22nd > March > 2000 Archive

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Disabled people represent the true digital divide

Disabled Americans are missing out on a good deal of the benefit which IT can offer them, a new study concludes. Only twenty-four percent of disabled Americans own computers compared with a national average of over fifty, and only ten percent use the Internet compared with a national average of thirty-eight, according to a report from the Disability Statistics Center at the University of California, San Francisco, written by David Keer of the US Department of Education. Elderly people with disabilities, and disabled people with low incomes or minimal education, are even less likely to take advantage of such technology, the report notes. In previous coverage of the Digital Divide, The Register ridiculed the Clinton Administration's cultural arrogance in calculating the desire of minorities to emulate Whites by getting wired, as if Blacks and Hispanics should be seen as nothing more than Whites in training. With the handicapped, we see an entirely different picture. Disabled people have little to lose and much to gain from joining the wired community. Internet chat and e-mail can provide relief from social isolation; access to news, academic libraries and research materials can be accomplished with a mouse click; Net entrepreneurship can provide a much-needed opportunity to work from home; on-line shopping promises convenience and independence. With the advent of speech-recognition software, the blind, who normally wait months or years for information to be made available in Braille or on audio tape, can access such material as soon as it becomes available. The motor-disabled can use speech-recognition technology to write e-mail, pay bills, or perform work-related tasks, the report observes. Indeed, the more we think about it, the more convinced we are that the true promise of the Internet is precisely that of service to the disabled. We hope they won't be overlooked, as they so often are, as Washington prepares to propitiate the many competing Sacred Cows of Political Correctness with federal dollars for community investment in technology programmes. ® Related stories Govt gives voice to Net for the blindBlind AOL users sue over discrimination Blind people struggle to use the Web/a>
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IPO values Caldera at $1.2 billion

Despite worries that the Linux stock boom may have run its course, yesterday's float by Caldera Systems more than doubled the price of the five million shares offered in difficult market conditions, partly resulting from the expected Fed rise in interest rates. NASDAQ dropped more than 200 points in the first hour, but Caldera trading did not begin until mid-morning, after the jitters had subsided and the NASDAQ index had recovered. Caldera's debut had been expected last week, but the NASDAQ fall evidently made the company hold back. Originally, the issue was to have been priced at $7 to $9, but this crept up to $14 by Monday afternoon when the issue was priced. The day's range was $23 to $33, and it closed up 110 per cent at $29 7/16, perhaps to the consternation of the early profit takers who sold when it was in the mid-twenties. Five million shares were offered, but the first day's trading showed a volume of more than 15 million. With more than 38 million shares outstanding, the capitalisation of Caldera went up to $1.27 billion, which is not bad for a company that had revenue of $3.05 million in 1999 (to 31 October) and net losses of $9.37 million. Caldera raised $70 million for 13 per cent of its shares. If there's a message, it is that the Linux boom is alive and well, although shares are now priced a little more realistically than in the past, perhaps reflecting greater maturity in both the market and investors. Meanwhile, Caldera will need to work to differentiate itself more in the marketplace. CEO Ransom Love made it clear yesterday that he sees his main competitor as Microsoft in the OEM space, and wants Linux to dominate as the Internet operating system of choice, he said in CNBC interview last night. ®
The Register breaking news

Kymata to bring light to UK dark fibre

An injection of US money means that a Scottish startup is able to build a second wafer fabrication plant in Silicon Glen. Kymata, a private limited company based in Livingston, received funds this month of $72 million from US venture capitalists, with the lion's share coming from Kleiner Peck, said Barbara Fitzpatrick, marketing executive at the firm. She said that was in addition to startup money from 3i, ACT Venture Capital, and British Telecom. Kymata (Greek for waves), produces opto-electronic components and already has a 635m2 clean room at Livingston. The existing fab produces silicon wafers for its own products, as well as acting as a foundry for other Scottish companies, Fitzpatrick said. The building blocks Kymata creates will be used to make use of the dark fibre which is widespread in metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom, to deliver better Internet bandwidth to consumers, she said. "We're trying to bring the core of the networks to the kerb," she said. "We're producing optical components for bandwidth to be increased." Fitzpatrick said that all twelve Scottish universities have faculties specialising in opto-electronics, and that means a large pool of graduates with expertise, which no other country can better. "The fibre already exists," she said. "Opto electronic technology has improved in the last two to three years." While the scientific rudiments of the technology were evolved over 30 years ago, now high tech companies have realised the benefits of utilising those elements. Kymata has no plans to float on any stock exchange, she said, and will resist attempts at any takeover, despite the interest large firms such as Intel and Nortel are taking in opto-electronics. She said that the money received from Kleiner Peck was a breakthrough. The US firm does not normally invest in foreign countries. ® See Also Kymata's website is here.
The Register breaking news

Hackers can control military assets remotely

Army officials are concerned that skilled computer enthusiasts, and in particular those engaged by hostile military organisations, can hack into military weapons systems and control them remotely, Federal Computer Week reports. The potential exists for hackers to access computerised systems used for navigation and weapons targeting, US Army Information Assurance Program Manager Major Sheryl French explained during a recent military information management conference in Houston, Texas. According to the article, the US Department of Defence (DoD) has established through testing that a malicious hacker could penetrate the control systems of major weapons. According to a Defense Information Systems Agency training CD-ROM, an Air Force officer in a Boston hotel used a laptop computer to break into the computers of a Navy ship at sea, and implanted spurious data in its navigation systems. "This actually happened," the training module warns. "Fortunately, this was only a controlled test to see what could be done. In reality, the type of crime and its objective is limited only by people’s imagination and ability." But not everyone is losing sleep over the dark possibilities of cyber-warfare. Federation of American Scientists (FAS) defense and intelligence analyst John Pike says the threat can easily be exaggerated. Remotely hacking into weapons systems would be extremely difficult under highly-fluid battlefield conditions, Pike believes. "The problem for the enemy is that computer security vulnerabilities will almost certainly prove fleeting and unpredictable," he said. He described the true threat as a matter of random instances of harassment by the enemy. That's fine, so long as they don't gain access to strategic nuclear weapons systems, in which case a random instance of harassment could result in a nightmare of distinctly Biblical proportions. ®
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Rambust kicked in goolies by Big Blue

Shares in volatile memory company Rambus (ticker: RMBS) fell sharply on Wall Street again yesterday, aided and abetted by IBM, which has never really liked the firm, or the technology anyway. IBM said it has a faster double data rate (DDR) chip under its corporate sleeves than the one Rambus and Intel are cajoling semiconductor manufacturers to produce. An IBM executive yesterday told financial wire Bloomberg that DDR was better than Rambus not only for servers, but for PCs too. At the end of 1998, IBM was instrumental in promoting DDR memory, in the face of some market players which seemed hell-bent on promoting Rambus memory as the killer technology of the future. Market makers, such as third party motherboard firms, have always been reluctant to use Rambus memory, and instead have actively promoted the much cheaper synchronous memory and forced Intel into an embarrassing turnaround last year. They, and major PC vendors, wanted to adopt PC-133, a course which Intel totally ruled out this time last year. Also, and behind the scenes, the major semiconductor firms have always been unhappy at having to hand over two per cent of their already slender margins to Rambus, which truly is a fabless company. IBM's new chips are DDR chips, which even Intel now acknowledges are better for future server technology than "leading edge" Rambus RIMMs. At its Developer Forum in February, the Rambus share price went ballistic after Dr Alfred Yu, a senior VP at the Intel Corporation, said that its future Willamette processor would only work with RIMMs. Later, during the course of the conference, it emerged that was not entirely true. IBM claims that DDR is a better option for both PCs and servers than Rambus. Two weeks ago, a senior executive at Compaq US told The Register his company "would never" use Rambus technology in its servers. HP is widely believed in the industry to have told Intel to drop its support for Rambus in Merced-Itanium and other IA-32 servers, after coming a cropper with the technology last summer. The Rambust Ink share price fell by nearly $51 yesterday, to close at $266 and 37/64, or as most rational people prefer, $266.578125. Last week, the share price reached $471, prompting some to think that it would break through the share equivalent of the sound barrier. A quick glance at a graph of the RMBS share price now reveals a shape reminiscent of the most frightening stage of the old Big Dipper at Belle Vue, Manchester, which also at one time hosted a strange cross between a lion and tiger, dubbed a tigon. The zoo, the dipper, and the tigon are now, alas, no more. ®
The Register breaking news

Cash Register: 1-14 Mar, 2000

14 Mar 2000 Lastminute jumps -- but punters get next to no shares
The Register breaking news

Net minnows Carlton and WH Smith huddle close

WH Smith and Carlton Online have climbed into bed, with a cross-promotion deal which will see them share ecommerce revenues. Carlton, the UK's second biggest commercial TV station, will dish out £15 million worth of advertising for free to WH Smith, on TV, online and on the cinema screen, to promote the joint venture. On its Web sites, Carlton will promote WH Smith's e-commerce business, selling books, CDs, videos and DVDs on its Web sites. And it will handle all online advertising sales for both companies. WH Smith will in turn hand over a share of e-commerce revenues generated from the site. And it will promote Carlton's online business in its 700-strong retail chain. The book chain, Britain's biggest, will also take content from Carlton for its own Web site. WH Smith already has an anchor tenancy with Freeserve, which in the Internet scheme of things, looks a hell of a lot more important than Carlton. According to The Independent, Carlton's Web sites receive six million page impressions a month (The Register currently does nine million page impressions a month - and we ain't backed by a big TV station). The company also has some leverage through a stake in OnDigital, the digital TV channel, which now has 550,000 subscribers. There could be some e-commerce uplift here. The company's determined consumer focus - with sites such as Jamba.co.uk, popcorn.co.uk. simplyfood.co.uk and Carlton.com - may pull in big FMCG advertisers, even though its online properties appear to lack the "mass" part of the mass market proposition. In British Net terms, Carlton is very much second division - offline promotional punch or no promotional punch. WH Smith's misfortune is to occupy the same Net retailing space as Amazon. Here are two Internet minnows huddling close. ® Tune in and Turn on to Cash Register, for more Tales of the Bubble Economy.
The Register breaking news

Mr Oxford University accuses Oxford University of murder

An Australian man has changed his name to Oxford University in a bid to settle a domain name row with the esteemed uni. The self-confessed cybersquatter, formerly known as Doc Seagle, has taken legal advice and reckons he'll be safe from any legal challenge by the academic institution. Other sources claim Mr University - Oxford to his friends - will lose his claim to the domain, according to AustraliaIT. But the man who lives in a tin shack in rural Australia is adamant about his chances of winning claiming that he's being bullied into handing over the domain. "You'd think that Oxford-University (UK)... SHOULD KNOW BETTER than not to register the dotcoms -- just as any competent person opening a local business knows to register the business name with authority before opening and advertising," he writes on his Web site. "After nearly a thousand years of operation Oxford University (UK) STILL can't get basic concepts right, it seems!" But if he's worried about legal action on the ownership of domain names wait until Oxford University - the academic institution - checks out his Web page. For Mr University, it seems, has an axe to grind. He writes: "There are few, if any, 'Absolute' facts, so, not understanding this, people are often inclined to appeal to an 'Authority' as to what reality is, rather than be bothered to work it out. Oxford University, the snobby institute in England, has often been that authority -- and has often used its authority to hide truth and MURDER those that disagreed. "The present institute appears proud of this and still thinks it can get away with fooling the British government and public into paying vast sums of money to maintain its 'Elite' membership." He continues: "As to my recent Would-be oppressors - Oxford University (UK) and its cohorts? ... well -- I see them as still very much 'remaining prejudiced to serve only the rich and famous'. "The whole educational system is still as shitty these days as it always was - as seen by the above "Unbalanced fight" and "Steam roller" approach to those with any differing views. No one from Oxford University - the uni - was available for comment by press time. ® See Also Mr Oxford University's Web site Oxford University's Web site
The Register breaking news

Tiny Online touts 24/7 Net for 'less than £30' per month

Tiny Online, the ISP and e-tailing arm of the PC manufacturer, is to offer flat-fee unmetered access to the Net. 24/7 access will cost less than £30 a month, and offpeak unmetered access will set users back less than £10, according to Colin Greene, GM of Tiny Online. He wouldn't say exactly how much it would cost or name the telco supporting the service -- however Tiny Online's offering sounds suspiciously like BT SurfTime. But he did say that the flat-fee unmetered service would be open to all Net users in Britain. The new service is due to be launched next month. Greene said: "Unmetered access will bring European Internet usage up to the level of the United States, but why do so many barriers have to be put up in the UK to confuse consumers?" "At Tiny Online, we will be doing this differently to our competitors, offering straight forward all-day or off-peak services to all our subscribers with a very clear pricing structure." Tiny Online's ISP is currently backed by Affinity Internet, which uses Cable & Wireless. Greene is currently in the US setting up a online PC sales operation for the American market. ®
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SuSE Linux 6.4 to ship 3 April

European Linux distributor SuSE will ship the next major release of its incarnation of the open source operating system on 3 April, the company said yesterday. SuSE Linux 6.4's USP is ease of installation. The company claims 6.4 will be the least fiddly version of the OS to install, thanks to its much-improved graphical installer application which now sports a sophisticated Plug'n'Play-style hardware detection and driver selection system. "This is by far the easiest Linux installation on the market," said SuSE's president, Stefan Wintermeyer. "Easier installation means that more users will be able to install Linux without technical support, further encouraging the adoption of Linux in the desktop market." Not that the server side is being ignored - SuSE 6.4 will ship with SuSE's Proxy Suite, including proxy servers and firewall applications, and a journaling filesystem, Reiser, which can be selected through the installer as an alternative to the standard Linux ext2 filesystem. SuSE 6.4 will also support systems with up to 3.5GB of RAM installed. The OS will ship with the latest version of Linux's X Window server, Xfree86 4.0, albeit as an option thanks to 4.0's "current instability". SuSE Linux 6.4 will ship on 3 April in Germany, and around 17 April in the US. The long-awaited PowerPC version, along with an Alpha release, is set to ship at the end of April. The six CD (or one DVD) box-set, which also includes 60 days' free tech support, will retail for around $50. ®
The Register breaking news

Distie stung with fake Compaq memory

Hurrah for CRN UK for two big crime stories. First up is the "major UK distributor (which) has admitted that it has up to £200,000 worth of fake Compaq memory on its shelves". CRN funks it, by declining to name the distie, which said it bought the product, packaged for retail, from a broker which claimed that it had sourced directly from Compaq in Hong Kong. That could be a dynamite spin - Compaq selling counterfeit branded DRAM to its channel, because it can't tell the difference from the real thing. But this would require the broker to be telling the truth to make that angle work. Underneath the Compaq retail packaging, is product made by Winbond. "The quality of the memory is poor," says sources quoted by CRN. That's fighting talk, Winbond. What do you have to say about that? The secret distie has reported the fraud to Compaq in Houston, according to CRN, which in passing mentions that fake Compaq-branded DLT drives and controllers are also in circulation. *CRN's second big crime story of the week is the robbery of 200 Pentium chips from a delivery driver stopping for petrol at an Esso garage, in Ashford, Middlesex. He was jumped by a man wearing a full-face crash helmet and wielding a hammer. Police say the value of the goods was £1.5 million, but CRN raises an editorial eyebrow as it "values each processor at £7,500. Intel's current flagship Pentium III 500MHz Xeon server chip costs £4,447." ®
The Register breaking news

SCO falls into sales black hole

SCO expects its Q2 sales for the period ending 31 March to be "significantly lower" than anticipated, because of "Y2K-related delays and other effects". But in mitigation, reseller activity is returning to previous levels, accordig to feedback from channel partners noted by CEO Doug Michels. SCO also issued a profits warning in January for the last quarter, when profits of $2.9 million on revenue of $54 million were subsequently reported. No forecast for the present quarter was given yesterday because it is the quiet period. In an effort to re-invent itself and perhaps remove a few cobwebs, SCO also announced yesterday a new corporate structure into three independent divisions: Server, Tarantella and Professional Services. Each division will have its own P&L, so it looks as though the plan may well be to float the divisions when possible. The restructuring, which had been under discussion for six months, appears to make it easier for SCO to focus on Linux, rather than being a knee-jerk reaction as some had suggested. The server division accounts for most of SCO's revenue at the moment, with its claim to fame being that it is the leading vendor of UNIX on Intel, with Sun far behind. Its market is mostly in small- and medium-sized businesses. Tarantella allows Linux, UNIX, mainframe and Windows applications to be installed and managed in a three tier system. In February it was announced that Tarantella for Linux will run on Caldera, SuSE, TurboLinux initially. Estimates are that Tarantella sales are in the region of $3 to $4 million per quarter, a wee bit on the disappointing side. Nor has SCO yet benefited significantly from the ASP market, although it says it is now in the process of increasing its marketing efforts considerably. SCO has used Windows support and aggressive pricing in its efforts to compete with Citrix, but confined Tarantella's availability to direct sales, effectively cutting it off from a large part of the potential market. SCO's professional services agreed earlier this month to support Caldera customers, and has a stake in Caldera, TurboLinux and LinuxMall. SCO's hidden weapon could well be its channel relationships, but its weakness has been its low profile. The Q2 results should be known around 25 April. At the end of December, SCO had $38 million in cash, $30 million in short-term investments, and $78 million in marketable securities, so it has the resources to change to rejuvenate itself. SCO shares began to rise last June from the $5 level, rose when it seemed that Tarantella might challenge Citrix's MetaFrame in the terminal server market, peaking at $35 at the end of December, before falling to the present $13 or so. ® Related stories SuSE deal puts SCO in driving seat SCO unleashes Tarantella for Linux
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Marks out of ten for the Chancellor

Earlier this week The Register published PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) Ten Top Tips for the Chancellor ahead of yesterday's Budget. There was lots of talk in the wake of Gordon Brown's speech of the boost to the UK e-conomy, but just how did it stand up against PwC's list of recommendations? Ian McDade, tax partner at the PwC technology group, talked to The Register today to award the Chancellor marks out of ten. Out of the list of ten, the Chancellor scored a paltry four from McDade, who described yesterday's speech as: "An interesting Budget." Singled out as the "biggest disappointment of the Budget", the failure to deal positively with the issue of employers' liability on national insurance contributions. "There had been a lot of lobbying on this issue," McDade said. "All that was said though is that there will be consultation on this issue. This will continue to be a major problem for IT companies." Out of PwC's list of ten recommendations, the following were put forward in the Budget:
The Register breaking news

Apple movie marketeer joins Palm

Palm yesterday announced a number of senior appointments yesterday, but one of the most interesting selections was Satjiv Cahil as Palm's chief marketing officer. As almost all of the newswires have pointed out, Cahil is an ex-Apple marketing staffer. He's also a former Sony employee, and with Sony already an official PalmOS licensee and Apple known to be working "very closely" with Palm (according to CEO Steve Jobs), the wires have been trying to interpret Cahil's appointment as a sign of the tight synergy between the three companies. That's stretching the point. Sikh Cahil comes to Palm from Newbridge Networks and hasn't had anything to do with Apple for quite some time. Cahil was identified early on as a member of then CEO Gil Amelio camp, and quit the company not long after Amelio was ousted by Steve Jobs and his NeXT crew. Cahil was behind Apple's drive to get its kit starring roles in major movies, most notably Independence Day and Mission Impossible. It was a canny move that gave Apple and its PowerBook line a high profile. The snag was the terrible build quality of PowerBooks at the time, which rather pulled the rug from under the campaign's feet. Incidentally, Apple's PowerBook also makes numerous appearances in The Saint. Simon Templar (aka Val Kilmer) uses the ill-fated Copland OS' Techno desktop theme (one of several Apple said the then upcoming operating system would contain). In the event, the theme was never released - its survives only in the Techno system font that currently ships with MacOS 8/9 - implying that the Saint's PowerBook was on the only machine outside Apple labs to be powered by Copland. Palm should be able to profit rather better from Cahil's Hollywood connections, particularly in promoting the Palm platform to a wider, more mainstream audience than the suits the company has been targeting to date. Palm CEO Carl Jankowski will have to keep an eye on his be-turbanned colleague, however, who was criticised by a number of fellow Apple staffers as being more interested in hob-nobbing with the stars than promoting his company's products. Sour grapes? Perhaps, but Cahil has been heard engaged in 'me and my old mate Tom Cruise' conversation (by this reporter, for one). In any case, Cahil did raise Apple's profile, which is, when all is said and done, exactly what marketing is all about. Joining Palm alongside Cahil is ex-Disney executive Barry Cottle - no relation, we assume, to the famous circus-owning family - as chief operating officer, and Doug Solomon (another one-time Apple dude) as chief strategy officer. William Maggs comes over from Inktomi to become chief technical officer. ®
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Carry on Falling – Lastminute shares

Lastminute.com continued to plumb the depths of ever darker shades of red for its army of small investors today. By lunchtime, lastminute.com shares had hit 285p, down 35p on the morning. It is now some 95p lower than its offer price. Yesterday, small investors were looking at losses of some £40. Today, it's even more and anyone holding their measly 35 shares will have to consider whether to hang on tight or cut their losses. According to London local paper Metro, £94 million was wiped off the value of the company yesterday. The paper said co-founder Martha Lane-Fox has lost £1795 a minute since shares hit the hairy heights of more than 500p last week. Fox's fellow founder Brent Hoberman's losses worked out at about £2599 a minute. Still, Lane-Fox's and Hoberman's personal loss is nothing compared to US software billionaire Michael Saylor, who saw $6 billion wiped off the value of his personal fortune yesterday when shares in his company, MicroStrategy Inc, nose-dived. It's been described as the biggest worst losses in a single day. Ever. Hey-ho, such is life. ® Tune in and turn on to Cash Register, for more tales of the Bubble Economy
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Laddish One 2 One attempts corporate breakthrough

The newly formed multimedia division of telephone firm One 2 One said today that it is to break into the corporate data sector, courtesy of IBM, Sun and its parent, Deutsche Telekom. John Drinkwater, marketing head at One 2 One's UK operation, said that an analysis of the firm's call pattern reveals it has 20 million units of use spare per day, and that its customers seem to use its service mostly when the pubs opened, and later, when the pubs shut. (Orange, on the other hand, had a flat usage model during every hour of the day and night, which meant its rival was unable to offer such corporate services, he claims.) That left a huge trough of spare call space in the morning, which his multimedia unit will use to target the corporate market, using enabling technologies such as Bluetooth, GPRS and other available methods. Rather than sign up a big portal, Drinkwater said that his division had struck individual deals with content and other services providers, and will provide news, financial information, and sport information. This is just the beginning, he said. Parent Deutsche Telekom is investing a million pounds a day in improving the One 2 One network, and will launch a GPRS service in autumn this year with continuous bandwidth at speeds similar to 56kbps modems. The firm will offer large corporations permanent attachment to their intranets and will offer devices to allow them to do so. Although the firm refused to be drawn on the exact nature of its deal with IBM, sources at the company did confirm that it was one of 32 other companies it was partnering as part of push into the business market. It was more forthcoming about its deal with Sun. One 2 One will use Java as its medium to deliver some of the services it will deliver. Further, One 2 One will become market leader in mobile corporate data, Drinkwater claims. This is likely to account for nearly 30 per cent of its bandwidth by the year 2003. ®
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Europe unleashes second probe into MS

Microsoft has found itself on the receiving end of a second European Commission investigation, over its proposed purchase of a 29.9 per cent stake in UK cable company Telewest. The Commission already has an antitrust investigation of Microsoft building up steam, and earlier this week extended the deadline for Microsoft to supply documentation until 15th April. According to a statement issued today, the latest probe has been launched because of the Commission's concern over the possible impact on competition in the set-top box market, and because the deal might strengthen Telewest's dominant position as "an exclusive supplier of cable services to consumers within its franchise area." It's not entirely clear to The Register how you can strengthen your dominant position if you're already the exclusive supplier, but hey, what do we know? Interestingly, the Commission also says that it "must ensure that technology is not used to restrict the choice of services which consumers can access," and that "the focus area of the investigation will be the provision of software for digital set-top boxes in the UK and its impact for the choice of the British cable subscribers." Now people, doesn't that sound a lot broader than just an investigation into whether or not Microsoft should be allowed to buy a stake in Telewest? It sounds rather more like the Commission wants to force British cable companies, who generally are in monopoly positions, to open up the range of services they provide consumers. Funnily enough, Microsoft may turn out to be innocent, and only collateral roadkill here. As we reported last month, Telewest is proposing to use Liberate Technologies' TV Platform for its interactive services. Before being spun off Liberate was Oracle's NCI, Network Computer Inc., i.e. Microsoft's opposition. ®
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Ban Quake, Home Office adviser demands

British kids should be banned from playing gory computer games, a Home Office adviser has warned. PC games which celebrate murder and mutilation encourage youngsters already predisposed to violence to commit crimes and become a menace to Society, said forensic psychologist Professor Kevin Browne. "It is gory for gory's sake. If you run down a pedestrian, they don't just fall down, their limbs fall off, their heads fall off, there is blood and the sound of bones cracking," he said. "The fact you earn points by knocking down pedestrians seems to me against all the principles of what we are trying to do in society." The comments are backed by research which found children aged 11-14 became more aggressive after playing certain PC games. The biggest culprits were games which rewarded players according to the number of people they hit, shot or demonically ran down, such as Carmageddon, Doom, Resident Evil or Quake III, today's Daily Mail reported. "What these games are doing is reinforcing their own distorted thinking processes. Therefore, those youngsters which have a predisposition to steal cars will carry out that act more often as a result of playing these games," said Browne. The concerns will be highlighted in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, Video Nasties, tomorrow night. The programme will also look at last year's Columbine High School massacre, where 15 people were killed by teenagers thought to have been influenced by watching violent games. Last year, the Brazilian government banned games including Quake and Doom it deemed too dangerous. ® Related Stories Brazil bans Quake and other PC games Windows to block violent, adult games Games vendors to 'blame' for murdered students
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Cyrix folk walk out after Via revelation

Updated Nine frontline staff at Cyrix's old HQ in Richardson, Texas, walked out yesterday just a day after the CEO of Via said wanted to spin off the CPU division of his company as a separate going concern. According to sources in Richardson, Steve McMahan, former director of engineering, and eight other key people left the firm yesterday to join startup Navarro Networks, run by a former Cyrix vice president called Mark Bluhm. The move, apparently, was unrelated to the announcement. Staff at Cyrix were dismayed last year after Via bought the firm, which formerly sheltered under the comparatively safe umbrella of National Semiconductor. However, Doug Phillips, product marketing manager of Via's CPU business, said this afternoon that the departures will make little difference to the company's roadmap or its plans. He said: "Obviously we'll miss their contributions. Maybe we'll replace these people, maybe not." He said that Via-Cyrix had "more than enough" people to replace the expertise that had walked out. Phillips admitted that it was unusual for a company as large as Via to see such a walkout, but maintained that the roadmap was still firmly in place, despite the departures. He said 50 people were now working at the Richardson HQ. The same sources told The Register that Via boss Wen Chi Chen has made a lightning trip to Richardson, and is at the former Cyrix HQ today, in a last minute bid to stem the flow of engineering staff. An insider said: "This was quite a surprise to the rest of us. It is also a big surprise to Wen Chi Chen, who is planning to be on site... to apply first aid. Too little, too late. It's over. AMD and Intel win, we lose." He is probably too late to staunch the flow, sources added. No one from Via was available for comment at press time. Other sources told The Register that key people that had departed included the head of circuit design, the head of process engineering, the head of physical layout, and the person in charge of silicon validation. Phillips was adamant that the resignations and departures made no difference to Via's long term aims. ® Related Story Via scotches AMD merger rumours
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Internet pharmacies draw fire on Capitol Hill

There are roughly six legitimate Internet pharmacies on line, and approximately four hundred rogue operators selling prescription drugs and controlled substances without compunction, Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall said in testimony before the Senate Health Committee Tuesday. American consumers have unfettered access to potentially dangerous prescription drugs as Viagra, which can cause fatal heart failure if taken improperly, unapproved hormones and steroids which can cause a vast range of medical problems, and addictive narcotic substances through Web pharmacies that sell their products in states other than the one where their offices are physically located, and so avoid local prosecution, she said. The sixteen-year-old son of a staffer was able to order and receive Viagra through such a Web pharmacy, even though he used his Mum's credit card, which, due to a re-marriage, bears a surname different from his own. He was not questioned, and the package arrived without delay or complication, Stovall said. To tackle the problem, she advocated drafting federal legislation modeled on current telemarketing regulations which enable state attorneys general to sue for injunction anywhere in the US. Stovall allowed that cracking down on domestic violators will inevitably drive more of the electronic trade in illicit drugs off shore, and for that she had no recommendation. In addition to the smuggling of illegal pharmaceuticals, foreign sites pose further challenges by sometimes selling counterfeit, improperly labeled, and poorly manufactured knock-off products, Committee Chairman James Jeffords (Republican, Vermont) noted. "We'll be facing challenges overseas that will be absolutely monumental," Committee Ranking Member Ted Kennedy (Democrat, Massachusetts) predicted. It would appear that the only relief from illicit international trade will be increased monitoring by the US Customs Department, and perhaps some political and economic pressure applied by the Department of State through back channels. It's doubtful that the resources exist to make either approach more than marginally effective. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Jane Henney offered to develop a certification procedure which would clearly identify sites in compliance with state pharmacy regulations. The FDA would be forwarding a proposal along those lines to Congress in the coming weeks, she said. But drugstore.com CEO Peter Neupert had a far better idea. The United States would be far better served if the on-line pharmacy industry were to regulate itself, he said. Neupert urged Congress to satisfy itself with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) programme, developed last year by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), and to which drugstore.com proudly subscribes. To become VIPPS certified, an on-line pharmacy must comply with the licensing and inspection requirements of each state to which they ship drugs, and satisfy certain customer privacy guidelines. VIPPS-approved Internet pharmacies are identified with a seal displayed on their Web site. The VIPPS programme criteria are similar to those which the FDA advocates; the difference there is that Henney would make compliance a condition of doing business on line, whereas Neupert would leave it to the pharmacies to decide whether or not they wish to comply with state regulations. The key issue between them is probably fear that the FDA will require strict customer privacy regulations -- strict enough, we would guess, to create significant obstacles to advertising on such sites. This is likely to be the issue that most concerns Neupert, though we imagine he'd sooner hang himself than admit it. According to the drugstore.com privacy statement, the company "will not give, sell, rent, or loan any identifiable personal information to any third party, unless legally required to do so," but may share "non-personal, summary, or aggregate customer data with partners and other third parties." It's not a bad policy; but the industry is perpetually loath to offer any customer privacy except voluntarily, presumably in hopes that marketing rhetoric will eventually persuade consumers to accept less as time goes by. No sense carving anything in stone while hope springs eternal. Neupert, like most e-commerce entrepreneurs, would like to keep the federal government as far away as decency allows. He did have one, rather patronising suggestion for federal contributions, however. "The number-one thing that the federal government can do is get behind consumer education," especially regarding the VIPPS programme, he said. It remains to be seen whether Congress and the FDA wish to be reduced to playing cheerleaders for an industry front group's pet regulatory programme. The Register certainly wouldn't bet on it. ®
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First fake Athlons spotted

A US reseller has warned consumers to be on the lookout for ersatz Athlons. ComputerNerd USA recently received a shipment of counterfeit AMD Athlons. It said its suspicions were aroused after staff noticed that the packaging on the chips appeared to have been tampered with. The plastic cartridge back covers on the fakes were different to the original AMD covers. They were made of a shinier plastic and all the corners were rounded, whereas all angles should be straight with straight intersecting edges. The chips were marked as Athlon 650 0.25 micron (C types) with serial numbers on the case of 219936022369, 219936022600 and 219936022907. Inside, the serial number on the circuit board had been removed and replaced with a smaller sticker with different printing. The serial numbers on the inside sticker differed slightly from those on the cartridge: 219936022781, 219936022780, 219936022802. In addition, the metal clips holding the CPU circuit card looked like they had been opened and reclosed, while some of the resister pads (R121, R147, R158) on the circuit card showed signs of being removed or resoldered. ComputerNerd came across the products on the grey market as it is not an authorised AMD reseller. It said it believed its supplier had been duped by one of its sources. The company added that it feared the counterfeiting operation may be large scale because of the nature of the copying techniques. Richard Baker, European marketing manager at AMD, said he expected the company to look into the matter. He added that AMD had billion dollar factories perfecting the internal workings of chips, so punters would be unwise to buy chips made by "somebody in their back yard with a pair of tweezers and a soldering iron". In January, ComputerNerd was treated to the wrath of AMD's legal eagles when it was told it was breaching the vendor's patents by selling overclocked "Nerdlon" units. ® Related Stories AMD takes legal action against Athlon overclockers Dodgy CDs doing the rounds Fake ASUS motherboards circulate in Europe AMD US lags behind Euro Athlon demand
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German firm registers MP3 as trademark

A German company appears to have registered the MP3 name as its trademark and in accordance with European Union rules is awaiting observations from any parties who may be interested. Hypermedia GmbH Webcasting has registered MP3, one of the most commonly hit words on major search engines, in respect for hardware and software for telecomms, services of processing, storage, broadcasting and distribution of sound or images and data, the gathering and supplying of data messages and information, the creation of software for communications and information and computer programming services. And more. In accordance with European Union trademark rules, any person or body is allowed to make so called observations, but such representations must be sent before the 27 March next to the Community Trade Marks Office, Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, Avenida de Aguilera, 20, E-03080 Alicante, Espana. The office has a fax number which is +34 96 5131 344. An email address is also available here, but you must also refer to application No 1 092 725 MP3. So you'd better get moving, those of you with observations. Hypermedia could not be contacted for confirmation or denial at press time, although it does have a Web site here. ®
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MS code leak ‘ships’ Win 2001 a year early

Early code of Whistler, the next version of Windows 2000, due to go into beta by mid-year, has escaped onto the Web. Microsoft seems to have confirmed that the code is genuine by saying it's investigating the breakout, but is so far taking a pretty laid-back attitude. As well it might - reports indicate that there's nothing earth-shatteringly secret about the current build of Whistler, which tends to confirm our suspicions that "Windows 2001" is going to be one of those eminently do-able and shippable point revs Microsoft's been getting into of late. It'll be a honing and cleaning up of the Win2k base code with added bells and whistles, and - possibly - the Mars shell. But that's not in the current code. According to ActiveWin, which broke the story, the internal build, 2211.1, was posted on "various college and Internet sites" on Monday morning. It looks "almost identical" to Win2k, but includes some HTML enhancements to folders. It also includes marscore.dll, possibly ready and waiting for Mars itself. The addition of Mars is, however, by no means a certainty, nor is it definite that the demo versions that have been seen already, which are a sort of halfway house between shell and MSN client, are any indication of what, if anything, Mars will turn out to be. Last year Microsoft was planning new user interface technology for addition to Millennium, but this was pulled, and it could easily happen again. There's also a problem in terms of look and feel, as regards Whistler, because this OS rev is intended to merge the business and consumer upgrades previously codenamed Odyssey and Neptune respectively. Clearly, a jazzy MSN type UI isn't going to play in business, so it's going to have to change, not get used in the business version, or - in our view the most likely outcome - there won't really be a consumer version this time. Again. ® Related Stories MS roadmaps Balckcomb, plans mid-year Whistler beta Consumer Win2k Neptune not cancelled, just not happening See Also ActiveWin
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Office 2k SR-1 makes registration with MS compulsory

Compulsory registration for Microsoft Office is a reality, following the arrival of Service Release 1 (SR-1) for Office 2000 yesterday. As The Registerreported earlier this year, SR-1 reincorporates the Registration Wizard that appeared during Office 2k beta, and if you haven't registered the product after 50 uses, it stops working. According to Microsoft, existing users installing SR-1 either via download or CD won't be affected by the Registration Wizard, but new purchasers, either retail or OEM, will have to use it. It works by the customer using the Internet, email, phone, fax or post to provide a 16 character installation ID and the country they're registering in, after which the Microsoft Registration Center sends them back an eight character confirmation code. Mindful of previous ghastly privacy screw-ups, Microsoft says the Wizard "is designed to protect customer privacy through a simple and unobtrusive anonymous product registration process." Quite. At the moment SR-1 is only available for individual users as an online update from microsoft.com. Corporate users can download an administrative update which can be used to apply SR-1 to client computers. Or you can order it on CD, with an estimated delivery time of six to eight weeks. The retail version is intended to start shipping in May.b There's apparently one more gotcha if you want to go ahead with the online update. Win98Central tells us that IE is necessary in order for the update to proceed. If you haven't got IE installed when you run the update.exe that starts the install process, it prompts you to go and get it. ® Related stories: Registration Wizard casts spell on Office 2000 MS ID number system could track all Windows users