Dotcom start-ups should copy the porn industry if they want to be successful. That's the advice of sex industry entrepreneurs, who reckon they are way ahead when it comes to using the Web for business. Sex sites were the first to recognise the opportunities of the Net and the sector also went through the e-learning curve quicker than the rest, they claim. Whereas traditional e-tail giants like Amazon are still patiently waiting to break into profit, most porn sites rode into profit within since months of launch. Many have been in the black for five years, and the crème of sleaze sites don't settle for less than 20 per cent profit, Reuters reports. Nasdaq-listed Private, which has three million visitors per month, saw first quarter profit of 29 per cent. While Canada's Casa Rosso - a spin-off of the Amsterdam red light district club - has a gross profit margin of 20 per cent. Their secret? Many cut costs wherever possible because they are forced to operate on a tight cash flow basis - it is hard to get a bank account if you sell sex, apparently. This means they have copied the multinationals and started operations in cheaper countries like the Czech Republic. Many also quickly cottoned on to the importance of keeping sites easy to navigate - and were among the first to use java software programmes that scrapped the need for "plug-ins" to play videos. Something failed sports e-tailer Boo.com's hi-tech site could have benefited from. In slightly related news, a survey out today revealed Americans cited sex and watching TV as their favourite ways to fall asleep. ® Related Stories Porn biz sets sights on PlayStation 2, XXX box City porn downloaders caught banking Fantasy gamer banned in porno row Porn queen Danni fights to hold record breaker crown
New York-based Urbanfetch is to shut its consumer delivery service in the city and ditch its London office. The dotcom, which delivered online orders of goods such as books, food and electrical items within the hour, will now only run its corporate delivery service Urbanfetch Express. It is not known how many of the 400 New York staff will lose their jobs. All 100 employees will go in its four-month-old UK business - which the company claims was healthy. But according to Urbanfetch CEO Ross Stephens, the B2B operation - started six months ago - is more profitable than the two consumer delivery businesses combined. "Present market realities dictate that we focus our resources where we can make a profit in a much shorter time frame than our B2C business would have required," he said. The consumer operation will keep running for a few weeks to liquidate inventory. The announcement comes just two days after the collapse of merger talks between Urbanfetch and New York rival Kozmo.com. In dotcom desperado news, the Tribune Interactive is to cut 80 jobs in a bid to generate profit - including 20 staff at LATimes.com, and six at the ChicagoTribune.com and ChicagoSports.com. It has a total of 650 staff. Today also saw two more dotcom exec vacancies open up. WebMD founder and co-CEO Jeff Arnold and Stamps.com chairman and CEO John Payne both announced they would quit their positions. ® Related Stories QXL buyout of Ricardo gets delayed Kozmo.com delays IPO No layoffs at Apple, Steve Jobs promises troops
3dfx, the leading graphics card maker, says its earnings and sales for the quarter ended 31 October will be "substantially" lower than expected. It attributes the shortfall to "overall softness in the European retail and system integrator channels". The company says that its planned expansion into the OEEM market will shield it from the 'volatility and unpredictability' of the retail add-in board sector, where it is historically strongest. In other words its gunning for ATI territory. As an example of an OEM contract, 3dfx cites last week's design win to supply Compaq with 3dfx's Voodoo5 5500 AGP products for the PC maker's build to order Presario programme. The company is also keen to licence its GigaPixelcores to "emerging, non-PC markets such as hand-held computers, mobile telephones, console games and set-top boxes". Tony Smith adds: What 3dfx really needs to do is get moving on the successor to the VSA-100 chip that powers the Voodoo 4 and 5 lines. The company is well behind - at least in terms of what it's telling the outside world - on the six-monthly product refresh schedule the 3D graphics business now operates. Even ATI realises this, which it recently expanded upon its Radeon roadmap, taking the chip to version two and beyond. ® Related Stories ATI revamps Radeon roadmap Dell: 'When will Europeans embrace technology' Dell can't blame poor performance on Euro PC market Intel blames Europe for lower profits
Stanley Leisure has opened two new tax-free sports betting sites. Stanleybet.co.uk is hosted in the UK and was launched in tandem with stanleybet.com, its offshore operation based in Malta. Both sites offer customers 'tax-free' betting on a range of sports although the outfit specialises in association football. It reckons it will be able to offer odds on up to 400 matches a week from 16 countries. Punters can also bet on other major sports, including golf, tennis and rugby, as well as the gee-gees. E-services group, e-xentric plc, announced a pre-tax profit of £206,000 for the six months ended 31 July 2000, compared to a £333,000 loss for the same period last year. In May 2000 it acquired MCA (now e-xentric UK Ltd) and also bought 5-online in August 2000. Online entertainment services company, Scour, has filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy in LA. The site, which lets user swap video and audio files, says that it made the move to protect its business and allow it to continue to operate "in the face of burdensome lawsuits." The company is under legal fire, accused of copyright infringement. Companies currently involved in the legal wranglings include Sony, Viacom and 20th Century Fox. Reg Factoid The CEO of Auzzie telco, Telstra, is Ziggy Switkowski. ® Life getting you down? Read Cash Reg - then you'll realise it's not that bad.
Switches don't usually light The Register's candle, but we were intrigued when we learned the Compaq has won a major contract to supply Swedish comms company Ericsson with Alpha processors. Ericsson plans to use the chips in its next-generation AXE wireless and wired phone switch. Both companies will co-operate on the development of the systems. It marks the first time this desktop and server processor is being used in an embedded application, according to Terry Shannon of Shannon Knows Compaq. The deal should bring between $500 million and $1 billion into Compaq's Alpha operation, each year over the next couple of years, reckons Shannon. "The fact that switches have very long product lifecycles (say six or more years instead of two to three years as with a server) indicates Ericsson's confidence that Alpha will be around for a long time to come," he said. "Both the longevity factor and the incremental revenue are good news for Alpha." ®
Taiwan Dramurai UMC has ramped up production of 16Mb DRAM chips to capitalise upon the parts' higher profit margins as 16Mb parts become almost as expensive as 64Mb chips. According to Taiwanese business paper the Commercial Times, 16Mb chips are only fractionally cheaper than 64Mb parts. The current price for 64Mb DRAM is around $6 - 16Mb DRAM is now up to $5.37 and rising, the paper says. When a manufacturer can churn out and sell four 16Mb parts for every one 64Mb chip, it's not hard to see why UMC and fellow Taiwan memory makers Nanya, Powerchip and Vanguard want to promote sales of 16Mb DRAM, despite the cost of switching 64Mb production to 16Mb. 16Mb DRAM is proving increasingly popular as demand grows for low-memory devices, such as phones and PDAs. Then there's the fact that, as Japanese memory companies increase production of 64Mb DRAM, they're outsourcing less production to Taiwan, leaving Taiwanese manufacturers with spare capacity. The irony here is that 16Mb technology was largely assumed to be past its sell-by date, as producers followed demand and shifted to 64Mb production. ® Related Story Taiwan chip makers slam silent fab claims
Europe is another step closer to forcing incumbent telcos to unbundle their local loops by January 2001 after the European Parliament's industry committee yesterday gave its seal of approval to the draft legislation. The legislation now goes before the whole parliament in Strasbourg in a fortnight, before seeking final approval by the Council of Europe in December. Nick Clegg, a British MEP responsible for piloting this legislation through the European Parliament, said yesterday: "I am delighted that, after an enormous amount of hard work and discussion, the committee has voted in favour of a rapid adoption of this legislation. "It will ensure that the urgent need for local loop unbundling, much talked about for many years, will finally become a reality from the end of this year. He added: "All available evidence suggests that unbundling of the local loop will provide a sharp boost to the take-up of high speed internet services in Europe, lower costs and vastly increased choice of voice and non-voice services for consumers." Despite this, Europe's path to LLU has not been easy, with incumbent telcos and nation states lobbying hard against this competitive move. According to a statement issued by the European Parliament: "Despite intense lobbying from national 'incumbent' telecom operators, MEPs voted overwhelmingly to provide fast-track approval for a new EU law on the unbundling of the local loop. "Whilst there had been much concern amongst incumbents and some Member States that the Lisbon Summit deadline of December 31st was too tight, MEPs emphatically reiterated the need to stick to a demanding timetable if unbundling is to provide early benefits to EU consumers." ®
InterviewInterview Following the news that the final cipher of Simon Singh's Code Book challenge had been broken, The Register caught up with him and Paul Leyland, who between them set the ten ciphers in the challenge. A team of researchers in Sweden cracked all the ciphers and claimed the £10,000 prize. It took a year and month between publication of the challenge and its completion without the use of a super computer. Singh set a challenge to would be cryptologists at the end of his book, which catalogues the history and development of ciphers and codes from a mono-alphabetic substitution cipher through to current Internet encryption standards. It was intended to be the toughest public cipher challenge ever set. "I really didn't have the foggiest idea how long it would take to be solved, but I think a year is a good time. If it had gone on for longer, say five years or so, it would have become frustrating and lost its pace. It is very hard to set a cipher that isn't either trivial or impossible," said Singh, thoughts echoed by his colleague in this endeavour, Paul Leyland. "Designing a good cipher isn't easy," he said. "Designing a bad one, however, is easy. In general terms, first off you have to decide what you are protecting. Is it information of low value, or high? Is it short-lived or must it be protected for many years?" Equally important are the resources of the enemy you are trying to evade, and your own resources to encrypt the data in the first place. Leyland continues: "In more familiar terms, do you want a simple bolt on a bathroom door to advise others that the room is occupied, or do you need a vault with three-foot thick steel walls to keep out professional thieves armed with explosives and cutting torches, or something in between? All these factors are important and must be properly considered before designing or choosing a cipher." As for the timing, the cracking of the cipher coincided with the start of Singh's TV serialisation of "The Code Book." Pure coincidence? Well, it seems so. Rather wistfully Singh says: "Last week would have been nice, it would have saved me a thousand pounds."* Because the ciphers in the challenge had been following a historical theme, the final stage had to be a realistic application of public key cryptography. Again, we defer to Leyland for an explanation: "The archetypal public key algorithm is RSA, and one of its major uses in real life is to encrypt a cipher key. The key would then be used to encrypt a message with a cipher far too hard to break by key search as for the DES stage. We chose triple-DES for the cipher, and encrypted its 112-bit key with a RSA public key, which was 512-bits in size." And in the way of all things code related, the final cipher turned out to have another final trick up its sleeve. "The last text was supposed to be triple DES encrypted," said Singh. "This is impossible to crack, but we had encrypted the key to the passage with a 512-bit asymmetric cipher, and this was the way to solve the final stage." However, by accident, the passage ended up being only single DES encrypted. Since the previous text, once deciphered, hinted strongly that the next passage was encrypted using triple DES, the Swedes used the key to un-triple DES the passage. Obviously after this it made no sense at all. "It took them a couple of hours to work out what was going on," Singh remarks. "I'm not embarrassed by it, its just part of cryptography that things are not always perfect. I'm sure there were spelling mistakes running through all the other texts as well." As for the implications of such a strong cipher being broken without the use of a super computer, this is the part that really impressed Leyland and Singh. However, according to David Shapland, enterprise product manager at BT Trustwise, the UK face of Verisign, said that we should be neither concerned nor surprised that a 512 bit key has been broken. "Most things are secured using a 1024-bit key these days," he said. "And if you bear in mind that starting from a 512 bit key, each additional bit doubles the number of available keys that is pretty secure against a brute force attack." He went on to explain that if one could test all the possibilities of a 40-bit symmetric key in a microsecond, it would take longer that the lifetime of the universe to test every possible combination. The puzzle was finally solved by Fredrik Almgren, Gunnar Andersson, Torbjörn Granlund, Lars Ivansson and Staffan Ulfberg from Stockholm, on 7 October 2000. ® *When the challenge was set, Singh promised £1000 to the person who was leading the race at the one year mark. The final cipher was cracked just a week after this milestone had been passed. Related Stories Swedes mash 512-bit Code Book crypto challenge to get £10,000
The report of the French National Assembly's enquiry into the Echelon surveillance system, published yesterday, points up dangers to privacy and mission creep whereby a 'security' system is being used to spy on European businesses and technological developments. And somewhat ominously, it recommends that the European Union should push for the development of secure computer systems and liberalise policy on encryption. The claim that Echelon is used for industrial espionage has some plausibility, particularly as the US has at least partially conceded that this is the case. Enquiry chairman Arthur Paecht however says that he received no co-operation from the US and UK authorities. Which puts the UK in a ticklish position, even before we get onto the implications of Paecht's recommendations. From the US point of view, apart from using Echelon to combat terrorism, crime and that useful catch-all 'subversives,' it's logical for it to be applied to keep countries and businesses honest. So where businesses may be competing unfairly by offering bribes, Echelon should be (and has been) used to correct the balance. Similarly, in cases where technologies can be used for both civilian and military purposes, Echelon should keep an eye on that too, right? These are however pretty broad target areas that could quite easily provide justification for snooping on practically anything and anybody, it's a slippery slope, and - crucially, from a French and European perspective - its direction is in the hands of the US and the UK (we'll suspend disbelief and pretend the US actually asks us about this stuff, rather than just parking the gear here). Echelon and the UK's role in the system have raised considerable ire in the rest of Europe, and in Brussels itself. The likelihood of Paecht's recommendations or something similar being acted upon is therefore fairly high. But if Brussels takes steps to protect privacy, crank up the levels of encryption available, and lock Echelon out, it would put the UK and its snoop-happy home secretary in a tricky position, wouldn't it? All that work on the RIP bill could go up in smoke after all. Related stories: Echelon spy system wildly exaggerated - official NSA memos suggest ECHELON exists What the hell is - the Echelon scandal?
CompetitionCompetition Reg merchandising has teamed up with Tivola Publishing, the publisher of multimedia CD-ROMs, to give away five copies of their Physicus. According to the blurb, a meteorite has hit the planet, causing it to stop rotating around its own axis. Things look pretty bad for humanity unless you can get the world rotating again. All you have to do is knock up a quick impulse machine. Sounds pretty simple, but as we at Vulture Central found out, there's more to it than that. Hours of fun for all the family, and most certainly not just for the kids. Right that's enough of the hype. If you want the chance to win a copy of Physicus then answer this rock hard question from our in-house Physics expert Lucy Sherriff. What is the value of the gravitational constant - that's big G, not little g. E-mail your answer here. Closing date is Friday 20th October at 5.00pm. First five out of the hat get the goods. We'll contact the winners to get their postal addresses for despatch. Good luck. ®
LCD manufacturers in Japan are trying to offset the financial damage done by falling PC and notebook screen prices by moving into production of LCD screens for PDAs and mobile phones. With the mobile phone market set to exceed 410 million units this year, it is a market the companies cannot ignore. Sharp, Japan's largest LCD manufacturer said that it expects the price of a panel measuring 13 inches or more to drop by as much as 30 per cent in the next six months. Smaller panels will only drop by five per cent. It said that small panels would account for 52 per cent of its total sales in the same period, up from 48 per cent in the first half. Hitachi and NEC said they would begin producing colour displays too: Hitachi by the end of the year, followed by an early 2001 debut for NEC. Hitachi said that it would be manufacturing colour super twisted nematic* LCD panels for mobile by the end of the year. The company said that once its new production line at its Mobara plant is completed next year, it will begin production of thin-film transistors or TFT LCD screens - a move that it hopes will "stabilise" its LCD business according to a company spokesman. Another growth area for the LCD manufacturers is the game console market, in particular, Game Boys. The demand is such that Sharp, the sole supplier to Nintendo's Gameboy, has had to boost production to 2.5 million units per month - an increase of nearly 70 per cent. ® *Nematic: A term used to describe a phase of liquid crystal in which the axes of the molecules align in parallel when exposed to a magnetic field.
The football star currently involved in an intriguing sex-blackmail court case has been named on the Net. He is one of the most famous British footballers, he is friends with Paul Gascoigne and the case is being heard in Newcastle crown court. However, the star, who claims he was stalked and blackmailed by a woman with tapes of them having phone sex, cannot be named for legal reasons after the judge in the case banned his identification. The judge tried to extend that ban to the Internet yesterday but it had already appeared on a Web site. Evidence includes tapes from the star's workplace which record her threatening to send the sex tapes to his wife, family, friends and colleagues. She then twaddles on a bit about getting him at the Gates of St Peters, sings her own demented versions of My Ding-A-Ling and Devil Woman and gets generally unpleasant. She was cautioned for her behaviour back in 1997 but continued hassling the star. When her house was searched last year, a map of his home town plus pictures and newspaper cuttings were found. Of course what you all want to know is: who is it? Or failing that, what's the Web site? However, since telling you either would put us in hot water, to be honest we can't be bothered to find out. We do have our suspicions though. Feel free to do your own research if you wanna know. ®
3Com's first Internet appliance, Audrey, will finally be launched next week after a month's delay, according to company sources sited by CNet. The etch-a-sketch style Web pad was announced earlier this year, and described by former 3Com CEO Eric Benhamou as the device that would out-Palm Palm. Audrey was due to arrive early September, but the launch was held back. However, 3Com mistakenly posted Audrey's promotional Web site, along with the portal aimed at the appliance's users, onto a live link late last month, allowing the world a brief glimpse at the device. Available in a range of colours, Audrey will sport a 6.25in x 4.75in touch-sensitive screen, plus a TV tuner knob-style control that calls up various pre-programmed Web-based channels. The device is designed to be held like a tablet computer, or to stand on a desktop like an LCD monitor. It contains a built-in 56kbps modem, speakers and microphone; serial and USB ports; and a wireless keyboard. It can be used as a back-up and synchronisation system for Palm-based devices - Audrey itself runs a mix of the PalmOS and QNX's real-time Neutrino OS. ® Related Story Revealed 3Com's first Net appliance - Audrey
A German Web site specialising in Nazi memorabilia has put some of Hitler's barnet* up for auction - at £700 a hair! The woman the runs the minimalist site Carinhall.com, Pamela Korner, is rather pleased with her acquisition. Unfortunately, we had to use online translation software to find out what the hell was going on (it's all in German). Apparently, Hitler got a bit freaked by the weird cults building up around him and so out-weirded them by insisting his hair was destroyed immediately after it was cut off. However a barber came upon the cunning plan of dampening the sole of his shoe and managing to pick up a few follicles of the crazed dictator. According to Pamela, DNA tests have proved 100 per cent that she has Adolf's hair. Is it just us or is this absolutely nuts? This is hair for chrissakes. Tiny, tiny bits of it. Spend the money on a pyschiatrist - there's a nice Jewish one just round the corner from us. ® * For our America readers, "barnet" is Cockney rhyming slang for hair (as in Barnet Fair).
PC manufacturer Gateway matched analyst's estimates by reporting net income of $152.6 million for the third quarter, up from $113.1 million a year earlier. Net sales grew from $2.5 billion to $2.2 billion a year ago. Sales and software made up 50 per cent of the company's profits, five per cent higher than expected. "We are not a pure-play PC maker anymore and our results last quarter prove the point," said Gateway president Jeff Weitzen. ®
The Recording Industry Association of America is developing a system to identify and track the transmission of digital music files, the trade organisation said yesterday. Essentially, the RIAA's plan is to embed identifiction codes into digital music files. The codes would contain details about the song, who owns the copyright and describe what anyone who obtains the file can do with it - play it back once or unlimited duplication and playback, for example. The system should be ready for use by the middle of 2001, and is designed to be compatible with existing digital rights management systems, such as software from Reciprocal and Intertrust. The RIAA described the coding as information that will be stored in the header of digital music files, but we suspect it's more akin to a watermark, embedded within the digitised sound, to make it harder for pirates and hackers to remove it. Of course, the coding can't stop piracy - there remain too many ways to create digital music files without the codes - but it does provide a mechanism by which legitimate digital music distribution services can track music usage for the calculation of royalty payments. In that respect, the scheme seems primarily designed to legitimise services like Napster, which can be modified to only handle correctly coded music files and to determine which how many copies of given file are made, and thus what percentage of the subscription fee the owner of that file's copyright should receive. Again, that won't prevent the rise of deliberately non-compliant software, but it will make it easier for such services to avoid confrontation with the music industry's big guns. Indeed, the timing of the RIAA announcement can't be coincidence, what with the US Court of Appeal's verdict on Napster still being eagerly awaited by the industry. The RIAA's scheme provides a way out for Napster, a method by which it can avoid closure if the case goes against it. ® Related Stories RIAA readies for legitimate Net music sales The Napster Controversy Full Coverage
BT is holding a two-day love-in at a trendy London location next week to show off its broadband content and technology. Those invited to turn up will be able to muse over the future of the technology and the impact it will have on our lives. Called "Citizens of the Openworld", it's been described as a cross industry platform led by BTopenworld to "debate and explore the potential of Broadband technology and its impact on the UK". BT's wheeling out all its content providers and other partners in a massive show of solidarity and support. But while they're considering what the future of broadband means for the UK and how this will affect music distribution, here's something else for them to consider. One reader, we're protecting his identity because he's still in talks with BT, has contacted Reg to say that BT keeps losing people's orders thanks to a computer glitch. "My name appears on the system as having placed an order but the order has vanished," he wrote. "So I asked to speak to a manager, couldn't, so I left a complaint. "They then forwarded my complaint to their lost orders department. Welcome to alarm bell city. Do they lose so many orders that they have an entire department to cope with this? Turns out there is some sort of bug 'in the computer' (their words) that a lot of orders are just being lost," said our disheartened reader. A spokesman for BT said he wasn't aware of any major problems. ®
British ISP, Callnet plc, has been bought by E-Tel Ventures plc, Reg can reveal. The deal was closed last night although financial details have not been disclosed. No one at Callnet or UK-based E-Tel was available for comment by press time although it's understood that E-Tel is looking to merge Callnet's ISP with its own ASP services. Last month Callnet called in administrators, BDO Stoy Hayward, to find a buyer for the ISP business. Callnet's other significant interest - it's text-based information and email service for TVs - M@ilTV - had already be split from the company. Callnet was one of the first companies to offer unmetered Net access in the UK. It ditched the service in August. ® Related Stories Callnet up for sale
Two announcements here. Barclays and Japanese bank Nomura are spending £30 million on a joint shopping portal in time for Christmas. And the Alliance & Leicester is launching a new small business service which it will run almost entirely over the Internet. The Barclays/Nomura venture sees Barclays put in £20 million to Nomura's £10 million. The portal's name has not been released yet, but according to the PR, it will include over one million products from 50 retailers by Christmas and increase to five million products 12 months later. The idea is that customers will use their Barclaycards and this will give them confidence in buying online - going up against a recent report by trading standards that said shopping online was not inefficient and potentially unsafe. The new site will link to retailers' site rather than run it on its own and will use "advanced search technology" but then that's just PR guff. Alliance & Leicester meanwhile has tried to reverse its recent decline by entering the "Internet space". To be honest, there isn't much meat here, all A&L has done is say it will launch this new Alliance Business Banking service with the Internet in mind - we've yet to get any detailed info. That said, A&L has spent a lot of money pulling the Internet into its current system so it isn't to be underestimated. The thing is that its share price has taken a big knock recently and it needs to get investors more excited. Announcing an Internet "strategy" is a surefire way of buying some time. ®
Dell today recalled up to 27,000 notebook batteries that are suspected of being a fire risk. The voluntary recall affects models sold in the Americas from June 22 to September 15, and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa between June 22 and October 4. The batteries, which have the potential to short-circuit, overheat and start smoking when not in use, were made by Sanyo Electric. Dell shipped them in its consumer Inspiron and commercial Latitude laptops, and they were also sold separately by Dell or through one of its service providers in the same period. Dell said it had received one report of a battery in one of its computers catching fire - this resulted in "minor property damage" but no injuries, and prompted the recall. The specific models at risk are the Latitude CPiA, CPiR, CPtC, CPtS, CPtV, CPxH and CPxJ, and the Inspiron 3700 and 3800. Batteries with the following ID numbers are affected: DP/N followed by 01691P, 001691P or 0001691P and 42011, 42012, 42013 or 42014 as a separate code. More information on the recall can be found here. This is the second such situation to plague Dell this year. In March it warned that up to 400,000 notebooks shipped in 1999 contained potentially faulty chips. ® Related Stories Blame Europe: Now it's 3dfx's turn Dell: 'When will Europeans embrace technology' Dell hacks server, PC and notebook prices to pieces Dell debuts Itanium workstation
It had to happen. Spurred on by the success of British gangster flicks and inspired no doubt by Madonna's recent conversion to anglophilia, Hollywood has sunk to new lows with its remake of classic film Get Carter. A moment of casting madness put Sly Stallone in the title role, originally played by Michael Caine. Stallone, who acting repertoire runs the entire gamut of emotions from a to a, has in recent years attracted the odium of cinema audiences with his inspired one-dimensional portrayal of comic-book hero Judge Dredd. An advance screening of the film here at Vulture Central ended in Tony 'Nine Hats' Smith having to be restrained from leaving the office with a gun shouting "I'll have you Stallone you bleedin' slag." Cub reporter Lucy Sherriff failed to moderate his wrath, despite pleas of "leave it Nines he just ain't worth it." Both were later sent home early in a cab. With a rack of British gangster films currently in production, including Leave it, Shut it, Fag Guv? and Want some?, it's only a matter of time before we see Leonardo di Caprio as Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday 2000. You're having a laugh aincha?
Computer services group Sema has signed a £24 million deal with ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) to supply handhelds to rail staff in the UK. The idea is that all staff will have access to the latest timetable information, thus making your average commuter's journey that little bit less frustrating. Hopefully the deal means all the rail operators will kit out their employees. Armed with a Pocket PC running Windows CE, suddenly all the rail staff hanging around in their bright blue uniforms but with stubble and nicotine-stained teeth will become your friends - useful human beings that will be able to tell you when your train will arrive (if ever) and, if you're really lucky, which platfrom you can expect to arrive on. Not that we're mocking the technology - we think this is a great idea. You can always tell the virgin train travellers because they look at the printed timetables rather than the departures/arrivals board. The idea of staff actually being accountable for this information is too beautiful to be missed. Don't get too excited though - it'll be the middle of next year before they even arrive and even then, we're not guaranteed that all the information will be available on them. Here's the PR guff: Bernard Dunn, Chairman of the Rail Settlement Plan said: "With this innovative use of new technology, rail staff will no longer need to carry large, heavy manuals in order to give information to passengers. Furthermore, passengers would have on-train access to fare and timetable information that is both accurate and up-to-date." When was the last time you saw rail staff carrying large, heavy manuals about? I think 1992 was the last time for me. And I reckon that was an office move. More: David Tait, Managing Director of Transport for Sema Group explained: "By providing this innovative solution, Sema Group is consolidating its close relationship with the rail industry by continued delivery of highly innovative technical solutions. This agreement demonstrates our significant edge over our competitors and illustrates our ability to develop services that deliver real value to our customers in this sector." You will note of course that nowhere does it suggest that trains will turn up on time - you will simply be informed how late they will be. Or, of course, if it has been cancelled. It seems unlikely as well that the Pocket PCs will tell you if you'll have to stand in the corridor for the entire journey or how many carriages you'll have to walk through until you get to a toilet that hasn't been territorially marked by some unknown scum several hours earlier. If this a little harsh it's because I actually use the trains. ®
The clever people responsible for the super-high-capacity solid-state storage breakthroughs, from Keele University, have discovered that the same technology will actually speed up processing time by a factor of eight. Researchers at the University discovered a "three-dimensional" memory system which they reckon can cram 10.8TB on to a PC card sized device. Now the technology can be used to increase bandwidth capacity, as explained in a statement issued by the company handling the commercial aspects of the new science: "The very high data density properties allow so much more data to be transmitted over a given bandwidth. The same advantages are also felt in terms of processing speeds." The net result is that, according to researchers' current calculations data can be processed eight times faster than it is using conventional technology. Work is continuing at the university to investigate the properties of the new technology even further. Now that the patenting process has been completed the researchers are looking to license the technology to companies for mass-production, and for the ongoing R&D work needed to make the 'solid-state' memory commercially viable. The group has formed a company called Keele High Density to sell the fruits of their labour. Professor Ted Williams at Keele University, Staffordshire, England, has spent 13 years developing the technology. ® Related stories Boffins cram 10.8TB of data on a PC card $35 for 2.3TB
Scotland is the seventh most wired country for business, according to the latest findings from Scottish Enterprise. What makes this figure particularly outstanding is that less than a quarter of Scottish businesses have their own Web sites. And of those, just 7 per cent of businesses sell goods and services online. Despite that, 24 per cent of SMEs in Scotland buy things online. So what does all this mean? Well, we ain't got the foggiest - but it's enough for the organisers of Internet World UK to give Scotland its very own show in Glasgow next week. Can't wait. ®
Anandtech has taken a look at the ATI Radeon 32MB SDR Version. Major conclusions? It is still not quite up there at lower resolutions, but when more performance is demanded, it comes through with flying colours. Excuse the pun, and check it out here. Overclockers in Oz want to let the world know that they have PCR file for the i815 chipset now. "This is a first," the guys say. "It allows people to use WCPREDIT to adjust the chipset registers, fine-tuning settings for AGP timing, SDRAM timing etc." If you can understand that, you'll probably want the file. You can get it here. Kyle over at HardOCP has taken a sneaky peek at a forthcoming Pentium 4 mainboard with the i850 chipset, the Microstar 6339. So that should be worth a look, all in favour click here. Big fish with many teeth bring you a preview of the Iwill KA266-R motherboard, based on the ALiMAGiK 1 chipset, an Athlon/Duron supporting DDR chipset. Got your attention? "After skipping the entire Socket A architecture, ALi is back with an AMD chipset, and this time, they support DDR memory," says the Sharky one himself. Point and click. Tech-Review says to keep one eye peeled for falling AMD prices: the Thunderbird 1 GHz is listed as under $400 on the weekly price guide. The Duron 800 makes its debut, and some Intel price hikes contrast dramatically by some AMD end of season sale prices. Click here. ® Check out the hardware roundup back catalogue if you still have an appetite for the silicon related.
Printing with warpaint [The letter that sparked the controversy, well, the small debate] They seem to be brushing over the fact that woad is a hallucinogenic and you are no longer allowed use it as a body paint. The reason the early Celts used it was it turned them into raving lunatics before a battle. Not particularly hard thing to do really... Karl Interesting article. It will be something to keep an eye on. However, I thought I would point out that while it is a persistent myth, there is no scientific proof of woad having any hallucinogenic properties with regards to humans. The celts and picts used woad mixed with urine to paint before battle. The purpose of this was twofold, often powerful religious symbols would be painted to protect the wearer in battle, and to terrify opponents. They would spike up their hair with lime as well. Makes for one icky concoction, no? Thanks for the good articles. Keep it coming! Cheers, Chris Hall ... and that makes you Queen Boadicaea? (spelling?). [We reckon Boudicca or Boadicea] Still, it all sounds very environmentally PC for PCs. David Darn, I can't find the articles. You might want to do a Deja search on rec.org.sca or one of the natural-dyestuffs newsgroups. It's a popular misconception, but woad has no hallucinogenic properties whatsoever. Another concerned reader.
Canada torches all .ca domain names - owners must reapply Don't forget that Canada is about the only country which has all the makings of a civil war (Quebec versus the rest of Canada) but instead of going to war people just shout at the politicians & write letters to newspapers. Canadians in general put up with rules provided by governments a little more than Americans do. Less of 'we have the right' attitude. My own organisation happily reregistered. Also, our country also has unlimited local phone calls, not just the U.S. Anyway, thanks for an interesting article. The Register is always one of my 'must read' internet sites. I may not agree with The Register but at least saying something is better than sitting on the fence. Michael If you thought the Canadians were crazy to can their existing domain registration policy, look at what we have in India. Here the local .in authority has sanctioned a new series where you can register a .ind.in domain, the only problem is you need to suffix a two digit number at least with the ind bit. That would mean a kieren00.ind.in and not kieren.ind.in. As it is, .ind.in is a bit of a mouthful. Ciao Shyam Somanadh I own a .ca domain, xxxxxx.ca and under less than accurate pretences I might add. I'd be pleased that you not publish this fact, since it would ruin my chance to discover whether the new system is any better at weeding out people like me. To the betterment of your copy, no doubt, you have badly misunderstood the logic of the existing Canadian system. Under the existing system, the domains are administered free of charge mostly by local universities. For western Canada, the University of British Columbia has fulfilled this role on a basis not so different from Jon Postel, which as a Brit you should appreciate, since the system under the Postel regime was decidedly un-American. Everyone in Canada is entitled to a domain at no annual cost. The only issue is whether you are entitled to a root subdomain or a hicksville domain. Since I operate a ******* in the province of British Columbia, I am entitled to ******.bc.ca. Lacking provincial status, I would probably be stuck with *****.saanich.bc.ca, merely by residing in the municipality of Saanich. What the old system fails to recognise is that the rest of the world is even less interested in the correct spelling of Saanich than I am in the correct pronunciation of Greenwich. The old rules did not require me to be federally incorporated. What was required was a business presence in more than one province, such that neither ******.bc.ca nor ******.qc.ca was a sufficient umbrella. Perhaps they envisioned this in terms of bricks and brass lettering. But hey, the world changes. The old registration system worked because no one knew how it worked. Only a small number of people in the ISP business had the necessary contacts with the registration offices and information about what you could get away with did not circulate widely. Sooner or later the professional domain campers were bound to appear. Imagine volunteers running out of CS departments at local universities armed with pea shooters confronting malaria season after a spring flood. So what was to be done? Grant entitlement status to all the scammers like myself on the basis of what we had wheedled from a petty functionary operating in a spirit of civic duty with neither a mandate nor the authority to enforce one? As I see it, the new system has nothing to knock against it. What they have done is created, at long last, a registration process which does have a mandate and the proper authority to enforce it, and required those who hold existing claims under the previous, rather lax regime to re-apply to the same standards which were already required in the first place. And I'm certainly not paying for something twice. I never paid for my original registration in the first place, nor anything at all for the years I've operated it. The Canadian government wishes to deprive me of something I obtained for free by penning in a few white lies on a simple one-page application form screened by a petty functionary with no authority. How may I join the NRA? Neither have they granted the large and powerful trademark holders a priority over my existing dubious claim. I'm only required to meet the rule that as a owner of a top level .ca subdomain I have a legitimate claim to operating in more than a single province. I doubt the large company operating under my surname is very impressed with this. However, under the rules in effect the magnitude of their claim is of no concern or threat to me. One guy who responds to his e-mail and takes on a project under our joint identity will probably allow me to slip under the bar once again. Since this confession leaves me somewhat vulnerable to having my eye plucked out and swallowed, I might add that I obtained this domain with the intent of using it to promote and give away an open source toolkit which I am in the process of developing. If they someday manage to think in less geographical terms, I might ultimately enjoy a legitimate entitlement. That an enterprise such as mine generates no revenue is not likely to be viewed as a liability since it upholds a venerated Canadian tradition dating back at least as far the Hudson's Bay company. Strange how you pretend to fear that the Americans would copy this nonsense when they already have such a fine system in their own national character under the auspices of ICANN. Bert Until now, the University of British Columbia was doing all domain name registrations for free. As you can imagine, the volunteer work got a bit heavy. I believe that this was the primary motivation for the move to commercial domain name registration - not, as you suggest, domain name disputes. Although that may have added to the motivation. Brent As an owner of a .ca domain, I would rather be given the choice of choosing my registrar than being dictated a registrar by an automatic switch over. It took me less than half an hour to do it and it still costs less than registering a .com domain. only allowed to register a .ca domain if you were a federal company or owned the trademark This is a little misleading. You can register for sub-level domains e.g xxx.qc.ca without being federally incorporated. Anyway, it may seem strange to you, but I found the process relatively straightforward. You also claim that the re-registration process was initiated to settle URL disputes, to my knowledge the re-registration was done to hand over the management of the .ca domain from a non-profit volunteer based organisation to commercial registrars. Just thought you might like to know, Darrel Miller The whole affair is a big mess. Part of the reason many people did not re-register is simply because they do not know they have to!! I have been talking to a few ISPs and they decided it is not their responsibility to inform their clients! This is how it works. CIRA sends out an email to the owner (if their e-mail is different than what they have now, too bad) and the other goes to the technical contact (the ISP or webhost). In many cases, only the technical contact gets the email and not the actual owner (because their contact info has changed since it was first created). Apparently, there are a number of lawyers cashing in on this now! I can go on and on about this because I am sooooo upset over the whole thing. Roger Villeneuve If you only knew how desperately Canada needs to turf the current federal government. This bull... is just typical. Regards, Glenn The real issue is that we were told by the old registrars that we would NOT be charged to re-register. We are now charged about $40 a domain, per year. A typical 2 year registration, with fees from one of the approved "registration agencies" is $96.97. I know, as I just did some. BTW, you could always register a domain, but unless a national org it had to be in the province/country format. So we used to be harddata.ab.ca. Now we are allowed to register harddata.ca. $5 charge for the change, of course! With our best regards, Maurice W. Hilarius It gets even better - check out the Registrant Agreement that they want you to sign before they'll accept your domain renewal. It's located at http://www.cira.ca/en/documents/pdf/Registrant_Agreement.pdf. Twenty four pages of legal mumbo jumbo that includes nifty little things like indemnifications of third parties for all their costs and a bunch of "at the sole discretion of CIRA" parts. Great fun! I wonder if delays involved in getting your lawyer to approve the agreement are playing any role in the relatively slow renewal rate? Danny
LettersLetters BT to offer free local calls BT's new pre-pay/mock unmetered scheme is OFF PEAK? AH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA! How did you type through the tears of laughter? It's only going to appeal to pre-pubescent girls who want to yack about Britney Spears' latest surgery, not adolescent boys who want to download the "Britney sucks off two guys" Mpeg. This even makes Surftime look good! No, really, what's the relevance of this to a tech geek audience? Amusement factor aside, that is. :) Colin MacDonald Porn Queen Danni fights to hold record breaker crown Danni Ashe is Not a "Porn Queen" as you call her. She has never done Sex act's on film. That's porn! Not posing for the Internet for downloads. Danni Ashe is very beautiful. With a killer body. Porn Queen ? No I don't think so. Cindy Margolis is a beautiful woman also. But I don't think she can hold a candle to Danni for downloads . Why would you download a dressed woman ? That's hard to believe. Have a great Day R L Underhill
People watching the BBC on their PC, whether via a PC card or by streaming it from the BBC's web site, should pay for a TV licence. But only if they're in the UK. This led to discussions on why the Brits pay for a TV licence anyway, how TV detector vans work and can you avoid them with an LCD monitor, and the 1949 Wireless Telegraphy Act. Only UK viewers have to pay for the BBC on the PC TV licence needed to watch the BBC on your PC [This one's a biggie - our postbag was full]
The Television Licencing authorities have long pushed their technological ability to pick up licencing evasion and prosecute. Not actually being in possession of a Television set, and knowing how amazingly accurate their highly sophisticated equipment is, you wouldn't really expect to hear from these authorities.
So after several increasingly threatening letters from them, and several letters back stating that I do not posses a Television, nor a TV Tuner, nor cable nor a wap phone with delusions of grandeur, nor a radio, nor any other form of receiver, I've come to the unavoidable conclusion that their amazing equipment is in fact a access database with postcodes, which the cross reference, I mean, who could possibly survive without a television, if the don't have a licence, they must be evading. As far as I'm concerned, they are full of s**t. Just thought I'd add that.
If you doubt it, just ask around, most individuals who don't have a TV have received letters. No doubt the radiation from their light bulbs confused their equipment. Thanks. I feel much better.
TV detector vans work by picking up the electromagnetic signature given off by a component called the local oscillator, present in your TV or satellite/cable/digital terrestrial decoder's tuner circuitry - nothing to do with the CRT I'm afraid so LCD or no LCD they'll still be able to detect you!
The main method of detecting TV receivers is from the 'local oscillator' which is a standard feature of most 'standard' radio receivers. This is used to 'beat' against the incoming signal to produce a much lower 'intermediate frequency' (IF) which is easier to deal with in amplifiers, filters etc.
Most TVs are sufficiently poorly designed such that the local oscillator signal is effectively transmitted for a short distance, but far enough to be picked up by the detector vans. As the IF is fixed, there is a fixed relationship between the local osc and the TV channel being received, which is how they know which channel you are watching!
If License Detector vans are able to detect /what/ you are watching on your computer monitor (as suggested by Mr Hardwell in the article), then doesn't this mean they are able to see what is on your screen?
If so, surely this is a gross invasion of privacy?
I think we must be told!
TV detector vans do not work by picking up radiation from the cathode ray tube
They work by detecting the tuner's local oscillator which always leaks a small amount of radiation back up the aerial.
If you've got a tuner connected to an aerial you can be detected, regardless of what your display device is.
An Engineer. B.Sc (Eng)
Which again reminds me of the stunned seconds I spent watching an advert for beeb.com on ITV which was heavily branded as being by the BBC
Why the beeb will publicly stuff cash into doing something they hold themselves (as a station) as being way way above while charging Joe Bloggs for the privilege of watching (or not watching) their programme content is beyond me.
I guess the BBC thought it was well beyond the capacity of most people to even think 'Oh.. the BBC on ITV' never mind the fact that 'most people' are the guys paying for that which the beeb will not subscribe to hence the reason they're paying in the first place....
It's one small step (ahem) to see you'll soon be 'legally required' to have a damned license for a puter, too... almost certainly based on the fact that you have an ISP account...
Bye bye free internet in the UK ... hello BBC.net in the UK....
(Paranoid? I think not.... much weirder shit has happened than this simple scamming of the muppet UK public)
I'm sure I'm not the only Yank confused by this "TV Licence" thing. Presumably, a TV licen[s]e is like a pet license, where you pay some fee for your first or for each as a tribute to the government acknowledging their right to run your life?
TV detection works by detecting leakage from the receiver of the oscillator used to convert the received frequency down to the intermediate frequency used inside the receiver. Since each channel is on a different frequency that's how they can work out what you were watching.
This is an interesting ruling for 2 reasons...
The first is that it has traditionally been argued that owning equipment that could be used to receive the licensed services required a license so people with satellite that only watched foreign programmes were caught. The new ruling that if you don't use your PC to watch TV you are exempt appears to kill this one off.
The second reason is the provision of RIP that allows tapping people's internet connections without a warrant for the purposes of detecting evasion of taxes or other charges due to the government. It seems to me that the change to the TV licensing regulations could be used as an excuse for blanket snooping under cover of the tax provision.
[RE: Whether detector vans can pick up signals from LCD monitors]
It is my understanding that only works for 50Hz and possibly 100Hz pictures. I assume that they look out for things like the flyback of the electron beam to sync their detections. This is fine, except if you display it on a monitor with a different refresh rate (i.e.most of them :-) I do have a TV licence, and I don't have a TV card, but I'd be interested to know how they would expect to detect a TV signal displayed at a random refresh rate on a monitor at a random size? The best they could do would be to use the flyback as a sync, and pick up the whole image on screen, and look at it to see if it looked like TV. There must be a huge legal quagmire around that in terms of invasion of privacy, and Human Rights.
The daft thing is that even with a 2Mbps connection you still only get to watch Newsnight and any other feed at 38kbps, i.e. less than the maximum speed of a modem and they want you to have a TV licence in the UK? Mad...
At the end you stated that the Detector works by the radiation off of your CRT....This is not true. If you are watching a DVD on your TV or Computer, the CRT would emit the exact same type of radiation.
The way the TV detectors work is by detecting the internal Oscillator in your TV. It emits an EMI signal on the same frequency as the TV channel your are watching. They can detect the EMI frequency outside your house. If it matches a TV broadcast band, they just check to make sure that the house has paid the TV tax. IF you haven't, you are busted!
If they say "Finally our detection equipment is capable of picking up television reception via computer." they are just saying that their detection equipment is finally sensitive enough to detect the internal oscillation of a TV card inside the metal box of your computer case. A TV doesn't have the same type of shield. A detector couldn't tell the difference between Quake or the BBC from the CRT. If you are not using a TV card, there is no way that they could know you are streaming from the Internet unless they check your IP address from the BBC and cross that with your ISP to locate where you live.
A couple of thoughts. If I'm not mistaken TV licensing is a provision of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1947. The key word here is "Wireless". Most, but not all internet comms is by Wireline. Certainly so far as individuals are concerned.
TV detector equipment works, if it works, by detecting the line scan signals emitted from the TV. These are synchronised with the transmitted TV signal. It's the synchronicity which provides the "proof" of reception. On the other hand the line scan of a PC is not synchronised to the TV signal, is usually a different frequency, and is independent of what is being displayed. Thus TV detector vans will definitely not be able to detect TV received over internet. Neither will they be able to detect your receiving a TV signal using a PC card wireless receiver.
Has anyone actually been seen what a TV detector van detects? Could it be that it's just a van, with a large aerial atop, and inside is a man with a PC. On this PC, could there be a list of all the addresses in the UK and just perhaps the tv licensing database? Could it be to cynical to suggest that all they do is check the licensing database against a uk addresses database? hmmm, how could they find you????
Emitted radiation - ok, we believe you!
For your non-UK readers:
What the hell is a TV License???
You have to have a license to have a TV set?
And you have to PAY for it???
What about using a TV to strictly watch DVDs or VCR tapes?
Is this a joke?
Or is British law even more insane than I already thought?
So does this mean I should deinstall any streaming-video software from my laptop before I visit the UK, lest I be charged the TV license fee while going through customs? :-)
I believe that in fact the whole "TV detection" thing is mostly a scam, what they _actually_ do is compare the complete list of addresses with the list of addresses with TV licenses, and then turn up on the door of the folks without licenses.
I knew someone a while ago who claimed to have been involved in building the detector vans, and said that on some of them the "aerials" are just silver painted wood !
Why bother to go to a deep technological solution when a simple database intersection is enough ?
Of course, this means that they can "detect" your PC too, since all they're looking for is houses without TV licenses.
Although the TV licensing authority has been projecting an image of Uber-tech 'vans' that patrol neighbourhoods scanning for the telltale signal of an unlicensed TV set, the reality is slightly more down to earth in that you generally have to supply your name and address while renting or buying a new TV set. This is then cross-referenced to a database that matches names and addresses.
I played with the licensing authority a few years back when I moved house. The license is in my name, so therefore follows me rather than my address, but I didn't update the address for a time, although I did update my address with the TV rental company. Within days the letter duly arrived informing me that I didn't have a license for the TV. This was remedied by telling them the old address and getting their database updated.
It is possible to remain outside of the database by buying only secondhand sets, but this is a bit of a kludge.
One thing has struck me of late, though. The BBC has complained that it doesn't receive enough money, but collects nearly one hundred pounds per household registered in the UK and has talked about raising the cost to people owning satellite equipment. There appears to be something odd about this picture.
Okay you lucky devils, here is your weekly fix of fellow reader scriblings. A licence to print money? The Internet is no different to Auntie Printer ink will make you high Well woad you believe it? Canadians - dem not like the rest of us I tell you Novel approach to domain name disputes? Or lunacy? Other stuff Not much of it though
UpdatedUpdated Sun open sourced StarOffice 6 on Friday 13th, in circumstances that cynical-minded individuals might suspect as having been pre-engineered by the marketing department. "At about 5.45am PST," says www.openoffice.org, "our Web server was brought down by a veritable tsunami of hits." If you want StarOffice 6, or you want to develop for it, openoffice.org is where to go, and it's also where the company that prides itself on building the servers for serious Web operations should surely have been putting its iron. It's therefore a bit of a puzzle that the blasted thing keeled almost instantly, even before you take into account the amount of experience Sun has in managing volume downloads of StarOffice 5.x. But actually openoffice.org, which was back in operation the following morning, seems to be running Apache on Linux. There might be Sparc in there, but it's unlikely. There's another small matter which might kind of get obscured in all of the amazement caused by demand for StarOffice 6 causing the most powerful Web servers on the planet (as Sun would no doubt have it) to turn their toes up. The code available (as and when the site's feeling better) seems to be an alpha version. Now, we remember Sun promising StarOffice 6 as open source for October, but we don't remember Sun mentioning that when it put it out it wouldn't actually be finished. That small matter of course makes it even more helpful if people can be induced to get excited about StarOffice being so popular that demand wasted the site almost instantly. Course, we're just miserable old cynics round here. For the record, openoffice.org has made it clear for a while now that the initial release wouldn't be the finished item. Sun's most recent press release pronouncements, however, have not been so scrupulous. Whatever, making it open source is essentially positive, and might get the developers interested. There is however what looks like a sbit of fuzzing to us, in the shape of Sun's Industry Standard Source Licence (SISSL). You've got a choice of GPL or SISSL licence mode, so although StarOffice has gone open source, Sun is keeping some kind of mark in its formerly-favoured 'nearly' territory. We therefore foresee the usual shouts of 'it's a trap, they don't really mean it,' and we suspect there may be some truth in such an outcry. We'll probably look into that later. Nevertheless, the rough beast slouches slowly towards Bethlehem, little by little Sun is getting religion, and when it comes to productivity apps there's not actually a great deal of choice, even before you consider that Microsoft just bought a slice of the other contender. We note an alternative publication quoting a Sun flak as saying there are 450 "rugged individualists" working on the open source codebase. Given it's an alpha, shouldn't that be "bugged individuals"? But we're sure it'll get better. ®
Build number 2276 of Whistler - the next consumer Windows - leaked into the usual nefarious channels on Monday. But sources close to Microsoft have been filling us in on the 2281 build, which has only just been issued to Redmond's extra special birthday friends. With Paul Thurrotts'WinInfo site reporting that the public beta has again being delayed - missing the revised October 25 target - we felt it worthwhile to fill you in on what it looks like. And testers report back a mixed bag. The good news is that the Windows 2000's team long term goal to reduce boot times is paying dividends. Not only is boot time down to a spry 10 seconds or less, but appears to work more dependably than Windows Me's fast boot, which takes exception to a lot of hardware, old and new. Like Monday's 2276 build, it's mostly bug-fixes. But the builds now use the new Start menu - a ballooning panel which kludges together Microsoft's abandoned task-centres idea with the traditional hierarchical Start menu. Testers aren't impressed: "It's slow, and it's a waste of space," reports one. However a new feature of the elephantine menu is that it finally incorporates a list of the most recently used applications... just like MacOS er,"Recent Applications". And the bad news? The most critical, say testers, is that driver support leaves the system unreliable and lacking functionality. On vanilla equipment, and with the "Visual Styles" skinning turned off, Whistler is at least as fast as Windows 2000 Professional. It doesn't appear to be the hardware hog some had feared (but give them time - ed.). But the scarcity of compatible driver support means video editing and other functions WinME take for granted are still some way off, and Whistler is prone to driver-related crashes. There doesn't appear to have been any attempt to optimise Visual Styles just yet, and to a man, users left the disabled to minimise the performance hit. Overall, the reported release-to-manufacturing date of 18 April looks optimistic. "I can't see how they can make that date," said one Whistler user. Getting the volume consumer base - with its cranky equipment - comfortable with Whistler could take longer than Microsoft has budgeted for. ® Related stories MS 'componentized' OS to be follow-up to Win2k Whistler? Beta 1 not out yet, but MS sets April date for Whistler gold code MS recruits testers for first Whistler beta How to survive Whistler