Software can name that tune – it's a humdinger
It's enough to drive you mad. You get a tune in your head and hum it all day yet you've no idea where it came from or who sung it. After a day and a a half, you subject friends and workmates and they don't know either but suffer the same fate. The only solution is to track down the bloke-that-knows-about-music, who you haven't spoken too since last time this happened. Well, those days are over, or so reckon some boffins in Paris. They have devised some software that can listen to tone-deaf idiots like you and me and then, through trial and error, find the tune you're after. Called Melodiscov, the inventors reckon music stores will snap it up. The Reg says: Not bloody likely, mate. First of all, people can't hum, moan or sing in tune - that's why we have singers. Plus, our memory of music is rubbish, the awful noise you make often has very little to do with the original. How a machine with a relatively limited selection in its memory is ever going to overcome these obstacles is anyone's guess. Even worse than this: what if one of these machines actually makes it to a record store. People will believe that if they sing long or hard enough, the computer will find it. It won't and it won't be the computer's fault, but that won't stop the relentless caterwauling. Is it good business to have someone repeating the same phrase over and over again in a record store (yes, if it's a dance music store)? Is it humane?
Ellison: I'll get you, Gates
Larry Ellison refuses to let his indescribably unpopular network computer (NC) concept rest in peace. Despite being greeted with a tidal wave of apathy when first announced four years ago, Larry's one man crusade to single-handedly destroy the entire Wintel PC industry [Surely 'launch a cheap, limited function computing device' ? - Ed] is about to enter a new phase with the launch of New Internet Computer Co. NIC is owned by local San Francisco man Mr L. Ellison, and the company will today unveil a $199 machine that is capable of doing little other than send email, surf the Web and get up Bill Gates' nose. Larry is currently in the running for the world's richest man title as a result of the M$ share price slump and will be putting his money where his mouth is (lucky he has an awful lot of money) by giving away 1,100 of the dinky devices to local schools. Initially the box will be aimed at the education market, but former TV presenter Gina Smith, New Internet Computer's chief executive, said: "When we come out with a consumer computer later this year it will be the easiest to use machine on the planet." Smith admits that NIC is the second version of an idea that already failed. Ellison tried to replace personal computers with $500 NCs back in 1996. Unfortunately, conventional PC prices shortly dropped to the same level, making the NC about as popular as a fart in a crowded lift.
Intel: jobs for life – or else
Chipzilla's litigious nature will again be on public display this week as its suit against Broadcom reaches the Californian courts. Intel is accusing set top box specialist Broadcom of poaching key staff and using secret knowledge in the development of new STB silicon. The case was filed on March 8 in Santa Clara County Superior Court and was seen as an attempt by chip behemoth Intel to keep three former employees from taking similar jobs at relative minnow Broadcom – in which Intel was once an investor. But in an amended complaint filed on April 28, Intel is now accusing Broadcom of actively misappropriating trade secrets and placing Intel's former employees in positions where there will be an "inevitable disclosure'' of Intel's intellectual property. This increased legal activity would seem to indicate that Chipzilla now regards the smaller company as a genuine competitor. California has very relaxed labour laws that have traditionally given employees freedom to move from job to job even if their job contracts threaten them with boils and plagues of frogs should they go to the competition. But if Intel proves that employees should be prevented from moving to competing firms, that freedom could soon be at an end. "In a sense Intel is trying to make an example of these employees," said Broadcom president and CEO Henry Nicholas. "This whole suit, I believe, is the result of some middle managers at Intel who were disgruntled over the fact that they lost some of their brightest stars." Intel further maintains that an engineer who has subsequently left the company, but has not joined Broadcom, gave Broadcom a highly detailed and confidential diagram of a networking chip design that Intel plans to introduce - a diagram that Broadcom never informed Intel it had seen. Broadcom is also alleged to have received email from an Intel employee outlining Intel's confidential processor road map and that Broadcom again failed to inform Intel that it had received confidential information.
Big Blue goes all legacy-free, Chipzilla applauds
Just $699 will buy you IBM's brand new legacy-free NetVista S40 which aims 'to deliver the performance of a conventional PC with the simplicity of a thin client.' The S40 features two PCI slots, three drive bays, and five USB ports. An optional cradle allows docking of an IBM WorkPad PC companion and other palmtops. The S40 comes with a range of cpus starting with a Celeron 566MHz, and topping out with a Pentium III 866MHz processor, 128MB of SDRAM is standard (512 MB maximum) and a 20GB hard disk. Preloaded software includes Windows 2000 and Lotus SmartSuite. Consultant on the S40's design was Richard Sapper, whose original design for the IBM ThinkPad notebook computer is one of 15 of his designs in New York's Museum of Modern Art. "We think that the computer should work properly and shouldn't invade your life," said Sapper. "That's a reason for our products to be calm. At the same time our design has an element of surprise and detail, so that you might find something new to discover even if you've had it for months. This is the way we create discreet interest. We don't think the computer should be shouting 'here I am.'" ThinkPad users will be attracted to the new IBM Portable Drive Bay 2000, which offers a single, swappable drive that works in both ThinkPad notebooks and NetVista desktop computers. "We applaud IBM for pushing the envelope and designing the NetVista legacy-free PCs," beamed Kicking Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel's Desktop Products Group.
Artist to paint town red after sale of easel.com
An American artist planning to cash in on the domain name frenzy has put easel.com up for sale at $100,000. Punters have until May 27 to make an offer to Penelope Shenk via online auction site afternic.com. For the past three years easel.com has been used to show off paintings by Shenk and other artists. But the entrepreneur has decided to abandon the name to make some cash to invest in her next venture - the online advent calendar market. According to Shenk, the secret of her success will be the fact that the domain is a "rare five-letter 'dictionary word' address". "There are an increasing number of auction, gallery and museum Web sites…some of them have names that are less than memorable. Easel.com would be perfect for one of these new ventures," she added. "The value of a distinctive, easy-to-remember Web address has been established in recent months with the sale of names like archecture.com for substantial figures." Shenk is eager to get a return on her investment – she has already paid highly for the domain name. Last month she shelled out $6000 in legal fees after a New York firm claimed the address infringed upon one of its trademarks. But she turned the tables on them, hiring a lawyer and filing a civil lawsuit in Boston, with the two sides finally settling out of court. "It was worth it to see that the legal system can sometimes work in favour of the little guy," she said. So far, Afternic.com has no bids registered for the five-letter phenomenon – the minimum bid is $15,000. Housinglender.com - are we missing something, here In related news, another American has gone to extraordinary lengths to get publicity for his domain name sale. Ricky Anderson built a ten foot high trailer, plastered it with his URL housinglender.com, and drove it across the US from Georgia to California. The pictures from this madcap scheme can be found here. Alternatively, bids can be made at greatdomains.com. Hyphenated princess = damaged goods And in other slightly related news, Earl Spencer is trying to stop the exploitation of his late sister's name on the Web. The move coincided with a mystery seller putting princess-of-wales.co.uk up for sale with a 300,000 price tag. According to a representative for the Earl, the site was shut down last year after selling tickets to Diana's burial place at higher rates than the official ones.
The Year of Disties living dangerously
Online sales will account for 12.5 per cent of total IT spending in Western Europe by 2003. According to IDC, rising Web sales over the next three years will have a knock-on effect on the traditional PC channel, with volume distributors and resellers seeing a slowdown in turnover growth. In 1999 around 45 per cent of the $239 billion spending on computer hardware, software and services in Europe went through the indirect channel, with less than 1.5 per cent of IT spend made via the Web. "The outlook for 2000 and beyond is not entirely rosy," warned Brian Pearce, program manager of IDC's European Distribution Channels Expertise Centre. "Increased pressure on hardware margins, softening of large accounts demand following the Y2K deadline, the shift in market dynamics towards smaller IT projects and the emergence of an Internet channel constitute major challenges for European distribution companies and for vendors alike." Regarding distribution, figures for 1999 indicated high growth for volume channels, but IDC expected much lower turnover growth and "significant business failures" in 2000. The VAR channel was becoming fragmented and complex, said Pearce. "New types of players are emerging in the wake of eBusiness and new market opportunities: eVars, eVAPs, ASPS. "They are all value-added, web-based and customer-centric organisations which constitute a new universe of partners for IT vendors, including traditional hardware vendors. In this respect, the VAR channel is the fastest changing segment of the European distribution sector."
Sorry Sir, the mugger stole my homework
South London schoolchildren may soon have the perfect hi-tech excuse for dodging homework. Three primary schools in the Brixton area are to take part in a one-year pilot scheme to see if using Psion netBooks will improve literacy, writing and maths skills. One hundred of the 800 slimline computers have been bought by Lambeth Education Action Zone, in what is Psion's first deal in the UK education field. According to Tim Coulson, project director for Lambeth Education Action Zone, pupils will be encouraged to take the machines out of school to do homework. The advantages seen in the netBooks were their battery life – more than 8 hours, price, instant-on function, and Internet access. But Coulson said the main reason the group had chosen Psion's machine over traditional notebooks involved the safety issues of nine and ten-year-olds carrying expensive computer equipment around the streets of South London. "When you come out of Brixton tube, there are signs warning you not to talk on your mobile phone too much in that area – because it might get stolen," he said. "We want to be careful about how the children transport them – but these machines will fit easily into a school bag." Obviously there are worries that the traditional excuse of: "The dog ate it" will be replaced by: "Sorry Sir, the mugger stole by homework".
Acer flogs PCs cheap on dealer site
What do you do if you're a big time PC manufacturer who wants to use the Net to flog more kit at discount prices but you don't want to be seen to be screwing over your resellers? Simple, you follow Acer's example and get someone else to do it for you. The Taiwanese PC giant has got together with MPC International – a UK-based VAR – to sell cut-price kit over the Net. Of course, MPC's isn't the only Web site selling Acer kit at lower-than-list-price prices. A quick visit to the Acer UK site throws up a list of other Acer resellers with Web sites. What makes MPC different is that its site is an Acer-only area. So, Acer gets its brand sold over Web and can keep its channel clean. Acer UK's sales director, Scott Dodds, said: "MPC has shown great initiative with us in creating the Acer-only site. The Acer 'Smart Channel' philosophy is all about demonstrating that the future of e-business is about making partnerships more efficient for customers, not about selling direct from one company." Mehool Sanghrajka, managing director of MPC, said: "MPC is not a gimmicky, all bells-and-whistles e-commerce site. We aim to offer the public an on-going competitively-priced range of quality products from a secure e-tailing source. With free delivery - worth over 40 - it's definitely worth checking us out if you're buying a new computer or laptop."
Gates predicts Love Bug Apocalypse if MS broken up
MS on TrialGlobal virus armageddon will be the result of the breakup of Microsoft, "writes" Bill Gates in this week's Time magazine, due to go on sale today. Or very nearly, anyway; you may well wonder how the hell he makes that one out. It's simple, really, as Bill, or whoever knee-jerked the piece out so swiftly, explains. The front line defence against viruses is apparently a "continually evolving" computer operating system that encourages large numbers of software developers to write for it. But if Microsoft is split into two, there would be less innovation in the software, hence fewer developers, and ultimately less defence against viruses. "Bill" also claims that subsequent to a breakup new, more virus-proof versions of Office and Windows would be "much harder for computer users to obtain." So there you go. If you've been thinking that the reasons viruses are specifically targetted at Microsoft software are because Outlook leaves plenty big holes for them to drive through, and because Microsoft software has 90 per cent plus of the market, then you're wrong. On the contrary, continual Microsoft innovation must have made the software less vulnerable. The way "Bill" tells it, all of the stuff you read about security holes in Microsoft software (much of it, er, on the Microsoft Web site) can't possibly be true. And even if it is, so long as Microsoft doesn't get broken up, in the future it'll still be possible for consumers to buy new Microsoft software that offers better virus protection. Honest. Maybe.
Katmai back from the dead
Thanks to JC's for pointing us to this most interesting piece on Real World Technologies, which suggests that the Katmai core from Intel is set to burst through the turf in the cemetery and come back from the dead. You may recall a similar thing happened earlier this year with Intel's Pentium II. You can't put this core down, it seems. If Katmai has, indeed, re-appeared, it is a further sign of desperation on the part of Intel. You don't shift a fabrication process to a new fabrication process by going backwards. Amazing. Over at Frosty Tech, the boys have built themselves a great big whoppa of a coppa heatsink to make things go that ever so much fasta. At Ace's Hardware there's a piece about Linux running on that admirable microprocessor from Alpha, for which NT is sadly unavailable any more. At Tom's Hardware, there is an article explaining some strangenesses occurred when using KX-133 chipset based mother boards with Microsoft Windows 2000. There's coverage of networking using the Internet at Ars Technica.
What is to be done about Cybersafety for Kids?
Education is the key to protecting children on the Internet - but in most cases, it's adults that need the schooling, not the kids. That was one of the main themes of a meeting held in the House of Lords yesterday which brought together children's charities, police and researchers to discuss child safety online. Although nothing concrete was put in place, it was clear that education - in much the same way as children are taught road safety or told not to talk to strangers - is the way most people believe they can prevent children from becoming victims of the "darker side of the Net". For it's not just unsuitable content that's a problem; interacting with the wrong people is perhaps the most worrying aspect of Net culture. Several organisations already publish guidelines for children on the Net. Mickey Mouse outfit Disney launched Safe Surfing 2000 earlier this year, employing an animated to character to turn both children and parents into Net savvy users. The British Government launched Superhighway Safety in 1999 year and is set to republish it this year. And SurfMonkey.com, a kids' portal, has its own list of dos and don'ts. What's clear is that there are many initiatives around - but none sticks in the mind. If charities, the police and Government want to educate a generation of school children about the Net, then there needs to be the cyber equivalent the Tufty Club or the Green Cross Code Man. These public information films are still remembered today by today's adults "of a certain age" - and it goes without question that their characters saved lives. Perhaps those backing yesterday's conference - Barnardo's, NSPCC, ChildLine, NCH action for children, The Children's Society et al - should pool their resources to create something that will be equally as memorable for today's kids. Clunk-Click. Every Net trip. Alright?
HP makes frenzied pizza attack on Sun
In a bid to wrench market share from Unix competitors IBM and Sun, HP today introduced two pizza-sized entry-level servers - dubbed the Piranha family - bundled with Nokia WAP server and a number of other software apps and services. The A400 and A500 line of servers, which stack up to 20 in a rack, are one-way and two-way slim boxes based on PA Risc chips the 8500 and the 8600. The A400 expands to 2GB of memory and has two PCI slots, while the A500 supports up to 8GB and has four PCI slots. Mark Hudson, worldwide marketing manager at HP, claimed that the two boxes had "thirteen times" greater performance than Sun's 220R and IBM's B50 entry level boxes. The A400 costs less than 4,000 Euros and the A500 less than 10,000 Euros, he said, and will be available in July. Standard configurations of the A series include Nokia's WAP server, as well as software from Inktomi, Real Media, Resonate, Infoseek, and Intershop. The entry level line is intended to bolster HP's market share in Europe, said Laurent Balaine, VP of marketing in Europe. Balaine claimed: "We've narrowed the gap with Sun. The A class completes our offerings." HP estimates it has over 25 per cent of the Unix market in Europe, and while it only has 15 per cent in the entry level, he said the firm intended to be market leader in that sphere too. However, the introduction of these Piranhas may not necessarily be good for the channel. In a separate announcement, HP seemed to suggest that rather than be compensated for straight hardware sales, its channel partners were to be rewarded on annuities based on services sales. In addition, HP is recruiting a mass of so called application service provider agents to grow the entry level Internet part of its business.
The quick guide to Register jargon
The Register has gained so many readers this year that we've prepared a rough guide to the jargon we use, after receiving a couple of emails asking us what words like Chipzilla and The Big Q mean.
Itanium to crystallise PC firms' Intel phobia
Systems from a spate of PC vendors sporting Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor are still on track but the firm's own up and coming Lion system is may end up competing with better known brands from the likes of Compaq, HP and IBM. Intel is readying versions of its Lion box which will be put in place at server farms across the world, with one of the first to come on stream being in Reading. That will include boxes using both IA-32 and IA-64 architecture. The battle now between the vendors is to introduce systems which differentiate themselves from, so-to-speak, bog standard IA-64 systems with different vendors taking separate approaches to the marketplace. HP, for example, is claiming that its close relationship with Intel in developing code at the base of IA-64 technology, will allow it to offer a solution which offers 99.9 per cent binary compatibility for Unix based applications. Compaq is taking a different approach, and two months ago said that while it would offer two way and four way systems later this year, it continued to concentrate its efforts on its successful eight-way Proliant systems, which it will migrate to McKinley, the .13 version of IA-64 technology, which is slated to appear next year. While Dell will also offer Itanium based systems during the course of this year, they are likely to incorporate most of the elements of Intel's Lion project, and offer little in the way of fancy bells and whistles. IBM is hoping that its acquisition of Sequent last year will allow it to build elements into Itanium systems that appeal to its corporate clients. Although Intel has promised Itanium systems for the second half of this year, realistically these are unlikely to arrive until Autumn. There remains a great deal of work to be done to convert Windows 2000 into a fully fledged OS for Itanium, according to a source close to HP's plans. One of the paradoxes of this year's Intel roadmap is that the firm will have 32-bit processors by the end of this year running considerably faster than Itanium systems. At launch, Itaniums are unlikely to go faster than around 800MHz, but Intel insists that the 64-bitness of the beast will more than compensate for a raw clock speed comparison. ®
Internet Luvvie wanted for Cabinet Office
The Government is looking to recruit an Internet luvvie to head up its New Media Team in the Cabinet Office. According to an ad posted on Guardian Unlimited, the job comes burdened with responsibility. "You'll be known throughout Whitehall and the wider public sector not just for taking on a unique job, but for offering advice on Web technology, reporting on the progress through cyberspace of public sector organisations, advising Ministers and representing the team within and outside Government," it says. "There's probably no need to spell out the kind of influence you're going to have," it claims. You're not wrong there. You'll also be responsible for assessing how the Government can use the Web, digital TV, WAP "and more" to deliver its spin. And all for the not very new media salary of 60,000 a year - and not a chance of a stash of IPO cash in sight. It took some 18 months for the Government to appoint its e-envoy. Who knows, this position could even be filled by the next election... if they're lucky. ® Related Links Head of new media team job spec
Antfactory fund nets $350m investment
Internet incubator fund antfactory has scored a $350 million deal with three top flight venture capital firms. The three - JH Whitney, CVC Capital Partners and Citicorp Venture Capital - are among the largest private equity companies in the world and JH Whitney was one of the original founders of antfactory in 1999. CVC and Citicorp Venture have, between them, a portfolio of some 200 companies, many of which will be suitable antfactory development partners. Antfactory already holds interests in 17 companies and a further 40 coming on stream this year will boost this. Antfactory's chairman and CEO, Harpal Randhawa, said: "We are delighted that three of the world's premier private equity firms have chosen us as their strategic partner to co-invest in new ecommerce and technology opportunities across Europe." Antfactory focuses on four particular areas of business development. They are: online aspects of traditional off-line businesses; developing what it calls neutral marketplaces by partnering with companies that have mutual interests; bringing fledging ecommerce companies together with experienced business managers; helping established ebusinesses expand into new markets. ®
Fujitsu touts faster, sleeker hard drives
Fujitsu is to add two faster and sleeker hard drive ranges to its existing product offerings. Shipments of the MAH3xxx and MAJ3xxx series will start at the end of the second quarter. The manufacturer claims the MAJ series offers the industry's fastest maximum internal data transfer rate – moving up to 62.25 MB of information per second. There are three hard drive models in the range, with storage capabilities of 9.1, 18.2 and 36.4GB, with 10,000RPM spindle speeds. The MAH series has two models, and is designed to be the cheaper alternative for manufacturers, offering a slower data retrieval rate of 7200RPM spindle speed. The disks can store 9.1 and 18.2GB of data, and are aimed at the entry-level server and workstation market. Fujitsu is also aiming the components at general computer manufacturers – especially in areas such as the business PC or the gaming sector, or at "forward-thinking" set-top box makers. "The amount of data we are storing is dramatically increasing. People are looking at a minimum of 8MB hard drives, and it is not uncommon to see 20-30MB on hard drives on domestic or commercial machines," said a Fujitsu representative. "One of the areas driving computer technology forward at the moment is the computer gaming industry, where people need to access data very quickly."
Napster loses preliminary hearing
Controversial software developer Napster yesterday heard that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) does indeed have a case it must answer. A California District Court judge denied Napster's request that the RIAA's copyright infringement case was without merit and should be chucked out of court. Napster's argument is that it is effectively an Internet Service Provider and therefore protected by the US' Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The Act states that, in certain circumstances, ISPs are not liable when users infringe copyrights, presumably on the grounds that they can't possibly monitor all user activity and ensure it is within the law. The Judge disagreed, but the case is far from settled in the RIAA's favour. The trade body must now prove its allegations that Napster is implicit in copyright infringement and music piracy. And then it will be Metallica's turn to try to do so. Napster may yet be able to show it is protected by other sections of the DMCA, but it's going to have a tough time getting a second preliminary hearing Judge to throw out the RIAA case on those grounds, said unnamed legal experts cited by the FT. The FT contrasted the case with the recent judgement against MP3.com, and noted how the verdict that the online music company did infringe music copyrights - spurious as we think the ruling may be - has forced it into settlement talks with major labels. The inference here is that Napster may do the same. However, unlike MP3.com, Napster only has its software business, and its hard to see the software continuing to be used if the kind of limitations the music industry wants to see are forced upon it. Changing Napster (the software) to prevent its use in unauthorised duplication of music would pretty much remove the very ease of use that has made it so popular among legitimate listeners. ®
This is the reality of e-government
IMG SRC="http://www.theregister.co.uk/images/adverts/blaircro.gif" ALIGN="left">Rarely has a week gone by in the last six months when a government minister hasn't held up some venture, software, partnership or proposal as yet another example of what New Labour is doing to thrust the UK into the digital world. For the most part, these are insignificant excursions into the Internet world, but none of them harm the central message: that the UK is to become the centre of the world e-conomy. You'll find very few people that disagree heartily with this intention but reality, as we all know, is an entirely different beast. Fairly early on in Tony Blair's e-vangelising (sorry, we'll try to keep the prefixes to a minimum), he hit the embarrassing brick wall of the government's own efforts. Put simply, Whitehall didn't have a clue about this Internet malarkey and their websites demonstrated as much. Recognising this as an enormous stumbling block, Tony appointed a dedicated e-minister, put pressure on departments to sort out their act and proudly announced that all government services will be online by 2005. As admirable as this deadline is, we don't believe the original plans for a complete e-government will ever be realised in this country. The hybrid that does result will also not arrive within at least two years of the 2005 date. How have we come to this conclusion? We'll tell you. The Register had a couple of candid chats with two men in the know. Dag Osterman is the head of tax for the Swedish government and his department is fronting a drive towards electronic democracy that the UK Parliament can only dream of at the moment. Stephen Chandler of Hewlett-Packard is working closely with the Swedish government on their plans and also advises the UK cabinet on how to achieve its own goals. So how come many of e-government's selling points will be lost on the way to producing a working model, and why won't it make its 2005 deadline? The interconnection of government departments, business and individual citizens will happen, but in arriving at a solution, much of the simple beauty and effectiveness of the original concept will be cut out. Of course there will be aspects of the grand scheme that will be finished in time and these will be held up as shining examples, but this is an enormous project which will take far longer to fully realise. Why?
Altavista UK still hot for Free ISP
AltaVista still intends to launch its "free ISP" despite mounting speculation that the Webco is getting cold feet. A spokeswoman for the company said today that when AltaVista announced its intention to launch an unmetered service, it gave itself three months to do so. The three months expires on 6 June, so, by rights, AltaVista is still within its timeframe. Last month the company said it would begin beta testing its product ahead of a launch. Since then, the trail's gone quiet. However, by keeping people in the dark about its plans, AltaVista only has itself to blame if the rumour factory is working overtime. ®
Love Bug suspect released into the wild
Love Bug suspect Reonel Ramones has been released from police custody pending further enquiries. The 27-year-old bank employee was arrested by the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) yesterday but the authorities claim they don't have enough evidence to keep him in custody. Ramones is to report to the authorities on 19 May. Investigators reckon the virus originated in Ramones' flat, but he claims to have nothing to do with it. Related Story Love Bug suspect arrested, girlfriend to follow
Bill's local paper lashes ‘Napoleon’ Gates for tantrum tactics
MS on TrialBill Gates' "combativeness" is being cited by Microsoft employees at Fort Redmond as having hurt Microsoft, the Seattle Times is reporting in an extended piece of psychoanalysis. And right now, according to insiders quoted by the paper, Gates is "angry and bitter at meetings," feels very sorry for himself, and his demeanour is contributing to lack of leadership and "stalled vision" at Microsoft. Terrible stuff from one's local paper, no? But it gets worse. "Gates may be at least partly aware of the danger in his path," says the Times. As an adolescent, he became entranced with studying the career of Napoleon. Asked later about that fascination, Gates cited not just the French leader's victories and accomplishments, but also his isolated, hapless final years of island exile on St Helena." The 'thinks he's Napoleon' gag may be new, but Gates has a long record as a loose cannon. His late mother confessed that "We learned early on we could never control Bill," while a former technical assistant to Gates said that Gates ignores "attitudinal" coaching before important press events. A Microsoft media manager is also said to have been "inwardly cringing" at Gates' performance during conference calls after the breakup plan was announced. The Times article suggests that it is Gates' obsession with winning at all costs that has landed Microsoft in its present position. When he stepped down as CEO in January during the mediation attempt, this was interpreted as a way to keep him distanced from the case. He may well have thought the was being helpful when he told Bloomberg that Microsoft would make the source code of Windows available "if that was all it would take" to settle the case. However, this did not concur with Microsoft's legal defence efforts at all, and was immediately denied. As soon as the mediation failed, and Judge Jackson delivered his findings of law, Gates went strongly on the offensive, acting defiantly, denying law-breaking and generally insulting the US government. While an anti-government stance may be a good way to get some popular following in the US, Gates showed just how politically immature he is. Antitrust has always been a highly political issue in the US, and he would have been wise to have taken some lessons from Intel and Cisco when they quietly and skillfully stepped around antitrust claims by the FTC. Mich Mathews, who for many years has been Gates' minder (product manager might be a better term as she now has a more appropriate title of VP of marketing, rather than VP of corporate communications), said "From the outset, the government made this a public trial". Well, all trials are public Mich, and the DoJ has been frustratingly reticent - some would say incompetent - at its PR handling of the case, so that argument doesn't wash. For reasons connected with his psyche, Gates is known to be insensitive to the feelings of others, as well as completely unwilling to compromise. This was particularly seen in May 1998 when he was unwilling to split IE from Windows, and so avoid the present antitrust suit. This kind of stuff may have been OK when he wouldn't let MS co-founder Paul Allen beat him at chess at school, but at this level, an early exit to St. Helena quite possibly beckons. Links The Seattle Times story
The Crap Wap Rap
Just over a quarter of Wap sites tested independently contain "serious errors", which would prevent consumers from seeing pages or successfully completing transactions. The tests on 50 sites ranging from Wap start-ups to multi-nationals were carried out by Anywhereyougo, and demonstrate that this new technology may be in for a rocky ride as the market is flooded with new gateways and phones. According to its UK director James Pearce, there are 27 Wap phones and over half a dozen gateways in use today, causing clashes and affecting performance. With yet more phones and gateways expected to hit the market soon, the problem is only going to get worse - with subsequent effect on Wap's early adoption by consumers. With analysts producing ever-increasing estimates for what the wireless market will be worth in two, three, four years, it is clear that any company which can find an all-embracing solution will have a head start. This, of course, is where Anywhereyougo comes in. For a fee, it will test and ensure that your Wap product will work with whatever is on the market. Sounds like a money spinner. Anywhereyougo describes itself as the world's largest independent community of wireless developers and the results coincide with the launch of its test lab for Wap devices. ®
Firm invents pussy detection software
Gotta a problem with your pussy messing up your keyboard? Does the thought of your moggy spoiling your beautiful Excel worksheet give you the cobblewobbles? If so, help is at hand, unless this is all a horrible spoof, of course. A Swedish reader sends news of PawSense, software which can apparently tell when a pedigree or mongrel kitty is messing with your PC. According to information found on this Web site, PawSense can distinguish between the jabbings of human fingers and the distinctive paw impressions a cat makes when it's trying to order fillet steak rather than rendered horseflesh from your online grocery outlet. Once a cat has been recognised, the blurb continues, PawSense will block input from the quadruped, giving the message "Cat Like Typing Detected". PawSense for Windows 95/98 apparently costs $19.99. ®
EU antitrust probe into Win2k threatens MS core strategy
MS new Trial?Today's announcement of an EU antitrust investigation into Windows 2000 presents Microsoft with a potential nightmare scenario, and ends Europe's policy of 'armed neutrality' when it comes to Redmond. Although sporadic complaints have emerged in individual European countries, the European Commission has for the past couple of years been determinedly sitting on its hands in accordance with its arrangement with the US antitrust authorities, who were until today lead member on Microsoft. So it's bad news for Microsoft that EU competition commissioner Mario Monti is now breaking ranks, before the DoJ has completed its action, and its possibly even worse news that Brussels is focussing on Win2k. The US government antitrust action deals entirely with past sins, while Monti's "examination into certain new features of Windows 2000," and the way in which these features "only permit Microsoft products to be fully interoperable" will be rooting around in the entrails of the product Microsoft's CFO has only just said the company is betting the ranch on. The EU investigation is covering far broader territory than the DoJ took action on. The US antitrust case is dependent on establishing that Microsoft has a monopoly of the "relevant market," i.e. the PC market, showing that it abused its position there and proving that it has harmed consumers thereby. Microsoft's use of its power to leverage its way into other markets where it hasn't a monopoly, or even where its presence is negligible, makes colourful copy but isn't of any material use to the DoJ case. Depending on how you see the future, that could make the DoJ case irrelevant, because if whole new markets make the PC market look like a tiny ghetto, then Microsoft is effectively just king of the dung-heap. Microsoft is however well aware of this possibility, and is doing everything in its power to get its server software into a commanding position in the ASP and wireless markets. Monti says it would be "hugely premature" to talk about possible European remedies against Microsoft, but he already seems to have a view as regards what Microsoft is up to with Win2k. The company, he says, has designed Win2k "in a way which may permit it to leverage its dominant position in PC operating systems into operating markets such as server operating systems and e-commerce." And by implication there's a tipping of the hat towards a possible remedy: "Microsoft's competitors, which do not have access to the interfaces, would... be put at a significant competitive disadvantage." So Monti's investigation is looking at tying in several directions, within the product itself and with Microsoft products on other platforms, how this could be used to leverage from one platform to another, and how Windows APIs could be used to screw up the competition. It's not clear whose complaints Monti is acting on, although one was apparently made by Sun last year; we presume that despite Active Directory it couldn't be Novell, which has just started making 'be nice to Microsoft' noises again, and it's not clear which features (or how many) of Win2k the investigation will be looking at. But there was one last grenade for Microsoft. At the press conference this afternoon Monti was asked if Microsoft could be forced to delay the launch of Win2k. This, he replied, was a matter for the company to decide. Win2k launches in eight days time, so this sounds rather like a very large 'do you feel lucky, punk?' ®
Float announced for Lastminute.com
Lastminute.com is to float its business on the Stock Exchange and NASDAQ next month, the outfit announced today.
How meaningful are Lastminute.com registration numbers?
I would take lastminute.com subscriber numbers with a huge pinch of salt. My daughter Heather appears to be on their list as we found out when we got an email from them. She is five years old and has never visited that site. Neither has anyone else in our family -- the only place this email address has ever existed was on my personal web site (not updated since 1996), on which I added her address. I was very surprised to hear that Heather had been so interested in lastminute.com. I don't know who they bought their database from, but it is more than a little suspect! Needless to say, I shall not be visiting a site that would spam my own daughter before she even learns to use email. ® Email and web site addresses supplied.
Chipzilla squats on tariff towers
ColumnUS body the International Trade Commission (ITC) will investigate whether wanna-be chip firm Via is breaching trade laws by importing its chipsets, following a complaint by Intel, it announced earlier this week. Well, Intel sure knows how to make friends in the industry, doesn't it? The investigation centres on whether Via, which Intel, apparently fears more than AMD, has breached US trade laws by importing chipsets including technology which the giant claims breaches its own patents. There is already impending legal action against Via and its affiliates, and civil cases are pending in the UK, the US and Singapore. But this is a slightly different kettle of old fish, because the ITC, if it finds in Intel's favour, will be able to prevent US borders being breached by that pesky Far Eastern Via technology. Last year, at the Computex show in Taipei, it was evident from talking to a mass of OEMs and motherboard manufacturers that they were far from happy with Intel's product plans. First off, they didn't want to be bumped into using Rambus memory; secondly, they weren't that keen on Intel's 810 motherboards, which didn't offer the functionality that their own customers wanted; and thirdly they seemed terrified to admit that they would make motherboards for AMD's Athlon platform. In short, they were afraid to step on the tail of the Intel monster, for fear that it would turn round and bite them, very hard. But the ironies of Intel's complaint to the ITC should not be lost on anyone. As part of the US federal apparatus, it has more than a passing connection with other bodies which have taken an interest in Intel's affairs in the past. Intel is a multinational company, and just a quick glance at its financial results shows that more business is conducted outside US borders than within. We cannot claim to be experts on patent technology, but surely it would be better to dispose of the alleged breaches in the various civil courts first, before dragging Uncle Sam into the fray. It's hard to avoid the sneaking suspicion here that Intel is terribly afraid that a combo of Via and AMD may pose a serious challenge to its business, not just at the chipset level, but also that the Taiwanese upstart may dare to nibble away at its low-end Celeron business. After all, of the top ten PC firms, the only domino not to fall to the spectre of second sourcing is the Dell Corporation. Nevertheless, put Chipzilla into any kind of a corner, and it's not just going to squat on its haunches and croon silently to itself. Behind the scenes, it is clear that Intel sees the confederation between AMD and Via as a clear threat to its domination of the x.86 market. Nature, red in tooth and claw, is not half as frightening as Chipzilla when it gets really mad. ®
Channel Flannel Extra
Haven't got time to read this week's Computer Reseller News or MicroScope? Don't worry, we've read 'em for you. Here's our round-up of some of the channel weeklies' best stories. MicroScope Ideal Hardware is about to fall into the clutches of Ingram Micro. Sources claimed the US distributor was in talks to buy Ideal, InterX's distributor arm, with one describing the two companies as being in a "mating dance". Ingram UK denied any discussions were taking place.
Virgin carries out payment freeze threat
Virgin is witholding £50 million in payments owing to record labels, in its campaign to secure better discount terms for the Virgin Our price retail chain, The Sunday Times reports. The music companies have cut off supplies to Virgin, in retaliation, the paper says. Virgin claims it is being offered worse margins than upstart online music retailers and -- unless its suppliers capitulate -- threatens to stop selling music within two to three weeks in its high street shops. Virgin accounts for 15 per cent of UK music sales, according to the ST. Currently, music represents 45 per cent of the sales mix within Virgin Our Price. The retailer says it will pump up DVD and mobile phone sales, to replace music. The company wants to double its discounts from 10 per cent to 20 per cent and to move music from firm sale to sale or return. The dispute is reminiscent of a spat between Computacenter and Compaq in the early 90s. In its lust for retail sales, Compaq initially offered better terms and conditions to Dixons -- then a PC neophyte -- than to the UK's bigget reseller. Computacenter went public with a warning shot across Compaq's bows. The Virgin/record industry dispute differs in one key respect -- the £50-million held to ransom by Virgin. This may do wonders for Virgin's cash flow, but what will it do for the company's standing with credit rating organisations? Virgin says it will pay up, whatever the outcome of the dispute, the ST reports. So why not pay up now? ® Related story UK retailer threatens music biz with payment freeze
System builders back Athlon 850
Carrera, Evesham Micros, Mesh and Time Computers will be among PC builders launching machines with AMD's 850MHz Athlon chip. Carrera is adding an 850MHz machine to its existing Octan range of Athlon machines from the chip's launch date of 14 February. Carrera's PC will have 128MB memory, 20GB hard drive, 19in monitor and will run on Windows 98. It will be priced at £1,899 including VAT. Evesham Micros will be offering four 850MHz Athlon PCs from March - the TNT 2, TNT 2 Plus, GE Force and GE Force DDR. "AMD can hold its own and now beat Intel in the Megahertz race," said Luke Ireland, operations director at Evesham. "The ever increasing demands of gamers means that AMD is now considered the vendor of choice in this highly competitive market." The higher-end GE Force DDR machine will have 256MB SDRAM, 27GB hard drive, 17in screen and 10 speed DVD, priced at £2,049 ex VAT. The lower-end TNT2 will have 64MB SDRAM, 12.9GB hard drive and 17in screen at £1,369 ex VAT. London-based Mesh will launch a 128MB, 27GB hard drive machine, with 19in screen, USB and Windows 98 for £1,999 ex VAT. It has an ATI Rage Fury Maxx graphics card, and is aimed at home-office users and "serious gamers", according to Paul Kinsler, Mesh general manager. Time will have an 850MHz Athlon PC on sale from 1 March. Called the Time 850-7 CD-R TV Ultimate PC, it will come with 256MB of memory, 27GB hard drive, 32MB TNT2 AGPx2 3D graphics card and 19in monitor. The Time machine will cost £1,999 ex VAT. ® Related stories: UK PC makers throw weight behind Athlon 750 800MHz Athlon games systems to launch next month Athlon PCs go on sale
Sack Pete Sherriff now
WarningWe thought the Canadian educational system could do better than this: our erudite author hails from the University of Manitoba, or at least his email address does. Not an English major, we think.
Telinco chairman picks up £90m
E-ntrepreneur Chris Matthews has walked away with a cool £90 million from the sale of Telinco Networks to World Online. The founder and former chairman -- who started the company on just £16,000 -- is to invest the cash in a number of e-commerce ventures, led by his shopping portal, hoojit.com. It's likely his new company will even be named after the service and The Register understands he won't hang around too long before seeking to float the new venture. Matthews wasn't the only one at Telinco to make some cash out of the deal with World Online. Eight of the 60 employees at the Cheshire-based company became instant millionaires, although whether they'll remain in this elite club once the taxman has taken his slice is anyone's guess. What's more, everyone at the company received something from the deal -- which could explain why the car park at Telinco's offices are full of new shiny cars. News of the buy-out was announced last week. Although financial details weren't made public, some reports suggested that World Online paid between £250 million to £500 million for the telco. No one at Telinco was prepared to comment. ® Related stories: World Online lands on Freeserve's doorstep Telinco's free Net service is a sitting duck
C'mon readers, let's all be James Bond
A Register reader claims to have cracked part of the code on a British secret service recruitment site. Those who can crack the code can have a shot at becoming a spy for Britain. Agent X, as we like to call him, says he took just five minutes to find one of the five codes hidden on the secret squirrel site. Apparently, the text is hidden in the background colour of the Web site. Sneaky, eh? It displays "01001100 01011001 01000110 0100111 01010010", which Agent X says is hex 4C 59 46 4F 52, or ASCII for "L Y F O R". If that's the case, it's possible that "L Y" is the end of one word and "F O R" is another. Perhaps the code will eventually spell a phrase or instruction. If any other Register readers can crack the other four parts, please let us know. The site is here. Together, we can beat this thing. ® Related stories: UK spies recruited online
Children to become Time-modelled citizens
So what does it take to be a good citizen? The government thinks it knows the answer -- and it's revealing all on a sponsored website aimed for children. Launched by David Blunkett, timeforcitizenship.com deliver a "citizenship curriculum" to offer children the chance to stimulate discussion and take action to become involved in the community. The "timefor" bit of "timeforcitizenship.com" refers to Time, the British system builder/retailer, which is sponsoring the site, along with Intel. Children can post artwork and celebrity pages on the site while teachers can download lesson plans for pupils to discuss. Schools and police liaison officers are expected to contribute to the site which will be awarded prizes by Time. Tony Blair said in a statement: "This website as an important role, bringing together different parts of the community to encourage more active communities and spread best practice in promoting citizenship in schools." But will an online community create a better UK citizen? Bertie Aherne, Ireland's PM, said: "I particularly welcome the use of the power of the Internet and of young people's interest in the web to stimulate debate about citizenship and the part we can all play in key issues." ®
UK telecoms market fair, Oftel claims
Oftel has announced that it now considers the UK telecoms market to be open and competitive, and that the time has come for the watchdog to scale down its work. According to a statement that came out of Reuters today, Oftel wants to shift its focus to championing the needs of the consumer and promoting a spirit of self-regulation within the industry. The watchdog said: "At the heart of the strategy is a rolling back of formal regulation where competition is effective and already protects consumers. There will be more self-regulation by the industry and co-regulation where some control is still needed, with a stronger emphasis on preventing anti-competitive practices." To ensure the UK consumer is not being ripped off, Oftel will compare what's going on here with what's going on abroad. Oftel director general, David Edmonds, said: "The reviews will include benchmarking against other countries to see if UK consumers are getting a deal at least as good as those abroad." Edmonds called upon UK telcos to make it easier for users to compare prices and services, Reuters said. ® Related items: Oftel's statement Oftel wimps out, again Oftel helps you leave BT
How much is IX.com worth and why is IX.de so cross?
The planned Frankfurt-London stock exchange merger may face legal action over its chosen name iX. The name already belongs to a German computer magazine, which has been using the title for 12 years. It also has a Web site called ix.de, which has been in use since 1991. iX's Hanover-based publisher Verlag Heinz Heise said yesterday it was considering legal action unless the stock exchanges agreed to change the name. "They should be looking at using another name to avoid confusion," MD Steven Steinkraus told today's FT. "iX is a registered trade mark in Germany which could possibly conflict with the name of the exchange." The publisher said it owned the German brand and title rights to iX, and its lawyers were looking at ways to protect its interests. Deutsche Borse, which operates the Frankfurt stock exchange, has received the letter but has not yet responded. Legal firm Nahme & Reinicke said it hoped to solve the problem without it going to court. "We do not want to start a war with Deutsche Borse," said Axel Johnen, a lawyer at the company. It seems planners at the joint exchange may have acted a little hastily over the proposed name. The domain name they were thinking of bringing into their scheme – ix.com – also belongs to someone else, California-based Bio Objects, which could now stand to earn a seven figure sum. iX.net and iX.org have also gone to other parties - in 1992 and 1997 respectively. ®
Halifax tries to patent banking system
The Halifax has announced details about its soon-to-be-launched e-bank. At the heart of the service from Intelligent Finance (IF) - a division of Halifax plc - is the patent-pending Intelligent Banking, described by the bank as a "unique money management system". According to IF, the Intelligent Banking system will connect between customers' different financial products in order to maximise the interest on their savings or minimise the interest on their borrowings. Intelligent Banking makes customers' money work harder, the company claims, and will even notify punters automatically by e-mail if their current account balance falls below 100, or when their salary is paid in. By using Intelligent Banking, IF reckons it can save customers an average of 750 a year. Jim Spowart, CE, Intelligent Finance, said: "Consumers have been telling us that this is too good to be true. From July, it's a reality. It's Intelligent Finance." The e-bank reckons its new service is so hot, so dotcom exciting, that it needs to be patented. No doubt it feels it is performing some public service - protecting this new product from other banks because it is just too hot to handle. Critics, though, have condemned the bank's secretive approach. The Halifax became the subject of ridicule when it announced IF in February, but refused to tell anyone about it. IF is to be launched in July and promoted direct via a network of independent financial advisers. Some 10,000 people have already signed up to the service and IF reckons it will attract two million by the end of 2004. "The business has a 15 per cent target return on capital after tax and is expected to move into profit by its third year of operation," the e-bank said today. Elsewhere, as part if a deal with BT Cellnet, IF is to offer do-WAP-a-diddy-diddy phone to its first 150,000 customers so they can bank on the move. Given the shortage of WAP phones in the UK, signing up with IF looks like the easiest way to secure one of the beasts over the next couple of months. ®
BT 0345, 0645, 0845 and 0800 numbers fall over
BT has admitted that part of its network fell over today mirroring a massive outage that crippled the telco in February. Today's problems hit 0345, 0645, 0845 and 0800 number platforms. These services are operational again, the telco has confirmed. A number of businesses have been affected by the downtime but BT is too coy to let on who was dumped without a phone service today. It's understood a bank was hit although no ISPs were affected. Apparently. The spokesman said the number platforms went out of operation for three hours earlier today. Engineers are still trying to figure out what went wrong. Although BT has apologised for the slip-up, this isn't exactly good news for its customers. When BT's network fell over in February it was described as the "the biggest technical problem BT has ever faced". A software glitch was thought to be responsible. ®
Intel says Sun just isn't trying hard enough
New Intel Europe Merced/Itanium supremo, Pierre Mirjolet, today reiterated claims that Sun wasn't trying hard enough to get Solaris running on the first Intel 64-bit processors due for launch next month. Mike Fister, Intel vice president and general manager of the Enterprise Server Group, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo yesterday said: "Users haven't addressed a request for solutions in combination of the Itanium and Solaris. And demand isn't revving up. The IA-64 work from IA-32 applications that run on Solaris hasn't been going well. Sun's move on the Itanium-based Solaris is slow and I believe that Solaris is becoming an OS dedicated to SPARC." And today in London, Mirjolet reaffirmed: "We're not listing Sun alongside people like SGI, Compaq and IBM in our presentations anymore because it simply wouldn't be fair on the others considering the lack of effort they've put in." Mirjolet listed Linux, Windows, HP-UX and Acer/Bull/Compaq/IBM/ICL/Motorola/Unisys collaboration Project Monterey as the operating systems of choice for the new silicon. Itanium is on schedule for launch next month, said Mirjolet, but he would not be drawn on when volume shipments could be expected. He also admitted that Itanium – on the roadmap for introduction at 800MHz in a few weeks' time - was still struggling to break the 600MHz barrier in the labs. The entry-level 64-bit chip will run 32-bit applications using the main 64-bit instruction unit and not, as widely expected, with a secondary 32=bit CPU on the same die. This will necessarily involve a significant performance hit meaning the first production 800MHz parts will run legacy apps perhaps no faster than 500MHz – the 1.4GHz Willamette 32bit chip will be available shortly, posing a difficult buying decision for power-hungry users. The more powerful McKinley 64-bit processor is still on track for late 2001 delivery and will feature binary compatibility with Itanium, while providing at least 2x Itanium performance. A key benefit of McKinley will be the inclusion of a large L3 cache on the processor die – Itanium will rely on discrete cache chips, albeit a whopping 4Mb of them. ®
Dixons confirms Freeserve For Sale option
9 May 2000 Shares in Dixons jumped 34p in early morning trading today following last night's announcement by the electrical retailer confirming it was considering selling its stake in Freeserve. Dixons was responding to mounting speculation that it was gearing itself up for the sale. Dixons owns 80 per cent of monster ISP, Freeserve, but is unable to dispose of its shares until August. A statement issued by the Dixons board said: "(Dixons) is considering its options in respect of its shareholding in Freeserve. These may or may not include a sale or distribution of all or part of its holding." Deutsche Telecom's T-Online has already been linked to the ISP as a possible buyer. So too has BT, although none has been confirmed.