18th > December > 2000 Archive

Foster, Xeon prices and strategies leak

RoadmapRoadmap Chip giant Intel will introduce 1.4GHz and 1.5GHz of its server version of the Pentium 4 - code-named Foster, at $490 and $695 respectively, when it launches them. That could be as early as Q1 next year, although currently Chipzilla is keeping its cards close to its chest. However, roadmaps seen by The Register just a few days ago, show that the 1GHz Pentium III Xeon, which cost $515 on the 29th of October last, will be dropped in price to $425 on the 28th January, while the 1GHz using the SECC2 package, will fall to $358 from its October price of $475 on the same day. Intel has decided to cut its server chip prices at the same time as its desktop processor prices, it appears. Mobile prices also change on that day. The prices of the Foster chip should be compared with the new prices on the Pentium 4 1.4/1.5GHz processors, which we published over the weekend. Intel may not stick to this dual approach to desktop and server prices, which is intended as an attempt to gradually shift the current emphasis on Coppermine and Coppermine-T technology to its Willamette-Foster platforms. ® Related Story Intel to slash P4 prices 28 Jan 2001
Mike Magee, 18 Dec 2000

Pentium III not long for this world

RoadmapRoadmap The roadmap we saw towards the end of last week demonstrates Intel's clear intent to eventually displace Pentium III processors with Pentium 4 and Foster technology. And the sooner the better, as far as the firm is concerned. But there are some clear differences from the past. Unlike the good old days when the Intel gravy train seemed to chug on to its next destination making stops to drop off old chips at various retirement homes for senior x86 citizens, this latest roadmap shows clear signs that the proprietary arrogance of yore is showing signs of wear and tear. The roadmap, which was shown to PC customers and distributors in November, starts by saying that there will be an accelerated ramp rate for the P4, and that Intel has a "90 per cent high confidence" in its revised schedules. The ramp of the Pentium 4 will "cover all mainstream" segments by the end of next year, and Intel expects a crossover sales in early 2002. This "crossover" point is an important one for Intel, although it doesn't always make its targets. The obstacles to it managing such a crossover in early 2002 include competition, market forces, a move to larger, 12in wafer sizes, chipsets and memory availability, and also a move from .18 micron to .13 micron. All of these are bigger variables than Intel's "90 per cent high confidence" might suggest. Throw words like AMD, huge capital investment, recession, slump in demand for PCs, ability to execute on chipset strategy and, yes, Rambus, into that cooking pot and we have to wonder about that 90 per cent figure. Intel segments its desktop map into the performance, mainstream 3, mainstream 2, mainstream 1 and three value segments. In the performance sector (systems without monitors costing over $2,000), it is predicting the 1.5GHz Pentium 4 will supersede the 1GHz Pentium 3. By Q2 2001, that slot will be occupied by the 1.70GHz P4, by Q3 (Hi, Doctor Yu, do you know the date yet?) the 2GHz Pentium 4, while greater than 2GHz Pentium 4s with Willamette cores will arrive towards the end of next year and the beginning of 2002. By that time, Intel hopes it will see the virtual end of the Pentium III CuMine family, although in between times we will see the 1.13GHz Pentium III (cough) in Q2 2001, while we'll also see a 1.26GHz Pentium III briefly tip up. Intel says in its latest roadmap that it will cut Pentium 4 prices to "reflect an accelerated product ramp", and adjust the price of its 1GHz Pentium III processor downwards as its .18 micron capacity increases. Further, it will Carry on Gravy Training by following its usual trend of dropping prices and pensioning off its former heroes. (Intel uses the quaint term off-roadmap for this process). Off-roadmap may not be as off-roadmap as many of us might suspect. For example, earlier in 2000, unexpected quantities of Pentium IIs made their appearance when other shortages were biting. Prices for performance Pentium III desktops on the 28th of January 2001 will be as follows. The 750MHz will drop to $173, the 733MHz to $163, the 700MHz to $153, the 666MHz to $143 and the 650MHz to $143. (Prices for 1000s) Parity in prices means that Intel is pensioning off chips. Sadly, the Intel CuMine 666MHz processor has had a short shelf life indeed. (Intel prefers for obvious reasons to call this a 667MHz chip). So the Pentium III is nearing desuetude and long live the Pentium 4. But not until 2002 folks. Tomorrow, we will look at how Intel will wrest victory from the jaws of defeat with a consolidated chipset strategy, as well as look at its Celeron strategy and its cunning plans for mobile processors. Its mobile processor strategy still seems to be firmly on track - whither Trancemeta and Mobile Durons? ® Related Story Intel to slash P4 prices 28 Jan 2001
Mike Magee, 18 Dec 2000

PlayStation 2 upgrade glues games

Sony has denied responsibility for the failure of three PlayStation 2 games to work with the console's most recent revision. It's the software's fault, the consumer electronics giant said. The software in question comprises three titles - one of them from Konami - break when run on PlayStation 2s shipped after 8 December. At that point, Sony revised the console's hardware to support a bundled remote control for the machine's built-in DVD player, Bloomberg reports. The games work just fine on earlier versions of the PlayStation 2, but not the new one, Sony said on its Japanese Web site. The three games, we understand, are: Idea Factory's Sky Surfer, Reiselied from Konami and T&E Soft's Golf Paradise. For its part, Konami said it will replace older CDs with a new version that does run on the upgraded console. This isn't the first time the PlayStation 2's DVD facility has caused trouble. Not long after the console made its Japanese debut last March, faulty Memory Card modules, apparently in conjunction with a glitch in Ridge Racer IV, zapped the DVD playback software stored on them. Sony later built DVD playback hardware into the console for its US and European launches. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Dec 2000

VIA centres sights on .13 micron Samuel II

VIA will focus more closely on low-power processors next year in a bid to beat off the blues induced by the global slowdown in PC sales. That way, the company hopes to take ten per cent of the global CPU market - amounting to around 15 million microprocessors - which it reckons will push its processor production operation into profit, according to a company official cited in a report by Taiwanese business paper the Commercial Times. VIA's plans centre on a shift to 0.15 and 0.13 micron production, particularly with its WinChip-derived Samuel II CPU. Production will be brought back to Taiwan - primarily through a fabrication deal with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC). It hopes the move will cut costs, and that in turn will push it into profitability. The company will also roll out an integrated CPU based on the Cyrix III and wrapping in its Pro-133X and Savage 4 graphics chipsets. That's due to ship during Q2 2001. However, its higher-end integrated chip, above the current MII and also based on the Cyrix III, has now been scrapped. The reason? Intel's decision to knock its own integrated chip, Timna, on the head. ® Related Story VIA unpacks 650, 667MHz Cyrix III CPUs
Tony Smith, 18 Dec 2000

Breathe losses rumoured to be £50 million

Modern urbanist ISP, Breathe, has collapsed with losses of £50 million, according to reports over the weekend. The trendy outfit created by mobile phone entrepreneur, Martin Dawes, appointed PricewaterhouseCoopers as administrators on Friday. Since then, the ISP hasn't breathed a word. Funny, really, when you think that it's telecommunications company...that can't communicate. However, they're very good at dishing out misinformation. For instance, journalists phoning Breathe are asked to speak to its PR company, Financial Dynamics. Call Financial Dynamics and they suggest phoning Breathe or PWC. The reason? Financial Dynamics is not working for Breathe. It used to. But the contract ended three weeks ago. Yet, the Modern Urbanists at Breathe who are at the front line on phone duty were only given Financial Dynamics' phone number last week. How queer. What's more, Sean Gardner, Breathe's COO, has disappeared. he hasn't returned calls. No one's seen him in the office. Well, that's what we've been told. You don't think he's been kidnapped by a militant bunch of Modern Urbanists on microscooters, do you? ® Related Stories Breathe calls in administrators breathe gasps for survival Heavy breathers winded by Net access rejection breathe suffers asthma attack Oh to be a Modern Urbanist Flame of the Week: we're a bunch of tits
Tim Richardson, 18 Dec 2000

Mac Rumour Roundup Apple's G4 vs. G3 plan

Apple will ship consumer-oriented iMacs and iBooks with higher clock speeds than its flagship Power Mac machines, according to company documents described over at MacOS Rumors. The plan, according to the documents, goes something like this: Apple will roll-out consumer machines using IBM's PowerPC 750CXe CPU - a G3 class processor - taking iMacs to 733MHz and iBooks to 677MHz. Of course, that leaves current Power Mac G4s running at 500MHz, though this is expected to be beefed up to 600MHz early next year. But how to make the high-end machines seem superior to the low-end boxes? The G4's 500MHz PowerPC 7400 is roughly as fast as a 600MHz PPC750, but MacOS X's optimisation for the 7400 should give Apple stacks of statistics to show how much faster the G4 is to the iMac. Of course, once Motorola's 'G4 Plus' CPU ships, possibly sometime during Q2 2001, G4 speeds should rise quickly to 700MHz and beyond, restoring the 'high-end, high clock speed; low-end, low clock speed' ratio, so this is clearly a temporary measure. As CEO Steve Jobs recently admitted, Apple has got it wrong on the megahertz argument. Like it or not, far too many people view clock speed as the be-all and end-all of computer performance, and on that scale Apple is way behind the Wintel world. Apple's attempt to improve matters with dual-CPU machines clearly haven't helped - to a lot of buyers, the 500MHz G4 looks woefully underpowered compared to, say, a 1.5GHz AMD Athlon. That's why Apple needs faster G3 class CPUs for the iMac and iBook. The trouble is, its plan to make the G4 appear better seems to rely on benchmarks which, as we've seen, aren't as powerful a sales tool as raw megahertz. And while MacOS X 1.0 will be rather faster than the Public Beta, accelerating applications by speeding up the core APIs they run on, there are going to have to be rather more apps out there than there are now to tempt users over to the new OS, which limits its use as a driver for G4 sales. ® Related Link MacOS Rumors' story
Tony Smith, 18 Dec 2000

Breathe calls in administrators

Modern urbanist ISP Breathe.net could be about to draw its last breath after it called in the administrators this morning. PriceWaterhouseCoopers was appointed at the High Court in Manchester. No one at Breathe was available for comment today. Management decided to hide behind receptionists in a bid to avoid explaining why the trendy ISP has fallen off its microscooter. However, according to sources, it's "business as usual" - for the time being at least. Last week it was reported that Breathe was seeking a rescue buyer, in a "last ditch effort to find fresh funds". This was on the back of Breathe's decision to shut down its £50 for a lifetime of flat-rate unmetered Net access service after it found it simply wasn't economically viable to keep it going. The chance of punters getting a refund remains very slim. In July Breathe booted 500 users, alleging they "abused" the service. ® Related Stories breathe gasps for survival Heavy breathers winded by Net access rejection breathe suffers asthma attack Oh to be a Modern Urbanist Flame of the Week: we're a bunch of tits
Tim Richardson, 18 Dec 2000

Wanadoo in Euro buying spree

France Telecom's Internet unit, Wanadoo, is furthering its European expansion by buying Spain's Indice Multimedia for E360 million ($323 million). Indice has a ten per cent share of the Spanish Internet market. That's on top of the £1.6 billion it's paying for British ISP, Le Freeserve. Durlacher Corporation - the European research-driven investment and securities group focused on emerging technologies and media – has written off £13 million from its recent investments. These could include teen girl site Wowgo, which shut up shop in November, and contemporary art seller Unit26. Durlacher’s not saying. It’s other investments include the 365 Corporation, the451.com, icollector, and Zeus Technology. US online grocer, Homegrocer.com, has laid off 100 staff from its east Seattle-based HQ. This means 150 people have got the boot since the business was bought by Webvan for $534 million in September. HomeGrocer employed about 460 people at its HQ before the take-over. The cost of running and developing Web sites will fall next year, according to the publishers of the FT.Com. Pearson, which owns FT.Com along with the Financial Times newspaper, said "our FT Internet enterprises remain on track to break even in 2002, some two years ahead of our original expectations." It added that all its businesses, which include book publishing, are "on track to deliver substantial revenue and operating profit growth". Bloomberg also reports that Pearson is investing in publishing educational materials, as well as financial news, online. The easyEverything Net cafe business, which has a strong toehold in European cities, is to spend £20 million to expand its operation across the US. ® Read Cash Reg - or the puppy gets it
Team Register, 18 Dec 2000

$10m super'puter to crunch genetic code

Genetics research firm NuTec Sciences has ordered the largest supercomputer in the commercial world, to date, from IBM. The contract is worth $10 million. IBM says that the new machine will be 600 times faster then Deep Blue, and will perform 7.5 trillion calculations per second. The computer will consist of 1250 of IBM's pSeries 640 servers, which retail individually for $13,599. Peter Morrissey, head of NuTec's life sciences division, commented: "Scientists are now asking questions they simply couldn't ask before. Genome mapping only opened the door to multitudes of further analysis." The company will use the massive computational power of the new machine to discover the combinations of genes that can cause diseases, and which chemical cocktails could be used to fight them. IBM will also be working with NuTec to develop software that will allow the secure exchange of research data online. It will also create a system that other scientists will be able to use to query NuTec for data. Although massive, this new machine is still a baby relative to the huge ASCI White, which can perform 12.3 trillion calculations per second. ® Related Stories Japanese nuke boffins buy $1m Compaq super'puter IBM SP used to model heart beats
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Dec 2000

MS pushes business to Win2k via Win9x price hikes

Microsoft displayed its habitual exquisite timing last week, following up on the profit warning by kicking Windows ME and Windows 98 out of its corporate volume discount purchase plans. Effectively this will make it harder and more expensive for companies to buy the older Win9x software, and will channel them towards buying Win2k instead. Which is, er, more expensive anyway. Microsoft said the move is a response to increasing demand for Win2k in the enterprise and decreasing demand for Win9x, but the logic of why these factors should result in a price hike for 9x while the 2k price stays the same is beyond us. WinME will be removed from the volume discount schemes on March 1st, while Win95 and Win98 will get theirs on June 30th. They'll be removed from volume licensing schemes at the end of this year, although existing schemes will be honoured. Given that WinME was never intended for the corporate market in the first place, and had been cunningly crippled to make it especially unattractive for business, it's probably weirder that it was on the corporate discount schemes in the first place than it is that it's now being removed. But the tell-tale presence of the geriatric Win95 on the death list does make you wonder - didn't corporate demand for Win95 fall off, and demand for Win98 strengthen, a couple of years back? The companies most affected will be those who're running Win9x as their standard client OS. Note that they haven't even been able to buy Win2k for a full year yet, and if you factor in the evaluation, planning and training period it's actually perfectly rational and reasonable for many businesses to still be running 9x as the standard. Sure, post service pack they will now have a reasonable estimation of Win2k's capabilities and stability, but that doesn't mean it makes business sense for them (however much sense it might make to Microsoft) to switch wholesale now, just because they can. The removal of the volume discounts does however impact on their planning quite considerably. The cost of the software has some importance, although the related need to spend on retraining and deployment sooner than anticipated is likely to loom larger. Theoretically they could carry on buying at the higher price through the channel and through OEM preloads, but that will become progressively more difficult as Microsoft tightens the screws. You'll have noted that PC OEM web sites and sales literature these days solemnly intone in unison that they recommend Windows 2000 for business - this is not a coincidence. At retail Win98 is going to be progressively squeezed out by WinME, which is a far less useful OS for business anyway. At OEM level WinME again will progressively take over as the split between Win9x at consumer and Win2k for business becomes more formal. You'll still be able to buy consumer machines and hang them off corporate networks as clients, but it'll become more and more difficult to coerce PC suppliers to squirt Win9x onto corporate-spec machines, even if you dangle large volumes. So you either do it yourself, painstakingly and expensively,* or you give in and go with the program. One wonders if perhaps this process relates to Sun's complaint to the European Commission, and the Commission's interest in Microsoft possibly using Win2k to leverage dominance in the server software business? Presumably Brussels is paying attention. * Here's a question for the panel. How do you get Windows 98 onto a legacy-free PC that won't boot from a floppy, and that shipped with Win2k preinstalled, and therefore won't boot Dos? Not impossible, but a puzzle that The Register is currently investigating. The clue is that it will boot from a CD - but more of this anon. Small update: We didn't actually know some SE CDs were bootable, and anyway ours isn't. Nor will the bios support a bootable USB floppy drive, so forget that one too. Nor will the floppy drive we've got support this anyway, even if the bios did. And finally, for the moment, we're not pulling the hard drive and putting it a proper machine, then putting it back. That is an inelegant solution. ® Totally (honest) Unrelated Item: Is the end looming for the Microsoft monopoly?
John Lettice, 18 Dec 2000

More email victims at Royal & SunAlliance

Insurance company Royal & SunAlliance has suspended 41 staff for distributing "lewd" Bart Simpson cartoons. The decision to suspend staff was taken after an internal investigation - sparked by the receipt of an email featuring the offending Simpson attachment by one of the company's directors. The company has rolled out the usual line of "strict policies concerning the use of technology". The staff comes from a range of different departments at the company. According to media reports, the email consisted of a "doctored" picture of Bart Simpson, but the company wouldn't comment further. "Doctored" covers a multitude of sins. Could a doctored pic include animated gifs of, say, Bart and Lisa playing with one another? Because that's one of the three that we at The Reg have received. Are they really that offensive? Not really, and you will note that the staff were not sacked but suspended. You can expect a lot more of this as companies freak over what has happened to Bradley Chait, a lawyer at London legal firm Norton Rose, who's being disciplined after a private email conversation he'd had with his girlfriend Claire Swire was circulated round the world, thanks to him. The idea is to make an example of staff and get them out the habit of forwarding amusing emails. And, to be frank, you can't blame them. ® Related Stories Yummy Claire: we try to clear up this mess Is this the greatest ever email hoax? C&W fires six for email abuse
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Dec 2000

24/7 Freecall pledges refunds

24/7 Freecall has pledged to refund Net users who've been booted off the service even though they had paid for the service. In yet another U-turn, Sal Abdin, the head of 24/7 Freecall, told The Register that all those affected would received a refund - even though the ISP originally said it would not reimburse people. "They will be refunded," he said. "There's no argument." "If people drop us an email - that would help speed up things for us," he added. Sal Abdin's apparent change of heart is to be welcomed - not only for the poor sods who had £19.99 deducted from their bank accounts days before being kicked off the service. But spare a thought for those who had money deducted after they were kicked off. Oh, and it will also be welcome news to Telia - the telco that supports 24/7 Freecall. It is already troubled by the bad smell of publicity that accompanied 24/7 Freecall's decision to pull the plug on a 1,000 users with just a few hours notice. No doubt it will be vigilant and ensure 24/7 Freecall is true to its word about the refunds. Because The Register will also be keeping its eye on matter. Taking money out of people's accounts just before - and after - they've been booted into touch? Tsk tsk, that's not nice at all, is it? Here's what some of you have to say. According to Dan (he only gave us his first name): "I read your article on 24-7 Freecall's cut off of thousands of users and like you, I was one of them... I did actually receive that email too. I was cut off on 13th December and I was very surprised to find that on the 14th (AFTER they had closed my account) that my account had been debited!" And this from Bo (he only gave us his first name too): "I got disconnected from them as well. They just charged my card on Thursday. I had no warning or email and they say 'No refund'." On Friday Register hack, Andrew Thomas was promised a refund after he complained to 24/7 Freecall. ® Related Stories Reg staffer cut off by 24-7 Freecall ISP Freecall kicks off 1000 'abusers' 400 Freecall users out on their ear 24-7 Freecall does a Freeswerve
Tim Richardson, 18 Dec 2000

Warner Bros/ Harry Potter dispute kicks off again

We thought it was all over, but the argument over the Harry Potter Web site run by 15-year-old Claire Field has kicked off again following her father's anger at media manipulation by Warner Brothers' head of publicity Barbara Brogliatti. Warner's had threatened legal action against Claire, and offered her £9.99 to sign over her domain www.harrypotterguide.co.uk. Warner's of course is behind the upcoming Harry Poter movie. After a bit of media uproar it then backed down, and said it was happy for her to run her wonderful site. Clearly unwilling to play ball, Les Field fired off an angry email to Ms Brogliatti after she told Hollywood Reporter that the letter to Claire from WB was only asking for her to "clarify the intent of her site". These words never appeared in the letter, he snorted, before threatening to turn to the legal help that has been offered since the story came to light. In an extraordinary war of words, Barbara then fires back at Les, accusing him of manipulating the media for his cause. Then, in complete contradiction to what the official line over the site had been, Barbara says: "I have been trying to do something for Claire that has NEVER been allowed... and I have been doing it against the better judgement of our attorneys." Which would suggest that Warner Brothers is the faceless, bullying conglomerate that we have painted it out to be. And so it looks at the moment that this case will get to court - and we'll be watching. ® A full transcript of the emails is below: From: Les Field To: Barbara Brogliatti Subject: RE: VERY DISSAPOINTED!!! Dear Barbara Having read your quote to the (Hollywood Reporter dated, December 8, 2000) this gives me great concern, again. Quote: "According to Warner Bros. spokeswoman Barbara Brogliatti, the studio sent United Kingdom teenager Claire Field a letter simply asking her to clarify the intent of her site, www.harrypotterguide.co.uk. Instead of responding to Warner Bros., Field chose to tell the media about the letter " unquote. !! Sorry, have we a letter here that's got a typing error on too!! NO WAY CAN I SEE THE WORDS, " ASKED HER TO CLARIFY THE INTENT OF HER SITE!!!!!!!! Only: "If we do not hear from you by by December 15 2000 we shall put this matter into the hands of our solicitors." Have you seen this letter?? If not I strongly advise you to check it out. Perhaps you can see "asked her to clarify the intent of her site". Where does this appear on the letter? This is absolutely available for distribution if this continues. I have held off further media coverage hoping for truce, stated the other day, but I will not have these false allegations cast against us. And more so your email dated, 14/12/200, quote: "But if you prefer not to discuss an arrangement or if you prefer I turn this to over to the lawyers.... I will do so." Unquote. I am going to accept the many offers of legal support that has been extended to Claire. Any further correspondence will be through the nominated, Attorney, Solicitor. Sorry but you are not going to make us the bad people here. Regards Les From: Barbara Brogliatti To: Les Field Subject: RE: VERY DISSAPOINTED!!! Dear Mr. Field, I too am very disappointed and very distressed. I read the letter sent to you and the intent IS to clarify the intent of a site. I agree the language is very terse in the letter and that is why I have said to you, to Mr. Kelly [The Mirror's Internet reporter] and the reporter at the Hollywood Reporter...that I thought the letter needs to be re-written. But the intent will be the same...to protect our rights, to protect Harry and to protect our fans from those who will misuse or abuse the name of Harry Potter (which is licensed to Warner Bros.). The reason I contacted YOU...was to explain to you and to Claire the meaning behind the letter...after I read about it in the PRESS. I said to you as I did to the Hollywood Reporter that I had wished you had contacted us before you contacted Mr. Kelly. That is true. I wish you had. Please note the date of the Hollywood Reporter. Also, please read Claire's quote..."I don't intend just handing the Web site over without a fight" ... how should we interpret that??? NO ONE IS TRYING TO MAKE YOU OR CLAIRE THE BAD GUYS...but neither are we. Ask Mr. Kelly, he talked to me. Ask him if I said you were bad people. Ask him what I thought about the letter. You can also ask him what I am trying to do. I have been trying to do something for Claire that has NEVER been allowed...and I have been doing it against the better judgement of our attorneys. Obviously, nothing I can say or do will have you believe me or trust me. So I guess it is best that our attorneys stay within the strictest interpretation of the law and that I step away. AT YOUR REQUEST...I am turning this over to Neil Blair in our London office. You may have your representative contact him. I am truly sorry that it has come to this. Best regards, Barbara ® Related Stories Warner Bros backs down on Harry Potter Web site Reg to fight for Harry Potter 'cybersquatter' Warner Brothers bullies girl over Harry Potter site
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Dec 2000

Reg scores Quote of the Year

Champagne corks popped this morning at Vulture Central when we discovered that we had been included in today's Guardian media section's Quotes of the Year piece. So where did they get this piece of Kieren McCarthy pub-inspired wisdom? An exhaustive investigation into 24/7 Internet access? A rivetting account of Chipzilla's latest offering? Not a bit of it. The truth is far more scary, as you can find out here. Proof, were it needed that your runaway Reg delivers the goods at a price you can afford. Enjoy ®
Lester Haines, 18 Dec 2000

Intel, Rambus beefing up legal departments

Intel is advertising for more lawyers to work on intellectual property and patents. The list of vacancies at the chip behemoth at HotJobs includes vacancies for an additional four attorneys. Meanwhile, Rambus is also looking to hire another patent attorney here, whose job description includes the phrase "You will also perform licensing activities such as developing infringement positions and presentations". Now why on Earth would Intel and Rambus both be keen to add more heavyweight legal eagles? Could it be mere coincidence? ® Related legal matters Rambus derides Intel chipset Rambus CEO surprises world+dog Intel slams Rambus toll collecting tactics
Andrew Thomas, 18 Dec 2000

SAS Web site pulled

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has pulled the plug on a Web site dedicated to the Territorial Army branch of Britain's elite special forces unit, the Special Air Service (SAS). A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the site, which was set up to attract volunteers to the London-based 21 Special Air Service Regiment (Reserves), was dropped because "there were elements of the site the MoD was not happy about". He declined to say what these elements were or whether the site, set up by volunteers themselves and live for only around a week, would be allowed to go online again. No other regiments or divisions of the SAS have Web sites, he added. According to the Times, the Web site showed SAS in action with their identities protected. The site was emblazoned with the SAS motto: "Who Dares Wins" and the message: "Special Forces - A Unique Challenge". The SAS site was accessible through a another site which features dozens of other volunteer reserve forces units. Volunteer reserve forces, who serve part-time, form about a third of the UK's armed forces. ®
John Leyden, 18 Dec 2000

Le Freeswerve – c'est magnifique

Le Freeswerve has halved the amount of cash it lost in the last quarter, it reported today. It made an operating loss of £6 million (before share-based compensation, amortisation of goodwill and exceptional items) in the Q2 to 11 November, compared to £14.6 million in the previous quarter. Turnover during the same period increased by around £1 million - from £14.6 million in Q1 to £15.6 million. L'ISP also increased its e-commerce and advertising revenues by more than 50 per cent and managed to recruit some 40,000 people to its service a week. No doubt this will curry favour with Le Freeswerve's new masters, French outfit Wanadoo. It also claims it is the market leader in unmetered access with 338,000 active registered accounts on Freeswerve's two flat-rate access offers. Strangely, BTinternet said last week it was the market leader with 500,000 registered unmetered users. How odd. It seems these people can run a Net business and lose millions of pounds each month - but can't add up. In a statement, Monsieur John Pluthero, CEO, de Le Freeswerve plc, said: "These results demonstrate our continued strong progress. "During the quarter we increased our average weekly advertising and e-commerce revenues by more than 50% over the first quarter and our customers increased their average daily use of the Internet by a further 22% on the previous quarter. "The combination of Freeserve with Wanadoo will create new opportunities and further accelerate the development of our business," he said. ® Related Story Freeserve and Wanadoo get hitched
Tim Richardson, 18 Dec 2000

Monster BT bill man gets reprieve

Remember Nick Everitt? He received a quarterly phone bill in September for £1,465 even though he was dialling a freephone Net access number. The bill, which was 467 pages, reduced his wife to tears. However, in this season of goodwill to all men, BT has revised down the bill to just £190, writes Nick in a touching Christmas card to The Register. Peace on earth and goodwill to all men - that's what we say - even if it is BT. ® Related Story BT sends woman 467-page bill
Tim Richardson, 18 Dec 2000

Armed raiders seize back counterfeit goods

Irish police suspect that dissident Republicans are responsible for an armed hold-up during which counterfeit goods were seized back. Sources within the police force, quoted in The Irish Times, said that dissident republicans, probably the "Real IRA", were behind the raid and that the goods would likely end up being sold at open-air markets in the run up to Christmas. The hold-up lends weight to the theory that the Real IRA, which was behind the Omagh bomb that killed 29 people two years ago, is using computer piracy to raise funds. In this case a haul of computer and PlayStation games, videos and DVDs, worth an estimated £100 000, was found in a mobile shop in Louth, close to the border with the north, during a Customs and Excise raid that targeted a suspected diesel laundering operation. Customs tuned the haul over to Irish police who have power to seize counterfeit goods. The Irish Times reports that less than six hours after the goods were seized, the police were subject to a terrifying hold-up by a gang of between six and seven armed men dressed in camouflage clothing and wearing balaclavas. They blocked the road of either side of the van containing the goods as well as access to the diesel-laundering plant. The gang was carrying a handgun, shotgun and an assortment of iron bars. Moments before the gang approached two rockets were fired into the air from nearby. No resistance was offered to the gang, who escaped with the goods on a road leading to south Armagh in the north. The brazen hold-up took place only a day after President Clinton appealed to an audience in the nearby town of Dundalk to make peace. ® Related stories Real IRA gets into computer piracy Amazon.com drops link to Real IRA fund raiser
John Leyden, 18 Dec 2000

Sun selects Eazel's Nautilus for Solaris shell

Sun is to bundle Eazel's easy-to-use Linux front end, Nautilus, with its own Unix variant, Solaris. The plan, announced today, is part of a joint development programme under which the two companies will ensure Nautilus works with Solaris, supports a broad range of different languages and contains tools to help users with disabilities. Eazel's part of the agreement is to commit itself to using Sun's StarOffice as the default document viewing tool in Nautilus. Though perhaps this isn't too surprising ever since StarOffice creator Marco Boerries told us his suite will form the basis for GnomeOffice (see StarOffice creator on the GNOME pact). Sun's interest in Nautilus lies in is Network User Environment, which is essentially what we'd have called a Webtop had it been around three or four years ago. It takes the browser-meets-file manager idea from the likes of KDE, Gnome and Windows 98, and runs with it, bundling in a series of Net-centric tools and features to provide a single point of access for all resources, whether remote or local. Sun has long been keen on this kind of browser/GUI integration - though it didn't like it too much when Microsoft was running around hooking Internet Explorer tightly into Windows - since it's a great example of Sun's vision of the network as the computer. It's also a key part of its plan to wrest dominance of the corporate desktop away from Windows and Microsoft Office. Sun will attempt to tempt corporate users away from said with a mix of powerful object-oriented desktop environment (Gnome), network-centric user interface (Nautilus) and integrated productivity suite (Star/GnomeOffice). Sun has already said that it will support Gnome 2.0 on Solaris when the desktop environment ships - around the middle of next year - so today's announcement simply puts the finishing touch to that plan. There's certainly some value in attempting to create a standard, open source Unix GUI, though whether other Unix providers will follow Sun remains to be seen. Where this leaves Motif is also unclear, but it's a sign of how mature Sun sees the Nautilus-Gnome GUI, that the company is willing to replace the one with the other - or at least offer the two together. ® Related Stories Dell fumbles open source desktop gambit Eazel to ship second GUI preview Hertzfeld spills all about Eazel Sun puts dollars and suits behind Gnome
Tony Smith, 18 Dec 2000

eToys warns on revenues

eToys has warned that it won't be filling as many Christmas stockings as previously thought. The Los Angeles-based e-tailer said late on Friday that orders for the current quarter were less than expected, forcing it to halve Q3 revenue forecasts. It now expects net sales of between $120 million and $130 million, down from the $210 million to $240 million it had expected. This compares to $106 million for the Christmas quarter 1999. Losses are also expected to rise - eToys had pitched losses at between 22 per cent to 24 per cent of revenue, but on Friday it upped this figure to 55 per cent to 65 per cent, or $66 million to $85 million. As a result of sagging sales, the online toy merchant said it will run out of cash on March 31 (it had previously thought funds would last until June 30). It has hired Goldman, Sachs & Co "to explore strategic alternatives for the company" - these include selling the company's assets, a merger, or a cash injection. It will also announce staff cuts early next year. eToys blamed its woes on the general slowdown in the economy, the US presidential election dithering, and "the current disfavour of Internet retailing". "We are disappointed that sales have not materialized to the degree we had expected, but we point to the fact that the company is expected to show between 12 percent and 22 percent growth in revenue versus the same quarter last year," said eToys president and CEO Toby Lenk. "Going forward and based on current operating realities, we will take aggressive steps to reshape the company's cost structure and to best position the company for the future." ® Related Stories America spends $6.3 billion in Q3 eToys softens under grassroots pressure Tales from the bubble economy Mighty Microsoft to miss sales targets Xmas panic means PC fire sales
Linda Harrison, 18 Dec 2000

France says ‘non’ to US DVD imports

France has effectively banned the import of US DVDs by tightening a 1982 law designed to protect the nation's cinema industry. French law currently outlaws imports of movies that have yet to be shown in the cinema. Exceptions to the rule are videos - or DVDs, for that matter - that are sufficiently different from the big-screen release. If it's an English language film and the theatrical version has been dubbed into French, that's OK, you can order a copy of the DVD on Amazon.com perfectly legitimately. But on 24 November, the French parliament voted to end that provision, DVD Times reports. Come 1 January 2001, if a movie is due for release in French cinemas, home cinema buffs will be breaking the law if they buy a DVD copy from the US. And they will still be banned from doing so until six months after a film's theatrical release. Region One - the DVD territory that covers North America - tends to get DVDs ahead of other territories, and often they ship with more extra features than their Region Two - Europe - counterparts. Region One DVDs are sold openly in French video stores, says the DVD Times report, which, naturally, the movie industry doesn't like too much since it negates the need for all this regionalisation nonsense. It certainly sounds like the amendment is the result of effective lobbying by the global movie industry, but we shouldn't rule out pressure from France's cinema owners. We suspect that latter, primarily because of the law they've used to get their way. ® Related Links DVD Times' article That French amendment in full (and in French)
Tony Smith, 18 Dec 2000

Blue sky flash memory fizz

Flash memory looks set to get cheaper and more reliable if a new manufacturing technique developed by Lucent takes off. At the moment, Flash memory works kind of like a bathtub. I know, it sounded strange to us too, but that is what the boffins at Lucent's new spin off, Agere Systems, are using as a teaching example. We'll hand over to them: "The electrical charge that represents the bit of data typically remains in the tub, but if the tub springs a leak, that charge is lost," Jan De Blauwe, a researcher at Agere Systems explained at this year's International Electron Devices Meeting. "As we try to shrink the size of these conventional tublike cells to make the memory chip smaller, the chance that they'll develop leaks increases." Solutions to the problem do exist, but tend to be expensive or run at higher voltages than most chips do today. The researchers found a way to break up each memory cell into 20,000 to 40,000 smaller cells, or, in keeping with the bathtub theme, "buckets". This means that even a if a fair number of buckets spring a leak, most of htem will remain watertight, or in this case charge tight, and no data will be lost. The researchers formed the tiny cells by spraying silicon nanocrystals through high-temperature oxygen gas. The silicon droplets develop a shell of silicon dioxide capable of reliably storing electrical charge. They are cheaper and easier to make that conventional memory cells, and could lead to lower operating voltages, the researchers said. You might ask - when are we going to see this stuff on sale? Here's what Lucent has to say about that: "While these research results are promising, it is premature to predict if or when the technology will be commercially implemented." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Dec 2000

Baa.com – domain battle decided but case goes on

BAA plc may have secured the ownership of Baa.com, after the domains current owner Tom Bourke settled the domain dispute out of court, but previous owner Michael Lawrie is having none of it and vows to fight the big corporate all the way. Lawrie hopes to set a legal precedent in the UK over domain name ownership. His case concerns not the ownership of the domain but rather accusations by BAA that he tried to defraud, blackmail and extort money from BAA plc over his possession of the domain. Lawrie is not too happy about these allegations and claims they are not only defamatory but also without evidence. An important element of the case revolves around which party initially contacted the other. Lawrie says BAA plc has asked him to provide email correspondence pre-December 1998, since BAA had an email overhaul and lost them. This backlog, Lawrie claims, shows that BAA approached him first in 1995 over the domain name and he rebuked the company. Moreover, since the baa.com domain ownership was decided, Lawrie has received a letter from BAA's lawyers Herbert Smith insisting he now end his dispute without asking for costs, since by Tom settling, his case is undermined. However, Lawrie has decided to put his career on the line (he's already been bankrupt once) to push the case through to the courts. His legal costs are lower than Tom Bourke's since he is defending himself. Herbert Smith said it would get back to us over the matter. ® Related Stories BAA.com domain battle settled out of court BAA attempts to shaft sheep site Warner Bros/Harry Potter dispute kicks off again
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Dec 2000

Port scans are legal

A tiff between two IT contractors that spiralled into federal court ended last month with a US district court ruling in Georgia that port scans of a network do not damage it, in reference to a section of the anti-hacking laws that allows victims of cyber attack to sue an attacker. Last week both sides agreed not to appeal the decision by judge Thomas Thrash, who found that the value of time spent investigating a port scan can not be considered damage. "The statute clearly states that the damage must be an impairment to the integrity and availability of the network," wrote the judge, who found that a port scan impaired neither. "It says you can't create your own damages by investigating something that would not otherwise be a crime," says hacker defence attorney Jennifer Granick. "It's a good decision for computer security researchers." A port scan is a remote probe of the services a computer is running. While it can be a precursor to an intrusion attempt, it does not in itself allow access to a remote system. Port-scanning programs are found in the virtual tool chests of both Internet outlaws and cyber security professionals. Scott Moulton, president of Network Installation Computer Services (NICS), is still facing criminal charges of attempted computer trespass under Georgia's computer crime laws for port scanning a system owned by a competing contractor. Protecting 911? According to court records, the case began last December, while Moulton was under a continuing services contract with Cherokee County, Georgia to maintain the county's emergency 911 system. Moulton was retained to install a connection between the 911 centre and a local police department, and he became concerned that the system might be vulnerable to attack through the new link, or though other interconnections. Apparently prompted by that concern, Moulton scanned the network on which the 911 system resided, and in the process touched a Cherokee County Web server which was owned and maintained by VC3, a South Carolina-based IT firm. "My client started investigating who was connected to the 911 centre, where he worked," says Erin Stone, Moulton's civil attorney. "He wound up finding VC3's firewall." When a VC3 network administrator asked Moulton in an email to explain the scan, "Moulton terminated the port scan immediately and responded that he worked for Cherokee County 911 Centre and was testing security," according to the federal court's finding of fact. VC3 reported the "suspicious activity" to the police, and Moulton soon lost his contract with Cherokee County. Several weeks later, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested him. Suit, Counter-suit While still facing state criminal charges, Moulton counter-attacked in February by suing VC3 in federal court, accusing the company of making false and defamatory criminal allegations against him. In deciding the case last month, Judge Thrash rejected Moulton's claim, finding that VC3's statements to the police were privileged. "We're the victim in a criminal case that got sued for cooperating with police," says VC3 attorney Michael Hogue. The company filed a counter-claim under an increasingly popular provision of the federal computer fraud and abuse act that allows victims to sue a cyber-attacker if they've suffered damages of at least $5000. While VC3 acknowledged that Moulton's port scan did no direct harm, the company argued that the time spent investigating the event was a form of damage. "If somebody does some type of attack, and you are a good service provider, you spend all your time verifying that it did not cause a significant problem," says Hogue. "The time that it takes to do all that searching is the damage that we were claiming." The judge rejected that claim, as well as an argument that the port scan, and a throughput test Moulton allegedly aimed at the VC3 system, threatened public health and safety. "[T]he tests run by Plaintiff Moulton did not grant him access to Defendant's network," wrote the judge. "The public data stored on Defendant's network was never in jeopardy." The ruling does not affect criminal applications of the federal anti-hacking law, but federal officials are generally in agreement that port scanning is not a crime. The decision may help define the statute's civil boundaries at a time when more companies are eyeing lawsuits against computer intruders as an alternative to relying on government prosecution. "This is probably the first of many decisions that will come out pertaining to the civil component of the computer fraud and abuse act," says former computer crime prosecutor David Schindler, now an attorney with the law firm of Latham & Watkins. "If a client came to me and said that someone had pinged on their network and nothing else, I probably would not advise them to take civil action." © 2000 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved.
Kevin Poulsen, 18 Dec 2000

Linux Intel chipset chowdown

HWRoundupHWRoundup Over at Anand's today there is a battle for the hearts and minds of the inhabitants of the land of the penguin. The Intel 815 and BX chipsets face off against VIA's Apollo Pro 133A in thisLinux showdown. Planet Hardware has a look at the stocking filler that is the Guillemot Maxi Sound MUSE sound card. The review is generally positive The card isn't anything flashy but if you are wanting a sound card that does the basics well and you don't have a fortune to spend, this could be your puppy. Overclockers has gone all serious with its review of the 3DBlaster GeForce2 Ultra 64MB from Creative Labs. But then this is serious money we are talking about here. A big dent in your wallet possibly followed by tears if it all goes wrong. So check it out if you are thinking of treating yourself in the new year. A bit of overclocking action for ya. BX Boards took Abit's SA6R overclockers board for a test drive. They reckoned it had "issues". We don't know whether these were emotional or technical but if you need to know, follow this link. Finally for today, Rolotech gets up close and personal with the ATI Radeon 32DDR. The conclusion lists more good points than bad, which is always encouraging, but the drivers are still "iffy" and the 16-bit performance is a bit slow. So check it out, you never know! ® You lot still want more? Gluttons. Check out the archives for a smorgasbord of silicon delicacies.
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Dec 2000

Kempin, star MS enforcer, gets Ballmer special projects gig

The man who pays the bills at Microsoft is switching over to overseeing "special projects" for company president Steve Ballmer. According to today's Wall Street Journal the switch of jobs for Joachim Kempin, the senior VP in charge of Microsoft's OEM software business, was announced in an internal Microsoft memo a few weeks ago. Kempin has been with Microsoft for 17 years, and has been spectacularly efficient in his work. He is the one who's kept the price Microsoft charges to PC manufacturers stable while hardware prices have plunged, and he's been responsible for the execution of the "Windows Experience" strategy. This involved the extension of Microsoft's copyright claims to the whole look and feel of the desktop, right down to the icons the PC companies could put there, how the software installed and who could run ads on the desktop. None of this was welcome to the PC companies, all of it was enforced by the diligent Joachim, who inadvertently contributed many of The Register's favourite trial memos, and then stolidly defended his turf at the trial itself. You could say you've got to hand it him, but you'd be wrong - he's got it already, and he knows how the horse's head got into your bed as well. Another remarkable thing about Kempin is that although he's a top Microsoft executive in the "Rich as Croesus" category, it looks like he's going into a proper job, rather than the escape pod that has become usual for execs in his category, of late. Steve Ballmer has made some disparaging noises about the talents of some of the people who've jumped ship (without naming the names) but perhaps this time the self-portrayed Dr Evil of Microsoft has selected his very own Oddjob. But what, exactly, will Kempin be doing? Who are the lucky business partners he'll be keeping in line? Now there's a worry for many of you. He's being replaced in his old job by Richard Roy, general manager of Microsoft Deutschland, come July, but we don't expect Roy to be anything like as much fun as Joachim was, and as we hope he'll continue to be. ® Joachim Kempin's Greatest Hits: Cut a deal or you don't get Win95 - IBM faces PC suicide Secret deals MS uses to control PC companies MS OEM VP to IBM: dump Lotus and we'll cut a deal MS exec's hunting trip: illegally chased and shot 4 antelopes MS paid $50k to buy 'Compaq of Europe' out of DR-DOS deal MS exec in shock Windows is great white whale claim MS pricing strategy exposed - cheap when there's competition, but...
John Lettice, 18 Dec 2000
cable

Serious security slip at BTOpenwoe

Due to a serious security lapse, users signing up to BTOpenworld's ADSL service have been invited to send credit card details over an insecure internet connection. A vulture-eyed Register reader, who tried to sign up to the telcom giant's domestic version of BTOpenworld, noticed he was invited to submit his credit card details over an insecure http connection. He had been trying to register for the home 500 service. He also discovered that orders for the broadband service submitted over the phone were input by BT's operators using the same insecure web page. Unlike https (Secure Hypertext Transfer Protocol), which uses Secure Socket Layer to encrypt traffic between a server and client devices, http uses no security protection. As a result users who registered for the service allowed their credit card details to be transmitted in the clear - making it relatively straightforward for crackers to obtain those details. The registration process also involved users submitting confidential personal details, such as home address, phone number and even a suggested email password, in an insecure manner. A BT spokesman admitted the telco had made a serious security error but confirmed that the problem has now being fixed. He said the security and privacy gaff had happened during the process of upgrading the design of the Openworld site last Thursday. "This issue, which affected only one of the products on offer, happened due to human error and has now being fixed. BT would like to apologise to its customers for this undesirable lapse in security," he said. He added that a "thorough review and investigation of the incident" will be undertaken by BT into the incident. Earlier this afternoon when we tried to register with the home 500 service, which involves a 500Kbps broadband connection for a set up fee of £150 and monthly rental of £39.99, we found it to be insecure. However by 15.30pm GMT, after the issue was notified to BT, a secure sign-up procedure was in place. Wayne Sowery, technical director at security consultancy MIS Corporate Defence, said that whilst the vulnerability was in place in would have been "viable" for hackers to redirect traffic away from the Openworld site using an attack on DNS servers. Since http traffic can be cached there was a chance another user could see the details submitted, he added. Sowery added the problem was doubly embarrassing for BT because through Trustwise BT was a provider of digital certificates, the very technology it had not implemented in this case. ® To see a full-size screen grab of the insecure BTOpenworld registration page click the image below. Related stories BT wants Openwow not to Openwoe BT's ADSL roll-out hits snags BTopenworld security glitch reveals thousands of customer names Related Link BTopenworld
John Leyden, 18 Dec 2000

Gateway turns showrooms into PC supermarkets

Gateway has changed its retail strategy in a last-ditch attempt to shift Christmas stock. From now until December 24, US shoppers will be able to walk out of any Gateway store with a shiny new PC under their arm. The PC maker previously used these outlets as showrooms for its products - which punters would order and have shipped to them. Three PCs will be on offer through the scheme, which will run in all of Gateway's 320 Country Stores - the Gateway Essential 700 PC at $799, Essential 866 Digital Photo PC at $1,299, and Select 1000 Digital Music PC at $1,599. There was more than a hint of desperation in the announcement, made in the last shopping week before Christmas. In an effort to drag in the punters, the manufacturer is also offering them the chance to send free seasonal video greetings from its stores - Gateway staff will even set aside valuable selling time to help shoppers record and send the snippets. It will also have a prize draw to give away 100 digital cameras to store visitors. Meanwhile, it is promising Christmas delivery on build-to-order orders made as late as midday on December 23. The strategy switch came as Dataquest issued a warning to PC makers not to get stuck with inventory. The research company is considering cutting its forecast for US consumer PC growth for 2001 to 12 per cent from 16 per cent amid profit and sales panic from major players in the computer industry. "January will be a bloodbath for anybody who hasn't managed to get their equipment through the channel," Dataquest analyst Martin Reynolds told Reuters. "Stuff that doesn't move before Christmas - especially the low-end equipment - will form a big overhang." Last month Gateway warned that disappointing sales over the Thanksgiving weekend meant it would not meet sales targets for the quarter. At the time CFO John Todd said the company was expecting a price war to kick off in next year's Q1, adding: "People are going to have to be aggressive to get the inventory out." ® Related Stories Gateway in PC price war gloom Global PC sales to grow 20 per cent in 2001 Gateway hit with shareholder lawsuit Compaq joins profit warning parade
Linda Harrison, 18 Dec 2000

HP worker's fall from plane may have been suicide

A preliminary investigation has concluded that a Hewlett-Packard worker who fell 2,000 feet to her death from a plane last week probably committed suicide. The body of Elisabeth Otto, who worked in the computer-giant's purchasing division, was discovered in a garden in Sacramento after she fell from a company-operated plane. The plane, which was carrying five passengers and two pilots, was a Canadian-built DeHavilland DHC-6-300, a twin turboprop plane used for the regular shuttle flights between HP's Silicon Valley offices and its Roseville campus. The plane had to make an unscheduled landing in Sacremento soon after takeoff because a warning light indicated the door was unlocked. The plane took off after the pilot had secured the door. Earlier reports suggested that the woman was only missed shortly after take off. However it now seems that shortly after take off the door opened again and another passenger noticed Otto hanging half way out the door. He then made an unsuccessful attempt to pull her back onto the plane. According to Associated Press reports, the FBI discovered that two passengers who saw the woman exit the plane were so distraught that they were unable to tell pilots what had happened. Because of this police were not notified about what had happened until 45 minutes after the plane landed in San Jose, California on Thursday night. "We've ruled out foul play on behalf of any of the passengers," FBI spokesman Andrew Black told Associated Press. "We're looking at it strictly as a possible suicide or an accident." Federal Aviation Authority inspectors concluded there was no mechanical fault to the plane's doors and that, in the circumstances the pilots did not behave improperly in proceeding when they had secured the door a second time. ® Related stories HP worker 'missing' after plane door opens mid-flight
John Leyden, 18 Dec 2000