11th > September > 2000 Archive

Western Union hacked, 15,000 CC numbers taken

Emergency fund service and salvation of the world's bail bondsmen, university students and cornered deadbeats Western Union admitted late Sunday that malicious hackers compromised the credit card details of 15,700 customers who had transferred money on their Web site, which was left unprotected while undergoing maintenance, the Associated Press reports. The company began notifying affected customers via telephone and e-mail over the weekend, and by late Sunday had informed Visa and MasterCard about which accounts had been affected. No cases of fraud have yet been reported (give it time, lads), and Visa and MasterCard have begun monitoring affected customer accounts for unusual activity, the wire service quoted Western Union spokesman Peter Ziverts as saying. Online money transfers account for an "absolutely minuscule" portion of the company's total transactions, Ziverts noted. He indicated that the problem was caused by brain-dead sysadmins rather than a basic network flaw. Employees conducting routine maintenance inadvertently left the system unprotected, allowing intruders to waltz in. He added that it was not an inside job, but we'll just wait till the FBI is finished with their investigation before swallowing that one. Western Union first detected the attack on Friday. The company has since set up a free number in the US for claims and complaints at 1-800-228-6530. ®
Thomas C Greene, 11 Sep 2000

Register Zoroastrian warns of vulture threat

It can get very confusing out here in California. Picked up a copy of the Orange County Register this morning, locally known as the Register to find that today's Focus on Religion is all about Zoroastrianism. The first paragraph says: "The vultures are disappearing from Bombay." Yes, that's right folks, the vulture is becoming an endangered species in India. Zoroastrians lay out their dead on so-called Towers of Silence and vultures get to eat out. We're happy to report, however, that vultures are far from an extinct species here at this Register. You can find the OC Register piece here. And no, we don't think OC Register stands for overclocked Register... John Tu, co-founder of Kingston Technology, has a little problem with anyone called Henry. He and David Sun started Kingston after a previous business venture that paid handsome dividends. However, a guy called Henry invested all their money in stocks and come Black Monday, a date that Tu says is indelibly impressed on his mind, they lost the lot and were even worried about being able to buy bread and milk. All went well at Kingston, and they made billions when Softbank bought 80 per cent of them a few years back. Then they bought Kingston back from Softbank for a fraction of the price, and had so much money sloshing round that Sun bought the Mandarin Restaurant in Irvine out when it looked like it might close. And it's co-run by a Chinese chef called Henry. No relation. He's the good Henry... ®
Mike Magee, 11 Sep 2000

Warner to detail digital music service today

The last of the world's 'big five' recording companies to unveil a digital music distribution service, Warner Music, will do just that later today, according to 'leaks' to the major news media. The Warner service follows the pattern laid down by EMI, Sony, Universal and BMG: a heap of albums and singles will be offered via the Internet, and sold through existing online e-tailers, the digital channel mirroring the high street bricks'n'mortar one. Over 1000 albums will be offered spin doctors... sorry, sources told Reuters just ahead of the launch. Much of the core technology was developed with RealNetworks, but the sources claimed RealAudio won't be the only music format supported. The service will provide "several popular playback formats endorsed by the music industry", they said - which must mean RealAudio and MS Audio. The sources didn't pre-release pricing information, but Warner is likely to charge $9.99 to $16.99 for albums and around $2.99 for singles - a pricing scheme that matches CD prices and appears to have become standard among on the major recording companies' online services. Cartel? Schmartel... ® Related Stories BMG to launch digital music service in September BMG digital music service to launch this summer Universal to bring digital music service to UK Universal to launch digital music trial EMI digital music service to debut next week Sony details music download service
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

Ban Napster, MPAA et al demand

As the October kick-off date for the Napster trial nears, numerous interested parties - lobby groups, in other words - have begun filing Friend of the Court briefs providing information they hope will sway the court's final judgement one way or t'other. The latest such filing took place last week when 20 organisations jointly signed a 'Napster should be banned' declaration. The 20 are led by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), itself a vigorous pursuer of anyone it thinks has been infringing the intellectual property of its members. It recently won a gagging order on 2600.com after the hacker-oriented Web site posted the source code for the DeCSS DVD-on-Linux decoder utility. Joining the MPAA are such bodies as the Association of American Publishers, the Professional Photographers Association, the Songwriters Guild of America, the Directors Guild of America and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, better known by its abbreviation, Ascap. These and other members of the 20 Friends of the Court all have a clear interest in protecting their members copyrights, and the Napster trial is likely to set some key precedents for future Internet-related intellectual property violation cases. They want to make sure that those precedents leave their members with a tighter, clearer grip on their work. "We call on the court to recognise that America's creative communities must be able to protect their artistic works,'' the MPAA's vociferous president, Jack Valenti, said in a statement. It's less clear, however, why the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball and the National Basketball Association want in on the act - presumably they fear we'll soon all be swapping illicit QuickTime movies of Lakers games... We also note that Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed-Elsevier sneaked in too. The 20 Friends of the Court are: the Motion Picture Association of America; the Software and Information Industry Association; the American Film Marketing Association; the Association of American Publishers; the American Society of Media Photographers; the Professional Photographers Association; the Graphic Artists Guild; the Interactive Digital Software Association; the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music; the Producers Guild of America; the Directors Guild of America; the Writers Guild of America, West; the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada; Reed Elsevier; the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball; the National Basketball Association; the Songwriters Guild of America; and Amsong. ® Related Stories US Patent Office dismisses key Napster defence Metallica lawyer tells colleges to block Napster The Napster Controversy - Full Coverage
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

Metallica lawyer tells colleges to block Napster

Metallica's lawyer, Howard King, who has filed anti-Napster actions on behalf of the band and others, including rapper Dr. Dre, is spamming US universities, seeking their co-operation in blocking use of the MP3 sharing software on their networks. According to US journal the Chronicle of Higher Education, King has been mailing colleges demanding they ban Napster. He isn't directly threatening them with legal action, but there's certainly the implication that lawsuits may be filed against them if they don't comply with King's wishes. Specifically, he included a copy of the original Metallica anti-Napster suit, which named a handful of US universities as alleged aiders and abettors of copyright infringement and contains room for further educational establishments to be added to the suit. After the suit was filed, in April, the named colleges, including Yale and Indiana University, agreed to block the use of Napster on their networks. No college accepted Metallica's allegations, but since the did indeed ban Napster, clearly they all felt discretion to be the better part of valour. King told CNet that he hoped the other colleges he had mailed more recently would take the same pragmatic approach. "There is no express threat in the letters that they're going to get sued," he said. "We're pretty comfortable that even without the threat of litigation that the universities will reach the same conclusion that Yale and the University of Southern California have." They probably will. A survey of 50 US colleges recently undertaken by the Gartner Group, a market researcher, found that 34 per cent of them had already blocked Napster, either for legal reasons or because of its clogging effect on their LANs. ® Related Stories US Patent Office dismisses key Napster defence Ban Napster, demand MPAA et al The Napster Controversy - Full Coverage
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

An iMac supercomputer cluster you can carry home

Terra Soft, the company behind the Yellow Dog and Black Lab Linux PowerPC distros has released a supercomputer cluster based on Apple's iMac. They're teaming up with Marathon Computers of Nashville Tennessee, who have been building Apple PowerPC-based racks for several years. Each unit is comprised of eight of Marathon's "iRacks": an iMac but without the monitor or casing. Marathon sells its tower Macs to musicians, ISPs or for speciaised lab applications such as data acquisition, the company's marketing honcho Michael Roland tells us, with the bulk of the business being G4s. So we wondered if this could qualify as the world's quietest supercomputer cluster, as the iMacs are celebrated for not having a noisy case fan. It's not exactly silent says Roland, as Marathon does provide a system fan for the cluster. But it's still pretty quiet for the MIPS you're getting. And it makes perfect sense. The Power chip's floating point performance is commendably high, particularly in using the Altivec co-processor, and as the system boards are produced in volume they are relatively much cheaper than Power boards from IBM. And Black Lab Linux - Terra Soft's parallel version of its Yellow Dog distro that comes in nifty nylon packaging is already in use at Sandia and Los Alamos research labs. The cluster's chief boast is that it is lighter and more portable than its predecessors. Systems start at $17,900. And there you have it. We've managed to mention "carry home", "portable" and "Los Alamos Labs" without succumbing to the obvious cheap gag. So we'll stop right here. ® Related Links Marathon Computing Terra Soft Related Stories Hard drives with nuke secrets vanish from Los Alamos Missing hard drives reappear under FBI's nose Motorola goes live with 200+ node Linux cluster Linux disties clash over PowerPC clustering quality
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Sep 2000

UPC follows Telewest in dropping Microsoft ‘Inactive TV’

Microsoft's costly investments in European cable companies don't seem to be paying off. The second largest cable company in Europe, UPC (United Pan Europe Communications), has officially chosen to base its interactive TV software on Liberate and OpenTV, in preference to its earlier preferred partner Microsoft. The move was widely trailed last month when UPC CEO Mark Schneider revealed that he had run out of patience waiting for Microsoft to deliver its software on time: "If you don't show up at the right time to deliver, then frankly you don't have any rights anymore." Microsoft has an eight per cent stake in UPC. Earlier this year, Telewest voted to go with Liberate instead of Microsoft, despite Redmond's 24 per cent stake in the company. NTL, the UK's other cable provider, had already plumped for Liberate despite a five per cent investment from Microsoft and one of those earlier (and now it seems, worthless) public commitments to use Microsoft's technology. Not everyone has made a final choice, however. Earlier in the week Philips announced an open-ended deal with both rival technology camps, and the dominant US cable provider AT&T has also backed both horses. But as Microsoft itself has unstintingly argued in defence of its PC software monopoly, network benefits can accrue - for a whole industry when standardising on a single platform, especially one that isn't dominated by a vertically-intergrated provider. Only this time it's Microsoft that's cast in the old IBM mantle. So for these others it's probably a question of when rather than if they choose the Liberate/Open platform, we suspect. For UPC's choice - starting with the Vienna roll-out - is weighty indeed. It's already the second largest European cable provider and is reported to be in negotiations with Deutsche Telekom to buy its cable franchises, which have been up for grabs since last autumn. A final deal - which could make UPC the TCI of Europe - has yet to be sealed. Oracle spin-off Liberate (formely NCI) has technology partnerships with Sun, Lucent, General Instruments (now part of Motorola) and other buyers and investors along the chain include AOL and the major console manufacturers. Java is the common denominator for the platform, although the final irony is that after much arm twisting by European standards bodies (and the EC) forced Sun to make unprecedented compromises over its control of the platform - such as ceding ultimate arbitration of the test suites - Microsoft's defeat hasn't been political as much as technical. It just couldn't ship its software on time. Trials for interactive TV are scheduled with consumer deployment of the services still slated for Christmas 2001. ® From the we-told-you-so-Dept "We've resisted getting excited about Larry Ellison of Oracle's various pronouncements on life, the universe and everything over the past few months. Yes, he's up to something peculiar with low-cost terminals (and/or set-top boxes), and yes, he's been trying to needle Bill Gates... but we reckon that Larry is on the money as far as his estimation of where we're headed." The Register, 23 October 1995 Related Stories BSkyB buys out BT, Matsushita, HSBC shares of Open Microsoft's UK cable 'ally' joins rival camp via Liberate AT&T trials JavaTV
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Sep 2000

Bubble economy gurus rate Amazon's pricing wheeze

Since Amazon.com hasn't been returning calls to The Register this week - maybe it was peeved about our Tom's earlier skittling of its Privacy Policy - we instead turned to the most influential economists of the new economy, Hal Varian and Carl Shapiro of the University of California Berkeley's Haas Business School and authors of the bubble economy marketing bible, Information Rules. Earlier in the week Amazon angered both long-standing customers and its own business partners by playing games with its prices. The result, whether intended or not, discriminated against loyal customers as shoppers discovered they could gain bargains by deleting their cookies or switching to another browser. Amazon claimed it was a temporary experiment. Describedby the San Francisco Chronicle as "a series of prescriptions for how to wage a standards war with competitors and how to lock in customers with technical tricks so they stick with you instead of flirting with Brand X" Information Rules is highly commended. Amazon's CEO himself Jeff Bezos says "Anyone interested in participating in this new economy will stand a far greater chance of success if they follow the rules put forth in this book" and Andy Grove (who he?-Ed.) also commends it as "an excellent book!" But before you make moral judgements about economists (Galbraith excluded, who tended to get in there first with his) you should note that both have given their time equally to both sides of the Chip/Chimp divide. Shapiro is a former Department of Justice anti-trust attorney who lent his weight to Judge Jackson's two-way split of Microsoft earlier this year. He's advised Sega, Borland and others on dealing with monopolists when each was the underdog. So put that loose masonry away for just a second. Regrettably we caught him only fleetingly on Friday: "I'm late for meeting and then I'm going home," he said, but he expressed delight that Amazon was being adventurous with its pricing:- "It's good that they're experimenting. Now they can see their demand curve!" "If it's deceptive or illegal, then naughty naughty," he continued, "but you're not going to have me up in arms about it." And no, he said, he didn't characterise it as a Stupidity Tax. But we found Hal Varian, the Dean of the Haas School, much more generous with his time and it turned out, as intrigued as we were by the fun and games over at Amazon. Varian doesn't think it varies from the catalog shopping marketing practices, and similar trial marketing schemes. For example, he relates an anecdote where several years ago on a flight from Detroit to Japan, airline staff were offering movie headsets to passengers for $6. On the return leg, they were $4, and after he enquired about the discrepency, he discovered the staff had a spinner which produced a random price each time. The marketing department could then plot the optimum return accordingly. Catalogs do this all the time he says, by slipping in special offers based on demographics or hunches in some editions. Only the difference is that off-line, pricing differences are far harder for the punter to discern than on the Internet: "I don't go looking into my neighbor's catalogs to check their prices, so I don't know they're there." But in essence says Varian, it's no different to standard penetration pricing tactics. Or is it? That seems to be the point - is there one price on offer, or is that price one of several? What DVD buyers seem to have objected in the past few days is the random, and therefore apparently discriminatory nature of Amazon's DVD prices. But if an offer, or rebate is clearly labelled as such - and you know exactly what your eligiblity is - than there's little to argue about. That's what UK consumer law demands, and it'll be intriguing to see if Internet law follows suit. Admittedly, says Varian, "if customers don't like this policy and some other seller guarantees it then Amzon would change their behaviour." What prospective Amazon DVD shoppers have noticed this week is that they have a little too much knowledge for the marketeers liking. Or just enough, at any rate, to realise that they're being monkeyed around with. So it will be intriguing to see how this plays out. If consumers are sufficiently apathetic, or driven by considerations other than price, then they'll ignore the price-comparison tools the Internet can theoretically provide. In which case such random pricing tactics could well become the norm. On the other hand, if there are enough consumers who resent being guinea pigs in this way, they'll soon enough tell the marketeers to stick their Demand Curves where the sun don't shine. We shall see. ®. Related stories Amazon's Loyalty Tax: IE users pay more Amazon makes regular customers pay more Amazon's new privacy regs may backfire
Andrew Orlowski, 11 Sep 2000

RealNetworks cuts deal with Streambox

RealNetworks has settled its legal fight with Streambox, nearly nine months after it was granted a temporary injunction against the latter's streaming media VCR software. Streambox launched its Streambox VCR product last November, as we reported here. The software allowed users to record content streamed from RealNetworks' servers and play it back at a time more convenient to them by converting it into WAV, MP3 or Windows Media Player's native format. Not surprisingly, RealNetworks wasn't too happy about this and quickly sought legal redress. It claimed Streambox's software contravened the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which prohibits the breaking of copyright protection mechanisms, something RealNetworks alleged Streambox VCR had to do in order to record the streamed content - a point that Streambox tacitly admitted. In January this year, RealNetworks won an injunction banning Streambox from offering Streambox VCR and one other product, Ferret, which locates streamed media content. The judge threw out RealNetworks' request for a ban on Streambox's Ripper, which converts RealNetworks' proprietary audio format into open MP3 files. Late last week, however, Streambox agreed to switch off Ripper's Real-to-MP3 facility. It also agreed to cease distributing Ferret, and to "respect the copyrights" of RealNetworks' streaming system, which effectively means that Streambox VCR will no longer record media streamed in RealNetworks' format. The company will also pay RealNetworks damages, though neither company would reveal the sum to be paid. ® Related Stories RealNetworks wins ban on 'streaming VCR' RealNetworks cuts big deals as market share shrinks Streambox converts RealAudio to MP3
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

US Patent Office dismisses key Napster defence

UpdatedUpdated The US Patent and Trademark Office has told the US Court of Appeal that it should discount Napster's argument that the controversial MP3 sharing service is protected by the US Home Recordings Act (HRA). Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The provision the HRA grants CD owners to copy disks for their own use is a key part of Napster defence. The company's lawyers noted that preliminary drafts of the HRA stated that that protection extended to the CD owner's family and close friends, provided they were not charged money for the privilege. Consequently, they said, Napster is protected by the Act since its software simply allows the CD owner to share his or her music freely. The question is, did the legislators who drafted the HRA really mean the Act to protect all free copies, even to folk who have no connection with the CD owner at all? The PTO's brief shows that it, for one, believes that that they didn't, and that Napster's software accordingly permits violations of the Act. Napster can still attempt to claim immunity from prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which states that ISPs are not liable for the actions of their subscribers. Napster maintains that it is an ISP, and so not responsible for any acts of music piracy its users get up to. ® Napster was just shy of the half-a-billion mark when its users were tallied by market researcher Media Metrix in July. That's significantly up on the 1.1 million users it had in February, according to MM. Some six per cent of modem-connected home users have downloaded and tried Napster in July, the research claims. And some 887,000 office workers did so too during the same period, up from 417,000 in May. Related Stories White House sticks its nose in Napster appeal Metallica lawyer tells colleges to block Napster Ban Napster, MPAA et al demand RIAA dubs Napster defence 'patently baseless' Napster details copyright case defence The Napster Controvery - Full Coverage
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

E-Murdoch has a Future

Bath-based consumer techie publisher The Future Network Plc has appointed Elisabeth Murdoch to the Board as a non-executive director with immediate effect. Murdoch, 32, joins the Future Board after four years at British Sky Broadcasting, most recently as Managing Director of Sky Networks. 365 Corporation Plc is to acquire the entire issued share capital of Phones Express for up to £3.1 million in cash and shares, the new outfit said today. The acquisition is being made as part of 365's ongoing development of its mobile telecoms operations in both its business and consumer Divisions. NewMedia Spark plc is to acquire the entire issued share capital of NewMedia Investors Limited for £10 million, subject to shareholder approval. Strategic Software Solutions Ltd - which develops banking software - is to create 130 jobs in Clackmannanshire, Scotland. Networking company Spirent (formerly Bowthorpe) is doing a £284 million share swap with IP specialists Zarak Systems. The move will allow Spirent to get a further hold on the voice-over-IP market. Spirent joined the FTSE100 last week. Vodafone is to sell its Italian telecommunications subsidiary Infostrada for £8 billion. The company was inherited when Vodafone bought Mannesmann earlier this year, and CEO Chris Gent was considering floating it. However, it now looks as though a sale is on the cards, possibly to Italian telecoms company Wind (consortium of France Telecom and Enel). BT was thought to be interested through its subsidiary Albacom, but that's a no-go now due to its heavy debt. Sport4cast, an online horseracing predictor, is to float next month at £10 million. The company's chairman reckons there is nothing to stop it becoming the market leader. ITNet has announced its six-month results. The company, which is "one of the leading suppliers of IT and business process services", saw a 24 per cent increase in turnover period-on-period (to £75.7 million). It has also gone acquisition crazy recently, so profits figures are given "pre-goodwill amortisation". With this is mind, operating profit has gone up 22 per cent to £4.9 million, gross profit up 5.5 per cent to £4.4 million and eps up 12 per cent to 4.7p. British-based film site - in-movies.co.uk - is currently negotiating to acquire the content and various assets of pop.com, which went titsup.com last week. ® For dotcom money madness visit Cash Register. Or not. Whatever...
Team Register, 11 Sep 2000

IBM not selling 1.1GHz Athlon boxes in US

IBM will reveal what machines it will be launching based on AMD's Athlon 1.1GHz this week - but it will not be shipping them in the US. Big Blue said it plans to announce the spec and price of models using the monster chip towards the end of the week. However, it appears there is not enough interest in the US market to warrant a launch here. "IBM bases its decision upon customer demand and customer feedback," said one IBM representative. However, she added that this did not preclude a launch in the future if user interest grew. The company will be launching "several models" of desktop based on the 1.1GHz Athlon in every geographical area except the US. Gateway started shipping its Athlon 1.1GHz machines in the US last week - according to its Web site, the Select 1100 costs $2499 before tax, with 128MB SDRAM, 45GB hard drive, and 19in monitor. It started shipping in the UK today. But how are the shortages of Intel's PIII 1GHz chip affecting vendors? IBM in the US currently has a back order of one week, and Gateway's Performance 1000 - with 128MB memory and 45GB hard drive, priced at $2499 - cannot be delivered for about one month. This is around one week longer than it'll take to get the Athlon 1.1GHz machines from Gateway. Neither company chose to comment on the PIII 1GHz chip shortages. Dell, which has an Intel-only policy, said it was not experiencing 1GHz PIII chip shortages. Its Dimension 4100 and XPS B models are based on the chip. The Dimension 4100 starts at $1559, with 128MB SDRAM and 20GB hard drive, while the XPS starts at $2199 with 128MB RDRAM and 39GB hard drive. ® Related Stories AMD 1.1Ghz Athlon a go-go AMD ships 1.1Ghz Athlons, cuts prices
Linda Harrison, 11 Sep 2000

Hardware Roundup The Gigabyte 8TX – and more…

Howdy pardners, time to check what's in the OK Corral today. Overclocker's Workbench takes a peek at the new Gigabyte 8TX - Pentium 4 mobo. Yes, you heard right, Pentium 4. How did they test it, you ask? Well, they didn't. What a swizz. But you can win a tube of Artic Silver Thermal Paste in a competition, so it's probably worth taking a gander anyway. And on the same site you certainly do want to check out news of ALI's first mobo for the Pentium III supporting DDR memory. Over at One2surf there's a review of the Abit KT7-RAID mobo, based on the VIA KT133 chipset for Socket A Duron and Thunderbirds. What do they think of it? "The ABIT KT7-RAID has no equal currently, and its majestic design has a certain pizzazz." Seems to get the thumbs-up then. Storage Review probes Maxtor's monstro 80GB hard disk, the DiamondMax 80. You'll be glad to hear than size isn't everything, as the chaps reckon "Maxtor still knows how to build a quality drive". Short and sweet today, well it is Friday and you did get two instalments yesterday, so there. ® you can check out even more stuff from the Wunnerful World of Hardware by visiting on our compendium of hardware roundups here
Andrew Thomas, 11 Sep 2000

VNU pays £16 million for URL cock-up

Dutch publisher VNU has coughed up £16 million to get involved with Randsatd Holding, the owners of job site newmonday.com, thanks to a hideous URL cock-up last year. The company has marketed and invested heavily in its own IT job site, jobworld.co.uk, but forgot to register jobworld.com, which was gladly snapped up by IDG. The way the Internet world works means that for all the millions pumped into the .co.uk site, a sizeable proportion of those interested went straight to jobworld.com. To extricate itself from this monster error, it has eventually found a (costly) solution in the form of newmonday.com. What does £16 million buy you? A mirror site of jobworld.co.uk as newmonday's UK branch. Just goes to show it really does pay to think before you leap. ® Related Story So what is the difference between Jobworld.com and Jobworld.co.uk?
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000

Blair in e-homeless scheme

Wired British Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to rub shoulders with down-and-outs today as part of an initiative to provide the homeless with computers skills and Net access. In a lunchtime address the PM is expected to announce that a network of Information Communication Technology (ICT) Centres around the UK will help retrain disadvantaged people so that they can help themselves get a job. The scheme is part of a £252 million promise the Government made last year and is part of its commitment to close the "digital divide". It's not known whether the centres will include accommodation as well. Whether this is just another one of Mr Blair's e-gimmicks remains to be seen. Famously, back in March he sang the praises of AltaVista and its flat-fee net access product. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2000

Power to the People: apply online to enter UK govt

The modernisation of the House of Lords is going on apace and now us commoners are invited to apply for a place in the red-seated chamber. Not only that but in line with Tony's Blair e-government prattling, a new Web site is being set up to welcome applications online. The new appointments commission will be launched on Wednesday, as will its website, found here (but there's nothing there yet). If you fancy becoming a Lord, all you have to do is send the commission your CV and two references. Or you can even nominate a friend. The idea is to pull in people more representative of the country and dilute the old, white, male, wealthy, blue-blood members already there. However, the commission has excepted that it is likely to be inundated by cranks and egotists. The scary thing is that we predicted last year (as a joke) that people like Chris Evans would soon be invited to join the House of Lords - now that sick, sick scenario is growing ever closer. Of course, a few of the old gits that run this country (politicians), think this is a ridiculous system and the old system was much better and fairer. To which we reply: bunkem. The peerage system is a totally corrupt old-boys'-network affair and tends to vote in exactly the people that make the House of Lords appear out of date. Every year, the Lords slipped one more year into its alternative universe. That said, we don't much like Blair's reform either. A lot of the hereditary peers he kicked out earlier were the only ones who could call themselves independent. And this Web site idea is pushing it a bit far - no one seriously expects to enter government by writing in themselves. This is just stupid. It's Jim'll Fix It populist government. Mind you, if by some miracle you did get in, you could expect to meet the Queen, wear fancy (and bloody expensive) clothes, get the best seats at all government dos, enjoy 24-hour drinking at Parliament, claim £81.50 a day in expenses, get your own coat of arms and rub shoulders with the back-biting scum that run the country. Bargain. You've got til 17 November. ® Related link Appointments Committee (not up until Wednesday)
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000
server room

MS/Ericsson mobile link-up launched

Microsoft and Ericsson's joint mobile venture, enticingly called Ericsson Microsoft Mobile Venture AB, makes its first appearance today, about a year after the plan was first announced. The company, which will be 70 per cent owned by Ericsson with Microsoft taking up the rest, aims to provide some PC-like features to mobile phones using MS technology. The biggy, according to AB's head Ulf Avin, will be email on your phone - something which he says is a key app for a mass mobile market. The company will be based in Sweden and support email, calendars, to-do lists etc etc on existing mobile networks. The first products will be available by the end of this year apparently. The phones will consist of a cut down Explorer browser and Outlook program on the phone, tied in with Ericsson's WAP technology. The two are speaking to mobile operators in the US, Scandinavia, UK, Germany and the Netherlands. Ulf got very excited talking about the venture and went on about how the mobile market was going to take over the world and EMMV AB (our abbreviation) was going to have a big chunk of it. True to form, we also got at "by 2003" prediction: by 2003, mobiles will replace PCs as the main tool to access the Internet. We doubt it somehow, but then it shouldn't prove too hard to find the figures that prove otherwise. And there you have it. ® Related Story MS scores Ericsson deal over wireless browser, BackOffice
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000

Falling DRAM prices dent Winbond

The August revenue figures announced by Winbond Electronics on Saturday broke its all-time record, set one month previously, writes Iain Pocock in Taipei. Revenue growth in August was also impressive when compared with last year's figures for the same month, but compared with July this year, it marked a rise of less than seven per cent, analysts noted. That's because Winbond's 8in wafer production output is almost up to full capacity. The company has a production target of 33,000 8in wafers per month by the end of the year, analysts said. It's now already producing over 30,000 wafers per month. Winbond is Taiwan's largest manufacturer of integrated devices, which includes dynamic random access memory and flash memory ICs. On Saturday, the company reported August revenue of NT$5.58 billion, nearly triple the corresponding figure a year ago. Total revenue for the January to August period came to NT$32.07 billion, up 90 per cent over the same period last year. "Overall, August sales revenue for the DRAM Business Group increased, with current production capacity exceeding 30,000 wafers per month," Winbond said in a statement. Production technology is expected to continue to improve as the company migrates to the 0.175 micron technology manufacturing process in the fourth quarter, it said. And if it wants to continue to increase output without building any more factories, such technology upgrades will be essential, analysts said. The company is mulling whether to construct a 12in wafer fabrication plant, but that wouldn't come on line until 2003. Winbond's August revenue was all right, said Connor Liu, an analyst at SG Securities, but the revenue growth didn't come from any significant increase in capacity. July's revenue figures showed a nearly 24 per cent gain on the corresponding June figures. Instead, the gains in revenue in August came from elsewhere. "The average selling price of 64Mb DRAM in August was about $8.3," said Liu. "In July, it was about $7.75; it rose by about six per cent." That was when DRAM spot prices were high and expected to break $9 or even $10 in the third quarter. It was also before securities analysts started pointing out that the long-expected third quarter boom in PC sales just wasn't happening. Last week, Boris Petersik, an analyst at Donald, Lufkin & Jenrette said fears of a memory chip shortage had diminished due to the lower than expected PC demand. Having stocked up on memory chips earlier in the year in anticipation of a shortage and an increase in third quarter demand, the PC makers now have an oversupply of the chips, analysts said. And an oversupply of memory chips is one reason the DRAM spot price has been falling. On Friday, the American IC Exchange quoted the spot market price for benchmark 64Mb DRAM chips at a low of $8.01 and a high of $8.49. At the end of June, the price was quoted at $8.96. "These days, investors are very nervous about the DRAM spot price," said Chris Hsieh, semiconductor analyst at Nomura International in Taipei. "What investors want is the average selling price of DRAM to increase," he said. Instead, it's down about 1.3 per cent in the last week, he said. So even if the demand for DRAM has remained strong, which it has, investors are not buying a stock like Winbond because of its present fundamentals. "Normally, the share price reflects future earnings," said Hsieh. "It's a reflection of future average selling price; that's what's worrying investors." A falling average selling price for DRAM chips and almost maximum capacity has rubbed off on Winbond's share price. Today, despite the record revenue figures, the stock fell NT$2 to NT$63, on turnover of 30.8 million shares. ®
Our correspondent, 11 Sep 2000

Latest Itanium has infernal kernel

UpdatedUpdated Reports on developer newsgroups suggest that the latest chip stepping of Intel's Itanium processor is causing problems for Linux developers whose code worked fine with stepping A2. Timing issues seem to be the problem, but it is aggravated by the fact that Intel has so far released few samples of the B1 Itanium, making the process of testing and de-bugging harder than would be the case otherwise. The Itanium is delayed until the end of this year. Intel officials said at the Developer Forum a few weeks back, that volumes would not begin to ship until next year. One developer reported: "I got similar results with the 20000501 toolchain come with the 0825 RedHat ia64 beta distribution. I don't think it is a purely compiler issue since the same kernel, which works on A2 stepping, failed to boot on B1 stepping. I suspect some interaction between the ACPI stuff and the interrupts. It seems on B1 stepping, the kernel will get interrupts very early on in the ACPI code." Another developer put it this way: "In my case, /sbin/hwclock causes the instant reboot on B1 BigSur and it crashes so bad that I have to unplug the power cord to get my machine back. B1 stepping is quite different than A2 stepping on BigSur, even with the same BIOS, Build 59." But another developer has emailed us to say it is not Intel's fault in the slightest. Duraid Madina said: "The problem with the Linux kernel has been fixed. Two lines of source in the ACPI (power management) driver need to be changed. The fault lies entirely with the ACPI driver author, not with Intel!" And David Mosberger has the final word with this missive: "The Linux kernel works fine on B1 step of Itanium. There was a glitch in the very latest kernel patch which caused a problem on some machines. I was the source of this glitch and am the sole person responsible for the resulting problems. It has nothing to do with the hardware. "Please understand that the Linux development happens out in the open, so sometimes a person has a hypothesis that later on turns out to be wrong. In the future, I'd appreciate if you had the courtesy to at least double-check that the main points of your story are true before running it." We're pleased to hear from Mosberger how these things are thrashed out. The continuing problems show that entirely re-engineering microprocessors for the IA-64 architecture is far from being a piece of cake. Intel has spent a fortune on pulling in support for ports and encouraging third parties to support its 64-bit effort. Which just goes to show what a mammoth and Sisyphean task Intel is facing with its behemothic effort. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Sep 2000

Readers' Gallery

We asked you to send in groovy shots of yourselves kitted out in Register gear. (It's a blatant attempt to get you to buy some merchandise we're afraid, but hey, you don't have to be pictured and be the envy of all your mates). Here are some of the more interesting pics we've received. Going for gold in the 'most improbable name for a PR bunny' event is exotic Tiggy Tonks. Tiggy was captured sporting Reg polo shirt and cap by our very own Paparazzi O'Leery. He later sighed: 'I'd like to say that she's a racy little Spanish spitfire with more dangerous curves than the road to Acapulco. I can't though, because she's English.' Quite so. A lovely snap of Charlotte Moores (5) posing with dad Simon's Reg logo plane. Apparently they were off to drop water bombs on the Microsoft campus. Good effort. Ben Hyland sent in a couple of offerings demonstrating the awesome power of image manipulation software. Good work on Sun's Scott McNealy, but Ben's clearly unaware that using our own marketing photo is a flagrant breach of copyright. Since the lad's at Liverpool Community College, such offences would be bread-and-butter to him. As would ram-raiding, joyriding and pick-pocketing for that matter. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2000

UK invests £1 billion in e-government

The British Government is to plough £1 billion over three years into a major e-government shake-up, Prime Minister announced today. The initiative will help "foster dot.com innovation and entrepreneurial culture in government". Mr Blair said the results would improve the delivery of information to citizens and help cut the running costs of Government. Mr Blair has made no secret of his desire to employ IT to help modernise the workings of Government. Speaking in Loughborough Mr Blair said: "I am determined that, by 2005 at the latest, all Government services will be on-line. "So we are today announcing that our recent Spending Review earmarked £1 billion for investment in electronic service delivery over the next three years," he said. He also launched a report e.gov: electronic government services for the 21st century that outlines how the money will be spent. Among the strategies in place the Government plans to ensure that: Electronic service delivery is joined up - with services focused on the needs of users, rather than Government departments Services are delivered through a range of technologies- based on Internet standards to provide citizens with choice on how to access services Services will be open to the private and voluntary sectors - to promote a mixed economy that operates on the basis of what works rather than who provides services E-Government Minister, Ian McCartney, said: "This is a key strategy in our drive to create 24-hour Government at people's fingertips. "We are determined to modernise public services, making them more convenient and accessible. "Why should people have to wait in line, when they can get online," he said. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2000

UK plc loves the Net

More than a million small businesses went online in Britain last year smashing the Government's own target for SMEs joining the dotcom revolution. The figures were published today by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) as part of its International Benchmarking Study. According to the DTI 1.7 million SMEs are now online. The DTI also announced that 81 per cent of UK businesses are now online compared with 63 per cent last year. Nine out of ten of the UK's workforce work in businesses connected to the Internet and 27 per cent of UK companies are trading online, of which 450,000 are SMEs. E-Minister Patricia Hewitt, said: "This is good news. Businesses are responding to the challenges of the information revolution and seizing the opportunities it presents. However, there is still more to be done. "We must continue to work towards our target of getting one million SMEs trading on-line by 2002. The challenge now is not just getting connected but succeeding online using the new ways of working that e-commerce and new e-businesses practices bring. Rene Schuster, Managing Director, UK & Ireland: "This country desperately needs small businesses to get on-line and get competitive, but SME's have been slow in doing this. "I really hope that this announcement today signals a really aggressive push from Tony Blair to broaden and deepen the use of the Internet by our small businessmen," said Schuster. Today's announcement is all part of UK Online, a partnership between Government, industry, the voluntary sector, trade unions and consumer groups aimed at getting people, business and Government online. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2000

Windows ME boosted August PC sales by 60 per cent

August's PC sales saw 60 per cent growth, proving demand is not weakening in the sector. According to Delaware-based company FHI Research.com, the PC is far from dead, with 60 per cent sequential and 68 per cent year-on-year growth in August. The company based its research on the US retail sector, but uses the data to reaffirm its previous forecast of 22 per cent worldwide PC unit growth for this year. "This is still an extremely strong market," said Danny Lam, an analyst at FHI. The company says the only thing constraining the industry is the inability of companies such as Intel and AMD to meet demand for chips. Lam puts August's huge growth rate largely down to the Windows ME operating system. "This year saw the same phenomenon as when Windows 98 was released," said Lam, who adds that OEMs held off on shipping PCs bundled with Windows 98 in the last couple of months before ME appeared. This affected the shipping figures. But FHI is convinced that the outlook for the PC market is anything but gloomy. "Although our data and estimates of fall 2,000 PC demand awaits confirmation, preliminary results show that the PC, far from being 'dead', is reaffirming its place as the mainstay and preferred computing and internet access platform around the world," it stated. ® Related Stories Worldwide PC sales to rocket in Q3 US losing grip on IT industry PC sales disappoint analysts for Q2
Linda Harrison, 11 Sep 2000

Rambus gets Intel ramboost

It's pretty evident that chip giant Intel is now going to go the whole hog and push its Pentium 4 project to the limit. That follows reports on both Cnet and Electronic Buyers' News, which are reporting that Intel is offering a rebate on Rambus based Intel Pentium 4 systems of $70 in Q4 and $60 in Q1 of next year. Those articles are based on a report by chip analyst Bert McComas, which has confirmed many of the details of Intel's processor plans originally revealed by The Register during the course of this year. The prices of the Pentium 4, which we now expect to debut around the end of October, are also intended to make machines based on the platform cheaper than most people originally thought, given that the die size of the microprocessor is quite large. The interesting question now is whether Intel will also offer sweeteners to its other partners, including motherboard makers, to further encourage the arrival of the Pentium 4. PC vendors are, today, receiving samples of Intel's "Garibaldi" mobo – a boxed offering which they will use as a reference platform to fine tune their own offerings, sources at different tier one vendors have told The Reg. Over the weekend, we reported that Kingston Technology was preparing a large Rambus ramp up which will kick in towards the end of this year. ® See Also PC Rambus RIMM future hangs on mobos Pentium 4 positioning a puzzle More Pentium 4 benchmarks tip up Pentium 4 to arrive October External Links Inqst article CNET EBN
Mike Magee, 11 Sep 2000

HP in talks to buy PWC's consulting biz for $18 billion

Hewlett-Packard is in talks to shell out $18 billion for Price Waterhouse Coopers' consulting arm. The PC heavyweight today confirmed it wanted PWC's global management and IT consulting practice to boost its service offerings. Talks are still at early stages, and "significant issues remain to be resolved" according to a statement by HP. But a cash and share deal of between $17 billion and $18 billion is being contemplated. The California PC maker said the buyout would add to its estimated 15 per cent growth rate, and would probably slightly cut into its earnings per share for 2001. PWC is currently HP's independent accountant, a situation which would have to end if talks progress due to auditor independence requirements. If the deal goes ahead, it will be HP's first big acquisition since Carly Fiorina became its head honcho last year. ® Related Stories HP 'world's fastest growing PC vendor' HP to declare Linux 'strategic' - again HP director quits for reseller cartel
Linda Harrison, 11 Sep 2000

Hardware Roundup QDI SynactiX 2E mobo reviewed

OCWorkbench has mixed feelings about the new QDI SynactiX 2E motherboard, reckoning it's pretty stable but doesn't have much to write home about in the performance stakes. At the same place you can also check out a first look at ABIT's VP6 dual Socket 370 board that was showcased during the LinuxWorld Roadshow at Taipei at the weekend. Over at One2Surf there's another ABIT mobo, this time the highly-rated KT7 RAID, which has just got the nod of approval from none other than AMD itself. And everyone's favourite overclocking loons, Sharky Extreme have everything you need to know about thrashing a Celeron to within an inch of its life. In Alex 'Sharky' Ross' own words: "Vince has once again gone off the deep: overcranking the Celeron until it cries 'mama'" And a word of warning from OC Workbench. It appears the latest must-have accessory for Socket A Athlons is a shiny copper plate that sits between the chip and its heatsink. The idea is that it improves thermal conductivity. Only trouble is, it also appears to short out the CPU, risking blowing it up. Check it out before it's too late, fashion victims. Click on over to Aces Hardware and see what kind of performance a Celeron gives once unleashed from its measly 66MHz Front Side Bus. It's pretty good, by all accounts. Finally, over at Anandtech, there's a useful cut out 'n' keep guide to choosing a set of cool speakers to help your PC annoy the neighbours. Don't forget to check out even more well hard stuff by popping over to our compendium of hardware roundups here
Andrew Thomas, 11 Sep 2000

Nokia's Web TV box and the IBC conference

We were invited by Nokia to preview its new "media terminal" at the IBC show in Amsterdam at the weekend. The event proved very interesting. First, the Nokia Media Terminal. Not a sexy name, admittedly, but then the whole idea is to use the mobile phone model - sell it to operators, who then hugely discount it to consumers to get them to sign up. As mentioned on Friday, the box is almost totally open source - a very interesting and (if you think about it) necessary approach if the box is to achieve broad acceptance, what with X-box, OnDigital etc etc all telling everyone how great they are. What has Nokia done? Basically, piled everything into one box. The huge array of ports on the bloody thing mean that it will communicate with your kettle if the kettle is in a chatty mood. But then this will be a game of marketing. It is incorporating games because it has to, and it will produce a developer's toolkit early next year to try to get games developers interested. It has come up with a slick design for the box - always a good idea. It has covered just about every angle because it wants to become the industry standard. Sold properly, mum and dad will get it because it has "everything for the whole family". As one hack pointed out to the box's product marketing manager - it's basically just a sexy PC. After some aimless PR nonsense, Romulo Pinheiro hit upon the right answer: "Yes, it is. But your average consumer is scared by the idea of the PC. This will give them everything they want and do it through the TV." Good answer Romulo. The open-source thing is the saviour. No hassles, no crazed accusations (the box is also jointly developed by Intel) and the obvious security/usability queries are answered by saying that the open source community will correct problems themselves. It also promises to work with just about every protocol you've ever heard of. We could go on and on, but then if you were interested, you'd call Nokia direct, so we'll cut it there. Aside from the fact that it should be available Q2 next year and that the answer to Tony's queries about memory are given in brackets here (32-64Mb SDRAM, 4Mb SDRAM for video/system memory, 1+1Mb Flash memory for boot loader). So what of IBC2000? Well, this really is a class conference. Two, no, three main differences between this and every other show. Fewer dolly birds. A shame, admittedly, but then that's not as if there aren't a lot of attractive women - they're just not displayed as flagrantly. (A tie-in with number one.) Because there aren't so many dollies, they are replaced with - get this - people that actually really know about their product. It may seem revolutionary for a show to have people that know what they're talking about, but that's what happens. It is bloody enormous and the effort put into stands is simply staggering. We were actually deeply impressed with some people's stands, not only the look of it but also the slickness of the exhibitions. Having said that, why BT felt the need to hire a four-stand area to install what was little more than a reception desk (complete with grumpy, frustrating secretaries) is beyond us. Oh, and you have never seen as many TV screens in your entire life. A few highlights: nubile girls dancing for a motion-capture stall; an American with a lisp giving a run through of his product while no one (and we mean no one) was anywhere near; Microsoft boring the pants off people by running through its Web TV thing at a horrifyingly slow pace (basically, it has all the usual video controls); magician Zap - who was on Nokia's stall and was quite simply amazing; others. What of Amsterdam? Still as beautiful as ever. As are the ladies behind glass doors (although interestingly, during the day, they are replaced by far older and less firm examples - a ruse to awaken passion in the middle-aged, lonely man). A lot of young people seemed very tired even though they were drinking lots of coffee and the nightlife was, as ever, unique. We just managed to get our flight. ® Related Stories Nokia unwraps Linux Net appliance Related link IBC conference
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000

Flame of the Week We are Intel lapdogs

[Not as diseased as most our flames, but it'll do. There is some tongue, some cheek and an uncanny description of ole Mike Magee] I would like to sincerely complain about the tone and tenure of your Intel fanzine which you publish under the url www.theregister.co.uk. The shameless and brazen way you suck up to the chip giant is proven none more strongly than when you go and compare the company to one of the most powerful cartoon characters ever to grace the face of the earth, by calling it Chipzilla. Your level of reporting is so far beyond objective that your articles almost fall into the category of comedy. I have become, by force of torture, an avid reader of your rantings, mainly so I can show my peers what they shouldn't be reading on the Internet. If I had to draw a picture of you personally in my minds eye, I would probably come up with some twisted Scotsman, in his (late) 40's, who has nothing better to do than to sit around in some pub, somewhere in the backwaters of California, drinking endless rounds of silver tequila and carrying on some fantastical discussion with a bearded German professor-type reporter. If this were a true depiction of you and I were to see this face in person, I would be left with only two options: 1) Put my fist into it or seeing as I am a pacifist and a wimp, 2) Buy you a drink to keep your mouth busy My only hope is that your fanboy worship of Intel will lead them to buy out your little heathen journal so you can retire gracefully to some sunny, tropical island and leave the rest of humanity alone I remain, yours sincerely Sebastian Samek
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000

UK's e-Govt plans are a joke

CommentComment So the British Government is to spend £1 billion on IT to modernise public services. It's enough to make you weep. The Government's record on IT projects is pitiful - scandalous even - yet that doesn't appear to stop ministers from coming up with one hair-brained scheme after another. For instance, in May the Government published a report, Successful IT - Modernising Government in Action, which pinpointed 30 areas where it failed to manage IT projects. Among the improvements suggested were employing trained staff, monitoring budgets and reviewing the progress of the project. Presumably this is because no one had bothered to do these things in the past. Still, this recommendation came too late for the National Audit Office, which, in August, slammed Blair's bodgers for wasting £1.6 billion on a computer system intended to crack down on benefit fraud. Then there's the £13 million - chicken feed by comparison - that caused holiday chaos last year at the Passport Agency. Oh, and the Inland Revenue which lost tax records and refused to accept tax returns online because of a glitch. And don't forget the nation's new Air Traffic Control centre in Southampton that is years overdue, still not operational and massively over budget. That's not all. The Government's Web site fell over earlier this year because too many people had voiced their opinions in the e-talking shop. And in May, a survey of British dotcoms found they were deeply dissatisfied with the Government's handling of the new economy. E-commerce minister Patricia Hewitt was singled out for the harshest criticism when only seven per cent of those who took part in the survey said she was "doing an effective job". Truth is, when it comes to IT and the Net, the Government makes the Russian navy look like a slick, safe operation. What a waste. ® Related Stories UK plc loves the Net UK invests £1 billion in e-government
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2000

One dimensional sound waves – enough already!

OK, we surrender. When we claimed last week that sound waves couldn't move in one dimension, we didn't know what we were letting ourselves in for. Now thanks to dozens of readers explaining the subject to us v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y with the aid of Slinkys, we understand that sound waves are compression waves so they can move in one dimension (well, two actually if you count time). Thanks to the 73 readers who've emailed explanations to date. We now know so much about sound waves that we could probably give a lecture on the subject. You can all stop now. Please? ® Related Story Heatsinks that work by sound
Andrew Thomas, 11 Sep 2000

Car crash kid investigated for online fraud

A 15-year-old kid from Florida is under investigation for fraud after crashing a car he is suspected of buying online. The lad bought the $15,000 Plymouth Neon last month by negotiating the price via email and telephone, police said. He used the CheckFree service - which lets users send cash electronically. In total he sent out more than $100,000 in other payments, but the car was the only product he got delivered. The cash was taken from the State of Florida Disbursement Unit which issues child maintenance payments, AP reported. The boy was caught when he ploughed his shiny new purchase through a fence and ran over a stop sign. He has now been charged with driving without a license and is being investigated for grand theft and fraud. ® Related Stories Kids wanna have fun online School sued after scam site expulsion Pokemon whips Blair
Linda Harrison, 11 Sep 2000

Readers' Letters Late and small

[Okay, okay, so your Letters Ed went on a press freebie to Amsterdam and forgot all about Readers' Letters. Seeing as it's now Monday, what's gonna happen is that we'll post a shortened version of just what we say it is: readers' letters. Besides, there weren't many good ones this week anyway. All the troublemakers must be on holiday] Here, by the way is: Flame of the Week We are Intel lapdogs Makes a change from being AMD/Rambus/etc lapdogs Flame of the Week: Scruffy student replies Everybody wants to study computing For once I agree with a reply to an article. I am an ex "scruffy student" from " a computing course which took "people from any background" - in fact it was so easy to get on the course at the University of York - only had to get an A and 2 Bs at A level - oh and in the year I entered a B in A level Maths was required. And my exciting placement abroad? Never happened - to make ends meet worked in a meat processing plant over the summer holidays. The major draw back of studying Computer Science at the University of York (apart from the summer holidays?) - I was one of 7 females in a group of 70 - but hey at least it inspired me to study. Thanks for making my hard work at Uni (image recognition, compliers, formal maths to name but a few look like one big piss up). Thanks for supporting everyone who has worked hard to get their degrees - oh and get to Uni in the first place. As for the shed loads of money? Well like just about every student who has graduated - everyone I know who has studied at Uni has left with shed loads of debt. The difference is that those who earn less than £15000 (or there abouts) pa don't have to pay it back to the student loan company. Don't forget those overdrafts they have to be paid back within two years of graduating. Rachel Breeze [This stems from a big ole debate that Andrew accidentally stirred up by referring to stupid Canadians and seal clubbing. This letter appears to be genuine and was accompanied by some shots of seals pre and post-club. We decided not to post them] Canadians finish off seal and turn on Reg Microsoft suggests Canadians can't add In your column, "Microsoft suggests Canadians can't add." You say you still haven't figured out why "Quebeckers" are banned. First, I should let you know it's spelled Quebecois. The reason it is not allowed in Quebec is due to Quebec Provincial Law, not Federal. The seal hunt wasn't very good the last few years, mostly due to global warming. This has altered ice conditions in Canada. What ice remains in spring is so weak and thin is breaking up and killing the seals without any help from Canadian east coast sealers. Seals are being crushed to death. Too much warming caused by cars, trucks, coal burning etc. Say, doesn't England burn a lot of coal? If you want a debate on which country, Canada or England, has caused the most devastation on earth, let me know. Have you heard the news? Canada is preparing for a new hunt. Yes indeed, we are planning an invasion of English soil using thousands specially designed canoes made from left over seal skins. We still have a bit of work to do before the invasion begins, things like, teaching our navy seals not to come in contact with English blood as reports indicate many people may be infected with mad cow disease. According to the reports from European and North American scientists and media, many English people are or soon will be suffering from insanity due to eating the flesh of mad cows. So, as the loyal allies we are, we just couldn't allow ourselves to let so many of you suffer from the obvious delusions that are so evident now to us and your European allies. Oh, I should also mention that instead of clubs, we'll be using hockey sticks to put you poor English subjects out of your bleak existence. Be strong, help will be there if there is any ice in the North Atlantic this winter. And we promise that the hockey sticks won't hurt, well ok, maybe just a little. Intel behind Big Brother site claim Just a little story A few months back I crashed a party at the offices of a Brighton firm that shares a building with Victoria Real. What little I remember of a pretty drunken night was repeatedly blighted by the looming apparition of a friendless, gormless, drug-addled Victoria Real employee latching on to me and telling me in no-uncertain terms how important their firm was going to be in the world of e-commerce blah-di-blah and how someone-or-other in the E-world had feted them for future greatness. Being obviously very excited by this non-sensical rant I smiled politely and tried my hardest to elbow myself away from him and towards the rapidly depleting bar. However in my rush I singularly failed to point out to him that just because they "do websites", have a naff, Gibsonesque moniker and trendy office space it doesn't entitle them to stamp their brand loyalty all over my head when I was trying against all the odds to enjoy myself at an office party. Your article brought this memory shuddering to the surface, I hope you're happy. At least now I'm properly enlightened as to who did the BB website and I completely understand how such a surefire idea could be so well and truly loused up. Yrs, B We all still want Bluetooth Yes, we're still waiting for Bluetooth. We've waited for 30 years for thin displays, for networking to the home, for wireless telephones that truly anyone can afford and for good GUIs to UNIX. We've waited for millions of years for heated, lighted, comfortable, safe homes. So what? We can wait another breath or two for Bluetooth. Damn all the friggin' wires! Gene Mosher The royal family's email fraud We were wrong: sign up to the Nigerian 'fraud' email now I received the same email some months back, I have a best friend and fellow CF developer who is Nigerian. She felt I was being unfair laughing at the email and made me reply so I did! :-( I was invited the Park Lane Hilton, where I met 10 Nigerian business men, very smooth and professional full documents to prove they were who they said they were. My friend however was able to find out before we arrived that no such a position in the Nigerian government existed, so had some fun with them getting them to prove it ;-) I was then given the hard sell, its very hard not to laugh ;-) I left ... however the plan was less they wanted your money, more they wanted to use "UK" people with good backgrounds to move a lot of illegal money around. Not good ... safe to say I declined. If you add this as a follow up ... please do NOT add my name! ;-) I don't think Rambus detractors have ever said that Rambus couldn't achieve higher bandwidth on a per pin basis. However, bandwidth isn't everything despite what Intel and Rambus want you to think, and large numbers of pins are a lot cheaper thanks to flip-chip/C4 technology and and improvements in multi-layer motherboard manufacturing. Memory latency, memory die size, memory package density, motherboard design, testing costs, etc must be taken into consideration when you tally up the true performance and financial costs/benefits of a design. I should hope the Pentium 4 with a 4-8x higher bandwidth system bus can achieve high memory bandwidths with what is probably going to be an expensive dual Rambus channel motherboard/chipset combo. But I would expect a 128 bit DDR motherboard/chipset to perform similarly, while reducing latency and system cost. In future I expect that chipsets and processors which support a multilevel memory hierarchy using onboard embedded RAM will further enhance bandwidth and lower latency while lowering overall costs, though it may require smarter and better thought out chips and OSes to take full advantage of such an architecture. Anil Maliyekkel [Oh dear, oh dear. This is printed as was received because we didn't want to enter his world] All Filth, Lies, Filth filth filth filth!!!! Rambus makes the fastest memory, hands down! There is no latency as Tom Pabst put it - it has been inspected and proved a falsehood. Intel is just a company that is protecting themselves from the carnivore called AMD. BTW - what is the fastest chipset? Hmmmm! I think it is the i840! *BOTH RAMBUS AND INTEL* Lets see - why does Tom Pabst hate intel "Because of their aggressive tactics* - well, wouldn't you have agressive tactics if you had to defend your patents against companies trying to cut corners? No, there is no excuse for people like you cutting down a great company! BTW - my dog wrote this! Actually I'm not insane, you are just making me go insane with all these crazy lies! Go collect your AMD paycheck and retire you FEEEEEELTHY ANIMAL!!!!! YOU DOOOOOOOOGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!! BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! SLAP SLAP! TAKE THAT!!! WAM!!! AND THAT!!! SLAP BAM!!!! /me slaps j00!!! Filth Egroups under fire for child porn pics It's good to have someone speaking out for what so many of us feel. So many of us have sent letters to Egroups, Yahoo, and the police but it is nice to see somebody with a little more stature speaking on behalf of the children as well. I know that child pornography has been around for a very long time and it most likely always will be. But I feel that it is up to all of us to make it as difficult as possible for the sick and deranged people that view it... and even worse, the people that force the children to do such adult acts. There are other child porn sites on Egroups already. They contain the same links to the Lolita sites. I know that it would be difficult for Egroups, and other such servers, to monitor everything that is posted on their sites. But why wouldn't it be possible for them to set up some key words (ie: girls age 4-10, child pornography etc) that would send an alert to Egroups so they can investigate and shut it down if need be? I'm no computer genius, but it just doesn't seem that it's that much to ask or would be that hard to do. Thank you again for your article. Sincerely, Corinna Hersey mother of 3 and Egroups member [And eGroups perspective] I just read your two articles on eGroups and child porn. I will get the appropriate person to officially respond asap. However, I'd like to make it clear that we are intensely opposed to child porn (both morally and legally), and remove it from our service as soon as we discover it. Note that I (and others at eGroups/Yahoo) have children myself and feel very strong about this issue. To report abuse on our service, simply send email to abuse@egroups.com and report the illegal content. We will get on it quickly. Note that we cannot possibly monitor our service for a variety of reasons (e.g. 100's millions of messages per day) and are dependent on individuals, like your readers, to contact us as soon as they find offensive content. We will then gladly delete it. Rikk Carey (Senior VP Product Development) [And finally, some reader humour bypass] Subject: Gah It's spelled 'Hertz', you fuel, not 'hurtz'. Thus 'megahertz'. kira. Mike replies: "And you think I don't know that?" Kira replies: It's just *really* pissing me off, that's all. Could someone explain the joke please? Mike replies: "Why does it annoy you so much? It's just one of our puns - hurts, hertz. Our stories are full of em." Kira replies: Usually they're *funny*. I'm surrounded by quasi-illiterate morons who see this sort of thing and think that it is *correct*, too - that's probably something to do with it... I'm just a bit of a spelling nazi, ignore me... kira. If you enjoyed these letters then why not curl up and have a good read of some more of our correspondence here.
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2000

Intel promises better 1GHz Pentium III supply

UpdatedUpdated Chip giant Intel is denying rumours that it is running into problems with supplying the latest flip chip Pentium III because it is using the same stepping as the withdrawn 1.1GHz Pentium III. Resellers and distributors have reported scarcity of the parts for the last three weeks, while posts on Silicon Investor suggest it may be using the same stepping as the 1.1GHz Pentium III, which is C0. However, Intel notified its resellers at the end of last week that availability was improving. (The memo to its resellers is below). A representative at Intel UK said today that as far as he was aware, there is no problem whatever with the part. It may not even be at that stepping, yet. Supplies of the Pentium III 1GHz were supposed to vastly improve over August and into September, but the flip chip still seems to be in very short supply. This may be because Intel is giving first priority to its PC customers, before its distie and reseller channel gets a look in. Sources at Kingston Technology said over the weekend that Intel is making renewed efforts to ensure its distributor and dealer channel gets better treatment in the future. It has lost face over the last year with major distributors and with a number of resellers who have consistently reported shortages across a wide range of products, mostly boxed microprocessors and boxed motherboards. Those shortages have continued throughout this year, but senior Intel executives have promised supplies will increase during last, and this, quarter. One US reseller said that Intel has only recently added a listing (SKI) for the part. When it is looked up on either Tech Data's listing, it comes out looking a lot like this: "Description: BOXED PENTIUM III 1GHZ 256K 133FSB FCPGA Status: Allocated, ETA Date: (blank). On order from vendor: Zero. "In other words, he said, it is just plain "not available". Here is Intel's memo to its dealers: Intel(r) Boxed Processor Availability Update September 8, 2000 Intel Confidential Information Disclosed under NonDisclosure Agreement This is a notice to inform you of the current availability outlook for the Intel boxed processors sold through authorized distribution channels. This outlook statement is based on current expectations -- it is forward looking and actual results may differ. We recommend that system integrators contact their authorized distributors for specific availability and pricing information. Intel Processor Supply Summary Intel expects that shipments of processors to the distribution channel will increase significantly in 2H'00 vs 1H'00. The ramp of the .18-micron process technology is proceeding well. At the beginning of Q3'00 Intel had five fabs using the advanced .18-micron process technology. By the end of the year Intel expects to have eight fabs using this process. The conversion to .18-micron process technology increases the production capacity of Intel's facilities. * Intel processor shipments to the distribution channel have increased significantly and we expect to be able to support strong growth in 2H'00. Intel expects the majority of Pentium(r) lll processor shipments to the distribution channel in Q3'00 to be based on .18-micron process technology. * Intel expects the majority of .18-micron process technology Pentium lll processor shipments to the distribution channel during Q3'00 to be in core speeds of 700 MHz and higher as Intel continues to transition to higher performance levels. * Intel's production priority will continue to be Pentium lll processors although production of .18-micron based Celeron(tm) processors is increasing throughout Q3'00 as well. System integrators should see tight but increasing supply of Celeron processors in September'00. We suggest that system integrators align their product offerings accordingly. * Intel continues to position itself to meet strong growth in 2H'00. In the long-term, Intel is planning for growth higher than many industry forecasts and is investing in production facilities accordingly. For more specific information about availability of Intel processors for the distribution channel see below: Intel(r) Pentium(r) lll Processor Transition to Flip Chip-PGA Package The transition of the Pentium(r) lll processor line from SECC2 to FC-PGA packaging is proceeding well. Intel expects that about 75% of the Pentium lll processors shipped to Intel authorized distributors in Q3'00 will be in the FC-PGA package. This is expected to increase to about 90% in Q4'00. Intel plans to continue building limited quantities of Pentium lll processors in the SECC2 package in the second half of 2000. These SECC2 builds will be concentrated on higher core speeds to support Server and Workstation designs until they are compatible with the FC-PGA form factor. Boxed Intel(r) Pentium(r) lll Processor 1 GHz Intel is now shipping a boxed Pentium(r) lll processor 1 GHz integration pack. The pack contains a Pentium lll processor 1GHz with attached fan heatsink, Intel VC820 desktop board and 128 MB PC800 RDRAM* memory module. A standalone boxed processor without desktop board and memory module that is expected to work in a broader set of boards and chassis is expected to begin shipping in Q4. Please check here for future updates. Boxed Intel(r) Pentium(r) lll Xeon(tm) Processor In August 2000 Intel introduced the Intel(r) Server Board SBT2. In order to support the unique thermal requirements of the Intel Server Board SBT2 and Intel SC5000 Server Chassis, Intel recently began shipping new boxed versions of the Intel Pentium(r) lll Xeon(tm) processors 933 and 866 MHz. These new versions include a custom heatsink to make it easier for channel customers to integrate servers based on Intel Server Board SBT2. Integration into other server board and chassis configurations that have not been validated with this processor/heatsink combination may cause damage. These processors have a unique product code to enable you to distinguish them from other Pentium lll Xeon processors." The situation is different at Ingram to Tech Data. Dealers say the VC820/128MB RDRAM/Pentium III 1GHz combo is in stock at $1,250. Mind you, as one North American quipped: "Let's not overstate this. They've only got 16." ®
Mike Magee, 11 Sep 2000

Fuel protests hit UK IT industry

Computer distributors in the UK have heard from their courier that difficulties in sourcing fuel is preventing them from delivering IT kit to their customers. Amtrak UK told a distributor, who declined to be identified, that the difficulties were now widespread. He received the following memo from the courier. "Due to the current Nationwide Fuel Situation, Amtrak will have severe delivery difficulties in the following postal code areas tomorrow 12th September 2000: "TA1 BS1 BL1 BD1 HD1 HR1 M1 L2 CH1 WN1 "By Tuesday 13th September 2000: "LL1 CM1 SN2 "By Wednesday 14th September 2000: "SA2 S1 LA2 WA1 "In addition the following areas are affected due to pickets "EH1 TD1 WA1 Said the distributor: "And just to let you know, the situation is getting quite bad in Milton Keynes. Panic buying is leading to 15-30 minute queues at almost all petrol stations over here - those that still have fuel. "Here's something to think about - while queuing up for petrol this afternoon (yes - I confess to being a panic buyer) I worked out that OPEC is charging $30 a barrel and our government is taxing us at slightly over $150 a barrel – ouch!" OPEC is not due to meet for another six months, according to UK cable channel news, this morning. Amtrak in the UK is understood to organise deliveries for a number of computer distributors in the UK, including Time and Northamber. ®
Mike Magee, 11 Sep 2000