28th > July > 2000 Archive

Rambus, Pentium 4: The Hall of Mirrors

Back in June we revealed that Taiwanese OEMs were holding off implementing the first rev of the Pentium 4, because only two or three quarters after introduction, which we believe will happen in September, the Tulloch chipset supporting a 479 pin version of the microprocessor will supersede it. This week's admission by Intel that it is developing a PC-133 solution for the Pentium 4, probably ready in the second half of next year, only serves to remind us of that old fairground attraction known as the Hall of Mirrors, with everything distorted in whichever direction you look. This news, which was actually revealed by German magazine PC Welt back in May, has caused the Rambus share price to behave like a Bucking Bronco again. Yesterday, its share price closed at $66.6875. Since the stock split, its high was $127 on June 23. At the Intel Developer Forum last February, we repeatedly asked Peter MacWilliams, a top Intel executive and an Intel Fellow, no less, whether there was any possibility whatever that his company would introduce double data rate (DDR) memory for the Willamette. Earlier that day, Dr Albert Yu, a senior Intel VP, had demonstrated the Willamette to a packed press room, filled to overflowing not just with hacks but with a good sprinkling of Wall Street financial analysts. As his presentation continued, and as we tapped our story into a PC, we were more than a little surprised to hear two financial analysts sat bang next to us buying and selling Rambus stock, as Yu can imagine. The Rambus share price soared to dizzy heights during the course of that day, after a period where it languished in one of its troughs of despond. We are now asked to believe that Intel has taken a fresh view, and over the last couple of weeks, that PC-133 is, for some reason or other, the right kind of memory for the Pentium 4. MacWilliams then found it hard to answer the question why Willamette would use Rambus memory and Foster, the server version of the same microprocessor, would use DDR memory. Why, we might instead ask, has the Pentium 4 mirror now become concave rather than convex, and Intel's premier IA-32 chip will eventually use PC-133 memory, inferior to DDR memory and, if MacWilliams and a gaggle of other Intel bodies are to be believed, vastly inferior to Rambus? And, for this matter, does this latest excursion onto the Memory Bucking Bronco mean that Intel has now torn up its existing roadmaps and wants to start from scratch again? We're tempted to say "who bloody knows?" but will, instead, attempt to have a stab at understanding this latest szechuan. Intel will have three quarters or so to flog the Pentium 4 in its various speed revs, and using Ramboid RIMMs, before 479-pin Willamette and the Tulloch chipset emerges from the deep. (That's assuming Intel hasn't torn up the 479-pin version). Just one quarter or so after that, according to the latest info, we will begin to see PC-133 versions of a chipset for the Pentium 4, perhaps. In between times, Intel will introduce the Foster microprocessor. Although that was, according to MacWilliams and other, supposed to be using a DDR chipset, roadmaps we saw just a few weeks ago seemed to suggest that Rambus could now be an option for Foster too. How is Intel's i815 chipset doing? This chipset, pre-launched at this year's Computex, represented Intel's partial climbdown over PC-133 memory caused, mainly, because PC vendors and Taiwanese mobo makers were unhappy with Caminogate (the i820). We are now given to understand that the big US vendors, including Dell and Gateway, have moved to i815 based chipsets in many of their systems. And where are the DDR chipsets? We searched in vain at Computex for a sign of the times. ALi was "demoing" its DDR chipset, but back in June it wasn't working, and, realistically, it will be October or so before we see any of these in the real world. Intel, Rambus and Kingston Technology have told us during the course of this year that the price of RIMMs is falling and will fall. Yesterday, there was a further price cut in the price of Rambus. (Check out this informative page for pricing). The price of SDRAM has risen. So, perhaps, Intel has a cunning plan to take advantage of these movements, and flog as many Pentium 4-Tehama systems as it can, starting in September and continuing through the next three quarters. When we managed to get hold of the projected pricing of the Pentium 4, we were surprised at how inexpensive it was. And maybe all of the above is part of its reasoning. By the time its PC-133 Pentium 4 chipset is out, this time next year, it will have migrated the price of this microprocessor downwards, and introduced several speed and big cache revs based on Willamette technology. Being as paranoid about Via as it admits it is, it will be hoping that by this time next year, it has an offering for as many levels in the marketplace as possible. It's just that 479 pin version of Willamette that's bugging us a little... Sorry, there's going to be a lot of links to look at below. ® See Also The Dramurai Intel does u-turn on Willamette and synchronous RAM (May this year) Pentium 4 to use SDRAM Cheap Rambus memory on way AMD loose cannon in Intel-Via deal Via gives DDR ringing endorsement Rambus rambushes DDR camp Where the hell... are DDR chipsets? Rambus exec kicked out of DDR seminar Mosel predicts rapid death of SDRAM Roadmaps Computex 2000 coverage Willamette to have triflingly short life Intel server maps show Foster incursion Intel's cunning server plans Intel revamps boxed chip roadmaps Tulloch, Willamette plans firm up Intel's view on DDR Intel roadmap times, they are a changin... Pentium 4 pricing revealed Intel's pricing: May to September Chip Pornography Pentium 4 pictures revealed
Mike Magee, 28 Jul 2000

Hamidi outlines proposed Intel class actions

The long history of litigation between Ken Hamidi and the Intel Corporation isn't going to go away real soon now, and in fact, is set to intensify. Hamidi, who is currently fighting a summary judgement in the US courts following an action Intel took against him, revealed to The Register earlier this week that whether his appeal against the judgement fails or not, he will initiate two class action suits against the firm just as soon as a fresh verdict is handed down. The actions he is proposing are allegations that Intel is unlawfully withholding Californian "salaried exempt" employees out of overtime pay, and that its employees are suffering health risks. Although Intel will not yet have received details of these proposed actions, there is no doubt that the firm will fiercely contest any such suits brought by Hamidi and his organisation FaceIntel. Hamidi told The Register by email: "In the US, according to federal labor laws, if a person has a four year degree [he or she] is considered exempt from overtime pay. With the exception of California all states that Intel has major sites in, like Chandler Arizona, Albuquerque New Mexico, and Portland Oregon follow the federal law, therefore Intel is lawfully not paying for the overtime that exempt employees like engineer and most of administrative employees work. "As you probably know an Intel engineer works between 20-30 hours of overtime per week in the US. But in California there is a different labor law, which supersedes federal labor laws. In California only if a professional is required to have a special licence like lawyers, doctors, nurses, CPAs and so forth, [is her or she] exempt from overtime pay. Therefore, employees like engineers who are only required to have a college degree or any other person who is required to have a college degree is not considered exempt from overtime pay only because he or she is categorised as "Salaried Exempt". "It's merely the responsibility of the employer to make sure that employees are properly and adequately get compensated for their earned wages." His contention is that Intel therefore owes its employees a great deal of money in back pay. "The statute of limitation for back paid overtime and wage issues in California is three years, and that means that thousands of former and current employees of Intel can come forward and claim for every single hour of overtime that they have worked in last three years. This can be... certified as a class action lawsuit." The second law suit Hamidi is proposing relates to an alleged health endangerment risk to Intel employees. "Semiconductor fabrication factories use more and the most dangerous toxic chemicals than any other industry." He said that the rates of cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, immune system diseases, and reproductive system diseases amongst fab workers is much higher than with other workers. "When employees get sick or start having health issues they naturally go to see their doctors, who are usually general practitioners," he said. "These doctors, due to lack of training will only treat these patients for the symptoms, whatever they may be. GPs may send them to the specialist for cancer treatment, immune system problems, or [whatever the problem]. These specialists also will only treat these patients for that particular medical issue and ... fail to look for the cause of the disease," Hamidi claimed. Hamidi's version of his long and different legal actions against Intel past and present can be found here. If Intel chooses to comment on these allegations, and normally it declines to when legal cases are involved, we will update this story later in the day. ® See Also Intel vs Hamidi e-mail case continues
Mike Magee, 28 Jul 2000

X-Box design ‘complete’ – MS demos microbrowser, set top box

A few dates and figures escaped from Microsoft's briefing for financial analysts yesterday, which largely returned to recent presentations. But Whistler will be called Windows 2000 Consumer, and a beta is promised "soon"; the Windows 2000 DataCenter will ship on August 11; the delayed Windows 2000 Service Pack on August 1; and the X-Box SDK was made available for download. We presume by invitation only, as we couldn't find it on the X-Box site. More from us on Whistler later today. The consumer division showed off the Thomson, Philips, Microsoft TV set-top box, which Gates referred to last Comdex. It has two digital tuners and will be able to save over 35 hours of broadcast date from "any data type". Thomson is also involved in the X-Box, contributing DVD and intellectual property. The X-Box is beginning to look like a very big spend indeed for Microsoft, has apparently already financed NVidia to the tune of $200m to create a new graphics processor for the console, which will be manufactured by Flextronix. Senior VP of the Microsoft's games division Robbie Bach said that the hardware design was complete and the 30 games were in development. "Retailers want a 'balance in the ecosystem' - it drives a lot of traffic." But neither of the wireless appliance demos went as smoothly as the now familiar X-Box demo. A Sony GSM smartphone was brandished on the stage, but this turned out to be a mock-up only. A demo using Compaq's new "Windows Powered" handheld which was intended to show how real web sites could be viewed on the small screen was terminated when the browser crashed (the demonstrator blamed the 802.11 wireless network), and the speech dictation system discarded a dictated memo. Both applications have been bought in, from British companies STNC and Entropic respectively, so both clearly need more integration. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Jul 2000

Blair gets RIP thanks to a few sleepy MPs

The government managed to slip its email snooping plans through the House of Commons on Wednesday night. Not that it proved too difficult - no more than 30 MPs made the effort to attend (out of 659, making it a 4.5 per cent turn out) for the consideration of the Lords amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) bill. But who can blame them? By the time the House got around to debating RIP it was almost 8pm BST and those remaining wanted to get the bill out of the way as soon as possible (last orders is still last orders). The Government timed it brilliantly - especially as this was the last week of Parliament before the kiddies' summer recess. A report by two Internet security experts, which described RIP as "technically inept" and listed ways in which even non-Web savvy individuals could dodge RIP, was dismissed out of hand by Home Office Minister Charles Clarke. Clarke did not go into detail about why the research was wrong - it was apparently enough that he did not accept its comments. He was not challenged. In fact, hot bed is not a phrase you'd use to describe the debate. The Liberal Democrats stood up, said they were pleased with the Lords amendments, and then sat down again. Their chief speaker, Richard Allan, had to leave after around half an hour. It was not explained why. For the Tories, it seemed to be more a matter of self-congratulation - since at least some of their proposals got made into amendments to the bill via their pals in the House of Lords. At least all the Lords amendments were agreed to, but the bill, which threatens to scare business away from Britain and cost taxpayers at least £20 million, passed through the Commons with little fanfare just before 10pm. ® Related Stories MPs unite in RIP love-in How to dodge RIP RIP Bill
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 2000

Win2k successor Whistler to beta in October

Microsoft is poised to release the first beta of Whistler, the successor to Win2k, and is expected to hit the market in the second half of next year. We have of course heard this sort of stuff from Microsoft before, but when Windows division senior VP Brian Valentine delivered the hostages to fortune to journalists yesterday, he was likely speaking from a position of some confidence. The Whistler beta has slipped somewhat, but not disastrously - it's likely to show its head above the parapet in October. And Microsoft is building on something it's got already this time, so it's revving Win2k rather than reinventing it over a period of three to five years. Whistler will be out in business and consumer flavours (but if you think about it, the customisable skinning facilities allow it to come out in many flavours). Once it ships, Microsoft will have finally achieved a single, unified codebase, at least for its PC operations, and it will be able to implement simple, dare we say trivial, revs a la Win9x. Which makes the analysts comments yesterday more than a little bizarre - these guys do follow Microsoft, don't they? Some of them, speaking to Reuters "off the record" (at Microsoft's request, for reasons we can't fathom) said releasing Whistler so soon after WinME could hurt the latter's sales, as buyers held off for the big one. Um, when something's off the record you don't print it, Reuters - we trust you meant "non-attributable." But one would have thought the analysts would have seen a pattern establishing itself over the past few years. There were revs of Win95 under the one banner, but then in 1998 we had Win98, in 99 Win98 SE, and in 2000 we're getting WinME. Microsoft issues a new rev of its consumer OS every year, and packages it as a new version, even though no great hill has been climbed (which is the reason why it can put out a new one every year. The unnamed analysts are therefore confusing one class of MS product, whole new OS (NT, Win95, Win2k) with the other, pseudo-point release class. The Win2k service pack 1, itself somewhat delayed, will meanwhile be out next week. As Whistler's being built on the debugged Win2k, there's a coincidence, right? ® Related stories: X-Box design 'complete' - MS demos microbrowser, set top box New UI types hidden in Windows Whistler preview code Preview version of Windows Whistler released Reuterspeak Update: The systems delivering Reuters stories over the wires continue to barf entertainingly. If this keeps up we may have to start a whole section for them. We're intrigued by the copyright position, incidentally. If Reuters had produced this deliberately then we'd clearly be breaching copyright by reproducing it. But does Reuters hold copyright on accidental machine-generated gibberish? We'd appreciate a call from any passing Reuters legals. Anyway, here's the latest episode, which moves effortfully from X-Box, via the US Senate, to military budgets. And a big hello to President Clopriators: "REDMOND, Wash. (Reuterseks to unseat Sony Corp. from the top spot in thinancial analysts at the company's headquarterso this half-hearted. It's a long-term investmentt in October. "The Xbox will also take on a peppered with references to how the Xbox will deliver better graphics and sound than Playstation 2, as welllion in sales of consoles, games and accessorie) graphics chip, a DVD player and the ability terious progress in bringing Xbox to life," Bac as key footholds in the living room. "The PC market is very important to us because it's where a lot "Xbox really is designed to penetrate that marould be released aftewards. Bach said developmeft would collect a royalty on Xbox games published by other vised final vote, details para 18) "By Johnst week that would boost military pay and broaden pharmacy access for military retirees. Supporters sai"This is a disgrace," McCain said of the spending measure. "It has millions and millions and millions of dollars devoted to projects that have nothing to do with national defense." "The legislation, the result of a House-Senate negotiating conference that worked out spending differences between the two chambers, now goes to President Clopriators to revoke accounting gimmicks included in an emergency spending package last month that provided mte Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevented by Clinton. "Included is a $963 millioncentives. The measure also provides $1.8 b to equip a second unit capable of deployment within 96 hours. The funds also will help accelerate creation of a lighter, quicker combat vehicle capable of fighting like a tank."
John Lettice, 28 Jul 2000

US buckles on export subsidies to MS et al, but ups them $1.5bn

The US is retreating in the latest skirmish of the trade war with the EU, and will revise the controversial foreign sales corporation system that, according to World Trade Organisation rules, gave illegal export subsidies to the likes of Microsoft and other major US exporters. More than half of US exports go through FSCs, and it is estimated that in 2001, the export subsidies under the scheme would have amounted to $4.1 billion. Faced with the prospect of a $26 billion import tax retaliation by the EU from 1 October if the US didn't repeal the FSC legislation, the House Ways and Means Committee voted 34-1 yesterday on a new bill. In May, the EU said that US proposals at that time "did not meet basic WTO requirements". It is expected that the new bill will pass the House and Senate by the WTO deadline. US Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat said he hoped that the EU would endorse the proposal in the bill. No longer would it be necessary for US corporations to set up subsidiaries in tax havens to get FSC tax credits: instead, the subsidies would be received directly, which looks like a rather similar fiddle to us. The new system would also give partial US tax exemption to more companies than the present system, and would cost an additional $1.5 billion over five years. The new program would also apply to non-US corporations having US operations. The US IT industry will be holding its breath, hoping that the proposal is accepted by the EU. Net tax wars still raging Eizenstat has also been letting off steam about EU proposals to tax digital commerce by requiring value added tax to be added to consumer transactions, even if the product is sold by a non-EU vendor. US vendors would be required to register in an EU country, to collect the tax and remit it to the proper authority. Eizenstat said this violated "the bedrock principle of tax neutrality", and that electronically delivered products like books, newspapers and software would attract a higher rate than their physical equivalents. Well of course, he's not quite right there: in the UK but not in most of Europe, there's no tax on knowledge in the shape of printed publications, but there is a silly anomaly that if there is a floppy disk in the back of the book (or microfiche come to that), the whole item is subject to VAT. Eizenstat also ranted that the EU VAT proposal could result in e-commerce suppliers having to reveal the addresses and purchasing habits of their customers. He should have looked at the paperwork required to send goods to the US before he tried this one. But there was more to come: he was concerned that "there could be a shift on the part of [EU] consumers to seek out sites that have not yet registered and do not collect taxes". Shock horror. Eizenstat favoured resolving complex, multi-jurisdictional questions through the OECD, as does the EU, but the OECD is still studying the matter and will not report until next year. The US has decided for the time being to allow state and local taxes to be waived on inter-state commerce via the Internet, while retail shops have to charge the taxes. With an increasing amount of purchasing likely to be done online, it is a situation that is unlikely to last since states and cities significantly rely on income from sales tax. Not much attention has yet been given to imports to the US from overseas, but problems are beginning to arise. What about phone companies then? For its part, the EU has threatened the US that there would be retaliation if Deutsche Telekom were not allowed to complete its $50.5 billion purchase of VoiceSteam Wireless, since a refusal would contravene the 1997 WTO telecommunications accord. There is US concern that DT is still part-owned by the German government. The 1934 US legislation that prevented non-US companies acquiring US telecoms carriers was not repealed when the US signed the WTO telecoms accord. The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States would have to approve any deal, as would the FCC and the DoJ. Well, bananas? It would seem that the banana wars between the US and the EU (which the US won, but was smacked by the WTO for jumping the gun on enforcement) were just the opening skirmish in a trade war, and that escalation is more likely than a peace treaty. But with the WTO being more powerful than either the EU or the US in international trade matters, let us hope that sanity prevails and there are no new taxes. As for the future of the trade war, a bizarre provision in the US FSC replacement proposal will allow US arms makers a double tax deduction on exports. That's a hard one to rationalise. ®
Graham Lea, 28 Jul 2000

Minor Dramurai tumbles to Rambus

Bloomberg is reporting that Oki, a maker of synchronous DRAM memories, has agreed to license both DDR and SDRAM patents from Rambus Ink. That should give Rambus' share price a kick up the pants, given that it has been in freefall ever since Intel confirmed it would create DDR and SDRAM chipsets supporting its up-and-coming Pentium 4 chip. Although Oki is not one of the biggest memory manufacturers in the world, the agreement acts as a warning to other, bigger Dramurai, and, like Toshiba it will be forced to pay extra royalties to Rambus for the privilege of using patents which the Mountain View IP company believes belongs to it. You can find the Bloomberg story here. ® See also Rambus, Pentium 4: The Hall of Mirrors (analysis)
Mike Magee, 28 Jul 2000

I wanna be – Sledgehammer

[Mike heard from a little birdie that AMD was expected to ship its 64-bit microprocessor, codenamed Sledgehammer as early as next month. He also heard that OEMs would introduced Sledgehammer servers in Q4 of this year. However the next day, he awoke to find a torrent of emails informing him he was totally wrong. Mike was then approached by the PR boys at AMD, unprompted. Of course, he wrote about that too. Here are just a few of those replies] AMD's Kludgehammer we haven't accelerated it Compaq to intro AMD Sledgehammer servers AMD Sledgehammer samples ship AMD Sledgehammer Apocalyptic Your sources must be confused with the Mustang for servers. It would make sense for those samples to be ready or shipping. Mustang is supposed to come out around Q4 and is meant for servers. I don't think "The Hammer" has even taped out yet let alone have first silicon ready. Take care, Mike There has been much discussion on the SI AMD thread about your story on Compaq and Sledgehammer. Most there tend to believe wires were crossed and that the Compaq machines are going to be with the Mustang and not the Sledgehammer. From what I have seen about the Sledgehammer, they have been talking about sometime in 2001 for first silicon. So my question to you, is this really the Mustang that Compaq will be featuring or is the Sledgehammer actually sampling to OEMs? Regards Ed Placencio Are you certain that you haven't made a colossal error with your claims that Sledgehammer will ship this year? This all sounds like Mustang on the 760 SMP chipset, which is supposed to ship this year, and not Sledgehammer which is not supposed to ship until next year. I predict that you are making a mistake similar to The Register's claims earlier this year that Willamette would be shipping, when in fact, it was just faster PIIIs. Steve This is from Brian Neal in his opening page news section: Update: Thanks to Lars, who posted the link to this latest Register article that claims Compaq will introduce Sledgehammer-based servers as early as the fourth quarter of this year. This seems far too early for a Sledgehammer introduction, considering it would potentially be pushing the next generation chip ahead of Mustang and its derivatives. Though we can't say for sure, it seems likely that AMD or The Register has used the Sledgehammer codename in reference to Mustang. I'd also like to add that it may be the case that Mustang has more architectural changes than we initially thought. We are looking to clarify this issue, and as always, any reader insight is appreciated. Wanna confirm or deny his hypothesis? Are you sure that Compaq/etc are going to introduce SLEDGEHAMMER servers in Q4 of this year? AMD's schedule has Mustang (the server version of Athlon with Corvette core and large L2 cache) being introduced by Q4, along with AMD's 770 (aka 760-MP) 2-way SMP chipset. This is meant to be AMD's first ever server offering. The schedule for Sledgehammer (at least until your story broke) had the chip sampling in Q1 2001, with availability in LATE 2001. Are you sure that the AMD server chip being talked about isn't Mustang rather than Sledgehammer? For AMD to be a full year ahead of schedule (much as I would like to believe it) seems inconceivable! Ben Bridgwater I've been following you for some years, and while over that time I have been warned to take your news with a grain of salt, however your clairvoyance is too remarkable for me to ignore, and if a mistake is made, than that's what happens, it's the IT industry and Merced was suppose to be out in 1998, everyone makes mistakes :), as for Intel doing 64-bit x86, that is hard to swallow, giving all there troubles trying to push EPIC as a viable platform, however if push came to shove I do believe Chipzilla would do it. Willy was also suppose to be their last IA-32 processor, but we all know that's not going to be the case. U-turns all the time. Mark If you want a further fix of the Vulture Central Mailbag click here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

breathe email

Dear customer, You may have seen in the press or on the web that we have taken action to remove users from the breathe freely service. We have taken this action in the interests of retaining the quality of service for the vast majority of users who do not use unmetered access in a manner that affects the service levels of other subscribers. The breathe freely service was developed to provide toll-free access for customers at any time of the day regardless of peak or off-peak hours. This was intended to enable a reasonable level of free access to the internet for home and personal use. Some users have operated businesses using breathe freely, others have used complex software to emulate activity while they are away from their PCs. This in turn has created a situation whereby the service suffers from artificial capacity bottlenecks in our switches, reducing quality of service for all users. We have taken the decision to discontinue the service to individuals with extreme usage levels for the good of the wider majority. Maintaining a high quality of service is dependent upon your goodwill in continuing to use the service sensibly. We will not seek to impose limits per user because this is artificial and not in the spirit of our relationship with you. Equally though, this spirit needs to be two-way in that excessive usage affects the ability of everyone on breathe freely to enjoy the service. breathe do not wish to follow the recent actions of other ISPs who have had to withdraw service due to excessive usage patterns. We will continue to take positive action against those users who are affecting the service levels of others. We look forward to your continuing support of breathe and hope that you will feel that we have taken a responsible approach in maintaining a quality product for all our users. Kind regards The breathe team
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

ISPA's war of words

From: NICHOLAS LANSMAN, Secretary-General, ISPA UK To: LineOnE I have been asked by the ISPA Council to write to you in response to a large number of complaints ISPA has received since the beginning of the week regarding Line One's recent decision to cancel its free unmetered Internet Access service. The complaints received are all of a similar nature, and mainly concern the fact that no refund as been offered to Line One customers who signed up to this service. I have attached a selection of the complaints we have received for your information. While a £20 credit on voice calls made via the Quip telecom service has been offered to customers, as well as the opportunity of joining BT's Surftime, many customers are angry that they have not been offered a refund of the initial £20 that was paid for the service. Many of the complainants have alleged that they do not use Quip for voice calls and only signed up for this service because it was part of the package for free Internet access. The high demand for unmetered Internet access was obvious in the present marketplace and the Council feel that customers who signed up to the service in good faith should be adequately compensated. It is the view of the ISPA Council that the compensation that has been offered to date is unsatisfactory. As you are aware, all ISPA members must abide by the ISPA Code of Practice. Under section 2.4 of the Code, members must 'in its dealings with consumers, other businesses and each other... act decently, fairly and reasonably at all times.' It has been alleged by some complainants that Line One have breached this section of the Code. It is also alleged that Line One have breached section 2.3 of the Code by advertising the service and accepting new subscribers long after market forecasts were succeeded. 2.3 Honesty 2.3.1 Members shall use their reasonable endeavours to ensure Services (excluding Third Party Content) and Promotional Material are not of a kind that are likely to mislead by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise. If such allegations are true, this may mean that Line One also finds itself in breach of section 3 of the Code, which states: 3. Promotion 3.1 Scope 3.1.1 Members must use all reasonable endeavours to ensure that Promotional Material transmitted by radio, television, teletext, telephone, facsimile or any other form of communication must observe the provisions of this Code and the Codes of Practice published by the Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority (where relevant) in the manner most reasonable and appropriate to the technology employed. 3.1.2 Promotional Material must also comply with the provisions of the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion which are supervised by the Advertising Standards Authority. 3.1.3 Services and Promotional Material shall comply with the Code of Practice applied by ICSTIS when access to them is made via a premium rate telephone call. 3.1.4 In addition to the codes of practice referred to in Clauses 3.1.1 to 3.1.3 above, Members must also comply with any other code of practice expressly regulating Promotional Material. 3.2 Pricing Information 3.2.1 Members must ensure that charges for Services are clearly stated in relevant Promotional Material. Members must make clear whether any such charges quoted are inclusive or exclusive of VAT. Where additional charges, for example on-line charges, are payable this should be stated. 3.2.2 Members must use reasonable endeavours to ensure that textual pricing information relating to charges for Services is accurate, up to date, legible, prominent and presented in such a way that does not require close examination. All members of ISPA are obliged to comply with the Code. We consider on the basis of the information provided to us that Line One is in breach of the above provisions of the ISPA Code. Please provide to us in writing, within 7 days from the date of receipt of this letter, full details of how you propose to resolve the complaints. Failure to provide us with and implement a satisfactory proposal for dealing with these complaints is a serious issue for Line One, not only because it undermines the position of ISPA (of which you are a member) as a self-regulatory body, but because it calls in to question Line One's agreement to comply with the Code. It is the recommendation of ISPA Council that customers of Line One are provided with the option of accepting a full refund of the £20 they paid to received the service, alongside the other offers of compensation. I feel it is important to point out that none of the complaints received by ISPA refer to the standard or quality of service provided by Line One. On the contrary, many appear to be more than satisfied with the service they have received. However, while Line One is a valued member of ISPA, it is important that ISPA is not discredited by its' members in any way. The decision to write this letter has not been taken lightly and ISPA has only on a few occasions, in the entire history of the trade association, had to take such action. However, the volume of complaints ISPA has received about Line One because of this issue is almost unprecedented, and therefore necessitates such action. I look forward to receiving your comments and proposals. Yours sincerely, NICHOLAS LANSMAN Secretary-General, ISPA UK
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

Euro2000 forces women online

Women flocked to the Net in June to escape football on TV, according to the latest research from new media pollsters, NetValue. As men settled down in front of their TVs to watch Euro2000, women hopped online to escape the quadrennial soccer tournament. According to NetValue, almost 44 per cent of Net users in Britain during June were women - an increase of six per cent on the previous month. The researchers claim this pattern was replicated throughout Europe. "One conclusion that can perhaps be drawn is that, whilst Europe's top strikers were finding the net on the pitch, European women were surfing the Net off it," said the report. "This trend in the rapid growth of women online in June occurred across Europe, and suggests that as men were watching football, more women were going online." Now, this may raise a smile from some men out there who remember, with some fondness, being left in peace to watch the footie while their partners "did something else" around the house. Indeed, they may even feel smug about how they managed to watch all the Euro2000 matches without so much as a peep of interruption. Think again boys. NetValue claims that 2.8 million women visited e-commerce sites in June - an increase of 400,000 on the previous month. Checked you credit card bill lately? ® Related Stories Internet could be 500 times bigger than we think Email: spammers, hoaxers, workers, watchers
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

Oracle boss no pirate, a jury rules

Larry Ellison may not have a problem poking his nose into other people's garbage, but never let it be said that the man does not pay his bills. Despite conflicting testimonies, a California jury took just two hours to dismiss a case against Ellison for non-payment of sales commission. Yacht-broker Michael Rafferty was suing the Oracle boss for $490,000 in damages against unpaid commission to the tune of $700,000. The jury also threw overboard claims by Rafferty against the selling broker, who was paid $500,000 for his part in the deal. Rafferty said that he thought he had a case, and was disappointed by the decision. He told reporters: "I figured they would know who was telling the truth. I honestly believed I had a case or I would not have wasted four years of my life." While on the stand, Ellison claimed that his search for the boat was in part done to impress a woman. He said that his first time on board was just like being in a James Bond movie. He has since sold the Sakura, and bought two larger vessels. The Reg wonders who these ones are intended to impress.® Related Stories: Larry Ellison buys his way into America's Cup team
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 2000

MS plans subsidised X-Box street price, $500m promo blitz

Microsoft will subsidise the street price of its X-Box games platform, due out next year, and is planning to spend $500 million in total on making the machine a success. The $500 million will cover subsidies, marketing and support to retailers and software developers, and will make X-Box Microsoft's biggest launch ever - according to Microsoft, that is. Microsoft's war chests tend to be just the teensiest bit imaginative, including quantities of virtual bucks that move around the columns but never quite leave the bank. In this case, however, necessity suggests that the sum is at least of an accurate order. Microsoft has already bought, co-developed and subsidised its way into the PC games market, and that process will continue with X-Box. So you could wonder if future purchases and deals with games developers would count as part of the spend, but if they did, it's reasonable enough, and if they didn't the total X-Box promo budget could actually be said to be a lot more. Microsoft will also have to put money into retail deals in order to get the channel fired-up and selling, and natch, it's going to have to promote it via advertising. All this will add up to a big number which Microsoft almost certainly can't yet quantify, so with some regret we'd probably best just call the $500 million claim a marketing pitch, and stick with the view that the total will be somewhere vaguely in that territory. But the user subsidy is interesting. This admission seems to have been a Ballmer blurt at the analysts' meeting, and while it's not an unexpected development, it's worth kicking around a tad. Game console makers generally do subsidise the hardware, just like the mobile phone companies and the cable companies, in the expectation they'll make their money out of software. Microsoft has clearly been moving in this direction (e.g. with the Web Companion, which we're sure will be subsidised, like its rival from AOL), and anyway it would have to do it in order to compete with Nintendo, Sega and Sony on hardware prices. But we've got a better grasp of the cost of what goes into X-Box than we do as far as a Playstation or Dreamcast is concerned. X-Box will have a Pentium III, custom graphics (which MS has already spent a lot on), 64 megs RAM and an 8 gig hard drive. By late 2001 you could be knocking out a pretty cheap PC based on these components, if you thought you could get anybody to buy it. So if Microsoft went for a serious subsidy, the street price would be 'pretty cheap PC minus X,' where X is the subsidy level. This alone might not be enough to take out Sony, but we have here another blurt. Games division senior VP Robbie Bach reveals that it'll link into WebTV and MSN services, and while this is again logical beyond the point of obvious, it gives Microsoft a potentially huge advantage. Microsoft can put out a PC-like (minus the crashes, we trust) device at ultra low prices that leverages the company's existing online and software assets, and that stands a chance of becoming the standard home gaming/communication/Internet appliance. It'll be out well in arrears of rivals from the existing console companies, but they have a lot of ground to make up, considering the cards Microsoft already holds. ®
John Lettice, 28 Jul 2000

Win2K SP1 ready to roll

The will it or won't it saga of the first service pack for Windows 2000 is finally at an end. M$ insiders told The Register today that SP1 has finally been released to manufacture after last minute hitches twice prevented the code going gold. The clever money is now on SP1 being available for download from Microsoft's site sometime on Monday, with CD copies of the 83Mb patch being available later for the modemly-challenged. ®
Andrew Thomas, 28 Jul 2000

Virgin.net to be split

Joint ISP venture Virgin.net is to be split by its owners Virgin group and NTL in a £240m deal, today's FT reports. The companies are understood to be bashing out an agreement that would let NTL take over Virgin.net's 560,000 dial-up Internet customers, while Virgin would get the service's entertainment and leisure portal. NTL is expected to pay Virgin up to £100m in cash and shares, which would leave Virgin with around two per cent of NTL equity. It is believed the two corporate giants disagreed over a possible flotation, while NTL vetoed a move to fold Virgin.net into Virgin.com. WorldCom released plans to divide off its consumer telephony business yesterday. The US telecomms company released the news following the failure of the proposed $115bn merger with rival Sprint. Wireless data services company OverNet Data saw shares jump from 115p to 275p yesterday on its first day of trading. This was in contrast to rival iTouch, which yesterday cut the price of its IPO - expected next Wednesday. BT has hired city advisors to spin off its Yellow pages business, and its Yell.com arm. The news has been interpreted as a step towards a possible £5 billion stock market float. BT itself reported a 27 per cent fall in pre tax profits, to a still considerable sum of £561 million from March to June. Fierce competition in the market and Cellnet's new mobile license are being blamed for the phone giant's poor showing. Nokia has warned that its third quarter earning will fall short of those from the second quarter. The move that has wiped E40 billion (£24.6 billion) off its market capitalisation and sent its stock price falling by more than 20 per cent, The FT reports. The profits are still expected to equal those for the same period last year. The company is blaming slow sales of its new higher margin products and delays in introducing new models. Investors ditched shares in Amazon yesterday on the back of disappointing results, causing the share price to drop 17.5 per cent. Shares in the e-tailer hit their lowest point since November 1998 - they fell more than $6 (£4) per share at one point before a recovery brought shares to close at $31.375, down more than $4.5. Shareholders have sent a stinging rebuke to the directors of Vodafone AirTouch for the £10 million bonus taken by CEO Chris Gent following the completion of the company's merger with Mannesmann. In a vote to approve the pay deal, many shareholders either abstained or voted against the measure, producing one of the biggest shareholder revolts in history. Of course, the resolution still got through, but Chris tried to calm shareholders down by investing most of the bonus back into Vodafone shares. The chairman gave an "unreserved apology". Server minders TeleCity saw its share price rise 2 per cent on the announcement of better-than-expected half-year results. Turnover jumped from £1.2 million to £4 million. The colocation market is having a second boom as existing companies run out of space. More e-tales can be found at Cash Register. ®
Team Register, 28 Jul 2000

It's a cybersquatting extravaganza!

You wait for a cybersquatting decision all day and then three arrive at once. Continuing the tradition of leftfield WIPO decisions though, the one loser out of the three was the only one whose name was actually used in its true form. And so Sting - you know, that bloke with the high-pitched voice out of The Police - has been told it's no go for www.sting.com. Just as well because the actual owner registered the domain in 1995 to set up his gaming site. His nickname is Sting and he reckons he has just as much right to it as Gordon Matthew Sumner (Sting's original name). Not that WIPO agrees with this assertion, but it did have to point out that the word "sting" is in fact a pretty bloody common one and so Gordon was pushing it a bit. (Looks at though he'll have to stick with his Compaq-sponsored site at www.sting.compaq.com.) The other crunch point was that yer man Mike Urvan who owns the site registered it in "good faith". And this, ladies and gentlemen is the obscure phrase that is all you will need to know when future decisions cause you to scratch your head. Thus to the winners: Reuters and Microsoft. Not much of a surprise really. Reuters took exception to a company - Global Net 2000 - which had registered five domains that were like its trademark Reuters name. These were: www.wwwreuters.com, reters.com, ruters.com, reuers.com and reutersnews.com. No, no, stopping laughing, it's true. And Reuters was so affronted it went to WIPO to get them back. (God, we only hope that there's a company called Reters (or ruters, or reuers etc etc). So how's this one work? "Good faith" - we've told you already. Probably didn't help that Global Net 2000 is Iranian either. WIPO misses nothing and discovered that the URLs were confusingly similar to the name Reuters. But again, the crunch is that Global Net had no legitimate use for them (it didn't appear to bother to put anything on them either). But hold on, before you reckon you can work out how WIPO works, along comes Microsoft stamping on everyone in its way. The URL this time is www.microsof.com (note the missing "t"). This is owned by a M$ reseller Tarek Ahmed. WIPO screams "bad faith" and away she goes. Apparently Microsoft at first approached Tarek pointing out the closeness of the two names and asked him if he'd like to give it to them for free. He said no. Then they kindly offered to pay him his registration fee. We reckon that Microsoft could probably pressure www.m.com to hand over its URL (not that they wouldn't deserve it - and yes, we know you can't really have single letter domain names). And so the crazy roundabout continues. Interestingly, the "cybersquatter" who was told to hand over www.juliaroberts.com to the hairy-armpitted one is refusing to do so until she contacts him personally. Which, if you think about it, makes a lot of sense. He's a little annoyed. As he explains on the site: "In Julia's WIPO filing, she mentions that Forbes magazine calls her 'The Most Powerful Woman on the Planet'. It's okay for Julia to think this: I sometimes like to pretend I am David Bowie, but I don't go round stealing people's Hunky Dory albums." Nuff said. ® Related links Sting WIPO ruling Reuters WIPO ruling Microsoft WIPO ruling www.sting.com www.juliaroberts.com Related stories Cybersquatting: Full Coverage We have the solution to cybersquatting
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

BT in muddle over sell-offs

Britain's telecommunications network would be easier to regulate if BT sold it off, the winged watchdog admitted today. Oftel's assessment came as BT confirmed it was looking into the possibility of spinning off its wholesale UK network enabling it to concentrate instead on retail and overseas businesses. A spokesman for Oftel confirmed that the regulator had discussed the matter with BT earlier this year on an informal basis. No formal communication has yet been received by Oftel from BT to demerge its network operation although BT has reportedly been in discussion with government over the proposal. Asked about the result of a possible demerger, a spokesman for the winged watchdog said: "It would make regulation simpler." Sir Peter Bonfield, BT's CE, said that he hoped to make a decision on the demerger by the end of the year but warned that spinning off the wholesale business was a "complicated" matter. Last month BT confirmed and denied - within the matter of a day or so - that it was also planning to sell off its broadband operation, BTOpenworld. ® Related Stories BT to sell off Openworld BT profits slump
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

Dipswitches, peanuts and more Duronic action

Will Asus have multiplier dipswitches or not? This is the question of the moment in hardware land it seems. The self described "peanuts" down under at Insane Hardware have gathered some info and posted it for your perusal here Part two of System Logic's Duron review is up online today. They reckon they managed to boost its performance by 11 per cent. Go here for more details. Now it is time for the battle of the acronyms at Planet Hardware. The major gaming companies are pitched in a shootout to find the best of the FSAA techniques used. More competitive action, but this time you get to join in. Fancy your chances of winning an Apha-PAL 30T? Check out Trainwrecker's site for contest details and a review. System Logic have again managed to provide something to amuse and distract a "working" surfer. They have published an article/rant (delete as you prefer) about tech support and bulletin boards. A potent mix, for sure. Go here to read it. Lastly, Fullon3D has interviewed Abit's Eric Boeing, live in the chat rooms. To find out what they nattered about, point your pointy pointer at this.® Still need more? Have a butchers at our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 2000

AMD exploring Dresden fab extension

AMD is exploring the options of opening an extension to its Dresden chip fabrication plant, it confirmed this morning. The firm's chief operating officer, Hector Ruiz, gave a press conference to the local press in Germany yesterday, but despite reports on some wires, AMD has not made a definite commitment to build in Dresden. However, a representative at AMD UK said this morning that the company is looking to build another fab for its microprocessors, and given the facility it already has near Dresden, this location is an obvious choice for exploratory talks. The plant, which opened for ramping business earlier this year, is partially funded by the local State government, partly by AMD, and partly by a consortium of banks. Ruiz is also reported to have claimed AMD will make a billion dollars in profits this year. ®
Mike Magee, 28 Jul 2000

Is the BT DoSer a tosser?

[We were contacted by a man who informed us he had brought down bt.com, btinternet.com and gameplay.com. He told us he'd done this because he was sick of BT's service. We ran with it in last week's letters and then this week found the program he had used for the attack. The letters kept coming] BT hacked: revenge for crap service Blood lust over BT hack attack (letters) Wanna know how BT.com was hacked? Am I the only Register reader who doesn't think the BT DOSer is a bit of a tosser? One thing that your story about the "BT hacked: revenge for crap service" missed was the fact that that Gameplay is not part of BT, but Gameplay did buy Wireplay which used to be owned by the Incompetent Telecoms Monopolist. Another point is that it meant that as a BT Internet customer, I could not access my Email during working hours yesterday, so the people who lost out were also BT Internet customers, something which the correspondents on the letters page seem to miss. I don't disagree that BT is a bit crap, but the one-man campaign for some sort of consumer justice seems to have hit a bit wide of the mark. Adrian Skerratt Just a quick comment on the sad little twat and two-hour BT cut-offs. If he can't cope with them why doesn't he just fuck off and leave those of us who read the T&Cs before we joined up alone? Noogie If you get in contact with that BT hacker again, give him my congratulations. I fully support his view. Being on BTfree myself and being subject to BTs crap service and 0 compression, I find that BT are slow fascist fuckers. Someone needs to kick their arses into line. Anyway, I've said my piece, I would like to know how many people support my point of view. Mark Rains [We also garnered some response with our refusal to provide a link to the Plague software which was seemingly used in the attack. Our reasoning behind this was clearly spelt out] I read your first story on BT's being DoS'ed with interest, as I'm a network security professional for an ISP here in the United States (this address is an old one from college; I don't use my "real" work address for any correspondences of a personal nature). Thus, I was also interested in your second story, particularly in the mention of a new DDoS tool called "Plague" being discussed in a zine. However, I have to take issue with your ommission of information on where to find out more regarding Plague. The fact is that new DDoS tools are not discovered often; usually they're just another rework of a similar and now-common tool, be it TFN or stacheldraht. If Plague is something truly new and different, that's information of tremendous value to those of us who wear the white hats in the great game of spy vs. spy which security sometimes (rarely) gets to be. Now, I can understand your point, and there is a large part of me that is grateful you didn't, in effect, hand the keys to a new DDoS tool to every script kiddie who reads The Register. The rest of me, however, wishes in such cases you'd, say, drop a line or make a submission to a respected security site. They're trusted sites who test new information thoroughly before releasing it in a responsible manner. Just a suggestion for the future. :) Regards, Michael Williams Hehehehe, Was just about to chuck you a mail to see if you would give out the directions to the exploit info when I read the last line. That said, we credit you the readers with enough intelligence to find out what you want to know. If it's that important to you, have a hunt around yourselves. Nice, excellent piece of writing! Really cool way of avoiding being flamed too! Keep it up! Trey A Mujakporue You mentioned at the end of your article that you wouldn't provide your readers with the info on ddos attacks etc, but said that it wasn't too hard to find if you knew what to look for. Well, you might like to know that it took me about 30 seconds after reading your piece to uncover a veritable goldmine. All thanks to your clever editing! It's pretty complicated stuff at first glance, but don't worry, I'm sure I'll suss it out quickly enough! Nice one mate! Jinn If you want more of a delve in our letter box click here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

Let's be careful out there

Sometimes IT companies fail to step back and take an objective view of the chosen name for their whizzo new products. Many years ago, Sir Clive Sinclair launched the QL - Quantum Leap. Uncle Clive wasn't the first - and certainly won't be the last - to believe that a quantum leap was a giant step forward rather than a very tiny movement indeed at the subatomic level. Worse still, but far more entertaining, are products with impenetrable strings of characters in their names which unfortunately bear a close resemblance to rude words. Many thanks then to reader George Coburn for pointing us at this product on the A-Trend site. ®
Andrew Thomas, 28 Jul 2000

BOFH is abysmal

My complaint about Mr. Simon, Bastard Operator From Hell (BOFH) I feel that there are better ways in which to disseminate the following information, but this letter will have to suffice. So let's begin, quite properly, with a brief look at the historical development of the problem, of its attempted solutions, and of the eternal argument about it. This is not wild speculation. This is not a conspiracy theory. This is documented fact. Mr. Simon Bastard Operator is terrified that there might be an absolute reality outside himself, a reality that is what it is, regardless of his wishes, theories, hopes, daydreams, or decrees. Don't be fooled: The fact of the matter is that nowhere in the Bible does it say, "The rest of us are an inferior group of people, fit only to be enslaved, beaten, and butchered at the whim of our betters". To top that off, Simon's abysmal rodomontades leave the current power structure untouched while simultaneously killing countless children through starvation and disease. Are these children his enemies? You may wonder why Simon's effusions are built on a backlash fueled by anger -- in the form of resentment, spite, vengeance, envy, loss, and bitterness over declining status -- on the part of judgemental amoral dirtbags. It's simply because there are two related questions in this matter. The first is to what extent Simon has tried to seize control of the power structure. The other is whether or not no matter what else we do, our first move must be to alert everyone that Simon has neither honor nor integrity, nor even knows what those words mean. That's the first step: education. Education alone is not enough, of course. We must also seek some structure in which the cacophony introduced by Simon's prognoses might be systematized, reconciled, and made rational. [It's about here that we started growing a little weary, so we should tell you that this was sent to us by a reader who had used a complaint generator on the Web. Click here to create your own. Right, sorry, back with the complaint] However self-pitying the national picture already is, he and I disagree about our civic duties. I contend that we must do our utmost to improve the physical and spiritual quality of life for the population at present and for those yet to come as expeditiously as possible. Simon, on the other hand, believes that it is his moral imperative to base racial definitions on lineage, phrenological characteristics, skin hue, and religion. If we take his refrains to their logical conclusion, we see that before long, he will promote the lie of paternalism. For heaven's sake, if you don't think that I am chagrined but resigned when I witness the indifference to the fundamentals of language that Simon displays, then you've missed the whole point of this letter. It is a figment of his runaway imagination that public opinion is a reliable indicator of what's true and what isn't. It is unclear whether this is because most pundits are uncertain about the magnitude of the threat posed by his jibes, because once he accepts responsibility for the problems he's caused, the focus shifts from who is responsible to what each of us can do about it, or a combination of the two. The only weapons he has in his intellectual arsenal are book burning, brainwashing, and intimidation. That's all he has, and he knows it. The bottom line is that Mr. Simon Bastard Operator's ebullitions are incompatible with the proclivities of instrumental reason. [Quite right] Our thanks to the magnificently titled Rev Dr Kirk D Bailey MsD ISCET for submitting the BOFH Flame, written by a computer complaint generator. Kirk has also sent us the diatribe against The Register, from the self same source. SIR; please accept this roasting in the spirit with which it was not intended- for the sender is a robot, which has no intentions whatsoever. This robot, knowing nothing whatsoever of you but the firm's name, did declare: [My complaint about The Register I just want to say one thing: The passage of time will make it clear to even the more slow among us that bettering the world is apparently the last item on The Register's "to do" list. Here's a quick review: This makes me fearful that I might someday find myself in the crosshairs of The Register's craven doctrines. (To be honest, though, it wouldn't be the first time.) The only winners in The Register's games are ambulance services and funeral homes. And I can say that with a clear conscience, because The Register keeps saying that nihilism and absenteeism are identical concepts. For some reason, The Register's cronies actually believe this nonsense. Ok, I admit that I was personally offended -- and I don't easily offend -- by the value The Register places on making me become increasingly frustrated, humiliated and angry. But life isn't fair. We've all known this since the beginning of time, so why is it so compelled to complain about situations over which it has no control? In short,the choice we face as a nation is whether to run our country ourselves or let nutty arrogant urban guerrillas run it for us. ® Here's the link to the complaint generator againhttp://www-csag.cs.uiuc.edu/individual/pakin/complaint
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

Dow Chemical sacks 50 over porn emails

Dow Chemical has sacked 50 staff and disciplined another 200 over dirty sex emails sent from company computers. The US chemical company said the action was taken "to protect our other employees." Material found included pornographic and violent images, AP reported. "This sort of activity creates a harassment environment that we can't tolerate," said Eric Gates, a representative of Dow's Michigan Operations. The move followed an investigation into the company's email system - sparked by a staff complaint in May. According to Gates, the company is not in the habit of snooping at employee emails on a regular basis. But on the back of the complaint it decided to monitor all email use during a one week period in May. Officials soon realised the problem was rampant, and ended up hauling staff at all levels into interviews. Those who had simply opened emails and deleted them were let off - but the company was more interested in those who downloaded, saved and distributed objectionable stuff. These faced suspension or the sack. No illegal material was found, but the representative said: "We're not talking about personal use of the computers and letters to mom." "There was a whole range of things, from mild pornography to very graphic pornography and some seriously violent images." Suspended Dow workers had to agree to a special one-year probationary period. Those who refused were fired. The action has already ruffled the feathers of a local union - The United Steelworkers of America local 12075 said it plans to investigate the firings. But Dow remains unswayed - it says it distributed books setting out company policy to employees last March. These publications apparently warned that computer use for personal and objectionable subject matter was a hanging offence. Last year the New York Times, Xerox and Rolls Royce all gave out P45s to workers accused of checking out offensive online material at work. ® Related Story Xerox fires 40 staff in porn site clampdown
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 2000
Stop sign in front of a bush. Image via Shutterstock

When 24/7 Net access ain't 24/7 Net access

breathe has admitted that its 24/7 unmetered Net access service was never meant to be used round the clock. Speaking to The Register today, breathe's COO and self-confessed Modern Urbanist, Sean Gardner, wanted to make it clear that any reference to a 24/7 unmetered service merely referred to its availability and not that it could be used non-stop around the clock. "When we describe the service as 24/7 we mean you can access it - that it is available - for this time," he said. "It is not meant to be a fully [always on] 24/7 unmetered access service," he said. Gardner's admission will, no doubt, generate greater incredulity among those heavy breathing Modern Urbanists who have already been kicked off the service for using it too much. However, some who were kicked off were business users and this was strictly against the Ts &Cs of the service, said Gardner. However, Gardner is keen to plough on regardless and is getting ready to launch a new 24/7 unmetered Net access service next month in a bid too recruit even more Modern Urbanists. The service will cost around £10 a month although an off-peak unmetered service will be available for around £5 a month. In essence, it will be based on the unmetered wholesale Net access product, FRIACO, even if FRIACO is not available by next month. ® Related Stories breathe rallies Modern Urbanists Heavy breathers winded by Net access rejection breathe is such a wheeze breathe suffers asthma attack Oh to be a Modern Urbanist
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

US and Europe finally agree on data protection

The EC has agreed a deal with the US which patches up previous disagreements over data protection. The problem stemmed from the fact that the US relies on a self-regulation system for the security of personal information - Europe on the other hand has gone for a legislative approach. Because of the opposing philosophies, an almighty row was brewing where data transfer would be blocked by the EC - not a great advert for e-commerce, or in fact modern communications. Still, it all been sorted, and this is the deal: companies in the US will sign up for a voluntary set of principles. Once this is done, access is free and easy. If, however, a company decides not to (sign up), it will have to negotiate individual contracts - a costly and time-consuming process. And so the two cultures arrive at compromise. Mind you this isn't as much a success as a necessity. The force behind an agreement is so huge that any blocks in place would have quickly buckled. It does come as a relief though that bureaucracy hasn't managed to disrupt the whole system through petty ego-led argument. Not everyone is entirely happy though. ISPs and comms firms are worried about the old opt in/opt out unsolicited email saga. To our mind, no one has yet to come up with a good explanation as to why the system should mean that ordinary individuals should have to contact companies to prevent receiving mail (opt-out). ISPs want it of course, but that doesn't mean anyone else does. Still, we remain open on the issue. As it stands, the measures will introduce an opt-in approach. This basically prevents massive abuse of the system - the most famous effect of which is spam. Of course, as resident realist John has pointed out, this deal also effectively allows the States to continue doing exactly what they were doing but to the cost of the stricter EC laws. Saving face anyone? ® Related stories Consumer watchdogs fail the Spam Test
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

Pedants of the world unite

[About half the emails we receive can be split into two categories. First, those that haven't read the article properly and so witter on about where we've gone wrong without realising we've answered that very question in the text. And secondly, those that read them far too carefully, or with a sense of humour bypass. Here's just a few from this week] The Register's repeated use of "forii" as the plural form of "forum" has finally pissed me off enough for me to write. According to the dictionaries I can find, the plural form of "forum" is either "for a" or "forums". The first is consistent with "data" as the plural form of `datum'. My understanding is that the "-ii" plural form is for words whose singular form ends "-ius". Thus the plural of "radius" is "radii" (I cannot find of another example of the use of this suffix). Of course, I may have just missed the carefully constructed joke in which this misspelling plays a crucial role. In which case, I offer myself for public humiliation as one who just does not get it. This is a minor complaint. I thank you for your insightful and irreverent coverage of the IT industry. Will Adams [This week's Flame of the Week, is a computer-generated complaint letter to Simon Travaglia, BOFH writer. That's computer-generated] Flame of the Week: BOFH is abysmal Grab a small clue, will ya? As far as I know, Simon and the whole gang in the BOFH series /DO NOT EXIST/. Catch that? One more time then. Simon and the whole gang in the BOFH series /DO NOT EXIST/. There. I find it hard to believe that someone would go into as much of a tirade on a piece of humor. Other than that, you had a very well written letter. Daniel McCaffery PS These are my opinions, and not those of my Employer. PPS I hate having to say that. [Tim wrote an "apology" to BT concerning its apparent summertime launch of ADSL. As was pointed out, BT didn't say it was necessarily the UK's summer] BT: An Apology I don't think you have anything to apologize for. I may not be a geographer, or a weatherman, but at least in Canada the "Summer Solstice" isn't until June 20-22 and the "Winter Solstice" is about the same dates in December. My understanding is this is the reverse for the other hemisphere so October & November would be accurately described as Spring, definitely not "late summer". My thinks BT be talking out its arse. Keep up the good work, I love your articles Actually, I think BT is still wrong on this matter. In my understanding, October in the Northern Hemisphere is Fall (aka Autumn). This would make October the Spring for the Southern Hemisphere. So... Is BT saying "Summer" for the Southern Hemisphere, which would make it Winter (ie January 2001) for the Northern? Or, are they really saying Summer for the Northern, which would mean they're late (for Y2K), or announcing vaporware (vapor-service?) for 2001? In short, take back your "Sorry". Keep up the good work. If you want some hot letter action click here. ® ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

German man arrested in Thai girl fiddle

A German man faces up to seven years in a Bangkok jail for fraudulently receiving money from American Don Juans who thought he was a Thai woman looking for romance. Rudiger Reischert, 50, - aka Thaee Maiyuran - used online singles clubs and lonely hearts services to con men into sending money for "her" to travel to West and meet them. The money was supposed to be used for visas and flights. Reischert managed to swindle at least 500,000 baht (£12,200) from guys interested in Thaee. He was rumbled by police earlier this week after an American contacted the authorities when Thaee failed to show up, according to AFP. Details of the scam are also detailed at allcities.net/thailand/thai-scam/which warns potential male suitors to stay away. It's not known whether the warning was published before police arrested Reischert. "Thaee Maiyuran of Bangkok suspected of running a scam!," screams the warning. "The scam involves singles ads by Thaee and maybe a friend Gun, whereby men inticed (sic)to ask her to visit him in the US, and wire funds to The Thai German Consult, supposedly for a visa and round trip air fare. "Trouble is, the visa is never applied for and the money is gone, and the man never hears from Thaee again," it says. The Geocities home page used by Thaee is now listed "under construction". ®
Tim Richardson, 28 Jul 2000

Yee-haw, Yankees get a-fiesty

[This being the IT industry, a lot of the articles we write concern the US. And it being the US, we are occasionally faced will appalling examples of what that big ole country can kick out. Refusing to do anything but attack any examples of poor human behaviour, we therefore invariably print negative comments about you lovely American citizens. The vast majority take it with the humour intended but we also have a thing here at Vulture Central where we wait for the headcase redneck to email whenever such a story goes up. This one was sparked by the Letters page last week] "Andrew is off on strange wanderings in deepest darkest America. He picked up a copy of USA Today and felt that familiar shot of agony when he realised what we could become. Lowest common denominator doesn't even come into it[.]" (I took the liberty of correcting your puctutation [we swear to God that was how it was misspelt on the email]. Or do you prefer to spell it "punctuasion" or some such nonsense?) After reading this and many of your other simple-minded slights against my country and those of us who live here, I have finally been driven to the point of dropping you a note to tell you that you're a real asshole. Normally I refrain from writing unless I believe I have something useful to offer, but you are such a perfect example of the stereotypical pompous Brit bastard, I finally had to take a shot at a new Flame of the Week with you in my gunsights. I can't imagine how you can be so proud to come from a country largely known for its nightmarish tooth decay, prodigious consumption of organ meats, and the unique distinction of having gained then pissed away control of most of the planet. The true "familiar shot of agony" comes when I see your name in a by-line. Have a nice day, Jon Check out more smoking letters at The Vulture Central Mailbag ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

EMI and MP3.com sort it out

EMI and MP3.com have reached a point of consensus over the copyright infringement suit filed by the record company against MP3 in April. The deal will allow MP3 to use EMI's material on My.MP3.com. It has been reported that MP3 will pay EMI around $20 million in damages and a royalty fee each time a user registers an EMI CD on the site. Another fee would be payable every time a user accessed one of the songs. MP3 has confirmed that cases are still pending against it from Sony Music Entertainment and Seagram Universal Music Group. These could cost the company billions if they are not settled. This settlement with EMI follows a US Judges ruling that Napster must cease trading. This ruling goes into effect at midnight tonight, Pacific Time. Napster maintains that real music fans would not abuse the system, and that some artists also support what the company is doing. Meanwhile, the fallout from the Napster ruling continues apace. Cutemx, a music download site from GlobalSCAPE, has announced that it is restricting access to its services "pending further developments surrounding the preliminary ruling in the Napster case." GlobalSCAPE's president, Sandra Poole-Christal, commented, "We believe this is the proper thing to do given the confusion over this technology in the market. While the legal issues are being resolved, we will continue to advance our real-time search technology to increase the amount of information available to consumers and make the Internet a bigger place."® Related Stories: Napster to close Friday EMI digital music service to debut next week
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 2000

And the best of the rest

[We wrote about Iraq's first ever Internet café. It's amazing. Just not very useful and a little scary. And no, we don't think this letter is either big or clever] Iraq's first Internet café opens up the world Shouldn't The Register be in the forefront of the Iraqi e-revolution? Why don't you have a contest to name the Bhagdad Internet Cafe? Some suggestions include "The Internet of the Chaldees", "The Sargon Connection", "The Internet Ur Us", "Gilgameshnet", "The Fertile Croissant", "The Old Woman of Ba'ath", "Kish and Tell", "The Little Nippur","Ninevah On Sunday", and"Hammurabi Alley". Frequenters of the cafe will also be able to send messages via "Ishmael". The lucky winner whose entry is used to name the "Mother of all Internet Cafes" will be a guest at a Scud and poison gas party hosted by the Overclocker of Bhagdad, himself, Saddam Hussein. Please don't Hittite me for making the suggestion. Yours Faithfully, Robert M. "To Ur is Human" Schwartz [Stephen King is to sell his latest book online. The odd thing is you buy the chapter once you have read it. A reader tries this out and found one fundamental flaw] Stephen King's online book sales wilt Of course only a mean spirited bounder would suggest that sales are not that hot because the book's not actually very good. (And yes, I have read it - and paid for it, too.) I've read my fair share of King books, but this online effort's really a bit crap. Plus, looking at the maths side of things, for your $1 you get approx 20 pages (a lot of which are very spaced out pages). So for an average 300/400 page book (and his books have a habit of going on for more than that) you might be looking at $15-20. Hmmm - I think I'll wait for the £4.99 paperback at WHSmugs. Kind regards Charlie Robin [Bluetooth's great ain't it? The stuff you can do with it. It's just incredible. Change the world. Now where the bloody hell is it?] More Bluetooth hype... Maybe it's just my cynical side but I think we have been hearing this statement from researchers all too often: "The researchers indicate that demand for the products will be consumer driven..." Oh really? Well PRAISE JESUS, I didn't know that I had so much power (says the consumer). Actually what them there researchers all want to say is this (more like the way of the World Federation of Wrestling): "Man, your business is just going to up and die if you don't use our BlueFANG technology. Every refrigerator, every vacuum cleaner every thing on this whole damn earth is going to be networked to the FANG. The consumer?...ha....ha...ha, we tell them bastards how to eat, how sleep and how to beep. We're going to ram this stuff down their throats and they are going to like it!!!" And of course only after it doesn't work, after they have spent millions marketing, manufacturing and shipping...only then...in the case that it doesn't turn out the way they planned, do they fall back on their previous statement about the all-knowing consumer and his/her demand. No researcher ever says this: If they don't want it; we can't sell it. And why is this the case? Because they'd look like indecisive little pansies that don't know anything--Of course they have to be reserved in front of the press so they say something lame like "demand for the products will be consumer driven". Every one of these researchers have a completely different jargon at the office away from the press. They mostly act like people the World Federation of Wrestling as I mentioned above. Isn't that the reason why Scott McNealy of SUN is so exciting to listen to? He doesn't give lame press statements. There. I feel much better. Bill [Linda witnessed first hand the passing of the much-contested RIP Bill, which will effectively allow the police to snoop on the UK Internet traffic. She was seriously underwhelmed by the perfomance] Blair gets RIP thanks to a few sleepy MPs This has to be the most disgusting political scene I have ever witnessed. There should be an immediate lynching of all politicians - it is now open season - shoot on sight! What a lousy, lazy, superficial, dishonest bunch of lowlife scabs they are. Where were the 90+ per cent of the "elected" representatives? Off screwing the taxpayer? If only 4.5 per cent even bothered to attend to the vote in such a half-arsed manner, what signal does that send to the rest of the world? Britain outdoes Australia for stupidity - Australia relinquishes the crown. Or - Third world rejoice - mass exodus of high tech [Email ends suddenly. Another turns up 17 minutes later] Damn - hit the send key before being finished... From here in Australia, watching the absolute bullshit espoused by ignorant, overpaid politicians (same in Australia), I am absolutely amazed that such a low point could be achieved by the country that founded one of the fairest legal systems in the world. This is a very dark day for British people. You are going to have to get militant to fight for rights that the government has absolutely no mandate to abuse. From now on, any correspondence to my British friends will always be encrypted to the max. As we might say - "This just ain't British". Jeff My PGP public key is attached, just in case the Gestapo try to stop you from replying. Subject: last orders is still last orders Not at the House of Commons bar it isn't - it's open 24 hours so that out hard-working representatives can relax after a long day counting their backhanders. Neil Boyle If you want to check out what happens when we empty our sack go to The Vulture Central Mailbag ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

Spot Register Mem prices fall

Drives this week are in a state of stasis, largely because of the Quantum hard drive story which we reported last week. Last week everything was in a freny. Marco will update us, come September. ® Memory Prices are down slightly this week, because demand is still on the low side. The 64/100 major brand is now generally sold @ $64.00 (2nd tier brand @ $61.00) while the 64/133 major brand is selling at $65/66.00 (2nd tier $63.00), with PC-133 finally taking the lead on traded volumes. Moreover DIMM manufacturers & brokers are more than happy to give extra/back-door discounts for significant orders. The rumours are that DRAM manufacturers are ramping up production for PC-133 and that big OEMs are contracting Q3 supplies on downtrend. The general feeling is that, if in September, the demand will not be strong the memory market will go down significantly. CPUs The situation for CPUs is more or less the same. Low demand is driving prices down slightly, especially on PIII700, 750 & 800, which are plenty available on the open market. Prices for PIII600/650 are up slightly since availability is decreasing. Here are today's and yesterday's prices, on memory. PIII 600 $180/190 PIII 700 $190/200 PIII 750 $240/245 PIII 800 $290 We shall resume this series early September, as we said last week. ®
Mike Magee, 28 Jul 2000

Readers' Letters: You hate us this week

We had a fair few emails concerning the different layout of the letters page last week. Most liked it. A few told us they were scroll animals. Some asked for alterations. So, this is the deal. The basic click-through for letters on individual stories stays. We like it more and you, as a rule, prefer it. So sorry to those that go for the scroll. And yes, we will remove the "new window" option for each story - which quite a few of you (and ourselves when we tried it) found annoying. So what do we have this week? Plenty. Mike has hundreds of chip freaks shouting at him, Andrew and myself were overrun with pedants and fools (usual week really), and Linda sparked some Antipodean fury. If reading anything on The Reg has caused a couple of neurons to bump together and you've come with an opinion, click here before it fades. I wanna be - Sledgehammer Mike swore blind that AMD's Sledgehammer was coming out this year (bloke in the know told him). As he told your Letters Ed in the pub the next day: "I couldn't bloody believe it, I woke up and my email was crammed with people saying 'Mike, you're wrong, Mike, you're wrong'." Is the BT DoSer a tosser? There's no doubt that he did it. He took down BT's main Web sites and he did because of the lazy giant's crap service. Far from being angry, most people ask us to shake him by the hand. This is a continuation of the letters from last week + the response from people when we located the program he had used to do it. Pedants of the world unite What is wrong with some people? Now we realise that many of the daft emails we receive are from people who have panicked, typed an email and sent it before realising the enormous error. They're good people, really. But, pedants! You must learn that no one listens to you. Yee-haw, Yankee gets a-fiesty It is a constant source of mirth this side of the Atlantic when, in Hollywood movies, everyone gathers together in a big weepy moment as the Star-Mangled Banner rings out. You Americans are a proud bunch. Blinkered, yes, but proud none the less. And the best of the rest What it says basically. We got responses to the UK's archaic form of government, some poor poor anti-Iraqi jokes, the slagging of a world-famous author and some thought about the usual IT hype. Enjoy. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Jul 2000

Big Brother cocks-up online voting

Channel 4's virtual voyeur programme Big Brother has made a cock up of its promised online voting system. The fly-on-the-wall project tracking ten individuals locked together in a house for nine weeks has been hit by a series of technology hitches. Much hype was made at the launch of Britain's Big Brother about its Web presence. Punters were promised they would be able to log on 24/7 to snoop on the inhabitants of the house in East London. There was to be no escape from the cameras in this world wide web extravaganza version of The Truman Show, and surfers would be able to vote online to decide who to kick out. But the technology didn't quite go to plan. Tonight will see the first Big Brother volunteer/victim eviction courtesy of surfer votes. And online voting would be a pretty essential part of the programme, no? Unfortunately for Channel 4, there will be no cyber voting tonight. Or any other night for the duration of the programme, it seems. According to Chris Short, content manager for Big Brother online, the original idea was to make Web voting an integral part of site. However, Channel 4 bosses were worried that proposals to put voting onto the Website would tempt hackers and distort the results. So they ruled the idea out. Onto Plan B, which was to create a standalone piece of software to take the voting function away from the site. But to make this downloadable software immune from hacking, the software ended up being a whopping 3.5MB which would take 30 minutes to download. This would be a tricky bandwidth problem what with Big Brother's claims of one million unique users, and around three million hits, on the site every day. "We would have needed to double the amount of servers we have with Intel, to 40," said Short. So Plan B was dumped yesterday - 15 days into the project. Onto Plan C. Except there is no Plan C at present. Short said they aim to bring voting back onto the site, but they cannot do this until they convince Channel 4 that the system is hackproof. So it's entirely possible that there will no online voting throughout the entire venture? "Yes, I suppose anything's possible. Though this would be hugely disappointing for us," said Short. To stop any distortion of votes, surfers and viewers will have to register their preference by phone. This has already begun for tonight's eviction, with Short revealing that he himself will be voting to oust blonde Brummie Caroline. But how can Channel 4 stop people casting multiple votes by this method? "Er, they can't," said Short. ® Related Story Lab rats do it for cash
Linda Harrison, 28 Jul 2000

Nortel to acquire Alteon

Nortel has publicly announced that it will buy Alteon WebSystems in a stock deal worth $7.8 billion. The company says that the deal will give it a big advantage in the content switching market as the transition is made to optical and wireless Internet. Upon completion of the transaction, Alteon WebSystems will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Nortel. Nortel will combine Alteon's content switching products with its own offerings in storage, gigabit switches, hosted application management/delivery and caching. This will allow the network giant to build what it calls the next generation Internet Data Centre. Under terms of the agreement, Alteon WebSystems shareholders will receive a fixed exchange ratio of 1.83148 Nortel Networks common shares for each share of Alteon WebSystems common stock. Earnings this year are not expected to be affected by the deal, and by 2001 could even be boosted by it, the company said. Nortel has ended its negotiations which could have led to a $100 billion take over of fibre-optic networking equipment maker Corning. ® Related Stories Nortel rakes it in with optical kit
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 2000

Reg welcomes small addition to nest

We're sure you'd all like to congratulate top Reg man Drew on the birth of his fifth little Drew, called Sadie and weighing in at 8lb 11ozs. Better half Sian is fine and dandy and has the good fortune of having Drew fussing around her for the next few days. Our thoughts are with you Sian.
Our correspondent, 28 Jul 2000

Reg welcomes small addition to nest

We're sure you'd all like to congratulate top Reg man Drew on the birth of his fifth little Drew, called Sadie and weighing in at 8lb 11ozs. Better half Sian is fine and dandy and has the good fortune of having Drew fussing around her for the next few days. Our thoughts are with you Sian.
Our correspondent, 28 Jul 2000