6th > November > 2000 Archive
We've all done silly things. Sometimes we've done them with computers. Who hasn't blown up a joystick by plugging it into an ancient Ethernet card? (Maybe that was just me) Which of us can put our hands on our hearts and say we wish we hadn't been wearing nylon underwear whilst upgrading memory? Don't worry if you've done something stupid, check out these guys and share your shame in their showcase of hardware obituaries. Some of our favourites: Hardware: Loads! Cause of Death: This isn't your standard obituary. My overclocked Celeron 300a@450 was "relieved" of me from my local pawnshop after I failed to make the loan payments on it. *Sniff* I miss that damn thing. It had a Voodoo3 3000, PCI TVWonder, 10/100 LAN, 56K, ISA sound card, 96MB of PC100, etc. They stole it from me for the bargain price of $200! Um, I have also killed a few other "overclocked" systems. One was a Super Socket 7 board that I installed the AT power connectors on backwards (black wires on the outside). Another was an old PS/2 486 I threw out my 6th floor apartment window (it pissed me off). Another was an Asus P2B-F, Celeron 300a, and RAM that fried when the cheapo power supply EXPLODED! I am sure there is more, I just can't remember. Hardware: Creative Labs Riva TNT Cause of death: Improper removal of heatsink with a screwdriver: crunch Hardware: Packard Bell Legend 2000, 486/25sx Cause of Death: Cover was off the case, and the cat pissed in it. Looked like the computer got it's revenge though, electrocuted the cat. Came home to one dead PC and one dead cat. Hardware: Samsung 2Gb hard drive Cause for death: I took it out of my third pc and hit it hard several times with a large hammer. ® Related story 102 ways to kill your PC
3Com has settled two class actions lawsuits springing from the 1997 takeover of US Robotics with a whacking great big cash payout of $259 million. 3Com admits no wrongdoing, but it seems an awful lot to shell out just to get some dissident shareholders off its back. USR deal-related litigation is not over yet for 3Com- the company is fighting a a case which will reach the courts next year. The settled lawsuits revolve around allegations of securities fraud and insider trading. 3Com saw its stock value double in the two months leading up to the completion of the $7bn takeover of US Robotics in June 1997. During this time, 3Com execs flogged $200 million worth of shares. Only problem was, USR had had a couple of crap months in April and May 1997, wracking up $160 million in losses. 3Com didn't tell the world until Ocotober of that year, to the outrage of many shareholders who bought in April and May. By keeping schtum, 3Com had artificially - and conveniently for its share-offloading execs, inflated the price of its stock, they argued. Furthermore, 3Com had misrepresented the state of the modem market, they said. Let's accept, for one moment, the premise of the investors'case. However, they haven't done too badly if they held onto their 3Com stock. Although, US Robotics turned out to be a lot of a dog, the company did own Palm Computing, a business currently worth $26 bilion, and still owned by 3Com. ®
Just one week after Microsoft admitted to a major breach of its security, another hacker by the name of Dimitri claims to have gained access to several of its Web servers. Using a known security hole in M$' Internet Information Server software - which should have been fixed with its own patch - Dimitri hacked into the servers and uploaded a text file called Hack the Planet. He claims to have been able to alter files on Microsoft's download site and, if he so wished, add Trojan horses to software. The implications are obvious. On top of this, Dimitri claimed to have possession of an encrypted file containing administrative user names and passwords. He could decode it, he said, but wouldn't. Other interesting info: Microsoft's server domain is called Houston (and now it has a problem) and all the Web servers are set up in the same way. Tut tut. Microsoft has admitted that at least one server has been compromised and that access was gained through a known security hole. The patch hadn't been applied to the server and now it is rushing around checking all the others. However, the Redmond giant claimed, this was not an important server and was being used only to redirect traffic to more up-to-date content. Dimitri used the Unicode bug to get access into the systems. Microsoft's first patch for the hole was produced in August and was made public last month. The failure of M$ to install its own patches was described as "extremely sloppy" by the hacker. You're not wrong there. ® Related Stories Microsoft Hack: Warned of weakness three months earlier Microsoft's choice: Law or Order Register story inspire FBI raid on student How you hack into Microsoft: A step by step guide Redmond strives to cram great MS hack back in box MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source?
Dixons is to offer software downloads for handhelds and other mobile devices through its Web site. The service is managed by Braindock.com which will keep a transaction fee for each download. Dixon is, among other things, the UK's biggest retailer of handhelds. It will promote the service in-store and on its Web site. ®
A demand by Microsoft to run an audit on all its software has brought chaos to the city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. A one-page letter demanded to see all software licences to prove the software wasn't counterfeit. The thinking is that since government departments tend to go for the lowest supplier quote, they may inadvertently pick up pirate software. The city's CIO admits that Microsoft is legitimately entitled to order such an audit, but we don't think he's all that happy about it. The demand will affect every department and tie up large numbers of staff - Virginia Beach is almost entirely run on MS kit and they will have to check around 3,500 computers. Not only that, but if the city can't prove that a piece of software is legit, it may have to pay full whack for them. It could be facing a nasty bill at the end of it. Having managed to get a 30-day extension on the deadline, it now has until the end of the month to comply. A quarter of the city's IT staff have been put onto the job full-time, causing backlogs in IT updates across the organisation. Have fun lads. ® Related Stories M$ charges students who don't use its software BSA offers £10K bounty to catch software thieves Hampshire cops caught using counterfeit MS software
Old definitions of war and national security will be swept away in the online revolution. The old war paradigm defining security as physical protection is obsolete, according to James Adams, CEO of iDefense, and traditional government is too slow to deal with conflict in the virtual world. Adams was speaking at last week's Compsec computer security conference. He says that as we move our businesses and our lives from the terrestrial to the virtual, we are taking the human condition, and thus conflict, with us. "We are taking all the money and centres of power online with us, and these are the things that war has been fought about forever." The biggest threat he sees is from "hacktivism" - an area which too many governments are still ignorant of. The trouble with hacktivists, he says, is that they are too imaginative. "Terrorists in the twentieth century were highly conservative. They had a very traditional way of doing things and were not very imaginative." The virtual space on the other hand opens up new ways of doing things. Previously disparate groups can now meet and exchange information, reinforcing each other's beliefs. Then, direct action becomes possible. Leaving the debate about whether war is an inevitable consequence of "the human condition" aside, Adams says that the way we deal with crimes and conflict in cyberspace is still woefully inadequate, and that cyber criminals are taking advantage of that. He quotes CIA estimates that the LoveBug virus cost business $4 billion. "That is the equivalent of carpet bombing a reasonably sized British city. And someone has done this with impunity. This type of crime is not yet punished in a way which meets the act itself." [Probably slightly less people died when LoveBug was unleashed than snuffed it when Coventry got flattened in WWII.] The Internet is a truly frightening tool because it puts power into the hands of the masses. Adams points out that while war was still conducted using bombs and guns the government had a clear advantage in terms of power because it had access to the tools of the trade, while the people did not. When the government and the people have access to the same technology, we may face the terrifying prospect of institutions being held accountable for their actions. The malcontent can now cry out against injustices against people and the planet in a forum where others may hear, and chose to do something about it. "We are at the front line everyday," Adams said. "And it is only the start of the revolution." ® Related Stories Microsoft hacked again How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guideMicrosoft's choice: Law or Order Redmond strives to cram Great MS Hack back in box MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source?
XBOX365.com, the community site for Microsoft's Xbox games platform, has published a blueprint' of the still-to-be released box. Actually, it's a sketch of the machine, based on the latest spec gleaned and leaked by XBOX365's'Inside Informant'. Important things first. The XBOX will come in chrome as standard, but will be available in other optional colours, including black and, maybe neon. Alterations to the spec, over the siting of controller ports, DVD drive, the HDD size, the removal of the TV interface as a standard option, are designed to make the machine easier and cheaper to produce. But we won't steal XBOX365's thunder. You can find the full story here.
Surrey Police served a High Court injunction against one of its own officers late on Friday night forcing him to remove a Web site that was set to expose alleged police corruption within the force. The injunction was served just hours after The Register ran the story behind surreypolice.com. Inspector Andy Catlin is currently on sick leave but used to serve in Surrey Police's Technical Firearms Unit. He claims the site is "not employed to undermine the excellent work of the majority of our colleagues who perform a difficult and often dangerous job in protecting the public from lawlessness." However, this was not enough to prevent a High Court injunction being served at his home late Friday night forcing Catlin to withdraw his site. The injunction effectively accused Catlin of cybersquatting. Defending its decision to take legal action, Surrey Police said: "It could be misunderstood as being an official Surrey Police site. We respect the right of an individual to publish material on the Internet but this should be published using an address which is not likely to mislead." Catlin told Reg that he had to proceed with caution: "Because of the injunction I have decided not to name and shame now, but I will when the time is right." He is currently seeking legal advice and will concentrate his activities on another of his sites, policecorruption.co.uk. ® Related Story UK Web site to lift lid on 'police corruption'
The cost of using a mobile phone has fallen dramatically this year, according to winged watchdog Oftel. If you use a pre-paid phone, you'll be coughing up a third less this year than last. Contract phones are 16 per cent cheaper overall. Ownership of a mobile is still on the increase - 54 per cent of UK adults now possess one. And a staggering 93 per cent of users are happy with the service they receive. People are all happier than ever to shop around and switch operator for a better deal. All these stats come from Oftel's quarterly survey on mobiles. And if you have any doubt over who to thank for this wonderful news, the jobsworth head of Oftel David Edmonds tells you: "The price of calls to mobile phones have been capped by Oftel since last year, saving consumers more than £1 billion over three years." And here was us thinking that heavy competition and hugely increased demand had brought prices down. Must go and re-read those economic textbooks. ® Related Links Oftel report: Consumers' use of mobile telephony Oftel report: A Price Index for Mobile Telephony Kids give up fags for mobiles
Time and Tiny were named and shamed as bottom-of-the-barrel resellers in a Consumers Association survey in Which? Magazine. Meanwhile Dell, Apple and Dan scored well in just about every category - from reliability to support and customer satisfaction. Of the nearly 14,000 users surveyed, nearly three in five had had hardware or software problems - most within three months of buying the machine. Nine out of ten people reported no problems with setting the computer up, and half said that generally they were satisfied with the reliability of their computer. However, when things did go wrong, most respondents were lacking in praise for the support helplines operated by the company that sold the computer. On average only 27 per cent of users got through to the customer support line immediately. Only Dan, Apple and IBM scored above the average, with 66 per cent, 33 per cent and 31 per cent respectively of callers getting through first time. When it came to retailer help the local independent dealers were the clear winners. Bigger companies tended to be unpopular: only one in 12 of those who called Mastercare (which covers PC World) said that it was very good. When it came to recommending the brand, Time did especially badly with 16 per cent saying they definitely would not recommend the brand to a friend. We are not sure whether the fact that four out of five iBook users would recommend the laptop to other people is a reflection on the ibook or on its users. ® Related Link Buying a Home computer Related Stories Tiny goes AMD PCs sell well (including Dell)
Oftel today published the proposed wholesale prices for BT's unbundled local loops and the internal tie cables that connect loops to operators' equipment. The costs determine how much cash telcos must hand over to BT as competition grabs hold of the broadband marketplace. The proposed charge for a loop is £118 annual rental with a £95 connection charge. The proposed charge for an internal tie cable connecting 100 loops to an operator's equipment is £21 annual rental with a £1,433 connection charge. All charges are exclusive of VAT. Oftel claims the proposed charges would enable BT to recover "reasonably incurred costs plus a return on capital". A spokeswoman went on to say that the costing - undertaken by Oftel itself and not by an independent organisation - was solely based on the cost of running a loop. She said BT would not make a bean of profit from this arrangement. David Edmonds, head boy of the winged watchdog, said: "Operators now have a clear idea of how much they will have to pay to have loops connected to their equipment. "I am confident that these charges are at a level that will encourage competition in the provision of broadband services. They will allow other operators to provide new, higher bandwidth services to consumers at competitive prices," he said. The prices are subject to consultation and should be firmed up before Christmas. They will be fixed until April 1 2001 and then subject to regulatory price capping which could even see the price come down. Reg contacted a number of telcos this morning for their reaction to the figures. None was prepared to comment until their number crunchers had a chance to mull over the figures. ®
The drying up of VC money for dotcom start-ups has had a knock-on effect, on VA Linux, the wanna-own-everything to do with Linux company. It has issued a profit warning today, in which it blames the lack of new business from venture-funded dotcoms on lower than expected revenues for Q1. This will in turn lead to a cash loss for the quarter of between $0.14 to $0.16 per share. It has now downgraded revenue forecasts for this financial year (fiscal 2001)to 2.25 times higher than last year. Previously it was quoting two-and-a-half times. Repeat business is doing fine, and business is up 10 per cent sequentially on the previous quarter, the company says. Only problem is, VA Linux has been spending on the basis of expected revenues for the quarter - and hence the loss. The company reckons it will pull into profit by the end of calendar 2001. ®
Both the chairman and president/CEO of Bertelsmann subsidiary BMG Entertainment are to leave in the next few months. The announcement comes just days after the company announced it was to work with former enemy Napster. Chairman Michael Dornemann will leave the board in January and his job in June. President/CEO Strauss Zelnick will out for good in January. Bertelsmann is having a bit of a reorganisation to pull all its subsidiaries and recent acquisitions into a more meaningful structure. It's not known whether the two were pushed or jumped. France's largest ISP Wanadoo has reported a nine-month sales figure of E760 million (£451 million), pointing to a nine per cent rise in customers in the third quarter of this year. Not that this means it will make any money - a month ago today it reported a £40.2 million loss for the first half of the year. Wanadoo's share price has been steadily rising in the last few months, but at 15.8 euros, it still has some way to go to meet its original July float price of 19 euros. Ace-quote.com, the B2B IT marketplace, reported £10 million worth of requests to tender last week, a record and double its previous best. ® For more flash e-cash thrash visit Cash Register.
Amazon is taxing its regular customers again. Amazon.co.uk has targeted existing customers with a special direct email book offer for Terry Pratchett's latest book, but offered it at a price higher than it was charging on its site. Amazon.co.uk offered a 20 per cent discount on Terry Pratchett's latest novel 'The Truth' to its regular customers. This meant the book was available for £13.59. The mailing went out just ahead of the book going on sale. On the day the book launched Amazon offered the book at £10.19. A 40 per cent discount form the list price of £16.99. In September it came to light that Amazon.com was varying the prices of DVDs, using cookies installed on a customer's computer to decide what percentage discount to offer. If you were a first-time visitor (or, incidentally, have turned your cookies off) you would frequently receive a higher discount that if you were not. This is Amazon.co.uk's official statement on its Pratchett offer: A mailing was sent to Amazon.co.uk customers informing them of the impending publication of Terry Pratchett's novel The Truth. This is part of our service to customers in letting them know about forthcoming releases, offering great value and ensuring despatch to their door on the day of release. Like all retailers Amazon.co.uk does amend its prices from time to time and this was the case with The Truth by Terry Pratchett. Amazon told the Reg it would liase directly with customers who feel they've been ripped off. It might back down and offer refunds like it did in the US. You can phone Amazon.co.uk on 0208 636 9200 (then hang on the phone for quite a while waiting for a 'customer service specialist') or email them with your complaint. Let us know if you've been caught out with this offer, or any other special Amazon has tried to tempt you with. ® Related Stories Amazon makes regular customers pay more Amazon's Loyalty Tax: IE users pay more Bubble economy gurus rate Amazon's pricing wheeze Amazon reneges on DVD prices
BTOpenwoe has apologised for the hassles experienced by consumers looking to get ADSL installed claiming it is making every effort to put it right. In a bid to appease concerns BTOpenwoe claims it will improve communications with its customers and post regular updates on its site to keep people fully informed. It is to quadruple the number of helpdesk staff and introduce a new freephone 'service issues' line to handle enquiries. It is also claims to be setting up a more efficient and faster way to handle customer calls. BTOpenwoe's "we can do better" pledge follows an admission last week from BT broadband that its wholesale operation simply isn't up to scratch. BTOpenwoe - like other ISPs offering broadband services - gets its ADSL service from BT broadband and does not get preferential treatment. According to a spokesman, the broadband ISP wants to be less "BTOpenwoe" and more "BTOpenwow". A spokesman for the outfit told Reg: "BTopenworld, like other many other ISPs in the UK, buys its broadband service from BT. "We are sorry that installations have taken longer than expected and we apologise to our prospective customers for the delay and inconvenience this has caused. "This is a new technology, and just like other UK ISPs, companies in North America and elsewhere in Europe, we are experiencing early technical teething problems. We have already fixed many of these and we are working hard on improving it further," he said. Related Story BT's ADSL roll-out hits snags
Alpha Processor Inc (API) has rebranded itself as API NetWorks, and expanded its product range to with two new high-density servers aimed at Web servers, render farms and the network infrastructure market. The first systems to appear under the new moniker are the UP2000+ mobo supporting dual Alpha 833 MHz processors, and the rack mount CS20 clustering server which API claims is the world's most powerful 1U server and also the first 1U dual-processor Alpha server, delivering 3.3 GFLOPS. Up to 42 CS20s, producing a total of 140 GFLOPS, can be housed in a single rack. Both support Linux in firmware which boots directly at power on, along with dual on-board Ethernet controllers and remote administration. "Performance is the number one criteria for our customers, while clock speed is a secondary consideration. For years, Alpha has been the consistent performance leader for those seeking superior power, performance and scalability in a platform on which to build systems. "The introduction of the UP2000+ and the availability of 833MHz CPUs only ups the ante and further extends our performance reach," says Gerry Talbot, president and CTO of API NetWorks. The UP2000+ accommodates up to two Alpha 21264 processors with speeds up to 833 MHz and supports up to 8 MB of L2 cache for each. It uses DDR L2 cache with up to 8.9 GB/s L2 cache bandwidth and 2.6 GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. The UP2000+ comes in an extended ATX form factor along with 2Mb of flash ROM and an SRM console. The UP2000+ is available now at $2388, while you'll have to wait until January for the slimline CS20. ®
Billy Boy Gates has surprised the IT world by saying that computers are next to useless when it comes to solving the world's worst problems. "The world's poorest two billion people desperately need healthcare, not laptops," he said. Which may seem startlingly obvious but then you wouldn't expect it to come from the mouth of a man who has become the richest in the world thanks to the little blighters. And he chose to make his remarks at a conference dedicated to using PCs to help the Third World. What is going on here? Has Bill finally grown up? Has he [shock!] grown a conscience? It would appear so. While he still believes technology can make the world a better place, he doubts that computers or capitalism can effectively tackle the world's great problems of poverty and famine. He didn't finish there either. He pointed out that people were living on $1 a day. With that "you're just buying food, you're trying to stay alive". The latest e-commerce Web sites are unlikely to appeal in this position, even if you could afford the electricity to run the PC in the first place. And if you had any doubt that Bill was a new man, check out this quote: "Mothers are going to walk right up to that computer and say: 'My children are dying, what can you do?' They're not going to sit there and, like, browse eBay or something. What they want is for their children to live. Do you really have to put in computers to figure that out?" To be fair, Bill has been giving a lot of money away to charity in the last few years. Cynics suggested this might have something to do with the DoJ court case or just an overriding sense of guilt that he was worth more than even medium-sized countries. But since he visited Africa, he said, his priorities have changed. Two-thirds of the $21 billion in grants from his wife's foundation will now go to the Third World. Surprise to say, other technology heads at the conference were not too impressed with Gates' performance. After all, they had been planning to make a few bucks or two thankyouverymuch out of human deprivation while feeling all charitable and good at the same time. Once they were multi-billionaires they too could play the humanist card but Bill beat 'em to it. This must be the first time as well that The Reg has agreed with Gates. We got a little annoyed back in July when the G8 leaders told us their plans for the Third World. Bill appears to be saying much the same thing, but with one difference: he has yet to criticise anyone directly. We're not going to say that we admire Bill Gates. After all, the man can afford to save millions of lives and still live in the lap of luxury for the rest of his life. How many of us would kill for that opportunity? His conversion to the human race, you'll note, also came after he was earning more per second that most of us earn in a year. That said, if Bill really does start to use his power, money and influence to push these beliefs, at the risk of upsetting important people and damaging his own finances, then he may enter the history books not just as the architect of PC software and richest man in the world but also as a truly great human being. Of course, a cynic may interject that once you have managed to become the head of one of the world's biggest companies and become richer than anyone else in the history of the world, the only takeover target remaining for an insanely ambitious man would be the hearts and minds of the common people. Now that is a corporate challenge. ® Related Stories G8 leaders make us sick Gates' charitable foundation: gift or PR gambit? Gates puts $5bn more into charity pot Gates donation lowers IT barriers
[Andrew's AMD DDR coverage generated a very positive postbag Athlon DDR systems still not available AMD 760 DDR chipset delayed] IDIOT! Do some research you fukn retard! Maybe you'd see that DDR systems are available right now. I don't expect a retraction from your sorry ass. Integrity and unbiased reporting is way too much to ask. PS...FUCK YOU qwerty posted on Motley Fool BBS Andrew Thomas at the register has been showing himself to be nothing other than an Intel mouthpiece. What happened to their pro-AMD writers? The coverage of AMD has been very limited as of late and it seems that almost all of it spews from Andrew's mouth. From those who have actually called Micron or NEC about ordering DDR Athlon systems, the order to ship time is three or four weeks. This is TOTALLY normal for the direct order PC business, espescially on a new product. When Intel launched the 1.13Ghz PIII, the order to ship times being quoted by Dell were at least 45 days, and guess what, with the recall, the customers NEVER got one! With the relaunch not expected until Q2 2001, Intel managed to "paper launch" a cpu eight months before it will actually ship. Now THAT is something worth crying foul about! :-) As a faithful reader of the Reg, I am disappointed by your absolutely horrible journalistic coverage of the alleged Athlon/DDR problem. This is especially true with regard to your feeble attempt to substantiate the existence of the problem in the article entitled "AMD 760 Problem Identified?" Come on, Tom's group was working with a pre-lease version of the Gigabyte board. For you to the draw conclusion that this review somehow justifies your earlier articles, I question both your logic and that of the Reg for allowing you to publish it. Anyhow, I hope you'll able to rectify and/or clarify the Athlon/DDR problem. Until you do, I will read Reg articles with a great deal of skepticism. Bill Luna Now I can actually believe that The Register may be objective. Until now, it appeared that Register has been anti-Intel and pro-AMD. Michael [And on the Intel to dump Rambus piece] SPREADING FALSE RUMORS CAN GET YOU IN A LOT OF TROUBLE. I AM SURE YOU KNOW THIS. THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW HAS A VERY BIG REACH. Albert Safdie
The Iwill VD133 motherboard uses the new VIA Apollo Pro 133 chipset, we are told. It has most of the new features of the Intel 820, but more importantly, there is a review over at the Sharkster's. So get over there. See - I didn't make any crude jokes about the letters preceding the 133. And it would have been so easy. AMD World pits the ThermalTake SlotA Golden Orb against the Nengtyi K704 Cooler in a death match comparison. There can only be one winner - can't there? Go here if you wanna know who won. Hexus has a mouse moment and gets all rodenty about Microsoft's Explorer mouse. Reviewed here. This is a gaming no-no, but a fine toy for webcrawlers and office-bound proles. While you are there, you can check out their idiot's guide [Written by, or for? We don't know - Ed] to overclocking the Duron. Well, it wins prizes if the contest was for the cutest name, but does it do the job? The Kanie Hedgehog-238M copper is given a good grilling over at AMD Zone, and the net result is Chris reckons its the best socket A heatsink he's ever tested. Go here to find out why its so good. ® More hardware stuff can be found in our archives - so get over there and check it out.
Chip and Chimp Zilla aren't technology hothouses, they're global marketing operations that just happen to make chips. The ongoing megahertz™ wars between them involve large amounts of sneaky and reprehensible behaviour and backstabbing. The latest fine example is the launch of AMD's 760 chipset, which was timed for the 30th October - a date remarkably adjacent to that originally set for Intel to debut the Pentium 4 - a cynic might observe that the date was chosen to deliberately spoil Intel's day. But problems with the Tehama chipset meant Chipzilla had to delay the P4 launch by almost a month. AMD stuck to its guns and announced the 760 on the 30th. This was a tad embarrassing for AMD as, had Intel actually launched P4 this week, a lot of critical attention would have gone Chipzilla's way with hacks writing dozens of stories questioning Intel's ability to ship P4 in volume and highlighting plucky AMD's technological leap forward into the wonderful world of DDR memory. In the event, the P4 slippage caused rather more attention to be focussed on the 760 chipset than had been the original plan. And what do we find? You can't actually get your hands on a DDR Athlon box - at least not one capable of running 266MHz DDR SDRAM - until December at the earliest. When AMD launched the 1GHz Athlon, Intel leapt into action (two days later) by announcing a 1GHz PIII that you couldn't actually buy. No why would they want to do that? And that 1.13GHz Pentium III - didn't that come out (or not) at almost exactly at the same time as the 1.1GHz Athlon? Spooky, eh? Of course, the most blatant dirty trick this year was Intel arranging the worst storms for a decade to sweep across Europe earlier this week, preventing hacks from reaching AMD's 760 launch in Paris. ® Related story Is God an Intel stockholder?
Minesweeper, the Windows OS game accused of wasting almost as much office time as Solitaire, could hold the key to one of the trickiest problems in mathematics research that has baffled all the brainiest boffins for about 30 years. A one million dollar prize has been offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute to anyone who can find an algorithm that checks the consistancy of a minesweeper board in polynomial time. It is all a bit clever for us but the general gist of it seems to be that to find such an algorithm would solve the P vs. NP problem - which if you are a Mathematician, you would certainly know about and probably understand. Richard Kaye, a maths professor at Birmingham University in England, noticed the potential of the game. He said that while he realised there was probably some nice maths behind the game, he had no idea what he was looking for: "I'm always interested in games with maths elements. Maths and games go together brilliantly." Kaye suggested that the if the game were to be solved it would also have implications for code breaking. ® For those who actually understand these things and want to know more, there is a bundle of information about the problem and the prize at Clay Mathematics Institute's web site.
Belgian dealer DPI looks to be the first European outlet to offer the upcoming Pentium 4, due on November 20. Its price list shows both the 1.4 and 1.5 GHz variants of the new chip at 59690BEF ($1269) and 71790BEF ($1526) respectively. This does seem a tad overpriced as if you wait until the 20th, you'll only need to pay $625 and $795 respectively. Still, if you want to be first kid on the block... ®
BT has admitted that the roll-out of ADSL is not up to scratch. At a review meeting with ISPs yesterday, execs at BT Broadband admitted that they had "capacity problems" at some 118 (of the 619 ADSL-enabled) exchanges which "caught us unawares". However, The Register understands that most of the capacity issues are not serious and are as a result of "network systems not being aligned". As of yesterday, the number of exchanges that experienced problems had come down to 70. This number is expected to fall rapidly. Steve Andrews, president of BT Broadband also confirmed anecdotal reports that some exchanges had run out of capacity. He told Reg today that some capacity problems have been caused by ISPs simply selling their ADSL services "too rapidly", leading to some exchanges "running short of port connections". He said a process was in place to speed up the process of increasing capacity. He also said he had recruited more personnel to man the Broadband Operations Unit - the central hub of BT Broadband's wholesale operation that handles enquiries from engineers in the field. It appears BT misjudged the workload of this unit. Andrews also denied that ADSL trained engineers were leaving BT to join other broadband outfits offering better pay, perks and conditions. He said BT now had 2,000 engineers in the field working to install ADSL products. BT Broadband also confirmed that 14,000 end users had been connected to ADSL since the products were launched in the summer - around 8,000 since the launch of the consumer product at end August. It is currently installing ADSL at around a rate of 5,000 end users a month - and intends to increase that to 15,000 by March 2001. ® Related Stories Broadband for Brits at £9.99 a month
Anand's boys get their mitts on an ASUS V7700 Deluxe, based on the GeForce2 GTS. Does ASUS' reputation for excellence in the motherboard market carry over into their game card offerings? Clickhere to find out. On a cooler topic, Iamnotageek.com finally got hold of a Thermaltake Blue Orb. Following a fairly simple installation on a GeForce2 MX this nifty little heat sink sucked twenty nasty degrees out of the core straight away. Not your funny Farenheit degrees either, proper ones. So, for more info follow this link More chilling here at Dr Tom's. Says the doc, the new Asetek VapoChill can cool any Socket370 or SocketA processor to -19°C. At this point he suggests you embark upon an orgy of overclocking. All sounds very dubious to us. Follow the link here to find out more about the chilling process. On the same theme, the overclocking frenzy at Overclockers in Oz paused for a moment so they could try out Danger Den's copper water block. How did it stack up with air cooling systems and should you all go out and buy one? The answers to these questions and also perhaps to why it reminded the guys of astronaut's food can be found here. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
It's our last mailbag before President-elect Dubya officially takes the helm - and executing the mentally retarded goes from being a Texan pastime to becoming official US national policy. So move along now folks - don't dawdle on the crosswalk. Darwin Wars author Andrew Brown gives us the definitive answer on the psychoactive properties of reindeer urine. It's a response to an early reader's comment here, and Andrew includes valuable information on how not to poison yourself. Which makes a change from telling us to poison ourselves... Andrew Thomas wrote that AMD hadn't lived up to its word in delivering DDR chipsets on time. Lots of you disagreed - as you point out in our Flame of the Week. Elsewhere you're talking Tempest. Earlier this week we wondered if the UK TV detector people would use it to prevent you watching TV on your PC. Find out here what Tempest stands for, exactly, and whether you'll need to cover your PC in chicken mesh to avoid detection. It's a guest watch on the postbag here, and Kieren's right. Reading your letters is the one most enjoyable things a staffer can do here. Not as rewarding as rummaging down the back of the Register sofa after one of Mike's lunchtime powernaps, admittedly ... ®
Washington RoundupWashington Roundup All signs point to a cliff-hanger presidential election Tuesday that very few people care about. Contenders Al Bore and George Dubya are undoubtedly biting their nails; but the populace is not so much excited as befuddled, chiefly from an inability to distinguish between the candidates, who have spent the past four months impersonating each other. The dull symmetry is further refracted in the dozen states which remain in the tossup category. Here we find that while Gore needs more of them, he's also likely to carry more. The whole, rather silly thing will probably turn on a single state, and signs point to it being (what else?) a fairly silly one. Minnesota, on which Gore is counting, could be the Big Enchilada of the Great Lakes region, and might very well decide the national outcome. The local populace, which put retired pro wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura into the Governor's Mansion, is clearly too erratic for us to make predictions about. But one thing we can predict: if Bush wins there, he stands a good chance of taking the brass ring unless Gore can nab more of the remaining swing states than pollsters reckon he'll get. Green Party demagogue, infallible holy man and big business FUD-Meister Ralph Nader may well divert enough votes from Minnesota's potential Gore voters to swing the state back in Bush's direction. If that should happen, Gore will have to carry a state or two that he's not presently expected to win -- which he certainly could do, or then again not. As we said, the race is just too tight to call. But it is immensely entertaining to contemplate that the State of Jesse could determine the national election, and do so based on the campaign efforts of a Green-Party candidate who clearly hasn't got a prayer, and clearly won't be getting one until the voting age is lowered to twelve. The 106th Congress, meanwhile, threw in the towel on budget negotiations last week and struck out upon the campaign trail, thus making it necessary for all concerned to return for a lame-duck session a week after the elections. Legislators moved for yet another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government operating until 14 November as they bugged out. To date only seven of thirteen appropriations bills have passed both chambers and been signed by the Prez. Tax cuts, immigration policy, education spending and technology legislation all figure large in the unfinished business. Republicans have been using the stalemate as a tactic, and with great skill we might add, to bolster Dubya's campaign by casting the Clinton Administration as inept in negotiating productively with Congress. The image of a White House unable to resolve its differences with Capitol Hill is meant to stigmatise Gore, though truth be told the Republicans have been steadfastly insisting on riders and omissions which they're certain Clinton will veto. After the elections, we can expect a good deal more flexibility from the Republican side of the aisle, as the business really does have to get done. But these guys do play a splendid game of hardball, we must allow. President Bill on Saturday vetoed a controversial measure which would have expanded criminal penalties for leaking classified government documents, saying that it threatened the public's right to know what its Washington Overlords are up to. "As President....it is my responsibility to protect not only our government's vital information from improper disclosure but also to protect the rights of citizens to receive the information necessary for democracy to work," Clinton said. He also noted that government bureaucrats might be further paralysed by fear of retribution for decision-making, which, as everyone knows, is something a bureaucrat will avoid like the plague. Clinton urged legislators to address the problem of leaks, which he recognised as serious, with a sane bill. US Attorney General Janet Reno, predictably, had supported the legislation with great eagerness, as she does all Draconian measures. Nice to see Clinton finally developing the stones to defy the mighty Amazon child-protector, as his tenure enters its final days. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been sued by quasi-registrar RegLand -- which offers 'pre-registration' of Internet domains which don't yet exist -- in Texas district court on claims of business disparagement and defamation. ICANN issued a report warning consumers that such services are speculative at best and mere scams at worst. Interestingly, as our friend the roving_reporter notes, ICANN Veep Louis Touton urged RegLand to change their marketing language from 'reserve' a domain to 'pre-register' a domain, presumably to nudge them back from the brink of fraud, even though the ICANN report compares 'pre-registration' with buying gold-mine shares from a badly groomed door-to-door salesman. Telecomms Colossus BellSouth will cough up a (relatively) puny $750,000 hairball to settle in lieu of judgment, following a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigation into issues of 'compliance' with the 1996 Telecommunications Act -- specifically the disclosure of pricing information relevant to provisions requiring it to make its networks available to competitors. The company was a bit vague on what, exactly, is to change in its disclosure policies, saying only that "the new language we have adopted serves our need for confidentiality and clarifies for everyone concerned what procedures BellSouth will follow going forward and will affirm that there is no intent to shield pricing information from state or federal regulators." Got that? ®
Datrontech, the venerable British distie, has called in the receivers, following "discussions with the company's principal' bank. In other words it is insolvent. Presumably, there are some franchises in the wreckage that other disties will want. But at what price? The vendors will have representation refusal rights in any change of ownership. Once upon a time, Datrontech was the UK's biggest and most profitable memory distie, mainly by holding an exclusive franchise for Kingston memory. In the early 90s, the company broadened its horizons into the system builder market, scoring OEM franchises for Intel and Microsoft. The company came to the stock market in 1995 on the back of booming memory prices - and promptly bought up Kingston memory disties overseas and networking and storage distribution companies in the UK. The expansion was, ultimately, disastrous - the company paid too much for its acquisitions, and its management proved entirely unable to integrate the purchases. ®
Sales from downloadable music will hit £300 million in the UK by 2005. This will be driven by music repackagers - businesses which will bring together content from multiple labels and artists - according to research organisation Forrester. These repackagers will deal with the individual items of that make up the modern music biz product - songs, lyrics, artwork, and video - and make it easier for online music retailers to offer bundles of video, audio and text in whatever combination a consumer wants to buy them. They will also sort out security issues. Forrester believes all this will lead to very close customer/repackager relationships which in turn will allow different prices to apply to different buyers at different times. "Downloadable delivery will also encourages time-sensitive promotions, and payment of a flat monthly rate for unlimited access to selected music which will appeal to users with broad tastes and a high rate of consumption," said Rebecca Ulph, a Forrester analyst. If this vision works out it should mean that Metallica, the Corrs, and all the other anti-Napster bands can stop worrying about losing money and get on with creating product/content or even music. The record companies will concentrate on artist development and promotion, and repackagers will emerge as hubs for downloadable content Ulph added: "Customised content bundles comprising song lyrics, album artwork and selected tracks will create a more attractive buy than a track alone, especially if users can create the bundles themselves. Taking music from existing labels, unsigned bands and established artists, repackagers will make relevant content bundles available to diverse, non-traditional retail outlets making downloadable music a far more attractive proposition for content owners, retailers and consumers alike." ® Related Stories BMG alliance may hinder Napster cloners Warner digital music service goes live
In a court case today in Paris, Yahoo! is expected to be told it must ban French users from those auction sites that sell Nazi memorabilia. Now, we're not going to get caught up in the hornet's nest that is the debate over Nazi items (we already did that when the situation arose in April). Instead, let's ignore what is on sale and look at the issues. It is illegal under French law for people to sell Nazi memorabilia in France. Yahoo!'s French site therefore contains no such items. However, due to the Internet, French visitors are currently able to bid for these goods on US sites. It is this that various French groups wish to prevent. It would seem that the logical solution is simply to ignore any bids from France and to refuse to ship any of these items to France. But many want a ban on French people even entering the system. And a group of technologists, including Vinton Cerf - an Internet pioneer, have decided that it is feasible for Yahoo! to do just this by blocking any visitors to the site from France. The situation has been sold as a battle between a self-regulated Internet and a medium that varies according to different countries' laws. It is hardly that, but it does give a pointer. The question does arise though whether Yahoo! is guilty of hiding behind the freedom of speech/civil rights argument. Whether it likes it or not, Yahoo! is a publisher and as such should be subject to the same laws that other publishers face. There is room for argument that such laws should be modified, but exemption is not a practical solution. There are a million and one scenarios that swing the case one way or another. For example, what if I, as a UK citizen wanted to buy a Nazi artefact but was in France using a French ID at the time of the auction. I could legally buy it and have it shipped to the UK, but if I was blocked from entering the site, this wouldn't be possible. Another question is: where is the artifact actually sold? When and where does it become illegal? Upon entering the country? Or is the sale itself illegal? If a French citizen tried to buy such an item and failed, would they be guilty of trying to purchase an illegal good? Would Yahoo! be an accessory? It's a legal quagmire, but it will be interesting to see what is finally decided. Of course, on a different level, this is quite entertaining. After years and years of the US telling everyone else in the world where they can go and what they can do (e.g. with reference to Cuba), it's good to see that the great America is being told what it has to do in other people's countries. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. ® Related Stories Anti-racists sue Yahoo! over Nazi auction
Being young and carefree whippersnappers, we at the Reg had never given much thought to our own mortality. Not until, that is, a humble pen reminded us of our own appointment with the grim reaper. The implement in question is a Microsoft freebie which flashes every time your mobile rings. We decided to take it down London's bustling Oxford Street to see how it responded. Bad idea. The bloody thing didn't stop blinking until we sealed it in a lead-lined box and threw it in the river. The facts are clear: the air is full of microwave radiation and we're all going to fry. Unless that is, some other biblical pestilence gets there first. If you want to die right now, it's simple. Eat a beef sandwich while talking on a mobile phone, smoking a fag and having sex with just about anyone in the world. Preferably in a picturesque cottage on the banks of some British river. If you don't get AIDS, CJD, lung cancer or a brain tumour, you'll probably drown. If that's too much effort, wait thirty years and an asteroid will hit you. According to our very own necromancer, Dr Spinoladamus, the only safe place to be is lying on the railway tracks. Sic transit gloria mundi. ®
Each year Dutch IT publisher VNU holds a channel awards for the wheeler dealers and wideboys from the UK's distributor channel. This wonderful event is an opportunity for IT boys to get competitive, pissed and obnoxious to one another, and comes highly recommended. It is also an opportunity for VNU to make a shedload of money. Apart from the cost per seat (£160), the use of corporate sponsors is a nice way to infuse a little cash. This year, VNU pulled in some big boys in the form of AMD and Cable & Wireless. Their logos, you can be assured, will be plastered over everything from the walls to the toilet seats. Great. Except that the marketing dolls don't seem to be entirely clued up on their IT industry. It is either this, or a kamikaze effort on behalf of VNU, that would explain why C&W is represented as Computer & Wireless on the official Channel Awards Web site, found here. Proof, if you needed it, that the company can't tell the difference between a cable and a computer. ®
By some bizarre coincidence (?) Microsoft wireless spinning seemed to go into overdrive on the morning of the Symbian Developer Expo in London today. The WSJ said that according to Microsoft executives, Symbian has lost two thirds of its 40 most senior staff this year, and Microsoft VP mobile devices Ben Waldman weeps: "The disappointment they [the licensees] have expressed to us is almost heart-rending." We furnished Symbian corporate communications manager Hanna Sigge with the text of the piece (via an EPOC device, as it happens), and she very sportingly retorted that her heart was "torn in two" at Waldman's own troubles. And one really can't help musing that, if high volume exec departure is an issue, then on the past year's record Windows must be doomed. Waldman's attempt to spread rumours of a licensee revolt are if anything slightly more implausible than his heart almost being rent, but although Symbian holds most of the cards when it comes to real, live deals that will result in real, live, product, its spinning has been less than proactive, and in this department Microsoft outclasses the company. Faced with a barrage of questions from the press looking for dope on an IPO delay, CEO Colly Myers will maybe have figured this out (for the record, it looks to us more like 2002 than 2001, but there was no formal committment in the first place). Myers does however exude the characteristic confidence of a veteran of Psion, which is a company that has been right, in the face of the odds, for a decade and a half. Microsoft will not be able to rule the Web by moving the goalposts - on the contrary, it will buckle in the face of customer demand: "No particular company is going to wrestle away the standard," says Myers. They might achieve a de facto standard for a while, but he cites "Mr Ballmer giving access to Palm onto their networks." Faced with Palm's customer base, Microsoft's Steve Ballmer has conceded the point, and "whoever has the customers, they [Microsoft] will support." Myers has been around long enough to know that initial support from Microsoft frequently turns out to be the first stop on the 'embrace, extend, extinguish' roller-coaster ride. But on further investigation it turns out that his confidence is based on a belief that Microsoft's model is wrong, and of limited shelf life. If that's the case, then it will be the wrong thing that gets extended. Myers turns out to be an unlikely supporter of that old Microsoft totem, distributed computing, while Microsoft - as far as the wireless business is concerned - is on the side of thin client computing. This is superficially bizarre, but as Myers explains it, plausible. Symbian's platform is a ground-up integrated system based on the premise that it has to get the junction between computing and wireless comms dead right. On top of that you've got a scalable UI/environment, and a collection of applications. It's sort of Windows, really, by other means, designed from other premises. It's had seven years of development, and it's pretty battle-ready, but it boils down to what Myers calls an "advanced client" - it's got local processing power, and it presumes you're going to want to do things locally. We did note that Myers is now placing emphasis on the more advanced, smarter Symbian devices, rather than the dumber higher volume ones, but that's a nuance only barely detectable to those who were at the original Symbian announcement. Microsoft, on the other hand, clearly does not have tight integration between the phone and the computing platform. On the contrary, although it has waggled Stinger demo units at people, quite a lot of its hopes seem to be pinned on deals like the Ericsson one, where Microsoft Mobile Explorer will sit on top of a relatively standard mobile phone OS (but NB Ben Waldman - remember Ericsson mused it might well put Mobile Explorer onto EPOC). That looks like a plausible short-cut. Mobile Explorer becomes the standard mobile Web UI, echoing Internet Explorer's progression, and it can be run on top of the systems the handset manufacturers use already - these are actually quite good, economical, and efficient. Myers seems to accept this as a viable plan in the short term, but beyond that reckons it won't work, and that it'll even be helpful to Symbian by boosting mobile Web development. "It'll divert PC industry attention on content towards mobile phones. With Mobile Explorer they can take a thin client approach to the market and be successful," but Microsoft will depend on the services it can offer at the server end to retain control of the microbrowser (so he has heard about embrace, etc...). Myers sees logical consequences to this process. As more and more phone users with thin clients hit the servers with increasingly personalised processing requests, everything slows up, and it becomes apparent that what you actually need is distributed computing power: "The second wave needs advanced clients capable of running and processing data locally." So that cheap, dumb, comms-aware appliance you were looking forward to actually turns out to be a comparatively fat client, compared to the thinner layer constructed by Redmond, home of bloat. Weird or what? ® Related Stories: Motorola takes wraps off 'Odin' Symbian PDA Microsoft declares war on '(inaudible)' Sh... Symbian
Unfazed by the number of recent high-level executive departures from Microsoft - Brad Silverberg, Paul Maritz, two Myrhvolds (Nathan and Cameron), Harel Kodesh, Win CE boss Jonathan Roberts, Rich Tong and almost anyone who was cc'd on billg's wireless strategy memo just a year ago - Symbian will plough ahead on the gamble that Microsoft will remain a presence on the desktop in the near future. Actually, Symbian executives were far too gentlemanly to make that comparison in a hostile press session at the Symbian Developer Conference today, and no amount of teasing and poking could prompt them to respond to Microsoft's recent anti-Symbian briefings with some mud of their own. Instead we got a smattering of roadmap announcements and a few peeks and pokes from partners. Nokia announced (although we haven't confirmed this) that their Crystal device will be debuted at its mobile internet bash in Prague later this month. Nokia pioneered the keyboard/phone PDA hybrid with the 9000 of course, and has long viewed Crystal as its anointed successor. Symbian Release 6 went out the door several weeks ago, and the roadmap now has two major releases for the next two years. Release 6.1 'Packet' Q4 with support for Pearl - the third Symbian reference design - is slated to hit integration testing phase early 2001 with products later in the year. Smartphones take longer, says CEO Colly Myers because of the large volumes. "You can't have problems in the field when all these components arrive. It's got to be great." Release 6.2 unites support for CDMA, W-CDMA and TDMA air interfaces and vastly more ambitious Bluetooth support, chiefly for accepting inbound requests, but also for object and application exchange. Although 6.1 will handle the US-centric air interfaces, the low level implementation is left to the developer, whereas 6.2 provide one high level abstracted API, Symbian tells us. Psion showed a prototype Quartz device, although its based on the SA1100 chip. It's comparable in size to the iPaq Pocket PC, although considerably faster - we saw it running MPEG4 video without breaking sweat. However the StrongArm is really just a place holder for Halla - Parthus' ARM9-based processor optimized for Symbian's OS. The company claims this offers a 2x/3x speed improvement over the prototype with much lower power consumption. At the Intel booth we saw a similar demo machine, instead with 64Mb of what the chap said was PC100 memory, the purpose of which was to trail the next generation StrongARM. Nokia said it will launch its Symbian Crystal based sucessor to its 9000 series at its Mobile Internet Conference in Prague later this month. We'll have more details on Crystal tomorrow, and how much the mobile internet caper could cost you tomorrow. ® Related Stories: Motorola takes wraps off 'Odin' Symbian PDA Microsoft declares war on '(inaudible)' Sh... Symbian
Torridon, formerly Memory Corp, was hit by armed robbers today - in broad daylight. Three balaclava-clad men tried to force their way into the building via the back door at 1.30pm. Two had guns, according to Dave Flack, group marketing manager at the Swindon-based company. After trying to break in for a couple of minutes they gave up and drove off in a blue Vectra. They were then chased by police with four armed response units and two helicopters as they headed up the M4. They were apparently caught near Staines. "These are not now dangerous amateurs," said Flack. There has been a spate of memory thefts over the past couple of years in the UK, with James Bond-like hijackings, ram-raids and thieves even disguising themselves as police to try and grab the swag. ® Related Stories DRAM prices rise (again) Armed thieves hijack Dane-Elec van - again Memory stolen at gunpoint was ours, says Dane-Elec DRAM robberies are back
Microsoft stole AOL's crown as the most visited Website destination for home surfers in August. Microsoft's combined sites saw 82.9 million unique visitors in a multi-company survey of the top 50 sites visited in the US, UK, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and Japan by Media Metrix. It toppled ISP giant AOL, with 81.3 million visitors, which had been top of the league since the New York-based company starting recording the user figures in March. Yahoo, Lycos and Excite Network also made the top five, with 79 million, 47 million and 34 million respectively. But AOL visitors spent the most time online - an average of 357 minutes per month, compared to Microsoft's 76 minutes. American home users spent the most time online in August - an average of 15 hours, compared to the multi-country average of 12.2 hours. While home Internet users in Japan went logged on the most days - an average of 13.9 days, topping the multi-country 12.1 day average. Japan, which was included for the first time in Media Metrix's figures, represented 12 per cent of the total online population among the seven countries in the report (second biggest) - with 16.3 million unique visitors. The US was still way ahead, it claimed 56 per cent of the cyber-audience with 72.1 million visitors. Canada and the UK came third and fourth, with nine million and eight million respectively. In the UK the top five sites were Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Dixons and Lycos. ® Related Stories US Net use is becoming so un-PC Napster has huge number of users - shock! Japanese couple kill themselves after suicide Website meeting