11th > April > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Porn site confusion forces gadget site relaunch

Men's gadget site Hotbox.co.uk has relaunched itself as Firebox.com following brand confusion with Hotbox.com - a site which offers, among other things, "over 2875 video channels of pure sex". Founders Michael Smith and Tom Boardman were aware of the porn site's existence when they started the site in April 1998, but following a half-million pound investment at the end of last year, they decided to get into the dot.com territory. They paid $5000 for the URL. As a voyeuristic gadget fan, The Register paid Firebox a visit and can report that it's a cracking site - games, remote-controlled just about anythings, watches with spy cameras - gizmo heaven. Male birthday presents have never looked easier to find. Buy the stuff online if it's less than £250, call 'em up if it's more (not sure anyone will buy the £36,000 speedboat, however). Top notch site - good luck, lads. PS. If Firebox wants to send us the Shot Rocks ice tray (makes shot glasses out of ice), we will be eternally grateful... ®
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens appoints CEO

Fujitsu Siemens Computers has named Paul Stodden its new president and CEO. The appointment of Stodden, formerly head of IT services at Siemens, follows last month's ousting of joint presidents Winfried Hoffmann and Robert Hoog. Fifty-two-year-old Stodden worked at IBM Deutschland and General Electric Medical Systems Germany before joining Siemens in 1987. "We have the engine of a great company and I want to fine-tune this into a customer-focused and forward-thinking company for the future," Stodden said. Fujitsu Siemens last month confirmed it would not meet its profits targets for its first six months of business, ended 31 March. ® Related Stories Fujitsu Siemens sacks all the President's men Fujitsu Siemens PC sales don't shine
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Intel re-opens wallet – rapacious moths fly out

Another piece of the complex jigsaw puzzle that Intel is using to build its IXA networking strategy has snapped into place. The firm said late yesterday it had opened its wallet and paid cash for a telephony solutions firm Picazo Comms, which will be used to bolster it and its Dialogic subsidiary. Intel said that the acquisition of Picazo will supply intellectual property, sales skills and engineers to the CT Media server software it is developing. The IXA jigsaw that Intel is putting together is part of a complex plan to create so called "building blocks" for the Internet, with lucrative telco and other infrastructure providers using its knowhow to build the networks of the future. CT Media will focus on the converging voice and data media market, but it's not just all about software. On the back of this initiative Intel hopes to sell servers and goodness knows what sort of other widgets, as it uses its deep pockets to diversify its business away from being just a microprocessor company. Pizaco, based in San Jose, will be merged into Intel's rapidly growing Communications Product Group. Although it is thrifty with its money, Intel is prepared to open its wallet and release rapacious killer vampire moths to stake its future claim in Internet infrastructure. If you want to download all the current pieces of the IXA jigsaw and see which of those pesky blue bits are missing, you can get a heap of Adobe PDF files from this Intel place. ® Related Stories Analysis: Intel's cunning network plan Intel mycelium: the spores bud Intel acquires another firm as IXA mycelium spreads
The Register breaking news

Anti-censorship site censored!

The director of the Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain has challenged Dr Laurence Godfrey to sue him following claims by CACIB that it was gagged over the publication of a story on its Web site. The civil liberties Web site was taken down after Laurence Godfrey, who recently won damages in a libel case against Demon, asked for a headline on the story to be removed. CACIB refused, which, under current law left the ISP hosting the site little choice but to remove it. Hutty, who wrote the story, said: "What I've written is not an actionable libel. "If he wants to sue it's up to him," he said. "We stand behind our comments, but the ISP is naturally neither willing nor able to get involved. The result is that we are presumed guilty, and censored, because our ISP does not want to pay the legal fees to defend us. "This shows that ISPs desperately need legal immunity from the actions of their customers," said Hutty. Godfrey yesterday told The Register that he did ask CACIB to amend the article but that it refused. He maintains that he did not ask for the site to be removed. "They are trying to a make a story about nothing," he said. CACIB has republished its Web site using servers based in the US. Related Stories and Links Campaign Against Censorship of the Internet in Britain Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case Clarification: libel case author not libel case author UK Court rules on ISP liability.
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Osicom falls into receivers' arms

Welsh PC assembler and distributor Osicom has gone into administrative receivership. David Gilbert and Simon Michaels of BDO Stoy Hayward were appointed joint administrative receivers on 6 April. The Cardiff-based outfit, which claims to have been the UK's first Intel Authorised Solutions Provider, has 36 employees. The company, which only sells through the dealer channel, makes workstations, servers, notebooks and telephony systems. Incorporated in December 1994, the company changed its name from Pytime in February 1995. It is part of the OTEK group. ®
The Register breaking news

Rambus PC figures give that FUD feeling

Letter Following an article we published yesterday in which we mentioned that Rambus has posted figures showing that its RIMMs do not need to be more expensive than synchronous memory, a reader (email address supplied) has sent us the following letter: Sorry if I keep writing about nitpicky techie things, but I noticed another one today. The Rambus figures [on its Web site] quote a machine equipped with RDRAM as being only marginally more expensive than a SDRAM machine, and they are right, it can be. You'll notice that they say nothing about the performance of these machines in relation to RDRAM. The subtleties are astounding. You can combine the numbers to say RDRAM can be faster or not much more expensive than SDRAM. Yup. Not both though. Here are the numbers that I hastily dug up, along with links.
The Register breaking news

Sony details music download service

Sony, like fellow 'big five' international recording label BMG, will soon launch an digital music distribution service focused on third-party retailers. Sony's scheme will go live later this month - BMG's won't happen until the summer - and provide over 50 tracks (51, we presume...) through Web sites run by Tower Records, Hastings Entertainment and Alliance Entertainment. Other retailers may come on stream over time - Sony is certainly talking to possible partners. Songs will be added to the roster, too, the company said. Tracks will cost $3.49 per download, though there will be a special $2.49 introductory price. With the focus on a track-by-track basis, it's clear Sony is initially focusing on singles, unlike its 'big five' rival, which appears to be pursuing album sales too. And with prices more than three times what many digital music fans are used to paying, Sony is perhaps trying to tap into markets beyond the emerging market for teenage, baggy pants-wearing MP3 listeners. Both companies will be using Reciprocal's digital rights management system. BMG said it would provide its music in a variety of formats, though Sony has selected just Microsoft Audio, which is surprising given the company's solid state Walkman players use its own ATRAC-3 format. This does at least open the music to users who don't own a Sony player, though, at the same time it restricts sales to Windows users. Linux fans are almost certainly ruled out here, though Mac owners at least have access to a flaky beta version of Windows Media Player, if they can find it. ® Related Story BMG digital music service to launch this summer
The Register breaking news

MS IE source code give away: the WSJ changes its mind

MS on Trial The strange thing about yesterday's Wall Street Journal story on Internet Explorer was that although it seemed one of the paper's better scoops, it wasn't getting promoted. As a matter of fact, it was being steadily downplayed towards oblivion through the day. But now all is revealed - sort of; the WSJ published it by accident. Through gritted teeth a spokesman told the deadly rival New York Times: "The story was not ready for publication and should not have been posted." The story had made it to the WSJ Interactive, but didn't go into the print edition, and didn't escape via Dow Jones Newswire either.* It had claimed that the DoJ and the states were considering asking for Microsoft to be forced to give away Internet Explorer source code licences, royalty free, as part of a comprehensive remedies package, but of course the WSJ's rapid back-tracking raises questions about the story's accuracy. Or does it? It's almost inevitable that the story emanated from a source in or close to the government camp, so it still seems likely that the 'give away IE' option is at least under consideration, if not on the table. It seems far more likely that the story was pulled because the source had placed restrictions on the use of the information, but that these had been ignored in error. Or that a draft of a story in preparation had escaped early. Microsoft however was quick to claim, somewhat disingenuously, that the whole thing was silly. Spokesman Mark Murray said that the notion was "illogical" because Microsoft already gave IE away for free. He does of course studiously fail to register that there's a huge difference between giving out free products and giving away the source so OEMs and developers can modify it. But he would, wouldn't he? ® Related stories: MS may be forced to give away IE source code * The WSJ story also escaped via our good friends at ZDNet US, who republished it with due attribution to the WSJ Interactive and the author. Our friends at Cyberchump Central, ZDNet UK, swiftly pounced on it and republished it too. But the attributed it to ZDNet US, and didn't credit the WSJ or the author. Cyberchump Central has however had an uncharacteristic lucky break here, as although the Mighty Dow ordinarily would surely come down on them like a ton of bricks for this kind of goof, as it now wishes the story hadn't happened... ®
The Register breaking news

Tucows does an Andover.net with Linux site buy

Tucows, the Canadian software download site, is pumping up its editoriaL content with the acquisition of Linux Weekly News. Terms were undisclosed. Tucows has been knocking around for years as a destination site for free and paid-for downloads. The advent of Linux, and all the various distros, suits its business down to the ground - right now, Tucows is probably the closest competitor to Freshmeat, the soon-to-be-VA Linux-owned download site. The company currently claims 100 million-plus page views impressions per month. Expect an IPO this year. ®
The Register breaking news

3DLabs buys Intense 3D as ATI, Nvidia breathe down neck

3DLabs is to snap up Intergraph's graphics chip division, Intense 3D, for 3.69 million shares - worth around $30 million - and a further $25 million in cash and/or stock if the division performs well throughout the rest of 2000. The buyer described the acquisition of Intense 3D's product line as "complementary" and it's true that the Intergraph offshoot's Wildcat line does sit right at the top end of the Windows workstation market. 3DLabs' offerings broadly come in underneath Wildcat, though there's clearly some cross-over between high-end Oxygen boards and Wildcat, just as there's competition at the low end of the workstation arena from the likes of Nvidia, ATI and 3dfx. Indeed, that's likely to be what has driven the move. The power of 3D chips traditionally aimed at the PC games market has reached the point that when combined with good OpenGL drivers and solid board designs they can compete in the workstation space. Certainly 3dfx has been making plenty of noise about chasing applications other than games of late - particularly in its discussion of Mac support - and neither ATI nor Nvidia are loath to suggest an interest in the professional graphics market. Under the terms of the deal, 3DLabs will supply Intergraph with graphics cards for its own Windows workstation line. Intense 3D will continue to operate as a separate unit from its own HQ - for the immediate future only its technology will migrate into 3D Labs' kit. How long that arrangement will last, however, remains to be seen. As Peter Glaskowsky, graphics analyst at MicroDesign Resources, told CNET, there are just too many graphics chip vendors out there, and a degree of consolidation is inevitable. CNET notes the current sale of S3's chip division to Via, 3dfx's recent acquisition of Gigapixel, and ATI's ArtX buy. We'd add Apple's acquisition of Raycer, made last year, to the list, not to mention the collapse of Real 3D, whose assets are now owned by Intel (and licensed to 3dfx). The dynamics of the graphics market may well be why Intergraph was willing to sell off a division that not only supplies its own needs, but has an OEM business selling to the likes of IBM, Dell and Compaq. The implication is clearly that, on its own, Intense3D faces tough times ahead. A merger with a player that itself could do with a little reinforcement strengthens both, but the upward pressure from the games guys remains, and it's considerable. Meanwhile, don't forget that Intergraph itself is keen to move away from its hardware heartland into software and services, so the sale ties in neatly with that strategy too. ® Related Stories Via to buy S3 graphics chip operation 3dfx licenses Intel's Real3D patents Bitboys misses 3D superchip debut deadline 3dfx to grab Gigapixel for $186m ATI confirms $400m ArtX takeover Apple dashes to buy Raycer
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Hitachi unveils ‘free PC’ scheme

Hitachi is to give away 100,000 PCs in Japan to boost the country's e-commerce industry - and, naturally, its own profits. The Hitachi deal will operate through third-parties - e-commerce companies will be able to hand over PCs to punters, paying the manufacturer from their own hopefully increased sales. Hitachi's partners will operate membership schemes, so presumably the vendor is after all that juicy demographic and buying pattern data, too. All that's missing is a tie-in with an ISP. It's not yet clear how the partners themselves will manage the provision of the PCs - will members have to agree to buy a certain quantity of goods, for instance - but presumably details will be announced when Hitachi's partners are themselves revealed. That should be soon. Hitachi said it wants to offload the 100,000 Windows 98 machines by June. Good luck, we say. We're sure Hitachi believes the economics will work, but we can't help wondering what happened to the great swath of free PC deals that was supposed to appear throughout the West during 1999 but... er... didn't. ® Related Stories Sega US preps free Dreamcast lure for its ISP Japanese firm offers 50,000 free Dreamcasts
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MS hires spin doctor to lobby for Bush trial backing

MS on Trial Microsoft has retained Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition and now "senior consultant" to the George Bush presidential campaign. The reason, if it needs to be spelt out, is to persuade Bush to speak against the DoJ case. Bush has previously said that Microsoft was "an engine of growth" and that he favoured "innovation over litigation" which has been taken by many to suggest that he would take Microsoft's side if he became president. Bush has also said recently that he would not discuss specific aspects of the Microsoft case because of the ongoing litigation, which must make him a lonely politician. Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said Microsoft had hired Reed to parry a "comprehensive lobbying campaign by our competitors" and to get its point of view across, including to Al Gore, although it is not being revealed how Gore is being won over. If he still needs to be, that is. Gore and Steve Ballmer are buddies, and both on the Harvard Board of Regents. Reed's firm Century Strategies is targeting senior Bush supporters from around the country to persuade them to write to Bush supporting Microsoft. The New York Times received one of the emails from a recipient who disagreed with the campaign. Apparently the firm was offering regional contractors $300 for each letter. But that's not all. The emails included a Microsoft-commissioned poll that just happen to show that Americans do not support the case against Microsoft. This poll was the one by Zogby International that we wrote about recently, and at the time we wondered why it was not being much publicised. John Zogby now confirms that the questions in his poll were written by Microsoft. Curiously, Zogby is a registered Democrat who has found the knack of producing results that make Republicans feel good. Iowa attorney general Tom Miller, who leads the case against Microsoft for the plaintiff states, described his poll as "slanted". ® Related item: MS trial waste of money, says poll for MS-backed outfit
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Wide Open News Linuxcare CEO Departs, IPO Postponed

San Francisco-based Linuxcare has replaced CEO Fernand Sarrat with a newly created office, led by the company's VP of service delivery, Pat Lambs. Also named to the new office is Arthur Tyde, Linuxcare cofounder and executive VP, Ted Schlein, a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and chairman of Linuxcare's board, and Paul Vais, a Linuxcare board member and managing director at Patricof & Co. Ventures. Not confirmed in the company's written statement were rumors repeated by Client Server News that CIO Douglas Nassaur had also left the company. Amid the hubbub and rumours, Linuxcare has decided to delay its pending IPO, which had been slated April 24. The company declined to project a new date. The IPO's underwriters, which include Credit Suisse First Boston, Chase H&Q, and Fleet Boston Robertson Stephens, offered no comment. But Giga Information Group analyst Stacey Quant told News.com, "Given the environment on Wall Street overall, it may not have been an opportune time to go public. The question is when one of these [Linux] companies will become profitable." The news (announced Friday, April 7 ) generated much self-flagellation on Slashdot, but didn't seem to affect investors' opinions of other Linux stocks. Red Hat, Caldera Systems, VA Linux, and Andover.Net closed just slightly down from the previous day. VA posted the greatest loss, slipping nearly five points to 50 1/8, but the loss seems in tune with the general market skittishness that has surrounded tech stocks during the past week. ® Wide Open News is a partner of The Register
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Via buys S3 chip biz for $323m-plus

Via has bought S3's 3D chip business, just like it said it would yesterday. The announcement came a little later than planned, but the deal is pretty much what the company yesterday told Taiwan's Commercial Times it would be. The acquisition will cost Via at least $323 million in cash and securities, with further sums to be paid to S3 if the chip unit makes certain unstated financial performance targets. Via will also buy three million S3 shares - the Taiwanese company already owns 15 per cent of S3 - "at a price coincident with the signing of the definitive agreement". Once it takes over the business, Via will incorporate it into Via-S3, the joint venture it already owns with S3 to develop integrated graphics and North Bridge chipsets. Indeed, that still seems to be Via's prime interest in S3's chip technology, stressing that side of the operation over its Savage family of 3D accelerator chips. S3 has managed to build up a lot of momentum behind the Savage line over the last 18 months or so, pulling the company back from the edge of oblivion. But since the launch of the Savage 2000, made after the company bought the more diverse Diamond Multimedia, its eye does seem to have drifted from the ball. Allegations that the company hasn't enabled certain Savage 2000 features it previously advertised as being ready for use hasn't helped. Whether Via will pick up this technology and run with it remains to be seen. S3 itself - now it's pretty much what Diamond was before the acquisition - will relaunch itself as an "Internet appliance company". That seems to mean a greater focus on its Rio product line and home networking offerings than Net appliances per se, though clearly these are in the pipeline - S3 was one of the first companies to sign a processor deal with Transmeta, you may recall. S3 will also continue to develop its DSL modem business. What S3 hasn't said how its remaining divisions, specifically its games-oriented sound and video card business and its high-end FireGL workstation graphics card line, fit into all this. The fact is, they don't and we can expect an announcement soon that will see them sold to third-parties or spun off into further joint ventures. In fact, given Via said S3 was talking to other companies, this should come as no surprise. Of course, it was assumed that they were all after the chip business, but that looks less likely now. It's a plan not dissimilar to SGI's attempts to get rid of its Windows NT workstation and Cray supercomputer businesses. We hope S3 has more luck, but in a very crowded market - witness 3DLabs' acquisition of Intense 3D, 3dfx's purchase of Gigapixel and ATI's ArtX buy - we're not entirely sure its going to get what it wants. ® Related Stories Via to buy S3 graphics chip operation 3DLabs buys Intense 3D as ATI, Nvidia breathe down neck
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Bitboys delays 3D superchip to up feature-count

Bitboys, the 'revolutionary' Finnish 3D silicon company, has broken its silence to explain why it didn't announce chips based on its Xtreme Bandwidth Architecture (XBA) last month. Back in January, when XBA itself was unveiled, Bitboys promised to "introduce the final product specifications, product names and target prices of the first XBA enabled products March 2000". Well, the deadline came and went, but of Glaze3D (or whatever it's now going to be called) there was no sign. So why the no-show? To get the feature balance right, according to CEO Shane Long in a statement Bitboys is mailing out to anyone who asks what's up. We thought we'd had a personal message until various Register readers turned up waiving identical emails. Writes Long: "We set ourselves a target to define our first XBA enabled product, its trademark and specifications by the end of March. The current engine looks very good and our theories on bandwidth and fill-rate have been proven. XBA will provide a huge performance increase over the industry standard architectures employed by our competitors. "At this point, however, it is crucial for our company to deliver the right product for the market in terms of not only the performance, but also in terms of the features. XBA does enable superior fill-rates, but we wish to ensure that our first product is an unqualified success in all areas of performance in the 3D pipeline." That's fair enough, but it does sound like the standard response of a company that's spent a lot of time on a really hot product only to find that its rivals are beginning to catch up. In order to get its lead back, it needs to skip a generation and go straight on to an even more advanced product. Indeed, as Long puts it: "We have decided to push ahead with plans to incorporate our high performance geometry processing solution into our first product. This, together with the use of 0.17 micron manufacturing technology will extend the start of our commercial production to 2001 but will enhance the overall performance even further." This is beginning to sound like 3dfx, which kept having to put back its Voodoo 4 chip (which later became the VSA-100). "We are on track to have a technology demonstration of XBA this year. We will release the final product specification and its new trademark (changed due to claimed conflict of Glaze3D with an existing trademark) as soon as practically possible," admitted Long. Still, you can't get too cross with a young company when it makes the classic mistake of specifying when a product will be done - as we said, even the much more experienced 3dfx did it too. And we do look forward to Bitboys' demonstrations - we'll be more than happy to welcome Long and co. at Vulture Central when the time comes. ® Related Stories Bitboys misses 3D superchip debut deadline Via buys S3 chip biz for $323m-plus 3DLabs buys Intense 3D as ATI, Nvidia breathe down neck
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Fishy pirate gets snared in Net

It's a tale of fish and piracy on the high seas, me hearties, the likes of which have never been heard before in these parts. The chief fishery officer for the Sussex Sea Fisheries District Committee, Stephen Holman, has coughed up to leading a secret life and trading illegally in thousands of pounds worth of counterfeit software. By day he was a real-life Cap'n Birdseye, by night he called himself The Software Man, but now this fishy tale has come to an end - the chips were definitely down for Holman. In sharp contrast to his duties as chief fishery officer - where he would patrol the waters off the Sussex coast and uphold the nation's fishing regulations - Holman was found to have ordered around 1000 dodgy MS Office Pro97 CDs from the US. He was found out after replying to an advert on the Internet. The double-life of the fishy fellow was revealed by Microsoft's anti-piracy brigade, fearless and unswerving in its fight against pirates everywhere. After coming clean, Holman was given a 12-month conditional discharge. MS anti-piracy manager Julia Phillpot said: "Mr Holman has been very lucky, considering he was caught red-handed with counterfeit software." ®
The Register breaking news

China conducting ‘pre-war recon’ on line

"A military operation involves deception." Therefore, "lure the enemy in with the prospect of gain; then take him by confusion," the old Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu, advises in his famous Art of War treatise. There is hardly a more penetrating insight into China's dual programmes of seducing Western corporations into high-tech international commerce, with conditional technology transfers, while aggressively pursuing cyber-warfare and economic espionage capabilities via the Internet. These efforts have enabled China to obtain Western military secrets through commercial technology-transfer seduction, as revealed by the on-going criminal cases of Loral, Hughes, and most recently Lockheed Martin, which the US Department of State has just charged with 30 violations of arms export regulations involving Chinese satellite technology. And what China can't obtain with 'the lure of gain', or with more traditional, hands-on methods of spying, it gets from network intrusions carried out over the Internet, a number of military specialists believe. The goal is not just economic espionage and the theft of lucrative commercial technology, but also the ability to use information technology as a weapon capable of crippling an adversary's critical infrastructure. "China has the biggest [information warfare] programme from the standpoint of being able to attack our infrastructure," Chinese military specialist William Triplett said during an interview on the CBS News programme 60 Minutes this weekend. "It's inexpensive, and it's a way to get serious bang for the buck," he added. The Pentagon is worried. If an attack were carried out, even just a test attack, it's likely that it would go undetected and might well be attributed to equipment failure or some natural event, US Joint Task Force on Computer Network Defence Director General John Campbell pointed out. The Clinton Administration, too, is very worried about cyber-warfare, but inexplicably not at all worried about the People's Liberation Army. "What's going on throughout the world right now is cyber-war reconnaissance, where many nations -- at least a half dozen -- are scanning each other's networks to get a good map of where the key [assets] are, and what the key vulnerabilities are. So you might think of it as pre-war reconnaissance," White House coordinator for counter-terrorism and infrastructure protection Richard Clarke said during the same 60 Minutes story. This is something Master Sun recognised well. "Test them to find out where they are sufficient and where they are lacking," he recommends. "Be extremely subtle....extremely mysterious. Thereby you become the director of your opponent's fate." Surely, if the Internet had existed in the Fourth Century BC, Sun Tzu would have been it's most enthusiastic and skilful on-line warrior. Yet interestingly, Clarke got through his CBS interview, and earlier managed to deliver a 2500-word infrastructure security speech in October of 1998, without once mentioning China. In deference to his boss, China trade cheerleader Bill Clinton, Clarke chose by way of example a hypothetical cyber-extortion demand from "a Columbian drugs cartel," a non-controversial and universal bogeyman if ever there was one. It's a pity that one of the best-informed and most articulate voices in the field of cyber-warfare should be willing to kowtow to the White House's China-coddling politics, when the full story is so rich with implications in both the military and economic realms, and in the rapidly broadening region where the two overlap. It is difficult to reconcile the Administration's professed concern over information warfare with its blasé attitude towards the country that has, by all accounts, the most highly developed capability in that area, without recalling the large amounts of money funnelled from China into the Clinton/Gore re-election campaign. Perhaps it succeeded in buying a few bits of 'strategic ignorance' here and there. Of course, a comparable sum of Chinese money found its way into the Dole campaign as well, though this was never publicised as the Senator lost the race. Backing both parties is a simple and effective strategy. The Chinese don't care who wins the White House; they only care that whoever wins it should owe them something. So look for lots of dicey soft-money contributions from China to both parties during Campaign 2000, and subsequent White-house soft-pedalling of PLA naughtiness in favour of Islamic extremists and drugs cartels, regardless of who should win. ®
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Bo! Teenagers SMS call to stress-test UK mobile network

In what can be described as the techie equivalent of asking everyone in China to jump up and down at the same time to see whether it starts an earthquake, two teenage lads from Nottingham want to be bombarded with as many SMS messages as possible to "stress-test the UK's mobile phone network".
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Customers afraid to visit Sun

Sun has launched its first European competency centre, housed in an elegant building in an upmarket area of Paris just a spit from the Seine. As any good estate agent will tell you, the three most important things to consider when moving to a new property are location, location and location. "We used to have cheap real estate outside of town that no one wanted to go to, especially late at night," admitted EMEA VP Robert Youngjohns. And with revenues currently growing at 27 per cent, Sun obviously has plenty of spare cash burning a hole in its pocket. The glitzy new centre is packed with Sun hardware running a wide selection of software from partner organisations . This is designed to provide a walk-in centre where potential customers can see how their systems will look and feel rather than having to rely on the traditional means of benchmark performance predictions and sitting through interminable PowerPoint presentations. The aim is to demonstrate interoperability between systems, and 20 full-time engineers will be on hand to make sure everything keeps running. Paris joins Menlo Park in California and Tokyo as the three main worldwide knowledge centres with partners planning to open up to 40 smaller ready centres in their own premises around the world. While the concept makes perfectly good sense, one has to wonder why it took Sun so long to get started – dear old ICL, for example, had just such a customer centre in sunny downtown London some 15 years ago. Youngjohns also takes a perverse pride in being bad-mouthed by his previous employer, IBM: "It's nice to be regarded as the standard in dotcoming, but then everyone takes shots at you. At the IBM user group meeting in the US last week, we were attacked more than anyone else," he claimed. ®
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Boffins unveil 600Gb per inch non-volatile RAM

US Navy scientists have managed to combine a hard disk and Flash memory to create a new solid state magnetic memory medium that provides instant access - or as near as dammit - to its non-volatile contents. And the capacity of the marvel of the modern age? "We anticipate we can put 400 gigabits (Gb) in a square inch," US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) solid state physicist Gary Prinz told the LA Times. That works out at 50GB per inch. Instead of transistors, the NRL system used microscopic stacks of magnetic hoops. The resistance of each hoop is determined by its magnetic state, which can be North or South, or as far as binary data is concerned, 1 or 0. Measure the resistance and you have a way of reading the Each hoop is used as a memory cell to store a single bit of data. Measure the resistance and you have a way of reading the bit. And because the hoops retain their magnetic state when the power's pulled, the cells retain their data. The technique isn't all that new - it first emerged in the late 80s, and various companies have been tinkering with it ever since. They have focused their efforts on maximising the effect of the magnetic material's resistance on its magnetic state. The NVL's breakthrough was to get the technology down to sub-micron - in other words, of a comparable size to computer chips - levels and to figure out how to use it to build practical memory systems. The Naval Research Laboratory is currently working with Minnesota-based Nonvolatile Electronics Inc. to get the technology up to production standard. Other companies have told Prinz there won't be any problems taking production up to the levels needed to make the technology a commercial reality, the LA Times reported. ® Related Stories US boffins develop molecular memory UK boffins unveil $35 '2300GB on a PC Card' RAM breakthrough
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Readers solve Pentium III laws of physics dilemma

You may not want an Intel Coppermine Pentium III. You might well be better off with an older Katmai processor instead. For although the newer part boasts a level two cache running at full core speed, it is now clear that despite Chipzilla's claims that 256K running at full speed is equal to 512K at half speed, Coppermine is outperformed by the older chip when handling large amounts of data, and outperformed by slower chips to boot. When we revealed that a 700MHz Coppermine performed worse than a 500MHz Katmai when running SETI at home analysis (Story: Pentium III defies the laws of physics), we were at a loss initially to explain how this could be. But Register readers came to the rescue and supplied an answer that in retrospect is so obvious that we should have spotted it ourselves. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. Kenneth J. Hendrickson of Florida takes up the story: "There will be some applications where the data fits entirely into the smaller cache on the 700 MHz Coppermine, and for those applications it will appear faster. There will be other applications where the data is too large to fit into either processor's cache; in that case, factors other than CPU speed will determine performance. "The fastest processor in the world is not impressive unless you can keep it fed with data. Perhaps the Coppermine is starved for data in the SETI application." Guy Morrogh adds: "One processor runs all the system processes and handles all the interrupts, including handlers for the clock, disk, screen (drawing graphics etc). These have to be swapped into the cache, meaning that the benchmark gets pushed out and has to be reloaded into the cache. With two processors, only one processor gets hit when these run. "SETI likes a bigger cache - you'll probably find it works better with a larger cache, even if it is slower. If it overflows a 256K cache, but not a 512K cache, it will have to make a lot of hits to main memory, which is going to take a lot of clock ticks with a 7x clock ratio." "I can perhaps help you with the Lancewood mystery," Dean Johnson says. "I have a SGI 1200 with dual 700e's and 1Gb of memory and most of the time it is running SETI@Home, for which I have the source because I am on the porting team. "Under Linux, the SETI@Home client uses about 13Mb of memory, so the overall memory isn't an important thing. The key, however, is the size of the cache. The data for a Seti work unit is about 350K, so the difference between smaller and larger caces is huge due to the poorly optimised FFT (fast fourier transform) that eats up most of the CPU time. For instance, A PII 350 is twice as fast as a Celeron 466. So if you're manipulating large wodges of data, you're better off with an old 500MHz Katmai PIII than a shiny new 700+MHz Coppermine. And in dual processor configurations, the older chips benefit from having a whopping 1Mb of L2 cache, meaning they hardly ever suffer a cache miss even with the most data-hungry applications ®
The Register breaking news

Mobile monsters make m-commerce world domination bid

Mobile phone behemoths Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola have joined forces to develop what they hope will become the de facto standard for secure mobile electronic transactions. The companies believe the move will create a huge demand for new mobile phones offering secure e-commerce for transactions such as banking, buying train and plane tickets, paying for parking and ordering products over the Internet. In an alarmingly-short time, even by the mad standards of the mobile phone industry, they plan to publish a draft of their security plan (as soon as next month). The trio will then invite other industry players to participate in the finalisation of an open standard before the summer. In typically bullish mood, the telephonic triumvirate claims that in three years' time, more people will be accessing the Web by phone than by PC. "Our ambition is to formulate an environment which allows mobile operators, financial institutions, and other service providers to facilitate secure electronic transactions," said Jan Ahrenbring, VP of Marketing and Communications at Ericsson. "We estimate that by 2004 there will be around one billion users of mobile telephony and some 600 million mobile Internet subscribers worldwide. "The most important thing needed to get all these consumers to start using mobile e-commerce is a standard that makes it safe and easy to use." Acronym alert The phone makers say their new standard will incorporate WAP, Bluetooth, WIM (Wireless Identification Module), PKI (Public Key Technologies) and WTLS (Wireless Transport Layer Security) technology, as well as the mobile payment schemes already in use. Products could be with us as early as next year, they claim, which will be capable of replacing wallets, ID cards, credit cards and cash. This will obviously make things a lot easier for criminals who will now only need to steal one item per mugging. ® Related stories Wap throws up latest bunch of gazillionaires Don't believe the m-commerce hype Text me, Cindy (my Bluetooth baby) The future is bright, the future is wireless