10th > May > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Nvidia kicking graphics butt

There's a battle royal going on in the graphics market and Tom's Hardware is there to watch how Nvidia's GeForce2 is setting out to win it, init. At Sharky Extreme there's a piece exploring the possibilities of music married to the PC. Anandtech is taking a dekko at a Slot A motherboard from Gigabyte rather stunning called the GA-7VX. Go here for more. AMD Zone points to PC Crave which has a piece which may inspire hope for those with Abit mobos and who want to get their mitts on Thunderbird processors. There's some info at iXBT about Via's future chipset plans. ®
The Register breaking news

Merced/Itanium design secrets revealed

In a move as unexpected as Scott McNealy forgetting to brush his teeth or Larry Ellison confessing that he really kinda fancies Bill Gates, Intel is posting full – and we mean full - specs of the forthcoming Itanium aka Merced chip on the web here as of 0800 British Summer Time today. The information, until yesterday bearing a red cover and classified as Intel Secret, effectively puts Intel's 64-bit architecture in the public domain and allows anyone with the inclination and ability to develop their own compilers for the new chips. Open source CPUs are certainly a radical new departure for Chipzilla, an organisation so famously paranoid that it slaps a writ on anyone even divulging what's on the menu of international cuisine in the Swindon canteen today. (Chicken Biryani and pilau rice, in case you're wondering) The move – which is, we have to admit, only to be applauded - is clearly aimed at encouraging the development and porting of 64-bit applications, but who can doubt that shadowy organisations such as the Linux collective will leap at the chance to assimilate the information to build the ultimate operating system? Resistance is futile. ®
The Register breaking news

Intel continues Rambus PR puff

Chip giant Intel endorses Rambus memory so frequently,and with such ardour, for its up and coming Willamette platform that if you believed in conspiracy theories you'd be bound to find one here. According to a story in yesterday's EE Times, Intel has once more reiterated its faith in Rambus memory as being the only memory that its next IA-32 processor, Willamette, will have truck with. Further, the magazine quotes an Intel executive as saying that DDR, double data rate memory, is not on the Willamette roadmap at all. Here it's time to take a break from whether Rambus is a better option than DDR memory, and we can also safely ignore the fact that Foster will use DDR memory rather than Rambus. Instead, it's worth taking a look at the nature of the contract between Intel and Rambus, which exists, in the form of an SEC filing, which is still findable here. Amongst a lot of other interesting information, is this paragraph: "Intel will use its continuing best efforts in marketing, public relations, and engineering to make the Rambus-D DRAM the primary DRAM for PC main memory applications through December 31, 2002; and (b)Intel will communicate to the top (10) DRAM manufacturers, Intel's intention to support the Rambus-D Interface Technology in its integrated circuits for low end workstation, performance desktop, and basic PC platforms." This is a contract, right? And Intel would be crazy to break such a contract, hedged as it is by all sorts of clauses, sub clauses and Santa Clara-style clauses which would keep m'learned friends busy until Moore's Law stopped working. So, you see, dear readers, Intel has little choice but to carry on belting out that PR message that Rambus is the bee's bollocks not only for its current Coppermine desktop platform but also for its up and coming Willamette desktop platform. Intel also has to carry on beating that particular drum up to the end of 2002, despite anything that its PC customers, its third party partners, its memory partners and even Her Majesty's Press have to say. Despite Intel's latest pledge to support Rambus, the latter's share price has fallen by over $28 in the last two days of trading on Wall Street, closing yesterday at over $178. This is a far cry from the $500 Rambus execs wanted, and brokers Morgan Stanley tipped, pre-stock split.
The Register breaking news

Netscape's disappearing privacy code

Netscape has denied yanking privacy features from Mozilla builds under pressure from parent company - and the leading project sponsor of the open source browser project - AOL. The code in question allows users to block banner ads. According to Netscape's Steve Morse, speculation is premature. The code is being included in builds, but has been publicly disabled. It can still be enabled in the user preference file that Mozilla (and hence Communicator) reads at start-up. An earlier Mozilla bug report pinpointed the problem with the code as marking images as ads which weren't ads at all -- specifically the buttons in AltaVista, which get fetched from another server. They have they own reasons for that, we're sure, but that's by the by. However, the speculation doesn't seem to have been entirely irrational. After the code had already been marked as a problematic in an earlier bug report, Netscape's reaction to a subsequent bug report - noting the disappearance of the option from the menus - was the one that aroused conspirators' suspicions. Netscape initially market this as WONTFIX rather than INVALID, suggesting a refusal to fix the problem rather than an acknowledgement that the bug report was a duplicate. And Morse himself blew on the tinders by suggesting that the bug had been removed by management edict, which he now denies. According to Mozilla developer Blake Ross, "A fantastic new feature might be added today; likewise, the decision could be made tomorrow to cut the 'Reload' button. Who knows? It's entirely fair to critize [sic] a public product, but to judge it by its shortcomings when it's only in beta stages simply isn't." It's difficult to overestimate the impact of such a powerful tool gaining widespread distribution. More likely than not - although it has yet to commit publicly - AOL will use Mozilla components as the basis of future versions of its own client, and with numerous ports in progress, and its adoption in widespread embedded distribution Mozilla is poised to be a very popular browser indeed. And the thinking is that users would have privacy and ad-filtering on by default, rather than opting-in to such sophisticated offerings such as Zero Knowedge and Anomymizer. Another question entirely is whether the code can be made to work using a client-side fix alone. Mozilla developers say it's tricky enough to distinguish between ads and content; and we can be sure that advertisers and trackers would work around such sophisticated, distributed privacy guards such as cookie-deflectors, which steer the server to random anonymised, and therefore pretty worthless, cookies on a third-party machine. But including the code in the client does give the user the edge, for a change. And the resulting fallout from this might even persuade Netscape/AOL to regard privacy safeguards as a punter-pleasing feature, rather than something which will precipitate the end of e-commerce as we know it. ®
The Register breaking news

EC to sort out your scratched CDs

UK shoppers will soon be able to get their own back on dodgy Web sites via a European Commission initiative. The EC is starting a scheme to help consumers settle disputes out of court over items bought abroad – including online purchases. It will target cheaper items, such as CDs or books, and cover problems with deliveries, defective products, or products or services that do not fit their description. The European Extra-Judicial Network (EEJ-net) was launched at a Lisbon conference on Friday. The Network will link member states' Alternative Dispute Resolution schemes, such as ombudsmen and arbitration. It will work via a network of 'clearing houses' created across Europe to act as central greivance-airing points. UK shoppers with complaints would currently find it too much bother or expense to go to court over a dodgy pair of trainers bought over the Net. But the network, optimistically tipped to be working by the second half of this year, will let them make a claim to the relevant out-of-court organisation in any European country via the UK clearing house. According to the EC, the EEJ-net will reduce costs, formalities, time and obstacles such as language problems in cross-border disputes by offering consumers easy access to redress through an out-of-court system." All this sounds too good to be true, especially as UK consumer associations such as the Citizen's Advice Bureau are already overworked and underfunded. "There will be a lot of barriers to overcome - it will need substantial commitment, co-operation, resources and some financial backing," said Eileen Brennan, a principal lawyer at the Consumers Association. "There will need to be co-ordination between member states, and the clearing houses and extra-judicial bodies will all have to work together. "It is a good idea in principle, but it will take a lot to get it off the ground." ®
The Register breaking news

My email worm is worse than yours

There are fears that another virus more virulent than ILOVEYOU could spark another global epidemic, according to data security experts, Norman Data Defense Systems. Norman claims that Net users should be on the lookout for a "new and destructive email worm", with "FRIEND MESSAGE" as the subject of the e-mail. If activated, the worm will delete all files in the Windows directory, the Windows System directory and the Windows Temp directory. The result is that Windows will need to be re-installed, Norman said. Norman experts claim it is based on the same principles as the "Love Bug", but totally rewritten. There are no confirmed reports of the virus doing any damage as yet but Norman says "the potential for very fast spreading is high". The Friend Message reads: "If you receive this message remember forever: A precious friend in all the world like only you! So think that!" After this, it proceeds to e-mail itself to all addresses in the Outlook Address book. The virus does not overwrite any files on the hard disk with itself, nor does it try to download anything from the Web. Apparently. And in what can only be described as an absolute stroke of luck, the latest version Norman Virus Control can detect the bug. ®
The Register breaking news

The Pope gets beatiful: see it live

The Pope is due to beatify two dead shepherd children who were lucky enough to see the Virgin Mary six times in five months way back in 1917 when they were just 11 and 12 years old. A third child was also in on the apparition but she's still alive, so it doesn't count.
The Register breaking news

A quarter of PR flacks admit lying to journos – survey

One in four public relations flacks 'fessed up to lying on the job, and forty percent admitted that they had "exaggerated" in the course of shellacking the facts for journalistic consumption, according to a recent PRWeek ethics survey, which sampled the opinions of 1700 public relations, em, 'professionals'. Sixty-two percent of respondents said they had passed along corporate hear-say without confirming the accuracy of the information. Sixty percent said they felt "compromised" in their work, either because they suspected they were being lied to by corporate execs or because they had been denied complete information, the survey found. "Pros are happy to practice PR without a qualification. But the issue of ethics continues to make the industry uneasy and many pros are even willing to embrace a drastic ethical certification process in order to salvage the credibility and reputation of their profession," PRWeek says. One of our favourite industry documents is a primer called "How to Control a Media Interview" by heavyweight PR firm APCO Associates, which affords rare insight into the bare-knuckled Art of Spin typically urged upon so-called communications 'professionals'. The PR Prime Directive is to use journalists as unwitting agents of free advertising. "The interview is an opportunity for you to deliver a specific message to the reporter's audience. Take responsibility for the content of the interview, and guide the reporter to your story," the primer recommends. "Decide what you want the reporter to say about you and your company. It is your story; no one is able to tell it better than you....[The reporter] is your connection to the public." "When you feel the content of the interview digressing from your key points, use a transition to get back on track....example, 'That's a good point, but i really think...' [or] 'What's most important is...'" In other words, become a living, breathing press release. The Register has scant sympathy for the thousands of well-scrubbed, cooperative journos turned out by university programmes where the communications department director is more likely than not bonking the journalism department director, and which therefore emphasise the PR flack's role as a legitimate news source. However, we're not without compassion for those whose only sin is ignorance, rather than cowardice. Thus a few tips of our own, or, "The Register's guide to controlling PR flacks." Ground rules First, understand that the 25 percent of flacks who admit lying are the honest ones. The remaining 75 percent are so hopelessly debauched that they're no longer ashamed to deny it. Those are the ones to watch out for. A flack is a dissimulating pimp, and you are a scabby whore. Never forget this. They exist for the sole purpose of using you as a mechanism of free advertising. Of course, advertising is a valuable commodity; therefore, always demand fair compensation for spreading your scabby thighs. At a minimum, insist on interviewing them in your favourite restaurants, clubs and pubs; and under no circumstances spring for a tab, even jokingly. Anyone who tries to place conditions on your use of the information they offer doesn't get it; and any journalist who permits a flack to place conditions on information is a spineless disgrace. Remember, you have the power of the pen and access to a readership. What you have is monumentally more valuable than any bollocky scrap of sanitised, market-tested corporate propaganda they might hope to peddle. Never let a flack forget this. Quid pro quo There is no quid pro quo; you hold all the cards. Therefore, never -- never ever -- thank a flack for anything. Flacks try to cultivate a fraudulent dynamic implying that you need them and that they supply you with something valuable (we mean other than free meals and booze), in order to bind you with the shackles of their illusory largesse. Never let them manoeuvre you into this perverse role reversal. You are the one communicating directly with the public; you are the one supplying the valuable service. You are the one on whose largesse their tenuous existence depends. Therefore, expect them to thank you, and lavishly, for condescending to listen to their self-serving drivel. If a flack seems insufficiently grateful for your time, simply omit to cover the company he represents for a few weeks. He'll come around quickly enough. If a flack ever dares to say, "May I ask you a favour?" you should laugh heartily and reply, "Of course not, you ridiculous creature." Remember, flacks are obligated to talk to you. You, on the other hand, are free to ignore them. Facts are cheap If, under extraordinary circumstances, it should behove you to wrestle the actual truth out of a flack, your most productive tactic is always to consult the representative of a direct competitor of the company you're curious about. Flacks love to slag the competition and often have heaps more dirt on competing companies than legitimate information on their own, which tend to keep them as far out of the loop as possible (lest, in a drunken stupor, they should accidentally tell a journalist something he might wish to know). Thus you get the straight dope on Intel from AMD's flack, the low-down about Ford from Chrysler's flack, the dirt on Trimble from Adams' flack, and so on. To test the accuracy of such scuttlebutt, you must next ring the flack representing the subject-company, with a wildly-exaggerated version of the dirt you got from his competitor. For example, let's imagine that an AMD rep tells you that Intel screwed its distributors by secretly drop-shipping ten thousand CPUs to retailers last quarter. You then ring the Intel flack and say, "I understand that you drop-shipped upwards of two-hundred-thousand CPUs to retailers last quarter." The appalled rep will almost certainly blurt out, "Rubbish! It was barely five thousand!" Bingo.... Since the AMD rep is motivated to overstate the claim, and the Intel rep is motivated to understate it, The Register recommends splitting the difference and going to press with 7,500. Lying on background Whenever a flack is about to distort your perceptions with a particularly worthless, or egregiously misleading, bit of corporate propaganda, he will invariably preface it by lowering his voice and saying, "Can I trust you with something....strictly off the record?" This is one of the oldest rub-jobs in the book. The Great Cardinal Rule of flackdom is "Never tell a journalist anything you don't want to see in print or on television." They know perfectly well that everything they say is fair game; thus they bait you with such phoney forbidden fruits to ensure publication of whatever rotten titbit they're peddling. Understand that whatever a flack offers 'off the record' is precisely what he is most eager to see in print. With that in mind, the journalist may decide whether or not to publish it, depending on his assessment of the relative advantages of either accommodating or frustrating the flack. Tough talk Once in a while you'll get some hotshot flack who imagines he can push you around. He might even try to show his widdle, and actually threaten to 'cut you off' from his stream of worthless lies. This is pure smoke. A journalist who gets so much as a whiff of this treatment should ring off immediately, and then conspicuously omit to cover the flack's employer until, after a few days or weeks, he inevitably rings back ready to crawl. It's advisable not to take or return his first few calls whenever this happens. And do keep your hands clean. Never condescend to throw blows with a combative flack. Just cut him off, silently and certainly, and let him sweat. His supervisor will do your dirty work for you. Remember, his boss wants to see the company name in print, and will ride his ass mercilessly if they're not getting enough media coverage. You are the gatekeeper - nay, the Saint Peter - of the great Publicity Paradise beyond, and every day is Judgment Day. Don't waste time scrupling over negative stories, no matter how much a flack might whinge. They're all secretly delighted to be in print under any circumstances. Never complain, never explain, and never apologise. Remember the immortal words of Brendan Behan: "The only bad publicity is an obituary." So go forth, rejoice, and abuse your power relentlessly. ®
The Register breaking news

Trouble down the Micromart

VNU Business Publications, venerable owner of various computing mags, has launched a free classified ad section for its Web site called MicroMart where you can buy and sell all things computer-based. But hang on! What's this? There is also a printed publication (and Web site) called Micro Mart which offers a classified ad section where you can buy and sell all things computer-based. Based in Birmingham, this is owned by Trinity Publications, part of the mighty Trinity Mirror Group We spoke to Micro Mart (the paper one) editor Matt Wade, who was unaware of his online namesake. "I'll look into it pronto," he said. "I'll speak to the directors. Call me back in a few days." John Barnes, head of new media at VNU, responsible for MicroMart (the online one) was unrepentant. "Micro Mart has been a column in PCW [Personal Computer World (paper-based)] for 20 years now. We haven't taken its [paper Micro Mart] URL or anything." The Register is completely neutral on this one. We hope they both lose. ®
The Register breaking news

Sun gets splash of HP sauce

Analysis The way that HP has slagged off Sun, over the last two days, you'd think that it was frightened of Scott McNealy or something. There's no doubt that the redoubtable Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP, is waging a war of words against Sun and conveying the message, through layers of Cupertino apparatchiks, that HP/UX is the saviour of corporate America. Sometimes, indeed, HP suits get a little wild in their statements about Sun and what large corporations in the US have to say about Mr McNealy's famous Unix boxes. A senior geezer at HP, who we shan't name here to protect his voicemail from being clogged with calls, told The Register yesterday: "Corporate customers are saying Sun isn't telling them enough about the future of UltraSparc and UltraSparc III. [Formerly loyal customers] are pulling us in for talks." He then, rather unwisely in our opinion, named one of these firms. It's a major semiconductor materiel manufacturer and its initials are AP so it doesn't take much figuring out. But can it be true that corporate America is abandoning Scott's toothsome Sun boxes for HP's range of Unix servers? The last six months seem to show that rather than this being the case, droves of them have bought Sun, and that was reflected in the firm's latest financial quarter. Talking of financial quarters, HP's results are out last week and don't forget that this means that we're in the quiet period, where no-one dare breathe a word about financials. This has got to be the noisiest quiet period ever. At least six suits gave us the broadest of hints that HP would turn in super duper financial results next week, and that would reflect excellent sales of Unix boxes. Cupertino cutie, winsome Carly Fiorina, is expected to stand up at some point next week and tell the world and its dog that HP/UX is the bee's knees. While the HP suits were primarily occupied in trashing Sun, they also took time out to give Compaq and IBM a bit of a kicking. Compaq, they claim, is only picking up business from existing DEC customers, and even WildFire, which is launched next Tuesday, is nothing special, according to HP. According to HP, Big Blue is being a tad laggardly in getting its act together on the big boxes too, and if you believe the firm, its multi OS platform consisting of HP/UX, Windows NT and Linux is unbeatable. But maybe HP had better make up its mind about which Linux distributor gets the bundling deal for its A class series, which it launched yesterday. Although the machines are available in around a month's time, HP has still not made up its mind on who gets the biz. ® Register Factoid No. 22 HP Sauce, beloved of ex-UK prime minister Harold Wilson, is absolutely excellent for cleaning copper coins.
The Register breaking news

Gates pushes XML and the next generation net

Bill Gates told an adoring audience at the Networld+Interop meeting in Las Vegas yesterday that he had been getting a lot of email that says "I love you", but he didn't dwell on the latest cockup. He had grander plans - nothing less than the next-generation Internet. Having been amongst the Internet laggards in the early days, Microsoft is determined not to be caught standing on the railway platform watching the train disappearing again. The chief software architect envisioned a platform on which complex applications could be built with a variety of devices, both mobile and non-mobile, with the foundation being XML. The other main thread of his presentation was that security on the Internet must be beefed up, and no more should there be reliance on passwords. Smart cards were the answer, he proclaimed, but evidently Nathan Myhrvold, his part-time mentor, hadn't mentioned to him (if he knew) that smart card security is currnetly seriously compromised. To his credit, Gates has lightened up and now allows the scriptwriters to introduce some self deprecation. It was no surprise that Microsoft had submitted the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP 1.1) to W3C the day before Gates' speech, so that Bill could announce the big news that W3C had acknowledged its receipt. The submission was backed by IBM and Lotus, plus two independents - Don Box and Dave Winer. There was a new definition of interoperability from the chief software architect when he announced Windows Services for Unix version 2.0: since the product only allows one-way "interoperability", it would perhaps have been more honest to use all those creative juices to invent the term "monoperability" perhaps. Anyway, the product is complemented by Interix 2.2, which is designed to help move Unix applications to Windows. It seems that Microsoft is inventing a new game, which appears to be a variant of embrace-extend-exterminate. This time, with XML, it looks like embrace-extend-accelerate - move so quickly ahead and extend so frequently that every other player is at least a lap behind. Gates described the fire service that Microsoft has - "a 24-hour response team that's there taking any reports of a vulnerability..." The team certainly lives in exciting times. What was hard to understand was how Gates could conclude that "security is getting a lot simpler, even for the very complex scenarios that typical businesses require." Register factoid: The response team emailed a virus alert to registered Office users on 8 May, four days after the virus hit. ®
The Register breaking news

MS Java win against Sun leaves much to play for

MS on Trial It's taken nearly a year for Judge Ronald Whyte to rule on a motion by Sun that Microsoft had breached Sun's Java copyright. After a series of filings and argument, Sun's motion for summary judgement on its third claim for relief has been refused, but Microsoft's cross-motion has been granted. In the interim, Judge Whyte had to consider the evidence from the Microsoft trial in Washington, as well as other pending summary judgement motions. In the present Order, the judge admits that his Order is a turnaround from his May 1999 decision. What it amounts to is that copyright issues in the licence that Sun granted to Microsoft are technically covenants and not limitations on the scope of Microsoft's distribution licence. For once Microsoft was not crowing at what would seem to be a small win - perhaps because its entire legal team is too busy polishing its breakup defence. Sun has issued a brief statement that puts the complex nine-page ruling in context, and notes that the ruling is consistent with the judge's Orders on 24 January in which he denied Sun's motion to reinstate the injunctive relief on the grounds of copyright infringement, but did grant Sun's motion to reinstate preliminary injunctive relief on different grounds - unfair competition. It's a very technical case because of the complexity and imperfections of the Sun Java licence that was negotiated under pressure from Microsoft when it discovered the Internet in December 1995. The Court seems to be in no hurry to finish the case and strong hints have been dropped that Sun and Microsoft should get together and settle the matter out of court. No trial date has yet been set. In view of the situation in the DoJ case, Sun is already clearly the moral winner, but it is another matter as to the extent to which Microsoft has broken the particular terms of Sun's licence. Java is gaining more respectability as Microsoft encounters problems with the security holes in Outlook, as seen with the love bug. This strengthens reasons for using Java rather than Visual Basic for development if better security is required. After all, Java uses a designed-in sandbox security model, while Microsoft leans on trust - and as in so many love affairs, trust is not enough. ®
The Register breaking news

Reg staffer on ‘one-man-war’ against Microsoft

From: McGuire, Jon Subject: Graham Lea Date: Wed, 10 May 2000 06:37:51
The Register breaking news

Love Bug affects Linux: MS spokeswoman's crazed claim

A spokeswoman for Microsoft Benelux in the Netherlands has claimed that the love bug affects both Linux and Apple, in an interview with Egbert Kalse, a journalist with the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. The story subsequently appeared on the front page of the newspaper last Friday, and included: "A spokesperson from Microsoft Benelux denies [the virus only spreads on Microsoft software] and said that other operating systems such as Apple and Linux are hit." A glance at the VB script of the love bug shows with no doubt whatsoever that it is impossible for there to be any adverse effect on non-Microsoft software. But that's not all. We asked Microsoft Benelux, through its PR agency, to confirm the claim. We were called back three times by Michiel Gosens of Microsoft Benelux, who denied that this had been said by a Microsoft spokesperson, either from Microsoft Benelux or even by anybody from Microsoft in the US, with whom he had checked. In fact, he said, "Microsoft had not spoken with the newspaper", and that he would know because he dealt with press enquiries. We spoke to Egbert Kalse and he confirmed that he was "absolutely sure" about the response from a spokeswoman with Microsoft Benelux: he had called Microsoft Benelux and asked for the right person in PR with whom to discuss the virus. He remembered it clearly because, he said, she was very angry about his line of questioning. Angry enough to blurt out something totally demented, desperate and unbelievable, no doubt... ®
The Register breaking news

Spotting the ‘mainframe killer’ spin in Windows DataCenter

In contrast to last year's WinHEC conference, which bulged with details of Microsoft's DataCenter version of Windows 2000, Microsoft nowadays seems relieved to get through a tricky showpiece conference without too much attention being drawn to its erstwhile Unix-killer. And this low-key strategy has been followed to the letter with its low-key presence at this week's N+I show, too. Readers with long memories will remember how the all-singing, all-dancing, all-clustering DataCenter edition would appear "within 90 days" of the main Windows 2000 release. But readers with even longer memories – stretching back to, say, 1996 – will recall the Wolfpack initiative. In Wolfpack, Compaq, Intel Microsoft and chums agreed to produce high availability, failover clusters by 1998. This architecture, a shared-nothing design which was supposed to be easier to implement, and easier to scale than the shared-everything DEC VAXcluster approach, would give us eight-way failover by 1998. And hey, we've got the PowerPoint presentation to prove it. Alas, 1998 came and went, and when Wolfpack appeared, it just about manage to failover SQL Server over two nodes given around 40 minutes, and Exchange not at all. Which is hardly the stuff of mission critical computing. Since then Microsoft has given us all manner of technology demonstrations featuring cluster-like features – load balancing and node-to-node failover – on all kinds of non-mission critical applications... like serving up Web pages. But Web clustering isn't quite data centre clustering, however you spell it, as any DEC or Tandem reader will confirm. Go steady on Microsoft though – it's one of the industry's big lies – and one happily shared by almost any Linux "cluster" offering on the market at the moment too. Clustering as DEC defined it, and as high-availability clusters such as IBM's HACMP define it too, guarantees some kinda transactional integrity. In other words, transactions don't get lost. Conveniently, today's fault-tolerant Web clustering packages quite shiftily redefine a transaction as any Web page request, rather a valuable web page request which might be transmitting a monetary transaction. Prod them to guarantee that, and the 'guarantees' start to get a bit equivocal. And this ambiguity provided a get-out clause, of sorts, for Redmond. Microsoft rapidly reoriented its server strategy around what IDC calls functional servers, performing not-quite mission critical jobs such as file sharing, print sharing and hang-on-call-BOFH email. Redmond has also worked pretty hard, and done a pretty good job we think – given the slow progress in providing commodity hardware – of inching up the SMP scalability path. Although on that count, it's still knocking at the back door for the kind of really nice, linear SMP scalability curves that HP, DEC and SGI have been producing for some years. So here’s what to expect. For performance figures, look out for a few big showpiece TPC-C benchmarks. TPC-C is no longer considered a reliable benchmark by the Transactional Processing Council, so expect a lot of use and misuse RSN. Microsoft has already demonstrated COM+ and print queues miraculously "failing over" recently, so we can confidently predict more of the same. This doesn't exactly defy the laws of physics in any sense, but sure gives good demo. But for further enlightenment look no further than the great Jim Gray's pre-Xmas paper for a redefined taxonomy of Microsoft clusters. Uncle Jim, who shares a bathroom with non other than the Department of Justice at his office at Microsoft's Bay Area Research Centre, should need no introduction: he helped create the first RDMS at IBM, shared-nothing clustering at Tandem, and devised the TPC benchmarks, and has been proselytising NT since he joiined Microsoft in 1995. Tasked with making a some kinda purse out of the Wolfpack sow’s arse, Jim's come up with a new taxonomy of clustering, here or here. Still, Microsoft still scored a minor victory of sorts yesterday, albeit in PR terms, in that it managed to get Windows 2000 DataCenter Edition described as a 'mainframe killer'. It wasn't too long ago that Microsoft was presenting NT as a Unix killer – only without the scalability, reliability or security. Now it's a mainframe – only without the logical partitioning, I/O, or fault-tolerance. But the spinning's working - some outfits who should no better are already parroting this nonsense. ®
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The Times recommends porn site

Oh dear, oh dear. Readers of Dr Keyboard's letters section in the Interface section of Monday's Times would have been surprised when Doc Keyboard recommended Moneyworld as a personal finance website. Of course, Moneyworld.co.uk is an excellent personal finance site. Moneyworld.com, on the other hand, isn't. Not unless you're interested in investing in Live Sex from Amsterdam or watching some clothing-deficient lady "go all the way". We hope no one has got into bother over this one. After all, it's an easy mistake to make - especially if your eye sight is faltering or the hair on your palms gets in the way. Disclaimer: We were alerted to this porn-pushing mishap by an eagle-eyed reader who noticed a small correction in today's Times. Sadly, after a thorough hunt, we realised we'd been too damn efficient for our own good and chucked Monday's issue away. Thus, there remains a very slim chance that The Times actually recommended Moneywank.co.uk, Honeyworld.co.uk or some other form of typo error URL. ®
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BT network crash takes down schools ISP

Yesterday's network crash was far worse than BT admitted, The Register can reveal. The monster telco said no ISPs were affected when it's 0345, 0645, 0845 and 0800 numbers fell over yesterday. But Vulture Central has learnt that BT's 0820 numbers fell over as well and that the lights went out at a number of ISPs. A spokesman for BT finally admitted today that some 80 companies were hit yesterday, including utilities, banks and transport outfits. What he failed to mention was that schools on the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) and other Net access schemes were also hit leaving children without access to the web. The Education Exchange (EDEX), an ISP which provides filtered and controlled Internet connectivity for education, said: "BT have informed us they have a major network problem which has affected 0800 & 0345 numbers. "The platform that carries these numbers has failed on a national scale." So, BT is responsible for denying our children - and let's be honest, they're the future of this great nation - their God-given right to a decent education. ®
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Most expensive dot org yet goes under the hammer

Forget the dotcoms, the next domain names to rake in the cash will be the dotorgs. A US auction site claims to have just got the highest price yet for one of these beauties – with the sale of engineering.org for $198,895. The prestigious dot org was bought during an open auction on afternic.com earlier this month. The proud new owner is New York-based organisation The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, also owners of mechanical.org. Afternic, flying the kite for the URL financial underdog, claimed the deal put engineering.org in the top-25 most expensive addresses ever sold. "This extraordinary closing is the clearest demonstration yet of the rapidly growing value of top-level domains outside of the rarefied dot com, as well as the premium that an organisation will pay for the ultimate generic domain name related to its particular field," gushed Afternic's publicity machine. But dot orgs, dot nets and the like still have a long way to go to catch up with the mistress of URLs – dot com. Canadian start-up eCompanies splashed out $7.5 million for business.com last December, more than double the previous highest price paid for a domain name - Compaq had previously held the crown after paying $3.3 million for its altavista.com search engine address. ®
The Register breaking news

Napster bans most alleged Metallica pirates

Controversial digital music software company Napster said yesterday that it has booted 317,377 users from its MP3 'seek, locate, download' service. That should go some way to pleasing rock band Metallica who accused the 317,000-odd users - and over 26,000 more - of illegally distributing its music. "We intend to fully comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and our policies," said the software company. "We will take down all users Metallica has alleged, under penalty of perjury, to be infringing." Earlier this week, Napster lost a preliminary hearing seeking to have the Recording Industry Association of America's copyright infringement case against it thrown out of court. Napster's argument centred on Section One of the Act, which protects ISPs from the piratical practices of any of their users. A California District Court judge ruled that Napster was not protected by the act, and it's telling that the company's statement specifically notes its compliance with the DMCA. That suggests Napster may now try to seek a settlement with both the RIAA and Metallica, hence the ban on certain users, as requested by the band's lawyers. Metallica drummer and spokesman Lars Ulrich is said to have stated in a recent online chat session his intent to close Napster down, so the software developer is unlikely to gain much from the ban. After all, many of the banned users may simply start over, accessing the service from new accounts and alternative ISPs. ® Register factoid no.666 Our thanks to Register reader Dave Martin who spotted the following: in the liner notes for one of Metallica's Garage Inc. album, lead singer James Hetfield explains that when he first met Lars Ulrich he would "stay over at his house for days making tapes of his records and sleeping on the carpet". To misquote those great Brit rockers, Spinal Tap: How much blacker can this pot be from this kettle? None more black...
The Register breaking news

EMI to launch digital music service in July

Record label EMI will follow fellow 'Big Fivers' Sony and BMG to launch an digital music distribution service, the company said today. Kicking off on 1 July, EMI will offer some 100 albums and 40 singles taken from them for download via third-party music sites. Pricing will match CD prices - though which territory's prices they'll be pegged too remains to be seen. The tracks will be encoded in Windows Media Player format and presumably in Liquid Audio format, too, since LA has been instrumental in taking EMI's back catalogue into the e-world. LA will almost certainly be providing the rights management and copyright protection technology too. EMI is pretty bullish about the deal. "Digital delivery will eventually become part of our standard release pattern," said Ken Berry, EMI's CEO of EMI. "We are committed to making high quality music available to the consumer in a variety of media." ®