BOFH2K1: BOFH returns from the dead He's mean, he's moody, he's less than magnificent BOFH2K2: Wanted Bastard Operators to man Helldesk BOFH meets the troops. He's not impressed BOFH2K3: BOFH unmasks the printer smasher Workplace disenfranchised user complex BOFH2K4: BOFH goes to Hollywood Medical drama unfolds BOFH2K5: …
The other eight top things to do with Text Messaging have followed our wild and wacky Register vein, but this reason why SMS is a touch more serious. To save you scrolling down to the end we've posted the story right here, as well... 9: To make sure the rapist in your house is caught A 27-year-old woman managed to send her friend the message "Get the police" after she had been attacked, raped and tied up in her own house. Neil Griffiths, 31, leapt on the woman outside her house in February and dragged her inside. After a lengthy ordeal, she feigned illness and managed to send the message at 4am after Griffiths had fallen asleep. The friend contacted the police and Griffiths was arrested shortly after. He pleaded guilty to all charges in court and was sentenced to eight years.
IT mail order company Dabs Direct is to change its name to dabs.com next month in preparation for an IPO by the end of the year. Dabs MD David Atherton is not yet sure how much of the Bolton-based company to float, but said he would expect 20 per cent of the business to fetch around £20 million. He plans to invest part of the money raised in expanding Dabs' product range – and is considering moving into such areas as office equipment, videos, cameras or even fridges and freezers. The rest of the money will help the £90 million t/o outfit's planned online music and video-selling business, Playdirect.com, to get off the ground. Dabs is due to open a London office for the two businesses, while it is also spending £2.5 million on a new warehouse facility in Bolton. The Internet accounted for £3.2 million of Dabs sales last month – almost half the £8.8 million total sales figure for March. "Our Web sales are considerably greater than those of jungle.com", according to Atherton. "The company has reached such a point that an IPO is the next logical step," he said. ® Related stories Dabs Direct launches Playdirect.com Dabs fingers Web for sales boost
A warm, sweet scented aromatherapy massage for those clever people at the Body Shop for deciding to flog their lotions and potions on the Net; painful colonic irrigation for the person responsible for not registering the e-outfit's new domain name in time. The new e-outfit is called Body Shop Digital and is backed with $15 million of venture capital from Softbank. Unfortunately, someone last night registered the domain of the Body Shop Digital 's new e-commerce outfit -- bodyshopdigital.com and .co.uk -- and it wasn't anyone from Anita Roddick's hippy perfumery. Needless to say the PR bunnies (none were hurt during the making of this story) didn't have a clue what was going on when the Reg called. One did manage to utter that this wasn't really a problem and that the new site would probably follow the pattern of the Body Shop's existing domain -- The-Body-shop.com. Well, that's one way round it. Except that Body-Shop-Digital.com was still available today, although for how much longer is anyone's guess. Yesterday, CE Patrick Gournay said that the company had to "put [its) house in order" before selling things on the Net. Quite. ®
The latest entrant in the free Internet access stakes is Excite UK. With a single £50 annual charge and £20 for subsequent years, Excite is claiming there are no hidden costs such as monthly subscription charges or forcing users to change from their current telephone service provider. U Users also get free email and 5Mb of web space. A family service is available at extra cost which supports up to four email addresses. TFI (The Free Internet) also offers single-channel ISDN access and 30 minutes before auto disconnect. Although the service is billed as 24/7 without restrictions, the small print in the terms and conditions reveals a block on bandwidth-hungry tasks such as streaming audio and video, MP3 downloads and frequent automatic checks for new email. But an Excite spokesman told The Register>/i> that the restrictions could just be a temporary measure: "We're at the bleeding edge here, we'll be reviewing traffic levels continually and could see some restrictions being lifted within a couple of months." He added that LAN modem sharing under Windows 2000 was also possible. For users wanting unrestricted access, Excite offers another service using local call rates. More at Excite.co.uk. ®
UK online gaming company BarrysWorld has secured £2 million funding to improve its network and recruit more users. from venture capitalists 3i Group. Venture capitalist company 3i will initially give BarrysWorld £1 million, with another £1 million due before the end of the year. The gaming company is looking for £3 million in total to progress with its expansion plans, and expects to confirm within the next two weeks who will be providing the extra cash. It plans to use the cash in three main areas –technology, staff and marketing. It has just signed a deal with Cisco for a loan to upgrade its hardware and software, and the improved network system is expected to go live in July. "First we need to get our infrastructure up to date," said Gerraint Bungay, BarrysWorld sales and marketing director. "The service has suffered because it has been so popular. It has not been as good as the BarrysWorld of old because it is overloaded. We aim to get it back on track and then onto the next stage – to make it the fastest online games network in Europe." The company will also plough cash into recruiting new users for the service. Between June and November it will target the rest of the hardcore gamers in the UK. The marketing campaign will include most of the consumer press, with plans to spend £150,000 on online advertising. Directors are keen not to alienate the service's current 22,000 users, but say the company will start looking for more 'softcore' users to expand its user database – from sites such as one.net and gameplay.com - early next year. There are also plans to take on more staff – it has brought in ex Demon business development director Adrian Brownlow as MD, and will have 20 staff by the end of May. It will be looking for another round of funding later this year. BarrysWorld, started by a bunch of gaming enthusiasts in 1998, has 22,000 registered online gamers. ® Related stories £10m says Gameplay is European gateway Brazil bans Quake and other PC games Pokeman more desirable than sex and MP3
This is the updated Register PR tariff. We are still The Corruptibles...
While Intel's heavyweights were wooing financial analysts in New York yesterday, AMD had an alternative gig down the road, with CEO Jerry Sanders telling his shareholders what the future holds. Sanders said the outlook was good. A year ago, he said, AMD had the biggest operating loss in its history, while in its latest quarter it achieved operating profit margins at over 16 per cent. AMD's business model depends on a high level of fixed costs but Sanders said that once the company's revenues exceeded the break even levels, "a substantial portion" of incremental revenues would fall to the bottom line. AMD has now reached that point, he claimed. AMD had logged more patents in 1999 than its major competitor Intel, Sanders said, registering 825 US patents and making it number 18 worldwide. Over half of the R&D investment was devoted to process technology both on microprocessors and in Flash memory. AMD will expand the capacity of its joint venture with Fujitsu by over 70 per cent this year, and will double production next year. That will mean a third large fabrication plant for Flash in Japan is likely to be built. That will again double capacity by 2002. AMD now has 17 per cent market share of the microprocessor market, compared to 82.1 per cent for Intel. Sanders pointed out that left less than one per cent for other x86 manufacturers, which, he said "had been crushed to virtual extinction by the Intel monopoly". AMD's goal is to have 30 per cent of the PC microprocessor market by the end of next year. The firm is ramping up production at its Texan Fab 25, and will receive revenues from Dresden (Fab 30) by June. The Athlon will form over half of AMD's total PC chips shipped this year, at a figure over 25 million parts, he said. AMD is ahead of schedule, and shipped "tens of thousands" of 900MHz, 950MHz and 1GHz Athlons in March. In Q2, the firm will ship hundreds of thousands and will sell out in Q2, because of strong demand and Intel's problems in matching high clock speeds in volume. By the end of the year, AMD would introduce Athlons with one megabute of level two cache on-die, better power management, and, he said "a few other surprises". There will be more than one member of the 64-bit Sledgehammer family, Sanders suggested. These chips will help AMD to penetrate the high end server and workstation markets. AMD is now a virtual gorilla, Sanders concluded. Next month, the firm will go for a two way stock split, a move that is bound to please AMD shareholders. The share price of AMD closed on Wall Street last night at $85.25, up three dollars on the day. ®
Heavyweight Intel executives told Wall Street financial analysts yesterday that Willamette is likely to arrive in the last quarter of this year, thus putting a more realistic spin on expectations aroused by senior executive Pat Gelsinger earlier this week. At the same time, Intel re-iterated its push to take advantage of opportunities offered by the Internet, and said that it would invest further money in ventures aimed at growing this side of the firm's business. Andy Grove, Intel's chairman, kicked off by telling the analysts that his firm was in the middle of a major change. He showed a simulation that, he said, demonstrated the whole Internet ran on silicon and Intel was building up a product portfolio relevant to those changes. Senior VP Paul Otellini started off by saying that reports last year that the PC era was over needed a "reality check". The PC business had grown by over 21 per cent last year, and IDC had raised its forecast for this year to 19 per cent. "This is a very, very large business indeed," he said. Asia Pacific, he said, was recovering nicely. China is now Intel's third largest country market in the world and "never really saw recession". Japan is also showing resurgence as a consumption market for PCs. America and Europe were still showing a consumer-centric demand. In the US, the replacement cycle for PCs was coming down because of an increasingly large notebook penetration, as well as demand for higher performance machines. Notebooks were a good growth opportunity for Intel because of higher ASPs. Celeron volumes were growing "nicely" except for Q1 2000 this year, he said. "We'll continue to keep Celeron very competitive," he said. "We'll introduce speeds of Celeron up to 700MHz in the second quarter." Intel has four fabs producing .18µ micron Pentium IIIs and will introduce a fifth at its Dublin fab towards the end of the year. He said that 50 per cent of Intel processors will move to .18µ by Q2. He told the analysts that Intel was on track to produce its Willamette processor towards the end of the year, with clock speeds starting at 1.4GHz, and aimed at the performance (read high price) sector of the market. That means that Intel will start regular sampling of Willamette products round about summer. Although a source close to Intel told The Register earlier in the week that some Willamette samples were already out and about, PC manufacturers will have to wait quite some time before they get their hands on samples. Timna will be introduced at speeds of 600MHz and above. "It's in good shape," he said. Intel already had several PC OEM designs wins. Timna will be incorporated in very small form factors and will have a low bills of material (BOM) cost. A wide number of manufacturers will have machines using Willamette in volume for Q1 2001. Otellini said the 8xx family of chipsets will be fully refreshed. By the end of the year over 80 per cent of shipments will be part of that family. Fifty per cent of these will have integrated graphics, making Intel the largest supplier worldwide of graphics, he said. Intel spends over $40 million a year on validation testing of its chipsets, he said. The chipset business is a driver for overall technology innovations. Intel's installed base of graphics users is over 25 million, he said. Intel has shipped over one million lines of code to support each chipset, two million for the high end chipsets. Otellini said server business grew by 32 per cent in 1999, and Intel server business was growing faster than its Risc competitors. Intel told the analysts that two formerly separate groups -- the Intel architecture group headed up by Otellini, and the design group -- headed up by Dr Albert Yu, will be merged into a single entity. Although no reasons for this change were announced, the rationale is fairly clear given difficulties the firm has had executing on its strategy over the last year. Yu and Otellini will jointly manage the merged group. Intel will introduce a mobile Pentium III running at less than one watt in Q2/Q3, and is also on track with its Timna "system on a chip" processor, which will initially be introduced at 600MHz. The firm will invest $100 million on its e-commerce drive, appointing 1,000 Internet specialists who will work at 30 e-business centres across the world. This is part of its server farm push, intended to promote Intel architecture as the major engine to power the Web. ®
Following our story earlier this week (HP eventually wakes up to Win2K,) the Great Stan of printers has issued a measured response. It would seem that the HP party line is that no one ever uses a new operating system until the first service release. "It is certainly standard operating procedure to wait for the first service release before wide scale adoption of a new OS - especially for the IT community," says Rex Robertson of HP software support. "We would certainly want to know about any major problems with Win2K, and release after this is resolved, rather than before. Otherwise, our customers may need to reinstall our software. And HP is undoubtedly protecting users here: there's certainly no danger of having to reinstall software if it isn't available in the first place. But HP's claim that businesses traditionally wait before adopting a new operating system raises another question: following HP's logic, if businesses will wait, early adopters must logically be SOHO users. Why then are there beta Win2K drivers now available for the high-end multifunction products such as the OfficeJet 1150, OfficeJet 1170, OfficeJet R Series, PSC 500 and OfficeJet T Series, and none for the 500, 600 and 700 series most often found in home and small office use? Put simply, beta drivers are available for the corporate users which HP tells us don't need them yet, but not for the small folks who do. That's clever marketing. As we reported in our earlier story, there is a beta print only driver available for download. This does not give any control over the scanning, fax and housekeeping functionality available to Win9X and Win3.X users. Robertson claims that HP is listening to user feedback on the beta drivers before releasing them – what beta drivers? Is there some secret beta programme for which the vast majority of users are not deemed suitable? This isn't how the industry is supposed to work, guys. It's all terribly complicated "OfficeJets are complex devices that provide Print, Scan, Copy, and Faxing functions all working together under an operating system that now supports USB, whereas Windows NT 4.0 did not. Our G Series products now support USB, which was developed in concert with the new Win2K COM driver model. This has meant longer development times and greater R&D efforts to meet this requirement." We don't deny that OfficeJets are complex devices, we like them (and even use them). We don't deny that this leads to longer development times. Our original point was that HP simply didn't start development early enough. Robertson tells us that he personally reads every single response customers post to the HP Windows 2000 OfficeJet site, located here, "I know how urgent this is for our customers. It sounds like a company line, but it isn't - we are working at the fastest possible speed to release this software, but we will not release it until the OfficeJet software and Windows 2000 work well together. Microsoft itself is issuing many updates and hotfixes to the OS, and Service Packs are soon to follow. "In the meantime, we are working on the feedback our customers are providing on installation, functionality, and interoperability with Windows 2000 applications and OS-based applets, many of which are brand new. "Please thank your readers on behalf of HP for their patience. We're hurrying." As my dear old mum never tired of telling me: "You only have to hurry if you don't start on time." ®
As we anticipated, a legal challenge has been made against Geoworks' WAP-related patent (US 5,327,529). Phone.com has filed suit in the District Court in San Francisco asking that the patent be declared invalid and unenforceable - and that Phone.com was not therefore infringing the patent. Phone.com says in its Complaint that Geoworks claims that "virtually the entire wireless Internet industry infringes the patent" which is claimed to cover "all WAP-compliant devices and services". However, Phone.com points out that the patent does not mention wireless Internet technology, and is directed towards object-oriented programming techniques. Nor does the patent mention markup languages. Geoworks is a member of the WAP Forum, and notified other members in January that a licence would be needed. It informed Phone.com that a licence would be needed before 1 July if enforcement action were to be avoided. Phone.com also says that the white paper that Geoworks wrote to back up its patent claim has "erroneous charts". In a damning catalogue of prior art, the court's attention is drawn inter alia to the 1986 SGML standard; Tim Berners-Lee's 1989 proposal that resulted in HTML; X-windows from 1988; and Smalltalk-80. Geoworks' response by CEO Dave Grannan was a formulaic statement that he was "surprised and disappointed". The more interesting revelation was that Phone.com has itself "filed a patent with the WAP Forum which covers much of the WAP architecture and is holding this over the heads of the entire industry, without announcing a licensing program in compliance with WAP Forum rules." We were unable to locate this patent referred to by Geoworks in the IBM patents database. That's strange. ® Related story Geoworks patent claim lobs grenade into WAP Forum
Sony's profits plummeted 32 per cent during the 12 months to 31 March 2000 as the company ramped up its PlayStation 2 marketing campaign and overseas sales were hit by a strong Yen. Neither is surprising. The high value of the Yen compared to the dollar has been a recurring problem for the company for at least the last four quarters, hitting in particular its consumer electronics exports. And the money Sony has been throwing at PlayStation 2 - along with the cost of recalling faulty Memory Cards and the occasional duff console - has been stupendous. And PlayStation 1 marketing hasn't let up overseas, even though the US and European launches are now less than six months away. Continuing marketing spending on PlayStation 1 and the autumn's US, Europe and Japan (in time for Christmas) PlayStation 2 blitz is likely to have a similar impact on Sony's current fiscal year. Indeed, the company said it doesn't expect its net profit to change much during fiscal 2000, though its operating profit should rise by six per cent, bosses predict. And Sony is set to make more major investments in broadband networking during the year as it readies the high-speed Internet entertainment services it's planning to launch March 2001. For the year to 31 March 2000, Sony recorded a net profit of Y121.84 billion ($1.14 billion), down from the Y179 billion ($1.68 billion) it made last year. ®
Ananova is being fisted by a 28-year-old prehensile manipulator that reckons when it comes to reading the news, the cyberanchorwoman is all fingers and thumbs. Handanova - described as the world's first "digital" newscaster - used to work as a model on The Shopping Channel. This is his first hand job in journalism. "Although I don't have much hands-on experience of being an international newscaster," said Handanova, "I believe I have a firm grasp of the issues at hand." "My uncle played 'Fingermouse' in the hit children's television series and my mother posed for the front cover of the Yellow Pages," he said. Elsewhere, the media moguls at News1st claim its virtual characters have been broadcasting daily since 18 February, although viewers need MS Agent and other files to see these news critters. ® Related Stories Ananova speaks... cyberrubbish News Avatar speaks! (But what will be Ananova's first words?)
A parody Flash animation satirising the Elian Gonzalez melodrama and using images owned by the Associated Press has drawn a most humourless threat of legal action for creator Sean Bonner who published it on line, though he has since been bullied into withdrawing it. The clip takes aim at the entire cast of characters, from the so-called 'fisherman' (actually a janitor and mere joy rider in the boat with acute ambitions to follow in the noble media-nuisance footsteps of Kato Kaelin, according to his cousin), to 'dynamic entry' maven Janet Reno, to the well-preserved Generalissimo Castro, to the hysterical snivelling cousin Marisleysis, to the little Cuban Christ-child substitute Himself. By not taking sides but satirically brutalising everyone in sight equally, Bonner's clip has earned The Register's highest esteem. Not so the Associated Press, which has risen to arms over the little joke. AP hatchet man David Tomlin e-mailed Bonner, warning that he risked exposing himself to "liability for copyright infringement that can include both fines and possible criminal penalties". "We'll go for whatever it takes to get our material out of your hands," Tomlin added. Bonner promptly removed the clip, explaining that "for now the threat of being sued, fined, imprisoned, set on fire, yelled at, spit on, kicked in the shins or what ever else their lawyers could do to us in the blink of an eye is too scary". However, several mirrors were still up at this writing. In the solemn interests of impartial journalistic integrity or a few cheap yucks, whichever is greater, The Register is of course obligated to reveal them: One; Two; Three; Four; and Five. We trust that our beloved readers will cherish and respect the AP's copyrights, and resist the childish temptation to propagate this contraband material any further on the Web. ®
It's been a busy time for Atlantic Telecom. First, the Scots telco launched a £49.99 per month ADSL service and as if that wasn't enough, it is snapping up First Telecom as part of its plans to expand into Europe. The share-swap deal is valued at £520 million. First Telecom was set up in 1995 by Mark Daeche and Mark Citron who still own 37 per cent of the company. From their initial investment of £250,000 the two are now valued at around £100 million each. First has 11,000 business and 292,000 residential customers. Prior to the Atlantic deal it had planned to float. Atlantic's high-speed Net service goes live in Glasgow straight away and will be rolled out in Newcastle and Manchester later in the year. ®
Microsoft has followed Intel's release of the final USB 2.0 spec with a little FUD of its own. According to one Carl Stock, general manager of Microsoft's Windows hardware strategy group, cited by EE Times, USB 2.0 rival IEEE 1394 is less likely to attract widespread support thanks to the way 1394's key intellectual property is managed. Stork's point is that "some of the control protocols and content protection technologies still have undefined intellectual property regimes that make [secure 1394 links] a challenge". 1394's key IP is maintained as a 'patent pool' among the technology's chief supporters, an approach put in place last year after Apple - which developed 1394 under the name 'FireWire' as an open standard but retained the rights to certain technologies on which it is based - got on the wrong side of its partners by attempting to levy what they believed to be excessive IP royalties. Apple's alleged fee of $1 per port has since been cut to 25 cents a system. However, the "content protection technologies" Stork is referring to are not part of the 1394 spec. According to EE Times, said technologies are the data transport protocols defined by International Electrotechnical Commission's (IEC) standard 6183, parts 2-6. And not only are they not part of the 1394 specification, but they relate secure transmission of data across any bus. The irony here is that the confusion Stork describes is as likely to apply to USB 2.0, given that technology is as applicable to the transmission of video data as 1394 is - or will be, when it ships. It's the need to protect such data that is focusing some vendors on the IEC technology. And it's not as if the IEC system is the only solution - as the EE Times report points out, there are alternatives, such as the 5C Group's system. That technology is maintained through a patent pool of its own and its licensing regime should be sufficiently clear for any vendor keen to offer data protected 1394-based solutions. ®
Thanks to the dozens of people who forwarded us this email from BT Openworld general manager Robert Salovoni, in which he apologises for yesterday's security breach (Story: BTopenworld security glitch reveals thousands of customer names in which thousands of customer details were published. But how will BT track down the people who downloaded the customer info. And how will it ensure that all copies are deleted or destroyed? Your guess is as good as ours. ® Re: Your BTopenworld registration For a short period yesterday a hidden area of the BTopenworld site holding the details that you registered was accessed by a limited number of unauthorised persons. I am writing to apologise to you for this breach in security. I would like to assure you that as soon as the problem was identified, we took immediate steps to secure the site. We are writing to those people identified as having accessed this hidden area to get written confirmation that they have not copied, used or passed your details to any other person and will delete or destroy all copies of this information. I can confirm that we are undertaking a full and thorough investigation to ensure that breaches of this nature do not happen again. Once again our sincere apologies. Yours faithfully Robert Salvoni General Manager BTopenworld
Three French MPs are proposing a new law which will require the use of open standards and source code that is "accessible to all public administrations and organisations" in France. There would seem to be some chance of the proposal becoming law since it has been developed by three socialist members of parliament - the ruling party. In a discussion document on the principles for the new law, Jean-Yves Le Déaut, Christian Paul, and Pierre Cohen are very blunt about their reasons for introducing it. Without source code, they say, it is "impossible to fix bugs that the software publisher refuses to fix" and "to check that there is no security trap" such that "sensitive private information is communicated to foreign companies or organisations". Microsoft was not mentioned specifically, but who else could be the guilty party? Five lofty principles are trotted out in a supporting document:
Researchers at Fujitsu have developed a new hard disk technology that they reckon will cut the likelihood of data degradation by 80 per cent. And Fujitsu's Layer Exchange Interaction Stabilised (Lexis) technology will also provide a major boost drive capacities, the company claimed this week. Lexis is essentially a new magnetic recording medium attached to the platters that make up hard drives. Hard drive media suffer from thermal effects which, over time, degrade the data they contain. And the greater the capacity of the medium, the greater the degree of degradation. Current media are limited to a data density of around 100Gb per square inch - Fujistu claims Lexis can extend that limit to 300Gb per square inch, though drives will need new, high-output read/write heads. Lexis uses a special stabilising layer fitted beneath the recording layer. The interaction between the two layers' magnetic fields stabilises the data and reduces the thermal decay effect to one fifth of that seen in traditional hard drive recording media. The upshot is, drives can either be made that hold their data better than current drives, or the capacity can be increased massively yet still offer no worse a level of data degradation than existing drives. Fujitsu says it has constructed a single-platter Lexis-based drive that provides a capacity of 78GB and a data density of 56Gb per square inch, something of a world record, the company boasts. ® Related Stories Boffins unveil 600Gb per inch non-volatile RAM Boffins unveil 'instant download' chip Big Blue boffins make big storage breakthrough Storage tech boffins to demo 140GB 'CD-ROM' US boffins develop molecular memory Gas chips to replace semiconductors, predicts boffin UK boffins unveil $35 '2300GB on a PC Card' RAM breakthrough
A computer glitch caused by a bra forced Marks & Spencer to shut 31 shops yesterday. The boob was caused by a special offer programmed into the chain's computer system on Wednesday night. Customers were offered £3 off any two brassieres, but M&S bestsellers such as the modern minimiser bra, padded bandeau bra, and halterneck secret support vest refused to register with bar code scanners. This sent till systems into spasm, forcing shop closures in towns such as Dumfries, Kent and Portsmouth. According to M&S, which claims one third of all British bra sales, the special offer was one of 27,000 price changes fed into its computer system that night. "It became clear that tills in the affected stores were working very, very slowly, so the only choice was to restart the whole system," a representative told today's Times. "Some stores were shut for about 30 minutes and others for an hour and a half. Only two (Hounslow and Portsmouth) were closed all day." Disgruntled shopper Amanda-Jane Doran from Tunbridge Wells said: "I'd just dropped the kids off at school, and I was heading for M&S for chicken, birthday cards, wrapping paper and booze which you can't get in one shop anywhere else." "But we were turned away at the door by a very nice lady who said all the computers had broken down." ® Related stories UK high street clueless about Web Chicks in their underwear online now Armageddon off with blood sports bra Is it a bra, or an anti-mugging device?
Are you ready for the big fight this weekend? No, not the Lewis vs. Grant boxing match, the DoJ handing presenting its recommendations on what to do with Microsoft to Judge Jackson. We are, and when the bell rings, our Graham's coming out of his corner with his fists of fury ready to fight the good fight. But it looks like we might not have it all our own way. Thanks to the wonders of email and one of the most amusing PR gaffes we've encountered in a long while, we've learned (along with the rest of the UK media, who have been mysteriously quiet about this) that the Great Satan of Software and it's myriad spin doctors are on full alert to tackle press coverage of the expected DoJ announcements over the weekend. The two-page document (the second page of which is labelled "Page 2 of 1") gives a breakdown of what requests to expect from the press and who will be on hand to deal with them. The timetable of legal activities is expected to be as follows: today - DoJ to submit remedy to the court; 10 May - MS responds; 17 May – DoJ's turn to response; 24 May – the hearing in front of Judge Jackson. All of which means that no matter what the DoJ comes out with later today, don't expect to hear much of a response from Microsoft until it presents its response on 10 May. Looks like the boxing might be more interesting after all. ®
19 Apr 2000 Yahoo.com is rumoured to be looking at buying publishing giant Emap. The online portal is said to be keen on the group because it would give them necessary content for its target market of 18 to 34-year-olds, today's FTreports. Analysts said Yahoo! was eager to buy, following rival AOL's £100 million merger with Time Warner.
A sign of cold feet? Inprise today admitted it has asked investment bank Broadview to see whether the terms of its takeover by Corel need to be renegotiated. Inprise describes the review as a "fairness evaluation". Essentially, it wants to ensure its shareholders will get a decent deal when Corel swaps their Inprise shares for its own. The original deal calls for each Inprise share to be exchanged for 0.747 Corel shares. But the dramatic fall in Corel's shareprice since the takeover proposal was accepted by Inprise's board in February means the deal is worth a hell of a lot less than when first struck. Presumably if Broadview concludes the deal is unfair, Inprise and Corel will have to renegotiate. And if Corel's dire pronouncements that it could suffer a cash-flow crisis if the merger doesn't go ahead have anything to them, Inprise will find itself in a much stronger negotiating role. Of course, Inprise is being sued by a gang of shareholders who feel the original deal undervalues their shares, so the Broadview plan could be as much about pacifying them as winning better terms from Corel - just as Corel's cash-flow warning could be simply a manoeuvre to get its own shareholders behind the deal. Broadview will also have to factor in the $29.5 million Inprise will have to pay to Corel if it pulls out of the deal. The bank will report its findings in around two weeks' time. Inprise's moves comes after the company announced a Q1 2000 net loss of $1.1 million ($2.3 million after charges) on revenues of $46.5 million, up from $43.4 million in the same period last year. Q1 1999 saw a net loss of $25.6 million. ® Related Story Corel warns of cash-flow crises if Inprise merger fails
The following Q&A document was sent to Intel OEMs on March 5th, 1999 to provide answers to user and press questions on PSN. Processor Serial Number Q&A for OEMs March 3, 1999 Prepared by Howard High Background Intel has briefed press, industry analysts, privacy organizations, and government agencies about a new feature of the Pentium(r) III processor called "processor serial number." This feature is Intel's first step in addressing the security needs of the Internet. We believe this feature adds new value to business and consumer PCs. For example, corporate I.T. departments can use this feature to track assets and manage systems in a more efficient manner to help reduce the total cost of ownership. For consumers, the potential of the Internet promises new ways to shop online, manage their lives, and access and share information. Used in combination with other identifiers such as passwords and user names, hardware features such as processor serial number can provide added confidence. This feature initially gained significant press coverage as three of the more extreme privacy organizations called for a boycott of the Pentium III processor until the feature is removed. Over the past few weeks press coverage has lessened and we continue to work and discuss issues with many of the mainstream privacy organizations. Intel is committed to privacy and is providing a software control utility that will allow users to the ability to turn the processor serial number feature OFF or ON. A Washington-based privacy group -- the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) -- sent a written request to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asking for an investigation and injunctive relief regarding the processor serial number (PS#) feature of Intel's Pentium (R) III processor. CDT alleges deceptive and unfair trade practices. Intel believes it has been very open in promoting the processor serial number feature and its uses. C'T magazine in Germany published a news story on February 22, saying that they had identified a way to "switch on the command for reading out the serial number by software." When the magazine was questioned, they admitted that they have not actually compromised the PS# accessibility, but rather are suggesting that it can be done. However, representatives of the publication have been quoted in press articles indicating that they have actually done this. Intel is working with the publication to correct its web page and encouraging the publication to be more accurate in its representation of facts. Intel has already been on the record saying that any piece of software, including our software utility, can be hacked if the hacker is skilled and motivated enough. While Intel has received phone calls and email from individuals stating their opinion that we should remove the processor serial number feature, the volume has been small. Intel has been averaging a hundred or more queries per day on the privacy issue versus thousands per day during the time of the Pentium processor flaw in 1994 -- even through the number of people on the Internet is 10X larger. If you have press questions, please contact Howard High at Intel (No. deleted). Key Messages about Intel's processor serial number feature:
Intel, that most famously-paranoid of organisations, has made a major U-turn thanks in part to paranoia from its customers and apathy from software firms. A year ago, the chip behemoth's monstro PR department was pouring supertanker loads of oil on troubled waters in a bid to quell public unrest over the processor serial number (PSN) introduced with the Pentium III. PSN would be part of all future Intel processors; it offered security benefits and helped IT departments in asset management. You can read a complete an unexpurgated question and answer document circulated to OEMs last March here. Today the company officially confirmed that PSN would die when the Pentium III line makes way for the next generation 32bit Willamette. "Intel will not implement the processor serial number feature in Willamette," said a spokesman for Intel UK. "New technologies are emerging which are better suited for security and asset management applications, such as those being promoted by the Trusted Computing Platform Alliance (TCPA), an industry wide security consortium of which Intel is a member." The new technologies referred to were listed by a highly-placed Intel insider: digital certificates, smartcards, digital signatures, MAC addresses and biometrics. Interestingly, all these technologies were around before Intel introduced PSN. If the company thought these mechanisms weren't adequate then, why are they now? "PSN just wasn't picked up by the security guys," said another Intel spokesman. "Although some of the manageability people might use it." Asked if PSN had failed to take off and had now been axed due to pressure from privacy groups, the official answer was "No." But, when pressed, the spokesman admitted: "It's probably fair to say that there is an element of negativity surrounding processor serial numbers." Software companies were also supposed to benefit from PSN in that their products could be linked to a specific machine, thus helping in the fight against piracy. A spokesman for Microsoft told The Register that M$ hadn't ever used PSN and added: "We don't know of any software company that has." Interestingly, a search for PSN information on Intel's website reveals that the decision to scrap PSN was taken relatively recently: a white paper extolling its benefits was posted here as recently as 10 days ago. This would mean that the mechanism for PSN is already part of Willamette but that it will probably be filled with a string of zeroes to prevent any applications or BIOSes searching for a serial number from falling in a heap. The Register's take on PSN remains unchanged: it never posed a threat to privacy, but was handled extremely badly by Intel. Despite vigorous internal lobbying, PSN was launched defaulting to 'on' in a fine example of Chipzilla taking little notice of what the outside world thought.
The European Commission has launched an investigation into Nintendo and its distributors over a price fixing "cartel" on consoles and video games. Nintendo and seven official distributors, including John Menzies and Nortec SA, each received a warning letter from the commission. The body could fine each company ten per cent of annual sales if it is found that they conspired to keep prices artificially high. "European families spend millions every year on video games and we want to make sure that they are not being swindled," EU competition commissioner Mario Monti told Bloomberg. The commission fears that the companies took part in a "cartel-like arrangement with the aim of partitioning the European market". It said an investigation – started in 1995 - showed price differences were "frequent and large, sometimes double from one EU country to another," but did not give further details. Nintendo saw sales of $4.36 billion in 1999, in which an "important part" came from the 15 countries of the EU plus Norway and Liechtenstein, the EU said. The products that concern the commission are in "static" NES and SNES consoles, which have since been replaced by N64 game consoles and Game Boys. A commission representative said it did not expect a decision before the end of the year. ® Related stories Games giants sue Yahoo! over 'thieves market' Nintendo Gameboy delay confirms Palm profit fears
2 May, 2000 Online business news service TheStreet.com is looking decidedly shaky after its CEO James Cramer warned the company could "choke on losses" if it doesn't turn a profit before the cash runs out. Cramer also ruled out a new round of financing, admitting that the recent internet-stock fall has scared off investors. The company stock price - which hit $71 last year is currently resting around $6. Majority-owned UK operation, thestreet.co.uk, insists its future is secure, according to Sunday Business
British Net security outfit Cerberus has discovered a backdoor password in the McMurtrey-Whitaker Win32 shopping cart. The executable cart32.exe has coded into it a weak password which can be used to view other passwords, enabling an attacker to modify the cart to run arbitrary commands on a server, and so easily gain access to customers' credit card details. A second weakness enables an intruder to change the admin password without knowing the current one. Both holes were the result of McMurtrey-Whitaker's desire to facilitate customer support by enabling the recovery of lost passwords, company support technician Lauren Willard told The Register. Those features were not available to customers and not documented, Willard said. In its haste to gain notoriety in an age of hacking media-hype, Cerberus posted an advisory which identifies the password and explains in detail how best to exploit both holes. It also suggests a possible fix, recommending that customers open the executable with a hex editor and replace the default password with one of their choosing. To accommodate the technically squeamish, L0pht Heavy Industries has hacked out a quick, self-executing patch to make changing the password easy. To accommodate the paranoid, they have also posted the source code. Cerberus posted its advisory without first contacting McMurtrey-Whitaker, normally a standard practice. "Due to the severity and seriousness of this issue, Cerberus has taken the rare step of making this information publicly available before the vendor has provided a patch," the company says. Yeah, right. It wouldn't be serious if Cerberus hadn't splashed it all over the Web. We call it low exploitation and cheap self-promotion. The advisory doesn't heighten security, but actually jeopardises it, Willard notes. McMurtrey-Whitaker will distribute a new build with all its holes bunged on Friday or Monday, she said. ® Related Coverage Shopping-cart back door gives author admin privileges Weenie jibe in FrontPage leaves MS web servers wide open Hacking credit cards is preposterously easy Online store security holes let hackers buy at cut price
US District Judge Jed Rakoff for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary judgment holding MP3.com liable for copyright violation in response to a suit brought by big-gun industry crusaders of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). His Honour said he would fully explain his rather puzzling verdict within two weeks' time (the period it takes for a cheque to clear, we can't help recalling). Meanwhile, he and lawyers representing both sides will meet to discuss how the ruling should affect MP3.com's daily operations. The RIAA suit claimed that MP3.com maintains an illegal database of music which the company bought and uploaded to its servers. The suit had sought to shut down the service and to penalise MP3.com $150,000 per song streamed, but thus far no particular remedy has been ordered. The MP3.com service requires users to purchase music before they can access it on line, though what they do with it after that is anyone's guess. RIAA lawyers apparently imagine that they are all re-distributing it, as the $150,000 per-song penalty request is tantamount to calling every man, woman and child who ever downloaded an MP3 file a boot-legging criminal bastard. It is legal in the US to make copies of purchased music albums in one format for personal use on other types of players. It is also legal for the owner of one music album (or book, or whatever) to trade it for another or give it away informally. This is what MP3.com and Napster make possible via the Net, though the industry hates it and would have us all clapped in irons if it could. The judge has apparently concluded that the Internet is so mysterious and terrifying that public safety demands it be illegal for any person to listen to a piece of music he hasn't paid for, or copy it from a three-dimensional format to one which can be exchanged electronically. We see this as a slippery slope: taken a few short steps further, this brilliant piece of American legislation might make it illegal to lend a CD, an audio cassette, a book or even a newspaper to a friend. Taken to an extreme, it would mean that you and your flatmate had better both have paid for the CD you're listening to together on the communal stereo. And take care you don't read over someone's shoulder on the Tube; it might land you in the slam.... The Register looks toward the inevitable appeals process for some clear, rational thinking and sane judgment in this matter. ®
MS on Trial The US government has called for Microsoft to be broken into two companies, and at the same time has asked for wide-ranging conduct restrictions to be placed on the company. In their Proposed Final Judgment issued yesterday the DoJ and US states asked the judge to split Microsoft into operating system and applications companies, while putting forward a range of measures designed to break the company's hold on PC OEMs. But although the two-way split is the most dramatic of the proposed measures, the "conduct remedies" further down the document are most likely to be effective (and, indeed, workable) in the short term. The government hasn't gone as far as asking for the creation of a third company running Internet activities, and the two units will still be huge monopolies, dominant in the operating systems and applications sectors. The company's hold on the PC manufacturers is therefore to be tackled via numerous restrictions. Microsoft won't be allowed to interfere with PC OEMs' ability to bundle and promote other software products, and will be forced to charge standard prices for Windows; these prices are to be published on Microsoft's Web site. It will be prohibited from entering exclusive deals with other software and Internet companies, and isn't allowed to sabotage other companies' products. The government terms this "Knowing Intereference with Performance," and says that "Microsoft shall not take any action that it knows will interfere with or degrade the performance of any non-Microsoft Middleware when interoperating with any Windows Operating System Product without notifying the supplier of such non-Microsoft Middleware in writing that Microsoft intends to take such action, Microsoft's reasons for taking the action, and any ways known to Microsoft for the supplier to avoid or reduce interference with, or the degrading of, the performance of the supplier’s Middleware." So Microsoft will have to be extremely careful about 'accidental' breakages in the future, because the victim companies will have a ready mechanism for blowing the whistle. Tying, as in the integration of Explorer and Windows, is prohibited, while APIs are to be disclosed. The proposal demands that "APIs, Technical Information and Communications Interfaces that Microsoft employs" be disclosed. The APIs covered here are those used in order to allow Microsoft operating systems, applications and middeware to interoperate with one another. The two Microsoft companies are also prohibited from giving one another special access to APIs; these must be disclosed to other companies on a level playing field basis. The government has also attempted to throw a spanner in the works as far as the Microsoft obsolescence escalator is concerned. Whenever there's a major operating system upgrade, the previous version should continue to be offered on demand for a further three years. That means NT 4.0 will be with us until 2003, and should be marginally outlasted by Millennium. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
Trial analysis Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer won't have enjoyed reading the DoJ and the plaintiff States' Proposed Final Judgment. As had been widely forecast in the last few days, Judge Jackson is being asked to agree to the splitting of Microsoft into two businesses, in what is referred to as a "reorganisation". As anticipated, certain conduct measures would come into force once the Final Judgment comes into force, but pending an appeal, the breakup part would be stayed until the outcome of any appeal were known. Microsoft is required to separate its operating systems business from its applications business, with Internet Explorer going to the application business, as expected. Microsoft is even being allowed to make its own proposal about a procedure to bring about a split. There is no specific discussion about splitting Internet Explorer from present versions of Windows, so the thinking is evidently that by the time the break up occurs, the present version of IE would be hopelessly out of date: it would not be permitted for Windows to be updated with a new version of IE. This would have the effect of forcing Microsoft to remove IE from Windows, which we all know is perfectly possible. Microsoft's operating systems business would not be allowed to develop IE, and there would be no cross-licensing of intellectual property for IE, as there will be for other products developed up to 27 April 2000. Nor would Microsoft be allowed to develop modified or derivative versions of IE in the Windows company, and no cross-licensing would be permitted going forward. Conduct requirements The conduct remedies turn out to be tough and fairly comprehensive. There are interim measures while the businesses are being separated that effectively prevent Microsoft getting up to any hanky panky. For the first time, the businesses will be required to play fair and make technical information such as APIs and interface details available to everybody at the same time. Recriminations and revenge against those who have dared to give evidence against Microsoft during the trial, or to use competing products, will not be allowed. Microsoft will be unable to use its power to enforce a pattern of behaviour on vendors because it will not be allowed to discriminate between vendors, or use any of the tricks that emerged during the trial. This is one of the most important provisions of the filing, because it effectively removes Microsoft's ability to blackmail vendors, and breaks much of Microsoft's monopoly power. "Covered shareholders" with more than 3 per cent of Microsoft's stock - essentially Gates and Ballmer, if Paul Allen has in effect divested most of his holding - may not hold shares in both companies. Nor may any directors have shareholdings in both businesses or play any role in the other business. This would certainly remove the normal incentive to help the other business, and human nature being what it is, it would not be surprising to find considerable antipathy between the two businesses in the future. The businesses will not be allowed to have any relationships or joint ventures with each other. But what is not included is any proposal to stop the split companies continuing to gobble-up developers, or to make acquisitions - and nor is there any requirement for a divestment of acquisitions. Operating systems business Most of the detailed conduct requirements are directed at how Microsoft would have to run its Windows business. There has been some ill-informed comment that because the present applications business was in the event excluded from the trial, the court has no right to order changes affecting that business. This is just wishful thinking, because the court has great power to order whatever is necessary to restore competition. OEMs will at last get their freedom from the PC homogeneity that Microsoft imposed as a means of keeping control, and at last, PCs will be more differentiated. The proposed judgment distinguishes between "covered OEMs" - the top 20 US OEMs, in terms of volume sales in the previous 12 months - and other OEMs. Covered OEMs will all have the same access to technical information, marketing support, future plans, and tools, and will also get the same technical, marketing and sales support. Microsoft will be allowed to charge higher prices for different language versions. There can be little doubt that should Microsoft misbehave, these OEMs will at last have the guts to shout loudly and get Microsoft back in court for contempt. Microsoft would not be able to terminate a Windows licence for a covered OEM without giving written notice of the reason and a 30-day opportunity for the OEM to deal with the issue. For all OEMs, Microsoft is not being allowed to restrict "the boot sequence, startup folder, internet connection wizard, desktop, preferences, favourites, start page, first screen" of Windows, or to "include a registration sequence to obtain subscription or other information from the user; display icons of or otherwise feature other products or services, regardless of the size or shape of such icons or features, or to remove the icons, folders, start menu entries, or favourites of Microsoft products or services; display any user interfaces, provided that an icon is also displayed that allows the user to access the Windows user interface; or launch automatically any non-Microsoft Middleware, Operating System or application, offer its own Internet access provider or other start-up sequence, or offer an option to make non-Microsoft Middleware the Default Middleware and to remove the means of End-User Access for Microsoft's Middleware Product." That's a pretty broad liberalisation. There are additional conduct remedies that ban exclusive dealing, essentially meaning that Microsoft would not be allowed to require a licensee to avoid using non-Microsoft software, or to promote Microsoft software exclusively, or to sabotage the running of the performance of any Microsoft-competitive software. There is also an absolute ban on OEM, IP or retail contractual tying, whether the product is separate, free or priced. A further measure to stop hanky panky is the requirement that there be no tying or bundling of products between the two companies. Bundling is totally verboten, although this provision would not come into effect until six months after the effective date of the Final Judgment - presumably to allow the channel to clear stock. If Microsoft "binds" any middleware product (including IE) to Windows, it must provide a means for both OEMs and end users to remove the software. If an OEM decides to remove end-user access to such middleware, the royalty would have to be decreased in proportion to the amount of binary code. This is a very interesting idea, but whether it will have any great impact remains to be seen. It should stop additional functionality being offered separately and being incorporated into Windows. This could create a separate market for such functionality. One requirement that Microsoft will not like at all is that predecessor versions of Windows must remain available for licensing for three years. The full text of this paragraph reads: "Microsoft shall, when it makes a major Windows Operating System Product release (such as Windows 95, OSR 2.0, OSR 2.5, Windows 98, Windows 2000 Professional, Windows .Millennium,' .Whistler,' .Blackcomb,' and successors to these), continue for three years after said release to license on the same terms and conditions the previous Windows Operating System Product to any OEM that desires such a license. The net royalty rate for the previous Windows Operating System Product shall be no more than the average royalty paid by the OEM for such Product prior to the release. The OEM shall be free to market Personal Computers in which it preinstalls such an Operating System Product in the same manner in which it markets Personal Computers preinstalled with other Windows Operating System Products." There will be uniform terms in the Windows licence, without those tricky discounts for what Microsoft called market development, or any other discounts other than a straightforward volume discount. Microsoft will have to publish a price list. Another provision would stop Microsoft making agreements that would have the effect of limiting competition. Source code Microsoft will be obliged to allow OEMs access to Windows code in "a secure facility where qualified representatives of OEMs, ISVs, and IHVs shall be permitted to study, interrogate and interact with relevant and necessary portions of the source code and any related documentation of Microsoft Platform Software for the sole purpose of enabling their products to interoperate effectively with Microsoft Platform Software." Techno-sabotage will be outlawed: l Microsoftt won't be allowed to "take any action that it knows will interfere with or degrade the performance of any non-Microsoft Middleware when interoperating with any Windows Operating System Product without notifying the supplier of such non-Microsoft Middleware in writing that Microsoft intends to take such action, Microsoft's reasons for taking the action, and any ways known to Microsoft for the supplier to avoid or reduce interference with, or the degrading of, the performance of the supplier's Middleware." Enforcement and compliance The initial consent decree in 1994 completely omitted any measures to ensure enforcement, but this time around tough procedures have been included. The businesses will have to file copies of every agreement, as well as a memorandum on oral agreements. Microsoft will not be allowed to take any action that "undermines, frustrates, interferes with, or makes more difficult the reorganisation required by this Final Judgment". An elaborate procedure has been set up with the intent of bringing about a change of culture at Microsoft. Certainly when IBM was being investigated for antitrust, all meetings during the investigation had the minutes vetted by a lawyer, and IBM was much scared lest it offended the DoJ. Microsoft's culture is so different that it is unlikely that a change will be seen, at least in the same way. The plaintiffs are asking for a Compliance Committee to be set up, with at least three non-executive directors who would have to appoint a Chief Compliance Officer to act rather like a privatised magistrate judge. This compliance person would be given wide powers and be responsible for ensuring that all Microsoft staff had read, understood, and would abide by the terms of the final judgment. There's an echo here that deals with Gates' remark after the consent decree that just one person at Microsoft would read it. Although it is hard to imagine the businesses changing their culture, there are tough provisions should an employee be caught failing, including criminal contempt of court, which could mean jail time. A further bitter pill is a provision that a system must be set up to make it possible for whistle-blowers to report potential violations confidentially. Those delightful Microsoft internal emails that never failed to amuse us during the trial must in future be kept for four years - all of them. It seems that Microsoft has escaped being done for the deliberate destruction of past emails. There is a requirement that separate books be openly kept for the two businesses, with this being required retrospectively after the Final Judgement comes into effect, so eliminating any creative accounting in the interim. When it claimed at trial that there was no separate financial data for Windows and applications revenue, even Microsoft's principal economist witness was incredulous. Microsoft also put obstacles in the way of any investigation of its accounts by the DoJ just as the trial was starting. There are also inspection requirements. The DoJ or the plaintiff States can demand to inspect any document, whether financial, correspondence, or source code, and to interview any officers, staff or agents. Microsoft can also be required to produce written reports under oath about anything in the final judgment. The Final Judgment will be for ten years from the date it takes effect. The Court will continue to have responsibility for enforcing the Final Judgment, and to punish violations. It is strange that there is a provision for the plaintiff States to recover their legal costs, but the DoJ has not asked for its costs, although it could do so. Maybe Judge Jackson will decide that US taxpayers deserve a break. Is this a good proposal? The legal actions by the DoJ and the plaintiff States against Microsoft will be judged mostly on the effectiveness of the proposed final judgment, filed on 28 April, which has a densely-written 16 pages, with a little over 5,000 words. It has taken nearly two years since the Complaint was issued on 18 May 1998, which is quite quick considering the intransigence of Microsoft. Judge Jackson deserves the credit for keeping the case cracking along, but he may have been a little too hasty and given Microsoft some ground for appeal - that it could not present all its evidence. The DoJ's proposal is far from being a definitive blueprint for what will happen. Judge Jackson could decide to make substantial changes, although the balance of probabilities makes this unlikely. Microsoft too has its opportunity to insert some objections, although it would be trying to do this from a position of weakness. There's no specific mention of the dissenting views from Illinois and Ohio in the submission, and their separate comments are most unlikely to have any significant influence on the outcome. It is going to take a long time before the utopia envisaged in this proposed judgment could come about. Our preliminary estimate is that the Final Judgment will be entered in July this year, before Judge Jackson goes on holiday, so that the conduct remedies would come into effect quite soon. But so far as the plan for reorganisation is concerned, it seems unlikely that this would be approved any earlier than March 2001, and implemented after appeal, possibly in 2003, unless the Supreme Court regards the case as a priority. On the surface, it would seem that the measures proposed are sound and for the main part practical, but the unknown factor is the potential political interference in the legal process. If that happens - and the chances are far from being negligible - we suspect that the European Commission might itself take some effective action. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
A malicious attachment in Eudora mail which could allow a miscreant to execute code on a victim's machine can be completely concealed and activated by clicking on a hyperlink, Peacefire.org Webmaster Bennett Haselton has discovered. When a recipient clicks the link, the code is executed. The exploit conceals the attachment and bypasses the warning that an attached file is about to be executed. In this case, the .exe extension is changed to .lnk, which Eudora does not by default warn about. To make the exploit more effective, the command to execute it can be embedded in a hyperlink, which can also be devised to prevent Eudora from indicating that an attachment is present. Qualcomm recommends that users edit their Eudora.ini file and insert the following: WarnLaunchExtensions=exe|com|bat|cmd|pif|htm|do|xl|reg|lnk| Full details are available on the Peacefire Web site here. ®
Memory Corporation is to sell its music business as part of a restructure. The EASDAQ-listed company said it was in "advanced negotiations" to merge its music interests with enuffMusic.com and create a new California-based firm called Dig Media. Memory will get $5 million for the sale to Dig Media of its intellectual property relating to its music hardware products, and expects to get a 25 per cent stake in the new company. It expects the venture, which will also have offices in London, Edinburgh and Stockholm, to float within twelve months. David Savage, Memory CEO, will be CEO of Dig Media, and he will be succeeded as Memory CEO by Mark Doughty, Memory CFO. Simon Hollingworth will take over as CFO, while Andrew Mackenzie, Memory VP of its Memory Services Group, becomes Memory COO. Memory will concentrate on developing and licensing technology products, including digital appliances. The transactions, which are not subject to shareholder approval, are expected to be completed by the end of next month. The company will also seek permission to change its name to Torridon plc at its AGM in June. ® Related stories Memory Corp buys out Datrontech memory business Memory Corp licenses IP rights to Taiwanese, US companies
Porn, on-the-second news, gambling and CD-buying are all passe - the hot new buzz for what to do on the wibbly wobbly web is - entertainment. That's right ladies and gentlemen. We wants entertainment and that's what we gonna get. Converting our scavenging skills from corporate flesh to the bright lights of showbiz, therefore, we have picked on three examples of this new wave to showcase you, the readers (actually, they all came with press releases but then showbiz is all a glittering façade anyway). First up is the ultimate mayoral contest. That's right! Ken and Frank will battle it out on your own PC - and you get to choose which you want to be. Will it be Ken "Newtzilla" Livingstone (votes: 2 million; fights: 40; dislikes: capitalist pigs) or "Mad" Frankie Dobson (votes: 7; fights: none; dislikes: ginger people)? Kick, punch or use your special weapons (Tony's Devil Eyes or the Ginger Chopper (Chris Evans thwarts attack by dropping cash from a helicopter)) to defeat your foe. Have a go - it's quite inventive and worth a quick laugh. Next up, boys and girls, is Ha Ha Bonk - stemming from the old laughing-your-head-off gag. This is due to be launched proper next week and features a range of cartoon shorts including The Cloth (a tale of wise-ass priests) and some loony French DJs. This is pretty good stuff - check it out. And finally, something completely different. Gasp at the world's first gardening soap opera! Thrill as you ponder whether Hans will get it on with Mary or Melanie! Marvel as some azaleas are trimmed! You'll be hooked (and learn a bit about plants, too). But, THAT'S NOT ALL!!! Inspired, we have got in on this entertainment bandwagon and made this very story more entertaining through state-of-the-art interactivity. Below is a link that will lead you a reader poll. After checking out our three featured sites, you can then vote on which is the best. How about that then? (What you won't like though is that if you aren't already registered with the forum, you'll have to do it to vote. Sorry about this - nothing we can do. But come on, it'll take less time than making a cup of tea. Give yourself a break - you deserve it.) ® Click here To vote! Hosted by Hosted Scripts.com
Jungle.com founder Steve Bennett has revealed his latest dream – to own a radio station. Bennett and pal Steve Smith, MD of the Poundland stores, have put in a bid for a new radio station in the West Midlands called N-Joy. If successful, they will use the licence to go on air next April. The two entrepreneurs also aim to launch an online radio station at the same time. Smith has stumped up the cash for the bid, approximately £100,000, and will be company MD, while Bennett will put his name behind the station and get the title of non-executive chairman. The bid from the IT industry's very own Smashie & Nicie is up against giants such as Capital and EMAP. Meanwhile, Bennett is continuing talks with Warburg, Dillon and Reed about floating Jungle.com. "It’s one of the options we're looking at, but the market isn't right at the moment," said Bennett. He also expects to complete the MBO sale of his Software Warehouse computer shops next week. ® Related stories Jungle buys Software Warehouse ahead of planned IPO Jungle.com gets yer juices flowing Watford Electronics turns cybersquatter on rivals for 'a joke'
A vulture-eyed Register reader spotted this unfortunate marriage of a news story and a Computer Weakly banner ad courtesy of LineOne. And almost a year to the day popular TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered. What's worse, until recently police thought Dando had been targeted by a professional hit man. Like we said, unfortunate... ®
The US Supreme Court has declined to hear objections to a lower-court's dismissal of a lawsuit filed against Prodigy after an impostor sent a threatening e-mail and posted two vulgar bulletin board messages in the name if a fifteen-year-old lad. The Justices denied an appeal filed on behalf of New Yorker and Boy Scout Alexander Lunney, who unsuccessfully sued Prodigy for defamation and negligence over the incidents which occurred in 1994. In addition to two vulgar bulletin board messages posted in Lunney's name, the impostor sent an obscene e-mail message to a local Scout troop leader, the subject of which was "HOW I'M GONNA KILL U." Prodigy cancelled the bogus accounts, but never succeeded in identifying the impostor. It apologised to Lunney, but the boy's father, far from satisfied, brought the suit on his son's behalf. The New York court dismissed the suit on grounds that Prodigy was not the publisher of the e-mail or the BBS postings. Last December the New York Court of Appeals also found Prodigy not liable. Lunney's lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, claiming that the case was "perhaps the most egregious of a series of Internet-related liability cases." The Court, obviously, saw it differently. While this is a far cry from a Supreme Court decision, anything the Justices choose to do or not do can influence the future decisions of lower courts. One consequence of today's denial could be to inconvenience heavyweight copyright crusaders such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in their efforts to influence ISPs which host sites containing material or links to material which they find threatening. ®
Since the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued on-line MP3 swap-service Napster over alleged piracy, and pseudo-rebel sellouts Metallica and Dr. Dre fell in lockstep and filed their own suits (against Napster and even university students who use the service), only a handful of artists have shown the backbone to stand up against the tide. With that in mind, legendary rapper and MP3 supporter Chuck D of the group Public Enemy announced a lyric-writing contest on his Rapstation Web site to publicise Napster's point of view. "We want to draw attention to the positive aspects that Napster has to offer artists," he said in a statement. "They need to realize that they can benefit infinitely." "Come up with lyrics explaining why you support Napster, drop your lyrics to Public Enemy's 'Power to the People and the Beats' track, and have a chance to win $5000. Best of all, your version of the song will be shared with the WORLD," the contest rules say. Contestants are invited to download the instrumental track and record their lyrics over it, then upload their finished masterpiece to the Rapstation site to be judged. Chuck D left his record label a couple of years ago following disagreements over distribution policy, and has since advocated releasing music on line, independent of the studios and distributors. "I’m in support of the sharing of music files. I believe that truly another parallel music industry will be created alongside the one that presently exists, and that’s the bottom line stake that traditionalists fear," Chuck D said in a recent New York Times interview. This is one artist who has put his money where his mouth is, and, contrary to industry predictions, continued to prosper. It makes one wonder what Dr. Dre and Metallica are so frightened of. "It's funny seeing rebellious cats eventually asking the government for help in this case. Some artists are led by their lawyers," Chuck D observed. ® Related Coverage Court finds MP3.com guilty of copyright violation Napster rapped by rapper More artists to sue Napster says Metallica lawyer Pro-Napster hackers hit Metallica Napster tweaks MP3 finder to un-jam University LANs Music biz sues Napster Music publishers allege MP3.com copyright infringement
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) uncovered an amusing on-line securities fraud operation on Monday, when it emerged that that an investment advice Web site called Genesis Trading is run by a convict serving a one-year prison term for telemarketing fraud, and not professional traders and analysts as the site had advertised, the New York Times reports. "The moral of this case is that people should be careful if they take investment advice from Internet sources because it's not always what they think it is," SEC advisor David Levine noted. The SEC settled the complaint with jailbird Webmaster Robert Garganese, ordering him to cease attributing his stock picks to professional traders and to inform site visitors of the SEC action. The SEC said Garganese claimed that his picks came from "a company composed of professional traders." But Garganese, the company's sole employee, is not affiliated with any securities trading organization, the Times notes. The SEC also found nothing to support Genesis' assertion that more than eighty percent of its recommendations were profitable, and ordered Garganese to remove the claim. Garganese's lawyer said he did not view his client's conduct as fraud, but as a marketing gimmick to "create more excitement about the site." "Since use of the Internet is so new, he was unfamiliar with the rules," lawyer David Chesnoff explained. "He had no intent to injure or defraud people." The SEC dealt with the matter in an 'administrative procedure' rather than mounting a civil suit or a prosecution, which would have required a higher standard of evidence. Genesis began operating in 1998, offering stock picks which were allegedly based on the buying habits of institutional money managers. The SEC found that Garganese is the only contributor to the site, and that his stock picks are a product of commercial software which does not feature the tracking of institutional trends. Garganese also claimed that his picks "regularly move $2 to $10 in a very short time frame (usually 1-5 days)," a claim which the SEC said could not be substantiated. The Genesis Trading Web site was down at this writing. ®
The former chairman of porter firm Guinness, convicted of false accounting back in the early 1990s but then released from clink early after quacks diagnosed Alzheimer's disease, is keen to invest in WAP technology, according to online news service Wap Insight. Since Ernest Saunders was released from jail after serving 10 months, he has embarked on a "successful consultancy career", the newswire reports, and is now a director of a UK mobile phone company. Saunders was spotted at a First Tuesday, a British forum for wannabe dot.com entrepreneurs and investors recently, which focused on the currently excitable WAP market. According to the piece, which you can find here, Saunders wants to act as an angel for would-be wappers. Perhaps mobile phones, rather than being bad for your brain, can actually assist sufferers from the horrible Alzheimer's, which most quacks consider incurable. ®
Earlier this year, The Register reported that large European distributors were being offered Pentium II chips in a bid by Intel to bridge a shocking shortage of its Coppermine Pentium III processors. At the beginning of the year, they were told of widespread availability of the Pentium II 400MHz processor, although their jaws dropped at the idea of actually trying to persuade their system builders and resellers to use it, rather than Pentium IIIs or AMD Athlons. But now, so to speak, we have it from the horse's mouth. According to this Intel page here, which may well become one of the disappeared after this story, the Pentium II processor is the best available processor for the majority of people. The passage in question reads: " Intel® Celeron™ processor 600 MHz is now available! While the Pentium® II processor is the best overall choice for the majority of PC users and applications, the Intel Celeron processor offers the dependability home and business users expect from Intel at an exceptional value." And Intel may well be right. After all, the Pentium II doesn't (didn't?) have that pesky personal serial number (PSN) thingie, and reports of the death of the Pentium II were obviously somewhat premature after the horrendous shortages Intel has suffered for the last three quarters. An Intel representative said: "Unfortunately this is an error on our web site which we will correct as soon as possible. Thank you for drawing our attention to it. "Clearly Pentium III processors offer many benefits over Pentium II processors, including Internet Streaming SIMD extensions, 0.18µ technology enabling on-die cache, lower power consumption, higher speeds and packaging options to name but a few".® See Also Intel Pentium II rises from the dead So farewell then, PSN Intel confirms huge Coppermine shortage System builders take brunt of Coppermine shortages
There's a piece over at Tech Report which must serve as a warning to those overclockers who also have pussy cats with loose bladders. But although the author considered the arrival of cat wee in his PC a total disaster at the time, it led him to build an economical PC which he's now very happy with. That must give us all pause for thought... AMD Zone is reporting the existence of a virus on an Aopen support CD. There's a review of this retail Nvidia GeForce 2GTS board over at Anandtech. The article puts the board through its paces but perhaps someone should take out the marketeer who thought up this Gladiac name, walk a few paces away from him (can't be a her, can it?) and fire. There's a review of another GeForce board, this time from Suma, over at Hardware Central. At AMD Zone the lads have got a review up of Tekram's KX-133 mobo. Meanwhile, at Ace's Hardware, there's a piece that suggests DDR memory will flood the market during the second half of this year. Sharky Extreme has updated its Intel server roadmap, which you can find beginning on this page. Finally, at JC's Pages there is an update of his Pricewatch Athlon-Pentium III availability watch. ® 28 April 2000 Over at Ace's Hardware there's a link to our old Japanese friends at Happy Cat, who posted some Thunderbird benchmarks and a pic of the soon-to-be famous Socket A. Gadget Squad looks at the difference between MP3 and MD in this piece. At Tom's Hardware Guide there's an extensive look at Nvidia's GeForce GTS technology. Sharky Extreme has more on the same subject which you can find here. At Anandtech, there's a complete Buyer's Guide to steer you through the ocean of hardware. Hardware Central takes a look at the Promise FastTrak 66 Pro -- which offers Raid support. Our favourite hardware site has a Power Pro processor which will shred and sift your food, but unfortunately doesn't do the same for press releases. ® 27 April 2000 At Tweak you can find a whole raft of guides to help make your computer sing and swing that little bit more. And here's a central point for drivers. Go to Drivers HQ if you need that essential bit of software. This place, which describes itself as the kind of web site your mother warned you about, is geek spelt large. Over at 3D GPU you can find a whole heap of information about, well, 3D GPUs. This site concerns itself with testing system security. And Soulbath is a fine site which does....err...absolutely nothing much except boggle you. Sodaplay is a top site, which has all sorts of interesting geometries to play with. Thanks to kind reader Scott Smith for providing quite a few of these links for us to look at. ® 26 April 2000 At Ace's Hardware there is word of an Athlon SiS 730 chipset which will start sampling in May. So we're sure to see it when we tip at the Taiwanese trade show Computex in June. At Gadget Squad, which we haven't visited before, there's a review of Sony's Memory Stick Walkman. The Ars Technica site points to a story claiming that Microsoft is attempting to disguise the fact that Win ME is based on good old DOS. According to this, DOS is disabled on ME, although it's still there. Microsoft has tried this trick in the past...tell you what, leave DOS alone boys. There's also a link at Ars T to a Scientific American article about the limits of hard drives. The lad JC keeps his eyes peeled on what's happening on Silicon Investor and points to an interesting post claiming that Coppermine's benchmarketing is fundamentally flawed. By the way, we're very happy to look at other hardware sites out there. Email us with your URL and the meat of the piece. Doesn't have to be chips either -- digital cameras, hard drives, memory, whatever... ® 24 April 2000 There's a post at JC's pages that looks at a Kingston press release and then shreds its conclusions. Over at Digital Web 3D there's a review of an Asus K7 mobo. AMD Zone, at this URL are reporting that Apple is considering getting m'learned friends onto Advanced Micro Devices. At Vision 4D, there's a look at the Celeron II in its 566MHz incarnation. Tom's Hardware takes a look at Intel's Webcam offering. Now if only we could get ours to perform.... Lastly, but far from leastly, Ace's Hardware has posted the second part of an excellent feature on how to improve performance of your PC. ® 21 April 2000 At Natural 3D Tech, there's a tweak intrepid users can make that allows Pentium IIIs CPU with 100MHz front side buses to become Pentium III 133MHz CPUs with front side buses. JC's Pages link to a Silicon Investor posting which discusses possible future AMD pricing. There's a review at Anandtech of the Asus V6800/64MB. At Ace's Hardware, there's a feature about how to get the most performance out of your AMD chip. At Ars Technica there's a roundup covering what we've seen that's new in hardware over the last month. ® 20 April 2000 The iXBT site has news of a fresh Via codeword for a Socket A product which has Screaming Cindy support. My goodness, everything is getting rather confusing. iXBT Labs has news of the Blade XP family of products from good old Trident. Young JC of JC's pages has pointed to this article all about Rambus Don't quite know how we missed this one, but over at Ace's Hardware there's news that US body the ITC will proceed with Rambus' complaint about Hitachi -- already covered here. Firing Squad, which you can find here, has a review of Majesty over on its site. ®
Twelve major PC industry players have formed a separate company in a bid to ease PC component procurement and speed up their supply chains.
Chimpzilla's new - ahem - entry level chip, Duron, would appear to share advanced technology with condom giant Durex, if the contraceptive company's website here is to be believed. The site states: "New technology has considerably improved the condom and enabled the production of far more sophisticated versions than our ancestors were used to. The latest development is DUREX Avanti made from a unique polyurethane material, DURON, which is twice as strong as latex enabling a thinner, more sensitive film." AMD would not confirm rumours that Duron would ship in packets of three rather than trays of ten, nor that the company was planning a 'Duron Inside' ad campaign. ®
An enhanced tool to script distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks called Mstream is currently in development and may soon yield a utility capable of launching crippling assaults through far fewer infected clients than were used to disable sites and steal headlines back in February, University of Washington researcher David Dittrich has discovered. A detailed report of his findings has been posted by Packet Storm. According to the report, Mstream was discovered recently in a still-crude, buggy condition. "An Mstream agent was discovered in late April 2000 on a compromised Linux system at a major university. This system was identified to be flooding packets using forged source addresses, targeted at over a dozen IP addresses," Dittrich says. Buggy or not, Mstream apparently yields a lot of bang for the buck compared with current tools such as shaft, trin00, TFN and Stacheldraht. "An extremely small number of attack packets" were being launched. "The traffic did, however, cause the router (which served 18 subnets) to become non-responsive," the report notes. "This means that sites that do egress filtering may still suffer from these attacks themselves, even if the intended 'victim' receives fewer packets than the attacker(s) intended," the report says. As for defences, there appear not to be any at the moment, except for virus detection which is unlikely to be effective until the final code is hacked out. "The lesson here is that there is no 'quick fix' to DDoS in the form of simple technical filtering solutions," Dittrich notes. The chief security solution in effect thus far seems to be the wholesale squandering of immense international law enforcement resources in hopes of netting one or two teen-aged script kiddies. Apparently this has not been quite as effective as originally hoped. ® Related Coverage Canadian Feds charge Mafiaboy in DDoS attacks TFN author 'Mixter' sentenced FBI Web site hacked Feds charge Coolio while DDoS attackers remain at large Hacking credit cards is preposterously easy Congressional study rejects Clinton's IT security Czar, FIDNET The Mother of all DDoS attacks looms Hacking hysteria invigorates insurance industry Law enforcers the 'absolute worst people' for Net security - former Fed Janet Reno proposes on-line police squad Dot-Com firms are hacking each other -- expert Reno, FBI feast on bad network security New hack attack is greater threat than imagined
MS on Trial Long-term Microsoft ally Michael Dell has ridden to the company's rescue - but in a surprisingly tentative way. In a Q&A session at Red Herring's Venture 2000 conference, Dell described the antitrust laws being applied to Microsoft as outdated, but kept his answers fuzzy when it came to confirming or denying his own company's experience of Microsoft's famously robust business methods. Like all the other PC OEMs Dell Computer has of course been on the receiving end of the contractual restrictions which were detailed during the trial, and were addressed in the US government's proposed judgment last week. Even though the Dells (man and company) are down-the-line supporters of Gates and his company, they must clearly have direct experience of the yoke. But asked about this, he simply said that Microsoft was an "intensely competitive company" and left it at that. Gates of course might have wanted something a little stronger here, but you can see that Dell was in a tricky position. He obviously does have direct experience of predatory practices as applied to his own company, and as that experience will be documented and could well appear in the public prints, he can't flat out lie. Plus he's an honest sort who wouldn't do that anyway, right? On the other hand, it wouldn't exactly be helpful to Bill if Dell had told the audience that he knew all about this stuff, and started to list it. So squirming was the order of the day. As regards the "outdated" nature of the antitrust laws, Dell takes the view that the way they're being applied to Microsoft indicates that any company with a high market share isn't allowed to produce "products that work better together." That's the old Bill cheerleader we know and love sticking firmly to the company line, and happily skipping over techno-sabotage, predation and exclusionary practices. But if he reads Judge Jackson's findings, he might care to note that the judge himself thinks that the law, while not exactly outdated, needs some updating. ® See also: Red Herring report Complete Register Trial coverage
MS on Trial A cracker of an email from Gates to senior Microsoft executives has come to light, but unfortunately the text has been redacted, possibly because it has not been presented to the court. If this is the case we may get to know more if Judge Jackson allows it to be filed publicly at the hearing. We can get some clues about the context in which the email is discussed. The DoJ Memorandum says: "On July 11, 1999, less than thirty days after the conclusion of the trial in this action, Bill Gates wrote an email directing that Microsoft redesign its software in order to harm competitors. This time, the products in question were the Personal Digital Appliances that Microsoft heralded at trial as one of the products that might someday undo its monopoly. After discussing the Palm computing platform, Mr Gates concluded in his email: [and this is where the redacted email is quoted]. Frustrating, isn't it? But hang on, there's a bit more. A Declaration by Rebecca Henderson (more about her role soon), first refers to a Gates' email of 28 January 1997 "instructing staff that it would be the wrong strategy not to force Office users to use IE and to make unilateral extensions to HTML, instructing them to patent elements of Microsoft's HTML rendering engine and make it extremely hard to clone, and explaining sarcastically that if his staff does not want .to do anything proprietary' in the browser, they .have to stop viewing HTML as central to our strategy and get another strategy'." She then goes on to say that "Microsoft is continuing to use Office in this way. For example, on July 11, 1999, Bill Gates instructed his subordinates to demonstrate to a hand-held computer OEM" [and here follows the same, email, but this time with the remark that it is "REDACTED UNDER SEAL". Since this email was sent after the end of the trial, Judge Jackson could not have required it to be filed under seal. No doubt Microsoft's lawyers have been jumping very high indeed in an attempt to stop this email becoming public, and so possibly the DoJ has agreed for the time being to file it under seal. We can only hope that the DoJ will ask that it be be unsealed. Henderson goes on to say that "Similarly internal Microsoft documents suggest that Microsoft planned to create [REDACTED - probably one or two words] between Office and its companion server product BackOffice and its Windows CE operating system in order to, amongst other goals," [REDACTED - room for about a dozen words]. So, what's it all about? The most likely explanation seems to be that Gates intended the victim of some dirty tricks to be Palm, and that the email goes into some detail as to how Gates wanted Palm to be shafted. Now if you're wondering why Gates would want to do that, remember that he tried to buy the Palm software business in 1998 - and for all we know might have tried again, unsuccessfully. Gates is renowned for trying to get revenge when he is rebuffed. It's clear that his action is yet another serious gaffe at a very inopportune time, since it strengthens arguments about the impossibility of conduct remedies alone bringing about a sufficient change to Microsoft's corporate culture. ® Related story: Gates wanted to buy Palm's software business, says report Complete Register Trial coverage
It's not only HP printer owners who are up in arms about the company's inability to ship Win2K drivers for its products. Following our stories last week on the lack of delivers for the OfficeJet range of all-in-one printer/fax/scanners, several readers have written in pointing out that owners of Hewlett-Packard CD writers suffer from the same problem. Adding insult to injury, CDR drivers (which are still at least a month away) will cost as much as $25 plus shipping and can only be ordered by phone for delivery by snailmail (please allow 2 to 3 weeks for delivery). An HP support page here lists the affected CDRs. Reader Andrew Bowman says: "I bought one of these late Feb/early March, and installed it at the same time as I upgraded my machine to Win2K and lo, neither the Win98 or NT4 cd writing software works. "HP had a note on their site (at the page above) saying that new versions of the software will be available for a 'nominal' charge from March 23rd. It was then changed to say April 1st. And now it just says as soon as they can. "Oh, and the charges have been named as $9.95 for some drives and $24.95 for others (including the 8210i that I bought). "I'm pissed off about the lack of driver support (and lack of information about when it will be supported) and also with having to pay extra for drivers for something I've just bought - it's not like I've had the benefit of the drive for years or anything. "It seems I was taken in by my belief that paying a bit extra for an HP CD writer was justified in terms of the support and reliability one has come to expect from HP. I won't buy another HP product again without checking that they've bothered their tails to produce drivers for it." Phillip Matz adds: "With regard to your article(s) concerning HP's inability to provide even beta drivers to its customers for an operating system which has been commercially available for a business quarter I would like to add that they also do not have WIN2K support for their CD-Writers. I engaged in a minor tit-for-tat email scourge with HP's "technical support" concerning their lack of support for their CD burners in Win2k recently and their response was simply they didn't have the resources available to evaluate their drivers in win2000. I will never purchase an HP item again." Paresh Pandya comments: "This is in response to a recurring article regarding HP and the lack of drivers for Win2K. I would like to point out that the problem isn't isolated to their Printer division. I own an HP 7200e cd writer however can I use this device in Win2K? Of course not since HP has yet to release drivers for it! "'Due to some unexpected issues with the HP CD-Writer Plus Drive software applications that are required for Windows 2000 compatibility, HP has decided to delay the software release until all quality standards are satisfied.' (taken from HP's web site) "Previously they had expected an April date for *beta* drivers. Come on people, Win2k was in development for what 3 yrs? Is it going to take that long to get support for our devices?? And what of Microsoft's claim that hundreds of thousands of devices were tested for compatibility? Did they just happen to skip popular mainstream components and use obscure ones? "To further add insult, HP will be charging $24.95 plus s&h (in yankee bucks of course) to have the privilege of obtaining a copy of the updated software needed to run in Win2K. This is just unacceptable. "Thank you and I hope to see more coverage on this debacle." Over to you, HP... ® Related Stories HP eventually wakes up to Win2K Win2K drivers: HP is 'hurrying'
Microsoft's PocketPC launch couldn't have come sooner, according to a report by NPD Intelect. The US market research company's numbers, cited by All Net Devices, show retail sales of Windows CE devices have all but dried up. NPD Intelect's stats, derived from sales through US retail and mail order channels, show Palm held 87.3 per cent of the PDA market in February, an increase of over 20 per cent on its February 1999 share of 65.5 per cent. IBM, a PalmOS licensee, also experienced growth, seeing its share rise 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent between February 1999 and February 2000. On the CE side, of the main vendors, only Compaq saw a year-on-year marketshare gain, rising 1.1 per cent, from 0.4 per cent of the PDA market to 1.5 per cent. However, the other big CE vendors, Casio and Hewlett-Packard, saw their shares fall 7.3 per cent and 3.0 per cent, respectively. In February 1999, Casio held 12.2 per cent of the market; for the same month this year, it had only 4.9 per cent. HP, meanwhile, fell from 5.7 per cent to 2.7 per cent. Taken together, the figures show Windows CE's share of the PDA market by February 2000 had fallen to practically a third of its February 1999 share, plummeting from 33.5 per cent to 11.2 per cent. It's worth noting here that NPD's stats don't include sales from Web sites or direct from vendors. Certainly Compaq and HP's overall share of the market will be higher as a result. But then so too would IBM's share and that of fellow PalmOS licensee Handspring, which has until recently, been selling exclusively via the Web. How all these 'missing' sales affects CE's overall share of the PDA is very difficult to judge. ® Related Story Smoking email suggests Gates ordered PDA techno-sabotage
MS on Trial There's no comfort for Microsoft in the separate Memorandum by Illinois and Ohio. The two states, who dub themselves the "Supporting States", make it clear that they are fully opposed to Microsoft's anticompetitive behaviour, noting that "The record, and the Court's Findings of Fact, are replete with examples of stifled innovation, increased costs, unnecessary consumer confusion, forestalled technological advances, and thwarted competition caused by Microsoft's conduct". This is then followed by a terse review of how Microsoft had misused its monopoly power. They say that they are "reluctant to propose the imposition of structural relief before there is an opportunity to determine whether significant restrictions upon Microsoft's behavior would alone be sufficient to significantly eliminate Microsoft's anti-competitive conduct". Although this may be a case of the spirit being strong but the flesh weak, it may well be that local political considerations have influenced their decision. The consequence was that they did not join with the DoJ and the 17 other states (plus the District of Columbia) to ask the court to enter the proposed Final Judgment that would break up Microsoft. Illinois and Ohio consider that tough conduct remedies should be tried first, with the result being reviewed by the court after the appeal, or after three years. Their view is somewhat naive, although they did suggest that "the repeated, pervasive anti-competitive acts in which Microsoft has engaged for many years, and which it continues to deny, may reflect a corporate culture which would prevent Microsoft from effectively adjusting its behavior to comply in good faith with all the conduct requirements that the proposed Final Judgment imposes as a necessary remedy. Or, it may be that the monopoly is so entrenched that the changes in conduct, even if implemented as proposed, do not sufficiently address the competitive injury and provide adequate protection that allows the software industry to be fully competitive and innovative." Judge Jackson could decide that he agrees with Illinois and Ohio attorneys general, and more or less do what they request, but the DoJ's backup Declarations should dispel any concerns that there might be an economic meltdown if Microsoft were broken up. Microsoft attempted to persuade each state not to take part in the trial, scoring a victory in the case of Texas following what was believed to be pressure brought by Compaq and Dell, at Microsoft's bidding. During the trial, South Carolina dropped out, probably because it thought that in this way it would be better placed to have a large Microsoft facility set up in the state - but after it dropped out, Microsoft decided on North Carolina. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
MS on Trial As we suggested long ago, the Microsoft case will almost certainly go straight to the Supreme Court, without a preliminary visit to Microsoft's preferred venue, the Court of Appeals. The DoJ says that "in light of the significance of the reorganisation for both Microsoft and the computer industry, the appeals process should be expedited to the maximum extent possible. Any decision to seek direct review by the Supreme Court pursuant to the Expediting Act will, of course, be made by the Solicitor General after the Final Judgment is entered and any notice of appeal is filed." This is likely to be just a formality, and Microsoft is unable to stop the bypassing of the Court of Appeals. It will be extremely hard for the Microsoft camp to find any substantive legal or technical grounds that could be used effectively on appeal. The combination of the findings of fact, the findings of law, and now the proposed remedies are close to being unassailable. There does still remain the political possibility of an attempt at political interference, probably by appointing an assistant attorney general for antitrust opposed to antitrust enforcement, but this would result in blood on the streets and unacceptable political fallout. It's a fair guess that Judge Jackson would like to enter a Final Judgment before his summer holidays - probably by July this year. It's now too late for Microsoft to do anything but appeal, since the DoJ could scarcely agree to a less stringent consent decree now that it has filed its proposal. Almost certainly, Microsoft has in effect blown its chance of a more favourable negotiated outcome as a result Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer refusing to consider a breakup. As a consequence of this announcement, we are revising our initial estimate for the splitting of Microsoft to being as early as 2002, if the Supreme Court justices accept that the case is too well-founded to be overturned - quite apart from it being far too technical for them to understand. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
One of the world's foremost investment gurus, George Soros, has lost billions of dollars investing in tech stocks and is reorganising his business as a result. According to a report in The Guardian newspaper this weekend, the tycoon's Quantum Fund took a severe beating thanks to "misguided investments in technology companies" - falling in value to $8 billion, from $10.4 billion in December 1999. Quantum is a hedge fund, which effectively means that its managers bet on the outcome of investing in companies and markets. The unpredictable nature of IT stocks has taken its toll on this leading light of the traditional investment community, with as much as $5 billion thought to have been lost in a single month. Recent Nasdaq turbulence is thought to have been a particular problem. Soros is now going to break up his huge hedge fund operation and two of his leading managers - Stanley Druckenmiller and Nick Roditi - are set to leave. Druckenmiller is said to have been badly bitten by Nasdaq and is quoted in The Guardian as saying: "I screwed up. I should have got out in February." Another investment guru speaking out against Internet-related investments this weekend was America's richest investor, Warren Buffet, who runs the Berkshire Hathaway investment and insurance company. Interestingly enough, Buffet has steered clear of the tech-stock investment bandwagon, but 1999 was his company's poorest years for returns. Buffet praised the Internet as an information resource but likened it to a chain letter as far as investment was concerned. "For society the Internet's a wonderful thing - but for capitalists it's probably a net negative," he said. "If you are very early in a chain letter, you can make money, but there's no money created." So, it looks as though the thousands of anti-capitalism demonstrators who rioted over the weekend have found a curious ally in their campaign to bring down the multi-national investors that control global markets and cream off millions for themselves. Despite their best efforts, it remains highly unlikely that the protestors will achieve anything other than generating a bit more work for the folk that clean up after them and giving hard pressed police officers a chance to earn a bit of over-time. Capitalism itself, though, has been the undoing (in part, at any rate) of two of the very people the rioters are targeting their actions at. Funny thing, irony. ®
Analysis After some delay, the Department of Justice and the Plaintiff States have now released a Memorandum in support of the proposed final judgment being entered against Microsoft, together with five of six declarations from experts to support the plaintiffs' case. The Memorandum fills in gaps and provides the rationale in a useful way. It provides a solid basis for the proposed Final Judgment, and will make it difficult for it to be overturned on appeal. It could also save Judge Jackson a great deal of work, since if he chooses, he could now broadly go along with the winners' views, perhaps adding or subtracting a little here and there. All the indications are that he would have no qualms about ordering the breakup of Microsoft. The Memorandum points out that "the remedy for a violation of the antitrust laws should (1) prevent the continuation or recurrence of conduct found to be unlawful and (2) repair the damage to competition in the affected markets." Why breakup is needed The limits of conduct remedies are examined and it is found that they would require an excessive regulatory burden, and that they would not rectify the harm that had been done to the competition. It was decided not to ask for Microsoft to be split by creating two or more "operating system companies, each with access to the Windows operating systems (including successors now under development)". The alternative was a split by product group, with interwoven conduct remedies. Several times there's a hint of a joke, when the DoJ points out how the course of action that it proposes would increase Microsoft's "innovation" possibilities, but it's a joke that hard-core Microsofties will find hard to understand. One of the innovations made possible, the DoJ says, would be MS Office for Linux. With no Windows monopoly to protect, such a product would not be inconceivable, but its acceptance by any substantial numbers of present Linux users must be in considerable doubt. Then there's the jolly suggestion that MS Office could become an alternative platform, just as Microsoft was screaming was going to happen with Netscape Navigator and Java. The DoJ even spells out for Microsoft how this could be done: developers could be encouraged to write to Microsoft's fully-exposed APIs, and to make Office available for non-Microsoft platforms. With MS Office being dominant, the apps company could develop what in some ways might become a rival platform to Windows. More to it than manners A memorable paragraph states: "Microsoft's conduct past and present is not merely (as Mr. Ballmer would have it) .bad social graces'. Microsoft's conduct demonstrates its ability and intent to manipulate the boundaries and interrelationships between operating systems and applications for anticompetitive purposes. It is to eliminate the ability and incentive to engage in such conduct, and to restore competitive conditions, to which the proposed Final Judgment is directed. The DoJ calls on the court to use its "equitable powers" to make "the remedy... reasonably related to the wrong" and after some well-phrased argument that looks as though it is intended for the Supreme Court, concludes that "Microsoft succeeded in its objective and harmed both competition and consumers". The Memorandum moves on briskly to legal matters, and says that "Permanent injunctive relief ordered in a Sherman Act case must be both forward-looking and remedial. The decree must (i) end the violation, (ii) .avoid a recurrence of the violation and others like it and (iii) restore competition in the market." Furthermore, the injunctive relief must ensure that the defendant cannot benefit in the future from the harm to competition caused by its illegal conduct in the past... and "so far as practicable... denied future benefits from [its] forbidden conduct". Blocking the middleware threat The DoJ expresses concern that if Microsoft is not carved up and adequately constrained by conduct remedies, it could develop what the DoJ calls "middleware technologies", like voice recognition, media streaming and/or email software, using the same anticompetitive methods revealed at trial. MS Office could become a killer app, the DoJ suggests. Then there's middleware threats to servers. Finally, the DoJ mentions that with hand-held computers, "Microsoft is positioned to crush that threat to its operating system monopoly because those devices, like server-based middleware, need to be able to interoperate effectively with Microsoft's products, and Microsoft is able to prevent or hinder that interoperation." The Memorandum continues with a discussion of the reasonableness of the structural remedy, and how this would help consumers and ultimately not harm Microsoft's shareholders. What the DoJ omits to mention, is how much Microsoft's pride would be wounded by the split. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
PalmOS licensee Handspring's retail debut last month saw the company beat Palm Computing to the top of the PDA sales chart, according to market researcher PC Data's latest figures. For the week commencing 15 April - Handspring's first in the retail world - the company's Visor Deluxe PDA took 26.8 per cent of retail sales, knocking Palm's popular IIIe into second place with 14.6 per cent. Of course, Palm's other devices fill up the rest of the top five, leading the company with the vast majority of retail sales, and the Visor's chart position may quickly decline, but Handspring's debut is still pretty smart. The irony in all this is that Handspring was formed by the two people - Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky - who originally founded Palm Computing and steered it through its acquisition first by US Robotics and, later, 3Com. Handspring was formed because the pair wanted to take the Palm platform in a different direction than 3Com - the mainstream consumer market - and PC Data's figures would certainly suggest that they got it right. Or have they? PC Data senior analyst Stephen Baker, cited by CNet, said: "It's pretty impressive, considering the market recognition and confidence that Palm has. [But] it's hard to know from the first couple of weeks of sales [how sales will continue]. People have been waiting for the Handspring for a while." PC Data's numbers only cover PalmOS-based devices, but given fellow researcher NPD Intelect's combined numbers, Handspring's Visor will almost certainly have outsold any Windows CE device during the week in question. ® Related Stories Win CE retail market share falls 66 per cent Smoking email suggests Gates ordered PDA techno-sabotage
Semiconductor firm HotRail quietly announced at the end of last week that it would bale out of the high end PC chipset market, throwing AMD's six-way and eight-way server plans into some confusion. The firm was developing a high end server chipset for AMD and it is certain that it will now be forced to hunt around for another solution. Reliance, now called ServerWorks, could provide the necessary support for up and coming offerings targeting Intel's iron grip on the lucrative six way and eight way market. According to CBS Marketwatch, HotRail has exited the PC chipset market to concentrate on comms semiconductors. Since AMD announced the Athlon last year, it has made it clear that it intends not only to capture the high end desktop processor market, but to use that position to attack Intel not only in the notebook market but in the workstation and server markets too. Although AMD is succeeding in making inroads in capturing a chunk of the desktop business from Intel, aggravated by shortages from the chip giant, it acknowledges that it still has some way to go to gain corporate acceptance. Meanwhile, Ace's Hardware, quoting a Chinese-language CTech report, is saying that DDR memory, which AMD has adopted rather than use Rambus module with its high-end Athlons, will flood the market in the second half of this year, amounting to sales of as many as seven million chipsets. And US title Electronic Buyers' News reported on Friday that AMD is making attempts to widely licence its Lightning Data Transfer (LDT) bus technology. ®
Six of the top 10 earning chief execs in the US run IT companies, according to Forbes. Computer Associates boss Charles Wang heads the list with a package worth a whopping $640.1 million last year, up from his 39th place in the list in 1998. It is not clear whether Wang's payment includes his part of the $550 million stock a US court ordered three execs to return to the company late last year. Delaware County Court ruled the company had exceeded its authority in granting the 9.5 million extra shares worth $550 million. The full story can be found here. More new entrants to the top ten were Bobby Johnson, of California-based Foundry Networks, who grabbed the number two position on the back of his $230.5 million package. And while many ISPs are losing money hand over fist, AOL head Stephen Case was the sixth highest earner, with a healthy $117.1 million. Other industry heavyweights who made it into the Forbes list included Cisco's John Chambers with $121.7 million, IBM's Louis Gerstner with $107.2 million and Peter Karmanous of Compuware, $87.5 million. According to Forbes, salaries and bonuses were not the driving factors in top pay – and accounted for just 23 per cent of total pay. The bulk came from stock grants or options, a switch from five years ago, when salaries and bonuses made up 60 per cent of exec packages. The best city to live in to make big bucks was still New York, the study found. The Big Apple paid an average $5.24 million to execs, compared to $4.87 million in Minneapolis and $3.64 million in Detroit. Forbes surveyed 800 US companies based on total compensation packages offered, including salary, bonuses and stock gains for 1999. ® Related stories E-millionaires cash in big time Gates money-pile now bigger than galaxy Elvis sees God thrash Pope
Hard rock band Metallica will tomorrow demand Napster block 335,435 alleged music pirates from using the developer's MP3 'seek, locate, download' software. Since the band's lawyer, Howard King, sued Napster for copyright infringement just over two weeks ago, its agents have been tracking down users who, they claim, have illegally offered copies of Metallica songs to others. King is also representing rapper Dr Dre in his case against Napster. Unlike the original Metallica suit, Dre is targeting not only Napster but certain users of its software - or at least built in the opportunity to added named individuals to the suit later on. Metallica could now expand its own case to do the same, though King told US media that that will not be case. Dre hasn't yet sought out specific pirates, but will do so if Napster refuses to take action against the 335,435 alleged infringers named by Metallica, King says. And the fact that Metallica's techies have been able to build up the list at all is likely to play on many Net users' fears for their privacy while they surf the Web. Certainly, many Napster users will have assumed that their anonymity has been protected while using the software - legitimately or otherwise - and won't be too pleased to learn that it hasn't. The names were collected after Napster use was monitored over the weekend. ® Related Stories Chuck D benefits Napster with on-line rap contest Napster rapped by rapper More artists to sue Napster says Metallica lawyer Metallica sues Napster
Freeserve shares rocketed above £5 this morning in early morning trading on rumours of a take-over bid from Deutsche Telekom's e-outfit, T-Online. Shares hit 512.50p before falling back sharply to 394p at lunchtime, up 34p on its previous close. Investors chased up the stock, in reaction to a story in the Independent on Sunday which claimed that said T-Online was sniffing about Britain's monster ISP. A spokesman for Freeserve dismissed the rumours as "market speculation" and refused to comment further on the tittle-tattle. Deutsche Telekom was equally short. ®
A report on a Taiwanese wire that double data rate (DDR) memory will ship to the tune of seven million chipsets in the second half of this year has, once more, forced us to return to the hoary (or is it hairy) old subject of how well chipset based on this type of memory will do against Rambus memory. The report, which you can find at Ace's Hardware, is a lot of DDR memory and cannot be totally accounted for by sales of workstation and high-end servers. Intel, and a number of its main PC customers, have committed to using DDR in a wide range of up-and-coming products. Intel, meanwhile, is still promoting Rambus as the platform of choice for the high end desktop, and in particular says that it will be used with its up-and-coming Willamette processor, when that dawns. Willamette's big brother, Foster, to be used in workstations and servers, will use DDR. AMD will use DDR memory with its Athlon products. Two weeks back, Kingston, a major supplier of modules, said that the prices of mobile parts had dropped by around 35 per cent. That's most of the soap to date. Richard Gordon, senior analyst at Dataquest Europe, thinks, however, that there is little doubt that Rambus will despite all the argy-bargy, win the memory day. He told The Register today: "DDR is mainly going into the high end of the market." As far as the desktop is concerned, however, he has stronger views. "DDR in the mainstream PC market is basically a non-starter," he said. "Intel and Rambus have got it right here. Intel and Rambus have got the mainstream market sewn up." Although Gordon conceded that AMD is making strides in the desktop place, he said that, compared to Intel, it owned still quite a small piece of the PC market. Let the debate re-commence. ®
AOL has signed a deal with Time Warner to give it a day of exclusive picture access to the first swimsuit issue for Sports Illustrated for Women. This isn't the famous Sports Illustrated swimwear issue - a uniquely American male experience. No, this is swimwear "for women" - which means that stunning women of different shapes will be sporting skimpy lycra creations. AOL can expect the same type of punter that logged on and lapped up the pics for the annual swimwear issue in February. It proved rather popular with mature men. Under the deal, all of AOL's 22 million members will get a sneak peek at the cover and selected photos tonight (Tuesday) at 6pm Eastern Time. The magazine itself will be on newsstands on Thursday. We could tell you that the issue will also feature beach gear, hair care products, sunscreens and all that, but we suspect you wouldn't be interested. If you're an AOL member, then all you need is the keyword "SI for women" - if not, then you're just gonna have to wait (oh no!) for someone to pinch the pictures and post them elsewhere. Flashback The Sports Illustrated swimsuit phenomenon takes us back to those grand old days when spots and hormones raged. Of course, Argos finally decided to remove the female models from its shower unit range after it recognised that it was nothing to do with eager consumers when stores consistently ran out of copies on the day of release. School bins suffered the opposite fate. ®
MS on Trial Microsoft now seems likely to make one last effort to escape the antitrust noose next week. The company has until 10th May to file its own proposals for Judge Jackson's Final Judgment, so if it sticks to the schedule it should then be telling him how it ought to be punished. But instead, the company intends to ask permission to obtain large amounts of government documentation pertaining to the case, and to be allowed to call witnesses to argue against the government's proposals for its punishment. Microsoft general counsel William Neukom has been airily telling reporters that the 10th May deadline doesn't give it enough time to come up with an adequate response, but speaking to the New York Times yesterday he went quite a lot further. Going through all of the government documentation and dealing with all of the witnesses Microsoft wants could go "well into the fall." Do we hear a note of wishful thinking in that? The government side certainly interprets Microsoft's proposed moves as a stalling tactic, designed to stop the judge donning his black cap until after the presidential election, after which the company hopes for a more MS-friendly Bush administration. Given Judge Jackson's keenness to bring proceedings to a conclusion and to get the appeal dealt with by the Supreme Court, Microsoft's chances of actually getting his permission seem scant. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the company will be wasting its time in asking. Microsoft argues that the government's Final Judgment proposals are so extreme that the reasoning underlying them ought to be examined in detail. Hence the desire to get hold of all of the records of the decision-making process, and hence the desire to bring in witnesses to discredit this process. But you could - and the judge surely will - see this as an attempt to restart the trial, this time with Microsoft operating as prosecutor. If Judge Jackson does throw out Microsoft's request, however, then no doubt the company hopes to be able to use his decision as part of its appeal, strengthening its argument that it wasn't given enough time to set out its store adequately during the trial. ® Complete Register Trial coverage
S3 wants to the digital music world's answer to Palm Computing. To make it happen, the former graphics chip vendor is embarking on a major licencing programme to change Rio from a device into an entire platform of products. There's even an element of Big Brother about S3's strategy, which will "extend the Rio technology and brand into every aspect of consumers' lives". You have been warned. S3's licensing programme will operate under the Rio Audio badge, and is essentially about getting third-parties - or "a select group of consumer companies" - to create Rio-compatible products of their own. S3 has obviously been working on this idea for some time, since it reckons it will be able to start naming partners real soon now. S3 itself will continue to pursue its own Rio hardware development efforts, in particular a line of in-car and home audio machines designed for connection to hi-fi stacks and the like rather than just boxes that hook up to a PC. The PC will remain an important source of digital music files but not exclusively: the Rio Jukebox, for instance, will have the ability to download files itself. S3 is also building in support for home networking, though it didn't say whether it will simply support its own products, or take in emerging technologies, such as HAVi, U-PnP and Jini, too. On the portable side, S3 said it will expand the Rio line to target a variety of different users. S3 didn't list the formats all these machines will support, but with MP3, Liquid Audio and Real Audio already in the works, it's not hard to see where the company is going. Indeed, it said it is exploring the use of a "programmable processor" which can be upgraded with new formats as they arise. ®
Elonex, the systems builder, operates one of the UK's poorest online shops, a report claims Elonex.co.uk had some of the highest delivery charges on the Web, according to research to be released today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. It charged £15 to post a blank, recordable CD that cost £1.50, whilst failing to respond to cancelled orders and not delivering others. The report, which surveyed 70 US and 30 UK e-commerce sites to see how they treated customers after they had shopped on their sites, dubbed enjoyment.co.uk, jjbsports and Elonex the three poorest online retailers in the UK. It also criticised high street giants Boots and Argos – in one instance, Boots failed to place an order despite sending through an online confirmation, while Argos tried to charge a pick-up fee of £3.90 on returned goods. It found the best performing online retailers in the UK were Belfast-based online video shop Blackstar, HMV and jungle.com. However, overall UK sites fell way behind their US peers – they were less likely to offer shipping service options, email shipment confirmations or provide return policies online. From the US sites examined, Amazon, Sports Authority, pets.com, Outpost and Drugstore fared best, while Sears, wine.com, Martha Steward, gear.com and Hallmark got the worst ratings. "I think it is because it's a newer medium in the UK," said Shelley Taylor, founder of Shelley Taylor & Associates. "Also, there's no back end, and no order fulfilment going on in a lot of these sites." According to Taylor, the retailing experts have handed much of the responsibility for the online service to graphic designers, and the customers are suffering. "Online vendors need to grow up," she added. "They must stop thinking of their virtual stores as playgrounds in which all the other kids are begging to play. The game and the rules belong to the customer, not the retailer," she said. "I was astonished to find that some of the hottest online retailers have yet to adopt the rudimentary customer services practices of their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The success of online stores will depend upon bridging the gap between the purchase and delivery of goods and effectively managing customer expectations through post-transaction communication." ® Some statistics from the report Only 36 per cent of sites showed if products are actually available before the customer had submitted their credit card 38 per cent of sites failed to provide shipping options (81 per cent for US sites, 17 per cent in the UK) Just 57 per cent of sites provided live online order tracking (71 per cent US, 23 per cent UK) Less than half the items ordered by Shelley Taylor & Associates arrived when expected Only 64 per cent included return instructions in the box with the items (75 per cent US, 37 per cent UK) Nearly twice as many UK e-tailers offered free return shipping or free pick-up (27 per cent UK, 13 per cent in the US) Related stories Elonex eyes potential windfall Web regulation called for at Net's birthday party Finance watchdog calls for e-regulator status
Sadly, our IBM ThinkPad 600 is dead. Well, not actually dead, but badly crocked, with the screen shattered. So we thought we'd wander down Tottenham Court Road, W1, to see if we could pick up a nice little bargain, maybe using a Pentium II, a Celeron or something like that. There are shedloads of ThinkPad 240s down there at the moment, in maybe five or six different shops, one of which is proudly displaying a letter from IBM UK saying that it has been appointed an official reseller of surplus stock. The truth, and it may be unpalatable to anyone who has just ordered an expensive ThinkPad in IBM's current range, is that many of the machines, including the 240 and the popular 600 (which Intel has standardised on), will disappear off the face of the planet come August time. The interesting thing here is that IBM's direct site, which you can find here, is selling the 240 at a price well above the shops in Tottenham Court Road. A banner on the site reads: "Take advantage of the Executive Promotion, and save 10% on the normal price of the bundled** accessories." IBM's direct price for a 240 using a Celeron 300MHz processor with 64MB of memory, a 6.4GB hard drive, Windows 98, and a 10.4in TFT screen is 1099 including VAT. That price includes an external CD drive and an external floppy. The direct price compares badly with the prices on Tottenham Court Road. The best deal we saw for the above configuration down there was around 850, including VAT. Prices for the same configuration were in the same league, with one or two shops, however, adding a bit of extra margin for floppy and CD drive. The reasons that the 600s, the 390s and the 240s are being dumped is that yesterday IBM introduced its ThinkPad A and T series. The A suffix stands for All-in-One, and the T for "thin and light", IBM says. Big Blue avoids the word dumped. Instead, it says the ThinkPad 390s are "transitioning" to the ThinkPad A20M, the 770 to the ThinkPad A20P and the 600 to the ThinkPad T20. It's all part of the IBM EoN strategy, the suits say. Why, I hear you ask, don't we just get our ThinkPad 600's screen repaired? The answer is that a TFT screen for this machine costs around 600 plus labour costs. Although it's still under warranty, the fact that the screen is broken, according to IBM's service centre, means that it's a customer problem and not Big Blue's. Strange, then, that the new ThinkPads have been fitted with a newer tougher casing to minimise the danger of shocks. The Register now has two expensive ThinkPads sitting in Vulture Central and the only thing that's wrong with them is that both have the same broken screen problem. It might just be a coincidence. So it looks like we'll have to resurrect our old Butterfly ThinkPad for when we're filing copy abroad next week. Like our 600, that too was a victim of CeBIT, but in the Butterfly's case the disease is not terminal...
Lock up your DRAM, because memory prices are going through the roof again.
Elonex, the systems builder, operates one of the UK's poorest online shops, a report claims Elonex.co.uk had some of the highest delivery charges on the Web, according to research to be released today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. It charged 15 to post a blank, recordable CD that cost 1.50, whilst failing to respond to cancelled orders and not delivering others. The report, which surveyed 70 US and 30 UK e-commerce sites to see how they treated customers after they had shopped on their sites, dubbed enjoyment.co.uk, jjbsports and Elonex the three poorest online retailers in the UK. It also criticised high street giants Boots and Argos in one instance, Boots failed to place an order despite sending through an online confirmation, while Argos tried to charge a pick-up fee of 3.90 on returned goods. It found the best performing online retailers in the UK were Belfast-based online video shop Blackstar, HMV and jungle.com. However, overall UK sites fell way behind their US peers they were less likely to offer shipping service options, email shipment confirmations or provide return policies online. From the US sites examined, Amazon, Sports Authority, pets.com, Outpost and Drugstore fared best, while Sears, wine.com, Martha Steward, gear.com and Hallmark got the worst ratings. "I think it is because it's a newer medium in the UK," said Shelley Taylor, founder of Shelley Taylor & Associates. "Also, there's no back end, and no order fulfilment going on in a lot of these sites." According to Taylor, the retailing experts have handed much of the responsibility for the online service to graphic designers, and the customers are suffering. "Online vendors need to grow up," she added. "They must stop thinking of their virtual stores as playgrounds in which all the other kids are begging to play. The game and the rules belong to the customer, not the retailer," she said. "I was astonished to find that some of the hottest online retailers have yet to adopt the rudimentary customer services practices of their brick-and-mortar counterparts. The success of online stores will depend upon bridging the gap between the purchase and delivery of goods and effectively managing customer expectations through post-transaction communication." Some statistics from the report Only 36 per cent of sites showed if products are actually available before the customer had submitted their credit card 38 per cent of sites failed to provide shipping options (81 per cent for US sites, 17 per cent in the UK) Just 57 per cent of sites provided live online order tracking (71 per cent US, 23 per cent UK) Less than half the items ordered by Shelley Taylor & Associates arrived when expected Only 64 per cent included return instructions in the box with the items (75 per cent US, 37 per cent UK) Nearly twice as many UK e-tailers offered free return shipping or free pick-up (27 per cent UK, 13 per cent in the US) Related Stories Elonex eyes potential windfall Web regulation called for at Net's birthday party Finance watchdog calls for e-regulator status
Civil rights activists won a small intellectual battle on Friday when they successfully argued that "any attempt by Government to police the Net is both unworkable and a severe threat to civil liberties".
A fine selection of entries (see Take The Reg SETI challenge) ranged from the ridiculous to the, er, slightly less ridiculous. Thanks to everyone who entered. We were tempted to award a special prize to Darren Stewart, who claimed to have overclocked his ZX Spectrum, which he assures us is now completing SETI work units at a rate of one every 298 years. UK law forbids us from mailing class A drugs, but we reckon Darren probably has enough already. Another contender for slowest processing was Bob Cunningham, who tells us his Cyrix 6x86 PR200L running RedHat Linux 6.1 takes a mere 45 hours per work unit. At the other extreme was Bob Gulien from Amsterdam who has completed work units in 2 hours 20 minutes on a two-processor HP9000/L1000 under HP-UX 11.0. An impressive time, but ruled out under the 'machine must have been paid for by the user' regulation. As some kind of yardstick, SETI is currently reporting an average time per work unit across all types of machine of 20 hours 15 minutes. Our reference Katmai 500 box (128MB RAM) is currently averaging 8 hours 10 minutes, while a Coppermine 800 (256MB RAM) is chomping through the data in an average seven hours. Several users with Celerons overclocked to within an inch of their lives reported some good times. Chris Dent runs a Celeron 300A overclocked to 450MHz and averages around nine hours a work unit. Stuart Irving's home PC, a Dual PIII 600MHz Katmai on a Giga-byte GA-6BXD, with 384MBb RAM runs two copies of the command line client simultaneously, one on each processor, Stuart's machine chugs its way through two work units every eight hours. We would have expected this class of machine to perform a little better than this if our 500 dual Katmai is anything to go by (Katmais and even Pentium IIs put up a good showing due to their larger level 2 cache). Macs put in a very strong bid for an award, again large L2 caches proving to be worth more than raw horsepower. The same applied to Xeons with 1MB or larger L2. Alfred Choy's Power Mac G4 450 with 128MB RAM averaging 6 hr 49 min per unit. Fastest laptop Kristoffer Laurson describes his machine as a standard out-of-box Apple PowerBook G3 500MHz with 1MB 200MHz L2 cache. An average of 5 hr 27 min 29.9 sec certainly puts this well ahead in the fastest laptop stakes. Vying for the best overclocked box award was LKY's Intel Pentium III 550E @ 770MHz (140 fsb), using an Asus P2B-B M/B, 128MB Micron PC-133 -75B RAM, running Windows 98 SE, which averaged 6 Hours 15 Mins per work unit. Chris Barbour runs an Athlon 500MHz under Linux 2.2.14 which averages 8 hr 02 min, while Matthew Sullivan is sticking with old (2x 200MHz Pentium Pros) technology and managed respectable timings of around 10 hours /a unit on his Dell Precision 410 - it's that full speed cache that does it. He adds that a colleague has done packets in just over 3 hours on a bank of 5 Sun E250's (twin CPUs) churning out 10 packets every 3hours or so...) Todd Jolley from the US works at a large bank and uses SETI to determine relative speeds for new server hardware platforms. His fastest server is a Compaq Proliant 570 running NT 4, with 4X Pentium III Xeon 700's with 1MB of L2 cache per processor and 1GB RAM. Running 4 instances of seti@home, one dedicated per processor, he can process 4 work units every 3 hours. Shame you didn't buy it yourself, Todd, otherwise you'd have won for sure. And now we have a dilemma: the prize of an Intel Seattle 2 motherboard is unlikely to be of much interest to our high-scoring overclockers. Nor is it likely to appeal to dyed in the wool Mac owners. Agonising decision So after much agonising, we have awarded the Intel SE440BX2 mobo to Bob Cunningham, who describes himself as a self-unemployed engineer from San Diego, on the grounds that he desperately needed to upgrade his creaky old Cyrix 6x86 PR200L and hopefully improve on his shocking time of 45 hours per work unit. Bob informs us that his Cyrix and/or mobo blew up on the same day he sent his competition entry and asks if the two events could be in some way connected. And the bunnyperson goes to... ... Pamela Portman, from DeVry Institute of Technology, Columbus, Ohio, who averaged 8 hours 34 min on her 400MHz G4 Mac. Not the fastest time by a long shot, but Pamela wrote: "Although I am sure you will find much faster results, I figured I would give it a shot. I am thoroughly impressed with the performance of my machine and would love to at least give it a chance to shine." How could we not award the prize to someone who obviously cares so deeply for their machine? Related Story Privacy-loving space aliens put the smack down on SETI
At Ars Technica, there's a review of the Espresso miniature PC from Saint Song which looks like it's a little cutie... Digital Web has posted a review of the AOpen AX64 muvvaboard, which you can find here. Over at Chick's Hardware there's a piece about Via and how it has come to be what it has come to be. The Tech Report compares and contrasts Nvidia and 3DFX technology. Hardware Zone claims it has some exclusive info about the GeForce GTS technology, in an interview the site has posted. The boys at Tom's Hardware have taken a rest from hardware and have posted a report from an Internet security conference. 2 May 2000 There's a piece over at Tech Report which must serve as a warning to those overclockers who also have pussy cats with loose bladders. But although the author considered the arrival of cat wee in his PC a total disaster at the time, it led him to build an economical PC which he's now very happy with. That must give us all pause for thought... AMD Zone is reporting the existence of a virus on an Aopen support CD. There's a review of this retail Nvidia GeForce 2GTS board over at Anandtech. The article puts the board through its paces but perhaps someone should take out the marketeer who thought up this Gladiac name, walk a few paces away from him (can't be a her, can it?) and fire. There's a review of another GeForce board, this time from Suma, over at Hardware Central. At AMD Zone the lads have got a review up of Tekram's KX-133 mobo. Meanwhile, at Ace's Hardware, there's a piece that suggests DDR memory will flood the market during the second half of this year. Sharky Extreme has updated its Intel server roadmap, which you can find beginning on this page. Finally, at JC's Pages there is an update of his Pricewatch Athlon-Pentium III availability watch. 28 April 2000 Over at Ace's Hardware there's a link to our old Japanese friends at Happy Cat, who posted some Thunderbird benchmarks and a pic of the soon-to-be famous Socket A. Gadget Squad looks at the difference between MP3 and MD in this piece. At Tom's Hardware Guide there's an extensive look at Nvidia's GeForce GTS technology. Sharky Extreme has more on the same subject which you can find here. At Anandtech, there's a complete Buyer's Guide to steer you through the ocean of hardware. Hardware Central takes a look at the Promise FastTrak 66 Pro -- which offers Raid support. Our favourite hardware site has a Power Pro processor which will shred and sift your food, but unfortunately doesn't do the same for press releases. 27 April 2000 At Tweak you can find a whole raft of guides to help make your computer sing and swing that little bit more. And here's a central point for drivers. Go to Drivers HQ if you need that essential bit of software. This place, which describes itself as the kind of web site your mother warned you about, is geek spelt large. Over at 3D GPU you can find a whole heap of information about, well, 3D GPUs. This site concerns itself with testing system security. And Soulbath is a fine site which does....err...absolutely nothing much except boggle you. Sodaplay is a top site, which has all sorts of interesting geometries to play with. Thanks to kind reader Scott Smith for providing quite a few of these links for us to look at. 26 April 2000 At Ace's Hardware there is word of an Athlon SiS 730 chipset which will start sampling in May. So we're sure to see it when we tip at the Taiwanese trade show Computex in June. At Gadget Squad, which we haven't visited before, there's a review of Sony's Memory Stick Walkman. The Ars Technica site points to a story claiming that Microsoft is attempting to disguise the fact that Win ME is based on good old DOS. According to this, DOS is disabled on ME, although it's still there. Microsoft has tried this trick in the past...tell you what, leave DOS alone boys. There's also a link at Ars T to a Scientific American article about the limits of hard drives. The lad JC keeps his eyes peeled on what's happening on Silicon Investor and points to an interesting post claiming that Coppermine's benchmarketing is fundamentally flawed. By the way, we're very happy to look at other hardware sites out there. Email us with your URL and the meat of the piece. Doesn't have to be chips either -- digital cameras, hard drives, memory, whatever... 24 April 2000 There's a post at JC's pages that looks at a Kingston press release and then shreds its conclusions. Over at Digital Web 3D there's a review of an Asus K7 mobo. AMD Zone, at this URL are reporting that Apple is considering getting m'learned friends onto Advanced Micro Devices. At Vision 4D, there's a look at the Celeron II in its 566MHz incarnation. Tom's Hardware takes a look at Intel's Webcam offering. Now if only we could get ours to perform.... Lastly, but far from leastly, Ace's Hardware has posted the second part of an excellent feature on how to improve performance of your PC. 21 April 2000 At Natural 3D Tech, there's a tweak intrepid users can make that allows Pentium IIIs CPU with 100MHz front side buses to become Pentium III 133MHz CPUs with front side buses. JC's Pages link to a Silicon Investor posting which discusses possible future AMD pricing. There's a review at Anandtech of the Asus V6800/64MB. At Ace's Hardware, there's a feature about how to get the most performance out of your AMD chip. At Ars Technica there's a roundup covering what we've seen that's new in hardware over the last month. 20 April 2000 The iXBT site has news of a fresh Via codeword for a Socket A product which has Screaming Cindy support. My goodness, everything is getting rather confusing. iXBT Labs has news of the Blade XP family of products from good old Trident. Young JC of JC's pages has pointed to this article all about Rambus Don't quite know how we missed this one, but over at Ace's Hardware there's news that US body the ITC will proceed with Rambus' complaint about Hitachi -- already covered here. Firing Squad, which you can find here, has a review of Majesty over on its site.
MS on Trial One of the surprises in the recent filing by the DoJ was a series of six weighty accompanying Declarations. Five have been put online, but not the one by Ernest Von Simson, who is described by the DoJ as "a computer consultant to large global enterprises".
5 May, 2000 An anonymous Scandinavian company has spent $1 million (642,000) on more than 3,000 domain names in a bid to protect online identity. A spokesman for Webco, euro909.com, said it had registered 3,080 top-level domains in more than 100 different global, generic and country codes, such as .com, .se, .it, .web, and .co.uk, for the company. He refused to spill the beans on who coughed-up the cash but said the company involved was Scandinavian, had operations in Europe, and that this was its first online venture.
Shortages of both Athlon and Coppermine Pentium III processors are decreasing, according to PC vendors close to the companies' plans. But there is still lack of supply on some parts, while smaller system integrators are likely to suffer the most across all processor speed ranges. Supplies of Intel Celerons at 500MHz and 600MHz processors are still constrained, according to one major PC vendor, but Pentium III 600MHz and 733MHz Coppermines are now widely available, the firm said. It is a different situation for AMD's Athlon microprocessor. At speeds below 750MHz, there is a shortage and this is caused both by large tier one PC vendors selling more machines using this chip, and also the current move by the firm to the Duron and Thunderbird platforms. However, there is plentiful supply for Athlons at clock speeds of between 800MHz and 950MHz. The lion's share of 1GHz Athlons is still being shipped to Gateway, according to the source. Smaller system builders are having a tougher time. One Canadian reseller told The Register today that his distributor is unable to get adequate supplies of either Pentium IIIs or AMD Athlons. He said: "I am stocking up on Athlons with all my extra cash so I can sell a few computers in the next two months." He added that another distributor had told him that both Intel and AMD were short of raw materials to make chips. He presumed that didn't mean sand. "If I put all this together, I predict CPU's will be rare and expensive until at least July and memory prices will fall because of this." A look at our UK barometer components site, SMC Direct, reveals that the situation on Coppermines has eased a little, with 800MHz and 850MHz now available, while lead times for other parts are now as short as two days, or are in stock. No 1GHz Coppermine is listed. The same site shows availability is still good for Athlon parts, apart from the 1GHz chip. Supplies of boxed processors, however, is a different story. As we reported last week, Intel has told its resellers that widespread availability of these parts is not expected until the third quarter of this year.
Embedded Linux software developer Lineo turned heads Monday when it announced it had received $37 million in funding. Lineo spokeswoman Jennifer Finnlinson says the money will be spent to fuel growth. The company has expanded from 17 employees in September 1999 to 160 this May, thanks to six recent acquisitions. Utah-based Lineo follows competitor Lynx Real-Time Systems in snagging a hefty chunk of change. Interest in embedded Linux is gaining ground as devices -- everything from handheld computers to door locks -- get more complex. Advanced hardware requires advanced software, and Linux is a popular platform to go between thanks to its reliability, scalability, and ability to squeeze into small spaces. It's likely that embedded Linux will continue to gain momentum as key hindrances -- such as the inability to execute real-time commands -- are being solved elegantly. But open sourcers beware: in the still-green embedded scene, Linux does not necessarily mean open source. OnCore Systems' software foundation, which allows a standard version of Linux to run real-time commands, is proprietary. In fact, most of the embedded software development environments are proprietary. Metrowerks, for example, retails its embedded development environment for most platforms for $2500, with a Linux version expected soon. It recently, however, stepped conspicuously into a founding role with the Embedded Linux Consortium. Microsoft is also strengthening its embedded options, rolling embedded versions of Windows CE, Windows NT, and the forthcoming Whistler into one business unit. The move underscores the importance of embedded operating systems, as Microsoft is well known for taking notice of the competition. Of course, Linux can be customised for devices through the alteration of the open source code, which is how smaller firms such as Wind River and Lynx approach the challenges of porting the operating system to a wide variety of chips. MontaVista's revised Linux scheduler, which is a similar concept to OnCore's microkernel, is also open source. Wide Open News is a partner of The Register. Check it out.
RedHotAnt has lashed out at users who it claims are abusing its flat-fee 24/7 Net access service.
A newsgroup user who boasted that he had copied over 20,000 images from Penthouse.com has had his computer equipment seized after the site moved to prosecute him for copyright infringement. The individual known as Muad'Dib was tracked down after a series of postings on the alt.mag.penthouse newsgroup.
Quipmeister and occasional CEO of Sun Microsystems Scott McNealy has sunk his fangs into inflated tech stocks with a top ten list of "Signs a Company's Market Cap Is Inflated." Considering how much Sun shouts about 'putting the dot in dotcom,' and the shedloads of servers Sun sells to, er, dotcoms, the list is more than a little brazen - but hey, Scott has a reputation as a humorist to maintain. One also wonders to what extent the Sun left hand and the right are co-operating these days. Earlier this week Sun "announced a global marketing campaign featuring customers and strategic partners on the "front lines" of the dot-com revolution. Sun's new iForce[tm] Heroes..." Yes folks, we play both sides of the street here. But here's the Great Man's top ten, from the bottom up: 10 - They have an e or an i or a dotcom as part of their name. 9 - Employees' pagers can only receive stock prices. 8 - The initial vesting period closed yesterday, and today the office is empty. 7 - There are more dogs and cats in their offices than employees. 6 - Employees are heard saying, "Profits are so yesterday." 5 - The accounts receivable sign hangs over a toilet. 4 - The value of cars in the parking lot exceed the company's revenue by a factor of four. 3 - The investor relations department reports to marketing. 2 - Zero revenues but enough cash to purchase Iceland. 1 - Employees ask, "Hey dude, what does the P in P&L stand for?" McNealy, who was speaking at a Merril Lynch conference in New York, also seems to have taken the statutory pokes at rivals IBM, HP and Microsoft, and significantly, said "which Microsoft?" when asked about the company. He must be looking forward to being able to crack jokes about two of them.
Chip giant Intel has issued one of its now infamous Product Change Notification (PCN) documents, alerting distributors and system integrators to changes in the core of Pentium III mobile processors which will happen on the 5th of June next. The PCN document, dated 27 April, and numbered #968, tells customers that stepping on the processors, used in notebook PCs, will change from cA2 to cB0. But this stepping change is intended for supplies on boxed microprocessors, suggesting that Intel's larger customers, who buy their chips in trays, are unaffected. And Intel's reason for changing the stepping is the strangest one we've ever seen - lack of availability. The products affected are the mobile Pentium III 450MHz, 500MHz, 600MHz, and 650MHz according to the document. This is what Intel says to the distributors and dealers who will be affected: "In order to increase the availability of boxed mobile Intel Pentium III processors, Intel is introducing a new core stepping: cB0 (current stepping is cA2). "The primary difference between the cA2 and the new cB0 stepping is a CPUID change. The CPUID for the new cB0 stepping is 0683. The processor microcode update utility (rev. 5.13) posted to program.intel.com supports the new cB0 stepping. "First distributor availability of Pentium III processors based on this new core stepping is expected to be early June 2000. Please note that for a period of time, Intel plans to continue shipping mobile Pentium III processors based on the existing core stepping as well. Intel asks that you accept Pentium III processors based on this new core stepping interchangeably with those based on the current core stepping. "Customer Impact of Change and Recommended Action: Since the current (cA2) and new (cB0) steppings of the boxed mobile Intel Pentium III processor can be used interchangeably, no action is required for this change." It appears therefore, that Intel is giving its boxed customers somewhat different treatment than its OEM customers.
Ain't the Web great? Just mention it in terms of your current business and people will hurl money at you. This has been going on for some time as we all know, but it seems that every few months, another industry wakes up and figures it will have a go as well. This week, its the turn of the music industry. In much the same way as Blackadder managed to sucker the Prince Regent out of a postal order (see bottom), Wembley and MeanFiddler will rake it in by telling people what they want to hear - that live concerts will be broadcast over the Internet and people will pay oddles of cash for the priviledge of seeing it. The MeanFiddler event organiser reckons this is good for 2.8m (with which it will do pretty much as it pleases) and presumably WembleyTV will use it to build one of those bloody brands that everyone is going on about. No wanting to put a dampener on festivities, but very few people will want to watch concerts on the Net and next to no one will pay for it. But why? It's the bandwidth, stupid. Show me a man who will pay 3-15 to watch a stuttery, poor-quality concert on a tiny three-inch screen and I'll show you a fool. It will be years before this sort of thing is even partially viable. Not that either of these companies are actually planning to put concerts on the Web, but it won't do any harm to imply it. MeanFiddler will sell tickets and CDs online and try to get a few ads as well. Wembley will put all its efforts into pay-TV, and use digital advances to make a tidy packet. Both companies have got the backing and the names to pull it off as well, but then without the fantasy Web connection, would they have got as much coverage or interest in their plans? It seems pretty unlikely. Long live blinkered buzz-word thinking. ® Excerpt from Blackadder The Third: Nob and Bobility Synopsis Blackadder accepts a challenge to rescue a French nobleman from the revolutionaries. He pays a toff to pretend he saved him, but the toff is the Pimpernel himself. The Scarlet Pimpernel decides to embarrass Blackadder by exposing his lies, but Blackadder poisons him before he can tell the Prince. Prince: Roast my raisins! He's popped it! I say, Blackadder, do you think he really was the Scarlet Pimpernel? Blackadder: Well, judging from the ridiculous ostentatiousness of his death, I would say that he was. Prince: Well, then, that's a damn shame, because I wanted to give him this enormous postal order... Blackadder: Please, Sir, let me finish. I would say that he wasn't. You see, the Scarlet Pimpernel would never ever reveal his identity. That's his great secret. So, what you're actually looking for is someone who has, say, just been to France and rescued an aristocrat, but when asked "Are you the Scarlet Pimpernel?" he replies, "Absolutely not, Sir." Prince: But, wait a minute! Blackadder, you've just been to France, and you've rescued a French aristocrat... Oh, Blackadder! Are you the Scarlet Pimpernel? Blackadder: Absolutely not, Sir.
Nathan Myhrvold, who has been having a rather long holiday since July last year, will not return to his job as head of Microsoft Research, although he will be a part-time advisor on strategic issues to the chairman and chief software architect. Gates is said to consider Myhrvold to be his intellectual equal. It's unclear how Myhrvold will find the time to keep up-to-date on software and strategy issues since he will be busy pursuing is interests in biotechnology, paleontology, cooking (he sometimes acts as a chef at a Seattle restaurant), the history of computing, fast cars, and philanthropy. It rather looks as though the part-time role may be a face saver. Rick Rashid was promoted yesterday to SVP in charge of Microsoft Research. He is best known for his development of the Mach operating system. Dan Ling, previously with IBM where he was the co-inventor of video-RAM dynamic memory and manager of the project that resulted in the RS/6000, was also named vp of Microsoft Research. It is curious that with such talent, Microsoft seems unable to harness it in its products.
MS on Trial The last of the DoJ's supporting Declarations to trickle out are rickety edifices, to say the least. The Declaration by Ernest Von Simson is arguably the most pathetic document that the DoJ has filed so far in its case against Microsoft. Poor grammar apart, there's around two pages of CV and two pages of unsupported and unreasoned opinions about how large enterprises might be affected by the structural separation and conduct remedies. No wonder the DoJ was slow to post it on its web site. The Declaration by Robert Greenhill and Jeffrey Williams of Greenhill & Co is almost as extraordinary, but in a different way. This time, almost a quarter consists of CV information. The remainder - which is supposed to be an "opinion from a corporate, financial and capital markets perspective on the feasibility of the proposed separation and the potential intermediate to longer-term impact on the Company and its shareholders" - is not that at all, for the main part. Instead, it dwells on the structure of Microsoft, but omits the recent reorganisation which the authors apparently haven't noticed. Then there's some elementary text book stuff that reads like a simple recipe on how to separate a company into two parts, but everything said is extremely obvious. This is not the kind of expertise that might be expected of a former president of Morgan Stanley and chairman of Smith Barney (Greenhill), and a managing director at Morgan Stanley (Williams). The authors' opinion that forming OS and apps companies "is feasible from a corporate and capital markets perspective" does not derive from the preceding text. There is a claim that the authors had "performed a sum-of-the-parts analysis assuming a range of assumptions and believe our estimates and adjustments to be based on reasonable and rational business judgments based on the currently available public information" but the data are not given to support the claim. Equally unsupported is the claim that "Much of the potential civil litigation liability is built into the existing Microsoft stock price". It is most unlikely that Microsoft's share price reflects the future consequences of the class-action suits (or a potential shareholder suit, for which there is prima facie evidence). Nor has allowance yet been made for how Microsoft's profits would be reduced by its future inability to command monopoly profits. Of course there are divergent views, but quite simply the market has not yet come to terms with the consequences. Financial analysts differ widely in their opinions as to the value of Microsoft's shares. David Readerman of Thomas Weisel has lowered his estimate to $50 to $55 for the worst case (they are currently around $70), while George Godfrey of ING Barings suggested a value of $135, rated the shares as a strong buy, and described the DoJ proposal as "radical and reckless". Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs, Microsoft's greatest bull, thinks Judge Jackson will reject the DoJ's proposal. Lehman's Michael Stanek put the sum of the parts at $125 to $135. It is also curious that more attention seems to be directed at not harming Microsoft than to the concerns of the victims who have suffered as a result of Microsoft's illegal anticompetitive actions over the years: the users of Microsoft software, and Microsoft's competitors. In all the DoJ documentation, there seems to be considerable concern that shareholders should not suffer as a consequence of Microsoft's law breaking. But for more than ten years, the company has been under continuous investigation by the FTC or the Department of Justice, so no shareholder could reasonably expect their interest to be paramount in moves to restore competition to the marketplace. Microsoft's million or so US-resident shareholders have just started receiving a pre-emptive strike letter from Bill Gates asking them to complain to government officials about the DoJ case. It is ironic that just when Microsoft would like to buy back its own shares, it cannot do so because its acquisition of Visio excludes this possibility until the next accounting period on 30 June. This strongly suggests that Microsoft did not expect its shares to sink so low, or that it would have to double the last share options to keep its troops happy.
Wily Net shoppers flocked to Compaq's UK site at the weekend after a cock-up offered PCs for 1. A blunder blamed on "human error" by the Big Q caused more than 100 hopeful customers to place orders for Compaq's Ipaq Legacy Lite computers – normally priced at 530. One opportunist went in for the kill and ordered 50. Today a red-faced Compaq said it would not be honouring the deal, which was caused by a systems upgrade on Friday. Compaq UK PR manager, Nicola Adamson, told The Register: "Given that it was clearly a mistake, Compaq doesn't feel that it has to honour the deal. "When we talked to customers they said they realised it was a mistake," she said, adding that Compaq was not legally obliged to ship the PCs as none of the orders had been confirmed. The error, which ran for 48 hours before finally being spotted on Bank Holiday Monday, would cost Compaq around 50,000 to honour. The manufacturer said it was "very sorry", and would give the customers concerned a free printer when they ordered any other computer from the compaq.co.uk site. Gary Cheers, a director of uklife.net and one of the duped customers, said: "Compaq is such a market leader in the field of e-commerce and by not honouring the deal they are putting another dent in people's trust in the online industry." According to Adamson: "This is the reality of e-commerce. A small error like this in a bricks and mortar organisation is containable, but in e-business it's a different matter. "We've learnt a lot," she said.
A sudden downturn in fortunes at software and services outfit Linuxcare could mean as many as 25 per cent of its staff are to lose their jobs. The firm announced yesterday that redundancies were planned, but would not reveal the numbers involved and refused to be drawn on speculation that as up to one quarter of its employees were facing the chop. Other rumours suggest that Linuxcare is spending around $6 million per month and could be on the brink of running out of cash. This news is the latest in a series of blows to hit Linuxcare. On Monday it asked for its SEC filing to be withdrawn and its planned $56 million IPO is now well and truly on ice. Last month its chief executive, Fernand Sarrat, resigned - soon afterwards so did chief information officer Doug Nassuar. To lose one senior executive is unfortunate, but to lose two is careless. The company's venture capitalist backers, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, is said to be actively searching for someone to buy Linuxcare. The most likely candidates are thought to be Red Hat and VA Linux. Initial signs were very positive for Linuxcare. It received investment capital from - among others - Dell and Sun Microsystems, and Sarrat claimed he had received offers of as much as 300 million during the company's second round of financing. Last year Linux companies could do no wrong in the eyes of the market. Now Linuxcare is citing unfavourable market conditions - along with the departure of its CEO - as the reason for stalling its IPO. Now, who was it that said "don't believe the hype?"
Chip company AMD confirmed today that it has sold out of its entire Flash capacity not just for the year 2000, but for next year too. AMD has a joint venture with Fujitsu, dubbed FASL, which has five fabs around the world producing product. Peter Heinrich, director of marketing of AMD's memory group in Europe, said, however, that it was unlikely consumers will be affected by the shortages, caused by a vast increase in demand for mobile phones. Heinrich said: "It is very clear that the market has changed and demand for Flash now outstrips supply. Every wafer this year is sold out to dedicated customers and that's also true for 2001." He said that most of AMD's Flash capacity went to tier one customers, with which it has long term agreements. Those customers have already secured their allocations for next year, but Heinrich said AMD has also acted to ensure that the firm's distributors are unaffected by the shortage. He said: "We can count on the revenues from Flash for both this year and next." Mobile phones account for the lion's share of demand for Flash, he said. "Mobile phones is one of the bigger market segments but we serve various other segments too," he said. There will be 435 million phones built worldwide this year, AMD estimates. He said that it wasn't just Flash which was affected. "There's a shortage of capacitors, displays and filters because of the enormous growth too," he said. AMD's CEO Jerry Sanders said at a shareholder's meeting last week that his firm and Fujitsu were investing heavily to meet future Flash demand. Heinrich's observations were confirmed by Richard Gordon, senior memory analyst at Dataquest Europe. He said that Flash revenues were expected to rise by 100 per cent this year. "Nokia and Ericcson are putting in place deals that guarantee supplies," he said. "Portable applications are fuelling the market," he added.
Mother of two Alison McKenzie sparked a nationwide panic yesterday when she complained about some mouldy Safeway sausages.
A May Day protest against multinationals and small plants or something led to riots in central London this week but has left behind a far more revealing message. The peaceful protest turned nasty as the cliched "minority of thugs intent on causing trouble" put their intention to cause trouble into action. Aside from a pack of obvious hooligans smashing up a McDonalds (don't think this was political, they were hungry and couldn't figure out how to open the door), what really upset the country and prime minister was red graffiti sprayed on monuments. The graffiti was, at best, nave and included some philosophical delights as "Why glorify war?" on London's war memorial, the Cenotaph, and "ciggies are cool" on Sir Walter Raleigh's statue. The usual "fuck the police" and "destroy capitalism" scrawls were also present. However, what intrigued The Reg while travelling up Whitehall on the 88 bus this morning was the appearance of "MP3" of various statues and walls. Quite why these hardened anarchists and eco-twats felt the need to paint a computer format alongside cries for revolution is unclear - is this the first sign of an internet generation, lost and disillusioned and unable to function without a keyboard, crying out for attention? Who cares.
A Paris court has ruled that its country's citizens will only be allowed to buy auctioned goods online from state-approved auctioneers and will have to pay France's value added tax. In what is a heavy blow to the country's burgeoning internet industry, the court puts auctions firmly back into the hands of a state-controlled monopoly, The Financial Times reported. The situation arose when company Nart.com put expensive artwork up for auction on its site. The site skirted French laws and taxes by locating its server in the US and passing payment through a US bank. However, the possibilities clearly panicked the establishment, which promptly sued it. The sales were then ruled illegal by the court. Nart.com said it would appeal against the decision but will bar the French from auctions and not feature works or art sold in France. The state monopoly is due to broken up in autumn when a European directive on auctioneering becomes law.
Co-founder of Computer Exchange Paul Farrington has disappeared after diving to explore a wreck off the coast of Cornwall. The 39-year-old helped set up the UK's largest second-hand computer and video games chain. The search for him was called off yesterday.
Internet filters are little more than a sham, letting through porn, drugs, and bomb-making sites. Or so says Which?, the British consumer watchdog, which tested seven software filters on a random sample of 23 potentially offensive sites and 17 innocent sites. All seven – AOL Parental Controls v5, Cyber Patrol 4, Cyber Sentinel 1.6, Cybersitter 1999, net Nanny 3.1, PureSight 2.1 and We-Block 1.03 – allowed access to at least six sites with undesirable content. But whereas some filters let all manner of unsuitable material and net nasties slip through – only three barred a Nazi propaganda site - others blocked out harmless sites such as one showing poems by Wilfred Owen. Which? researchers also found it impossible to access the Lancashire County Council site through the Cybersitter product as it contained the words "sex" and "live" - even though the site was talking about "sex lives" rather than "live sex". Another concern raised by Which? was that some filters seemed to block out sites which slagged off the filter's company or software. "Although these filter systems provide some protection from offensive material, parents should not rely on them to block the information thoroughly," warned Graeme Jacobs, Which? editor. "They are not an alternative to parental guidance and supervision." Which? recommended using restricted ISPs, such as Planet Kids and Kidz.net which limit access to pre-approved child-friendly sites, rather than Internet filters.
Network Associates has produced a fix for the I Love You virus that has crippled systems all over Europe. Customers can download the cure at the Dr Solomon's Web site. It is estimated that the worm virus, which seems to have become active overnight, has affected around ten per cent of UK companies. Those hit are believed to include the BBC, BT, Cable & Wireless, and Compaq. The House of Commons has also shut down its own network to stop the virus spreading, while many companies in the City have been affected by the amount of email traffic the virus has created. According to Rob Eatwell, business development manager for anti-virus at Network Associates, the Iloveyou virus is believed to have originated in Manila. "We have the name of who we think it is, but we're not saying," he said. Kevin Street, technical director for EMEA at Symantec – which has also developed a fix for its customers, said: "A lot of very large companies have been hit by this. The virus has spread far faster than Melissa." The virus shows Iloveyou in the subject of the email, has the text: kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me, and comes with an infected attachment: LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.vbshas. Once the attachment is opened, it sends an email to everyone in the victim's address book – unlike Melissa, which mass mailed the top fifty in the address book. It is not thought to damage the victim's hard drive, but is bringing down several email gateways due to the sheer volume of traffic created. "The problem is that the US will be waking up to this right now. Luckily, many large corporations in the States will be able to forestall what companies in the UK couldn't because they should be aware of it in advance," said Eatwell. "This will get worse before it gets better. And the mopping up operations will take some time." Symantec and @Software are among other companies that have produced a fix for the virus. And check out Securitywatch, if you're interested in the full technical lowdown on ILOVEYOU. ®
Shares in lastminute.com nudged up 14p in early trading this morning despite news that the online bucket shop suffered first half pre-tax losses of 17 million. It received 1.2 million in commission over Q1 and Q2 for selling last minute goods, but this was swamped the costs incurred running the e-business. The total value of the items it sold in the first half of the year was 11.4 million. Product development cost the e-outfit 4 million, sales and marketing 7 million and administration almost 3.5 million, among others. During Q2 e-punters bought more than 74,500 items, compared to 39,683 in Q1. Around 45 per cent of the items sold in Q2 were non-travel travel related products and services. Lastminute.com was also the most recognised e-commerce brand in London and second most recognised in UK. Although the losses were worse than expected, CEO Brent Hoberman remained chirpy. "The growth we have demonstrated shows the significant progress we are making in building a global last minute marketplace. "We are delighted that growth has continued during the period - our total transaction value for the quarter was three times that for the total financial year 1999," he said.
A big welcome please, for... Thunderbirdgate. Or should that be ThunderVIAbirdgate? AMD users hoping to update to the next slot A version of Athlon, the Thunderbird, are in for a disappointment. Our friends at Tecchannel in Germany have a story here detailing timing problems with the Slot A version of the chip (the socket A version is OK, apparently) and VIA's KX-133. The upcoming KZ-133 and AMD's own Irongate chipsets are reported to work fine. More than 30 Slot A motherboards currently use the KX-133. It is believed the problems stem from longer traces on the Slot A cartridge which lead to the timing inconsistency. A similar problem with trace lengths led to Intel reducing the number of Rambus RIMMs supported on its Vancouver VC820 mobo late last year. As a result, AMD will now only ship "slotted" TBirds to OEMs and will try to stop them getting into the hands of retailers. So it looks like new mobos all round for upgraders, then. That'll teach them to laugh at Intel's 820 Caminogate misfortunes.
Napster appears to have agreed to consider banning over 335,000 users claimed by metal band Metallica to be music pirates. Napster's lawyer, Laurence Pulgram, told Reuters yesterday that the software company will take a look at Metallica's list of alleged copyright infringers with a view to preventing them from using the system if Metallica's claims prove accurate. "If the claims are submitted properly, the company will take the appropriate actions to disable the users Metallica has identified," he said. It's not entirely clear how Napster can disable the users, assuming of course that it agrees to do so. Napster collects a surprising amount of information about an individual, which could be used to identify and block specific users. But what's to stop them from setting up new identities and carrying on as before? Not a lot, we suspect, but then Napster's tacit agreement to Metallica's terms is largely symbolic - it's as much about getting the software developer on the defensive as limiting the activities of the alleged pirates. In any case, while Napster argues it's not responsible for the actions of its users, US law forces it to block proven copyright infringers.
Even in the intensely competitive PC games market, where silliness seems to be the order of the day, the popularity of The Hunt for the Red Scottish Moor Hen has industry insiders scratching their heads. What started as a tribute to (a romantic notion of) Scottish country life has turned into a craze, verging on cult status. More than three million German and Swiss Internet users have downloaded the original game, which involves chasing a bug eyed grouse (which looks suspiciously like a chicken) across a realistically rendered Scottish moor and blasting it to smithereens. Countless others have download game patches, clones (e.g. Moorhuhn: The Star Trek version or the Football Patch that changes the castle into a football stadium and a scarecrow wears an FC Bayern team shirt), and screen savers. Currently, 12 of German site Computer Channel's top 25 downloads are related to the Moor Hen game. The game was developed originally as a gag to help sell Johnny Walker Whiskey in Germany by Phenomedia AG, one of three recently floated Germany companies that develop, publish, and distribute electronic games.
Commcare, a Swiss telecommunications service upstart, is undercutting rivals by 50 per cent or more with its new flat-rate voice services. By chucking out the billing system and using Voice-over-IP, the company can cut costs far below Swisscom, Diax or Sunrise, the three dominant players in the Swiss voice market. While working up the business plan, Commcare discovered that billing-related costs accounts more than 60 per cent of the cost of providing telephony services is due to (Swisscom AG attributed 70 per cent of the monthly phone charge to billing systems and support in a recent report to the Securities Exchange Commission in the US, where its shares are traded.) So Commcare decided to bypass an expensive billing system. Instead, it collects the fixed rate up front for three months. The company takes a risk that its customers will not radically change their calling patterns from month to month. The contracts are renewable every three months, which reduces the risk for both customer and service provider Account executives at Commcare can view traffic and usage from any Web browser. Commcare's underlying technology is Voice-over-IP. For customers willing to switch to IP based telephony equipment, Commcare can offer an even better discount. For customers that want to use existing telecoms equipment, Commcare can still meet their voice needs at a flat rate by using the pre-select service model with a twist. The startup is in the right market space, targeting SMEs. Worldwide, data revenues from SME are expected to rise from US$8 billion in 2000 to US$19 billion by 2005, while the corporate market will remain relatively static, increasing from US$18 billion to $22 billion over the same period, according to the UK-based Analysys. Driving the growth is the uptake of new Internet Protocol (IP) technologies.