12th > July > 2000 Archive

Intel notebook chips to top 1GHz

RoadmapsRoadmaps The most recent notebook roadmaps from Intel shows that the firm is humming-and-hawing on whether to include its SpeedStep battery saving technology on all future mobile chips, including the mobile Celeron. And, at the same time, the firm is set to intro the new Tualatin .13 micron core in the second quarter of next year for notebook processors, allowing speeds of 1GHz+ for mobile warriors toting ThinkPads and the like. Intel had come under some criticism for confining SpeedStep to its high end mobile offerings, while its mobile Celerons languished in a non-battery efficient universe. AMD appears to have decided to include its battery-saving 'Gemini' technology in all of its up and coming mobile parts. The key time for Intel to intro chipsets and products based on the Tualatin core is currently set at Q2 next year, according to the roadmaps. In that period we will see a Pentium III 950MHz mobile component, with 800MHz and 750MHz mobile Celerons arriving early next year. Intel will improve its thermal management on the mobile Celeron package, the roadmaps indicate. Q2 of next year will also see the Almador chipset, although the documents we saw was sketchy about specifics. It could be that Intel will use DDR memory for the first time in machines based on the Almador. AMD certainly will... There appears to be no trace whatever of Rambus-based notebooks on next year's roadmap. If Intel does make the decision to include SpeedStep on all mobile Intel parts, including its Celeron family, it is likely to be a response to the ambitious rival technology from AMD, formerly codenamed Gemini. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jul 2000

AMD notebooks beat Intel to GHz punch

RoadmapRoadmap The race is on with a vengeance with both AMD and Intel lining up in a three-horse race to see which is first to hit 1GHz in the notebook market. And, according to confidential AMD roadmaps we have seen today, it is set to be a close run thing, with the firm launching its 1GHz Athlon in Q1 next year. Well fancy that. But before it gets round to engaging in that war, its reduced voltage Duron notebook parts will start sampling in Q3, using the S2K bus interface and a low profile, 462-pin, lidless PGA package, incorporating 192KB of on die cache. Its target is to deliver power of between 18-22W for these babies. The Athlon 'Corvette', formerly called the Mustang 256, will have a 200MHz S2K bus interface which scales to 266MHz and beyond, and also uses the 462-pin lidless PGA package. The new S2K protocol will require specific Northbridge support, but will have a maximum temperature of 95 degrees Celsius. So you won't be able to have a proper cup of tea. The Athlon 1GHz notebook part, as well as its 9xx, 8xx and 700MHz parts, will be targeted at the performance sector of market, with the 9xx parts hitting OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in Q4. Notebooks in this sector cost between $1500 and $2500. In the Duron sector (notebooks between $1500 and $2000), we will see the 650MHz mobile Duron and the 600MHz Duron in Q4, with 700MHz Durons arriving in Q1 next year. Hows about chipsets then? There will be support from Cheapsetzilla (Via) with the Mobile KN chipset, which will have integrated S3 Savage Graphics, and support PC-133/100. It will sample Q3 this year. And then we will have Ali's Napa2 (1646M) chipset, using a 200MHz front side bus (FSB), and using PC-133/100 SDRAM or DDR (double data rate) memory. There's more of this sort of stuff but that's enough for now, we think. We said three horse race for 1GHz, right? Well, don't forget good old Transmeta. As we reported from Computex, it is well on target to achieve 1GHz parts and we suspect (but don't know 'cos Transmeta never talks to us) that will have considerably lower wattage than anything Chipzilla or Chimpzilla can pull out of their respective hats. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jul 2000

Global PDA production slows down

The momentum behind the PDA market appears to be slowing, according to the latest data from Japan's Nikkei Market Access. Last year, some six million PDAs were produced, twice the number knocked out during 1998. However, Nikkei's estimates for 2000, while still higher than 1999's figures, show reduced growth. Nikkei reckons 10.7 million PDAs will roll off production lines this year, a year-on-year increase of just 78 per cent. Still, 10.7 million palmtops is still a heck of a lot of devices, and given the component supply problems noted earlier this year by Palm, the production numbers could easily fall below end user demand for these devices. Nikkei's numbers show Palm leading the market with 3.25 million PalmOS-based units produced during 1999 - 53.7 per cent of the market. Some 1.73 million Windows CE-based machines were built (28.5 per cent) alongside 537,000 EPOC-based devices (8.9 per cent). The PalmOS' share of the market is likely to increase throughout 2000, thanks to Handspring's popular Visor and Sony's upcoming Palm-based PDA. Retail figures for 2000 show the PalmOS' market share up in the 80-90 per cent range, though how that will translate to production share remains to be seen. ® Related Stories Handspring grabs quarter of US PDA market Handspring retail debut becomes instant chart-topper WinCE retail market share collapses Palm Q4 profits, revenues double
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2000

SGI predicts deeper than expected Q4 loss

SGI's Q4 loss will be bigger than planned thanks to tumbling revenues, the company warned Wall Street yesterday. SGI predicted the quarter's revenue will fall within a $525-535 million range. That's well down on the $829 million it recorded for the same period last year, and down on the previous quarter's $563.7 million, itself down nine per cent on Q3 1999's $619.2 million. The troubled company laid the blame for the shortfall on supply problems, which hit desktop production; moving over to a number of new machines; and fewer sales of supercomputers. Last quarter, SGI finally got rid of its Cray supercomputer business, offloading it on Tera for around $100 million - rather less than the $740 million it paid for Cray. Last quarter, SGI blamed its revenue shortfall and loss on delays in the shipment of MIPS' R12000 CPU. First Call puts Wall Street's expectations of SGI's Q4 2000 loss at eight cents a share. Last quarter saw a loss of ten cents a share, below expectations of seven cents a share. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2000

US musos unite against Net piracy

A band of US musicians yesterday pledged to fight Internet music piracy, primarily, it seems, by asking fans not to do it. Under the name Artists Against Piracy (AAP), the group of 70-odd musos ran a series of national newspaper ads yesterday pleading with listeners not to take the bread from their mouths by not paying for songs. Perhaps we'll soon see Alanis Morrissette, Garth Brooks and co. performing at MusoAid for the benefit of Platinum-selling rock stars impoverished by MP3. Of course, the AAP is really about lobbying government to tighten anti-piracy laws. It's no coincidence that the AAP's debut took place on the same day that the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss the effect of digital music distribution's on intellectual property rights. Said AAP founder Noah Stone: "Artists Against Piracy's mission is to provide a collective voice for artists on the issue of the digital distribution of music." It will also promote artists' ability to choose how their works are presented, distributed and marketed online. Maybe, but how many of them will really have much of a choice in the matter remains to be seen. The big labels are already incorporating digital distribution rights into their artist contracts. That's the trade-off most artists make when they sign to a major. That really leaves the AAP as little more than an anti-Napster front organisation, allowing artists to attack the MP3 sharing software (and the company that developed it) without incurring the user hatred the likes of Metallica have faced for tackling Napster head on. ® Satirical Link The Onion Kid Rock Starves To Death: MP3 PBlamed
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2000

Gates buys piece of pineapple paradise

Billionaire Bill Gates has bought a piece of paradise where he once got 'leid'. The Microsoft founder has splashed out an estimated $19 million (£12.5 million) to possess part of the Hawaiian island where he tied the knot with Mrs Gates. More specifically, he is saying Aloha to a 6.3 per cent stake in property company Castle & Cooke - which owns much of the island of Lanai. The exotic destination, which has a population of 2426, measures 18 miles by 13 miles and is also known as The Pineapple Island after one of its previous chief exports. Gates rented the island for his wedding to Melinda, and its romantic hotspots include Lover's Rock, while one of the island's activities is lei making - those flowery garlands strewn around the neck in Hawaii. Castle & Cooke is currently the target of a $400 million bid from its chairman David Murdock. Analysts were yesterday reported to suggest that the Gates buy -made through his private investment company Cascade - could be a prelude to him buying the whole island, or his way of influencing its future. ® Related Link Information of Lanai can be found here.
Linda Harrison, 12 Jul 2000
bofh_sidey

The Bastard gets taste of own medicine

Episode 26Episode 26 This episode is based on real experiences with some of the largest computer companies in the globe. Names and Companies have been changed to protect the guilty. . ---- So I'm ringing Tech support and, as usual, get put through to their lifeline, which is more like a life sentence when you're waiting for help. And of course, when you're talking to the lifeline you have to talk to 47 different IVR systems, which is almost as time-consuming as IVF, only you feel more screwed with IVR.. . . ."..if you would like to log a software call press 1-7. If you would like to log a hardware call, press 2-3." I press 2 3. "I'm sorry, your command was not understood, please re-enter, If you would like to log a software call, press.." I slowly press 2, then slowly press three. "Welcome to Software support, please have your customer number ready." I hang up and dial again. "Welcome to Technical Support. If you would like to speak to an operator, please press 0-0 now. Otherwise if you would like to loga.." I press 1 and 7 slowly. "Welcome to hardware support, please have your Machine serial number ready. For our ultima-premo line of products, press 74, For our Fantasma-Blanko products, please press 99, for all other products press 21." I don't trust it, and wait. "..except for our Enterprise models, for which you should press 03." I slowly press 0 3. "I'm sorry, a technician isn't available to take your call right now, please enter the model number, followed by a serial number and we will call you back from the number on the purchase details of that machine." I type in the 4 digit model number and am about to type in the serial number when... "I'm sorry that number is not recognised by our system. Valid Model Numbers are: B101, B102, B103, B104, B1." I hang up because I just know that the alpha keypad isn't going to work, and recall the number and press 0 0 slowly. Twelve minutes of ringing later the phone is answered. (I could learn something from these people.) "Hello, Lifeline, what is your Client Reference Code?" "Uh, 2734278," I respond. "No, that's your customer number, I need your client reference code," she replies sternly. "What would that look like?" I ask, never having heard of it before. "The Client Reference Code is a 17 letter alphanumeric identifier attached to the top of all invoices," she replies. "I'm afraid I don't have that with me at the moment, can I use my Customer number?" I ask politely. "I'm sorry, my machine only accepts the Client Reference Code," she responds. "Right, call you back soon." I look thru the swathe of maintenance invoices to find that the client reference code was only issued in the past 2 weeks and is to be used for all maintenance calls. Excellent. I phone back. "BBETA7873884A671F," I answer, in response to her answer, some 10 minutes later. "I'm sorry, we don't have a record of PPECA7873884A671S," she responds. Of course not. "Sorry, I'll repeat, BRAVO, BRAVO, ECHO, TANGO, ALPHA, 7873884, ALPHA, 671 FOXTROT." "Ah," she replies with what I believe is a tinge of disappointment, "here we go. What was your PIN number?" "Pardon?" "Your PIN number for this Reference Code." "0000," I guess. "OK, she responds even more glumly. "And what seems to be the problem?" "We have a hard disk failure." "I see. What was the serial number of the hard disk?" "I'm afraid I can't tell you that because opening the case would void our maintenance agreement," I respond, knowing only too well the odds are against me. "Uh-huh. And your contact number?" I give her my direct number, which she duly takes down. I get her to repeat it till she gets it correct - no fool me. "Alright, I'll have an engineer call you within the next working week." "Within four hours, I believe." "Um... No, you're on Premium Cover, that's response within a working week." "No, four hours." "No, four hours is for Premium Direct Cover, You only have a Premium Contract." "I see. Can I ask a question off the record?" "I suppose so." "How many people get this far?" "What do you mean?" "As far as actually getting a technician to call them." "Off the record?" "Yes." "About Three per cent. Twenty per cent get put off by the difficulty of IVR, another 10 per cent get lost in the IVR system and probably lose their mind, 13 per cent or so don't know, and never find, their Client Reference number. Eight per cent do, but don't know their pin, 25 per cent supply me an 'incorrect contact number', and 18 per cent can't wait a week and upgrade to Premium Direct, and three per cent go insane and get taken away." "So do you have any engineers?" "Off the record?" "Uh-huh." "One. He lives in Wales. We mostly use the Premium Direct money to get you a service contract with another service network - one that gives us a discount if we have less that three calls a year. Otherwise you have to wait for him to get a discount train fare into London." "And how many staff in your company?" "Apart from me and the engineer?" "Yes." "None." "I see. So I'll be expecting your engineer.." "Dave." "..Dave, in a week or so then." "Yes." "It's been.... real." I feel humbled. ® Tune into BOFH: Kit and Caboodle for more adventures with the Bastard Operator. BOFH is the Bastard Operator from Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his copyright. ®
Simon Travaglia, 12 Jul 2000

Symbian CEO suggests dream ticket alliance with Palm

Symbian CEO Colly Myers has trailed the prospect of further co-operation with Palm. The two companies co-developing a port of Palm's pen-based UI to Symbian for Nokia, so presumably Myers is anticipating more of the same. Actually, we're relieved to hear that the two are working on the Nokia gig. That announcement was widely telegraphed last year, but when it finally came out it basically boiled down to Nokia and Palm announcing that they'd try to agree - white-knuckle negotiations or what? We note however that subsequently the October announcement was firmed up into a real, live agreement. The two do however make interesting bedfellows. Symbian has a robust OS that runs on a 32 bit chip with a future, while Palm has a useful UI that has plenty of mindshare. Working with Symbian gives Palm a more solid and future-proof base platform, and possibly a ticket into the mobile phone market. Depending on the nature of any new deal, there could be scope for a certain amount of friction with Symbian co-founder Psion. An ARM-EPOC platform with Palm's UI on top would be an interesting contender for smartphone OEM deals, but would it be a Symbian reference design, or would it be a Palm one? The pecking order clearly has considerable bearing on who gets first run at selling the platform. Psion itself intimated last Autumn that it would be putting more effort into attacking Palm's sector of the market, so we can probably foresee more of those interesting negotiations. ®
John Lettice, 12 Jul 2000

Letsbuyit.com pulls out of IPO (again)

Online co-op Letsbuyit.com has delayed a stockmarket flotation for the second time in two months, even though it had slashed its original valuation by nearly half. The first float, where it valued the company at between £750 million and £1 billion was pulled because of "market volatility". The company's investors pledged to stand by it. There's been no excuse given for the second pull, which had valued Letsbuyit at £500 million. The Reg has always maintained that the company's concept and business plan is shaky (story: Letsbuyit.com ducks out of float) nd we are looking increasingly right. Vodafone looks set to bow to shareholder pressure over its £10 million bonus to CEO Chris Gent. The telecomms company was last night on the point of pledging not to repeat the payout, today's FT reported. DirectLine has launched an online car dealership for new and second-hand cars online. Jamjar.com (US readers - jam jar is Cockney rhyming-slang for car) joins other cybershowrooms in promising to be cheaper than traditional high-street dealerships. Customers also get to sell their cars online. Each vehicle comes with a three-year warranty, one year's breakdown cover, 12 month road tax and a week's return policy. And prepare yourselves for a £15 million marketing campaign. Yahoo! shares rocketed yesterday when it amazed analysts by declaring a 12-cents-a-share income when they thought it'd be 10 cents. The better than expected profit, attributed to global expansion, caused shares to leap 12 per cent. Revenue for the quarter was $270.12 million from $128.57 million same time last year, net income from $27.06 million to $73.99 million. Jellyworks, the Internet investment company, has fallen victim to a reverse takeover by Shore Capital, the company announced yesterday. A spokesman for Jellyworks said that its portfolio of quoted and unquoted investments would be better off as part of a larger investment banking operation. Floated six months ago at a trifling 5p per share, at the height of the dotcom boom earlier this year, Jellyworks was valued at £300 million. The price has since wobbled its way down to £67 million, or 30p per share. Online bill paying in the UK may arrive a little later than expected. Apacs, the clearing house for banks and building societies had planned to introduce an industry-wide scheme, but now admits that not all the banks concerned are officially on board. The organisation also confessed that it had not yet signed up a systems supplier to provide the service. A spokesman said that a final decision about the proposals would be made by the end of the month. Online stockbroker E*Trade is offering a souped up service to wheeler dealers who buy, buy,buy, sell,sell, sell more than 30 times a month. Power7 E*Trade offers cheaper commissions after the 30th deal - a flat £8.95 compared with up to £19.95 for those who trade stocks less regularly. Only about 2,000 or 3,000 people currently trade at these levels with the service. ® Tune in and turn on to more tales of the Bubble Economy in ourCash Register channel.
Linda Harrison, 12 Jul 2000

Dunblane – the plot thickens

Douglas Hayward, editor of Computing, writes: I always enjoy reading Pete Warren's work, and never more so than when he really gets the bit between his teeth. Still, Bunny's spirited defence of his mangled opus on Dunblane contains an uncharacteristic inaccuracy which I'd like to correct. Bunny reports me as quoting, in my now-infamous TechWeb despatch all those years ago, a British spook who supposedly said that "Herf guns" (which I referred to as "radio frequency" guns) didn't exist. I've never reported that radio-frequency weapons don't exist, and the spook never said that. I remember sitting through a two-day conference in Brussels (someone had to) where a guy from the Swedish military talked about his experiments with these guns. I think he killed some farmyard animals and destroyed a car engine, or something like that. Apparently there isn't much else to do in Sweden. The point I tried to relay was that radio-frequency weapons (which shouldn't be sold to children under the age of 12, by the way) capable of attacking banks were not yet in the hands of criminals and terrorists. Or teenage nightclubbers. In an understated nod towards rapprochement with Bunny, I even quoted the spook as saying that these weapons may well be a 'point of concern' in the future, even if they weren't actually worth bothering about then. So, I'm not at all embarrassed that the US Navy 'had been testing Herf guns for a number of years' when my report was published. I'm just surprised the things are still so crappy that the US military has yet to deploy them in action. Or perhaps, as Esther would doubtless say, Bunny knows better? Pete's done a lot of serious, sensible journalism in his time. I'd like to reassure him that that I certainly don't consider everything he does as being branded with the Dreaded Mark of Dunblane, as he seems to imply in his letter. But whatever you do, kids, please don't use Herf guns at home: they can be dangerous. Sincerely, Douglas Hayward
Robert Blincoe, 12 Jul 2000

US shies from unwanted Net music legislation

The fight between the music industry establishment and the business' Net-based young guns will be settled in the courts, not the legislature, if the outcome of yesterday's US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into Internet music distribution is anything to go by. Certainly, the majority of the combatants feel that there's no need for new legislation on the matter, with even opponents in the copyright infringement debate - and you can't get much further apart than Napster's CEO, Hank Berry, and Sony Music president Fred Erlich - coming together to dissuade the Committee from legislative interference. Indeed, the Committee itself expressed a reluctance to legislate. That may be the majority view, but it's not the only one. Metallica's Lars Ulrich told the Committee that a clarification of law is exactly what's needed. Incidentally, while Metallica may be an American band, Ulrich himself is a European, and his stance on the issue neatly demonstrates the difference between Old World 'hands-on government' approach to such issues and the US' more laissez faire attitude. Ulrich's contention is that legislation is necessary and that it should come soon. "We'd all be dreaming if we think we could work this out between us," he told the Committee. "The issue's too deep." Indeed it is. Napster, for instance, claims sharing copies of songs for non-commercial reasons is permitted by the law. It's chief opponent, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), a trade organisation that represents the major labels and a number of lesser ones, says the law permits no such thing. Clearly, some elucidation is necessary. The question is, what's the best way to get it - legal precedence set by court rulings, or legislative influence? It's not surprising that the RIAA and Napster favour the former. If neither can reach an agreement on licensing - and it's increasingly unlikely that such an accord will be reached - then the courts provide a way to crush what the music industry regards as a major threat. New legislation, no matter how quickly it's enacted, isn't going kill Napster - the company will simply work through the new rules. Napster, too, favours a court settlement, since it provides the only way its approach can be publicly validated, which is largely, we suspect, why it hasn't agreed to an out-of-court settlement, particularly after MP3.com lost its own battle with the RIAA. Napster, for all its claims that it's helping grow music sales, arguably is aiding and abetting small-scale copyright infringement. As the entertainment industry-sponsored Democrat Senator for California, Diane Feinstein, put it yesterday: "Napster has found a methodology which entirely defeats the process of copyright protection." The only way it can get away with that and be seen to do so is if a Federal judge throws the RIAA's case out of court. Metallica - and other artists, for that matter - really just want the damn thing sorted out. Technology isn't the issue, it's royalties, and if they get them, they're happy. If legislation gets them their due, without the cost of legal action, so much the better. And the key here is legal clarity. Hence Ulrich's desire to get the Committee into a law-forming frame of mind. ® Related Story US musos unite against Net piracy
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2000

Psion spends millions on Canadian wireless group

Psion has agreed to buy Canadian wireless technology and software development group Teklogix for C$554 million (£243 million). The London company's offer is made up of £100 million cash and the remainder in shares. Teklogix shareholders stand to get around 2.3 Psion shares and cash that will value each share at C$35 - 41 per cent higher than yesterday's closing price. Psion chairman David Levin described the deal as "far and away the most important acquisition Psion has ever made". "It is the core technology we need... Teklogix brings with it critical local wireless integration skills." The deal is expected to be completed by September. Teklogix, based in Toronto, has 600 staff and makes systems that let mobile workers stay in touch and allow companies to monitor information. Its customers include Dell. The deal came the day after Psion announced it was forming a £9.5 million joint venture with United News and Media to offer mobile Internet services. The handheld computer company also said it was paying £1.1 million for Fonedata, a British wireless Web portal. ® Related Stories Symbian CEO suggests dream ticket alliance with Palm Global PDA production slows down Palm preps summer launch for Euro Palm.net
Linda Harrison, 12 Jul 2000

TV ebiz show fails to generate any killer ideas

We return to our tracking of the Channel 4's bandwagon-jumping ecommerce extravaganza, The E-Millionaire Show. On the panel last night were Stelios Haji-Ioanou of Easyeverything fame; Mariella Frostrup the gravelly voiced TV presenter; and founder of Orchestream, Charlie Muirhead. Apart from Mariella Frostrup pointing out that everytime Stelios said anything it was about himself, what did the panel have to say about the proposals? Stelios was so impressed with one finalist's pitch - Youreable.com - that he invited him to call his office after the show. This was the presentation from Joe Rajko. He proposed a portal site for disabled people, focussing largely on travel facilities. Panel rating? 24 out of 30. Before that though, we were treated to Viewahotel.com. This was designed to save people from Fawlty Towers-esque nightmare hotels by allowing punters to view their destination in 3D before booking. The trouble is, dodgy hotels are unlikely to be queuing to be rendered in 3D online, and as we are still waiting for BT to sort out ADSL, download times could be seriously long. The panel poo-pooed this one, giving it a measly 11 points. Next was Mykindofholiday.com, a one stop travel shop complete with interactive chat rooms. Sadly this fared little better than the hotel site - only 13 points. The main drawback of launching a travel site is the crowded market, the panel said. Not that Stelios was going to back this one anyway, the poor contestant had the nerve to say she wouldn't be using his bucket, sorry, budget airline. Monday's winner, if you didn't watch, was Alex Buckley's Com-poser.com - make your own music online then buy a CD of it. And if you want to vote for any of the contestants, go here and follow the signs. More tomorrow, if it's worth it. ® But if you want to read more stories about ebiz and hard cash click here Related Stories TV hunt for greedy e-startups Win a stake in a dot com, or watch Star Trek TV show rips off Britain's brains
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2000

So just how guilty is Netscape?

Since we posted the story that a case had been brought against AOL for infringing consumers' privacy through its Navigator browser, we have been inundated with interesting, uninteresting, encouraging and abusive emails. This then is an attempt to update those interested in the story and give a rundown on the facts and arguments. First of all, what's all the fuss about? The SmartDownload feature in Netscape's Navigator browser (included as an option since version 4.7) logs user downloads and sends this data to Netscape. This data includes the file name, the file's server name and the user's IP address. It may also include the user's email address. A cookie pointing to this information is also added to the browser. This is all done without informing the user or asking his/her permission. German Web site Tecchannel has also discovered today that the same thing occurs when people use the browser's Search feature. Hmmm. And how did this come to light? An American named Christopher Specht has started a court case against AOL (it owns Netscape) claiming that this behaviour infringes his privacy. Incidentally, a Christopher Specht has emailed us to explain he is "a lot more stable and a lot less paranoid" than we originally suggested. We've asked him for proof that he is the complainant. If he does so, we'll tell you what he has to say. What has AOL/Netscape got to say about this? Not all that much at the moment. The old "we don't comment on impending court cases" cop-out has been used a little. The defence is (currently) that SmartDownload needs to create extra files to work effectively. It has yet to answer queries about the Search feature. So AOL is a privacy-invading, immoral and highly suspect company? That's what some would have you believe. It is certainly willing to push its rights to the edge but then show us a company (especially a hi-tech company) that isn't. So it's doing nothing untoward? We didn't say that either. What we need to look at here is exactly what it is doing, its intent behind it and whether it is breaking any laws. Okay, hit me Netscape is getting these files - they're being sent to cgi.netscape.com. These files, carefully pieced together, can be used to build pretty good profiles of Navigator users - interests, favourite sites, probable age, income, etc. This doesn't mean they know that Kieren McCarthy (that's me, by the way) is a journalist who lives in London and likes petite brunettes. It doesn't mean they can contact me directly either. It is also absolutely nothing new. Since businesses realised the value of marketing about 100 years ago, they have set about finding out who and where possible customers are. Building up profiles of the people that see your product and buy your product has become so entrenched that you will not be taken seriously until you have this data. Why do you think there are competitions, coupons, special offers, discounts, etc, etc? Because the cost of selling goods cheaper is offset by the information given by those taking advantage of the offer. Companies also learnt very quickly that the less effort required on the consumer's part, the greater the response. Hence coupon bar codes, etc - you can quickly and efficiently track back where the coupon originated from. This is only a very tiny example, but you get the idea. Now, with Net technology, every time someone uses your service or visits your site they drag a whole lot of information along with them. It is not surprising then that companies leap on this free information to find out what's going on. It's not even malicious - companies need this information to survive and since it does you no harm, claims of privacy invasion seem a little churlish. So it's all a fuss about nothing? No. Because so far we assume that companies are nice. We hate the cliched use of "competitive market" but let's face it, that's what IT is. Free market advocates will tell you competition gives the consumer choice and low prices but they often gloss over the fact that it turns companies into profit-crazed, ruthless and immoral beasts. Consumers are not people but purchasers and profit is the one and only goal. Subsequently, companies will do just about anything they can, pushing laws to the limit, to get an edge over a competitor. Right, Bill? This is where the privacy debate comes in. We don't think anyone can complain that companies will try to learn about their customers. But there is a fine line between use and abuse of information. Netscape has every right to pick up generic information about us if we choose to use its services (it cost them a lot of money to set up). But if this information is used by the company to create direct profit, if it causes us to be approached by other companies or it causes people to be able to recognise us individually then we should be asked clearly and prominently whether we are happy about it. We should also have to give permission since we gain no direct benefit. Theoretically, therefore, any information about us that Netscape chooses to scrape up is none of our business. But companies, naturally, will abuse such trust and that's why we need laws. If there is a very real risk that a company could abuse our information and we would not be aware of it, or it does something that is useful only as a tool for creating direct profit, it follows that it should be against the law. Okay, I'm sick of being patronised now. What's the beef? Netscape is pulling information about what you do when using its SmartDownload feature. This is an optional extra to the browser but then Netscape naturally pushes it quite hard. It's a nice feature because it means that if you are cut off mid-download, you won't have to download the whole file again - only the bits you've missed. In return for this, Netscape allows itself to know what you're downloading. For those of you without rampant paranoia, this is not a big problem. But then, Netscape doesn't exactly tell you this is what it's going to do. Plus, there is plenty of software than can do the self-same thing and they won't pay any attention to what you download. SmartDownload is just more convenient. It's a bit bloody cheeky but hardly illegal. The question is: is this information saleable? The panic-stricken run around crying "spam! Spam!" to anyone they meet but spam has such a bad name for itself that you have to ask whether this is a realistic threat. If Netscape is selling this info without having asked permission, it should be against the law. But we have to balance likelihood against unnecessary corporate restriction. It is arguable that without having the info with which to attract advertisers, Netscape would haven't as much money and the resulting browser wouldn't be as good. Don't get all riled - this is the foundation of capitalism and it's why we all have designer clothes and fancy food while Eastern Europeans queue for bread. But what about sending the email address as well? Well, if you log into Netscape's Netcenter, not only will it send the other info but because it knows who you are, it will also send your email with it. How dare they! you cry. Well, you are using their services and, presumably, it aims to "personalise" your portal - how else will it do this if it doesn't know what you like? Plus, what the hell do you think portals are for anyway? Now at The Reg, we believe openness is the best policy. To our minds, Netscape ought to clearly inform those that join Netcenter for the first time that it will follow them. Something like: "As a member of our center, we hope to make your experience as accurate and personal as we can. You may be amazed that some items fit closely with your interests. We think this is a useful service and we hope you like it too but it is only fair that we tell you how this is done. While you move about the Internet, information about where you are and what you download will be sent to us. We will then piece this information together and change your Netcenter page accordingly. We believe this will make your experience better, but if you feel it invades your privacy, please select 'Impersonal service' on the next screen." But then Netscape's not as nice as us. If it doesn't do something though and this information becomes widespread, we reckon this will be seen as malevolence - so sort it out, Netscape. And what about Tecchannel's Search findings? This is a little more interesting. If you use Navigator's Search function, as well as sending the query to the main search engines, it also sends it to itself. With your IP (and email if you've come through Netcenter), of course. We don't like this since it seems unnecessary. This is an extremely simple service to provide (in fact, The Reg could do the same with a bit of Javascript fairly quickly). As such, it's seems a bit much for Netscape to pluck this information. Tecchannel advises that you go direct to search engines but frankly we think this should be cut out. You should be allowed to do a simple search without being followed and Netscape appears to give back very little for what is good information. Christ, you've gone on a bit. What about it at the end of the day? Well, Netscape is being cheeky. Whether it's breaking privacy laws - hmmm. It might be, but we see it more a question of whether you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that Netscape is selling this information. It certainly isn't doing itself any favours by being a bit insidious and not asking or telling people what it is doing. This whole case (and this article) are as a result of that. But then you can never teach a big company such "soft" tactics. Never forget that big companies couldn't give a monkey's about your rights unless it costs them money. The resulting bad publicity from all this will most likely cause some changes in the next Navigator version. Partly because of uproar but, sadly, mostly because Microsoft will use the furore to sell Explorer. It will also get those wanting to stick with Netscape to upgrade faster. All publicity can be good publicity if you handle it right. So, options? Privacy statement Netscape promises it won't do anything bad. This is what The Reg has. This is never going to happen, so don't even think about it. Warnings will be heavily flagged This isn't going to happen either. Imagine: "Warning: click here if you want us to track your movements." It wouldn't prove very popular. Remove features A last resort. Some kinda compromise will be best for all concerned. Promise of intent Netscape promises not to sell the information it obtains. This to us sounds most likely once the two sides have battled into the middle. Microsoft is worse Netscape releases some false information on Explorer, everyone rushes in with knives, Specht is paid out of court and our goldfish society forgets all about it. Why not? It's happened many times before now.® Related Story AOL faces snooping court case Related Link tecchannel's article
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2000

Duron vs Pentium III death match showdown

Last week Planet Hardware brought us the trouncing of the Celeron 700 by AMD's Duron. To follow that, they have lined the Duron up against the Pentium III 700. Billed as a David vs Goliath affair, this match should be interesting, even if it doesn't follow the plot lines sketched out in the Bible. Natural 3D Tech's site is now live under its own domain name, and they asked us to let you know where they were. Go here to check out the front page. To start the ball rolling, they have posted a review on the 3dfx Voodoo5 5500 and the Elsa Erazor X2 GeForce 256 DDR. The X2 was tested under Windows 2000 and Windows ME using the DirectX 8 drivers for both platforms and the Nvidia 532 drivers for both platforms. And while we are on the subject, Anand has completed his 23-page review of the Voodoo5 5500. This man is nothing if he is not thorough. Go here to see what he had to say about it. The Insane Hardware crew has launched an appeal for help. It turns out that they are having trouble sorting out a Duron. Go here and see if you think you'd be able to solve the conundrum. ® For further guides to the treacherous and unchartered territory of hardware land click here
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jul 2000

Berners-Lee slams Net advertising

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has issued a stinging rebuke to online advertisers for suckering people into clicking on ads dressed up to look like content. Speaking at the International Advertising Association in London, he also slammed the practice of designing ads to look as if they are computer system messages. And he was positively scathing about the practice of attaching ads to email sent by users of Microsoft-owned Hotmail. "This either perverts or distorts the message", The Guardian reports him saying. "I find the practice of publishing ads that are indistinguishable from content unacceptable. It not only clouds the true message of the page. It also erodes consumer confidence in the Web site." Berners-Lee called for clear demarcation between advertising and content on Web pages. "Newspapers insert a line saying an ad is an advertisement when it looks confusing. I want to see something similar on a Web page. Perhaps the mouse should change when it passes over an ad to alert you to the fact." It's free - what more do you want? Berners-Lee is a moral guardian of the Internet, a reminder of a time when there was a kinder, gentler, less goddam greedy online world. His call for ad/content demarcation seems sensible. (It's what The Register does, and we don't find it so very difficult). But does he go far enough? Internet advertising houses contacted by The Guardian, are not impressed with his arguments. We'll lift just the one quote, from Barry Salzman, president of Doubleclick International: "Consumers make a trade-off between free Net access and having to suffer ads. I think it's a fair swap," he says. In other words, put up, or pay up, or push off. This is all well and good. But people don't 'consume' Web sites like this. Advertising pisses them off - if it is 'interruptive' - too flashy, or too pop-uppy. Here's an example: the first pop-up ad on The Register appeared 50,000 times. There were two click-throughs, a record low, and more than 300 complaints, a record high. The latter response was pumped up by a weird glitch in the html of the ad. This meant the recipient had to click the pop-up three or four times before it disappeared from his or her screen. Web sites are set to see more, not fewer, intrusive adverts - animated gifs, pop-ups, rich media, inter and hyperstitials and ads that don't look like ads, are the order of the day. For the simple reason that -if coded properly - they generate more response for advertisers than 'boring', static ads. Permission to sell, sir Seth Godin, author of "Permission Marketing" (ISBN 0-684-85636-o), and vice president of direct marketing at Yahoo!, sums up the challenge faced by Web sites which, like The Register, rely on advertising for a major proportion of their income. In an interview with Computer Weekly he says: "If you put a Web site exactly where you hope it will interrupt someone, it's still like walking into a bar and propositioning a total stranger." But what if the Web site knows more about you than you think it should? If the ads are too well targeted, it could show that there is some privacy-chomping data collection going on. Even if it is not the Web site, but a third party ad serving company which is doing the collating. In recent months, Doubleclick, the world's biggest Internet ad agency, and the owner of ad server software used by The Register, among thousands of companies, has come under enormous fire for attempting to aggregate information collected online with personal data collated by its new subsidiary, Abacus. Doubleclick withdrew its plans, under the flak. But the privacy debate rages on. Doubleclick tells us that it does not aggregate demographics information culled through the use of cookies from our Web site, with information garnered elsewhere. We use a third party ad server, because we rely on advertising, and advertisers insist on third party ad serving software. We don't think there is anything sinister in this, but some readers disagree - here is a letter, received only today that sums up, a certain strand of opinion. "So as an 'independent' watchdog you admit you are in fact beholden to your advertisers .... Jeez that is pathetic. Few real world people object to web ads and ad servers with their verifiable page views are a fact of life. It is the data mining, tracking etc etc that they do with the data which is objectionable and borders on being illegal if not so already." We have never claimed to be independent - how can we, when we accept advertising - only neutral. The credibility test for us and other editorial Web sites is to be seen to be neutral. Which is why we rebuffed -in seconds - two (admittedly tentative) approaches from computer companies, asking if they could invest in us or buy us. And which is why we have sympathy for Slashdot, independence clause or no independence clause, for finding itself being owned by VA Linux. At least it can afford to go easy on the banner ads. 50 ways to make your fortune The Register is a tech news site, open to all. For us the news is the thing- three of the four founders are computer journalists. The next step is to figure out how to make it pay. We chose advertising and syndication. But we could have gone down some other routes: The newsletter. Crap production, expensive subscriptions and preaching to the few. But no ads. The analysts - but how would the fat fees we receive from computer companies affect what we publish? Microbilling. Flaky technology, enough said. Nominal subscription fees. Haven't seen either model working too successfully elsewhere, except for WSJ. But that is an outstanding exception. But why not try again? If enough of you paid, say, $10 a year, we could ensure that you would never see an ad on The Register again. We could also lose 90 per cent of our readers and still make good. But hey, we like talking to the many. Ecommerce route 1. Data mining, as mentioned by our disaffected reader - but to do this properly, we'd need to base your back-office software on something like Broadvision or Bladerunner. And to get your permission, we'd have to make you log in. And we send you lots of emails (that permission marketing thing, again) Ecommerce route 2. Go out and flog stuff. These days the difficulty with many "editorial" Web sites, is deciding what is content and what is commerce. Content - can mean job recruitment, comparison-shopping engines, classified advertising, micro-sites (the online equivalent of newspaper advertorials), email text ads. Take a quick look at the home pages of Cnet and ZDnet, the runaway market leaders in online IT publishing. Editorial content is not exactly the highest priority for either company - it probably never was at Cnet. Note how, the demarcation lines for these gigantic shopping engines are becoming increasingly blurred. And the more blurred they become, the more highly they will be rated in the equity markets. Content perverts editorial No, we don't have the answers to the issues raised by advertising on the Internet. And how it affects The Register and our readers. But do we have our thinking hats on. Feel free to contribute, on the Register Forum (the link is below). ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Jul 2000

Net Imperative saved at the bell

Net Imperative, the dotcom publisher which went bust last week, has been saved by a consortium, according to Sunday Business. Astonishing, isn't it, Net Imperative scooped on a story about itself... Durlacher, which had paid £570,000 for 28 per cent of Net Imperative, will no longer have an interest in the company. But what of the other shareholders (esouk is an investor)? Or the staff stock options? Or the trade debtors? The consortium consists of Bright Station (which is also buying the technology assets of Boo.com). The Internet Business Group and Stockhouse Media Corporation. And it has raised 1 million for the transaction. Presumably, most of this will go into working capital for Net Imperative MkII: the consortium is taking over the assets and business of Net Imperative. This is not the same as acquiring the company - effectively, the debts are left behind, to be paid - never. Counting the pennies The first priority of the consortium is to stabilise the business, Maziar Darvish, chief executive of Internet Business Group, told Sunday Business. To us, this means cutting costs, substantially and raising revenues, substantially. The Sunday Business piece reveals some useful financial details about Net Imperative. It has 37 employees, net assets of £10,000 and monthly sales of £10-15,000, against overheads of £150,000. And it needed £800,000 to keep it going. Thirty-seven staff looks top heavy, especially considering the design and back-end development are outsourced to arehaus and Mazware. It is acceptable, in certain circumstances to lose, £135-140,000 per month, especially when you are in start-up mode, but not when you are turning over £10-15,000. These figures cannot have been in the spreadsheet for month six sales forecasts in the Net Imperative start-up business plan. Care in the Community Net Imperative describes itself as a "localised information and community service provider". It doesn't look much like one to us. FortuneCity is a community site, dejanews is a community site, Slashdot is a community site, but Net Imperative? Check out The Ecademy. this is a community site for anyone interested in ecommerce. Or First Tuesday, a community-cum-site for e-greedy people. From where we sit, Net Imperative is a publishing venture, plain and simple. Only it's on the Internet. It reads quite a lot like New Media Age (the only British Internet industry trade rag I read, if mostly for the ads - oh, and the stats), and an awful lot like New Media Finance, sister print titles published by Centaur. Net Imperative is however inferior - certainly to NMA. Much of the copy has the feel of reworked press releases (although the response time is admittedly quick). Possibly, the site is trying to act as a journal of record. Which always makes for a dull, and unreflective read. Wouldn't it be easier, and so much cheaper, to build a Weblog-type of community - download Slashcode for free from Slashdot for the community site template (but mind you observe the Open Source niceties), feed in aggregated news from moreover.com, or newsnow.co.uk, or isyndicate, get a deal with BreakingViews, to run a column or two a week from some big name writers, jump into bed with the street.co.uk for some financial news, hit on Silicon.com for tech stuff, get friendly with one of the online IPO houses springing up in Europe, and make big ties with one of the myriad networking event organizers milling about the UK. How many journalists would you need, then? A smaller writing team means fewer editorial managers and fewer subs. It does not mean worse reading, if you have the right people, with the right contacts, working up the insightful articles, the occasional scoops. And finally It is probably for the best that Durlacher is no longer involved with Net Imperative. The tech bank has fingers in far too many Internet tarts, to sit comfortably with Net Imperative, a publishing business that writes about Internet tarts. Net Imperative now faces a fresh challenge in writing about Internet Business Group and Bright Station, led by Dan Wagner, a man who always seems to be described as the controversial entrepreneur. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Jul 2000

Forrester Why did Boo flame out so fast?

Boo.com quickly burned cash on PR and advertising Boo.com's first financing round of E120 million - raised from prestigious investors like Europ@web, Morgan Capital, and Goldman Sachs - was the largest-ever private investment in a Web retailer headquartered in Europe. But within six months, boo.com exhausted these funds on communication - for example, forking out 25 million in offline advertising through TV, radio, and fashion magazines like Elle. Sales growth failed to meet expectations Although audience and sales tripled during the site's first quarter, boo.com failed to meet sales targets. In January, the firm fired 20 per cent of its employees and began losing key executives. February results - half-a-million unique visitors and sales below 1 million per month, despite targeting 18 countries in seven languages - disappointed investors like Benetton's 21 Investimenti, which declined to participate in further financing rounds. Strategy flip-flopped Between interviews, boo.com's media-friendly leaders Ernst Malmsten and Kasja Leander steered the firm through several rapid about-faces. Originally positioned as a lifestyle site competing on premium brand selection and not on price, the site switched to offering 40 per cent discounts by January. And although the site revelled in rich content and rich media at launch, by April it had ditched its fashion newsletter, gagged virtual assistant Ms. Boo, and launched paper catalogues as a low-tech alternative to its three-dimensional product presentation online. Poor execution of a good idea Why did boo.com flame out so fast? The firm mistimed and failed to execute on a good idea: to enhance clothing presentation through online innovation. Boo.com started by keeping most of its target audience out Boo.com advertised how the site's advanced 3D technology allows users to spin a product around for a full view. But 99 per cent of European and 98 per cent of US homes lack the high-bandwidth access needed to easily access such animations. Its reputation as a cumbersome and slow site still sticks even though it's now simpler and faster. Innovation dried out Boo.com's technology not only posed problems, but it also ceased to provide differentiation. Three-dimensional product presentation, zooming, colour changes, and virtual try-on can be found on sites like landsend.com; other sites can acquire these features from vendors like NxView or Xippix. Boo.com belatedly addressed basic customer needs Boo.com's hip design confused users with a flurry of orange windows and irrelevant comments from Ms. Boo. By the time the site added necessary attributes like privacy protection and persistent product navigation bars, many viewers had already fled. Lesson for European dotcoms - get real With funds drying out, boo.com's best bet is to restructure and sell its remaining assets - a brand and a now-functional multilingual site - to a competitor like Fogdog that is rich in virtual cash and seeking a European presence. Lessons for all Dot Coms: Stop experimenting in the limelight By communicating too soon, boo.com earned a bad name for itself instead of building brand value. Sites must conduct more professional site testings and act on their conclusions before raising their visibility. Bring in passionate experts Retail sites not only miss the "touch and feel" factor, they also often fail to generate trust and a feeling of being acknowledged as a client. Sites should pass on virtual advisors in favour of flesh-and-blood experts like ChateauOnline's wine taster Deluc. Focus on target customer benefits Instead of overhyping the convenience they offer, Dot Coms must remind themselves what customers miss about in-person shopping and compensate with true value: meaningful personalization but also discounted prices. ® Tune in and turn on to more tales of the Bubble Economy atCash Register, our channel for e-greedy people.
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

BBC ‘bleeds value into Yahoo’

The BBC this week announced a news republishing deal with Yahoo! In deference, to the organisation's non-commercial remit, Yahoo! promises that all BBC News stories posted on the site would be carried free of advertising. The BBC is providing news FOC (free of charge). FT hack James Harding described the deal as "worrying". Writing in today's Media and Advertising column, he says: "The logic for the BBC is that this helps it meet its public service remit by reaching more online readers. But the commercial value is that it bleeds BBC value into Yahoo!. The Internet portal can swell its perceived value thanks to licence fee-funded BBC content. "The BBC/Yahoo! deal is the just the latest example of the how the pretence that public service broadcasting principles that suit the Internet world can be of value to commercial organisations, but of dubious benefits to the Beeb and the payers of the licence fee." And we just thought it was straightforward publishing deal. Yahoo! in the UK and Ireland has republishing arrangements with over 140 content providers, none of whom think their value is bleeding into Yahoo! We know this because we have entered into a similar FOC arrangement with the portal (except we are a commercial operation and we do not insist that there is no advertising on our stories. How could we?) A selection of our stories will appear every day on Yahoo! as soon as we get our programming act together (in other words, RSN). The Register also supplies certain stories FOC through TDL Infospace UK, a Web syndication house. Why do we do this? Yahoo! does not charge news houses to reproduce content (but ecommerce operations may be different) Some portals charge news providers for placement, and will impose a hefty premium for the right front page of their sections. We think this sucks. But hey, we can see why some Web sites cough up. Remember, many sites are desperate for traffic. Paying a portal to carry headline links can seem like a relatively cheap method of generating traffic, as well as brand awareness. Yahoo! does not pay for content Of course there could be some old Reuters, PA deals hanging about. And the advent of The BBC on Yahoo! could torpedo any historic newswire contracts. In which case, it's Television Tax-funded, government-subsidised statist organisation undermining commercial operations. The Register has certain paid-for content syndication deals. So why would we give away to Yahoo! for free, what some others are prepared to pay for? Yahoo! UK has 10 million page impressions a day The Register has 10 million page impressions and 750,000 or so readers a month. And we have a smaller percentage of British readers than does Yahoo.co.uk. We think signing up with Yahoo! will expand our audience reach in our home territory. Which makes good marketing sense to us, especially as, unlike Boo.com, we have not spent a penny on advertising or marketing. Yet. (Of course, this sort of calculation will not figure very highly in the thinking of BBC, which has history, a few radio stations, a brand name that many of us have heard of. And a television station or three.) What's done can be undone If it fails to pan out between Yahoo! and The Register - we see no reason why this should be the case - the contract will come to an end. The BBC can also walk away. But why should it do this? The company we keep The Register gains kudos by hanging out with Yahoo! We think the BBC will gain by associating with the world's biggest portal. The BBC operates a hugely successful Web site operating - generating 75 million page impressions per month - but is it a big Internet player? I don't think so. It is not exactly locked into The Internet Economy. Television Taxes What purpose is gained by restricting BBC content to its own sites? There is no commercial gain -- it's not allowed to sell advertising space, or strike ecommerce deals with third parties. Instead, the site lives off taxpayers' money. This could and should change. BBC online content should not be Television Tax-funded. That is where the real iniquity lies. ® Tune in and turn on to more tales of the Bubble Economy atCash Register, our channel for e-greedy people.
Drew Cullen, 12 Jul 2000

Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children

It may not be Panto season but that hasn't stopped Sir Liam Donaldson, Sir William Stewart and the Labour government. "Mobiles phones are safe", "Oh no they're not", "Oh yes they are", "C'mon boys and girls". Will Stewart's ten-month, government-sponsored study of mobile phone use is to recommend a minimum age limit and restriction on how long young people should use mobiles per day (thinner skulls, underdeveloped immune systems). He is expected to work with Liam, chief medical officer, to draw up government guidelines. The conclusions are a good compromise in what has become an important modern issue as mobile phone use rockets. There is no denying that mobiles emit radiation but opinion on the effect this has has varied from doomsayers who claim it is equivalent to microwaving your head to interested parties who swear that it does absolutely nothing. The convenience and popularity of mobiles will inevitably lead to pressures to understate any effects they do have, but the government has wisely gone for the protect-the-kids line. This has the dual effect of making the government look prudent and caring while also making adults aware that there is a potential danger. Mobiles have become extremely popular fashion accessories for children, and let's face it they're terrific toys (walkie-talkies that work!). Seeing as various studies have claimed mobiles induce memory loss, Alzheimer's and cancer, this report may be averting a potential future BSE crisis. Then, warnings were skated over and when a proven link was found, every slice of British beef was damned and the market collapsed. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2000
server room

Mobile phones kill… worms

Researchers seem to be slipping down the food chain in their quest for the truth about mobile phones. The latest study took the humble earthworm as its victim, blasting a group of the timid creatures with microwave radiation similar to that emitted by mobiles. After a night of this treatment, the worms apparently underwent the kind of biological changes that can lead to cell dysfunction. David de Pomerai, from the University of Nottingham, England, and Peter Candido, from the University of British Columbia, Canada, are due to publish their X-files-type findings in the journal Nature on 25 May. According to the researchers, the results suggested that "current exposure limits for microwave equipment may need to be reconsidered". The duo came to this conclusion after they found the worms' cells produced heat-shock proteins due to the radiation. These proteins can disrupt cellular functions. And while this experiment was only on soil nematode Caenorhabditis Elegans (that's microscopic soil earthworms to you and me), they recommended "a similar (response) might also occur in human tissues exposed to microwaves, a possibility that needs investigation". ® Related Stories Finally the truth! Mobiles only kill children Mobile phones will kill you...
Linda Harrison, 12 Jul 2000

Win2k successor Whistler slips as MS strokes developers

Microsoft's .NET strategy is, as we've suspected for some time, closer than you might think. But the next version of Win2k, Whistler, turns out to be a little further off. At its Professional Developers Conference yesterday the company opened up on some of the components of .NET, made it clear it would take the tried and tested path by bidding for the hearts and minds of developers, and slipped-in the six months delay to Whistler. But really, although Whistler was described as the first fully .NET-enabled version of Windows, these are two separate projects, albeit ones that are going to be, er, integrated. And the delay to Whistler is maybe even positive, because it's likely been caused by Microsoft planning to do some interesting things with it. At root Whistler will be a tidied-up, optimised and honed version of Windows 2000, so in that sense you could view it in a similar light to the Win98, Win98SE, WinME series. The basic work's done, but we can do an easy annual retread for the upgrade revenue. But Microsoft has had alternate UI notions kicking around in the works for a couple of years; at one point they might have made it in WinME, but the company backed off. Whistler is now going to ship with .NET Web Forms, which will make it possible to skin extensible user interfaces onto the platform. This isn't either original or rocket science, but it'll make the OS more attractive and flexible, and actually it's an essential part of .NET at the client end. Microsoft intends .NET to cater for all kinds of shapes and sizes of client, and to be a service delivery platform. So although The company's execs have determinedly occupied trenches, occasionally lobbing mortar shells at the likes of Compaq, in order to defend the integrity of the "Windows Experience" for years, .NET requires a change of plan. It has to be possible for users and developers to modify the UI depending on platform, application and purpose. So out goes the general purpose Windows Experience, in comes the improved user experience, which can be single or limited purpose if you like. At the server end the .NET enterprise servers, surprise surprise, will consist of the next releases of the usual suspects - SQL Server, Exchange et al. Clearly these have been under development for some while, which reinforces one's suspicions that Microsoft's claims that it's betting the company on .NET are largely marketing hype, and that the whole thing is mainly about recasting developments that are already taking place on the Web in Microsoft corporate colours, and hooking all the bits together. But then, that's one of the things Microsoft does best. The developer aspect of the deal is familiar, but none the worse for it. The .NET Framework is a set of classes and libraries that will act as building blocks for .NET apps, and alpha versions, along with alphas of Visual Studio.NET (the software formerly known as Visual Studio 7) are being dished out this week. But don't knock it - one of the secrets of Microsoft's success is the way it's looked after its developers, it's not all horses' heads in beds, oh no. It gets more intriguing when it comes to XML. Microsoft has Xlang in the works, which Paul Maritz describes as an XML business-process automation workflow language. This of course will be used to develop services at the server end. Producing effective developer tools is of course the second half of Microsoft's traditional developer-stroking operation, so this one could be critical. But here's the bit to watch. According to Maritz Microsoft intends to hand over to the relevant standards bodies the "core intellectual property" of various runtime services for its programming languages. Exactly, or even approximately, what these are wasn't made clear, but presumably it's all part of that intricate dance we'll be able to watch over the next couple of years. Microsoft will keep loudly shouting that it supports open standards, while most of the rest of the world remains disbelieving, and accuses it of duplicity and backsliding at every available opportunity. We'll see - but on previous experience, by then it might be too late... ® Related Story The skinny on skinning Whistler
John Lettice, 12 Jul 2000

Mobile phones will kill you…

Okay, the most recent government report says that, yes, mobiles can kill you. But it's not the actual mobiles this time (would the government accept £23 billion in licence fees if they weren't safe?), it's their use by us foolish humans. Apparently, driving while using a mobile phone makes you four times more likely to have an accident - and this applies to hands-free sets too. It's not actually using the phone that causes the problems but rather the loss of concentration (all those school teachers were right: "Can you talk and hear, boy?" Hint: Yes was the wrong answer). Sadly, this very point was proved just last week when world-record beater and top bicycle designer Bruce Bursford was killed by a lorry driver whose mobile had started ringing. The driver didn't answer the phone but was distracted and ploughed Bursford who was going 25mph on the side of the A47. Police do have the power to charge people with the offence of driving without proper control of the vehicle, without due care and attention or dangerously, but consumer groups are stepping up a campaign to demonise mobile phone use while driving in the same way that drinking and driving has been made unacceptable. As for the safety of mobiles themselves - at the moment they are deemed completely safe. The argy bargy about hands-free sets amplifying radiation has still to be sorted out. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2000

Ain't nobody here but us chickens, oh, and the transmitters

Chickens may soon be implanted with transmitters and computers if a, frankly, bonkers engineering professor in Georgia gets her way. According to an Associated Press report, Takoi Hamrita has put five-pence-sized radio transmitters under 12 chickens' breast bones and linked them to some artificial intelligence software. What the hell for? You may well ask. Apparently, her goal is reduce heat stress and regulate the birds' diet for maximum growth. Although there is no explanation as to how she intends to do this, we don't doubt for one second that putting a transmitter in the front of a chicken will achieve just that. In fact to test this out, we put a small transistor radio down Linda's top this morning. By the afternoon she reported her heat stress had fallen and she'd had a tasty, healthy Japanese meal just round the corner. Amazing. This incredible system will also reduce the risk of disease in chicken houses. It is still unknown whether it will help them cross the road. The reusable sensors (so with luck you won't find one in your Sunday roast) are a little bit pricey - between $5000 and $10,000 per 100 birds + $2000 for the equipment - but then when you get results this good, it's got to be worth it. Takoi has big plans to extend her tests to 100 chickens in a huge chicken house. Good luck, love. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2000

Mobile phones won't kill you after all

There is no proof that mobile phones can damage your health. That is the conclusion of the Stewart inquiry, which will publish the results of its 10-month investigation on 11 May, according to The Guardian. Further, the report says there is no risk from mobile phone transmission masts and children are not necessarily more vulnerable to mobile phone radiation. The findings are likely to cause upset and anger among the "mobile phones rot your brains" lobby, but the Stewart report states that while mobiles raises the temperature of the brain by only one tenth of a degree the overall temperature of the human body normally fluctuates by about one whole degree during an average day. So it looks like we might indeed be at greater risk from our TV sets and microwave ovens after all. A great body of allegorical evidence stands to be rubbished by the report's findings, although the Stewart inquiry has recommended increased investigation into the possible health implications of non-thermal effects of mobile phones. Still, all this is good news for the 24 million mobile phone users in the UK and the one million Brits that have had their landline phones removed and gone have mobile-only. But far from adopting a cavalier attitude to the concerned masses, the Stewart report is to recommend that opposition to the siting of transmission masts is given greater weight. ® Links to killer phone stories Man plunges to death using mobile phone Mobile phones are akin to cyanide, says academic Man beaten to death for using mobile phone in pub
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000
SGI logo hardware close-up

Government Health Warning: mobile phones may damage your health

The UK government is to force mobile phone companies to display a health warning on mobile phone packaging, according to the Observer. A government committee formed to study the health risks of mobile phone usage will this week publish its findings and will recommend that phones carry a cigarette-style health warning, the paper says. Of course, that's some way from actually forcing mobile phone manufacturers to do so, especially considering the report will also note the lack of hard scientific proof that mobile phones are harmful. The warning will counsel against excessive use of mobile phones - though whether it will say what exactly is meant by 'excessive’ is another matter. The 12-person committee was set up under the chair of former chief scientist to the Cabinet Office William Stewart after the publication last year of numerous reports which questioned the safety of mobile phone usage. ® Related Stories Text Messaging could save your life Mobile phones won't kill you after all Man plunges to his death using mobile phone
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

Blair hoax email exposes bumlickycrawlies

Wired prime minister Toneeee e-Blair should take heart from news that his MPs aren't quite so gullible as some might like to think. Web-based e-mail company another.com sent a spoof e-mail to 89 Labour MPs from tony-blair@prime-minister.co.uk to see how many would respond. The email was short and to the point, but asked, as a postscript, if they had any suggestions for baby's names. Those impish guys at another.com decided to have a laugh after it was revealed that former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown failed to respond to an e-mail from the PM -after he assumed it was a hoax. If only the ten Labour MPs who did reply were as Net savvy. Stockton North MP Frank Cook gushed with all the enthusiasm of someone looking to progress his career: "Thanks muchly for the wonderful surprise of your E-mail --- I shall recount tales of its arrival in the most dramatic terms to my greatgrandchildren," he enthused before suggesting Felisa and Felix as names for the Blair's new baby. Wirral West MP Stephen Hesford suggested Catherine, while Cambridge MP Anne Campbell was reluctant to offer any suggestion fearing it may influence the outcome of "Guess the Baby's Name" competitions being held in a number of constituencies. Despite appearing hesitant about the authenticity of the e-mail she replied giving her personal address and contact details. One can only assume, on balance, she thought the e-mail was genuine. South Thanet MP Steve Ladyman was more cautious and replied to the email with a question "only the Prime Minister would know" to confirm it was really him. Graham Goodkind, co-founder of another.com, said the hoax proves the power of email. "When MPs start to believe the Prime Minister has emailed them asking for suggestion of baby names, that's when you realise how powerful email is," he said. The Register would have contacted the MPs involved to confirm that their replies were genuine but we couldn't be certain that any replies we got would be authentic either. (r) Here's that hoax e-mail from Tony Blair and a couple of responses in full. -----Original Message----- From: tony-blair@prime-minister.co.uk Sent: 17 April 2000 18:07 To: MPs email address Subject: Memo from No.10 Dear (MPs name), After much nagging from the children, I'm finally getting my head round this dot com mania and have acquired a very appropriate email address, I think you'll agree. Would appreciate an email in return just to know you're all receiving me loud and clear. Best Tony PS - We are still accepting ideas for baby names, but please no more suggestions of 'Margaret' or 'Maggie', as the joke is starting to wear thin. -----Original Message----- From : Cook Frank To : tony-blair@prime-minister.co. Date : 17 April 2000 19:46:35 Subject : RE: Memo from No.10 My dear Tony, Thanks muchly for the wonderful surprise of your E-mail --- I shall recount tales of its arrival in the most dramatic terms to my greatgrandchildren (but not for some considerable time yet ). If you're serious about names for the newcomer, how about Felisa for a girl or Felix if the male of the species. As you will know from your latin lessons it means happy --- and you and Cheri ALWAYS succeed in projecting that frame of mind. However if you prefer something more traditional, and you are able to forgive my genetic predisposition to cynicism for a moment, consider Stephen (or the feminine equivalent Stephanie) --- he was after all the first recorded Christian martyr --- and such a title may well help the newborn, when in the throes of growing, to withstand more robustly the more unwelcome forms of intrusion from the less considerate sections of the press --- which are I fear almost inevitable. Whatever you settle on in you collective wisdom, be assured that you have our very best wishes and constant prayers for a safe and trouble free arrival ---(I dislike the term delivery -- it smacks too much of the postmans involvement). Good luck and God bless you both -- not forgetting the blairs that arrived some years back ( don't they seek to submit nomination papers? ). Frank C. -----Original Message----- From : anne.campbell.private To : tony-blair@prime-minister.co.uk Date : 18 April 2000 13:51:32 Subject : Re: Memo from No.10 Dear Tony, I am delighted to hear from you in this way, which is a good deal more direct and convenient than the post. It does occur to me that I am not sure that it is from you and I wonder if you would like to go a step further and acquire a digital signature. It would be useful to do this at the time that the e-commerce bill becomes law, as then you can get your signature from an authorised British supplier. There are Labour Party fund-raising events going on all over the country, where people are paying 50p to guess the name of the baby. As I have bought in to one or two of these I would not dare to try and influence the outcome! I am returning the email from my private email address, which is not intercepted by my staff. This one reaches me rather more quickly. All the best Anne Anne Campbell MP
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

Yell if you think awards ceremonies are rubbish

At least it wasn't billed as 'the Internet Oscars', but then it may as well have been for all the sense the choice of winners made. That's right, soon-to-be-sold-off BT subsidiary Yell has concluded its annual awards ceremony for the best Web sites for 2000. Hosted by erstwhile celebrity Jonathon Ross, the awards "known as the 'people's choice of the best on the Net'", were judged by such celebrities as an MSN group manager, a Yell manager, a Granada Media manager, Martha Lane-Fox and three editors of offline, paper-based magazines. With such a leading cast, it's perhaps unsurprising that the results came out as they did. God only knows what all-bells-and-whistles Gameplay.com has been up to or how many parties it's thrown but even for such a "fast and smooth" site, presenting it with Site of the Year and Best Youth Site awards (as well as runner-up for Best E-commerce Site) is a little too much. We thought it was just an over-designed games site. Other gems? Cable & Wireless winning Best ISP. Maybe they should have spent less time on their site and more on actually getting their systems working. Oh Christ. A WAP site won Most Innovative Use of Technology. Need we say more? A picture site won Best B2B E-commerce Site. What best e-commerce site on the entire Web? Are you sure? Why? Best Community Site was a wedding site. Not knocking the site, but have you ever been around people getting married? That's all they bloody talk about four six months beforehand. Not exactly hard to build a community with these people - because none of their friends want to talk to them anymore. Time Out was Best Entertainment Site. How? Time Out is a listings magazine (Aha! The magic word is "magazine" - now there's something that the panel understands...) We were worried that perhaps the judges have a very limited choice of sites to work with, but the organisers told us that there had in fact been 25 per cent more entrants this year! That means that at least 40 sites entered to win this most coveted of all awards. But it wasn't all nonsense. No, Mirror columnist, friend of The Reg and all-round great guy Matt Kelly gave an emotional speech when he presented a special award to multiple sclerosis community mswebpals.org. He told the village hall: "Our readers chose an organisation that for me epitomises the Internet at its best. The winner may not be the flashiest on the shortlist, or the most polished, but it is all about what can be so great about the web; enabling a group of people with a common interest to meet, share experiences, learn - and most importantly - talk to each other. Inspire each other. And that's especially so when that community is built in the face of a disease like multiple sclerosis." We have been reliably informed that there was not a dry eye in the house. Perhaps the stage beckons. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 12 Jul 2000

Minister slams RIP objections as ‘ill founded’

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke has labelled concerns over the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill from an alliance of 50 UK organisations "ill founded". In the ongoing daily media circus that RIP seems to have become, the Home Office Minister has written to The Daily Telegraph denying that the authorisation measures the bill would bring with it would be inadequate. Clarke's comments, expected to appear in tomorrow's edition of the Telegraph, include: "The Bill is an important one which does not substantially increase the powers available to the law enforcement and security agencies but will make the UK a better and safer place to live for all." The letter continues: "Particularly, the allegation that the oversight and authorisation measures are wholly inadequate is badly wrong. The Bill is drafted tightly specifically to ensure that the use of all the powers is controlled and regulated with full regard to the European Convention on Human Rights. That is one of the primary drivers of the Bill." Clarke's correspondence was a response to an open letter signed by around 50 UK organisations that was delivered to the House of Lords today - in time to catch the final discussion stage on RIP. The open letter, which united such strange bedfellows as Feminists Against Censorship and The Countryside Alliance, aimed to stop RIP in its tracks. Consumer and business groups also put their names to the letter, along with medical organisations - such as The Royal College of General Practitioners - and Internet groups. "We are deeply concerned that the bill will inhibit the development of the Internet and e-commerce, while creating a range of onerous and unfair impositions on individuals, organisations and companies," it stated. The alliance went on to warn that, whereas the bill gives more power to law enforcement and security agencies, "it provides wholly inadequate measures for authorisation and oversight". The letter, which was not asking for amendments but actually urged the government to totally withdraw the bill, followed threats from ISPs to abandon the UK if RIP goes ahead. This week, ClaraNet, GreenNet and Poptel have all warned they will move their email services overseas. Clarke's letter claimed that these "correspondents [sic] concern about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is ill founded". The full text of the open letter, plus a list of signatories, can be found here. ® Check out our coverage of the RIP Bill here Charles Clarke's letter to The Telegraph: 12 July 2000 Your correspondents concern about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill is ill founded. The Bill is an important one which does not substantially increase the powers available to the law enforcement and security agencies but will make the UK a better and safer place to live for all. We need to ensure that vicious crimes such as drug dealing, people smuggling, money laundering and paedophilia are aggressively and effectively contested. Particularly, the allegation that the oversight and authorisation measures are wholly inadequate is badly wrong. The Bill is drafted tightly specifically to ensure that the use of all the powers is controlled and regulated with full regard to the European Convention on Human Rights. That is one of the primary drivers of the Bill. Considerable care has been taken to ensure that the Bill is ECHR compliant. I believe all the serious commentators with whom we have engaged recognise the importance of and necessity for such a Bill. We have made some significant changes during its Parliamentary passage precisely because we know we have to work in partnership with industry to ensure the Bill has the right kind of impact. We are committed to continuing and developing that partnership regardless of the concerns printed on your pages. Charles Clarke
Linda Harrison, 12 Jul 2000

MS to drop J++ from Visual Studio

So farewell then Visual J++ - at least as far as Microsoft Visual Studio.NET is concerned. The Internet-oriented version of the Great Stan's development suite will not include a Java tool, the company has admitted. Surprise, surprise. The future Visual J++ has been in doubt since late last year, when Microsoft sources claimed the IDE had been licensed or even sold to Rational Software and would not be included in the next, Windows 2000-oriented version of Visual Studio. Microsoft, of course, denied it. Then again, it denied it was developing a new programming language, but its C++ and COM-based Cool project nevertheless re-appeared recently under the official name C Sharp. News of Cool emerged round about the time those MS sources said Visual J++ was for the chop, unsurprising since Cool - and now C Sharp - was designed to bring Java-style features to good old C and C++. At the heart of all this is Microsoft's bust up with Sun over its extensions to Java which, according to Sun, put the mockers on Java's 'write once, run anywhere' strategy. That claim led to a contract violation lawsuit, launched by Sun three years ago to force Microsoft to adhere to the Java licensing terms, which it alleged the Beast of Redmond had broken. "Visual J++ is not currently in the Visual Studio.Net package," Paul Maritz, Microsoft's platforms group VP said. "We have ongoing litigation with Sun, so we can't be [Java] innovators. But we would like to see Java supported in the .Net platform." So it's not the end of Java on Win2k. Indeed, alongside the Visual J++ announcement Microsoft also said it will offer, later this year, a Java tool created by Rational Software. Yes, that's right - that is the same Rational Software whose name was associated with the sale of Visual J++. At the time of the Visual J++ sale/license claims, Microsoft's Visual Studio Product Manager, Tony Goodhew, said that Rational was simply developing a compiler that would later be slotted into Visual Studio. How much of Rational's upcoming add-on to Visual Studio.Net is this compiler and how much is Visual J++ remains to be seen. ® Related Stories Microsoft describes its Java killer Microsoft to ship long-awaited 'Java killer'
Tony Smith, 12 Jul 2000

Zero mag cull in VNU's buy up of ZD's Euro paper biz

At last. Dutch publisher VNU has finally got round to announcing it is buying Ziff Davis' European publishing business. This means VNU gets the titles IT Week, PC Magazine, PC Direct and PC Gaming World in the UK. In Germany, the market where VNU really wants to make some headway as it's been fended off for about 15 years, it gets PC Professionell, PC Direkt and Internet Professionell. From France, PC Expert, PC Direct and Yahoo! Internet Life will be joining the Dutch publishers. Nightmare scenario: Might not actually be realised In the UK VNU plans to keep IT Week, PC Magazine and PC Direct going. It's not sure about the games mag which doesn't really fit with what VNU does but UK MD Brin Bucknor muttered some management speak about reviewing this. Significantly, they said there was no recruitment freeze - which implies they aren't expecting lots of redundancies - except the usual support staff casualties. All this also means VNU's own titles aren't for the chop, so Computing and Network News continue alongside IT Week. Apparently advertisers see them all performing different tasks - enterprise focus v senior IT professionals market. If the ads boys can sell it, why shut anything down? By the by, this is what Ziff's UK MD David Craver told staff, by email, after the Reg broke the news of the VNU deal. David Craver 19/06/2000 13:44 >> To: UK Users cc: Subject: Register story... many of you will have seen the Register story. The story is incorrect (like a lot of the Register...). There will be no announcement re the sale today and probably not this week either....dc What can we say - except the price of the deal is now talked of as being around £60 million. ® Related Stories VNU still to buy ZD Euro paper biz VNU to shell out £15m for ZD Euro paper biz
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

ACLU seeks Congress' help against FBI's ‘Carnivore’

A slick new e-mail snooping system developed by the FBI and named 'Carnivore' has so concerned the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that the organisation has petitioned the House Constitution Subcommittee to consider drafting legislation to bring it and similar schemes under control. "The Carnivore system gives [to] law enforcement e-mail interception capabilities that were never contemplated when Congress passed the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). Carnivore raises new legal issues that cry out for Congressional attention if we are to preserve Fourth Amendment rights in the digital age," the ACLU wrote in a letter to Subcommittee members Charles Canady (Republican, Florida) and Melvin Watt (Democrat, North Carolina). Ideally, the Carnivore spy system would only be invoked by a court order, and could then only be used to monitor the communications of an individual named in it. However, because it is plugged into an ISP's network rather than a target's phone line, it has the capability of monitoring all traffic passing through the ISP, and is therefore ripe for abuse by overzealous or corrupt law enforcement officers. Furthermore, the Feds are required by law to restrict interception of communications not relevant to the investigation when acting upon a wiretap order. "Carnivore is not a minimisation tool. Instead, Carnivore maximises law enforcement access to the communications of non-targets," the ACLU points out. The FBI claims that the system is configured to trap only information relevant to a particular tap and trace order. Still, regardless whether that's true, there remain significant privacy implications simply because of Carnivore's potential for misuse, and because of the precedent its use might set in future Fourth Amendment disputes. It could quite easily provide a legal slippery slope for further degeneration of individual rights to privacy when the Feds want access to data. According to the ACLU, "it is not clear whether law enforcement agents use or should use [their] authority....to access a variety of data, including Internet Protocol addresses, dialup numbers and e-mail logs," as the Carnivore system clearly enables them to do. "We certainly do not believe that it is clear that law enforcement can install a super trap and trace device that access to such information for all of an ISP's subscribers." However, because the ECPA doesn't specify precisely what can and can't be trapped over the Internet, a judge might be inclined to authorise using Carnivore, since the statute doesn't clearly prohibit it. Interpretations here are a matter of the 'spirit' of the law, which the FBI will undoubtedly say leans towards using any and all means to thwart evildoers, but which privacy advocates will undoubtedly say favours a minimalist approach which Carnivore can't accommodate. Since a judicial approach is likely to find nothing illegal (if nothing particularly legal) about using a shotgun approach to electronic wiretaps like Carnivore, the ACLU has decided to tackle the problem from a legislative angle. Thus, "the ACLU urges the [Constitution] Subcommittee to accelerate its consideration of the application of the Fourth Amendment in the digital age. Legislation should make it clear that law enforcement agents may not use devices that allow access to electronic communications involving only persons other than a specified target for which it has a proper order." "Such legislation should make clear that a trap and trace order served on an ISP does not authorise access to the contents of any communication including the subject line of a communication -- and that the ISP bears the burden of protecting the privacy of communications to which FBI access has not been granted." Now that last bit, while it makes sense by offering a bit more security than FBI self-monitoring might afford, is sure to raise the hackles of industry lobbyists, who routinely rant about any legislation which might involve their clients in anything vaguely resembling a responsibility, and its associated legal liabilities. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jul 2000

Helicopters – an apology

In recent issues, The Register has run salacious, ill-researched and, above all, space-filling stories about Scottish helicopter crashes. We now wish to set the record straight. At no time did we wish to cause distress to the families, friends and loved ones of well-respected professionals. We wish to apologise unreservedly to Computer Weakly's Tony Collins for cruel and wanton attacks on his professional integrity. In the light of new evidence that the pilots of the crashed Chinook were speaking on their mobile phones at the very moment of its impact into the Mull of Kintyre, we wish to apologise for wasting our, and our readers' time, in writing speculative stories about what caused this helicopter to crash in the twilight of the last century. We eagerly await Mr Collins' admission that he has wasted six years (and several rainforests) pursuing this pointless exercise. Oh, and we promise - NO MORE HELICOPTER STORIES. Until the next time. ®
Andrew Thomas, 12 Jul 2000

Stratus in road to Damascus scenario

Wintel is the one true path to happiness, confessed a born-again Stratus suit today. Speaking at a preview of the upcoming Win2K Service Pack, Stratus' David Chalmers extolled the virtues of Intel hardware and Microsoft operating systems, but stopped short of swallowing Chipzilla's plans for the move to 64bit computing. For the non-stop vendor (oh, sorry, that was the other lot, wasn't it?) is planning to stick with 32 bit processors until the back end of next year, when Intel's Mckinley hits the streets. "We're going to ignore Itanium and stick with the IA32 Foster around the middle of next year," said Chalmers. "we reckon we can provide better performance with Foster than Itanium and we'll also make more money with it," he added, honest to the last. ® Register fascinating factoid 366 99.5 per cent availability sounds pretty good, but Stratus points out that this equates to 43 hours 45 minutes downtime a year. 99.9 per cent would obviously be better, but this means you can't take cash off the punters for a staggering 8.75 hours a year. 99.999 per cent availability is much, much better, only adding up to a measly five minutes offline each year. No one could explain to this reporter what the implications of a 24/7/365 service were when a leap year happened along. ®
Andrew Thomas, 12 Jul 2000

Win2K Service Pack 1 due Monday

The first service pack for Windows 2000 will be RTM'd next Monday (17 July) and posted on the web a couple of days later. You don't really want to be an early adopter on this one unless you own an unfeasibly fast modem, because the core update weighs in at a hefty 83.3Mb. Although MS says the final version which will be posted will be smaller, it will still be in the 50-60Mb area, so it's probably best to wait for the CD. You'll also need 'several hundred megabytes plus several hundred more' for temporary files and backups, so start tidying those hard disks, people. SP1 corrects a 'large number' of setup bugs, 35 access violation errors, five memory leaks, 12 stop errors and some security issues. Rabid reports of 65,000 bugs in the core OS should be disregarded as the majority of these are vital issues such as 'Microsoft' being spelt incorrectly in a number of dialogue boxes. Most of the serious issues have already been resolved by hot fixes, which are now built into SP1. The service pack contains Outlook Express 5.50.2919.6700, which incorporates many of the security fixes available to its big brother Outlook 2000. Internet Explorer 5.00.3103.1000 is also included, IE 5.5 being deemed not reliable enough for inclusion. This may come as a surprise to Windows ME users who will find IE 5.5 bundled into the new consumer OS, along with the slinky Media Player 7. If the browser is good enough for ME, why isn't it good enough for Win2K? There are few enhancements other than setup and manageability improvements and Microsoft says the service pack will not be built into the shrink wrapped OS, so upgrades will always be necessary, a la NT4. ®
Andrew Thomas, 12 Jul 2000

How much is your domain name really worth?

Shoutloud.com, Europe's self-styled biggest domain name broker, has launched an online valuation service. It's free. Pump in your domain name, and get a guide price - in seconds! Then you can see how little your URL is really worth. Shoutloud's valuation utility assess domain names according six criteria: length, hyphenations, suffix (such as .co.uk, .com and so on), numbers of words, language and marketability. The Reg URL is worth up to $2500, according to Shoutloud.com. Blimey! Let's sell up and ship out. Incidentally, c**t.com (you'll have to fill in the asterisks yourself) is worth between $500,000 and $5 million. Shoutloud has more than 20,000 domain names up for grabs, with Celebrities.com at the top of the price range (Want it? It can be yours for £1 million). You can get your Web addresses assessed here. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Jul 2000

TV show rips off Britain's brains

Got a great idea for a new Web venture? Then why not send it to Channel 4 - if it's good enough you are guaranteed £1 million, or you may be one of the lucky five to get a share of a further £1 million. Alternatively, why not walk around the streets naked, asking people to take pictures of you in the hope that one of them is a top fashion photographer? Channel 4's new TV show The E-Millionaire Show will put the channel "right in the swing of the new economy". All those would-be entrepreneurs out there are invited to post their ideas at the show's website, www.emillionaireshow.com. After heavy sifting by venture capitalists, just 15 will then go forward to the show where they will battle it out in a "gladiatorial knock-out". The five finalists then go for the top prize - funding, 66 per cent of the shares, marketing and a TV crew following you around for a year. Quite frankly, anyone stupid enough to hand over their idea deserves everything they get. The Register assumed the identity of Derek, a street cleaner from Carlisle. While Channel 4 (and all the associated others poring over the ideas) is unlikely to be interested in Derek's idea of selling street-cleaning equipment to housewives over the Web, we were nevertheless intrigued to find the following paragraph inserted in the competition's T&Cs: "By entering this competition, you irrevocably and unconditionally grant permission to Princess, and its affiliates, successors, assignees and licensees to disclose your application including the dot-com idea for the purpose of assessing the application and to use, in whole or in part, by any and all means, media, devices, processes and technology now or hereafter known or devised, in perpetuity throughout the universe, including the right to make alterations thereto, your name and/or likeness and/or the results of your appearance." Basically, whatever you send to us is ours. Forever. This is then immediately followed by: "The applicants and contestants hereby release Princess, Channel Four and the Consortium, their affiliates, successors, assignees and licensees from any and all claims and demands arising out of or in connection with the application, the applicant/contestant's idea and the viability or otherwise of the applicant/contestant's idea." Which means: and don't even think about suing us when we've made a tidy packet out of your idea. Aside from the fact that the show sounds like it has been dreamed up by a naïve media studies graduate, can Channel 4 really not see the potential public relations nightmare looming when Gladys finds her egg-whisking concept was rejected but then popped up on the Web two months later, run by an associate of one of the judges? This may be one of the worst ideas ever inspired by the Internet. ®
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

Man plunges to his death using mobile phone

It's official - mobile phones can seriously damage your health. A North London man has plunged ten floors to his death after apparently trying to get a signal on his mobile. An inquest heard how Noel Connelly, 38, frequently made phone calls in the early hours - to take advantage of cheap rate calls - while standing on the balcony of his Islington flat. According to Connelly's former flatmate, he may have been trying to get a better signal when he fell. His body was only found when a neighbour opened his curtains to his ground-floor patio in the early hours of 19 August last year. The coroner at St Pancras Coroner's Court recorded an open verdict. Last month a man was injured in a Mexican zoo after sneaking into a lion's cage to rescue his mobile phone. The unfortunate prankster's handset started ringing in the cage and awoke the beast, which then attacked him. ® Related Stories Man beaten to death for using mobile phone in pub It's official: Mobile phones give you diarrhoea Mobile phone tumour link is tenuous, says Motorola
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000

Cisco tells spam victims to reply with abusive emails

Cisco Systems is urging victims of spam to take the law into their own hands and deliver their own form of vengeance to combat unwanted e-mails. It claims the best way to deal with spammers is to reply with abusive e-mails and to dump massive files that will clog up their servers. It's the online equivalent to blowing a whistle down the phone line when dealing with nuisance calls - or flicking the Vs at a motorist before chasing them for five miles after they've carved you up. The advice is contained in a booklet The Easy Guide to Network Security, which is also published in an ungainly PDF file on Cisco's UK Web site. Under the heading "Spam", it reads: "Spam is usually harmless, but it can be a nuisance, taking up time and storage space. The solution is to flame the perpetrators by sending them abusive messages, or to reply by dumping a very large and useless file on their Web server." It's not clear whether this is a corporate-wide policy or just applies to the hard noses in Britain. It's certainly a different approach from that pursued by British ISP, BiblioTech, which goes to extreme lengths to chase spammers through the courts. Question is, have you received any spam from Cisco? If so, sounds like they're inviting you to take action. And if you can orchestrate it with other spam victims, then you could even manufacture a denial of service attack. ® Related Story Spam war victory for BiblioTech Link You can get The Easy Guide to Network Security here
Team Register, 12 Jul 2000