20th > July > 2000 Archive

Windows 2000 SP1 delayed

Microsoft has put back the release to manufacture of Windows 2000 Service Pack 1. Originally due earlier this week, the monstro 83MB patch is now scheduled for release on 24 July and should be available for web download a few days later. The software giant is keeping mum on the actual causes of the delay, but the word on the street seems to point to some kind of security issue. ® Related Story Win 2K service pack due Monday
Andrew Thomas, 20 Jul 2000

Cyrix stands up to Chipzilla with 1GHz Samuel

VIA Cyrix, long derided by Intel as a mere imitator, plans to hit 1GHz with its Samuel 2 Celeron rival. Having dumped its plainly daft PR ratings (Certain Intel insiders really got hot under the collar over that one), it now plans to go head to head with Celery on performance. VIA's director of marketing, Dean Hays, told The Reg that the Socket 370 Samuel 2 - already sampling - would launch at between 733 and 800MHz in Q4, with a 1GHz part to follow. The current Cyrix roadmap shows an 800MHz Samuel 2 due in Q2 2002, but Hays intimated that that plan was almost certain to change. The first Samuel 2s will be made using a 0.15 micron process and feature 128K L1 cache and 64K L2, but Hays said the latter figure would definitely increase in the not too distant future. Samuel 2 is pin compatible with Celeron but will run at 133, 100 and 66MHz FSB, unlike the 66MHz Intel parts. The Cyrix part is designed to be more thermally efficient than Celeron, and the company expects them to find a home in notebooks as well as value segment desktops. A PowerNow/Speedstep equivalent, Dynamic Power Switch, is also featured. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Jul 2000

AMD doubles chip sales in Q2

Chip challenger AMD turned in revenues of $1.17 billion with net profits of $207.1 million for its second quarter, attributing its good results to a combination of increased microprocessor revenues along with strong sales of flash memory. Year on year, and quarter on quarter, revenues doubled, but this time last year AMD's Athlon Powers was only a twinkle in CEO Jerry Sanders III's eye, while the low cost Duron part wasn't even a twinkle. However, compared to its last quarter, sales of Athlons jumped by 52 per cent, with AMD managing to ship over 1.8 million units. Hector Ruiz, the company's chief operating officer, said that it will double those shipments in the next quarter, and double them again the quarter after, due to increased production at its Dresden fabrication plant. AMD has taken advantages of serious logistical problems Intel has had delivering microprocessors to its customers during the first half of this year. It has also had the benefit of being able to intro faster speed CPUs at lower prices and in far greater volume. Although revenues from its Athlon chips were not as high as some expected, this is because AMD made the deliberate policy, which we reported at the end of last year, to take the pricing war to Sanders' bitter foe, the Intel Corporation. Chimpzilla will Carry on Cutting prices of its high end microprocessors during the rest of the year, hoping that it will wrong-foot Chipzilla. At the same time, it plans to extend its reach into the corporate market - an area where previously AMD has never had much success in penetrating. Ruiz also announced that AMD's shares will be split two ways - a far cry from the position its stocks held on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) this time last year, when the price of a Chimzilla Share rumbled along at $16 or so for months. AMD's shares closed at $90.25 on Wall Street before its Q2 earnings were disclosed. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Jul 2000

Caldera, SCO deny takeover talks

According to reports - well, one anyway - Caldera Systems and the Santa Cruz Operation are in discussions which could see the Linux company acquire SCO's OpenServer and UnixWare operating systems. SCO also owns the rights to the Unix trademark, and sits atop a pile of ye originale AT&T Unix code, some of which it's been judiciously leaking as open source over the past year. Smart Partner, the US channel publication formerly known as Smart Reseller but renamed to sound like a dating title, reckons that if successful the negotiations would see SCO's Tarantella division head off under its own steam. That would leave SCO to concentrate on services, effectively becoming Caldera's service division but with a remit to look for Any Other Business. Whacky stuff, right? Well the two do have some similarities, most notably a religious reliance on indirect distribution channels. And the two have devoted much of their energy into going after the same business: SMEs, retail and replicated sites. Despite competent distros, and the hypervisibility of its CEO Ransom Love (we reckon there are at least three of you, Ransom) Caldera has tackled the desktop and enterprise markets without gaining a significant lead in either. SuSE and Red Hat have hired or contracted much the cream of open source developers who have big systems know-how, and SuSE has a formidable arsenal of former CIOs and of course, its European advantage; while Red Hat is well, Red Hat. And on the desktop, despite pioneering usability improvements, Corel's Linux and the forthcoming Eazel distro these days are the most cited distros for beginners, or Windows-weary consumers. Never a favourite with either Unix bigots or Wall Street, SCO has nudged its revenue stream to clinching bigger backoffice deals thanks to UnixWare. No mean feat given the number of ancient OpenServer systems out there running on ancient PC hardware, managed by businesses reluctant to fix something that ain't broken. SCO is generally credited with rescuing UnixWare from the mess Novell made of it, and turning it into a 64bit-ish, SMP-capable, cluster-ready OS that has comfortably fended off the threat of Windows NT/2000. Or at least where rational decisions are still made. But for some time now, SCO has had to fend off the perception that Linux is about to eat its lunch, even though it doesn't seriously compete in the internet and networking infrastructure businesses where Linux and the free BSDs play such an increasing role. And too, it's suffered from the post-New Year dip in enterprise spending. We suspect that SCO will cut deals, even big deals, to show that it can co-exist with the Linux boys, but it's too proud of its R&D to simply become another small-scale service company. Services simply isn't something that SCO has traditionally done, leaving it in a large part to its channel. And it would be a cruel boss indeed who'd dispatch his engineers from the beaches of Santa Cruz and bars of Capitola to the booze-free, caffeine-free salt lakes of Utah. SCO also has development commitments to Monterey, which would surely expire pretty rapidly in the hands of a Linux owner. Far more likely we reckon is that the two could strike up co-operative distribution arrangements which cut out the channel duplication, which could potentially offer customers a Unix for every occasion. That's effectively what they did yesterday in any case, by trumpeting an arrangement whereby Caldera will offer a five-user license deal to use its Tarantella middleware on Caldera's server Linux. Santa Kremlinologists might note that SCO's annual August jamboree, traditionally called SCO Forum, has been renamed Forum 2000. Perhaps long-standing SCO baiter Eric S Raymond, who is scheduled to deliver a keynote at the event, will be able to stand up and announce the New World Order. We doubt it. ® Related Stories SCO, Compaq offer ServerNet-less clusters SCO straightens its Linux message
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jul 2000

Intel red-faced over Red Hat erratumnotbug

A large UK university - we're not naming names - is livid because of an Intel erratum which is preventing it from rolling out 1U headless servers running RedHat Linux, which it wanted to adminster remotely. But a problem at Emission Boulevard, Intel's HQ, means that the boffins at the uni, rather than install commodity x86 boxes, may be forced to go with the opposition because of an erratumnotbug in the pipeline. A system administrator at the university told The Register: "1U boxes are very much in fashion and Intel launched the ISP 1100 which looked ideal." There is information about this box at this URL. However, he said, while an Intel URL shows RedHat 6.1 support for this box, and there was even a "nice installation guide" in PDF form at a URL which has now mysteriously disappeared from Emission Boulevard's Web site, he decided to check Intel's errata pages before pressing ahead with the purchase. Just as well. Because when he checked out this URL, he discovered that errata three says: "Remote installation of RedHat Linux not supported." "Given this has not been updated for a few months, our hopes are not high," he added. ® It's a while since we brought you an Intel erratumnotbug story so it's worth explaining this term to our new readers. Intel prefers The Register to use the term errata to describe problems it experiences with its silicon and whatever. We prefer the use of the term erratum, because, perhaps rather optimistically, we don't expect more than one to happen at any one time. You can find out why we describe this as erratumnotbug by referring to this Register Ancien Web Page.
Mike Magee, 20 Jul 2000

AOL gets further into bed with RealNetworks

AOL has signed a deal with RealNetworks to install its Internet media software throughout its network. The US ISP will use the RealSystem 8 software to pump out interactive and broadband entertainment to its 23 million customers. As part of the deal, AOL will get to include a new piece of RealNetworks software - used for playing different kinds of multimedia information - on its AOL 6.0 media player, which is due for release later this year. This will use Seattle-based RealNetworks' streaming technology. RealNetworks RealPlayer device will also be available through AOL's Netscape browser and via its NetCenter site. This product allows users to display video and hear audio. Details of how much AOL is paying for the RealNetworks software were not disclosed. But the deal is believed to be worth between $20 million and $29 million to RealNetworks, the Wall Street Journal reported. "This is an unprecedented deployment," said Barry Schuler, president of AOL interactive services. "What you are really seeing here is the beginning of streaming media starting to come into the mainstream of consumer applications." AOL already distributes RealNetworks' player software with the software the ISP offers to its users. Today's deal will update the technology, and promises to make the experience of playing audio and video more "seamless", according to AOL. ® Related stories Nokia licenses RealPlayer for video-capable cellphones So just how guilty is Netscape?
Linda Harrison, 20 Jul 2000

Excite makes Tories the top for tits

A boob at Excite.co.uk seems to have mysteriously connected William Hague with women's chests. One vulture-eyed Register reader today spotted that all was not right with the excite.co.uk search engine. While hunting for sites under the word "tits" (obviously someone with too much time on his hands), he found that top of the list of Websites on offer was www.conservative-party.org.uk. Tory head office was none too pleased when told of this spurious connection, with one representative promising to "enlighten our online people" immediately. "We'll see what we can do," she said, adding that the Conservatives did not want to be connected with this "slang term". It is all very baffling - the metatags in the site do not hint at these female features. What's more, it does seem disgraceful that punters looking for tits online should get this type of offensive material thrust in their faces. Excite's spin machine Nash refused to comment this afternoon - nothing to get off their chests, apparently. But The Register will be demanding they make a clean breast of it as soon as possible. ®
Linda Harrison, 20 Jul 2000

Two new exploits run without victims' action

It's been a busy week for software bug hunters. First, users of Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express will be bitterly disappointed to learn that they are now potential sport of an e-mail exploit which will run automatically, without any action from the victim, a possibility which has been predicted for years while Redmond has persistently ignored it. Malicious code can be concealed in an e-mail header to trigger a buffer overflow, after which an attacker can include commands which will run as if they had been entered by the victim. Once that's been accomplished, the sky's the limit in terms of what an imaginative attacker could do to a victim's computer - from viewing or sending files to a remote location, changing system settings, deleting files, uploading and executing Trojans, re-formatting a hard disk - virtually anything is possible. "Clearly this is a serious vulnerability," Microsoft security program manager Scott Culp, warbled during a telephone interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday. (We told you these guys were brilliant.) Australian Aaron Drew posted his findings Tuesday to the NTBugTraq mailing list, complete with sample code. South American security outfit USSR Labs had also found the exploit approximately two weeks ago but did not announce it in hopes that Redmond would cobble together a fix first. Microsoft says the hole will not affect users running Outlook in "corporate and workgroup mode"; only those running it in "Internet-only mode", and home users of Outlook Express, are vulnerable. Microsoft said the problem is in Internet Explorer, and the company recommends that users upgrade to IE 5.01, Service Pack 1. Internet Explorer 5.5 is safe for all users, except those running Windows 2000, who also need to download IE 5.01 SP1. Microsoft's security bulletin may be found here, while the service pack can be found here. If that wasn't bad enough, the US System Administration, Networking, and Security (SANS) Institute found another Microsoft weakness, this time involving ActiveX controls, which it called "probably the most dangerous programming error in Windows workstation (all varieties - 95, 98, 2000, NT 4.0) that Microsoft has made". A SANS security alert states that users are vulnerable to a total system compromise when they preview or read an infected e-mail message if they're running any of the affected operating systems and have Microsoft Access 97 or 2000, Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, including version 5.5 that ships with Windows 2000. The exploit was first discovered 27 June, but Microsoft requested that SANS not release the details until a fix could be developed. Users running systems with Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or any mail client which uses Internet Explorer to render HTML documents are also vulnerable to this exploit through e-mail, SANS says. According to the advisory, an attacker can get into Microsoft Access using ActiveX controls without the victim knowing that it's happening. Malicious code can be written so as to execute before the victim is warned, the Institute explains. Even when the victim has disabled active scripting, the code can run. All Windows systems (Windows 2000, NT 4.0, 98 and 95) are vulnerable if they have the following installed: Microsoft Excel 2000 or PowerPoint 97 or 2000; Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, including 5.5; Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or any other mail reader that uses IE to render HTML. A complete workaround is available here. ®
Thomas C Greene, 20 Jul 2000

OJ Simpson goes on line with Web Q&A

Acquitted murder suspect of the century OJ Simpson will appear on a series of US television programmes next week, including NBC's Today show and ABC's The View, to tout a new Web site created for him to take questions from the public, called AskOJ.com. The site is the tasteless brainchild of a company calling itself Entertainment Network, which will enable Netizens to question Simpson live. Users will be charged $9.95 to register on the site, according to Simpson publicist Brian Barry. Site members will also be able to purchase what he described as "OJ memorabilia". Barry did not say whether the famous bloody glove would be included. The Tampa, Florida-based Entertainment Network "creates voyeuristic Web sites", Barry said. Among its previous Web sites are Voyeurdorm.com and Dudedorm.com. "OJ will be donating all his potential earnings from the Web site to charity," Barry gushed. It is a pity that he won't be able to apply the money to his never-ending search for his late wife Nicole's "true killer", but a bad turn in civil court, which found him resopnsible for her death to the tune of a $33.5 million judgment, continues to frustrate this eminently noble quest. ®
Thomas C Greene, 20 Jul 2000

Anand gives Duron overclocking masterclass

To start off with, Anand has being doing some detective work and discovered how to overclock the Duron, following his earlier investigations into the whole TBird/Duron debate. A few pins adjusted here and there and Hey Presto! Except there is more to it than that, so check out his musings for yourselves. Back to the new Radeon from ATI (again). This time we go to Planet Hardware who have compared the visuals from the new card with those of the GeForce2 GTS. If you want to go straight to the screen shots, you'll want to click here, but those who would prefer to start at the beginning and read the whole piece will benefit from doing the same point and click stunt here. And to continue, Kyle over at HardOCP has written an editorial piece expounding on the whole controversy over Riva3D and nVidia. Go here for the whole story. He wants to know what you all think, so don't be shy, get over there and speak your mind. Oh, Kyle told The Reg that he is starting to think they are quite simply: "just fucking arseholes." Now that the summer has finally arrived in England, you'll be wanting some serious cooling equipment. The computer addicts currently residing at Trainwrecker have posted this timely piece reviewing (in glowing tones) the Golden Orb fan. Send them in an email and you could win it too.® Find that you want more silicon based info? Check out our roundup archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jul 2000

Spot Register a weekly update

While many firms in the PC world live and die by price lists, buying through authorised distribution and dealers and generally playing it safe, there's a continuous frenetic undercurrent in which key components are bought and sold. This is the so-called Spot Market. Once a week, we're able to bring you these movements, thanks to Marco Fumagalli, of Akros-Italia srl, who tracks the prices of components on this important market on a day-to-day basis. The infamous Euro has no place in these markets, which is dominated by the US dollar. Memory The price level for memories has remained relatively stable, compared to last week. Spot prices for the popular 8x8 SDRAM chips are at the $8.60/8.65 level, where they have stayed for a while. Contract prices for July have been recently settled at around $7.60. However, there's a lot of anticipation for a price hike which is due to hit the market any time now, with many predicting prices to be well above the $9.00 mark, with trading likely to start tomorrow. So far, very limited purchasing activity by big OEMs has forced prices to stay firm. Most of the stock appears to be in the hands of brokers, while manufacturer's inventories are said to be low. Popular DIMM modules in Europe were trading at this level on Friday: 64Mb PC-100 OEM $64.00 64Mb PC-100 MAJOR $68.00 128Mb PC-100 OEM $128.00/130.00 128Mb PC-100 MAJOR $135.00/138.00 64Mb PC-133 OEM $66.00 64Mb PC-133 MAJOR $69.00/$70.00 128Mb PC-133 OEM $132.00 128Mb PC-133 MAJOR $138.00/$140.00 Hard Drives The seasonal weakness in sales, which is particularly marked this year, is forcing major OEMs and channel distributors to clear inventories as fast as possible. This is particularly evindent on Quantum drives (especially IDE 5400rpm and 7200rpm). The introduction of new ATA-100 models will speed the process. Prices are very low on the market, well below distribution prices. CPUs Forthcoming Intel price cuts (which happens today, Sunday) has forced many players (mostly OEMs) to clear their stocks, with a lot of offers in the beginning of this week, when offered prices were as low as $175.00 for the Pentium III 650/667 and $205/$210 for the Pentium III 700. (We have published these price changes ahead of time, but will confirm those details first thing Monday.) Over Thursday and Frida, prices recovered, because available quantities of these products are still not as good as they should be. ®
Mike Magee, 20 Jul 2000

Linux grows 666 per cent in Japan

Linux share of the Japanese server OS market grew a staggering 666.3 per cent last year, market research company IDC has reported. Of course, that doesn't imply the open source OS dominates the market now. According to IDC Japan's numbers, by the end of 1999, Linux accounted for only four per cent of the server OS market, up from 0.7 per cent the previous year. Still it's growth rate is way ahead of the market as a whole, which expanded some 32.1 per cent to 419,399 licences, some 16,858 of which were for Linux. The OS has some way to go to catch up with Windows NT's 81.3 per cent share, but if that rate of growth can be maintained or even exceeded. Other varieties of Unix account for 10.1 per cent of the Japanese server OS market. Certainly, many of the major Japanese server vendors, including Fujitsu and NEC, have been getting even more involved in the Linux market during 2000, so the prospects look good. For its part, IDC Japan reckons the open source OS' share of the market will grow by around 45 per cent each year, hitting 12 per cent of the market by 2004. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Jul 2000

The lateness of Intel's Mercedium

AnalysisAnalysis We met at nine. We met at eight. I was on time. No, you were late. Ah yes! I remember it well. -- Alan J. Lerner Over the last six years of The Register's existence we have written many a tale about Intel's 64-bit platform , formerly known as Merced but now re-christened The Itanic. Many of those stories have been about delays in the implementation of this processor, which Intel has, almost always, positioned as a chip for the high ground. Intel's admission that the Itanium platform has slipped a quarter, is by those 28 previous quarters or so, no real big deal. If our extremely pesky search engine was working as well as it might, we could even point you to a piece by Cliff Loeb, a senior architect at Hewlett Packard, who told us a clear year back that realistically we would see Itanium systems from his company arrive in October of this year -- and they would just be pilot systems. And earlier this year, a senior server manager at Compaq US told us that his firm was continuing to focus on the symmetric multiprocessing market, à la Proliant eight way systems, and would skip the Itanic for that segment, instead focusing on McKinley, slated to arrive in the second half of next year. Intel hedged its bets about timing for the Itanium last year, when CEO Craig Barrett said that it would arrive in the second half of this year. Rumours about the firm being unable to clock the brickette-sized microprocessor at the speeds it has publicly stated remain unconfirmed by the price giant. But while this latest lateness in the arrival of the 64-bit chip can easily be overlooked, there are other, market driven factors which could well provide a virtual iceberg on which the Itanic could founder. The first of these is AMD's top-secret X86-64 project. AMD, which in some ways is even more paranoid than Intel*, has fenced this project with walls which even The Register and our band of happy moles has not been able to penetrate. However, the limited info which has leaked on this chip suggests that AMD, as was the case with its Athlon, is pressing ahead and the early indications are looking good. Jerry Sanders III and AMD, unlike Intel, do not appear to be positioning their Sledgehammer processor directly into the corporate market, but will duck and dive through a window of opportunity that will exist for most of next year, as the Merced brickettes start pouring out of Santa Clara's fabs. Which brings us neatly on to...Linux. The projected prices Intel will charge for its Itanium platform mean that machines, whether they're pilot machines or otherwise, are gonna cost an arm and a leg, a situation which users of Linux boxes are not going to care for that much. This may well be one way AMD can capitalise on Intel's 64-bit price embarrassment. We've always been slightly puzzled at The Register why Intel has taken the mainframe approach to the Itanium, apart from the obvious profits the firm can make by undermining big tin in the corporate market. Sixty four bitness is good for games too, init? So if, for example, AMD were to position its X86-64 as the perfect machine for the gamester or pabster, wouldn't it sell bucketloads into that market, just like it did with the Athlon Powers? This must be causing much head scratching over at Santa Clara, but if it is caught napping by AMD, as it was with the K7, there is going to be precious little sympathy for the devil from Intel shareholders a second time round. ® * "Sanders decided to proceed on the assumption that Intel was acting in good faith... Sanders was wrong. He would not discover the evidence for several years, but Intel had definitively decided... that it wante the whole technology sharing deal to collapse... A secret internal memo from one senior Intel official to another stated the company's strategy in two succinct bullet points: Assure AMD they are our primary source through regular management contact and format meetings. Take no more AMD products under the current agreement. " -- Intel Inside by Tim Jackson, chapter XXV, referring to a deal Intel and AMD had in 1982. ISBN 0-00-255777-0.
Mike Magee, 20 Jul 2000

Veritas slams UK government

The UK government's tax regime and approach to IT companies has been blamed for storage software company Veritas' scheme to halve its investment in the UK. Veritas is setting its European HQ in Reading, but because it is scaling back investment it says it will now create just half of the 4000 jobs it had planned. The jobs come as part of a £250 million investment over the next five years - but Veritas is threatening a further £250 million will be invested in elsewhere in Europe. Philip Bousfield, a senior VP at Veritas said that the uncertain climate for IT was created by inappropriate taxation. He told The Times that the UK should not mirror the US over issues like taxation, since the two economies are fundamentally different. The company said that it could take further investment into Europe if the situation in the UK did not change. Lindsey Armstrong, the European vice president at Veritas, said that limiting £100,000 tax relief on options profits to 15 staff was ludicrous, and proved that the government was out of touch with the realities of the IT industry. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jul 2000

New UI types hidden in Windows Whistler preview code

The beginnings of two possible configurable new front ends for Windows are buried inside the preview edition of Whistler, the next version of Win2k due out next year. Options called "Start Panel" and "Start Page" can be enabled in the code, and used as alternatives to the standard Start menu. As the preview doesn't ship with these enabled, and Microsoft hasn't exactly shouted about the feature, it can be seen as work in progress - a hint of what may be to come. We'd like to give credit to whoever unearthed this first, but it's tricky. Paul Thurrott of WinInfo explains it in detail, and thanks Nate Mook of Betanews for tipping him off. Nate Mook of Betanews explains it too, and thanks Paul for discovering it. Still, nice to see these guys getting on at last. Both are DHTML-based. The Start Panel can be configured from the Start and Taskbar properties, says Paul, while the Start Page is a derivative of Active Desktop with echoes of Neptune, the aborted consumer Win2k project that was merged into Whistler. It's used to organise frequently-used programs and files. The Panel version is two column, and leads off with the IE icon then lists most recently accessed apps, with the old style Start menu accessed via More Programs. This definitely sounds like a work-in-progress bolt-on. The second column operates as a "My Places," housing My this, that, and the next thing. Microsoft has been experimenting with UI alternatives for some time, and has effectively committed itself to change with its promises of configurable UIs via the Microsoft.NET strategy. But the company has jettisoned new UI projects far more often than it's actually shipped them, so it's probably safest to view the Whistler features as hints of what might be, provided Microsoft doesn't decide to do something else instead. ® See also WinInfo report Betanews report
John Lettice, 20 Jul 2000

RIP branded ‘zombie legislation’ as it passes Lords

The Lords forced a fresh set of concessions on the government yesterday before passing its email snooping bill. But industry figures are far from happy with the way the bill stands, saying it will still harm human rights and business confidence. Under last night's amendments, companies will have the right to sue law enforcement agencies if they cock-up and leak confidential information. But the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill (RIP) still gives the police and other bodies the power to order businesses to surrender decryption keys on private client information. Another move involves a higher level of monitoring such powers. Police or the relevant agency will have to inform the new interception of communications commissioner - who will be a senior judge - within seven days of serving such an order on a company. This commissioner has now been given powers to report to the prime minister whenever they feel like it - not just once a year as was previously proposed. Ministers also agreed to stick to the two defeats they encountered in the Lords last week. These involve starting a Technical Advisory Board to advise on and oversee the fitting and running of interception devices in ISPs, and the allocation of at least £20 million in government cash toward the costs of such "black boxes". Yesterday's concessions are aimed at easing business and Internet industry worries that seized information might fall into the wrong hands. But it seems unlikely that the climb-downs will do this. First, it is all well and good to sue law enforcement agencies over mismanagement of private information, but this will happen after the damage has already been done to the company and its reputation. Second, it is difficult to trust any organisation that cannot even protect its own private documents and information. There have been two memo leakages from Number 10 so far this week - whether through error or deliberate actions. This doesn't exactly instill confidence. Lord Cope, Tory home affairs representative, felt the bill was much improved, but that it was still deeply flawed - he reckons it could be both ineffective for law enforcement and dangerous to e-commerce. And in the words of Caspar Bowden, director of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, the amended encryption powers are unenforceable and unfathomable. "It's zombie legislation. Clinically dead from macabre wounds, it still lumbers on menacing individual privacy and commercial confidence," said Bowden. RIP is due to go before the Commons next week for its final parliamentary stage before becoming law. The top-secret material seized under RIP will be held at MI5's high-security building in London. Let's just hope it isn't kept on laptops. ® Related Stories ISPs fly to continent to escape RIP RIP Bill
Linda Harrison, 20 Jul 2000

‘Transitional’ IBM faces growth slowdown

IBM CEO Lou Gerstner recognised at the announcement of IBM's Q2 results last night that "In a portfolio of our size, we often have units in transition", and so it proved. IBM is in effect a conglomerate of companies, each with a different business cycle, so it is difficult for the company to do well as a whole unless the business cycles largely coincide. So far they haven't, and for the last three quarters, there has been slow revenue growth. Yesterday's Q2 results were at least a win for IBM over the financial analysts, who had predicted $1 earnings per share, but in the event IBM turned in $1.06. Total revenue was $9.151 billion for Q2, down 1.2 per cent on a year ago, with net income at $1.841 billion. Comparison with the year-earlier quarter is difficult since IBM sold its Global Network to AT&T during that quarter, gaining 37 cents per diluted share on the transaction. IBM attributes the slowness to Y2K woes and actions taken to improve its business portfolio. IBM's revenue sources break down into 42 per cent hardware (down 5 per cent); 38 per cent global services (up 2 per cent); 15 percent software (up 2 per cent); 4 per cent global financing (up 10.1 per cent); and 1 per cent enterprise investments (down 26 per cent). [Comparisons are with the year-earlier-quarter revenue.] Geographically, year-on-year at constant currency, the Americas were down 3 per cent, EMEA was flat, Asia Pacific was up 13 per cent, and OEM was down 7 per cent. It seemed just a few months ago that Global Services was hitting the buffers after a very good run, but half way through the quarter, there was re-ignition resulting in new signings for the quarter of $20.3 billion. Of these, twenty were for more than $100 million, and three for more than $1 billion. The contract backlog is a healthy $75 billion. Software revenue was up 2 per cent compared with the year-earlier quarter (and would have been up 5 per cent if it hadn't been for those pesky currency undulations, mostly caused by eurozone problems). At constant currency, there was an 11 per cent increase in middleware sales, with UNIX/NT up 34 per cent (but unfortunately not broken down), and S/390 software up 3 per cent. WebSphere is poised to take the lead, having seen 200 per cent year-on-year growth, and will be getting a $1 billion investment to help it along. Operating system revenue was down as a result of lower AS/400 sales, although new models could soon reverse this. The PC business revenue declined, partly because of component shortages (IBM admitted earlier this week that 79 of its 108 ThinkPad configurations were back ordered), but IBM is still confident that it will break through to profitability later this year, largely thanks to an increasing volume of direct sales and better margins. Q2 saw an improvement of $100 million, largely attributable to direct sales increasing to 24 percent year-on-year, and up 5 per cent on with the previous quarter, to nearly $1 billion in total: the proportion of direct sales is expected to grow to 35 per cent by the end of the year. There's some way to go before IBM out-Dells Dell, but the old war horse has learnt a few tricks, it seems. Other hardware business is still mired, and declined 5 per cent. Web servers revenue grew 30 per cent, but both S/390 and AS/400 revenue declined, which IBM attributed to lowered prices for S/390 and product transition for AS/400. Against the expectations of many observers who had predicted the demise of the mainframe (even if we do call them servers nowadays), S/390 MIPS grew a little after three quarters of decline, fuelled by e-business demand. Microelectronics revenue was up, but storage revenues were down. IBM has become the leader in custom logic, which was up 33 per cent. IBM has been getting some stick for its level of indebtedness, but there is only $2.5 billion of core debt outside the $26.7 billion that IBM borrows for its profitable global finance operations, in order that shareholders do not take a hit for this. IBM currently has $3.3 billion in cash, down from $7.2 billion a year ago. Share repurchases were $1.8 billion during the quarter, with 1,768 million now outstanding. CFO John Joyce was bullish about the next two quarters, with the market rewarding the company by pushing the share price up in after-hours trading by 5.5 per cent, to $108.75. IBM's e-business strategy does seem to be working, but questions need to be asked as to whether it would not do even better if there the company were split into separate companies, so that Gerstner's "units in transition" syndrome does not keep dragging down the whole company. IBM still has vast tiers of bureaucracy and fiefdom in-fighting that could be easily removed if the company were carved up. Although it is no longer fashionable in IBM circles to speak of shareholder benefit from a breakup, unless the company can deliver the double-digit growth promised by Joyce before the end of the year, it is inevitable that more shareholders will start agitating for it. ®
Graham Lea, 20 Jul 2000

Corel tells SEC 'we'll run out of cash next month'

Corel has issued its second cash-flow warning in as many months. The software company yesterday admitted it will run out of money by the end of August if extreme measures are not taken. Only last week CEO Michael Cowpland told Canada's CBC that the company's financial worries were over. He told CBC that Corel had $25 million in the bank. "Basically, we're a very resilient company," he boasted. That doesn't quite tally with a filing Corel has made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that notes the company's cash pile will be $500,000 in the red by 31 August, the last day of the business' current fiscal quarter. The filing says, however, that the company will remedy the situation by selling more GraphOn shares. It also warns that the company will sell off other investments and possibly even some of the business' "non-core activities". That's already happening: earlier this week, Corel sold off its GraphicCorp digital image library for an undisclosed sum. Corel also walked away with a 23 per cent stake in the buyer, Canadian company Hemera Technologies. Meanwhile, Corel's SEC filing also notes gloomily that there's no guarantee that any of its key applications - CorelDraw, WordPerfect Office and Corel Linux OS - will do much for the company's revenues, which have been declining throughout the last nine months or so. Recent software bundling deals with Hewlett-Packard are unlikely to do much for Corel's bottom line, but the company clearly needs all the help it can get. It is already embarked on a programme to cut costs by $10 million, a process that involved the loss of 320 jobs, 20 per cent of its workforce, which should reduce the Corel's loss - though the SEC filing says the current quarter will still be a loss-making one - but without a significant boost to the company's revenue, it's hard to see anything but a slow decline ahead, for all Cowpland's bullish spin. Last quarter, Q2 2000, it lost $23.6 million on revenues of $36.6 million. Its cash reserves stood at $6.6 million. For Q1 2000, Corel lost $12.4 million on revenues of $44.1 million. ® Related Stories Corel Q2 loss widens, sales slump Corel sheds 320 jobs
Tony Smith, 20 Jul 2000

Spot Register A weekly update

Demand in the open market has recovered since last week. Anticipated shortages on certain items is forcing OEMs to build stock now for their September requirements, writes Marco Fumagalli, who can be contacted at Akros Italia. Memory Prices are slightly softening, since the demand is still somewhat erratic. Some brokers are beginning to reduce inventories and maybe this will impact prices on the short term. 64Mb PC-133 modules are now trading at around $65/67 while 64Mb PC-100 are mostly quoted at $62/64. Hard Drives After having reached the lowest point of the year, prices for 10GB and15GB Quantum are now bouncing back to previous levels. Distribution inventories are very low and local shortages are being reported. Distributors are assuring customers that the product will be available next week, but many are speculating that lower capacity drives are being phased out by Quantum, despite the fact that they are still very popular for entry-level systems. The 10.2GB LB-A is now being quoted at $72-74 and the 15GB anywhere in the region of $79-84. Seagate 8.4GB and 10.2GB OEM channel drives are being offered in the market, so expect their prices to drop soon. Shortage are being reported for many SCSI drives, especially for 18GB 7200rpm units CPUs Transition to new Intel prices was smooth this time, meaning that the quantity of OEM CPUs in the open market is not significant. Prices recovered slightly since last week, and the majority of sales are now for PIII 650/667 and PIII 700s in FC-PGA packaging. Prices are around $185 and $215 respectively. Note There will be another Spot Register next week, then Marco is taking a short holiday. We will resume it at the beginning of September. For previous spot price surveys, visit our Spot Register channel
Mike Magee, 20 Jul 2000

ThinkPads thin on the ground

IBM has racked up a hefty backlog of orders for its new ThinkPad range, with 79 of the 108 configurations available through dealers backed-up until well into August. The company denies it is having any problems because of CD-RW shortages and is attributing the delays to its recent promotion of the new machines. The company could have a point, since it is suffering far wider and longer backlogs than its competitors, according to analysts, but to deny any link to component shortages beggars belief. Dataquest analyst Mike McGuire told CNET: "I think they're victims of their own success and/or they continue not to get the forecasting thing right. You've got to wonder at some point if they're underselling their own products in their own minds." In a statement, IBM said: "Starkly growing market demand for some IBM products like the new NetVista line exceeded supply. The situation is addressed by the Greenock Site Director, together with other IBM functions and our Partners, and already shows signs of improvement. We expect most T20 orders to ship in the next two weeks, and most A40 orders to ship in the next four weeks. Most iSeries models are available immediately." ® Related Story Phone frenzy is jacking up CD-RW prices
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jul 2000

Letsbuyit.com float on again

Letsbuyit.com looks like its finally going to take the plunge and float on the stock market tomorrow. The co-op online purchaser has had a chequered past, including two abandoned floats, a lost investor and some appallingly PR stunts, but is going for broke this time. It'll have to - as the money situation is getting increasingly desperate. The Reg is not a great fan of Letsbuyit's business model, and we'll be watching the float with interest. Alpha Telecom has gone into receivership, owing a total of £20 million to its creditors. The telecommunications reseller, which was planning a £200 million floatation in March, had been turning over £90 million a year without making a profit. Industry watchers said that the company does not have it debt collecting up to speed. Deloitte and Touche, the receivers, has said that it will try to sell the firm on as an ongoing concern. Wanadoo - France Telecom's Net outfit - was up 10 per cent after a sober opening day on the Paris Bourse. The share price rose to Euros23 from the opening shot of Euros19, valuing the company at Euros23 billion. First Tuesday - the clique for new media luvvies - is reportedly in talks to sell the company for £33.5 million to Israeli-based Yazam, according to the FT. Amazon.com is aiming to generate "more than half" its total sales from outside the US in the next "10-years-plus", Jeff Bezos told the Wall Street Journal. Amazon currently gets 23 per cent of its sales from outside the US. He refused to comment on speculation that his e-tailer is looking at buying eToys, the US online toy seller. ® If you're still hungry for bite size ebiz nibbles then click here for The Reg Bubble Economy news hub.
Team Register, 20 Jul 2000

PowerGen stems flow to bloody nose

It was a massive cock-up and everyone knew it. Leaving customer credit card details and addresses outside the firewall, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, was ineptitude of the highest order. It was bad enough shooting itself in the foot once, but then PowerGen proceeded to empty the entire clip into the mangled remnants. No, it wouldn't contact the other people whose privacy had been compromised. Even if it had no intention of contacting them for god's sake tell everyone that you will. And so the security disaster was brought to the press' attention. Asked about the situation by journalists, PowerGen then denied any such thing has occurred. BANG! Faced with proof, it concedes. BANG! It then accuses the man who discovered the hole and brought it to their attention of being a hacker. BANG! BANG! BANG! And while it continues firing, the IT and national press stroll up and punch it on the nose, drawing blood first time. The company's top execs must have panicked when they realised how out of control the story had gotten. You can be sure that PowerGen's press spokesman is getting a right royal bollocking today. But then in steps PowerGen's Retail Managing Director, Mike Wagner - a man with a brain and a hanky to hold to its bloody nose. First of all, be serious and apologise, then say you have some experts on the case who are working out how this could possibly happen (they will produce a report and this will never occur again). Then point out that it has been blown out of all proportion and the truth is far less exciting. Say you have involved the police. Say you are grateful to the man that discovered the hole (and subsequently ruined your week). And finally reiterate your commitment to the Web. Mikey boy did all this and then kicked in with a sweetener - all those customers affected would be contacted individually and £50 given to those that choose to cancel their credit card. Not much considering the hassle, but at least it looks like concern. 8/10 Mike. But despite all this, we are still amazed that big companies clearly still haven't sorted out their IT problems. PowerGen isn't the first and sadly it's not going to be the last. We've put the PowerGen response from Mike Wagner below for you to peruse. "We take security of customer information extremely seriously and I am sorry that this has happened and that customers may have been inconvenienced. "The web site was immediately closed down and our systems experts confirmed that this was a one-off incident. Initial investigations showed that the information which had been accessed was in a file which due to a technical error was temporarily outside of the security gate of the system. This was immediately corrected and new procedures introduced to eliminate the possibility of it happening again. There was no breach of the security of our main customer database. "We are directly contacting customers who pay accounts via the Internet and will assure them that the problem has been corrected. We have also set up a free phone customer information hotline and urge any of our customers who are concerned to contact this number (0800 0157755). As an additional security measure we are advising customers to change their card numbers and will offer compensation for the inconvenience. Meanwhile the online transaction site remains closed. "We are now embarking on a wider reaching review of systems security in conjunction with external expert consultants and will be in further contact with John Chamberlain to assist us with this review. We plan to publish the results of the external consultants' audit on our web site. "This has clearly raised some more general concerns about payment over the Internet. I will be asking banks, other financial services organisations and companies engaging in transactions over the web to discuss these wider issues with us. However, we remain committed to the Internet as customers increasingly find it a convenient way of doing business with us." ® Related stories PowerGen gives lessons on stupidity PowerGen credit card security cock-up
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jul 2000
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Apple Cubed

Apple's Product Announcements Apple unveils Power Mac Cube PPC 500MHz limit forces Apple down dual-CPU route4 Pre-announcement annoucements ATI pre-announces Apple MacWorld unveiling Apple's Mac Cube: the iMac's replacement? Apple's cubic Mac rumour resurfaces Apple's Legal Action Apple gets heavy with third Mac Web site Apple vs MacOS Rumors: the thick plottens Apple vs. MacOS Rumors: just a cunning stunt? Apple lawyers target Mac rumours site Apple Financials Apple's consumer strategy slips Apple Q3 profits, revenues up
Tony Smith, 20 Jul 2000

MS adds cookie detector to IE, grooms Privacy R US stance

Microsoft has acted to expunge its somewhat less than glorious record on privacy and security by offering users a cookie management feature. The new cookie manager, which is intended to tell users when Web sites offer them cookies, and to make it easier for them to delete and manage them, is being released to beta testers as a technical beta for IE 5. Cookies are used by Web sites to keep track of individual users and their preferences, and in general they're helpful. But they can also be used for more sinister tracking purposes. Cookie management isn't exactly original (Opera, for example, already has reasonably effective detection and management systems built in) but Microsoft's decision to implement a system for IE indicates that the barrage of criticism has been getting to it, and indeed that it really meant it when it promised better security features a few months back. The company's reward has already arrived; Jason Catlett of Junkbusters and security expert Richard Smith have both praised the move. These two are more usually found exposing Microsoft security issues and berating the company for them, so being with the Good Guys is something of a breakthrough for Redmond. Smith's praise is however somewhat barbed. "Online privacy has become a rarity for the obvious reason that too many software applications have become far too talkative [one wonders whose applications he could possibly be referring to here]. Microsoft has started an important correction to this trend by its decision to make its Web browser stop and ask users before reporting data about them." But one can surmise that the talkative apps problem still awaits correction - that's a biggie for Microsoft, because it's embedded in a whole integrationist strategy that can't easily be redirected. Catlett's enthusiasm is also maybe a little muted. Junkbusters says that "Microsoft's move [is] only the start in the extensive effort that will be needed to repair the damage done to consumer privacy by software that collects and transmits excessive data." Catlett himself called for new legal rights for Americans to repossess the "billions of pieces of clickstream data" which online advertisers have "pilfered" from them. Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning, surely - having seem them blink, it looks like Junkbusters wants them on the floor in tears next... ®
John Lettice, 20 Jul 2000

Bertelsmann to buy CDNow for $117 million

Hard-up Web music retailer CD Now has been snapped up by German media giant Bertelsmann for $117 million. CD Now will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Bertelsmann's e-commerce group, and will keep trading under its existing name. CD Now has succumbed to the German giant's offer at a time when its tough for dotcom's to get funding - and it was desperate for money. Last month heavyweight business mag Barron's estimated it had a month left to live without another warm cash injection. Quite a good estimate as it happens. To save cash CD Now recently closed its London office. Bertelsmann is offering $3 for CD Now's shares plus $42 million for the music e-tailer to pay off loans and bankroll its business until the deal is completed. CD Now founders Jason and Matthew Olim have agreed to sell their 5.8 million shares which represents 17 per cent of outstanding shares. ®
Robert Blincoe, 20 Jul 2000

ZDNet's Rosensweig promises ‘Global Empire’

ZDNet Prez Dan Rosensweig promised "a real global empire" would be the result of his company's acquisition by CNET. He made his comments to ZDNet staff in San Francisco yesterday. CNET has agreed a takeover of ZDNet, creating an online tech behemoth which promises to rank in the top ten most popular sites in the US. Rosenweig also let slip that their rivalry had "made each other better companies". But "the law of diminishing returns says that you should join forces". But what diminishing returns? Both CNET CEO Shelby Bonnie and ZDNet's Dan Rosensweig claimed that their respective companies were profitable, Rosensweig with more justification that his new partner. Despite being lubricated with free alcohol following the setpiece, staff left the Q&A less informed than when they began. At issue is that the two companies have been doggedly mirroring each other's moves for some years. Both have download sites, both have reviews sections tied to shopping mechanisms, both have games channels, both have news channels, both have wireless content deals, both have made their fair share of club-footed acquisitions (when canny licensing would have been far smarter) and of course both have administrative and operational duplication. Given all this, few ZDNet insiders yesterday gave much credence to Rosensweig's official line that the overlap amounts to "25 per cent". Bonnie and Rosensweig fielded a barrage of questions about who would face the chop with the increasingly implausible line that all areas were worthwhile. Gamecenter or GamesWorld? Both good. MySimon was great and Computer Shopper, well, that was great too. And so on. And risking a hubristic meltdown completely, Bonnie said he thought that "there are no [other] brands you'd trust" in the sector. "There's nobody else you'd go to for an opinion about something, and that's a really unique factor." It also emerged yesterday that the pair have been in close lunching contact for two years. Which is intriguing, as it raises the suspicion that the company coup which began in earnest around a year ago - to shed Ziff Davis' events business and print publications - was only ever designed to deliver ZDNet into the hands of its rivals on the other side of San Francisco's Financial District. For example, a year ago ZDNet adopted Vignette's Storyserver content engine following the example CNET, and adopted near-identical page templates to its supposed rival. CNET postponed its investment in Europe, while ZDNet ramped up its own. Doubtless, all pure coincidence. So trebles all round then, for senior management and long-serving staff who were given options at around $4, but Vimtos all round for investors who bought in at the height of the bubble, when ZDNet stock was trading in the $30s, have worthless stock. "WHAT A BUNCH OF CROOKS!" ran one typical rant on a ZDZ investor bulletin boards yesterday. "THEY HAVE MISREPRESENTED THEMSELVES IN A CALLOUS AND NEGLIGENT MANNER!!! HOW DARE THEY!!!" ZDNet stock edged up to $17 in after hours trading, its highest value since the tech crash in April. CNET dipped below $30. ® Related Story CNET to buy ZDNet for $1.6bn
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Jul 2000

Job losses at Murdochs' e-empire

News Network Ltd - the new media arm of Rupert Murdoch media empire -- has axed 30 people in its London office as part of a massive shake-up at the company. Employees were told on Monday about the losses and the full extent of the re-organisation is still not known. According to sources close to Wapping, among the casualties were marketing director, Tony Hall, and chief commerce and marketing officer, Susan Boster. Hall is understood to be working out his notice and Boster has reportedly already cleared her desk. The Register understands that News International's newspapers, including the The Times and Sunday Times, have already taken back responsibility for their online editions after being forced to hand them over to News Network when the new company was established earlier this year. The Sun's topless tit-pics site, Page3.com, and footballfc.com from the News of the World have also reportedly been handed back to their papers. However, the future of entertainment auction sites, FiredUp.com, and the recruitment site, Revolver.com, are not known. Janet Anderson, a spokeswoman for News International said: "They remain [with News Network] at this stage." Anderson refused to comment on the redundancies or the future of News Network. Questioned about the redundancies she said: "No comment." News Network's MD, Alasdair MacLeod wasn't available for comment today, apparently tied-up in meetings all day. In March, a leaked document revealed that the new media company suffered from low employee morale and widespread dissatisfaction with management. Speaking at the time, Tony Hall, marketing director at News Network said that the internal assessment was a "positive situation" and showed that the company listened to its employees. Confirming the authenticity of the leaked internal report he said: "We are a fast developing a company with an open culture -- (what we have done is) positive and refreshing." News Network was created in February to handle the development of News International's online strategy. Far from simply migrating its content - The Sun, Times et al - online, News Network planned to create a number of e-businesses based on its offline collateral. Not only did it plan to build on its existing brands, News Network said it was keen to build completely new ones, such as its online entertainment auction site, FiredUp.com. It was also planning to ensure that whatever was created would be available not just on the Web, but also on other platforms including digital TV and WAP. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Jul 2000

Inland Revenue joins Internet hall of shame

Luddites have been proved right yet again. Every week it seems there is another major organisation that seems incapable of dealing with computer technology. Even those people that are synonymous with studied efficiency are not immune. And so the Inland Revenue had added to its already poor record by losing over five million tax records. An internal memo pointing out that 15.5 per cent of the organisation's submitted returns had got lost was leaked to the press and the country collectively held their heads in their hands. The planet-sized cock-up stems from the apparent failure of two computer systems - one run by EDS and another run by Andersen Consulting - to talk to one another. You'd have thought they'd have checked. But no. While large sections of the Inland Revenue can scythe through millions of tiny entries and come up with a figure accurate to one pence, the IT department is more a fan of the sticky-back plastic and string approach. It is simply staggering that FIVE MILLION records can be misplaced. And now the Inland Revenue has requested that the files be closed - effectively writing off any tax rebates/demands. This story is certain to be very closely followed and prove an enormous embarrassment to an establishment that espouses the grand advantages to the Internet but then fails totally to deliver on what they're selling. We thought we'd save everyone some time and trouble and cover another utter failure of the Inland Revenue - self-assessment. The Revenue put a lot of (marketing) effort into selling the self-assessment idea. By taking tax calculation out of its hands and moving to a more US system, it hoped to increase flexibility and reduce hassle. A logical step up was to feed it through the Internet. And so the online Revenue was born, complete with a bonus for those that filed online. We have been following the creation of an online Revenue very closely - mostly because we intended to use it. Inputting your details online, hitting send and then not worrying any more about it appealed greatly. But having gone through an elaborate registering process only to be informed that the filing software was not yet available, we were a little disappointed. To then go back every week for four months - each time being faced with a different, extended launch date - got a little tiresome. And then, suddenly, faced with the tax record loss fiasco, we're informed that not one person has taken advantage of the electronic filing process. Apparently it was available from 3 July. News to us. Seeing as the Revenue knows more about us than our own mother, it seems a bit disingenuous not to tell us the service was finally ready. But then when the Revenue has spent its entire life intimidating and hassling people, it must be difficult to have to provide an accountable, visible service. Who said the Internet wasn't a great leveller of power? ® Related link Inland Revenue
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jul 2000

Numeric domain name system launched

A bunch of Cambridge businessmen have launched a numeric-based domain name system. Their idea is to provide an alternative to URLs with Bango numbers, which they will rent out from around £20 a year. The system is aimed at WAP or mobile Internet users, as well as PC users who want to bypass complex Web addresses. The trio have been trialling the scheme in Cambridge this summer, but it officially launched nationwide yesterday. It has over a million numbers registered so far - most of which have been given away in the launch. The company also claims that several sought-after three digit numbers have been sold for around £10,000 each. The concept is simple - as long as Bango can persuade companies to sign up. A Bango number is between one and fifty digits long, and can be keyed in instead of any URL via a download from the Bango.net site or through the IE5 browser. A company or individual can choose any number - which is prefixed with an exclamation mark. The idea is designed to save time for mobile and WAP phone users who rely on a numeric keyboard. According to Peter Walker, Bango marketing VP, the average URL takes around 70 to 100 keystrokes to enter into a WAP phone - and just four or five with a short Bango number. Walker reckons the average Wap user currently hooks up to a Wap site just once a month. He also says there is a market in countries which do not have English as their first language. "There is fantastic interest in using numbers in places like the Far East, where long complicated URLs in English are difficult to remember," said Walker. The company aims to be "making in-roads" into the US, Far East and Europe by the end of the year. And Bango has already been hit with what is believed to be the first case of "cyber-number squatting". "Someone obviously perceived the value of numbers and tried to buy the phone number belonging to EasyEverything's cybercafe," said Walker. Luckily Bango was able to scupper this attempt. In such cases, the company has pre-registered the numbers and will offer to sell them to the respective owners. But should they decline to buy them, Walker says they will put the numbers up for sale. In his words: "It's a free market." ® Related Stories Cybersquatting: Full coverage
Linda Harrison, 20 Jul 2000

Disney puts boot into AOL/Time Warner deal

Walt Disney Corp is getting a bit twitchy about the impending AOL/Time Warner merger so is urging regulators to split it in two as soon as the deal is done. Disney's top lobbyist Preston Padden has been quoted by The Washington Post saying his company is going to present a detailed plan to the Federal Communications Commission next week on how to prise the two apart again. This probably means spinning off Time Warner's cable TV business. Terra Networks takeover of Lycos should be finished by October according to Robert Davis, CEO of the search engine business. Davis told Bloomberg Forum that they'd been hearing nothing but good news from the regulators overseeing the $12.5 billion transaction. Alpha Telecom, which went into receivership yesterday, has been sold to fusion, a business which describes itself as the ‘pan-European specialist at financing new opportunities in the communications and Internet market’. Alpha owed more than £20 million to its creditors, including Royal Bank of Scotland and several telecoms carriers. The telecommunications reseller, which was planning a £200 million floatation in March, had been turning over £90 million a year without making a profit. The fusion acquisition was funded by a group of private investors headed by Chiltern plc. ® Click here to check out the Cash Register chinging.
Team Register, 20 Jul 2000

RedHotAnt – quality customer service

UpdatedUpdated We can only assume that RedHotAnt is living by the adage "All publicity is good publicity." There can surely be no other explanation for the latest balls-up to emerge from the ISP, even if the balls-up is purely accidental. Responding to a query about a service issue, Bob Garrioch, an RHA director, sent his reply complete with an attached virus. The only reason the recipient did not have any problems was that he was running Linux on his machine, and the "Kak" virus is designed to mess around with Windows. The mail then ended up being sent out to a Linux user group post, stuffed full of RHA subscribers. Since most were running Linux, the virus caused much consternation, but little damage. Had these guys been running Microsoft Outlook, it would have been bad. Very bad. Another source, also an RHA subscriber, said that it was the nuts and bolts issues of security and redundancy that were being ignored. He commented: "Basic security principles are not being adhered to. It seems as though they have neither the clue nor the knowledge to be secure. I am especially alarmed at the number of virtual domains they are hosting on their network." Another Register reader wanted to add their ha'penny's worth, so we thought we'd let him. "When RHA works it's very polished and something that I'd recommend, the rest of the time we just might as well forget having paid the subscription. If it's an account issue why don't they just introduce a monthly paid subscription? I'd hate to see them disappear because of bad planning, on the other hand it would be nice to get connected occasionally." The continuing troubles at RHA just serve to reinforce that while this kind of stuff is not rocket science, some forethought and planning is required before jumping into the online world. Our source had not at the time of writing received an apology for the virus he was sent.® Update: Garrioch, RHA's director has sent an apology to Simon, and wanted to publicly apologise to any party who may have been affected by the virus. He says that the email came from his own account and that it would not have happened if he had sent it from his business account. He has now updated his DAT files so that it won't happen again. Related Stories RedHotAnt in security trouble, again RedHotAnt Speaks! RedHotAnt calls in Old Bill over hack attack RedHotAnt hit by heavy users Trading Standards check out RedHotAnt Technical problems hit RedHotAnt
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Jul 2000

The ORBS/MAPS anti-spam battle revisited

Since we posted a story repeating allegations made by ORBS anti-spammers that ISP Above.net was purposefully blocking ORBS traffic, apparently to clear the way for a commercial MAPS (also an anti-spammer service and run by Above.net creator Paul Vixie), we have had emails fighting into our inbox. It's no secret that ORBS and MAPS aren't exactly best friends but the pressure-cooker rivalry became too much, allegations started flying and we are now faced with a partisan split. As one reader stated: "A user's choice of ORBS or MAPS is as religious as their choice of OS." Despite a largely positive press response to ORBS, its supporters seem the more deranged. It is a simple fact of the Net industry that it is populated with highly loyal but blinkered individuals. Something is either the best in the world or the worst. As such, it's hard to know whether the accusation that Alan Cox (a pro-ORBS Linux guru whose diary alerted The Reg to the situation) is making "hysterical claims" is made from an anti-ORBS, anti-Linux or anti-Cox standpoint. A lot of the emails are slightly calmer versions of newsgroup crazy rants and words like "conspiracy", "grudge" and "fanatic" have cropped up with alarming regularity. So what is going on? Well, it's unlikely that we'll ever find out the full details of the current saga, but there is general agreement that it started when ORBS blacklisted MAPS and Above.net. Depending on who you believe this is either totally justified or completely malicious. Above.net clearly didn't like this much and so added some routing entries to block ORBS traffic. Is it on an all-out ORBS attack mission? ORBS says yes, MAPS and Above.net vaguely deny it and the various supporters bicker. Either ORBS is stupid and melodramatic or Above.net is totally bent on destruction. We'll tell you what we think in a minute. As for the claims that MAPS is planning to go commercial (thus providing the "motive" in this sorry mess), well, it is either completely false or utterly true. "It's registered as a not-for-profit company!" many claim. Is that an official, legally binding registration? No, we thought not. One comment which we can't disagree with is that while Alan Cox's opinion has been taken seriously (and true, he was simply repeating ORBS' allegations), the equally significant reputation of Paul Vixie (the man that ties Above.net with MAPS) has been overlooked. Oh, and claims that Above.net and MAPS can't be connected have, we're afraid, fallen on deaf ears. Okay, so we've gone through what everyone else thinks, what does The Reg think? We reckon, as we said in the sub-head, it's six of one and half a dozen of the other. It was a fight both were itching to have and no matter how much either of them put on their cherub faces and swear they did nothing wrong, they are both as guilty as each other. ORBS more than likely found an open relay system somewhere on Above.net and used this to blacklist the ISP and MAPS for good measure. Understandable, if a little childish. (Incidentally, the different reactive/proactive approaches that MAPS and ORBS use are to us simply a variation on a theme - we think neither ultimately better suited.) Above.net then over-reacted and it does seem clear that it is partaking of a rather pointed attack on ORBS and its traffic. ORBS' apparent claim that this is putting it out of business is bunkem. As for MAPS planning to become an all-mighty profit-making conglomerate - we don't buy it. It's too easy an argument and it presses the right button a little too strongly. We've been sniffing around these commercial claims all day and we see nothing more than an intention to scrape a little money off big corporations. A Microsoft it ain't. Alan Cox - we don't even want to go there. We get enough email from Linux fanatics already. Paul Vixie? Well, yes, he is a smart cookie. But he simply isn't the people-loving hero that many would wish us to believe. Christ, if you get anywhere in this industry you have a brain, a steel nerve and the balls to back both up. And let's not forget the court order against MAPS which prevents it from blacklisting Yesmail.com. All in all, this is a spat. Hopefully the concerned parties will all calm down and recognise that they have more to lose by bashing each other than they have to gain. Still, good viewing, no? ® Related story Anti-spammers turn guns on each other
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Jul 2000

Video games to blame for everything

USA Today, the world's largest circulation local paper, is a godsend for folks from the land of the free when they travel overseas. It's terribly reassuring when you find yourself in some backwoods place you've never heard of, like London, Paris or Munich, to be able to catch up on vital news from Redneck, Arizona or Serialkilla, Missouri. Amidst world exclusives about a man who was partially eaten by a bear (well, you can't eat a whole one, can you?) at the Run-a-Muck campground in Alaska and the shock news that outside toilets have been illegal in Louisville, Kentucky since 1972 [Where do the bears shit, then? - Ed], we discover that Indianapolis is trying to prevent children from playing 'unsuitable' arcade video games. Coin operated games in which people are decapitated, dismembered, mutilated, maimed or forced to read ZDNet UK will be off limits to under 18s - unless accompanied by a parent - from September, said Mayor Bart Peterson. The new law requires games featuring graphic violence or strong sexual content to carry warning labels and to be situated at least 10 feet from other types of game machines. They should also be hidden behind a wall or curtain so that impressionable youngsters can't see them. Offending arcade operators will be liable for a $200 fine. Portnoy's Complaint Elliot Portnoy, a lawyer called in by the video game industry, said his clients were considering legal action against the city: "This ordinance is both unnecessary and unconstitutional," he said. But is it? On the very same page we find that a 13 year old Seattle boy with blonde hair dyed blue at the ends (sounds like a typical Reg staffer) climbed onto a school cafeteria table and fired a shot into the ceiling after boasting to friends he was going to kill a teacher. "He said he wanted to kill all the teachers, but only a few students," a friend is reported as saying. It is not clear whether or not his mom was with him to protect him from exposure to violence. ® Stop Press Visitors to next month's State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa should leave their pets at home. Dogs and other animals are now prohibited from the showground.
Andrew Thomas, 20 Jul 2000

Transmeta chips to make air travel safer

San JoseSan Jose Transmeta's forthcoming Crusoe low power chips could make transatlantic flights safer, says the company. Transmeta's aim of producing notebooks with an eight hour battery life will allow jet-setters to cross the Atlantic and work all the way. When The Reg pointed out that you could do that already by plugging your existing notebook into the airplane's electrical system on most flights, company techies mumbled something about overheating wiring, electrical fires, planes falling out of the sky and general doom, death and destruction. So what's so cool about Crusoe, apart from keeping you alive long enough to drink your duty frees? Well, cool is one of the big deals, says Transmeta. In a graphic thermal imaging demonstration of a hapless mobile Pentium III alongside a Crusoe performing the same task, we saw the Intel part reach 122 degrees C and then die horribly (well, they did take its heatsink off, which hardly seems fair) while Crusoe kept its cool at a temperate 64 degrees and lived to fight another day. We're not entirely convinced that this demonstration proves much beyond how taking the wheels off a car will seriously impact its 0-60 time, but the pictures were very colourful. Transmeta's director of Low Power Programs, Marc Fleischmann, jetted in from Japan, where he had been admiring some prototype Crusoe notebooks, some of which he claimed were just one centimetre thick. Chernobyl He gleefully pointed to some Intel figures (which Fred Pollack must now regret publishing) which illustrated that in heat terms, the 0.5 micron Pentium Pro reached 10 Watts a square centimetre - the same heat output as an electric hotplate -, while a processor built on a ten nanometre process would attain around 250 Watts per square centimetre - equivalent to the temperature found in the core of a nuclear reactor. So having frightened the assembled company to death, Fleischmann continued by claiming that a Crusoe processor could run a soft DVD movie using the same power as a conventional CPU in a deep sleep state. And in a statement strangely redolent of Chipzilla's protestations that current benchmarks weren't good enough to show how wonderful Rambus was, Transmeta's technical marketing director, Daniel McKenna, said that application benchmarks using accelerated scripts 'measure the wrong stuff' and were thus unfair to Crusoe. The company had therefore come up with its own benchmarks which showed impressive power consumption figures, but these were only obtainable by using a heavily instrumented machine and McKenna said it would be extremely difficult - if not impossible - to run the same tests on an X86 notebook. So there we have it - you can compare different Transmeta machines with each other, but you can't compare them with a conventional notebook, and that's official. The assembled company was assured that the first Crusoe notebooks would be in the shops in time for Christmas. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Jul 2000