23rd > June > 2000 Archive

Kiddie smut law shot down again

The Third US Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia let stand a lower court decision which found the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) so broad that it could affect virtually any Web site, requiring only that some prosecutor somewhere find some bit of content potentially "harmful to minors". The suit against the COPA was originally brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the Fall of 1998. In February of 1999 US District Judge Lowell Reed issued a preliminary injunction preventing the government from enforcing it. Finally, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) appealed the injunction, and, as we learned Thursday, failed to persuade the court. The appellate court's ruling states that "because the standard by which COPA gauges whether material is 'harmful to minors' is based on identifying 'contemporary community standards', the inability of Web publishers to restrict access to their Web sites based on the geographic locale of the site visitor, in and of itself, imposes an impermissible burden on constitutionally protected First Amendment speech". "We will affirm the District Court's grant of a preliminary injunction because we are confident that the ACLU's attack on COPA's constitutionality is likely to succeed on the merits." The question now is in which forum the 'attack' will continue. The DoJ can petition the US Supreme Court to rule, or ask that the case be sent to Judge Reed for trial, or drop it and let the ACLU win. Option three is distinctly un-Renolike; her DoJ does not graciously concede defeat, and probably won't now, in spite of the fact that it's stuck defending a ridiculously defective law. Option two has its charm in terms of expedience, but since Judge Lowell has already signalled his considerable reluctance to tread on the First Amendment, this could result in a bad outcome for the government and further trudging up the food chain. The Register's money is on an appeal to the Supreme Court, though whether they would condescend to hear it before the intermediate steps are exhausted is anyone's guess. And a direct appeal would not necessarily work in the Department's favour. The Rehnquist Court has demonstrated a palpably Draconian tendency in matters of law and order, all right; but it has also demonstrated a most fundamentalist inclination in cases of free speech. The DoJ will face a daunting uphill climb wherever its case is heard, and ultimately risks a very high-profile and humiliating public defeat. Considering the prickly Constitutional issues attaching to this case, and the overall weakness of the COPA as law, the smart and gentlemanly thing would be for the DoJ to let it drop quietly; but Janet Reno, we have observed on numerous occasions, is most definitely not a gentleman. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Jun 2000

MS and DoJ agree schedule for Supreme Court

MS on TrialMS on Trial The DoJ and Microsoft agreed a briefing schedule yesterday, and proposed it to the clerk of the Supreme Court in a letter from Seth Waxman, the DoJ's solicitor general, who will head up the case there. Microsoft would file on 26 July, the DoJ reply would be by 15 August, and if Microsoft chose to reply, it would be by 22 August. At least four of the justices will need to agree to hear the case, but in view of Judge Jackson's Order staying the conduct remedies, it must now be more likely that the Supremes will hear the case, although referring some issues to the Court of Appeals cannot be ruled out. The basis of Microsoft's brief would almost certainly be that the appeal should be heard by the Court of Appeals. However, there is a danger that it would seem as though Microsoft was trying to escape the high court and this may divert its focus from protestations of innocence. It is not known how quickly the Supremes might respond, but it is likely to take at least a month. Its first decision would be a procedural one as to whether it would hear the case, rather than the beginning of any resolution of the appeal. ®
Graham Lea, 23 Jun 2000

Does MS get the net, or is it building its own again?

AnalysisAnalysis Despite the extra preparation time provided by delays, Microsoft was still generating more heat than light at its great Next Generation Windows .NET announcement. The speakers were Messrs Gates, Ballmer, Maritz, Muglia and Belluzzo (no Allchin, as he's having a long holiday). Microsoft's press team must have been in overdrive, because there was almost no advance information, little selective leaking, and no public simultaneous Webcast. It was not until several hours after the meeting ended that a replay of the Webcast became available. According to Gates, eight groups spent several months discussing aspects of a new generation of software, and he had led the one on the user experience. The result is that Microsoft's products and even its own name will be "dot-netted" by adding '.NET' (in upper case, alas). Microsoft.NET is to consist of a platform; products and services. The products get .NETted The platform will have some .NET building blocks, including identity; notification and messaging; personalisation; XML store; calendar; directory and search; and dynamic delivery. But the term is used more broadly for the "next generation of products and services", and these will include Windows.NET; MSN.NET; personal subscription services; Office.NET; Visual Studio.NET; and bCentral for .NET. The Microsoft.NET user experience will include a natural interface, a universal canvas (XML-based), an information agent, and smart tags. All this cries out for a diagram or two showing how these bits and pieces fit together, but Microsoft has yet to ship one. The demos were as usual rather strange examples of what Microsoft envisages to be the real world of business and entertainment - and the emphasis was very much on the latter. A synthesised voice said that the Dow was "down minus 64 at 10,433.74" - but why "down minus"? Why two significant digits being compared with seven significant digits? It was clearly demoware, with very little behind it. Gates fails to nail the jelly Gates' presentation didn't go anywhere towards nailing the project down; he presented an unstructured list of things to be considered, but there was no real vision or even logical presentation, just some vague plan to tie together whatever was there, and whatever came along. What was missing was any abstraction: it all smacked of ill-prepared ad-hoc-ism. The .NET was all going to roll out "over a many year period", but there seems to be no serious plan other than "Windows.NET version 1... next year", but "not the 100 per cent implementation". If Microsoft knows how it will all evolve beyond the general remark that "it will be more than two years before all the different services are out there," it's not telling. Could it be that we have another Cairo in the making? The waffle level was high, even by Microsoft standards. Gates claimed the announcement was comparable in importance to that of Windows, rather than Microsoft's Internet conversion announcement, but as usual there was nothing new, nothing that someone somewhere was not already doing. Considering what Gates said, a reasonable assessment would be to say that Microsoft intends to integrate anything that comes along, and has decided to pay no attention at all - at least publicly - to the break-up threat. At least it was consistent with Microsoft's protestations of innocence and claims that it would win the appeal. Gates concluded: "You could say it's a bet the company thing". Right - but what are the odds? Bob Muglia [vp, business productivity group] addressed the user experience of .NET in a small business and an enterprise. One of the demos included what was referred to as "dynamic delivery" which seemed to be a way of receiving email while on the move without hassle. Big deal. Muglia said there would be "traditional versions of Office for quite some time", but eventually there would be a "totally new version" called Office.NET. Muglia also said that Microsoft had been "working with carriers to take Exchange data and make it available to mobile users". Again, it's hard to see what is novel about this. Rick Belluzzo [vp, consumer group] gave a low-level sales talk, pointing out how the mission was "to simplify daily tasks", something that the PC has made singularly more complicated for many of the knowledge workers, as Microsoft likes to call them. The second mission was "to provide easy access to people and information that you care about". There would be "more choices for creating and enjoying entertainment". Introducing rentals Belluzzo mentioned the possibility of "consumer subscription services", something of a holy grail for Microsoft. In response to a later question, it was clarified that a subscription model would be used for Office.NET, but not for Windows, which will stay royalty-based. Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs wanted to know why Office was going to be a subscription model, and the size of the investment to achieve this, but he was given no proper answer. The key question remains: will consumers really want the kinds of services that Microsoft has in mind - and will Microsoft develop compellingly superior versions? There must be some doubt about this. Paul Maritz [vp, platforms strategy and developer group] saw two sets of challenges: developer productivity, and going beyond HTML and browsing. His demos included a pre-release version of VisualStudio.net with calendaring, VisualBasic, and BizTalk with Visio. It was not exciting. Steve Ballmer was the wrap-up man. "The last six months has frankly been [pause for dramatic effect...] WILD, absolutely wild!". But regrettably, it doesn't show. Since there are really no distinguishing characteristics of the next versions of Microsoft software, this .NET announcement should perhaps be seen as little more than some quite clever product renaming, at least for the time being. No doubt Microsoft will stick at it and something more substantive might come from it all, but right now, it's smoke and mirrors, folks. Questioners were evidently pre-screened, since they were called by number. Clearly the question had to be put about what would happen if Microsoft were split up, so this was wheeled on first. Ballmer said that his focus was not on break-up, but on building the right software. Microsoft was pursuing its "judicial opportunity" and he expected "to prevail on remaining one company". It was "premature to speculate on anything else". Another questioner was curious if Microsoft thought the plan would have a positive impact on the courts. This was not answered. ® Related Story Bill Gates, Windows, the Universe and everything: .NET
Graham Lea, 23 Jun 2000

Hitachi capitulates to Rambus

Semiconductor firm Hitachi signed a deal with Rambus ending litigation between the companies and agreeing to pay royalties on synchronous memories and double data rate (DDR) memories. Hitachi will pay Rambus a settlement fee and royalty payments for both RDRAM and any DDR or SDRAMs it chooses to manufacture. And Rambus said it will charge more royalties for DDR and SDRAM memories than for its own RDRAM. That should equalise the current delta a little. All the outstanding litigation, including one lodged by Hitachi claiming that Rambus was violating the US anti-monopolistic Sherman Act, has now come to an end. The reasons for Hitachi's sudden capitulation are unclear, but it may be connected to the fact that the Japanese giant wants to flog its memory division to NEC, and this litigation has got in the way of that. Last week Toshiba said it would license IP from Rambus for DDR and SDRAM memories. Any remaining anti-Rambus faction in the Dramurai are likely to follow suit real soon now. So that's that then. Expect Rambus' share price (ticker: RMBS) to go through the roof when trading in Wall Street starts today. The firm split its shares earlier in the week, and they closed hovering around the $100 mark on Wall Street last night. But in after hours trading, they exceeded $100, so delivering a big Ramboost for shareholders. Effectively, Rambus has hit its pre-split target of $500. Geoff Tate, chief executive officer of Rambus Ink said: "We believe our Rambus memory interface is the best solution for the majority of the market. Developing and marketing the Rambus memory interface has been and remains our top priority, but we are willing to license our IP for other memory interface solutions as well. We are pleased that Hitachi chose to license our patents for SDRAM, DDR SDRAM memory and controllers. We look forward to renewing a long-term relationship with Hitachi." No financial terms were disclosed. Perhaps Via had better start packaging those DDR 266 t-shirts up, in readiness for shipping from Taipei to Mountain View, and make sure it doesn't prevent senior executives from getting into its DDR seminars any more. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Jun 2000

Compaq to create 0.13 micron Intel killer

Fears that Compaq will ditch the Alpha processor appear to have been scotched with sources claiming the firm will produce the 64-bit processor using a 0.13 micron process and target it at Intel IA-64 processors. But at the same time, the move to IBM copper technology seems to have thrown something of a spanner into Compaq's current plans, causing delays and slippages, with Samsung, too, encountering problems clocking the Alpha to high clock rates. The plan to move to 0.13 micron 21264 technology is part of Compaq's EV69 project and will position the Alpha parts against Intel's Deerfield project. Compaq has also started sampling EV68 parts although clock speeds of both its and its partner Samsung have so far only reached a max of 940MHz. Many had anticipated that Compaq would be able to release 1GHz Alpha parts this month or early next, and there is some slippage on the development of these designs. A 1GHz Alpha is not expected now to be available until the end of this year, although the relevance of megahertz to the platform is not particularly significant. However, IBM, which is now fabbing Alpha microprocessors, as first revealed here in February last year, appears to be getting good clock speeds even from a 0.25 micron process technology. The introduction of IBM's copper technology has, it appears, caused other delays. EV7 technology is now slated to appear in Q1 2001 but will intro at over 1.1GHz, the sources said. EV8 is likely to appear in Q1 2002. Later that year we are likely to see 0.13 micron Alphas - intended to be Intel IA-64 killers. ®
Mike Magee, 23 Jun 2000

Handspring grabs quarter of US PDA market

UpdatedUpdated PalmOS licensee Handspring, which successfully IPO'd earlier this week, grabbed the number two slot in the US PDA retail marketshare chart, according to figures for May just released by market researcher NPD Intelect. April marked Handspring's debut in the retail channel after setting up its - initially rather shaky, it has to be said - Web-based direct sales mechanism. Early numbers showed Handspring outselling Palm, but over time the latter's stronger brand (and bigger sales presence) pushed it back into the lead. For April as a whole, NPD Intelect's stats give Palm a commanding 71.1 per cent share of the retail market, in terms of units sold, with Handspring in second place with a very healthy (for its debut month) 18 per cent share. That left PalmOS dominating the retail sector with a 89.1 per cent market share. Windows CE-based device vendors filled out the top five: Casio took 5.4 per cent of the market, Hewlett-Packard 2.6 per cent and Compaq a mere 0.9 per cent. The ubiquitous 'others' split the remaing 1.4 per cent among themselves. The numbers are certainly a validation of Handspring's strategy targeting more mainstream consumers. Carving out such a high share is impressive, particurly given the very strong brand names of its competitors. That said, shipping product that's around $200 cheaper than its Windows CE rivals and most (but not all) of Palm's offerings helps here. Of course, Handspring can't take it easy. Late April saw the debut of Microsoft's PocketPC initiative (aka Windows CE 3.0), too late to show up in April's figures. And May's numbers show the launch made pretty little difference. Last month, Handspring's retail marketshare rose to 25 per cent, while Palm's fell to 67 per cent. That leaves Windows CE with an even smaller share of retail unit shipments - just eight per cent minus Psion's undoubtedly tiny share. Casio took just over five per cent of it; as with April, the only other significant players were HP and Compaq. PocketPC devices remain expensive in comparison to Handspring's Visor, and don't really offer the kind of significant improvements over previous versions that might tempt retail consumers to opt for the pricier models. NPD Intelect's numbers ignore corporate sales, which won't do much to change Palm's overall lead, would certainly improve both Compaq and HP's shares if taken into account. ® Related Stories Handspring stock leaps on IPO Handspring retail debut becomes instant chart-topper WinCE retail market share collapses
Tony Smith, 23 Jun 2000

Kenwood boffins crack MP3 quality block

Scientists at Japanese consumer electronics giant Kenwood have figured out how to make compressed digital music files like MP3s sound as good as the CDs they were ripped from. The technology, codenamed Supreme Drive, attempts to replace the high frequency sound signals usually lost when music is first converted into digital information and that data is then compressed. These lost higher frequencies contain many of the more subtle harmonics produced by musical instruments and voices that give them sonic colour. Supreme Drive extrapolates these missing harmonics from the sound wave information that does survive the compression process, since all harmonics are derived from a basic sound pattern, known as a 'fundamental'. From the fundamental, the harmonics' waveforms can be derived mathematically and pumped out through a sound generator. According to Kenwood, these generated harmonics can be added back into the sound when it's played back, producing a sound that's more natural. The company said it plans to incorporate the technology into a future digital audio products of its own, and will license it to other audio hardware manufacturers. ® Related Stories S3 licenses Dolby AAC 'MP3 killer' MP3 to destroy capitalism, bring about anarchy
Tony Smith, 23 Jun 2000

Windows ME gold code available for free

Windows Millennium Edition was released to manufacture earlier this week for September shipment to users, but if you just can't wait, the gold code is available for FTP download from a number of sites, according to Register sources. We haven't downloaded the OS ourselves, (not least because it's a whopper, and we'll have a legitimate CD copy in a few days) but we have verified that Win ME build 3000.2 is indeed available on at least one US site. In line with our stance on software piracy, we're not going to tell you where you can download it, so don't even ask. One of our machines here at Vulture Central has been running ME beta 3 for some time and, although not feature-complete, it is commendably stable and particularly impressive in terms of the time it takes to start from cold - no time at all, in fact. ®
Andrew Thomas, 23 Jun 2000

Brits big on net porn and gambling

Britain is an e-nation of porn addicts and gamblers, according to the latest research from wired watchers, NetValue. More than a third of all Netizens in Britain - some 3.6 million people - visit adult Web sites and 40 per cent of the top 6,000 sites are X-rated. No real surprises there, but then again, who would wager against the notion that online gambling will soon become e-Britain's favourite pastime? For two million Net users in Britain are now visiting gambling Web sites - and the number is doubling every four months. Elsewhere, the research showed there are ten million home Net users in Britain - an increase of 15 per cent over the previous six months. What's more, they're spending even more time on online - up from nine minutes a day in December 1999 to 12 minutes a day in May. Put these elements together and what have you got? A nation obsessed with gambling and sex but able to satisfy their cravings for vice in less time than it takes to heat up a meal-for-one in a microwave. Good heaven ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

BT to sell off Openworld

BT has played down reports it is considering to float its broadband operation - BT Openworld - and embark on a round of costly media content acquisitions. Marc Deschamps, BT Openworld's COO, told Reuters that BT would probably float Openworld and that the telco would consider buying content providers. Deschamps is reported to have said that BT is prepared to be "very aggressive in making acquisitions". But in a display of pantomime-like farce a BT spinmeister said today that there was nothing new in what Deschamps said. Indeed, when the company was reorganised in April BT's boss, Sir Peter Bonfield, announced that the directory service, Yell, would be floated later this year. Fielding questions from journalists eager to know if he had plans to sell off any more of BT's "family silver", Sir Peter neither ruled it in or out. Instead, he gave the stock response that it all depended on the right market conditions, right business reasons, et cetera, et cetera. This 'wait and see' position was affirmed once again today by BT's spinmeisters who also said that that telco was more likely to increase its content provision by developing partnerships with other content providers, rather than by acquisition... although that wasn't to say they wouldn't buy something at some point. Which is great, except it isn't exactly what Deschamps said yesterday. But it begs the question: why does BT let its top man talk to the press when whatever he says is massaged by BT's spinmeisters afterwards? What's the point? What does it add to the overall understanding and knowledge of BT other than here's a company run by control freaks and fixated with maintaining an image rather than having any real substance... or not, as the case may be. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

ATI stock tumbles on earnings fears

ATI's shares fell 16 per cent on the Canadian stock exchange yesterday on investor fears that the 3D graphics market leader is going to see a significant shortfall in earnings. ATI's shares closed at C$13 ($8.80) after hitting a low of C$12 ($8.16), just 20 cents above its year-low of C$11.80. ATI stock also trades on Nasdaq, and ended the day at 8.875. During the day, UBS Warburg Dillon Read downgraded ATI's stock from 'buy' to 'hold'. UBS cut its 12-month shareprice target by $1 to $11, fiscal 2000 earnings four cents to 31 cents a share and 2001 earnings from 55 cents a share to 36 cents, according to Reuters. Revenue estimates were reduced for fiscal 2000 to $1.35 billion from $1.38 billion. For 2001, the new estimate is $1.6 billion, down from $1.75 billion. ATI itself is aware of the problem, having predicted it will lose 6-7 cents a share for Q3 2000 - a marked change on the 13-14 cents a share profit it had originally been anticipating. The reason: a price war and rising component costs, both conspiring to nuke ATI's margins. Meanwhile, Nvidia has been pulling in some significant OEM deals - the kind of business ATI thrived upon - through its aggressive six-monthly new product roll-out schedule. Nvidia is pretty much the only 3D company that's been able to ship new, more advanced graphics chips on a regular basis. 3dfx has only just begun shipping the Voodoo 4 and 5 - the best part of a year late, and ATI's successor to the popular Rage 128, the Radeon, isn't due to ship until the summer - the 128 has been around since late 1998, apart from the Pro upgrade. By contrast, Nvidia has shipped two 256-bit GeForce parts - the GeForce 256 and, in April, the GeForce 2 - in the last 12 months alone. That has allowed it to keep its older TNT and TNT 2 chips moving smoothly downmarket to enable it to pitch at various OEM price points. And, as a company dedicated to chip production, Nvidia isn't as strongly affected by component costs as its board-producing rivals are. ATI does have strong OEM relationships, but it does need to accelerate its product development cycle. Getting Radeon out of door will allow it to push Rage 128 and Rage 128 Pro further down. Will that be enough to get ATI out of its present difficulty? Probably not. Intel's graphics-integrated Timna CPU and similar SoC products from Via (thanks to its purchase of S3's graphics chip operation) threaten to limit the room for manoeuvre lower end of the OEM market, increasing competition at the higher end. And ATI just doesn't have the reputation of 3dfx or Nvidia for coming out with cutting edge kit for serious gamers - good though its products are - to make a big play for that end of the market. Though it's going to have a damn good try with Radeon. The upside is that 3D acceleration seems now pretty much de rigueur on mid-range PCs, and that expands the scope ATI and its rivals have to sell to OEMs. ®
Tony Smith, 23 Jun 2000

How much should I charge Intel?

PC ClinicPC Clinic Every fortnight or so, Dr Spinola gives you sound advice about problems you have with your PC. This time round, he covers technical support, infra-red technology, blackmail, problems associated with Microsoft Fright Stimulator, and the amount of "cash" you need on a "chip". Q Dear Doc, I recently found myself in a Scandinavian country and had to help some young chap conduct Intel business by giving him technical support. How much should I charge Intel for this? A Sliding rates apply here. You do not say how long you had to offer your help. Nor do you mention the fact that another Intel person pushed you off your bar stool. Blackmail is a dirty business. In this case, I'd just put it down to experience. Drink a lotta lager and then go out for a curry, is my advice. Q Doctor Spinola, I have recently come into delivery of an Intel Web cam and cannot make it work. Can you help? A The simple answer to this is no, I can't. Contact the previous questioner and I'm sure he'll be able to help out. Q I have recently received a nasty snottogram in my email. How can I stop this happening? A There is no simple answer to this. If it is sufficiently insulting and horrid, why don't you send it to those nice people at The Register, and perhaps they will publish it as a Phlegm of the Weak. Q Someone has told me that playing Microsoft Fright Stimulator on an aircraft can interfere with avionics systems. Is this true? Will adding more Airbus RIMMs help? A Yes. If a steward or a stewardess comes up to you while you are playing Fright Stimulator, simply switch it off, go to the lavatory and light a cigarette. This works particularly well on long haul frights. Do not attempt to take snuff, as this action may be misconstrued. Finally, do not take your laptop into the lavatory when you go for your fag. This is very dangerous indeed, and will set off the smoke detectors, thus jeapordising your chances of a quiet puff. If you stuff your laptop with Airbus RIMMs, you stand the chance of improving performance spectacularly. Q What is your opinion of infra red technology? A Completely ignore it. Human eyesight is incapable of detecting infra red transmissions, so it is unlikely to harm you. Q Someone has told me that I need to buy some new hardware. Which hardware site, in your opinion, is best? A My favourite is www.hardware.com. This will keep you in clover for some time to come. Q Dearest Doctor, I want to get extra performance out of my PC and someone has recommended that I buy a Cyrix III microprocessor running at 733MHz. What do you think of this chip? A There is too much of what we technical boffins call "cash" on this microprocessor. An Intel Celeron processor has less "cash" associated with it, while an AMD Duron chip has, rather paradoxically, more and less "cash" associated with it at the same time. You should watch out for the new Intel chip called the Wlamette. That has lots of "cash" associated with it and in addition you can stuff what we boffins call Rambush RIMMs into it. This process is technically called RIMMing. Ignore everything you have heard about Rambush RIMMs being expensive. The more "cash" the better. Incidentally, Rambus is an anagram of Arsbum. Quite a happy coincidence there! ®
Dr Spinola, 23 Jun 2000

Napster tries to talk its way out of RIAA suit

Napster is busily engaged in lawsuit settlement negotiations with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), according to talks participants cited by the Wall Street Journal. Surprise, surprise. Napster really can't afford to be taken to the cleaners by the world's major recording companies. While it once might have favoured an MP3 martyr's 'go down in flames fighting the corporate greedheads' fate, since VC company Hummer Winblad Venture Partners pumped $15 million into the software operation and gave it a new CEO, a more measured, business-friendly outcome is likely. A possible scenario? That Napster tracks labels' catalogues and pays a royalty accordingly, a process not dissimilar to that used by radio stations. The fees would be funded by advertising or subscription fees, probably the former since Napster success depends on making it as easy as possible to access. Certainly Napster needs to come up with something pronto. The RIAA has already launched an attempt to get the software company's MP3-sharing service temporarily banned, pending the outcome of the copyright infringement trial, due to commence next month. Napster has already signed up David Boies, the legal eagle who helped the US Department of Justice beat Microsoft, and for all his interest in the Net-related copyright issues the case has raised, we can't see him doing this on a 'no win, no fee' basis, somehow. ® We should point out that our very own Pete Sherriff was recently thrown off the Napster service at the behest of Metallica. An odd action, he thought, since all he'd ever used the service for was to download a single Frank Zappa track. Serves him right for being an unrepentant old hippie, you might think, but it also makes you wonder about the other 300-odd thousand alleged 'Metallica Pirates'... Related Stories DoJ's top gun from MS trial joins Napster defence New surveys cited in Napster injunction request Napster use survey takes heat off college students Napster to sue bastard Offspring VC pumps $15m into Napster Napster loses preliminary hearing
Tony Smith, 23 Jun 2000

Live online orgy promised

Porn voyeurs are in for a treat next month, with the promise of a record-breaking online orgy. A Californian pornographer is planning to Webcast a "copulation marathon", MSNBC.com reports. The antics will revolve around five ladies, who aim to break the world record of having sex with 620 consecutive partners. The shagathon is being billed as an AIDs awareness day, although sexperts remain sceptical about this claim. They warn that, despite using precautions like condoms and antibiotics, the event is likely to thrust the participants into risky situations, and fail to get across the safe sex message. It is not clear how long the event is likely to take, and no URL or date was given for those wishing to watch. The announcement coincided with a report claiming to have uncovered the truth about cyber Brits - that we are a nation of porn addicts and gamblers. More than a third of surfers - 3.6 million - log on to porn sites, and two million Brits now visit gambling sites, the survey by NetValue claims. The full version of this story can be found here. ® Related stories Meet the Sexy Sister The Times recommends porn site Penthouse busts newsgroup user over copyright theft
Linda Harrison, 23 Jun 2000

Lastminute denies user collapse

Lastminute.com is contesting research figures that show a collapse in user numbers. Internet analysts Netvalue reckon the number of people visiting lastminute's travel site dropped from 668,000 in April to 485,100 in May. Maybe users are getting wise to the site having a misleading name and that it just sells expensive holidays. Ebookers.com has defended its rather profligate European expansion as speculation mounts that it will run out of money by the autumn. The company said that seeking a second round of investment had always been part of its business plan. It has spent around $20 million on acquisitions, and has a marketing budget of $32 million for this year. Revenue doubled to $24.9million in the first quarter, but losses also increased to $10.1 million before expenses. Women.com Networks is to target UK women with the launch of its first Web site outside the US. The company yesterday announced a $40 million deal with Hearst Corp.'s UK publishing arm, National Magazines. The new company, UK.women.com, will be based in London and expects to launch this year with 24 staff. The site will feature advice and chat, with content from National Magazine's publications such as She and Harpers and Queen. Just2clicks says it is thinking about spinning off its Tradezone arm. The company paid £10 million for Tradezone in March this year, but thinks it can cash it in for around £400 million once market conditions improve. Just2Clicks reported a loss of £1.94 million for the nine weeks to March 31, but expects to turn in a £2.5 million pre tax profit by 2001. The company's shares rose 1p yesterday to 106.5p, still far below their offer price of 150p. Mobile phone portal ITouch plans a flotation next month which is expected to value it at about £300 million. The business, controlled by Irish entreprenur Tony O'Reilly's newspaper group, hopes to raise £100 million to fund expansion. Thus, formerly Scottish Telecom, has lost its £150,000 a year finance director Gerard McAloon. He's off to join telco optical components maker Kymata in the bean counting role. Healthcare IT group ISoft is planning an IPO next month that will value the company at around £100 million. The business, which provides patient admin systems to hospitals, hopes to cash in on the government's pledge to spend £1 billion on IT in the NHS over the next five years. ®
Team Register, 23 Jun 2000

Ballmer on Whistler, UIs, services and Windows.NET

Microsoft's big .NET presentation this week didn't get too specific about next year's first Windows implementation, confining itself to describing it as "the next generation of Windows" while implying that it would be built on Whistler. But company president Steve Ballmer, who's been doing interviews again, was maybe a little bit more forthcoming later. Speaking to an AP reporter Ballmer didn't quite get around to saying Windows.NET version 1.0 (AP's designation - we think 1.0 is verboten usage in Redmond) was the same as Whistler, but he provided a clearer picture of what the user's eye view of .NET will be. There might be "evolution in the user interface", he said, and you might also see "more opportunities for services". Why, you may well ask, does The Register class vagueness of this order as a clarification? Well, it suggests that the various UI projects kicking around in Microsoft at the moment are still pretty much up in the air, that these are going to continue to be viewed separately from base OS development, and that although Microsoft has an idea of what it wants to do, it's entirely unsure of how it's going to do it. If you think about it there's an obvious imperative to get a more fluid, user- and ISV-customisable UI together, because .NET is supposed to provide information and services to clients of all shapes and sizes, and the old hard-wired Windows UI obviously doesn't play. Which must be a considerable psychological hill to climb, if you've spent several years defending the integrity of the "Windows Experience" (which, of course, Ballmer has). His not confirming that Windows.NET is Whistler is also possibly significant. It's really an add-on, and as .NET is supposed to be available to all classes of device, Windows.NET could, next year, be hooking in mobile phones, X-Boxes and set-top boxes. In the case of X-Box, it surely has to be doing this, as Microsoft has identified online gaming as one of the key categories that will power it into a services-based business model. But back to Steve holding forth: "Windows.NET is not a service, so it has to come with a service." Rickety logic here, we know, it's a bit like saying Windows 98 is not a cowpat, so it has to come with one, but you kind of know what he means. "You would see certain kinds of services that would be an integrated aspect of that user interface." So Windows.NET, aside from not being an operating system, isn't a service either, but a mechanism for delivering services which are bound up within a customised UI. To some extent, you could say Microsoft is doing this already via the MSN empire, and Steve uses MSN as an example. He says that "no matter what Web site you're looking at, you have access to those kinds of services... MSN would certainly take advantage of it. There would be a version of MSN that would substantiate the .NET platform through Windows.NET on consumer PCs". If you think of MSN client software so far as a user interface rather than an application, then you can spot some of Windows.NET's ancestry, and maybe consider the Mars MSN UI/client a sibling. The UI is designed to give you access to specific sets of services in a simplified way, and by its very nature this approach is restrictive. Look at it one way and you might criticise MSN (and AOL) for trying to lock users out of the general Web and into their proprietary subsets, but you have to set against this the fact that people are going to want to deal with subsets, and are going to want a restrictive approach in at least some circumstances. The difference between the MSN-style tied client approach and the Windows.NET one that Ballmer is currently evangelising is of course that Windows.NET is intended (so Microsoft says, and we should take it on trust till we find the gotchas) to be an approach available to everybody, while at the same time not breaking existing systems. Says Steve: "If the Web site doesn't take advantage of them [advanced features] they're still there for you in a simpler way." So long as Microsoft's playing this straight, the rationale must be that the range of services available and the excellence of their delivery will allow Microsoft to succeed on a level playing field. But you don't have to believe that; nor do you have to entirely believe that the playing field is level, as Ballmer did touch on Microsoft-only aspects to its XML implementation in his presentation. Will Microsoft come unstuck when it comes to actually selling these services? The presentation itself was pretty vague as to what they might be, but during interviews Steve tends to firm up quite a bit, and this time is no exception. "We're used to getting, say, $200 for an Office upgrade, and instead you get 20 bucks a month or 25 or whatever the price ends up being." Once the shift from packages to rented services is made, you can see how nicely the numbers stack up annually. And of course as Microsoft has never quite managed to shift Office upgrades annually, and certainly never managed to get everybody to upgrade as a matter of course, the numbers will ramp considerably, if the plan works. But he sees this as evolving, rather than it being a case of one type of revenue stream ceases and another suddenly takes over. Finally, there's the matter of Plan B to contend with. Actually, as the judge has stayed everything pending appeal, Plan B isn't anything like as important as it was a couple of weeks ago. The gist of the matter is that, as .NET is all about integrating everything, and all of the company's divisions working together, it would be illegal if Judge Jackson's ruling was applied. So Microsoft ought to have a Plan B to cater for the eventuality of its appeals failing, and the company being split. On previous occasions Ballmer has specifically denied that Microsoft has a Plan B, but this time around... AP asked: "But if the US Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court uphold even parts of the remedies against Microsoft, will Microsoft still be able to execute this plan?" And here's what Steve said: "This is the right thing, and we're going to execute on this one way or another. I know which way is infinitely better for users... [but] we'll take care of this either way. We'll get this programming model and user experience to you either way, and by the way, we believe we'll be able to get this to you the right way. We remain confident. We'll give it to you no matter what. Can we really give the level of integration and simplicity in this thing that we know we can? Well, we think so." So there you go, there is a Plan B, so if Microsoft wounds up split into an apps and an OS company, then the apps (it's got to be, hasn't it?) company is going to be able to do .NET by alternative means. Tune in next week, and no doubt we'll be reporting Ballmer saying there isn't a Plan B again... ® Related Stories Bill Gates, Windows, the Universe and everything: .NET Does MS get the net, or is it building its own again? And the greased pig link We were remiss in not reporting a Jim Lehrer interview with Steve Ballmer on PBS a couple of weeks back. Lehrer gave Steve a hard time on Plan B, court delaying tactics and the PR/lobbying campaign, and it's well worth checking out. As a contributor to the Silicon Valley Linux User Group mailing list (which drew the interview to our attention) memorably commented: "I know who I'd bet on in a wrestling match between him [Lehrer] and a greased pig, and it wouldn't be the pig." Couldn't have put it better ourselves. You can find the interview text here.
John Lettice, 23 Jun 2000

Technical problems hit RedHotAnt

Kent-based, RedHotAnt, has not been squished despite concerns from users that they hadn't heard a peep from the ISP for the last couple of days. Reports from frustrated users suggested that the whole service - including RedHotAnt's Web site, email service and technical support - had gone belly up. Fears that the company behind the ISP - JAK Ltd - might be in trouble have also proved unfounded. Instead, it seems e-outfit has been plagued by technical difficulties. Paul Saville of RedHotAnt admitted: "There is a problem. Our link to the Net was damaged and we had to move all our servers. "All are up and running now except one - and that's the one with our site on it," he said. He said the service would be up and running again as soon as possible. Saville blamed the outage on storms which hit London on Tuesday night. He suggested a lightning strike might have been responsible for the damage, although he couldn't be certain. He said it was out of the hands RedHotAnt and that it was down to the ISP's third party supplier, MCI Worldcom. No one form MCI Worldcom was available for comment by press time. However, a spokesman for the Met Office confirmed there was some thundery activity reported around northwest London at around 11.00am on Tuesday. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

Iacobucci out in Citrix top level reorg

Citrix founder and wise old friend of The Register Ed Iacobucci has been axed as part of a management shake-up that also downgraded company veteran and CEO Mark Templeton, and removed Michael Brown from the board. Templeton remains as president, while former CEO and long-term company backer Roger Roberts moves in as chairman, and has commenced a search for a new CEO. Iacobucci's exit is however near total. According to the company announcement: "The company's founder and former chairman, Edward E Iacobucci, resigned as a director and left his position as an officer and employee of the company to pursue his vision of software as a service in cooperation with Citrix and other industry leaders." Over the past couple of years Iacobucci has fulfilled the role of company visionary rather than being intimately involved in day to day management. Today's reorganisation however makes it pretty clear that Roberts sees the company as having fallen victim to a management gap. Earlier this month Citrix stock plunged when the company warned that Q2 earnings would be half of expectations, due to problems associated with moving over from packaged software to licence sales. This was almost instantly followed up by a clutch of shareholder lawsuits accusing company execs of misrepresenting its financial position. ® Related Stories Citrix takes a whack on Wall Street
John Lettice, 23 Jun 2000

Barrett: 'Microsoft breakup won't affect the industry'

Obviously demob happy at the prospect of a spot of fishing in the Russian countryside, Intel CEO Craig Barrett was in relaxed mode with hacks in Moscow earlier today, accidentally stabbing Microsoft in the back in the process. "I don't think there will be a big impact to the industry if Microsoft is split up according to the judge's decision," he stated. The judge's ruling to split Microsoft into an operating system company and a software applications maker "is consistent with the horizontal structure of the computer system", he added. Chipzilla spin paramedics are no doubt beavering away feverishly at this very moment rewriting the grovelling letter of apology Intel had to send to Dixons management the last time Craig shot his mouth off in public and blamed the retailer for keeping UK PC prices falsely high. Let's see if we can help: "Dear Bill, Everyone here at Intel is really, really sorry for what our CEO said. We really like Microsoft a lot and hope we can still be best friends. In fact, we'd like to be best friends with both Microsofts. Yours truly, Craig and the boys." Craig Barrett is 61. ®
Andrew Thomas, 23 Jun 2000

Inkjet printed LEDs, anyone?

CDT seems to have put its management wobbles behind it and come up with a rather clever idea to print light emitting diodes using an inkjet printer. The Cambridge company develops light emitting polymers - electronic plastics that glow. Yesterday it achieved a double first by developing a 2.5-square-inch full-colour ink-jet printer plastic display using its polymers and printing technology from Seiko Epson. But these have been troubled times in plasticland. Last November, US venture capitalists Hillman Capital and Kelso bought 76 per cenr of the company for £70 million and injected a further £10 million working capital. Cue management rumbles. The cash provided a healthy profit for a band of diverse shareholders who chose to exit, including rock dinosaurs Genesis, Young Associates led by Lord Young, and the management team led by Danny Chapchal. Early this week Lord Young, CDT's former chairman who pocketed around £16 million from the sale of his stake in CDT, was on the case full of regret. Formerly Iron Lady Thatcher's right hand man on the business beat, he poured his heart out to the Financial Times on his concerns about the company's strategy and recent deals. Great insight you might think, considering he hasn't been near the company in six months. Industry sources say Chapchal departed with a fistful of dollars in one hand and a soapbox in the other, seizing every opportunity to whine about the new owners for having the audacity to suggest changes to the company's strategy. With Chapchal officially off the CDT payroll at the end of this month, feisty Irishman Danny McCaughan of Nortel fame is at the helm. His latest bit of plastic surgery could mean a glowing future for the firm. The device shown yesterday is a shot in the arm for LEP, a technology which promises ultra-thin, flexible, low power displays. The ink-jet printing process developed by Seiko-Epson promises to be significantly more efficient than liquid crystal device (LCD) manufacturing methods. According to McCaughan, CDT and Seiko-Epson are now working to perfect the manufacturing process, and expect to bring the first displays to market for mobile phone and PDA applications within two years. For once, Young and Chapchal were unavailable for comment. ®
Andrew Thomas, 23 Jun 2000

DRAM 64Mb chips to hit $10 by year end

Prices for 64Mb DRAM chips are set to hit $9 or $10 by the second half of this year, The Korea Times reports. The Korean Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy cited supply shortages as the prime reason behind the steady increase in memory cost, and said the drought looked likely to last until the end of the year. The expected price hike was enough to cause officials to readjust the country's DRAM export forecast for this year - up from $23.5 billion to $24.5 billion. "The prices of the 64Mb units broke the $7 barrier last month and have been trading in the $8 range this month and further increases are expected as supply remains short," one ministry official told the newspaper. According to sources, Hyundai was today quoting $8.2 for (PC-100 8x8) chips. On the UK spot market, Dane-Elec was this afternoon selling 64MB DIMMs at $64-$65 - around $10 higher than at the start of June - and Memory Corp was quoting $63-$67. ® Related Stories DRAM prices rise (again) Intel gives up on SDRAM version of Caminogate
Linda Harrison, 23 Jun 2000

3dfx ‘frustrated’ by revenue shortfall

A frustrated Alex Leupp, CEO of 3dfx, has been forced to admit that his company isn't going to meet revenue expectations when it posts its Q2 fiscal 2001 results shortly. The company blames a shortage of components, though we'd add the degree to which it has been cutting the prices of its Voodoo 2 and 3 boards, and the fact it has taken so darned long to get the long-awaited Voodoo 4 and 5 models to market. "It is unfortunate that the availability of components has undermined the prospects for improved earnings in the second quarter [which ends 31 July], but we believe it has not affected the longer term outlook for achieving profitability," Leupp said in a statement. Problems getting components plus the 3D graphics business' latest price war have both hit 3dfx's rival, ATI, hard too. It expects to record a loss when it announces its next set of quarterly results. 3dfx is already making a loss, so there's clearly not going to be a change there. Getting back into the black is Leupp's chief goal, stated baldly when he joined 3dfx some six months ago after his predecessor, 3dfx founder Greg Ballard bailed out over the ongoing delays to the Voodoo 4 chip, now known as the VSA-100. "This shortfall is extremely frustrating, as the company has been on course for returning to operating profitability," said Leupp. "We believe this temporary component shortfall will result in deferred rather than lost revenues, and, therefore, we remain confident about our third quarter." Q3 could, of course, see the arrival of the successor to the VSA-100, and certainly needs to if 3dfx is to regain its ability to churn out major upgrades on a regular, six-monthly basis, something its arch-rival, Nvidia, has managed to maintain, which probably explains its current health. Unlike 3dfx, Nvidia has sternly remained a chip-only company, which has kept it largely free of the component supply problems that have hit those of its rivals who not only churn out graphics chips but the add-in cards that contain them. Unlike 3dfx, Nvidia doesn't have to care a jot for the price of SDRAMs. ® Related Story ATI stock tumbles on earnings fears 3dfx and Nvidia's public flame war 3dfx resumes Voodoo 5 5500 AGP shipments
Tony Smith, 23 Jun 2000

Oh to be a Modern Urbanist

This is a press release issued by breathe dated June 7. A DAY IN THE LIFE OF 26 YEAR OLD JOURNALIST JAMIE EVANS It's amazing what happens when you breathe. It's Autumn 2000. Jamie is a 26-year old journalist. He works for one of Europe's top business titles based in London. He's been with the publication for 18 months and is one of their rising stars. He lives a hectic life, running from one interview to another and spending half his day on the mobile phone trying to blag his way in to see some of the most influential players in town. His confidence and persistence have been recognised by many of his colleagues and his editor has recently started sending him out on the most high profile assignments. He works hard and plays hard, spending his spare time either with the lads in a trendy Islington bar or with his girlfriend, Sarah. His flat in Clerkenwell is full of all the latest consumer technology available - an interactive digital television, a WAP phone, a laptop at work which he takes home with him almost every evening and a Palm V. This is a typical Monday in Jamie's life: 06:30 Alarm on WAP phone goes off. Get up straight away, hit the shower and then check into breathe to access the day's calendar. Read email sent by virtual assistant informing of a deal announced in this morning's FT by the same company meeting is scheduled with at 10am. Been after an interview with the infamous CEO of Widgets International plc for three months, today is the day! Read further note from virtual assistant confirming flights for next weekend to Austria, a long overdue snowboarding trip with Sarah. The virtual assistant has also found the Heathrow Express timetable and suggests taking the 17:15 train from Paddington. 07:00 Sit down on the sofa with a cup coffee, switch on the Big Breakfast while checking emails received from the Tokyo bureau overnight. 07:30 Walk to the tube station while checking to-do notifications. Dictate new notification with an alarm on calendar: "Don't forget to call Mum & wish her happy birthday". 07:50 Grab a coffee and muffin on the way to work and listen to another email. It's Sarah asking me to book cinema tickets for that evening. 08:00 Arrive at office, sit down at PC and check the news on breathe before looking up which movies are opening tonight. Ask virtual assistant to check Sarah's calendar for the evening to see if she can make a movie at 7.30pm. The assistant sends confirmation that Sarah is free and that two tickets have been booked. Sends SMS text message to Sarah's phone from laptop, telling her not to be late. 08:25 Alert sounds to notify of early Monday morning meeting. 10:00 Get in a cab to go to that all-important meeting. While in the cab, check out results of weekend football and rugby matches. Stuck in traffic jam, so use the time to check out any more breaking business news on Widgets and listen to emails and voice-mails. Find out that the company is about to enter merger talks with the largest global player in the market place. Perfect timing and just the ammunition needed for the interview. 11:40 Arrive at meeting. Switch off phone but divert activated to take all calls and emails. Having just listened to Widgets breaking news in the cab on the way over, adapt strategy accordingly for the meeting. Interview with CEO goes well, what a scoop! 13:00 Meeting carries over into lunch, check emails and voice mails in restaurant. 14:50 In the cab back to the office. Another traffic jam. Check into breathe journey section to find another route. Now running late for a conference call, so set up the meeting on phone with the help of breathe and hold it in the cab. 15:30 Back in the office. Conference call still going on. 15:40 Conference call over. The US is now starting to reply to emails. Work solidly at PC for two hours, typing up notes from meeting. First draft of article needs to be with the editor by 17:30 to make tomorrow's paper. (if he's so hip and trendy why's he working for a newspaper, ed) 17:50 Send instant message from PC to Sarah, asking if she can meet for a pre-cinema drink at 6.30 at On Anon in Shaftesbury Ave, saw somebody chatting about this cool new place on the breathe site. Also ask if she wants dinner after the movie at a new restaurant recently reviewed on the breathe site. 18:30 Meet Sarah in On Anon. Wow she's on time for once! Must be that new alarm system and calendar she's got set up on her phone. 19:30 Just about make it to the cinema on time. Pick up pre-paid tickets, grab some popcorn and sit down. 23:30 Jump in a cab with Sarah. Talk about Snowboarding trip booked for next weekend. Sarah says she has nothing to wear and no time to go shopping. Suggest she checks out breathe's fashion section. 23:45 Final check of emails. Decide the States can wait till morning. 00:00 Bed.
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

Neuro boffins mimic brain action

A breakthrough in electronic engineering could revolutionise computing, and lead to radical improvements in hardware designed to aid the deaf and blind. Researchers at MIT and Lucent Technologies have created an electronic circuit which mimics the biological circuitry in the cerebral cortex. "Neuroscientists have found that cortical feedback seems to operate in a way that is unfamiliar to today's electronic designers," said H. Sebastian Seung, assistant professor of computational neuroscience at MIT. "We set out to mimic this novel mode of operation in an unconventional electronic circuit." The circuit is made of artificial neurons that communicate via artificial synapses. (Biologically speaking, a synapse is the junction between axon terminals and neurons, across which nerve impulses pass.) Nonetheless, the researches recommend caution when comparing the electronic and neural circuits. Recent neurophysiological experiments suggest that the brain is neither digital nor analog. For example, an approaching car is processed digitally in that it is either a car or not a car. But we perceive an analog, continuous stream of information about its colour, dimensions, position, and speed as well. Rahul Sarpeshkar, a post-doctoral fellow, suggests the hybrid analog-digital nature of the brain may be fundamental to its computational efficiency. He says the electronic world is evolving "more and more towards mixed analog-digital computation as the brain has already done. However, the brain's mixed-signal circuits combine analog and digital functions in a much more intimate way than is done in the electronic world." This research means there are much better ways for analog information to be processed electronically that have previously been possible... hence the potential for improving technology for hearing aids and sight augmentation. Sarpeshkar thinks that this kind of research will revolutionise computing through its combination of the digital advantages of programmability, noise immunity and divide-and-conquer processing with the analog advantages of efficiency.®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jun 2000

breathe suffers asthma attack

breathe - the style-conscious ISP - has run out of puff. After jumping on the all-you-can-eat-unmetered-Net-access bandwagon in March the ISP has now pulled the offer. As of June 16, breathe no longer offers unmetered Net access for £50. The reason, it seems, is that breathe now has attracted 50,000 users, each of whom was prepared to part with fifty quid, and it doesn't want anymore. While this may shock some people - reports about breathe's service have been reasonably favourable after all - it may also be a blessing for anyone who fails to live up to the ISP's distinctive profile and brand. Apparently, the company is only interested in 'Modern Urbanists'. "Part of the brand development strategy has been to gain leadership amongst a carefully defined, high-value target audience who by nature and lifestyle are inclined towards breathe's services," trills a highly designed breathe statement. "breathe's target audience represents the core of the future modern technology market. They are 18-35 years old and are mostly active mobile socialisers and technology sophisticates, united by brands and media whose values fit with their own. They are breathe's 'Modern Urbanists'." If, like me, you are neither "modern" or "urban" (or maybe you only possess one of these traits and not the other) then click here to discover the day in the life of this new social animal. ®
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

Trading Standards check out RedHotAnt

Kent County Council has received "40 or 50 complaints" about RedHotAnt, Kent County Council Trading Standards said today. Rob Davies, a spokesman for Trading Standards, said the complaints had been received over the last couple of months. He also confirmed that officers have visited the ISP at its Hythe offices on at least one occasion. According to Davies, RedHotAnt told Trading Standards that the problems encountered by consumers were due to a massive demand for the service. The ISP said it intended to double capacity to meet the demand. Paul Saville of RedHotAnt said that Trading Standards officers had visited the company and were "happy with what they saw". Davies said Trading Standards will continue to monitor the situation. Earlier today the RedHotAnt said it had been hit by a weather-related technical hitch. ® Related Stories Technical problems hit RedHotAnt
Tim Richardson, 23 Jun 2000

AMD Zone takes punt on AMD roadmap

The AMD roadmap stretching to Q1 2001 is currently on the front page of AMD Zone. Duron 750 by Q4 followed by the Duron 800 in Q1 2001 unless Intel makes things change. While you're mulling that over, pop into UK Gamer and check out how to overclock your existing Athlon. Where? Here. Okay, getting away from AMD. Penstar Systems has reviewed the Asus K7V mobo. Clickidy click here. Planet Hardware review of Intel's D815E mainboard is worth a peek. Getting away from all that silicon and plastic, Sharky Extreme is displaying the results of its quest for the holy mousemat. So get ready to throw that cheap, free one from some bankcrupt dotcom (and the others in the to do tray) and look here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jun 2000

NTL – another router falls over

Following yesterday's story about NTL's router service, we have had a number of emails from frustrated NTL users. According to readers, no sooner was the GW1 router was up and running (or limping according to some of the more unfortunate subscribers), the GW2 linx router toppled over. One disgruntled NTL user asked: "... the 2nd router (Linx GW2) that has gone into chaos again today? Grounding the service to a near halt once again." Another told us: "...the GW2 folded, and we were all back in the same boat. I gave up at 22:00 23/06/2000 trying to use the CM service. NTL's own internal routers are buckling under the pressure of the increased usage. Even when the service is 'working' NTL routers are dropping packets and giving large ping times. The visible portion of NTL CM support (Victor/Ted/Bill) do a disappearing act every time someone moans about the quality of service. I, along with many others, am tired of the poor service and even poorer support that NTL is currently supplying. After all, the NTL CM community pays for the privilege of being given a poor service, dialup user get this for free!!" Another said that he thought NTL needed to be "shamed into doing a proper job." He also points out: "I can't play a game with a 40 ping and 40 packet loss and a disconnect every 3 mins." (sic) NTL has not confirmed the second outage, and no one could be reached for comment at press time.®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jun 2000

Readers' Letters Mad Maggie, Mad Mikey, Mad readers

Sorry there hasn't been any letters Round-Up for two weeks but Your Right Honourable Letters Ed (that's me) has been otherwise occupied in a different part of Europe and no one was foolish enough to sort through the muck to find the reader gems. Quite right too. Another downside is that now there are an inexcusable number of letters. It is with perverse satisfaction then that I will run a shorter-than-normal roundup. Not fair? Hey, it's a tough world kid. Give Maggie Thatch a break (left leg or right leg?) [Dr Spinola was rabbiting on (cockney rhyming slang: rabbit and pork, a lot of talk) about some boffins beating the speed of light, thereby creating a time machine. The first thing to do, of course, said Spinola was to go back and kill tyrants such as Hitler, Bill Gates and Maggie Thatcher. This is where a reader took exception. NB He is as barking as the old bat herself.] Hey Mister Spinola Sorry, I realize some English (is that a spin on a golf ball), may have trouble with Maggie, but to put her in the same sentence as the old narrow mustachio is less than touching. I suggest you throw John Maynard Keynes in there. There are some others who a certain anglo historian described in his book 'Intellectuals', but the Bloomsbury faggot (of the happy kind) is good enough. Give the old girl a break! It not her fault she likes a little hot Chile. Sanche Out of date, out of mind We were sent a really good top ten phrases in Romanian to coincide with the England/Romania football match. They were quite funny and authentic too. But then since England's OUTRAGEOUSLY PATHETIC "EFFORTS" IN EURO 2000 - sorry, got carried away there. An executive decision has been made that we won't run the phrases. Much in the same way that the England won't run with the ball. Reg rule no.324: Only abuse when you know the facts For a site that's so noisy about the gullibility of other news sources, you've been very quiet about your swallowing the story about the ApachePDA project. You mocked the BBC for removing their story about the potato web server, but you /changed/ your story as if you'd known all along. I think these screenshots make the point: [two screen shots of an April fool before/after type]. Go on, publish them and admit you were suckered, you bunch of biased, snivelling, snidey public-school boys pretending to be journalists (do I get the flame of the week prize now? :) ). cheerio, Matthew Mike writes back: I never been to public school. Mike Kieren replies: Matt. We actually raised the Apache story at the same time as the potato server hoax. Have a look. Kieren" Matthew replies: Ah, fair enough. Back to my flame pit to craft some more stinging vitriol, then :-). Cheers, Matthew And while we're on about reader/Reg communication... [As you may have noticed, The Reg has had a redesign. We replied personally to literally hundreds of concerned readers (we all secretly love you, you know). Sean though caught a live one] I came to know theregister some time ago and liked it ever since, the updates are somewhat irregular so it seems but nice teasers for further reading. About Register 2, the 'thing' on the left is rather out of tune with the rest of the site ... to BIG is the key word ...i like the new look anyway. the old one needed some improvement. anyway, the reader had his say, couldn't resist, sorry ;-) Joris Lambrecht Sean replies: Thanks for the note Joris. Too big? Well, it's certainly hard not to see it. Regards, Sean. Nutter replies: it's like a penis or a tit i guess, when it's to BIG people get scared away (both sexes included) hence my message was merely out of concern keep an eye on those tit's i'd say ... :-) Joris Lambrecht Is Mike Magee a shining sword of truth or a drunk bullshitter? LOVE Hi Mike ! First of all thanks for a great site. next i wish you will put less info about english tech news like the BT stuff, and focus on universal tech news. i think that most of your readers are worldwide than england based Thanks and continue the EXCELLENT work..... Hagi Fishman Computer 4 All General Manager ISRAEL [why can no one find the caps key anymore. just bloody lazy, the lot of you] HATE Subject: Oy Mike........You Southern Git Mike, Just spent a happy half hour reading lies and inuendos in the register to make me smile. I like the moaning and groaning of the plebs who take issue with what you have to say. They obviously have never met you or had the pleasure, (not) of meeting you, or they would have realised that the bullshit is real, i.e. that you are now actually believing your own hype and that there isn't a single word of truth that comes from your mouth...........until after three am when we start to get close to it!!!! Good to have had a few slurpppppsssssss with ya on the last trip. Keep the crap flowing, Nigel Stanley Taipei (soon to move to Taichung) Christ! A serious, useful Reader letter [Tony aka Tone Deaf ran a story about Kenwood claims that it could make MP3s of the same quality as the CD they're pulled off. A knowledgeable reader begs to differ] Just have to make a comment on this story ;o) !!!! Whilst Kenwood are correct in stating that the quality of recorded sound is depended on the higher harmonic frequencies, (which I believe can be as high as 30-35kHz), their new "Supreme Drive" is just a cheap marketing ploy that BOFH would be proud of. The higher frequencies are lost in two ways, first of all when converting from analogue to digital the sampling rate determines the highest frequency to be usefully captured, ( normal around 18-20kHz for a CD). Secondly it is not data compress that removes the information, (else how would WINZIP work ?), but the special techniques and algorithms designed to reduce the complexity of the sound and hence increase the data compress rates. What this means is that the data describing the frequency and magnitude of the higher harmonic components is irretrivably lost and no buzz words or "new" technology can replace it. It is really poor for a company such as Kenwood to resort to cheap tactics such as technical gibberish to try to con people in to buying a new CD player. P.S. Most people's ability to hear high frequencies deteriorates after their teen's and would be unable to notice the difference anyway ! Mark Newman Electrical Engineer [So there you have it] And that is it. Back next week. In the meantime if you want to tell The Reg something interesting/make a fool of yourself/rant incoherently, then just send an email here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 23 Jun 2000

AT&T wins broadband access appeal, sort of

The battle between Portland, Oregon and communications behemoth AT&T has been shifted to federal turf, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that local jurisdictions do not have authority to force cable companies to share telecommunication lines with local ISPs. The appeal follows a Portland City Council decision to make the transfer to AT&T of a local cable franchise conditional on AT&T opening its broadband Net connections. Last June, a federal judge in Portland upheld the Council's decision, despite AT&T's strenuous claims that such regulatory authority belongs to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The appellate court ruled that cable Internet access is properly classified as a telecommunications service, and not as a franchise as in the case of cable television. "Applying the carefully tailored scheme of cable television regulation to cable broadband Internet access would lead to absurd results, inconsistent with the statutory structure," the court said. By classifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service, the court has effectively left it for the FCC to regulate, or not regulate, as it sees fit. This gives AT&T real pleasure, as it has maintained all along that such should be the case. This hardly means that the company and its heavyweight peers will be immune from having to accept piggyback local ISPs. It simply means that local jurisdictions won't be the ones to decide. The decision may only be postponing the inevitable: the FCC might well be willing to mandate just this sort of regulation at the federal level. Of course, the appellate court's decision is hardly binding on the FCC, and the Commission has every right to disagree that broadband is a telecomms service subject to its authority. This, of course, is what AT&T is hoping. Whether it wins or loses in the long run, the clear advantage here for AT&T is no longer needing to fight each jurisdiction individually, an exercise which could be exhausting even for a colossus such as Ma Cable. The company can now consolidate and focus its resources on lobbying Capitol Hill, for which it is already magnificently equipped, and seek to influence election hopefuls in need of cash with its 'market solutions for every human ill' rhetoric. At a time like this, with national elections looming in less than six months, such arguments can be wickedly persuasive, we've noticed. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Jun 2000