20th > November > 2000 Archive

P4 system specs

Intel says P4 systems will be 'widely available' in Q4 and lists the following vendors as having systems: The list HP, Dell, Compaq, Gateway, Dixons, IBM, Fujitsu Siemens, Acer, Dan, Toshiba, Saturn, NEC, Unika, Media Markt, Formoza, R&K. Expect to see other manufacturers as well. Some PC makers, notably Tiny in the UK, have officially stated they will not be offering P4 systems this year. Due to Intel's embargo, few details of systems are currently available. This is what we know so far. There's only one 1.4GHz box to date, from HP. The low price reflects the fact that the monitor is extra. First systems HP 9795C $2199.97 P4 1.4GHz 128MB RDRAM 60GB Hard Drive CD-RW DVD Front Access FireWire ports 56k Modem 10/100 NIC Price includes speakers, mouse, keyboard. Dell Dimension 8100, $3398 P4 1.50 128MB DRDRAM 40GB HD, 12X DVD, CD-RW 19" monitor Gateway Performance 1500XL, $3499 P4 1.50 128MB DRDRAM 45GB HD, DVD-ROM, CD-RW 19" monitor, TV tuner IBM NetVista A60i, $3259 P4 1.50 128MB DRDRAM 45GB HD, DVD-ROM, CD-RW GeForce2 video Intel NIC ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

P4: How fast is it?

How long is a piece of string? What everyone wants to know is what kind of speed benefit can be expected from Intel's new flagchip. We've had a vanilla P4 system on test for a while now and the answer varies depending on what you want the box to do. If you only run office applications, you don't need to pay the extra for a P4. If you need 3D graphics, then you probably do. Intel's official figures for the P4 show a SPECint2000 score of 544 and a SPECfp2000 of 562. A trawl of Web sites shows that a P4 1.4GHz and P4 1.5GHz perform 36 per cent and 41 per cent better respectively than a 1.2GHz Athlon on SPECfp2000. Compared with a 1GHz Pentium III, they're 72 per cent and 79 per cent better. We compared our P4 with our reference PIII 1GHz system and also explored the difference moving from 256MB to 512MB of RDRAM made, thanks to our chums at Kingston Technology. We didn't try any other memory configurations because firstly the Vancouver PIII mobo only has two RIMM slots, and secondly because we only had 128MB and 256MB RIMMs and the dual-channel Rambus D850GB needs RIMMs to be inserted in pairs. Pentium 4 system spec P4 1.4GHz 256Mb PC800 RDRAM Intel D850GB mobo Windows ME Build 4.90.3000 64Mb Nvidia Geforce 2 GTS graphics V6.31 drivers Direct X 8 Pentium III system spec PIII 1GHz (Slot 1) 256Mb PC800 RDRAM Intel VC820 mobo Windows ME Build 4.90.3000 64Mb Nvidia Geforce 2 GTS graphics V6.31 drivers Direct X 8 3Dmark 2000 1.1 PIII 256Mb 6775 3Dmarks PIII 512Mb 6939 3Dmarks P4 256Mb 8866 3Dmarks P4 512Mb 8915 3dmarks An additional 2000 3Dmarks would appear to be reason enough for the hardcore gamer to choose the P4 over the PIII. SiSoft Sandra A pinch of salt required here, as Sandra doesn't correctly identify the P4, reporting it as a 1.6GHz, 375MHz FSB part. The tests do however reinforce the widely-held belief that, with that pesky deep pipeline, P4 has a tough time competing with slower PIII and Athlon parts. But the synthetic memory benchmark shows the capabilities of a fast dual-channel Rambus system. The Athlon figures included are Sandra's reference figures for an Athlon 1GHz, KT133, 128MB PC133 SDRAM CPU PIII 1GHz: CPU: 2694 MIPS, FPU: 1333 MFLOPS P4 1.5GHz: CPU: 2866 MIPS, FPU: 882 MFLOPS Athlon 1GHz: CPU: 3111 MIPS, FPU: 1395 MFLOPS Memory PIII 1GHz: CPU/Mem: 321 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 416 MB/s P4 1.5GHz: ALU/Mem: 1311 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 1340 MB/s Athlon 1GHz: ALU/Mem: 434 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 521 MB/s WinBench 99 More unimpressive numbers here, showing the PIII outperforming its faster sibling in floating point. CPU PIII: 85.3 P4: 90.9 FPU PIII: 5280 P4: 5150 SETI at Home A good rule of thumb measure of overall speed. We averaged out the most recent eight work units using Version 3 of the GUI client, set to blank screen. We discarded the highest and lowest work unit times. The 1GHz PIII averaged five hours, three minutes and the P4 three hours, 45 minutes. Yes, we know they weren't identical work units, but the difference is still pretty significant. The bottom line A veritable curate's egg of a processor, with phenomenal (synthetic) memory and 3D performance, balanced with disappointing raw processor speed (at current clock speeds). But overall, the graphics performance alone is enough to make buying one worthwhile - but wait until Q1 next year when faster P4s (1.7 and perhaps 2GHz) will appear, and price cuts will start to nibble into the P4s current price premium. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Pentium 4 ships today

We've been banging on about Willamette/P4 for longer than I care to remember. Now at last it's arrived and we can concentrate our speculative powers on Itanic, Tualatin, Foster and co. The flagchip launches at 1.4 and 1.5GHz at $644 and $819 respectively (1Ku quantities), moving rapidly to 1.7 and 2GHz in Q1. Intel currently has an introductory offer of CPU, D850GB mobo and two 64MB PC800 Rambus RIMMs. The P4 comes bundled with Rambus memory through Intel's RDRAM Credit Program, under which a subsidy of $70 per processor will be granted at launch, dropping to $60 in Q1 next year. Of course, these are bulk prices. If you want to pop along to Tottenham Court Road and buy one yourself, the retail boxed 1.5GHz part will be selling at £999.95 inc VAT and the 1.4GHz part at £849.95 inc VAT. A useful calculation (for UK folk) is to take the 1Ku dollar price, change the currency symbol to a pound, and voila - the high street price for a single chip with VAT added in. Intel confirmed last week that it wouldn't have a chipset or mobo supporting anything other than Rambus until the back end of next year, but is currently negotiating with other chipset vendors, including Via, to license the P4 architecture enabling them to produce chipsets capable of supporting the cheaper DDR SDRAM. Intel is still bound by an agreement with Rambus forbidding the chip behemoth from dumping RDRAM before 2003. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Pentium 4 dissected

What do the 42 million transistors on a Pentium 4 actually do? Willamette, aka Pentium 4 is the first new processor Intel has launched since the Pentium Pro. Sure, there's been Pentium II, Pentium III, Celeron and Xeon, but these all use the P6 microarchitecture introduced with the Ppro. The problem P6 has is that, due to the pipelining it uses, it's subject to an absolute speed limit, which at a 0.18 micron process, equates to around 1.2GHz. Try to run it any faster than that and it just gets hotter rather than doing any more useful work. The problems Chipzilla encountered with the 1.13GHz PIII are testament to the fact that the PIII is perilously close to its absolute speed limit. P4 is entirely new and uses the tragically-trademarked NetBurst architecture with hyper-pipelined technology - twice the length of the P6 pipeline which significantly increases frequency scalability. The downside is that the length of the pipe means fewer instructions per clock tick can be executed compared with a PIII (or Athlon). So at comparable clock speeds, a PIII or Athlon can be seen to outperform a P4. This is an anomaly that will disappear as P4 moves ever onward and upward to clock speeds physically unattainable to the older architectures. P4's rapid execution engine isn't something introduced by Dubya Bush to reduce the backlog of people on death row in Texas prisons, but a mechanism which runs the processor's arithmetic logic units at twice the core frequency of the rest of the chip. Screaming Sindy gets more extensions The Pentium 4 also has improved dynamic execution to more accurately predict branch utilisation. An execution trace cache stores D-coded instructions, which removes the decoder from the main instruction loop. The P4 also supports 144 new streaming SIMD Extension 2 instructions, with double precision floating point, 128-bit SIMD integer, and improved cache and memory management instructions. The i850 (Tehama) chipset supports dual channel Rambus memory at an effective 400Mb FSB speed with a throughput of 3.2Gb/sec, while AGP 4X graphics run at over 1GB/sec - twice as fast as AGP 2X. The move to 0.13 micron in the second half of next year also sees Intel moving to copper interconnects for the first time. Alongside this, a move to 300mm wafers will reduce production costs. Intel claims the change from aluminium to copper will produce a speed increase of around 65 per cent, while using less power and generating less heat. The smaller die size alone will reduce costs by around 30 per cent. By 2003, Intel plans to have five fabs producing 0.13 micron 200mm wafers and three at 300mm. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Pentium 4: Overclocking

Intel frowns on overclocking, but has always released engineering sample (ES) chips which are free from muliplier locking, allowing the brave to experiment with trying them at higher than rated speeds. Our 1.5GHz P4 is an ES part and the BIOS of the Intel Garibaldi mobo allows clock speed to be set at 100MHz increments between 1.2 and 1.8 GHz. Needless to say, we tried it first at 1.8. Some devious mechanism somewhere immediately set this back to 1.6GHz, suggesting that our sample processor is in fact a 1.6GHz part (production Intel processors automatically set Intel chipsets to run at their official speed). The system ran without a glitch for over four days (running SETI at Home in its 'run continually' mode showing a processor utilisation of 100 per cent. It ran completely cold. Sandra benchmarks showed the following differences between 1.5 and 1.6GHz: CPU P4 1.5GHz: CPU: 2866 MIPS, FPU: 882 MFLOPS P4 1.6GHz: CPU: 3004 MIPS, FPU: 947 MFLOPS Memory P4 1.5GHz: ALU/Mem: 1311 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 1340 MB/s P4 1.6GHz: ALU/Mem: 1339 MB/s, FPU/Mem: 1364 MB/s It's pretty impressive to find an early version of a processor capable of running effortlessly at a higher than advertised speed and indicates that the 1.7GHz and 2GHz versions are very close indeed, even at the comparatively clunky 0.18 micron process. This is a CPU design with a lot of headroom. By this time next year, with the die shrink to the 0.13 micron process, 3GHz should be firmly on the horizon, if not closer. Pentium III and Athlon have reached the point where an increase in clock speed generates heat rather than better performance. They are old technologies almost at the limit of their capabilities at 0.18 micron. A move to a smaller process will enable a few hundred more MHz to be wrung out of them, but they are both banging their heads on an absolute performance ceiling. The P4 architecture (we can't bring ourselves to call it NetBurst ™ - sounds too much like a fruit drink) on the other hand has a great deal of growth potential. Compare the performance of the first Pentium Pros at 120MHz with today's top of the range 1GHz PIII chip and you'll see what we mean. Today's P4 at 1.4GHz is the equivalent of the Pentium Pro's P6 architecture running at 120MHz - that should give you an idea of how fast this sucker will be running in a couple of years' time. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

P4: How's it different?

Please don't try fitting a P4 to your existing mobo. You'll need an entirely new one and for the time being you'll have to make it an Intel Garibaldi D850GB, 'cos it's the only one there is. And you'll need to upgrade your power supply too. Willamette/P4 needs an ATX 12V supply that has an additional 12 volt supply that plugs into the mobo right next to the CPU socket. The 0.13 micron die shrink of P4 coming later next year will have additional pins on the processor, almost all of them providing extra volts and amps, so this additional header may disappear in the long term. The case you put all this in can, however, be that battered old ATX one with the coffee stains you're currently using. Intel's demo systems come in very slinky Cooler Master cases with two additional fans on the top and back to augment the ones on the processor and power supply. If our experience is anything to go by, these merely add noise and create an annoying cold draught. The processor in our system never became even warm to the touch, even when running at 100 per cent processor utilisation for four days without a break. The hard disk runs hotter. ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Pentium 4: The story so far

It's not easy forecasting what Intel's going to do. Chipzilla's sheep-like bleating of not commenting on unannounced products makes it hard to get any sense out of the corporation when a juicy leak comes our way. Usually we can make a few calls, use our skill and judgement and come up with something pretty close to the truth. Check out some of the links below (a small selection of the dozens of stories we've posted) and see how accurate our predictions have been over the last two years. The only time we came badly unstuck was when I bet Mike £5 that P4 would launch in August. That one really hurt. ® Willamette/P4 - the truth unfolds 1998 Intel maps out future of IA-32 with 1 Ghz CPU, Katmai and friends Intel in 1999: Mother Shipton beckons 1999 Willamette not teacher's pet Willamette will outperform K7 by 2X Hard facts emerge about Willamette What's the bet on Willamette? Intel 1100MHz 'Athlon killer' to launch in December? Hmm… Willamette due 2H 2000 Intel to demo 1GHz IA32 chip Feb 2000 2000 Willamette it or won't it? Willamette coming real soon now Intel demos 1.5GHz Willamette Intel's Garibaldi takes the Rambus biscuit Willamette already sampling Intel does U turn on Willamette and SDRAM The three flavours of Willamette Willamette to have triflngly-short shelf life Pentium 4 in pictures Return of the son of Willamette Pentium 4 to use SDRAM Pentium 4 to hit 2GHz next year Pentium 4 launches a little late Intel spin doctors have taken over the asylum Intel 'going for AMD's balls' Intel confirms P4 license talks [That's enough links - Ed]
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Your Cow Is In The Ditch: Reg readers explain

LettersLetters When we spoke to the world's most celebrated Finn, Linus Torvalds last week we were curious about the Finnish expression "Your cow is in the ditch", and appealed for help. As ever, erudite Register readers have come to the rescue. The expression means roughly: "he has selfish reasons for seeing this one succeed", points out Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho. An example we liked was: "Have you heard about Jorma Ollila driving up the Nokia stock price?" ... "Well, he's got his own cow in the ditch, you know," writes Tuomas Hakkarainen Only it's not quite so pejorative, as Derek Sellin and Vesa Pajula, amongst others, point out: "The phrase itself is not a bad nor a good thing," writes Vesa. "Most of the time this is relatively mild criticism, and is usually not used to refer to outright corruption," writes Dare Talvitie. But as Hamalainen Teemu notes: "If it was a legal matter, he would be 'jäävi' or 'legally disqualified from deciding a given matter due to a conflict of interest'" And the derivation is fairly obvious once you think about it. As we had to... "The origin of this expression is most probably in the agrarian roots of Finnish society (we didn't become an industrial nation until after WW2 when we had to pay huge reparations to the Soviets)," writes Esko Halttunen. "I would guess that it would be that when you were driving cows to the pasture and if one of them fell into a ditch, it tended to get stuck there and it was important to get it out. Well, a cow being as big as it is, there's no way one man can pull a fullgrown cow out all by himself, so that usually meant asking the neighbors for help, and naturally the owner of the cow had the most interest in getting the cow out, so he would try to be very persuasive." Harri Rautila suggests updating cow for car to bring the phrase into the 21st century, but we do like it as it is, and think it should be adopted as widely as possible. Here's a start, anyway. Many thanks also to Sami Silaste, Teemu Marjalaakso, Pauli Ojanpera Sampsa Laine, Jukka Lind Pirjo Sollasvaara, Jyry Kuukkanen, Rami Aapasuo and the rest of you for your contributions. And we won't be calling Finland a Scandinavian country again, OK? ® Related Story The Register's Linus Torvalds Interview
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Nov 2000

Vint Cerf takes ICANN hot seat

Genial Internet veteran Vint Cerf will take over from Esther Dyson as ICANN chair at the end of the month for a one year, unpaid stint in the hot seat. As an engineer Cerf worked on early ARPANET protocols and co-authored what became TCP/IP in the early to mid 1970s, and served the first chair of the Internet Society. He's also a Vice President of random billing specialist MCI Worldcom, where he's worked on and off since leaving ARPANET in 1982. The vote was unopposed, reports AP, although Europe's At-Large representative Andy Mueller-Maguhn noted the obvious conflict of interest. It's come up before, and Cerf has a stock reply on his Web site Cerf's Up "I've been confronted with conflicts of interest, especially as chairman of the Internet Architecture Board or as President of the Internet Society or as program manager in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In those cases where endorsement of a particular product or vendor might have produced significant material gain, I chose not to invest, not to accept compensation, and either to remain silent or to speak my opinions unburdened by conflicting personal interest." Which could be tricky to achieve. On the upside, Cerf is naturally conciliatory in tone and widely-respected. On the downside, he's never been prominent in championing the Internet as an international human resource, on social issues or on public ownership: "Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation," he wrote recently. Nor has he been particularly critical of ICANN itself, serving as a board member since its inception. Last year Cerf petitioned his employer MCI Worldcom for a $1 million bridging loan for the cash-strapped quango, recommending that the request be kept private. Either way he will enjoy a honeymoon period of sorts, given the ever more eccentric and regal statements from his predecessor, the celebrity venture capitalist and pundit Esther Dyson. Esther began distancing herself from ICANN - while still its interim chair - several months ago, with comments declaring how she'd like to have done things differently if only someone like um... herself was in charge. Even though she was. Sceptics have noted that where the published board voting tallies, Dotty Dyson did not record a single dissenting vote. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Nov 2000

Apple retail chain to open doors in April

Apple's much-rumoured High Street retail operation is inching towards a launch, with three stores set to open their doors in California next April. The first store can be found at the corner of University and Kipling in Palo Alto, the San Jose Mercury News revealed on Friday. The second will be located in Glendale, though the location of store three isn't known, according to the newspaper. The source is pretty solid: Palo Alto's senior town planner, Amy French, said Apple had applied for permission to modify the property at the Palo Alto location to create a 6500sq ft bricks'n'mortar version of the online AppleStore. French said Apple was aiming for an April opening, presumably from the company's application. Apple's interest in Gateway-style retail outlets has been hinted at since June 1999, particularly after Gateway said that its stores generate as much margin as its online sales. Apple has strong connections with CompUSA and Sears, both major US retailers, and this could explain why it's taken the Mac maker so long to formulate its retail strategy: how to build its own chain without souring relations? As Sears and CompUSA focus mostly on the company's consumer products, there is room for a more professional-oriented chain. Then again, Apple could argue that its stores are more about brand-building than revenue generation, and so may be able to persuade its partners that it will compete with them fairly. Either way, it's already competing with them, through the online AppleStore. In September, Gateway boss Jeffrey Weitzen complained that Apple had been trying to poach his retail staff. "Apple is serious [about opening its own stores] because they've been trying to hire our people," he told the Wall Street Journal. And Apple has plenty of senior retail expertise in place already. Apple has signed up Allen Moyer, formerly of Sony US; Ron Johnson, merchandising director at Target; and in recent months George Blankenship, a real-estate executive from The Gap. The Gap's CEO, 'Mickey' Drexler, sits on Apple's board. ® Related Stories Apple retail chain plan back on agenda Apple ponders own US retail chain
Tony Smith, 20 Nov 2000

We are Borg, er, Rambus

How to win friends and influence people is patently (sic) a book one is unlikely to find on the shelves of Rambus Inc. Not content with threatening every memory maker on the planet with the wrath of its monstro legal department, the outfit is now warning chipset makers that they're next. Once Rambus has assimilated the last remaining memory makers resisting its campaign to collect royalties on SDRAM and DDR memory, its drones will turn their attention to chipset makers, including occasional best pal Intel. The Rambus collective now wants everyone to pay royalties on any device that interfaces with an SDRAM, DDR or direct Rambus DRAM (RDRAM) chip. Avo Kanadjian, vice president of worldwide marketing at Rambus, expounded on the latest plans for world domination at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas last week. "We still have to license other controller manufacturers," he told Electronic News. "We are hoping that over time our category of licensees will grow bigger. All controller manufacturers also need to be licensed." Rambus is currently exchanging phaser blasts with Micron, Hyundai Electronics and Infineon, who don't want to pay royalties on SDRAM and DDR. Rambus is accused of keeping its patents on SDRAM secret whilst attending meetings intended to establish an open industry standard. Samsung and Elpida gave up the struggle recently and were assimilated. Rambus' voracious appetite for royalties could extend to ASICS, programmable logic and graphics chips, observed Jim Handy, chief analyst at Dataquest. "If Rambus' patents hold, then they are going to have a reason to collect royalties not only from anybody who manufactures SDRAM, DDR or RDRAM, but also anybody who makes a controller or ASIC that talks to one of those chips," Handy said. "That's a pretty big part of the semiconductor market. There are an awful lot of people that need to look at what Rambus has got and what they want to do about it. Rambus has warned everybody that everybody is within their reach." But Bert McComas, principal analyst at InQuest Market Research, warns that Rambus could stumble in its haste to sue the butts off world+dog: "The more lawsuits they take on, the higher the probability that somebody will fight it successfully," McComas said. "They are looking at every conceivable context for a lawsuit. In doing so they are going to test every conceivable argument, and if four or five arguments are lined up, it's highly possible that they will lose one." "I think that a lot of comments we have read in the press recently may have got 'Rambus' and 'RDRAM' mixed up," whinged Kanadjian. "Some people are using them interchangeably." Remember: RDRAM is a type of memory, Rambus Inc is just a bunch of lawyers - got that? ® More legal craziness Rambus dropped Hyundai case to avoid tough judge Intel slams Rambus toll collecting tactics There is no 'F' in Rambus Rambus piles pressure on Infineon Rambus asks feds to stop Hyundai Rambus takes aim at AMD and Transmeta Rambus, Intel, Dramurai reach end game Naughty Dramurai back DDR to hilt Rambus threatens non-compliant Dramurai
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Record labels plan to sue MP3.com – again

Are the world's leading recording companies a bunch of spoiled, ungrateful, money-grabbing so-and-sos or what? Having happily reached a settlement with MP3.com over its unlawful use of music they own, they are now considering re-suing the online venture because they now know they would have done better had they stuck to their legal guns. The one company that held out and refused to compromise with MP3.com, Universal, was last week awarded damages of $53.4 million. Universal's fellow 'big fivers' - EMI, Sony, Warner and BMG - all settled out-of-court for around $20 million apiece, less than half the Universal award. According to Reuters, one of the four will launch fresh legal action against MP3.com to demand it coughs up a similar sum to the one it was forced to pay Universal. Reuters doesn't say which label intends to sue, preferring to cite simply "record executives", but it notes that a second suit may follow the close on the heels of the first. The initial suit could be filed this week, Reuters posits. Of course, whether that represents a planned course of action or simply the rantings of an aggrieved music industry executive remains to be seen. It's hard to see EMI, Sony, BMG and/or Warner having much of a case. They agreed to settle on the negotiated terms - if they later become unhappy with that settlement, that's their problem. And since their negotiators had the power of the law on their side - they'd won the case against MP3.com, after all - they were hardly likely to have unfair terms imposed upon them. A complaint of unfair terms seems the only legal option open to the record companies - certainly, we'd imagine the statute of limitations would ensure they can't once more sue MP3.com for infringing the same copyrights it infringed before. ® Related Stories MP3.com squares Universal with $53.4m payout EMI and MP3.com sort it out Warner makes out with MP3.Com MP3.com preps MyMP3.com mk. 2 MP3.com hit with another lawsuit
Tony Smith, 20 Nov 2000

P4: the verdicts

In that peculiar variant of masochism, known only to CPU manufacturers, Intel has submitted its P4 chip for review to a motley collection of hardware headcases. The reviews are already rolling in, and they're proving to be a mixed bag. We'll do a manual recount at the end of the week, and see if the vote's changed. The reviewers' consensus is that raw clock speed is disappointing and that for the time being, the high price outweights the good points. The main sticking point is the dearth of software optimised to run with this processor, so most people are (still) waiting to see what the P4 can really do. As per usual, Tom Pabst has pulled out all the stops with a blockbuster. "Whatever Pentium 4 is right now, it is certainly not the greatest and best performing processor in the world. It's not a bad performer as well though", he says. However, Intel seems "very determined to make Pentium 4 a success and I have the feeling that it will succeed. The implementation of SSE2-instructions into future software as well as the usage of code-optimizing compilers for Pentium 4 will make sure that Pentium 4 will be standing in a much better light very soon". The good doctor also loves the clock speed potential for the Pentium 4, which is, he reckons, its strongest suit. "Intel has finally won back the ability to make AMD's life a lot harder." And he has some nice words to say about Rambus! But finally, if it's price/performance on a budget Tom still recommends the Athlon. If you are a style warrior. "It's a bit like getting designer furniture. You don't really need it, but it's damn cool to have it." Anandseems almost personally offended by the P4's poor benchmark performance. It promised much but has delivered really very little. Buying one now wouldn't make sense, Anand says. It is slower, more expensive and if that isn't enough, you have to buy a whole load of new kit just to get it to work. Fine if you need a bit of retail therapy, but otherwise quite disappointing. Meanwhile, HardOCP finds quite a few kind words top say about the new Intel beast, despite its struggle to keep up with an overclocked T-Bird 750. Overall, if you are looking for a new machine, or you are into counting triangles Kyle says go for a P4. However, the hobbyists may prefer to stick with an AMD socket A system for the time being at least. Planet Hardware gets its first look at the P4 and puts together a couple of benchmarks. It tries to forgive the P4 its sluggish nature, blaming optimisation and driver problems. The guys conclude that the P4 is an impressive piece of hardware, destined to do well in the high-end consumer sector. Sharky reckons that until the price comes down, the real point of the P4 must be to generate interesting reading material for hobbyists. Yet another review that sounds a note of regret that the P4 hasn't matched the industry's hopes (rather than expectations) for performance. And lest we forget - what about overclocking? Not may people seem to have had a go, but Tecchannel.de did. They've put together a review of the P4 1.4, 1.5 and 1.6 GHz. Of course, our very own Andrew Thomas also had a bit of a bash at making the P4 run extra fast, and also got it up to 1.6GHz. The Full Coverage, Register style, is here. Any abuse about the P4 coverage on The Reg can (please) be sent to him, not me. ® Still hungry for hardware? Utterly unfeasible, but check out our archives anyway. Wafer thin mint anyone?
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2000

Ready2Shop till your VC drops

Fourteen staff at Ready2Shop.com received redundancy pay-outs on Friday in a bid to cut costs at the fashion site. The outfit is now being run by a skeleton staff of just five people. The founders of the multimedia content company, Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine (above), said they would continue with their offline media activity. In a statement, the founders said: "It's very frustrating that stock market sentiment makes it impossible to distinguish between great web sites which add value and understand the need to entertain people and those that simply mimic the consumer experience in other channels." They added: "We don't blame anyone for what's happened, it's an issue of timing." Reg fashion tip: With business sense like this, expect to see more dotcommers wearing black armbands. Britain's biggest corner shop - Harrods - is opening an online casino to tease out even more cash of its punters. The store has teamed up with Gaming Internet plc to operate the casino under the Harrods brand name. David Sanderson, Chief Executive of Gaming Internet , said: "Our operational expertise, the integrity of the Harrods brand and the anticipated quality of the customer base will, I am sure, make the Harrods Casino a good bet for success." Ah yes, but for whom? Totalise, the ISP-cum-online car dealer-cum wannabe e-bank, joins AIM today, raising £2m in cash and - ominous phrase this "guaranteed bank facilities". In fact only £817,000 was in equity money, the rest is guaranteed by Dr. Peter Gregory, the company's founder. Totalise said it had sold £15 million worth of cars through its carsTotalise operation. It is also keen to develop an online bank - but with a market cap of just £8.7m, it's difficult to see how. Cambridge-based Net security outfit - nCipher plc - reported an operating loss of £2.2 million for the nine months to September 30 despite running up revenues of £9.1 million over the same period. In the last quarter the company completed its IPO on the London Stock Exchange, raising £100 million net of expenses. Online Travel Corporation plc has acquired Viva Travel Dun Laoghaire Limited via wholly owned Irish subsidiary for IR £184,000 (UK£140,000) in cash and shares. Viva is a fully licensed travel agency based in Dublin and will change its trading name to the "Online Travel Company". ® You know you love it. Go here and find out why.
Team Register, 20 Nov 2000

Compaq sued for $60m over video patent

Compaq has been slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit demanding at least $60 million in damages. The patents cover the compression of video data, and the plaintiff is a consortium of seven companies, including consumer electronics operations JVC and Matsushita. The seven filed the suit in the US District Court of Wilmington, Delaware last week. Six of the companies also filed a parallel suit in Germany. Both suits seek to stop Compaq selling PCs containing technology which allegedly violate patents owned by the seven companies. And Compaq isn't the only supposed infringer - Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Dell are at it as well, the seven claim. However, Compaq is the fall guy - while it has been hit with a $60 million lawsuit, the others have merely been asked to license the patents in question. It's hard to see what these four computer companies have in common, or at least that they don't also share with every other PC vendor. Support for IEEE 1394, perhaps? Any technology involving the compression of video on a Compaq PC is likely to come from a third-party. If it's software, you'd have thought that its means Microsoft or whoever supplied the bundled application the handles the compression; if it's hardware, it's whoever supplied the graphics card. As we get more information, we'll let you know. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Nov 2000

How to be a whistleblower and keep your job

Ever wonder why The Reg continually comes up with scoops and insider information when our rivals seem content with rewriting press releases? Quite simple really. Trusted sources and, more and more frequently, from readers. However, while we have always been discreet and careful to keep our sources anonymous, recent changes in UK law makes this task more difficult. We're talking of course about the RIP Act. Under the Act, police, security services and the like are legally entitled to monitor any information moving about within the UK. This is no great concern in itself - IT stories are, let's be frank, rarely threatening to the security of the nation. However, the new law has given employers extensive rights to read and monitor employee email and phone calls. Also, big companies are more tech-literate than ever. Because of these two changes in mindset, it is crucially important for whistleblowers and sources of confidential information to be aware of what can be done to trace suspected leaks. Hence this brief guide to keeping out of the eye of powerful companies - it's not perfect or foolproof but it's a damn sight better than not doing it. Initial contact If you are contacting us for the first time with the intention of handing over some damaging and/or confidential information, for God's sake don't do it at work. Unless you want to fork out £50 for a phone scrambler (and subsequently draw attention to yourself), DO NOT call direct from work. Telephone logs are easily produced and checked and if only one person has called our phone number, then he or she is likely to face serious problems. Email is also easily checked. Hotmail will not give you any security - network surveillance tools are way beyond that now. Again, the point is not that you will send a message and the boys in black will arrive at your desk five minutes later, it's that if a company becomes suspicious it will launch an enquiry and work backwards through email logs. Private keys - PGP etc (www.pgp.com) - will stop a company being able to tell WHAT you've written but not the fact that you have sent us an email. If you really have to have to send us an email from work, the best thing to do is use a Hushmail account. We have set up a secure email address: info1857@hushmail.com for just this purpose. This is a fairly obscure email address and if you set up a Hushmail account (www.hushmail.com or www.cyber-rights.net), then the message will be indecipherable. However, again, retrospective analysis by a company will put anyone using a secure email tool under suspicion - until, that is, everyone uses it (which won't happen anytime soon). We also get a few network managers reading the site, so the address won't exactly be top secret either. Plus, if your company is really paranoid it will have software on your network that will be able to read every keystroke you make, so all of this is academic. So, the basic lesson is: if you think you could get reprimanded/sacked for the information you plan to send us, send it to us from your home PC. The level of security you choose to use from there is up to you. And for those really dangerous secrets Let's suppose you have some top secret information which will mean immediate dismissal and loss of livelihood but you feel strongly enough to blow the whistle you'd be wise to take some extra precautions - especially if it could be deemed illegal (which is not difficult under the new RIP laws). We would recommend buying a copy of Freedom (www.freedom.net). It'll cost you $49.95 but then that's nothing compared to loss of a salary. Freedom will basically mask your identity while you are on the Net. The company behind it - Zero Knowledge Systems - basically pings your IP packets through loads of anonymous servers and makes it nigh on impossible for anyone but the most determined investigator to track you down. That said, use Freedom and your profile will be raised. Equally, if you're just paranoid/sick of spam, you may find $50 a fair price to pay for privacy. They're onto you If you are British, or to be more precise if you live in Britain, your home is a risky place to store or send confidential information. Your employer, should it suspect that you are the mole, can seek an Anton Pillar order against you. Rarely used, because the legislation is so draconian, Anton Pillar orders are obtained in secret, and give companies the power to raid suspects' homes (it's the police what does the raiding) and seize anything they consider relevant to their case. The PC and the filing cabinet will be the first things to go in the back of the police van for inspection. Smell the coffee Alternatively, go to a cyber café (but watch out for those cameras) and use a machine there. This isn't a bad method - after all, when 15-year-old maths prodigy Sufiah Yusof disappeared for a few weeks, contacting regularly her parents via email, the police were unable to track her down. It was eventually her continual appearance at the Click N' Link Internet café in Bournemouth and the fact that her face was all over the national newspapers which led the café owner to contact the police. You, of course, will be using the café far less frequently and will go to different cafes if the correspondence stretches on. Chatrooms - just say no Don't go badmouthing your employer/ex-employer in Internet chatrooms. You'll get mad - but chances are they'll get even when they subpoena AOL, MSN, Yahoo! etc. for your name, address etc. If you have to vent steam in public, at very least, use a free email account, and give a false name and address, won't you. There is little reason, except for your own recklessness, why the audit trail should reach you. Remember too, that Yahoo! (Nazi memorabila, Yeah!) and the like may spout all they like about freedom of speech. But they do not really believe in this guff. They are content aggregators - not content providers- and they will sell you down the river as soon as spit. On the other hand, newspapers (Americans are particularly good at this) and publications like The Register will do their utmost to protect their sources. Because that's part of the deal. And for Colombian drug dealers? Not that you'd want to call us anyway - The Reg maintains the media's blatantly hypocritical attitude towards drugs - do as I say - Well, we suggest you set up your own ISP offshore (£40,000 should do it). Then use heavily encrypted messages under different codenames. For vocal communication, attach a phone scrambler to a totally unsuspected phone line and make sure there's another one at the other end, or perhaps buy a pay-as-you-go phone and use it exclusively and for a limited time to make contact. That should cover it. Alternatively, of course, you could get a pen, piece of paper, envelope and stamp. Snail mail is the way forward, we tell you. Remember kids: just because you're not paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Nov 2000

Net ‘drug smugglers’ face death penalty

Five Brits have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates under suspicion of involvement in an Internet drug smuggling ring. UAE, which observes Islamic Sharia law, takes drug-related crimes very seriously. If found guilty the group could face execution - the maximum penalty for drug dealing. Two UK citizens are currently serving four-year terms in the UAE for possession, after being caught with three grams of cannabis at Abu Dhabi Airport in 1998. The head of the anti drugs squad in Ras al-Khaimah, Major Jamal Al Tair, said that the arrests were made after informants let his officers know about a large shipment of marijuana was to be smuggled into the country. An Australian woman and two Arab nationals were also arrested in the series of raids. The UK foreign office confirmed last night that the group was being held for questioning about "drug-related offences." All five have been offered legal assistance following visits from consular staff. The names of those involved will only be released if they are charged with an offence, the UAE authorities said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2000

M$ pays Madonna £0m for online gig

Microsoft is to pay pop star Madonna the grand sum of nothing to broadcast her upcoming UK gig over the Internet. You may have heard figures of £30 million, but as an M$ spokeswoman kindly pointed out, this figure is "equivalent media value". Which means that Microsoft will spend about £28 million advertising the gig and the rest making sure that it has the servers to cope. Madonna gets no cash but then she will be featured in "6 continents, 33 countries, 17 languages, 210 million users". And she always was a bit of a media whore. Want another PR angle? This will be the "biggest ever global net event". Norris McWhirter may even be at hand to record it for the Guinness Book of Records (actually, we made that bit up). But of course the $64,000 question is: will we get anything more than some crackly music and distorted, blurred pictures. Well, d'you know what? We have to congratulate Microsoft for being open and honest about the webcast - perhaps it has learnt from previous over-hyped and under-performing Net events. You'll need Windows Media Player of course. And "in a ground-breaking move", it will offer "near-DVD-quality stream at 700Kbps". Which is fantastic but then seeing as only three people in the UK have such a connection (we suspect one is Tony Blair), we won't be able to check up on this. Presumably this DVD quality will be DVD-quality on a teeny-weeny screen. From here, a good breakdown of speeds is on offer: 300Kbps, 128, 80, 56 and (audio-only) 28.8Kbps. Of course, what will actually happen is that you'll get a max of 33.3Kbps, the music will come in jumps and starts and the picture will be unviewable - sort of an allegory for modern life. (MS' advice is given below.) If you're still interested, then go here - www.msn.co.uk/madonna. The concert's on 28 November in Brixton. But to be nice for a second, there is some real effort (we hesitate to use the word "pioneering") going on here. That said, we won't bother checking out webcasts until people feel they can start charging for them. If you've ever used Hotmail, MSN or Windows Player you will soon receive emails telling you most of the above. This is Microsoft's techie advice (read: justification when hundreds of thousands of people get that rising feeling of anti-climax): "If you have a 28.8k modem click on that link, remember your connection with this modem many be as slow as 14k so perhaps you'll get the best quality on the 28.8k version there will be an audio only link especially for that speed, bear in mind if you have a 56k modem your stream may only allow a 33.3k stream of audio and video. "If you are watching from your office make sure you are not behind your office firewall. Ask your IT people to be sure a port is open for "Media Streaming", some offices have enabled only certain computers to be able to accept audio video streaming, others don't allow it all, some allow it just at night when business is less busy. "Your IT dept may want you to change your 'proxy server' to one enabled for streaming and always check that your Internet Browser has it's security settings set to medium. There are many causes of 'Internet Congestion' bear in mind that the show will be back online for to enjoy within the hour and for some time thereafter." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Nov 2000

Pentium 4 launch special

It's been a long time coming, but today's the day. Intel's Pentium 4, aka Willamette, is here. We take a look at various aspects of the new flagchip. As good a place to start as anywhere would be here - Pentium 4 ships today Can't wait for one any longer? Order a system today - P4: first system details Oh no, it's another Intel chip. They're all the same, aren't they? - P4: How's it different? It may be the fastest chip on the planet, but that ain't good enough for some folks - Pentium 4: Overclocking So what's a pipeline, anyway? - Pentium 4 dissected I know it's more expensive than a Duron, but how many bangs will I get for my buck? - P4 - How fast is it? And if you've forgotten what a PC looks like inside - Pentium 4 in pictures - our scoop from months back showing what the little devil looks like. Our very own Lucy Sherriff has also trawled round our fave hardware sites to find out what they think of Intel's new arrival. And finally, a look at how The Reg has covered the evolution of the Pentium 4 over the last two years: Pentium 4: The story so far ®
Andrew Thomas, 20 Nov 2000

Gordon Brown raises VAT on ADSL by 3.71%

Hot on the heels of tax-based political arguments, we thought that Chancellor Gordon Brown had blown it for a minute when we saw IG Click's ADSL prices. For the monthly rental on a 512Kbps line, IG Click was charging £99 excluding VAT but £120 including VAT. Which meant either it had cocked up its pricing or our Gordon has raised VAT to 21.21 per cent. Seeing as we hadn't read anything about it, we went with the likely option that IG Click had got it wrong. And sure enough, before we could blink (well, take a screenshot), suddenly the prices on its Web site changed. You'd think that that was it, the evidence has been destroyed, but no - look closer. How many times have you seen services offered for £102.13, £127.66 or £153.19? Still, this may all be academic. If our readers are to be believed, you'd need your head examined if you wanted to start an account with IG Click. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Nov 2000

xDSL sales to increase

Shipments of customer-located xDSL equipment is set to rocket by more than 1100 percent over the next four years, from one million in 2000 to 12.4 million in 2004, according to the latest research from IDC. Germany is set to remain the largest xDSL market in Europe followed by Britain and France. Growth will be generated by local loop unbundling (LLU) and competition among players. However, according to IDC research analyst, Romolo Pusceddu: "Fully unbundling the local loop, however, will not happen in the near future. "Unbundling access to the local loop will increase competition and could speed up the introduction of faster Internet access services, such as asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) and symmetric digital subscriber line (SDSL)," he said. And he added that unbundling access to the local loop would increase the efficiency of the telecoms market and accelerate development of Internet services. Well, well, well, is that so? Give that man a slap on the back and tell him to take the rest of the afternoon off. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Nov 2000

Toshiba fingers biometric laptop

Toshiba is to give customers the option to replace the traditional name-and-password style logon with an optical fingerprint reader. The company is working on a line of notebooks which will ship with a biometric PC card and BioLogon software supplied by Identix, a biometric authentication specialist. Identix CEO Robert McCashin said the Tosh OEM deal marked the beginning of real security for laptop computers. He said the introduction of biometric security at the BIOS level locked down access completely "to any part of the device, without proper biometric identification". It can only be a matter of time before someone loses a finger along with a laptop. What's my names, whats my names Biometric authentication products are on the increase and are being touted as money-saving devices. In Oceanside, California, city workers now have fingerprint ID for everything. Their tech support was spending so much time handling calls from people who had forgotten their passwords, that the installation of the machines - at about $100 a pop - paid for itself almost immediately. Biometric devices can be used as a way of initiating a digital signatures - and since the law changed to recognise a digital signature for online transaction, product sales are expected to grow quickly. Research from Gartner group confirms that the market is looking healthy. Although only $60 million worth of kit was shipped this year, forecasters say the market will worth hundreds of millions by 2003. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2000

EMI picks partners for Euro digital music trial

British 'big five' music company EMI is to bring its digital music distribution trial to Europe, signing two further partners to offer its content. EMI's latest signing emerged over the weekend. DX3 (which is short for Digital Distribution Domain, apparently) and On Demand Distribution will separately take EMI's digital content and sell it to online retailers. The deals follow a similar one with the Tornado Group, and alliances with the likes of Liquid Audio in the US. Essentially, it's an old economy model: the manufacturer (EMI) ships to resellers (e-tailers) via distributors (Tornado, DX3 and On Demand). Since Net-based commerce is largely about cutting out middlemen, we wonder why EMI is so keen on bringing them into the equation. Clearly, old habits die hard with old economy companies. That's not how EMI's fellow 'big fivers' are tackling the business. BMG's deal with Napster is the most obvious example of a music label getting to the heart of digital distribution, but the others all appear to be targeting e-tailers directly. EMI's approach does bring with it some important benefits. For a start, it should ensure that its content is made available in as wide a range of formats as possible. After all, no one wants to be forced to use software they don't much care for simply because that's the only way they can hear their favourite band's latest single. It also ensures EMI takes relatively little risk. It has stakes in both DX3 and On Demand, so it can share in their success, but it doesn't lose as much if one of them goes titsup.com. And if they do phenomenally well, it's in a better position to snap one or more of them up as its digital distribution division. Still, it's a very cautious, tippy-toe approach to Net-based sales that contrasts markedly with Bertelsmann's 'dive straight in' strategy, and makes us wonder if EMI really understands this Internet thing. Meanwhile, over in the US, EMI has signed up Streamwaves to stream its music content to subscribers. Streamwaves will offer EMI's music early next year. Punters will pay a monthly fee - in return, they get to listen to as many tracks as they like, when they like and as often as they like. It's not quite Napster, but it's as close as it gets, and a model for emerging online music rental services loosely modelled on the video rental sector. Why buy a CD when you can listen to it via the Net for a fraction of the cost? Sony favours a similar approach, but one based on pay-per-listen rather than monthly subscriptions, which favours hardcore music buffs, not casual listeners, who are more likely to be interested in a rental service. ®
Tony Smith, 20 Nov 2000

SouthAfrica.com sues South Africa the country

An American company is suing the nation of South Africa in a bid to hang onto its prized domain name southafrica.com. Seattle-based Virtual Countries, which owns a battalion of country-name-based sites, has filed a suit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York against both the Republic of South Africa and the South African Tourism Board. It registered the dot com in 1995, and claims South Africa should be content with its current dot net suffix, while it gets to milk the TLD. The cyber-legals started when the South African government's Department of Communications got shirty over the URL earlier this month. It threatened to take its case to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), an ICANN-spawned domain name dispute referee. The mere mention of arbitration proceedings got Virtual Countries' back up, sending it running to the New York Court, screaming "not fair". According to the company, this is the first time any country has tried to start a WIPO proceeding over domain name registration. Although WIPO did recently award Barcelona.com to the city of Barcelona. "The government's motivation is obvious: It is a very valuable piece of property, and one that our company has been developing for several years," said Sean Duggan, VP of marketing at the outfit. "We launched this suit for our own protection but it will also benefit many other companies which already own legally registered dot.com names," he added. Virtual Countries' lawyer for the case, Salans law firm partner Wayne Matus, said: "The Republic of South Africa is threatening 'reverse-hijacking' - an attempt by a more formidable entity to take an address away from a less powerful, but otherwise legitimate owner". Just why any company should have more right to the domain name of a country, rather than the country itself, was not explained. After all, doamins such as southafrica.com, france.com or America.com would all be worthless if it wasn't for their namesake. For interested punters, virtualcountries.co.uk and virtualcountries.co.za (the South African suffix) are still available for any "less powerful" individuals who fancy becoming their "legitimate" owners. ® Related Stories single South African surfers search for sex ICANN speaks: Lucky seven TLDs include .pro, .biz Register domains with Korean, Japanese or Chinese characters ICANN steps over mark - again
Linda Harrison, 20 Nov 2000

Micron samples 256MB DDR modules

Micron is touting 256MB DDR SDRAM modules, but in industry samples only. Not that the timing has anything to do with what has been, with today's Intel Pentium 4 launch, a damn fine day for Rambus Ink. Micron has announced availability of PC133 (said to be comparable in price with PC100 SDRAMs) and 2.5V 266MHz DDR versions. Multiple chipsets which take advantage of Micron's DDR SDRAM memory are to be introduced this quarter and next year, it says. The 2.5V 266MB DDR part, functioning at clock rates of 133MHz, provides system-level bandwidth of 2.1GB per second. This meets the requirements of PC2100, the US memory maker points out. Both PC133 and 266 Meg flavours are manufactured using 0.15 micron technology, which means faster speed and lower power consumption, according to Micron. The company is planning 512MB and 1 Gig DDR DIMM modules operating at 133MHz bus speed next quarter. ®
Drew Cullen, 20 Nov 2000

How healthy is your Hard Drive?

A new diagnostic tool for ATA hard drives hits the market this week Made by Quantum, this handheld device checks the health of all your systems. The QTest-ATA determines whether or not an ATA hard drive is the cause of a system failure, so cutting down on unnecessary tests and repairs, and saving money, Quantum says. The Qtest checks one drive at a time and connects via a 40-pin ribbon cable. Test results can be captured on a PDA, a serial printer or a laptop computer, and can be presented in a spreadsheet, to compare results from various drives. The Qtest is available in the US for the princely sum of $249.95. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Nov 2000

ICANN rulings lands Big Biz with $75k yearly fees

ICANN's decision to add more TLDs means at least one group of dotcoms will be able to put bread on the table this holiday season - domain name registrars. Companies such as Network Solutions and Register.com stand to make big bucks, Gartner Group claims. Especially with the addition of Japanese, Chinese and Korean characters, and last week's ICANN ruling to allow another seven suffixes into cyberspace, including .info, .biz, and .co-op. It all translates to cyber-heaven for domain registrars. Meanwhile, Gartner reckons that organisations will have to register a minimum of 300 Internet addresses to cover their backs by 2001. "Being in 'dot-com' does not mean you are 'dot-done', said Audrey Apfel, Gartner VP and research director. Gartner's advice is to batten down the hatches and get a domain-naming strategy "with multiple names registered in multiple registries". And the cost of this strategy per company? $75,000. It should include: Marketing and branding issues for existing and future initiatives and products Legal exposures and liability Misspellings of prefixesv Related sentences like "ihateXXX" or "XXXsucks"v Domains beyond dot-com Non-English language variants of name, such as Chinese A process to look at new TLDs, products, acquisitions and mergers. Yearly cost - $20,000 "The addition of these seven new high-level domain names by ICANN is only the tip of the iceberg," warned Apfel. "Organisations must register names in multiple registries for both offensive and defensive purposes, but with the knowledge that no-one can cover all the options." ® Related Stories Southafrica.com sues South Africa the country ICANN speaks: Lucky seven TLDs include .pro, .biz NSI dodges naughty domain name lawsuit Register domains with Korean, Japanese or Chinese characters
Linda Harrison, 20 Nov 2000

Echelon discoverer gives masterclass in paranoia

At a recent conference for UK journalists explaining the full ins and outs of the RIP Act and what that means for our profession, leading investigative journalist Duncan Campbell gave a talk about the nastier side of governments. You may know Duncan Campbell as one of the men behind the publicising of GCHQ, Echelon and other government-backed spying activities. He's a funny man - gaunt, bespeckled and geeky looking - but if one person is in a position to tell you what it's really like to be investigated by the security services, Duncan is he. Perhaps surprisingly, Duncan is fairly unconcerned about the effect that the RIP Act (or RIPA, pronounced "ripper" in the Home Office, quipped another speaker) will have. "Don't lose sleep over it," he told us. "I don't think - even in the medium to long-term - that it is a great threat to most stories." The main threat of RIPA will be after the event (i.e. publication of a story) when the police will pop round, take away PCs/files, and work backwards to discover sources of leaks. (The list of priorities runs as follows: protect sources, protect story, protect yourself, protect long-term journalistic interests.) For a man variously described as "paranoid" and "mad" by ex-colleagues, he was realistic about the risks faced by most journalists. Going through the various state-funded spying rackets - Carnivore (US), Echelon (US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand), GCHQ (UK), the Russian station at Lourdes, Cuba, GTAC (doing the Web traffic monitoring in the UK), FRENCHELON (Campbell's tag for the listening station at Domme, near Bordeaux, run by France's DGSE security service) - he nevertheless pointed out that these "exotic" systems are for the most part uninterested in journalists. Security in the software sense is useless if not taken as part of an overall mentality, he explained. The aim is to create as much security as is needed for each assignment. After all, does it really matter if the US government knows what is written in an article if that article is published four hours later? The aim is to create a suitable level of privacy. He illustrated his point with reference to a collaborator in New Zealand - Nicky - who apparently did most of the work on the Echelon investigation. Nicky doesn't bother to lock his door or build a huge amount of added security around his house because he knows that if the government wishes to know what is on the computer it can, at any time, encrypted or not. But when in conversation with Nicky, Duncan and he build up a "reasonable level of privacy" beforehand. Duncan is also clear on the latest security technology. "You should all have PGP and should encourage others to use it. The aim is to provide reassurance. But some of the latest security is too complex - I had access to PGP for most of the 90s but only started using it when it became simpler [to use]." The RIP Act will really only empower the police, domestic security and foreign governments/intelligence agencies, he said, and they are unlikely to be interested or proactive in chasing anyone but terrorists, drug smugglers and the like. The real threat lies with large corporations and multinationals that can afford to buy in intelligence skills, lawyers and forensics. And recent cases would appear to back up the feeling that it is the international mammoth companies that are the ones most guilty of abusing civil rights. Duncan Campbell threw a few more entertaining but legally red-hot stories in the mix before wrapping up with an example of when he felt "we really saw the power of Echelon in action". Duncan was involved in the publication of some highly classified documentation on the Net, the story goes. The relevant authorities knew the document had gone missing and were on the lookout. It was published in an obscure part of a US site specialising in this sort of thing - www.cryptome.org - and visits to that part of the site were tracked. Duncan then discussed the position of the file over a cellphone while in the States. Within minutes, he claims, the page received a number of hits from a US government agency. Unfortunately, the logs were knocked about because of a conflicting piece of software blocking unwelcome visitors and so proof was lost. An example of Echelon at work? Or a dramatic end to an interesting talk? That's the beauty of this hi-tech paranoia - you just never know. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Nov 2000

MS responds to Europe's move to open up Windows

Microsoft filed its response to the European Commission's "statement of objections" on Friday, but both sides are keeping quiet about the case, and it could be months before the next move is made. The Commission can move fast if it wants to, and Microsoft can request an aural hearing to support its defence, although it has yet to do so. But if neither of these things happen within the next couple of weeks, the European antitrust action will stay in the shadows into next year. The Commission's action stems from a complaint by Sun, and has potentially serious implications for Microsoft for a number of reasons. It covers claimed attempts to leverage a monopoly of desktop operating systems into a server monopoly, and discriminatory practices claimed to lock rivals - like Sun - out. The Commission has the power to impose huge fines, and Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has shown signs of wanting his very own nuclear button, the power to break companies up. That one would be a major diplomatic incident if he intended to impose it on Microsoft, but he's already indicated a more immediate threat - forcing Microsoft to disclose its APIs, perhaps even forcing Microsoft to licence Windows source. That's potentially far more serious than any fine, and is an age-old concern of Sun's, appropriately enough. The Register by coincidence found its Sun WABI coffee holder just this past weekend... The Commission also doesn't have to go through anything like the tortuous US legal hoops in order to pull the trigger. So far progress on the complaint has been fairly slow, and depending on political conditions and progress of the action in the US, that could carry on being the case. But if Monti wakes up one morning and sees the US action deep in mire and unlikely to make progress this side of Windows 3000, it could all happen very fast indeed. Which in itself might be a major diplomatic incident, whichever US administration finally gets in... ® Related Stories Europe extends deadline for MS' antitrust probe response EU goes legal against MS - company should open up Windows MS tells EU it's always pushed standards, interoperability
John Lettice, 20 Nov 2000

Yahoo! loses Nazi trinkets case

A French court has ordered Yahoo! to stop French Web surfers buying Nazi memorabilia on its online auctions. The US Internet giant was told today it must prevent French people from visiting its English-language Web pages where items such as Nazi books, medals, weapons and uniforms are up for sale. The judge gave Yahoo! three months to figure out a way to implement this. The company faces fines of 100,000 francs ($13,000) per day after the 90-day deadline if France isn't somehow locked out of their Nazi swap pages. Yahoo!legal-eagles had argued that the demand was not technologically feasible - Yahoo! doesn't control French users' access to its sites, plus French surfers can log on through ISPs outside the country. They also threw in the fact that California-based Yahoo! is US governed, and the action would go against the right to free speech stemming from the US Constitution. But the French court ruled that Yahoo! France could block at least 90 per cent of users from accessing the sites with a filtering system. Today's move crowns a seven-month legal scrap - the case was brought originally by two Paris-based anti-racism groups, the International League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA,) and the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF). In France it is illegal to display or sell anything that incites racism. ® Related Stories Yahoo! legally obliged to ban the French? Anti-racists sue Yahoo! over Nazi auction Judge wants France ring fenced from Nazi auctions
Linda Harrison, 20 Nov 2000