities", but refused to rule anything in or out. The Internet Watch Foundation - set up in 1996 to address the problem of illegal material on the Internet and in particular, child pornography - also came in for criticism. The Observer claimed that "something failed to spark" at the IWF, which is why the Government called in a team of special advisers in 1998 to suggest how the organisation could be improved. The article suggests that the Internet industry's stab at self-regulation is failing. But in a strongly worded letter to The Observer, David Kerr, CE of the IWF, said: "Shutting down newsgroups would not do much to protect the children whose pictures are already on the Net. "What if the UK industry had accepted the original position of shutting down newsgroups nominated by the police? "Might we not have had an article today reflecting on the damage to freedom of speech and the threat to democracy of a situation where the state could dictate what is available on the Internet, irrespective of whether it is legal or not?" said Kerr. See Also Exposed: where child porn lurks on the Net IWF Responds to the Observer "Exposure"
Nvidia NV15 to clock to 200MHz
As we reported earlier this year, Nvidia's NV15 chip is speeding towards completion. The chip is likely to be called the GeForce 2 and will clock to between 180 and 200 MHz, according to reliable sources. And, as reported earlier, the chip will support between 32MB and 64MB of double data rate (DDR) memory, and may also be able to use other memory types. Creative Labs will be the first off the mark with a product, and its likely name will be the 3D Blaster GeForce 2. The fill rate may be as high as 1600 million pixels per second, a figure four times greater than previous cards based on the NV10 - the current Geforce256 - processor. That means we can expect 80FPS in Quake 3 at a resolution of 1024x768 in 32-bit colour. The transform and lighting (T&L) features will be augmented by clipping, which is expected to increase the performance of the chip. ®
Gateway research reveals truth about UK techno dummies
Too poor and too stupid to own a PC? Well, not any more. Gateway - the world's favourite bovinesque PC maker - has launched a range of PCs with you hard-up techno-dummies in mind. The Astro will take the fear out of owning a PC, Gateway says. What's more, it will take the fear out of handing over the dosh for said piece of kit. Priced at a lean, mean £549, here's what you get from a Gateway Astro: 5.1GB hard drive, 64MB SDRAM, 400MHz Intel Celeron processor, 3D graphics, integrated floppy and CD-ROM drives, 15in (13.9in viewable) monitor, stereo speakers and modem. The whole shebang comes in an integrated unit - so if you liked the Apple iMac, you might like this. But, unlike the iMac, the Astro doesn't look like it was designed by someone who used to design steam irons. Gateway has unleashed the Astro to coincide with findings from research into what puts people off buying a PC. The survey was carried out by BMRB. A total of 1048 people living in the UK took part. Almost two-thirds of respondents said they were too poor to own a PC, and around half claimed they were just too dumb. Or, looked at another way, 59 per cent said high prices would put them off buying a PC. Being too difficult to set up and too complicated to use were reasons for not owning PCs cited by 43 per cent and 51 per cent of respondents respectively. There were some other interesting findings in the survey - one in five people said they had argued with their partner about setting up electrical goods at home. The survey also unearthed some really dumb people who said they'd had trouble setting up their toasters. OK, so it was only one per cent, but across the adult population of the UK that's a lot of people eating burnt toast every morning. If these people ever find their way out of the kitchen, the rest of us could be in big trouble. Michael Maloney, Gateway's consumer division chief for Europe, Middle East & Africa, said: "Our new Astro all-in-one PC combines simplicity with good value, making it attractive for first-time buyers, who may have felt computers were not for them before." Surely he should have said: "It's Astro-logical." The Gateway Astro is available immediately, via one of the vendor's stores or from its Web site - which carries more details on the machine. You can, of course, always give 'em a call using the phone. ®
Via scotches AMD merger rumours
UpdatedVia Technologies is likely to spin out its microprocessor business, made up of technology from the old IDT-Centaur and Cyrix chip operations, this year, CEO We-chi Chen told the Taiwanese press yesterday. The news is already prompting widespread speculation that AMD and Via could tie up their businesses, in a bid to give chip major Intel an even tougher run than it has had in the course of the last four months. That spin has been scotched today by Via. Marketing director Richard Brown, based in Taipei, said: "There's no truth in these rumours. It's true that we will spin off the chip company but it will be 100 per cent owned by Via. We have no plans to merge with AMD or anyone else." At a press conference in Taipei yesterday, Chen said that as much as $300 million could go into a separate CPU business. Brown amplified that statement by saying the idea was to "maintain the vitality within the CPU company". He said that everyone in the CPU division of Via was now clear what the objectives are, and a spun-off division would remain under the umbrella of its parent. However, since Via bought up the ailing Cyrix and IDT businesses, its relationship with AMD has grown ever closer. Currently Via, and some of its partners, are facing legal action from Intel, over alleged patent infringement. And Via is also anxiously waiting for a decision by US fed body, the International Trade Commission, prompted by a complaint by Intel, that would effectively prevent it importing its chipsets into the US. Executives on that body, which received the complaint in January, said they would deliver a decision within a few weeks. Brown said that the ITC would take quite some time to reach a deliberation on Intel's complaint. "They've agreed to hear it, but are still deciding who the judge is going to be," he said. Similarly, legal cases pending, including one in London, still wait for details to be finalised, such as a date for hearing the case. As far as a spun off CPU company is concerned, earlier this year, at CeBIT 2000, we reported that Via was not in any condition to start distributing its CPUs on a worldwide basis for at least a year, given that it has no merchant infrastructure, nor distributor channel to sell the CPUs. AMD has such a structure and could help it out. There's no doubt there's quite a close relationship between the two. Added to the current alliances Via has with AMD, the Taiwanese firm has also made considerable investments in graphics firm S3. There have been persistent rumours on Silicon Investor and other financial bulletin boards, that CEO Chen has been making large investments in AMD stock. These, apparently, are just rumours. ® Related Stories Via downplays swift Joshua impact Compaq likely to use Via Joshua chip Chipzilla squats on Tariff Towers Via takes further stake in S3
Virgincars.com suffers Grand eTheft Auto
If Virgin's car sales site, virgincars.com, wants to take a lead in the emerging market for cheap motors imported into the UK from the Continent, it had better... er... start offering some cars for sale. A visit to the site today found a marked lack of autos. Instead we found Windows NT 4.0's auto-installed Web front end. Not that it's much of a recommendation for Microsoft - isn't their latest OS release Windows 2000 or something? Clearly, Virgin needs to invigorate its tech staff to persuade them to get the site up and running. Like a cheap European car, for instance... ®
98lite IE removal system for Win2k under development
Version 3.0 of 98lite, the software designed to allow Windows 98 to run without the integrated Internet Explorer, has reached RC1 stage and according to developer Shane Brooks final code should be ready in a few weeks time. Brooks also promises a quick follow up for Windows 2000, and dangles the prospect of an "embedded" version that will cut the Windows 98 install down to 15-20 megabytes. When he designed 98lite Brooks' initial objective was to be able to run Windows 98 without the Internet Explorer shell, the idea being that the OS would be more stable, faster and lower footprint without integrated IE. But since then 98lite has grown into a mechanism for controlling, configuring and tailoring Windows installations. Version 3.0 adds a slew of features to the add-remove list in the Windows control panel, and allows a full Windows installation to be converted down to the smallest (current) 98lite implementation, 98micro (sub-44 megabytes), and then back up again without a full OS reinstall, just a single reboot. Aside from IE it can add/remove DirectX, MediaPlayer ActiveMovie, the Internet Control Panel applet and a stash of other integrated and pseudo-integrated goodies. RC1 is currently available in the 98lite Professional version for download by registered users, but Brooks promises an RC2 for registered 98lite users shortly. The Professional version has added features, and costs from $25 upwards - you pick your own price. ® See Also Further information from 98lite.net
What the hell is… IPv6?
There are just 4 billion possible IP addresses if we do not move from version 4 of the Internet Protocol to version 6. After the move, there would be 340 trillion trillion trillion (3.4 x 10**36) possible addresses under v6, because of the 128-bit address space. Scalability is just one reason to make the move, but the new levels of security that could be achieved - quite apart from much better network management, especially for mobile devices - make the move highly desirable. A further benefit of switching to IPv6 would be to get better and more reliable performance. Users mostly have little awareness of the routing problems in the global backbone, and the associated quality of service issues, but they are real enough to make it desirable to accelerate the move to v6. There are those who suggest that IPv4 extensions are capable of fixing problems as they arise, but introducing techniques like network address translators puts off the day when significantly better security could be achieved. An extremely important security feature is authentication of packets from a host. IPv4 servers cannot determine if the packets have been received from an acceptable node. A partial answer has been firewalls, but the consequences include a performance hit and restrictive policies. A blind eye has been turned towards the presence of sniffers for market research and network traffic analysis, but there is a great deal of latitude for misuse at this level, with resultant security and confidentiality compromises. With v6, there is end-to-end encryption at the network layer, and further handshaking protocols, to ensure a serious level of security unobtainable with v4. Apart from work on routers, the changes to accommodate IPv6 mostly require the inclusion of the protocol in the client operating system, with transparency so far as users are concerned. In the non-Microsoft world, in nearly all cases operating system developers are well-advanced in the incorporation of v6, although there are provisions in place to allow v4 and v6 to co-exist for many years. So far as implementations of IPv6 on non-Microsoft platforms is concerned, some of the horses have completed the course: IBM's AIX has it built in, as does Novell's NetWare, and BSDI. Some Linux distributions have it. Sun has a prototype for Solaris 7 (and first made v6 available in 1995); Compaq has a Tru64 prototype available for download; and HP has a developers' kit. Horses currently running include Apple, now building IPv6 into MacOS X, and some Linux distributors who have not yet included it. Microsoft is galloping in the first furlong, with the jockey valiantly shouting: "Wait for us, we're the innovators." ®
Severed finger found in PC
From the bizarre to the ridiculous - severed fingers, dead mice and love-letters are all items to be found lurking in the innards of PCs, a report claims. Dixons, Britain's biggest computer retailer, assembled the list after quizzing its technicians on the weirdest objects uncovered in customers' computers over the past six months. One claimed to have discovered part of a finger - the customer having lost the tip of the digit while trying to install a graphics card. The monitor, precariously balanced to one side, slammed onto the lid of the PC casing, leaving the severed flesh inside the computer. Another customer took the instruction to enter credit card details literally while shopping online. He or she lost their card when they decided pay by shoving it into the floppy drive slot. A technician reported finding a chicken wishbone inserted inside a PC - the customer thought it would act as a talisman and stop the PC crashing. There was also a case of a user placing pot pourri inside the PC case to "improve the machine's smell". The survey, published on Dixons' Web site, quizzed experts working for PC World's 'healthcheck' clinics. At these healthcheck sessions, punters take their PCs into one of the retailer's outlets, and for £39.99 get a technician to prod around inside the machine and advise how to get better performance - or an upgrade. It could be worth your while - one technician found £125 tucked away in a computer's casing. The delighted customer claimed he'd bought the PC second-hand at the local church fair. Also uncovered at the clinics were a two-inch spider, a dead mouse and several love-letters - which the latter customer denied any knowledge of. ® See Also For a full list of Dixons' findings, go here. Related Stories UK PC retailers don't rip off customers Profit jumps at Dixons
Consumers told to watch out for Intel samples
Intel insisted today that it has told its channel that it may only ship production samples of its microprocessors. That follows a number of reports from savvy end users who have discovered machines containing engineering samples, which do not have overclockability removed, and also from one reader who was sold an overclockable CPU by mistake and wants to keep it. According to two readers who emailed The Register, each had machines which contained obviously genuine Intel microprocessors, but appeared to have features -- or functionalities -- not intended for the general public. One reader said: "I am concerned that this CPU I purchased from a fairly large Californian retailer may have problems because it is an engineering sample of some sort. It was not sold to me with this understanding and I more or less chanced upon it...there was more than one pin missing from the back...I would like to keep it because of this unexpected feature but am unsure if I should. " Another reader provided us with a barcode on his SECC2 (Slot One) processor which indeed had all the hallmarks of the type of engineering samples sent to OEMs or to the larger distributors in the world. The news tells us one of maybe two things. Either people who sell components are so desperate that they'll sell anything they've got, even free engineering samples, to poor end users, or, somehow, engineering samples are slipping into the channel. An Intel representative today said that his company insisted its channel shipped full production processors. He also points out that if people go to the Intel site and follow the CPU thread, they will come to a page which gives every possible combination of barcodes. If they do have engineering samples, by mistake or by design, Intel will be very interested to hear from them. ®
UK Budget gives IT shot in arm
Budget 2000 UpdateThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, has moved to boost the growth of hi-tech start-ups in the UK. Here, in brief, is a run down of some of the Chancellor's announcements to boost the UK online economy. Singling out IT and the Internet as critical areas for the UK, the Chancellor said: "We must master technological change" and "create a Britain of opportunity". On the subject of Ecommerce, he said: "We must catch up with America as soon as possible." Main points so far
Intel performs another networking legover
Only a few days after it spent $1.27 billion buying the Lego-like building blocks which will make it a major player in the Internet revolution, Intel (ticker: INTC) is at it again. The company has just announced it will pay $450 million in cash for Basis, a firm involved in Internet access systems, and which has a particular interest in the home and small to medium business markets. The cash payment is part of Intel's strategy to grow its IX network infrastructure. In the last 18 months, the firm, which was traditionally a microprocessor only firm, has made a series of acquisitions involving billions of dollars, often in cash, to buy up the bits and pieces that make the Internet run. This puts them head to head against the Nortels and Ciscos of this world. Basis produces so-called residential routers and gateways, but it also has technology for PC card, interface and wide area network products. It has sites in Shannon, Eire, as well as Westford, in the US. ® See also Intel buys Giga AS for $1.25 billion Intel mycelium: the spores bud Intel acquires another company as IX mycelium spreads
Birmingham IT entrepreneur to launch bid for Rover
A prospective buyer for stricken car firm Rover has stepped forward from the IT industry.
Dotcoms deny they are running out of cash
Dotcoms have rushed to refute claims made by a respected financial magazine that at least 51 Net firms are on the verge of running out of cash. Research carried out by Pegasus Research International for Barron's, the Dow Jones & Company's business and financial weekly magazine, claimed that time was running out for some dotcoms. It claimed things were so bad that some e-companies could not rely simply on issuing more stock or bonds in a bid to raise more cash. In the very worst cases, companies would have to sell out or face financial oblivion, it said. Among those fingered by Barron's were CDNow, EarthWeb, ShopNow, Secure Computing, and VerticalNet. In a bid to minimise the potential damage caused by the research, dotcoms have rushed to their own defence. Irene Math, senior vp of finance at business portal, EarthWeb, said: "We respectfully disagree with Barron's methodology and conclusions about EarthWeb, because it does not take into account either future performance or recent capital-raising activity. "Their findings are clearly disputed by leading Internet analysts who examine detailed and current financial data that is publicly available." Mark Walsh, President and CEO of b-2-b outfit, VerticalNet, described the findings as "highly confusing". Tim McGurran, senior vp of operations and cfo of Net security e-business, Secure Computing Inc, said: "We respect Barron's reporting and their reputation within the investment community as a leading publication, but are compelled to correct the information provided in their recent article relative to our cash position. "Unfortunately, the Pegasus Research report utilised by Barron's, had a number of errors and oversights which were reported in the article addressing cash burn by Internet companies,'' he said. And CDNow issued a statement disputing the story which claimed the e-tailer had less than one month of cash remaining. "As a result of a strategic investment by Time Warner and Sony, CDNOW expects that it has sufficient cash for at least six months," the company said. Ooooooh, six months' worth of cash -- well, that's alright then. ® Tune in and turn on to Cash Register, for more tales of the Bubble Economy