29th > June > 2000 Archive

Torvalds: main impact of MS trial psychological

During a predictably banal interview of Linus Torvalds on Radio Wall Street yesterday - where the interviewer clearly hoped for some tips about how to turn Linux into a pot of gold for investors - our hero had a couple of interesting things to say about the Microsoft case. Torvalds said that "the major impact is psychological" and that "Microsoft is no longer the American dream. People see Microsoft as a fairly nasty company." He added that he didn't follow Microsoft much, and had never met Bill Gates. Asked if he had any particular questions he would want to put to Gates, he said: "We don't have that much in common. There could be an embarrassing silence" but if they met, "I'd ask him out for lunch because of the absurdity of it all." Looking back, he suggested that "Nobody in their right mind would start something like Linux", but fortunately the project had moved away from just sitting in front of the computer, eating and sleeping to a much more active social life. Torvalds said he didn't see the moves towards embracing Linux as being very sudden, as the interviewer evidently thought, but he did find IBM's backing to be "encouraging". Asked about the opportunities for Linux, he observed that the "in-your-face" desktop market was difficult to enter, prices were high, and people didn't want to switch. IBM's putting Linux on notebooks showed how Linux was moving to the desktop market. But in the embedded and server markets, there was less concern about what operating system was used. As for Linux and wireless, Torvalds said there were "no problems - the infrastructure is fine" and managed a small commercial for Crusoe in the mobile market because of the low power requirement. He said he'd joined Transmeta three and a half years ago because the opportunity was completely different. The disappointment for Radio Wall Street was that although Torvalds didn't exactly say he didn't like Wall Street ("I'm a technology guy"), he offered no advice to investors, merely noting that Linux "changes how things are done", and suggested that investors "follow the market". ®
Graham Lea, 29 Jun 2000

Fujitsu takes aim at Sun share

When we met Fujitsu-Siemens suits earlier this year in good old Munchen, we managed to extract the admission from the boys that its Hal-based Sparc server, running the Slowaris operating system, was a better Sun than Sun. Rumours were spreading like wildfire (oops) that Fujitsu-Siemens was gonna kick Scott McNealy's butt, and now it appears those rumours are fact. The boys are just about to deliver on their promise, with the roll out of the PrimePower server family, which is based on the Fujitsu-designed Sparc 64 processor. Unlike Sun's UltraSparc III processor, delayed until god knows when, the Hal processor will not require the massive swapping out of big tin, and, said Ian Stewart, head of enterprise marketing at Fujitsu-Siemens UK, the firm will compete with Sun at the sales level. Although Fujitsu and Sun have a high level strategy agreement to promote Slowaris, that does not prevent them competing furiously in the marketplace, Steward said. Yesterday, he said, Fujitsu-Siemens scored its first major corporate win with the PrimePower Unix-based family, with Churchill Insurance signing up to use the boxes. The firm has roped in EMC, Oracle and Intel, as well as a number of other firms, to sponsor a three day conference called Energising the Enterprise, at the Royal Air Force museum in Hendon to be held on July 11th. And if Sun was in any doubt that Fujitsu-Siemens would let it rule the ASP roost, the agenda for the conference tells a different tale, with the company taking particular care to shoot straight, rather than just casually engage in wildfire. Oops. ®
Mike Magee, 29 Jun 2000

Novell too nice for own good

In the cutthroat, fast-moving world of IT, you can rely on Novell to do three things: Come up with essentially better, less buggy technology Get it all working together, usually with competitors' technology too Bugger up the marketing, so ensuring that it will never getting the coverage or usage it deserves Eric Schmidt knows this and has consistently tried to reverse the situation, with limited results. He was up to it again at the company's Brainshare conference in Nice this year. We've got no real focus, we're not telling people what we can actually do, why aren't selling more of this bloody things? (I paraphrase of course). Except this time, Eric took the bull by the horns and actually provided a focus for Novell's selling teams. It's called One Net and it takes the bigger view, incorporating Netware, eDirectory, single sign-on - all that stuff that it's been harping on about, individually, for years. One Net is the big idea, it's a philosophy, it's just what we need. Predictably, Microsoft has looked at it, liked it and copied it. Admittedly, it has a slightly different approach and, of course, it's nowhere near ready - but then how else could it have stolen Novell's thunder so quickly? So up pops Billy Boy Gates announcing Dot Net (sounds like a suspiciously similar name to us) and the idea gets plastered all over the press. Unless Novell wants another re-run of Netware vs Windows, eDirectory vs Active Directory, it will have to put its foot down on the marketing pedal. So we had a brief chat with Novell's Corporate Business Strategist in the UK, Peter Joseph, at the Networks NEC show to find out what was going on. First of all, no, Novell isn't slowly dumping NetWare. NetWare is, and always will be a "core product". Yes, the big message is the thing. "We not going to just be talking about single sign-on or what eDirectory can do - we're selling the whole package," he tells us. "Novell will produce one big solution that will work for everything. Active Directory, for example, is only usable if it is attached to Windows 2000. Now, we're not going to set up a system that can be used only by journalists..." Why not, we ask. Sounds quite nice. "Because we will be able to define exactly who can do what on the system." The applaudable philosophy is that flexibility is king. This one system will be capable of changing and growing however you want it to and will also take whatever non-Novell kit you want along with it. Any takers yet? "Yes, there's an arm of the Provident that has taken it, and - er - " [looks at PR woman, she looks at him]. "I can get you a list if you want it," she offers. But what about Microsoft's Dot Net concept - ASP, apps over the Web - doesn't this kinda override the Novell message? "No, you see, because what will ASPs use to organise their information? eDirectory is the only thing that can deal with that amount of information efficiently." This is most likely true. But has Novell given up on chasing the lion's share of the market? "I'm not sure what you mean." Has Novell decided to only go for the big companies, to be entirely coporate? "No, we'll chase consumers as well as corporates." We ask if there have been changes in the Novell sales team setup, hierachy to reflect this new marketing approach. Blank faces probably means no. But there is a catchy phrase, surely? A tag line? No? There must be. "Well, we do have 'Power to change'." Uh-huh. And with that he was whisked off to give a talk about Novell's new wonderful strategy behind a ten-foot red wall. So what do we think? We think that Novell has come up with some great technology, that it's philosophy is solid, its flexibility admirable and Microsoft will run over it, again, except this time in two smaller steamrollers. For heaven's sake Novell, stop being so understanding and nice. Don't rely on people having commonsense - they don't. Tell people that your setup is quite simply the only one worth having. Tell companies they will go bust if they don't get it. And tell them that Microsoft's offering is unfinished, unstable, untested and narrow-minded. Kick Microsoft while it's down because it will stab you in the back given half a chance. And most of all, do and say all this with religious zeal. Then you'll have your One Net.
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jun 2000

NatSemi, Taiwan Semi strike ten-year deal

The Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) has licensed a clutch of its logic processes to NatSemi, it announced yesterday. The ten-year agreement is a major coup for TSMC and for its chairman, Morris Chang. Under the terms of the deal, NatSemi will use "deep submicron" technology at its South Portland fab, to create low-powered digital and mixed signal chips TSMC has advanced 0.10 micron process capabilities but the first stage of the deal means NatSemi will use existing 0.25 micron technologies. And TSMC will also license its copper interconnect technology to NatSemi. Morris Chang, TSMC's chairman, effectively created the chip foundry business in Taiwan, a far sighted move which has had spin-off benefits for the island's entire IT industry. In a statement, Chang said: "The agreement underscores TSMC's global leadership position in process technology, as it marks the first time that a foundry's advanced logic process has been licensed to an integrated device manufacturer (IDM) to be used as that company's primary deep-submicron technology." ®
Mike Magee, 29 Jun 2000

Ellison offers Gates all his rubbish

Spying on Microsoft and unveiling its several front groups was a "public service", Oracle founder Larry Ellison told reporters during a press conference Wednesday. "All we did was to try to take information that was hidden and bring it into the light," Ellison said. "That's a public service." The investigation was justified by Microsoft's own smarmy business practices, he added. Ellison maintained his company did nothing illegal in commissioning the investigation, which was revealed earlier this month after the detective agency Oracle had retained, Investigative Group International, was caught trying to buy from dustmen the office rubbish of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Microsoft-funded industry front group. To demonstrate his apparent belief that all's fair in Love, War and Corporate Public Relations, Ellison challenged Microsoft to investigate his own company in return. "We will ship them our garbage," he joked. "We will ship our garbage to Redmond, and they can go through it. We believe in full disclosure." Two other such groups, the Independent Institute and the National Taxpayers Union, were also investigated by IGI, which began its Trashgate operation a year ago. Both organisations were financed by Microsoft. However, Oracle has financed its own stable of front groups such as the Progress and Freedom Foundation, the Software and Information Industry Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which have, predictably, shown decidedly anti-Microsoft inclinations. Microsoft has taken the opportunity to assume the moral high ground, expressing shock and indignation that its competitor should resort to such appalling lapses of etiquette. Beleaguered by governments, and now even by their own playmates, the company's flacks can be forgiven for extracting as much PR mileage from this incident as humanly possible. And we have every confidence that they will. ®
Thomas C Greene, 29 Jun 2000

WHO doctors clear mobile phones of cancer risk

The World Health Organisation has joined the ranks of researchers who reckon mobile phones pose no health risk - in opposition to the ranks of researchers who reckon mobile phones are quite unsafe. The United Nations body said that the scientific evidence showed no convincing link with cancer - or anything else, for that matter. It did not conclude, contrary to a recent report from the UK, that children are more at risk from cellphone rays than adults. That said, in typically cautious bureaucratic fashion, the WHO report couched its conclusion with suggestions about how users might wish to limit their exposure to radiation from their phones. WHO's recommendation: keep calls short, and use hands-free sets - a conclusion that flies in the face of a Which? report that claimed hands-free kit increased users' exposure to radiation. WHO also promised more definitive recommendations in three years' time when the results of a ten-country cancer study are in. The body did not comments on the various dangers posed by cellphones when used as blunt instruments in physical attacks - which seem to be rather more prevalent than cases of cancer. ® Related Stories The dos and don'ts of mobile phone etiquette Mobile phones more efficient than anyone thought Mobile phones kill... worms Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children Mobile phones will kill you... Government Health Warning: mobile phones may damage your health Mobile phones won't kill you after all Text Messaging could save your life
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2000

Palm handhelds hit by dodgy DRAM bug

Palm has coughed to the fact that some of its handhelds contain duff memory chips that could destroy users' personal data. And PalmOS licensee TRG has admitted some of its machines suffer from the same problem. The fault appears in what Palm described as "a limited manufacturing run" of Palm IIIc, IIIxe and Vx machines. So, what's "a limited manufacturing run", you may well ask? According to Palm, it represents under three per cent of all of these models the company has shipped, and covers machines assembled between October 1999 and April 2000. The dodgy part is an 8MB DRAM chip, which has now been eliminated from the company's production process, Palm said. Quite what the problem is is difficult to say. Certainly data corruption is a possible effect - it kicks in when the memory becomes full or nearly full - but Palm claims the glitch can be "eliminated" by installing a software patch. The patch apparently prevents the DRAM from entering self-refresh mode, which it normally does every 60 seconds, prompted by the OS, to ensure data isn't lost. Instead, the OS is patched to use a 'burst refresh', which is unaffected by the DRAM's duff self-refresh circuitry. The patch for the Vx and IIIc is already available - the version for the IIIxe will follow shortly. The patch can be downloaded from Palm's Web site. TRG's TRGPro device also contains faulty 8MB DRAM, the company admitted yesterday. It recommends users upgrade to PalmOS 3.5.1, available from its Web site. According to TRG, the problem's "most common symptom is a Fatal Exception error after the unit has been powered off for a period of time. Other symptoms include corrupted data in the unit". ®
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2000

Intel gets round Windows boot floppy problem

Intel is about to introduce a new BIOS update process for its newer mobos which gets around the difficulty users of Windows 2000 and ME have in creating a bootable floppy. With the new Express BIOS Update, users will be able to update the BIOS on an Intel mobo from within Windows. The utility is around 1MB in size and certainly sounds foolproof. After downloading it from Intel's support Web site, three mouse clicks take the user through an installation wizard and the system then automatically shuts down, updates the BIOS and reboots. The new BIOS update utility will initially be available for the VC820, D815EEA and MO810E mobos, and will be a standard feature on all future Intel boards using the 810, 815 and 820 chipsets. Users of older mobos such as the BX won't get the new utility, but Intel today confirmed it will be bundling a freeware DOS variant with BIOS upgrades for these boards which will automatically create a bootable floppy. This solution was suggested by literally hundreds of Register readers who emailed us following our earlier story Win2K and ME users up creek without a floppy. The new utility is due to be posted on Intel's support site tonight US time but those awfully nice Intel folks are sending us a sneak preview to try out later today. We'll let you know how we get on. ®
Andrew Thomas, 29 Jun 2000

Palm Q4 profits, revenues double

If only 3Com had held on to Palm for few more quarters. Yesterday, after the comms giant announced a major downturn in sales and a $340 million operating loss, its former subsidiary reported three-month profits that more than doubled quarter on quarter, and a year-on-year doubling of revenues. For the three months to 2 June - Palm's fourth quarter - the company's net income hit $16.9 million (three cents a share), up just under 149 per cent from the previous quarter's $6.8 million (one cent a share). According to First Call, Wall Street had been expecting profits static at one cent a share. Q4's income figure ignores IPO related costs. Take those into account and Palm's profit drops to a still healthy $12.4 million. Palm posted Q4 revenues of $350.2 million, up 101 per cent from the $174.3 million it recorded for the same period last year, and up 29 per cent on the previous quarter's $272.3 million. For the full year, revenues were $1.058 billion, an increase of 88 per cent over 1999's revenues of $563.5 million. During the quarter, Palm shipped over 1.1 million devices. To date, it has shipped over 7.1 million units, the company said. ® Related Stories Palm handhelds hit by dodgy DRAM bug Palm to bring wireless Net to its PDAs Sony Palm-based PDA debuts on Web Palm to support Secure Digital memory card format 3Com restructure zaps Q4 profits, sales
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2000

IBM super 'puter does 12 trillion calcs per second

IBM's latest supercomputer is going to run three times as fast as the speediest beast in in action today. The RS/6000 SP, known as the ASCI White supercomputer, which weighs in at 106 tons, is to be used by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop 3D simulation tools that will sidestep the need for real world nuclear weapons testing. Apparently, the computer covers the area of two basketball courts and is capable of performing 12 trillion calculations per second. That makes it 1000 times faster than Deep Blue, and goodness only knows how much faster than Gary Kasparov. It is powered by 8,192 copper microprocessors, and contains six TB of memory with more than 160 TB of IBM disk storage capacity. Quite a lot of space then... It should be installed in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California by the end of the year. Delivery will require 28 tractor trailer trucks. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2000

ATI Q3 loss wider than expected

ATI's previous predictions of revenue shortfalls and losses for its third quarter proved accurate today when the 3D graphics market leader posted "unacceptable" financial results for the three months to 31 May. In the event, revenues were not down significantly. The quarter's sales of $288.2 million represents a fall of just 4.6 per cent from the $302 million ATI recorded for the same period last year. ATI's loss, however, hit $23.1 million, well down on last year's $35.9 million profit. That amounts to a loss of ten cents a share - rather higher than the 6-7 cents a share the company had predicted. And if you factor in the cost of ATI's acquisition of graphics chip developer ArtX ($20.3 million) and other charges and costs, the company's loss widens to $128.8 million, or 58 cents a share. For the same period last year, the company recorded income of $18.6 million after charges. ATI blames its shortfalls on the continuing component shortage, which is hitting its OEM customers - ATI's core business - hard, plus competitors' "aggressive" price-cutting actions. ATI also found itself forking out huge sums to promote its older product lines, and to make a "special provision for excess and slow-moving inventory". Together they knocked $88 million off ATI's bottom line. ATI CEO KY Ho dubbed the results "unacceptable" and pledged to return the company to profitability with a mixture of cost-cutting measures and sales of the upcoming 256-bit Radeon chip, which will enter volume production next month, the company said. Radeon is key. Ho said the company was "pleased with the initial performance and acceptance of our Radeon chip by OEMs", while ATI's president and COO, Dave Orton, said: "We remain strong in OEM and retail sales, number one in mobile graphics and anticipate significant new business with our new high-end Radeon graphics processor, integrated graphics and set-top products." Anticipating is one thing - getting it is another. Many of ATI's OEM customers are turning to other suppliers, most notably Nvidia, and that's going to mean ATI will have to work hard to win them back. In its favour is the fact that 3D graphics acceleration is now pretty much de rigueur in the mainstream PC markets, which should provide ATI with a much wider market to sell into. ® Related Stories ATI stock tumbles on earnings fears ATI throws wobbler over prototype review ATI says expect Q3 loss
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2000

Yahoo! buys eGroups to spam users with ads

Yahoo! has agreed to buy eGroups for $430 million and fold the business into its exisiting communication businesses - Yahoo!Mail, Yahoo!Messenger and Yahoo!Clubs. eGroups, which was set up to help Net users form and maintain email groups, is now going to generate ad revenue for Yahoo! eGroups claims its 17 million members have created more than 800,000 email communities. Yahoo! says its services handled more than 3.6 billion messages in March. 365 Corp has struck a three-year deal with Energis to get broadband access for its services and let it offer voice and data services to its customers. B2B dotcom dealings aren't dead in the water like their B2C cousins. To illustrate this, network management business Orchestream enjoyed having its shares leaping 69 per cent above issue price when it floated yesterday. The issue was nine times subscribed. At close it was valued at £362 million. Analysts forecast Orchestream will make a loss of £10 million on sales of £2.7 million this year, according to the FT, and generate sales of £15 million in 2001. The company sells software to help telcos prioritise traffic using Internet technology. Net investment business, Jellyworks, is thinking about taking its ball home and going back to being a private company. The FT reports the firm reckons the stock market has failed to recognise the value of investments. ®
Team Register, 29 Jun 2000

Get your gen-u-wine Reg merchandise 'ere

Merchandising latest...19th February 2001 Many apologies for the non-appearance of the secure server, but we've been having a few technical difficulties. We hope to have these resolved soon. In the meantime, thanks for your patience. But there is some good news. The BOFH merchandising you all demanded is available now. That's right, Bastard Operator shirts and hats at prices you can afford. Click here for full details. Yes, we know you'll have to order them by snail mail, but if if you want 'em, that's the way it'll have to be! Win Reg Goodies!!! To win a bumper bag of Register merchandising send us a photo of yourself in a bit of Reg kit. If we like your pics, we'll post 'em in our Readers' Gallery. If we really like your pics, you'll get a veritable jamboree bag of vulture-related goodies. Priority will be given to snaps containing nudity, exotic or unusual locations and You've Been Framed-style comedy poses. Email the pics to us here. So what have we got? Baseball caps Blue with white vulture, one size fits all. T-shirts White and blue - red vulture on back, URL on right sleeve. Sizes: M/L/XL. Polo shirts White and blue - red vulture embroidered on left nipple. Sizes: M/L/XL (not pictured). Button-down shirts Yellow, white and french navy (dark blue to you and me) - red vulture embroidered on right nipple. Sizes: M/L/XL. The logo on the T-shirts are big, but please note our models - the Vulturettes - are wearing them back-to-front; the image is on the back. The logos on the polo shirts and smart shirts are small. And they all look cool. That's about it really. Oh, you'll have to pay for them. How the hell do I get hold of these lovely items To order your Reg merchandise simply send us an order with your cheque (UK and US customers only) or International Money Order made out in sterling to "Situation Publishing" and we'll get the stuff in the post to you straight away (allow 28 days for delivery). Please note that P&P costs are for individual items, so if you order more than one bit of kit, you'll need to pay the P&P for each item. If you've lost your pen or spent so much time at a computer that you've forgotten how to write, why not use our print'n'post form?   UK Pricing US Pricing   Item P&P Item P&P Baseball Cap £10 £1.50 $15 $3 T-Shirt £10 £2.50 $15 $6 Polo Shirt £20 £2.50 $30 $6 Button-down Shirt £25 £2.50 $38 $6 So what do I do? Work out what you want Write it on a piece of paper Add up the prices, including the P&P Write down your name and address Snail-mail the order with a cheque/international money order for the total and made out to "Situation Publishing Sit back and anticipate impressing your friends and/or neighbours Our address is: Register Merchandise, Situation Publishing, 20-22 Maddox Street, London, United Kingdom, W1S 1PN. Any queries? Please drop us an email at cashncarrion@theregister.co.uk ®
Team Register, 29 Jun 2000

Win a PC. For free. Click here

The Register and Jungle.com have joined hands to offer you lucky punters the chance to win an HP Brio business PC with a pretty darn good spec (Pentium III 650, 128MB RAM, 13.5GB hard drive, 8MB Video RAM, Win98, modem, DVD etc.) What do you do? Print out this story, fill in the form below and fax it to us on +44 (0)20 7493 5922. Or email the info to us at competition@theregister.co.uk. We're sorry but the cgi boys are busy elsewhere at the mo. Closing date is Friday 14 July. FORM TO FILL IN Title …………………….. Forename ……………………….. Surname ………………………… Address ………………………………. ……………………………………….. ……………………………………….. Postcode ………………………… Country …………………………… Email address …………………………………. ………………………………………… ………………………………………. Occupation (tick the right one) Owner ………………………………………. CEO/President …………………………….…. Corporate Manager/Board Director …………. Product Manager ……………………………. Operations Manager ………………………… Sales/Marketing/PR ………………………… Software Developer ………………………… Finance Manager / Director ………………… Technical / Engineering ……………………. Director/Manager ………………………….. Just a regular Joe ………………………….. Organisation Internet Related Services ………………….. Software Development …………………… Finance Banking ………………………….. Engineering ………………………………. Manufacturing ……………………………. Distribution / Reseller …………………….. Other ………………………………………. Company size Under 10 employees ………… 10 – 99 ………………………. 100 – 499 ……………………. 500 – 999 …………………… 1000 – 9999 ………………… 10,000+ ……………………… Company Turnover under £1 million ……………………… £1 million - £4.9 million………. £5 million - £9.9 million………. £10 million - £49.9 million………. £50 million - £99.99 million……. £100 million+………………………….. Company's annual IT budget Under £100k ………………… £100k - £250k ……….. £251k - £500k ………… £500k - £1 million …… £1 million+ ………………….. Which of these do you read? Network News ……………...…… Computer Reseller News ……….. silicon.com ……………………… IT network.com ………………… vnunet.com ……………………… Computing ……………………….. Computer Weekly ………………. Slashdot ……………………. CNet ………………………. ZDNet ……………………. Tick here if you want a daily email update of Reg stories ……………………. Signed: Date: Closing date is Fri 14 July. The editors' decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into. ® Read our Privacy Statement here
Team Register, 29 Jun 2000

Merchandise Order form

Just print this page out, fill it in and mail it to Register Merchandise, 20-22 Maddox Street, London, United Kingdom, W1S 1PN. Don't forget to include your cheque (UK and US customers only) or International Money Order, and your name and address.   UK Pricing US Pricing   Item P&P Item P&P Baseball Cap £10 £1.50 $15 $3 T-Shirt £10 £2.50 $15 $6 Polo Shirt £20 £2.50 £30 $6 Button-down Shirt £25 £2.50 $38 $6 Register Stuff Colour Qty Price Item P&P Baseball Cap Blue       T-shirt Blue M       L       XL       White M       L       XL       Polo Shirt Blue M       X       XL       White M       L       XL       Button-down Shirt Navy M       L       XL       Yellow M       L       XL       White M       L       XL       Item and P&P Totals     Grand Total     Shipping Name   Shipping Address            
Team Register, 29 Jun 2000
SGI logo hardware close-up

Free broadband access: Spielberg shows how (oops)

It's easy to get free broadband access if you're Steven Spielberg, or in some way connected with Steven Spielberg. Or at least it was, until the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) retained Arthur Andersen to compile a report detailing the stack of illegal freebies local telco GTE had showered on Spielberg, Dreamworks Studios and numerous other Hollywood luminaries and outfits. The tale of how easy it is for influential people and outfits to get stuff for free is reported in today's Los Angeles Times. It's not of course illegal to be given stuff, and in many sectors it's also perfectly legal to give stuff, but in the California telcoms business favouritism and freebies are ilegal, the rationale being that unimportant customers who don't have a choice of providers oughtn't to have to foot the bill for the mover and shaker demi-gods. PUC uncovered GTE misconduct on over 100 contracts from 1995 to mid-1998, but GTE - which accepts that it blew it - bleats that the contracts only account for a "tiny" percentage of the $3.5 billion annual revenue it gleans from California. Well, we should hope so too. But it must have been good while it lasted. Says the Times: Over the pan of at least two years, GTE provided a variety of free services to Spielberg at his home in Pacific Palisades, including dedicated high-speed connections of undetermined value, according to sources." Dreamworks itself scored "a variety of high speed connections," some of them free in exchange for promotional rights. The company also provided free videoconferencing equipment and high speed services to the Playa Vista project, designed as a blueprint for the city of the future. Playa Vista was to have a DreamWorks studio, but the company pulled out. Why all this generosity? According to the Times, GTE schmoozed the Hollywood entertainment industry intensively because it figured there was a market of $1 billion a year there for the taking. Now it's likely to be fined several million dollars, and Steven Spielberg, presumably, is going to have to get himself a DSL installation organised. ® Related Link Full Los Angeles Times report
John Lettice, 29 Jun 2000

Bill Gates' roots in the trashcans of history

It is interesting to note the high moral tone being taken by Microsoft in its castigation of Oracle's legal if somewhat dodgy intelligence gathering activities.* But surely Microsoft hasn't forgotten that Bill Gates himself, together with Paul Allen, has also used trash cans as a primary source of intelligence? Gates even admitted this in an interview recorded in 1993 which was deposited in the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (which coincidentally is a short walk from Judge Jackson's Court). The occasion was when Gates picked up the Price Waterhouse Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement. Video History interviewer David Allison asked Gates about the early days when he was still at school, but working part-time for the Computer Center Corporation (C-cubed) in Seattle. Gates said: "I'd skip out on athletics and go down to this computer center. We were moving ahead very rapidly: Basic, FORTRAN, LISP, PDP-10 machine language, digging out the operating system listings from the trash and studying those." The listings evidently included Basic for the PDP-10, but it was Allen who did the Assembler programming to simulate the Altair, while Gates, Monte Davidoff and later Allen worked on a Basic interpreter for the machine. Of course neither C-cubed nor DEC received any consideration for the use of the code filched from the waste bin. Some people might consider this disregard for the intellectual property rights in a rather different light from the young pioneers. ® * In the interest of balance we wish to point out that Larry Ellison is a crazed megalomaniac. As well. - Ed Related stories Ellison offers Gates all his rubbish Spying on MS - yes, it's the Man from Oracle
Graham Lea, 29 Jun 2000

NTL kicks off customers sharing log in

Victim of its own success or of inept market planning? Whichever way you look at it NTL has badly underestimated demand for its free Internet service. The company has admitted that there is at least a two month backlog of applications still to be processed. Meanwhile, frustrated customers are sharing CDs around while they wait for their own registration packages to arrive. The trouble is, doing this will get them automatically booted off the system, according to technical types at NTL. A spokeswoman for the company said: "Once you get your CD, it is registered exclusively to your telephone number and corresponding pin number. If you were to try and access your account from another telephone, your account would be shut down automatically. It is actually a breach of the terms and conditions." Our sources say that as many as 500 users have been kicked off the service in this way, with as many as 29 individual telephone accounts trying to access the Internet using the same CD and details. NTL was unable to confirm these figures. NTL is not the only company to be having trouble with free Internet services. The Advertising Standards Authority says that it has received over 60 individual complaints about unmetered Internet access advertisements. Other companies causing trouble include RedHotAnt, Liberty Surf and Excite. NTL says that it has been in correspondence with the ASA over the matter and has withdrawn the advertising campaign. NTL's spokeswoman also said that following comments made by the ASA in the press, it is writing to the organisation seeking clarification over whether or not an official investigation has been launched. No one at the ASA was available for comment at the time of writing.® Related Stories NTL - another router falls over NTL router down for 12 hours
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2000

PR flunkeys' hack list is officially rubbish

Yesterday we ran a story on Miller Freeman's attempt to make money by charging £725 for a league table of journalists, split into categories such as impact, positive and negative coverage. While these figures were always going to be hopelessly inaccurate, we were not surprised to find that the PRs had failed to do even the most basic research on what they were trying to sell (they'd probably be journalists if they did). Take for example, the most positive journalist of them all, Luke Peters. Luke managed to score an amazing 100 per cent positive coverage on what he wrote about. Is he a hidden PR mole? Perhaps he takes backhanders and lives in Monaco at the weekend. No, Luke was in fact a work experience lad from college who did a two-week stint on voice-of-the-people mag Computeractive. Is it not perhaps surprising that a young writer with no IT industry knowledge would be wary of criticising companies he knows little about? Not if you're from Miller Freeman it wouldn't. (Luke, incidentally, has just finished his exams and will be starting as a staff writer with Computeractive at the end of the month). But hold on. Who is that at number three most positive journalist? Why it's Steve Masters. Presumably the Steve Masters that left his job as online editor of Computing's website at least eight months ago. So why the coverage rating? Well, when Steve cut and pasted information from the paper version to the site, by default, the byline was given to Steve rather than the actual writer. Thus, the material that was not attached to individual journalists, namely the PR-led stories, came up with Steve's name. As for number two man Jim Haryott, well, who knows? And as for Dave Evans at number four. We can only presume that the index does not account for such complex concepts as sarcasm and irony. We ran our own subjective but more accurate Reg league table down the pub this lunchtime. And, unpressured, a young lady from Miller Freeman came top in the most useless PR person award. It's a day without surprises today. Any UK journalists who've got anything to say about the quality of Miller Freemans' PR squad can tell it to The Register. We'll start the ball rolling. Sean Fleming, managing editor, writes: One of the most unpleasant experiences at the hands of a PR bunny I've ever had was, ironically, with someone from Miller Freeman. Back in 1997 I was features editor of UK channel newspaper PC Dealer (now rebranded as CRN). At the time we'd become involved with a series of roundtables and seminars, with Miller Freeman lining up some of the participants. We got a late cancellation from someone. I was asked to let Miller Freeman know - and quick. Which is what I did. However, the MF person I spoke to far from acknowledging the prompt notification and the offer of help in finding a replacement, instead went purple with rage and accused me of being one of the most unprofessional people she'd ever dealt with - likewise the newspaper. Ranting and raging ensued on both ends of the telephone. Miller Freeman feels free to name names - so I will follow suit. I have no idea what ever happened to Liz Ivins, as I've made it my business to steer clear of Miller Freeman and its clients ever since. So, if you're out there and you want to pick a PR outfit that really knows what it's talking about where the concept of press relations is concerned, well... I'll be happy to give you a few pointers. ®
Team Register, 29 Jun 2000

Daily Telegraph offers sex change ops to dotcom workers

Today's Daily Telegraph ran a very small correction on page 35. "A technical error in some editions has produced an incorrect picture on page seven of today's dotcom telegraph. For a correct version, e-mail us on tele.com@telegraph.co.uk." Naturally, we rushed to page seven to find that Julian Fenely, ex-JP Morgan man and now head of an online direct marketing company, was either a good-looking but feminine man or was Helen James' (now on bank Paribas' online offering) twin brother. We imagine that our copy is one of those "some editions". Incidentally, a technical error means that a sub-editor or art assistant got it in the neck this morning. We also emailed the Telegraph for a copy to see what the real Julian looks like but we haven't heard back yet. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jun 2000

Helpful hacker faces Aussie Feds

A young computer enthusiast compromised an Australian Government Web site over night using a simple CGI script, and then notified 17,000 businesses that their banking details were unprotected, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The lad accessed the government's GST Assist site with a script which automatically logged in to each account and generated an e-mail message to warn the account owners. He sent each customer their account information with a message saying: "The website http://www.gstassist.gov.au/ has a serious security flaw which permits access to your private details..." One of the account holders sent his copy of the message, signed "K 2", to The Register. Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police tracked down a suspect and shut down the site. The Feds were still interviewing the suspect, said to be a teenager, late Wednesday afternoon. Then on Thursday morning, a young lad calling himself Kelly rang up a Sydney radio station and said he had been registering an account for himself on the GST Office Web site when he discovered how easily the login procedure could be manipulated. "I found it quite shocking [so] I sent e-mails warning people that it could be done," Kelly said. It "didn't require any hacking. You just plug in some numbers to a CGI script," Kelly explained. The system, he said, was "wide open; anyone could just type in the numbers and get someone's details," using a "normal access procedure." The entire database could be accessed simply by changing a number in the URL which a customer would use to gain access to his account thus: http://www.abr.business.gov.au/asp/abndetail.asp?ABN=XXXXX. Kelly's script merely substituted numbers, from one to 27,000, for X automatically. Asked why he sent the e-mail messages to the customers rather than report the defect to the government, Kelly replied, "I was concerned; I didn't want it to be covered up." Kelly said he wrote a very simple script which, after automatically trying each number, would generate an e-mail warning to the account holder. He said he didn't download, or even view, the information for himself. The script would "grab [the information] off the Web page, put it into an e-mail, and [not] record it. It works totally in memory," he said. But GST project manager Glenn Carlos claimed that a sophisticated program had been used to crack the database's security. He said the intruder had cracked the "security fields" that were designed to keep private details from view by the general public. As for why the details were kept in plain text in an unprotected directory, Carlos said that the ever-present need for speed was to blame. "The GST office....rapidly moved to the point where people could access the information so we were looking for the most rapid system. If we had more time I probably would have spent three or four more weeks going through security but I'm not even sure that would have been valid," he explained. GST Office general manager Jim Hagan said that the Web site had been shut down temporarily while an investigation was being carried out. "At the moment we haven't found any evidence of [a security breach] and we are still confident that the security is okay," he told ABC radio. Only time will tell whether the government's natural compulsion to maintain an illusion of competence and control over the Mysteries of Technology will result in young Kelly being made a scapegoat, or whether he might emerge as the courageous and responsible fellow he is. ®
Thomas C Greene, 29 Jun 2000

Internet pedo sting ruled entrapment

A man convicted of trying to have sex with children was ordered released from prison by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the Feds had entrapped him, the Associated Press reports. A three-judge panel found that Mark Poehlman had been lured and manipulated by an undercover agent offering a long-term relationship if Poehlman would agree to teach the agent's three little girls how to have sex. The agent contacted Poehlman through an Internet service for people with "alternative" sexual identities, according to the court. "There is surely enough real crime in our society that it is unnecessary for our law enforcement officials to spend months luring an obviously lonely and confused individual to cross the line between fantasy and criminality," Judge Alex Kozinski wrote Tuesday. Judge David Thompson dissented from the majority opinion, arguing there was some evidence that Poehlman had a predilection for child sex, such as a remark he made before his arrest that he "always looked at little girls." Judge Kozinski noted that Poehlman was lonely when he saw the ad by agent "Sharon" in 1995. He had been divorced by his wife and forced into early retirement by the Air Force after failing to control a cross-dressing compulsion. Poehlman responded to Sharon, indicating he was looking for a long-term relationship leading to marriage. The two exchanged several e-mails in which Sharon hinted that she wanted Poehlman to have sex with her daughters. She later made it clear that if he did not, their communication would end, the wire service notes. Over the next six months, she prompted him to describe in graphic detail how he would have sex with her children. Poehlman was arrested in 1996 after he travelled to California to meet Sharon and the children. He spent 120 days in jail, then pleaded no contest to state child-sex charges on the condition that he be released. In 1998, he was convicted on federal charges of crossing state lines to have sex with a minor. He was sentenced to over 10 years in prison. He is expected to be released within a week, AP says. ®
Thomas C Greene, 29 Jun 2000

Nvidia confirms Mac support with GeForce 2 MX

Nvidia today clarified its position on Mac support - sort of. The 3D graphics company has certainly changed its mind since we quizzed it on the matter six months ago - back then it had a real downer on the platform, now it considers the Mac a viable market. The question is, what is it going to do to attack that market? The answer is vague, to say the least. Speaking at the UK launch of Nvidia's GeForce 2 MX chip, the successor to last autumn's GeForce 256, VP of strategic marketing Oliver Baltuch Nvidia was please to say work had been done to "make that market available to us". A reference to a move on Apple's part to encourage 3D graphics vendors to move to the platform? Quite possibly. Apple has long turned to ATI for its graphics acceleration products, and continues to bundle the Rage 128 Pro and Rage Mobility kit in its desktop and notebook lines, respectively. That recently prompted 3dfx to demand that Apple widens the 3D options made available to its build-to-order customers. With ATI cards be bundled, 3dfx claimed, with some justification, that it's much harder to sell competing products into the Mac space. Of course, 3dfx has an axe to grind here. It clearly doesn't like the way Apple's bundling programme tilts the playing field in ATI's favour. But at least 3dfx has been quietly supporting the Mac for some time with Voodoo 2 and 3 drivers, and will soon ship Mac-dedicated Voodoo 4 and 5 boards, which were designed to support the Mac from the ground up. Baltuch's explanation of why the Mac market was previously unavailable to Nvidia centres on the graphics company's own limited resources and not having the right product until now - the GeForce 2 MX. That's a moot point, given the MX is a mainstream part while the superior GeForce 2 GTS might seem more suited to the high-end graphical work the Mac is best known for, but Baltuch side-stepped that issue, preferring to stress the suitability of the MX. But then an Nvidia Europe colleague, when pushed about potential partners - since Nvidia doesn't make its own boards - let slip: "Apple of course." When asked for more details, we were told to await "a future announcement". A curious statement to make, given recent Net rumours that Apple might be dropping ATI in favour of Nvidia. Other Apple sources claim that's not going to happen, but what we have here looks like a deal between Apple and Nvidia to offer the GeForce 2 MX, probably alongside ATI's Rage 128 Pro and perhaps even the upcoming Radeon 256. The MX is possibly a better choice than the GTS, since it's a third of the price, yet only half as powerful (based on fill rates), an approach that suits Apple's strategy of offering top-name kit that's nevertheless nobbled to keep the cost down. The Rage 128 boards that shipped with the Power Mac G3, for instance, were clocked way below their retail equivalents. Key to moving the Nvidia part on to the Mac are drivers, and again Nvidia's staffers could only mutter about future announcements. If they're done right, though, they should support all Nvidia cards, allowing MX owners to upgrade later to GTS cards if they wish. If Nvidia does the drivers, they almost certainly will be done right, though the company's caginess over their production suggests someone else, possibly Apple, is doing the work. Nvidia will certainly offer the drivers on its Web site, allowing Mac owners to buy PC versions of the product, but the Baltuch and co.'s tone suggests that's not how the company expects to lead the Mac graphics market, which it hopes to do. Where does this leave 3dfx? Well, assuming Apple isn't ditching ATI - and we wouldn't rule that out, unlikely as it may be - and given the company's desire for the Mac to be perceived not only at the top of the graphics tree but as a great games machine (Jobs wants all those consumers on his side, don't forget), it makes sense to shot about having as many top-name graphics vendors on your side as possible, and the best way of doing that is getting Voodoo 4 and 5 into the BTO options list. It also depends on 3dfx giving Apple a decent price, but given the company's willingness to discount Voodoo 2 and 3 cards to token margins - possibly even zero or negative margins, if some industry sources are to be believed - that's not beyond the bounds of possibility. Either way, the addition of Nvidia is a major step forward for the Mac graphics market. ®
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2000