18th > January > 2001 Archive

AMD has wobbly Q4, but damn fine year

AMD had a record year in 2000, clawing - by its own estimates - three percentage points in unit share for the PC processor market. But the company failed to match analyst expectations for Q4 and, just like rival Intel yesterday, the chip maker forecasts a weak Q1. AMD says the usual seasonal weakness in Q1 is compounded this time around by the "effects of excess PC inventories in the distribution channels". Even so, it's still projecting PC sales growth in the mid-teens for 2001. In a conference call to analysts and hacks, Sanders took AMD's latest roadmap out for a spin. Q1 will see the introduction of 1.3-GHz of Athlon; wave hello in Q2 to 1.4GHz and 1.5-GHz; the 1.7GHz, running on the cooler Palomino core, will debut in the second half of the year. The 64-bit jobbie, Clawhammer, is out and about sometime next year. The company reckons it will grow faster than the market as a whole this year, on the back of "new versions of the AMD Athlon and MD Duron processors should enable us to participate in the performance mobile, server, and workstation markets". With the help of continuing strong performance in the flash memory division, this should help the company (or so it reckons) mitigate "the impact of the current slowdown as excess PC inventories work their way through the channels of distribution". On the manufacturing side, AMD is to speed up the introduction of 0.13 micron technology toward the end of the year, as opposed to 2002. It reckons its Dresden plant will be up to full capacity in 2002, compared with its current production utilisation of 30 per cent. For Q4, 2000, AMD posted net income of c.$178m on sales of $1.175bn, up 21 per cent on Q4, 1999 - equivalent to 53 cents a share. The consensus analyst forecast was 55 cents a share, according to First Call. For the full year, the company pumped out sales of $4.64bn, 63 per cent up on 1999. Net income after one-offs was pretty damn healthy at $793.9m, and an even healthier $983m with the one-offs included. The results were certainly good enough to excuse AMD CEO Jerry Sanders to crow about the company's "best year in its history... Our technology and manufacturing organizations distinguished themselves from the competition by executing nearly flawlessly," he said in a statement accompanying the results. (Now who could the competition be?) Sanders said the company continued to outperform its peers, despite the "deterioration of the PC market late in the year impacted sales of PC processors in the fourth quarter". In Q4, AMD shipped just under seven million PC processors, a company record. For the full year, it reckons it took 17 per cent - 26.5 million units - of the PC processor market by shipment (clearly its percentage by value is much lower - as its chips are typically cheaper than Intel performance equivalents, and it gives Intel a free run more or less in the higher price server segment). According to Sanders demand for Athlon processor held up well in Q4 and dollar and unit shipments for both Athlon and Duron, its cheap and cheerful sister, increased - despite "severe weakness in the North American retail sector of the PC market". Chipset shortages in the quarter hampered Duron sales, while end-of-product-cycle life pricing for K6-2 CPUs dragged down average unit prices. As ever, AMD's ever-boring, ever-reliable flash memory ops pulled in the money, with Q4 sales up 10 per cent on Q3, and turnover doubled in 2000. ® Related stories AMD slips mobile Durons out AMD ups ante with 850MHz Duron P4 volumes to ramp up Q3 2001 - Intel Intel warns of tough times in Q1 AMD's Deathstar Carries on Pulsing
Drew Cullen, 18 Jan 2001

Apple posts $247m loss, $1bn sales as planned

Apple lost $247 million in the three months to 30 December 2000, in line with the company's earlier predictions. And CFO Fred Anderson admitted there would be further new product announcements later in the quarter, surely a reference to the anticipated iBook and iMac revisions. However, thanks to some financial jiggery-pokery centred on the company's accounting rules, plus the sale of yet more ARM shares (and some Akamai stock this time), Apple's bean-counters were able to bring the final loss down to $195 million (58 cents a share). Apple made a profit of $183 million (51 cents a share) during Q1 2000. Revenue for the quarter, the first of fiscal 2001, hit $1 billion - again, spot on Apple's predictions. That represents a fall of 57 per cent on the year ago quarter's sales. Last year it recorded Q1 sales of $2.34 billion. Apple shifted some 659,000 Macs, compared to last year's figure of 1,377,000. Margins were down 2.1 per cent year on year. Some 33 per cent of Apple's total sales came through its own online AppleStore. CEO Steve Jobs spun the news as the end of Apple's problems - "We took our medicine last quarter," he said. Indeed, it has reduced its inventory from 11 weeks to five-and-a-half weeks. Though that still leaves plenty of unsold kit out there that needs to be shifted, largely Cubes. Nonetheless, the company expects to return to profitability during the current quarter, with full-year revenues to reach $6 billion with a progressive increase in revenue over the next three quarters. CFO Fred Anderson said he expects to see margins nudge back over 25 per cent. The current quarter will be the weakest of the three, largely thanks to the limited supply of top-end Power Mac G4s, itself due to low yields on Motorola's PowerPC 7450 chip (aka G4 Plus). ® Related Stories Apple retires current iMac line Was Apple going to launch iMacs with CD-RW? Apple's digital dreams waft past consumers
Tony Smith, 18 Jan 2001

IBM enjoys 28% Q4 profit jump

IBM enjoyed a healthy fourth quarter, and in contrast to its rivals HP and Compaq, reckons it is going into 2001 with "momentum" and "confidence". Revenues for the quarter jumped 5.9 per cent to $25.6 billion, up from $24.2 billion for the period a year earlier. On the back of this net profits leaped 28 per cent to $2.67 billion, from $2.09 billion a year earlier. The strong parts of its business were services, servers and custom chips - all driven by its customers striving to develop e-business. Computer services were the largest single contributor to company profit and grew in double digits. IBM's PC business was profitable for the second quarter in a row. Sales in Europe rose 3 per cent to $7.4 billion for the quarter, and 13 per cent to $5 billion in Asia. Sales of Unix servers rose 49 per cent which the company said was "completely unexpected". ®
Robert Blincoe, 18 Jan 2001

UK mobile networks connect 95% of the time

The four mobile networks manage to connect 95 per cent of calls, according to a survey by the operators and Oftel. The figures don't seem to reflect the Reg staff's experience but maybe we've been getting more than our fair share of the five per cent connection failures. Things aren't so hot in Wales where only 84.6 per cent of calls connected. Top for connectivity was Northern Ireland which scored 97.9 per cent - but interestingly One2One and Orange didn't take part in the survey for Northern Ireland. One2One because it didn't have a network there, and Orange for technical reasons. BT Cellnet, One2One, Orange and Vodafone carried out their own drive round surveys making test calls. Each operator made approximately 17,000 test calls over the six months from 1 April 2000 to 30 September 2000. Seventy cities and towns and major A-roads and motorways were tested throughout the UK. You can see the full survey here. Oh yes. David Edmonds Oftel director general was delighted with the results. ® Here's the results for the percentage of calls connected in each region of the UK. East Anglia 95.3% London 95.1% Midlands 96.6% Northern England 97.0% Northern Ireland 97.9% Scotland 92.4% South East England 95.0% South West England 94.7% Wales 84.6% National 95.3% Related Link Oftel survey Related Stories Orange network problems A personal message to all Orange mobile phone users
Robert Blincoe, 18 Jan 2001

NTL ups cost of Net access by 50 per cent

NTL has increased the cost of its unmetered Net access service by 50 per cent blaming increased costs for the price hike. Punters will now have to spend £15 a month (it is presently just £10 a month) on non-Internet phone calls to received 24/7 unmetered access to the Net. If users don't manage to spend a full £15 a month on voice calls, then NTL will simply round-up the figure. The new pricing arrangements for ntlworld come into force on 1 February and reflect a 50 per cent increase for the year. Ouch. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Jan 2001

Letsbuyit.com very very nearly titsup.com

Flawed online bulk buyer Letsbuyit.com needs £50 million by tomorrow or it will join the most illustrious of the titsup.com companies. The company with big plans but an unsustainable business model stopped trading just before Christmas. It called in the administrators but even they couldn't find a way of saving the site. A few at the company are still clinging to the belief that someone will be daft enough to stump up £50 million to be sucked into the vortex. It seems somewhat unlikely. We can't say how the impending doom has affected the company's share price because its shares were suspended when it called in the receivers. Letsbuyit is up there with Boo, Clickmango, Boxman and TheStreet.co.uk is terms of high-profile dead ducks. All of them were borne out of that year of Internet madness when the world saw the gold rush start all again, and with the same catastrophic results. They'll all make an interesting bootnote in history. ® Letsbuyit Stories CoShopper in talks to buy Letsbuyit.com Letsbuyit.com bosses resign en masse Letsbuyit shares go down the toilet Letsbuyit.com teeters over debt abyss Letsbuyit wants £48m to help it into the black Wanted: Strategic buyer for Letsbuyit.com Letsbuyit no longer illegal in Germany? Letsbuyit.com too sexy for stuffed shirt Letsbuyit boosts sales and slashes staff Letsbuyit.com ducks out of float Letssellit.com. Oh dear, oh dear Letsbuyit.com float on again Letsbuyit.com pulls out of IPO (again)
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

Sun low-end aim to displace Wintel from data centre

Sun Microsystems has announced two lower-end server lines which are positioned against low-end Wintel and Lintel (Linux-Intel) systems in the internet data centre. The products include two server appliances, the Sun Cobalt RaQ XTR, designed for hosting, and Sun Cobalt CacheRaQ 4, designed for caching, which come from Sun's acquisition of Cobalt Networks. The firm's storage appliance, the NasRaQ, is being sold by Seagate in an OEM deal. Much was made at the time of the acquisition of the fact that Cobalt appliances run on Linux, and Sun executives at the launch said that would remain the case for the "foreseeable future", whilst not ruling out the use of Solaris in future higher-end products. Cobalt's servers use AMD processors, but the use of Intel chips was also left open as a possibility. Sun was much more keen to emphasise the ease of setup and use the Cobalt appliances offer which it suggested would allow the provision of web hosting services for as little as $50 per month. Predictably enough, Sun also took the opportunity to have a pop at its server rivals, such as Compaq and IBM, whose market share in the web hosting and application service provider market it is keen to take away from them. "Cobalt is a disruptive technology for the PC server market," said John McFarlane, executive vice president for Sun's Network Service Provider group. "The Cobalt acquisition will have the same effect on the PC server market as Cray technology had at the high-end." In reference to recent poor results from PC vendors, McFarlane added: "Vendors retreating from the PC debacle are going to have a hard time in the server market." IDC estimates that the appliance server market, for machines optimised to one task, will be worth $11.5 billion by 2004. Sun also introduced fresh products in its Netra range of rack-based servers, which are targeted at the telco market, and are capable of handling heavy ecommerce loads that are beyond the Cobalt appliance as well as functions such as voice over IP servers. These servers include two carrier-grade Netra T1 systems, the Netra T1 ACD200 and CD200 servers; and the Netra X1 server, the first Solaris server to sell for less than $1,000 - but only in the US, British customers will have to fork out £1 200 to channel partners in order to get their hand on the kit. As with the Cobalt technology the emphasis is on lower-cost and easy management - not cutting edge technology. All the fresh products in the Netra range use Ultrasparc II and not Ultrasparc III processors. ® Related stories: Sun buys Linux server appliance specialist Cobalt for $2bn Sun debuts UltraSPARC III and embraces copper Sun is top dog in Unix market0 Sun and HP launch cost-cutting programs Sun blocks Compaq's cluster raise Capellas eyeballs McNealy in cluster bluster
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2001
cable

Viatel slashes workforce by 30 per cent

Viatel is to axe around 650 jobs - a third of its workforce - as it pulls out of unprofitable consumer telco services in Europe. The NASDAQ-listed company operates two consumer brands - Telco and Econophone - in the US and Europe. Those that aren't making any money (in Europe only) will be "scaled down" although Viatel hasn't said which countries will be targeted. Instead, Viatel says it will focus principally on its high-growth, higher-margin corporate and broadband business segments. Viatel's commitment to local loop unbundling (LLU) and the roll-out of the whole sale unmetered net access FRIACO-based service in Britain are unaffected by today's announcement. ® Related Story Attractive FRIACO finds another beau
Tim Richardson, 18 Jan 2001

Computacenter shares jump

Computacenter shares advanced 57.5p to 447.5p, up 14.7 per cent, yesterday. The rise, which made it the FTSE350's fifth best performer on the day, comes a couple of days after an HSBC broker note upgraded the stock from 'add' to 'buy'. Mark Wallace, HSBC analyst told AFX, the financial newswire, that Computacenter's latest trading statement "confirmed that there was some kind of stability returning to its marketplace." The signs now are that stability is returning to the relatively mature corporate PC marketplace, and the big beneficiary of this will be Computacenter, Wallace told AFX. The company "doesn't have to do much to win market share - it can just sit and pick up business from those which are failing", he said. ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Jan 2001

We know how the Govt meets its cybertargets

Yesterday it was widely reported by the UK media that the government had not only met its targets for e-government but had actually surpassed them. Forty per cent of government services were now online, we were told and one in five adults (with Internet access) use the Net to access government services. We loudly declared this to be a load of hogwash - and besides, we don't remember being told any targets in the first place. Certainly the stats will be backed up somehow, but stats and reality never seem to meet. Well, thanks to two readers in the know, we can explain how this amazing massaging is achieved. We were right to be suspicious of the term "government services". This would imply things like tax forms, publications, social security - that sort of thing. The error with this is that we are presuming the government only serves the public. As well you know, most of the work the government does is for itself, so when we're talking "government services" only a small percentage of that will actually affect you and me. However, we missed a trick. The Cabinet Office minister said that 40 per cent of these services were online. Note that he did not say they were on the Internet. No, they are "online". And here comes some wonderful Whitehall classification. Telephone systems, for example, are an "online medium", as are a wide array of other "services" that beggar belief. And so combine the services aspect with the online aspect and you come up with a figure of 40 per cent. And all the while, we're wondering why government Web sites are a load of shite. As for the one-in-five claim, well that was for government "services" (that term again) and "information". We are not informed how the Office of National Statistics came up with its figure, but is it inconceivable that it simply asked a lot of civil servants? They, of course, would always be using the online services to find government information - every hour of the day in fact. Britain - leading the way with Internet misinformation. ® Related Story How the hell does the Govt meet all its cybertargets?
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

Old economy firms feel dotcom sting

The excitement for getting into e-business has left a couple of old economy businesses with a bloody nose. An aborted attempt to set up a Net business by Budgens cost it a little over £2.5 million. It was set up in 1999 and closed in September 2000. Chief exec Martin Hyson said the costs of attracting and retaining online customers had proved prohibitive. Launch costs in the 1999 financial year totalled £1.23 million. Closure costs were another £1.23 million. Meanwhile tea and coffee seller Whittard of Chelsea's half-year results include a loss of £1.3 million incurred from boosting its online presence and setting up a mail order operation. It bought the bestofbritish.com site as well. But the turnover of Whittard.com grew 70 per cent for the six months to 26 November and sales through bestofbritish.com rocketed 240 per cent. Sales were probably pretty low, so the big percentage leaps probably don't mean much, but at least the business is growing. ®
Robert Blincoe, 18 Jan 2001

AltaVista to become only Net search engine

AltaVista may have a crap search engine (did we say that?) but in these days of corporate-owned Internet that doesn't matter. It's patents and lawsuits that decide what we can get on the global "free-market". And if it's patents you want, AltaVista has got a few. Thirty-eight in fact, and more on the way. So what? Well, Internet World magazine has just run an interview with the chairman and CEO of AltaVista's parent company, CMGI, David Wetherell in which he said the company would be pursuing its search engine patents and we can expect lawsuits coming this quarter. Of course, the intended coup of the Internet search engine market comes in the form of some lovely management speak: "Even though AltaVista's doing well in the advertising space, we just think that in order to really ensure strong growth they ought to leverage their position in search licensing to a greater extent." Which means that since AltaVista has patents on spidering and indexing, it is going to try to screw any competitors that happen to spider or index the Web - so that'll be all of them, then. In Wetherell's words: "We believe that virtually everyone out there who indexes the Web is in violation of at least several of those key patents." An example? "If you index a distributed set of databases - what the Internet is - and even within intranets, corporations, that's one of the patents." They can't be serious, but oh yes they are. And while it may seem equally as ludicrous as BT claiming it has the right to hyperlinks, they are on more solid ground. We don't think that the company wants the sloppy AltaVista search engine to be the only one on the Net, well, not so long as the others give it loads of money. Search engines have been rapidly filing for patents on whatever bits of their system they can - even Google has a patent pending - but before now it was a case of cold war arsenals. If CMGI really does push this, there will be an almighty stink and if a court decision is ever made (rather than settling out of court like ever other bleedin Internet case), it could affect the entire functioning of the Internet. Which can only be good because if you can't make money out of something, what's the point in doing it, right? Makes you wonder why kids climb trees. In case you were wondering what patents AltaVista has, they include: indexing duplicate records of information of a database; parsing, indexing and searching Web pages; mapping an index of a database into an array of files; ranking documents "in a hyperlinked environment using connectivity and selective content analysis"; searching an index; optimizing entries for searching an index; and storing an integrated index of database records. Great. ® Related Link Internet World interview with David Wetherell Related Stories Prodigy to fight BT's 'shameless' hyperlinks patent lawsuit DoubleClick settles patent cases with both Sabela and L90 Amazon sues Barnes & Noble over checkout system Amazon's Bezos calls for radical change in patent laws US patent mess will get worse before it gets better
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

Online lap dancing guide – by Peter Stringfellows' girlfriend

We were forwarded the homepage URL of strip club owner Peter Stringfellow's girlfriend, Lucy Carr, with the catch line "check this out - v.sad". And sure enough, it is a terrifying insight into the world of a fit but not so bright lap dancer who is currently going out with a hirsute, aging stripclub owner. And, of course, we love it. However, hidden among the philosophy, quantum physics and snaps with celebrities (including a scanned-in newspaper photo of her, "Stringy" and Hugh Grant), we were intrigued to find a guide to lap dancing. As the frankly-rather-saucy Lucy explains: "I have almost a years experience of lap dancing and although I no longer dance, I think I know pretty much everything about turning a man on! - without even touching him! Follow my advice and you'll have your man begging for more!" Thus follows a monosyllabic guide to how to get your man begging for more. But the good thing about it is that because it is so simple and practical, it's actually rather good. This is why we draw your attention to it. Now, Lucy is a young, lithe lady and perhaps the thought of your missus writhing and stretching in a tiny g-string is enough to put you off your food, but you could do worse than send her the URL, buy her some flowers and chocolate and a bottle of wine and hope for the best. It will almost certainly come down to pleading, but hey, it's worth a go. This then is the start of the guide: Lucy's Lap Dancing site. Enjoy. ® PS. I do not want to know any details about your sordid sex lives, so don't use this story as an excuse to give me the fear. No emails, I repeat, no emails.
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

Further blackouts likely as Californian power crisis deepens

California faces a further round of rolling blackouts today as the state struggles to meet demand for electrical power. Hours after electricity was abruptly switched off yesterday, Governor Gray Davis declared a state of emergency and signed an order allowing the state to buy power. The move is designed to prevent further blackouts and appease electricity generators who are threatening to call in the debts of distribution firms Southern California Edison (SCE) and Pacific Gas and Electricity (PG&E) unless emergency action was taken. The rescue plan was developed after the operator of the state power grid yesterday imposed afternoon outages in Northern and Central California, including the San Francisco Bay area. Television stations went off the air, and cash machines and traffic lights failed whilst some of California's high-tech industries switched to their own back-up generators. Sun's launch of a range of low-end servers at the Stanford Court Hotel, San Francisco was interrupted by the blackout yesterday. General Manager of Sun's server appliance business unit, Stephen DeWitt was in the middle of praising the broadband revolution just as the plug was pulled on satellite links. When power returned, DeWitt suggested that the Internet servers he was plugging "consume less electricity than a light bulb" and would help the energy crisis, which is obviously bollocks given the depth of the problem, but a piece of spin even our own Dr Spinola might be proud of. Customers lost power for around an hour in each of the affected areas and more severe outages were only prevented after emergency supplies were brought in from Canada. It's not clear who will foot the ultimate bill for the emergency electricity purchases, and California's legislature needs to authorise longer term contracts which set a price for electricity. Bloomberg reports that Governor Davis is urging the legislature to approve spending at least $500 million. California has struggled for months with the effects of a decision to deregulate its electricity supply market in 1996. Generators like SCE sold most of their power plant and moved more into distribution, but this business model has buckled as energy prices have soared whilst prices to consumers have been capped - leaving them with spiralling debts. The crisis came to a head this week when PG&E defaulted on $76 million loan and Edison suspended $596 million in payments to bondholders and suppliers. Power generators responded by pulling the plug on the state's supplies, leaving it 14,000 megawatts or 45 per cent short of its power requirements. ® Related Story California power crisis sends Intel Bunnypeople east
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2001

Intel preps slimline chip for slimline notebooks

Intel is designing from the ground-up a new mobile CPU aimed directly at the ultra-thin notebook market. The new, unnamed processor was apparently hinted at during last October's Microprocessor Forum, but Intel's Mobile Platforms spinmeister-in-chief, Don MacDonald, was recently kind enough to tell CNET all about it. Well, ish. MacDonald simply says it's a totally new chip and is being designed by the team that came up with the ill-fated Timna system-on-a-chip part. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean the new notebook CPU will sport integrated graphics, memory controller etc. Arguably, it shouldn't put such components on the die since that increases the transistor count and thus the size of the chip. The bigger the chip, the greater the heat problem, even at 0.13 micron, the gate-length the chip will be fabbed at. Then again, adding transistors to up the size of on-die L2 cache makes for a performance gain, allowing a lower, more heat-friendly clock speed. MacDonald claimed Chipzilla's focus will be on implementing SpeedStep-style voltage switching and the use of gated clock transistors, which can be switched off when not needed to conserve power. MacDonald also noted that the chip is due to arrive sometime in 2002 - a nice, wide timeframe that. ® Related Link CNET's story can be found here
Tony Smith, 18 Jan 2001

Oftel broadband summit ends

The summit called by Oftel to try and establish why telcos apparently have not embraced local loop unbundling has ended. A spokeswoman for the winged watchdog said officials were working on a statement explaining what went on "as we speak". We can only wait - and keep our fingers crossed - that some good has come from this hastily convened meeting. After all, you can drag a horse to water... ® Related Story Oftel calls summit to discuss LLU apathy
Tim Richardson, 18 Jan 2001

Brits jump online

More than 11 million people use the Internet at home in Britain - an increase of three million compared to a year ago - according to Internet monitoring company NetValue. Women make up 4.66 million users (40 per cent) of the home Internet audience while "silver surfers" (the over 50s) account for a fifth of the UK Net population. Some 600,000 kids under the age of 14 use the Net from home. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Jan 2001
server room

BT's gibberish payment guide could cost you £193

BT has got a telling off from the Plain English Campaign for using 'absolutely incomprehensible' language in its bumf offering 36 ways to pay one bill. The PEC reckoned that the same set of calls could cost you anything from £84-278 depending on which payment plan you went for. This £193 difference could hit you every quarter if you accessed the Net and made local, national and international calls. John Lister, a spokesman for the campaign, told The Times that "the letter has 40 footnotes and was impossible to understand because the range of packages available is so tortuously confusing". He added that phrases such as "BT Together 144£1" were not explained, and that it took him ages to figure out what PSTN meant. How stupid is that - it's the public switched telephone network, or basically the normal phone line, but it seems crazy to use that kind of jargon in a guide to payment plans. ® Related Stories Monster BT bill man gets reprieve Surfers pay millions for BT billing cock-up
Robert Blincoe, 18 Jan 2001

McCarthy email solution ‘brilliant’

The solution to RIP, email sackings and Big Brother Kieren McCarthy's suggestion that companies provide staff with two email accounts - one for corporate use and one for private - provoked a mixed response. Several readers praised Kieren's brilliant insight, Gerry included: I think your idea of two e-mail accounts (one corporate, one private) is absolutely brilliant. So simple - why did no-one think of it before? At a stroke it overcomes all the privacy issues and is fair to everyone, employers and employees. It also helps to get many more people on-line, and that can only be A Good Thing. What you need now is to invent a catchy name for this idea so that it becomes widely known and debated. It would then be much harder for companies to sack people for dodgy e-mail if they hadn't provided a separate private mailbox. After all, if you haven't provided a payphone you can hardly fire someone for phoning, say, the hospital, from their desk telephone? That seems the obvious comparison to make. Then there was Hanna Brown: I think your suggestion for the monitoring of e-mail in the workplace is a brilliant one. It seems so simple, and that's the beauty of it. But of course because it is simple it won't be accepted. Things have to be "complicated" in order for them to be accepted as plausible. All of this fawning adoration caused some suspicion here at Vulture Central, what with it coming at salary negotiation time. As I write, Reg boffins are tracking down the alleged correspondents. The smart money is on the theory that they are both written by his mum. Bless. Other (clearly genuine) contributions, considered the proposal unworkable. Russ Davies outlined some objections: I feel your proposal is totally unworkable I'm afraid. - The kind of administration and set up of that setup (extra email software, more expertise needed, perhaps different hardware, added administration overheads) are prohibitive to all but very large companies. A far better solution would be ammend the RFC for email to include an extra header - a BOOLean header indicating whether the communication is intended to be for officical or personal use. It could be gradually introduced with new versions of email clients, and as fa as I'm aware all current SMTP services would support it? I haven't thought this through properly, and perhaps there would be sufficient call for more than 2 'states' of email requiring a number instead of a boolean value. All mails sent marked 'personal' could not be opened by businesses or law enforcement agencies without suspicion of illegal activity. All 'business'mails on the other hand could be strictly vetted for content and suitability. Incidentally, I am a big proponent of privacy for the individual, and believe the RIP key escrow and other schemes are very very wrong. However I do *not* believe a person has the right to use email for personal reasons at work - and I'm not a company director or owner or manager, just a lowly techie. You are paid to work for the company during those hours not to write personal emails. It's the same as personal phone calls, some companies tolerate them, others dont (rightly so) - at the end of the day it not only wastes company time but also costs money, especially for those companies who pay per bandwidth. On the privacy issue, I do not believe you are entitled to 'privacy' at work. There is a huge difference between PRIVACY and SECRECY - at work you are accountable to your employers, if you don't like it - leave and fnid alternative employment. If there are no jobs available that offer you complete privacy then this is an act of market forces, one of the consequences of living in a free society. Charles E. Hardwidge, however, disagrees with Mr Davies about privacy at work. He is in complete agreement with Kieren's mum about his genius though: Two servers, one for personal, one for corporate email. Brilliant. Having two accounts is a mechanism I thought of some time ago. Nice to see someone else come with AND promote in such a public forum. The recent email sackings have been a sign of panicky management, who to be blunt, don't know what they're talking about or doing. Monitoring all email is not the way to go. Could you get by without a nervous breakdown if a hidden microphone followed you around everywhere? No. People need privacy, even in work. Not one single person on this planet goes through life without making a mistake or saying or doing something they shouldn't. We need a place to recover from that, it's called our private self. If companies want this sort of scrutiny, why can't Unions monitor company Directors email, or better still, place a microphone in the board room. Ah. But, we can't have that can we, that's *different*. I don't think so. It's nice to see you highlight this issue again. I've nearly given up on the blind, unthinking, mass media who seem to have had a brain bypass. The hysterical stupidity with which they treat this issue is laughable, and is almost as bad as the coverage they give to email viruses.
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2001

The true story of Xmas

'Xmas' is offensive, Christian claims Plenty of readers have finally put their expensive educations to good use in our Xmas vs. Christmas debate. Simon Green's missive was typical: I must agree with your anonymous complainant about the use of the word "Xmas", but not for the same reason. (I'm an atheist and don't much care what people call it, so long as it's shorter than "that holiday when I drink too much, eat too much and buy expensive presents at the last minute because I couldn't be arsed to sort it out earlier".) The "X" in Xmas actually represent the Greek letter "chi", the first letter of the word "christos". This is yet another blatant example of the pollution of our fine language with Greek gibberish: Engreek, if you will. Jeremy went further with the linguistic background: You may be interested to know that Xmas is not just acceptable, it is ridgy-didg. The X in Xmas is from the Greek character X (Chi - pronounced kie - rhymes with die). The very early Christian church being almost totally made up of ex-pat Greeks living in Palestine, their standard name for Christ (Christos)started with X (chi). The early Christians often referred to Christ by X - his Greek initial. You can see the X symbol commonly today in the overprinted P and X symbols used by Catholics (meaning Chi & Rho - the first two letters of Christ's name). Xmas is not only acceptable, it is probably more accurate than an anglo-saxon rendition starting with Ch. Finally, we're obliged to Nik Clayton for providing an enlightening link: You might want to point your anonymous correspondent here
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2001

Australia v USA – The gloves are off

Reg style wins plaudits Poor old Guy Brush has opened a right can of worms with his strong pro-British / anti-American sentiments in last week's letters. We are printing a selection of readers' replies purely by way of encouraging open and democratic dialogue. And not to start a punch up between Oz and the States. Oh no. Take it away Bruce Standlee: As an American (Yank, Colonial, Rebel, what ever you want to call us) new I.T. professional I have to take exception to what one of your Australian reader, Mr. Guy Brush, stated: In my experience the American people are better off staying on their own geocentric little country, if they are offended so easily by any suggestion that "American" is not pure English. I would also suggest that any American reading The Reg would probably just be some kind of fluke and I would make moves to perhaps arrange for his ISP to siteblock the UK. Just to be on the safe side. Point 1: On Mr. Brush's contention of American's geocentrism, I feel that a great many of The Register's American readers are among the least geocentric, or at least more aware of the global nature of I.T., than he gives us credit for. Your publication does an amazing job at remaining "British" in tone while still reporting on global I.T. issues and subjects. Point 2: Mr. Brush contends (possibly jokingly) that "any American reading The Reg would probably just be some kind of fluke . . . ." I would counter that every I.T. professional I know appears to read The Register, as a source of both good reporting on the whole of the I.T. world and for the humor you're reporters inject into many of their reports. I find The Register valuable as both a news service (much less dry and corporate white washed than many I.T. e-papers based here) and as a source of "Flame" and general humor on I.T. subjects. Thank you, keep up the great work. No, thank you. Andre A. Smith then weighed in with: So sorry to be a rude yank but I rather object to being called an egocentric fluke. Oh and go ahead and try to block my ISP I connect through five of them so it my be fun for one of your admins to play tag with my connection. And please tell me what being Australian has to do with being able to read English are you some how blessed to know all the slang and colloquialisms from both countries, if so a couple of linguists I am sure would love to talk to you and mine your vast knowledge. As far as being offended by American not being pure English, that would be rather stupid on my part all I have you have to do is go to any large city slum no matter what the country and you are almost speaking a different language. Or do you think you would understand a boy from a New York City 'hood. Of course maybe I am a fluke considering my mother was born in France and my father was/is an college educated red neck born in a one room dirt floored shack. So before you before you can me ego centric please check your own ego at the door. As to the Reg I like the style , it's more like talking to someone sitting next to you rather than some puffed up news figure preaching your ignorance to you. Well I have wasted enough of your time please keep up the good work. Hold on a minute, this is all too well reasoned. What we want here are more like this, courtesy of Brian A. Stefanish: that guy doesn't know crap. i'm an american and i love the reg and understand it too. why do aussies think they are so special? they should learn how to treat their women first. Blimey! I can't believe the Sons of the Outback are going to let it go at that...
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2001

Lukewarm tea – the litigious truth

California cuppa crisis There was us thinking that the lack of a decent cuppa in the States is down to sheer incompetence. No so, says our reader from the US Navy: No, the "lukewarm travesty we get served Stateside" is caused by lawyers who run up huge million dollar suits when some bozo spills hot liquid on their laps. Well that's the "lukewarm" part at least. Buddy if you're going to come over to our side of the pond you're just going to have to learn to love our preferred form of caffeination - Coffee (AKA "Starbucks") Thanks for clarifying that. You're not stationed on the USS Arabica by any chance?
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2001

UK vultures endangered species

First it was red squirrels, now apparently native UK vultures are under threat. Graham Cobb explains: I have always valued The Reg as bringing some useful UK and European views/experience/cynicism (delete as appropriate) to an IT industry dominated by US pundits and US press releases (often hard to distinguish). However, I am very disappointed in the article "Feds publish computer search manual". I realise that it has a Washington by-line but I would expect the UK editors to apply some European common sense to the article. Like almost everything else written on the Internet about privacy, encryption and online rights, it is written from an exclusively US viewpoint. The comments it makes are completely irrelevant for a non-US audience, who have very different laws and rights. I would have expected you to publish an article about this new US DoJ document with a UK or European flavour: investigating to what extent things are the same or different here; addressing whether the UK police have a similar (but, of course, more secret) manual; the implications of the Gary Glitter case; etc. I am disappointed in that I would have expected The Reg to make a much more interesting article out of the news. I am sure you consider yourselves a global publication and have many US readers but this would have been anopportunity to educate them that there is life outside the US and that some things are better and some worse than the way they do them in the grand old US of A! Please keep up the good work fighting against the hegemony of so-called "Global Vultures" who are really just trying to impose their own values on our native carrion birds.
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2001

Nebraska school invites email deluge

Some school kids in Nebraska got an unexpected lesson about the speed of communications in the 21st Century, after their teacher started an email chain letter that has elicited over 115,000 responses so far. We reckon it's just the start and they're going to get snowed. Less than a year ago, geography teacher John Street sent out 25 emails asking people to reply to him with their location and forward the message on to other people, reports the Associated Press. The plan was that his class could track the messages on a map. Street said that he expected a few hundred people would get back to him, but within six weeks, there had been over 20,000 responses, with many people including photographs and other information. The class has had mail from every continent - including two messages from scientists in Antarctica and pictures of the Earth taken from orbit, sent by a NASA scientist. The class has been sent packages from people who tracked down the school's street address. Street said: "Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined this." We at Vulture Central can only agree. Not since the story of Claire Swire and her allegedly "yummy" friend has the reach of the net been so well demonstrated. ® Related Link AP story
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jan 2001

The Reg is ill

Currently Linda, Tim, Lucy, John and Mike are ill, mostly from flu. Some are bravely tapping out muculent stories in between naps, some aren't. The Register has not been faced with an epidemic before and so there was no plan for dealing with it. Therefore, in our new guise of corporate beast, El Presidente the honourable Mr Drew Cullen, father of many and hero to most has adopted some new guidelines, which, fortuitously, arrived in an email this morning. These are them: ® MEMO TO ALL EMPLOYEES NEW COMPANY POLICIES: SICKNESS, RELATED LEAVE AND PAYROLL We will no longer accept a doctor's statement as proof of sickness. If you are able to go to the doctor, you are able to come to work. SURGERY: Operations are now banned. As long as you are an employee here, you need all your organs. You should not consider removing anything. We hired you intact. To have something removed constitutes a breach of employment. BEREAVEMENT LEAVE: This is no excuse for missing work. There is nothing you can do for dead friends, relatives or co-workers. Every effort should be made to have non-employees attend to the arrangements. In rare cases, where employee involvement is necessary, the funeral should be scheduled in the late afternoon. We will be glad to allow you to work through your lunch hour and subsequently leave one hour early, provided your share of the work is enough to keep the job going in your absence. YOUR OWN DEATH: This will be accepted as an excuse. However, we require at least two weeks notice as it is your duty to train your replacement. TOILET USE: Entirely too much time is being spent in the toilet. In the future, we will follow the practice of going in alphabetical order. For instance, those whose names begin with 'A' will go from 8:00 to 8:10, employees who names begin with 'B' will go from 8:10 to 8:20 and so on. If you're unable to go at your time, it will be necessary to wait until the next day when your time comes again. In extreme emergencies, employees may swap their time with a co-worker. Both employees' supervisors in writing must approve this exchange. In addition, there is now a strict 3-minute time limit in the stalls. At the end of three minutes, an alarm bell will sound, the toilet paper roll will retract, and the stall door open. PAYCHECK GUIDE: The following helpful guide has been prepared to help our employees better understand their paychecks: Item Amount Gross pay £1,222.02 Income tax £244.40 Outgo tax £45.21 State tax £11.61 Interstate tax £61.10 County tax £6.11 City tax £12.22 Rural tax £4.44 Back tax £1.11 Front tax £1.16 Side tax £1.61 Up tax £2.22 Down tax £1.11 Tic-Tacs £1.98 Thumbtacks £3.93 Carpet tacks £0.98 Stadium tax £0.69 Flat tax £8.32 Surtax £3.46 Corporate tax £2.60 Parking fee £5.00 FICA £81.88 TGIF Fund £9.95 Life insurance £5.85 Health insurance £16.23 Dental insurance £4.50 Mental insurance £4.33 Reassurance £0.11 Disability £2.50 Ability £0.25 Liability £3.41 Unreliability £10.99 Coffee £6.85 Coffee Cups £66.51 Floor rental £16.85 Chair rental £0.32 Desk rental £4.32 Union dues £5.85 Union don'ts £3.77 Cash advance £0.69 Cash retreats £121.35 Overtime £1.26 Undertime £54.83 Eastern time £9.00 Central time £8.00 Mountain time £7.00 Pacific time £6.00 Time Out £12.21 Oxygen £10.02 Water £16.54 Heat £51.42 Cool air £26.83 Hot air £20.00 Miscellaneous £113.29 Sundry £12.09 Various £8.01 Net Take Home Pay £0.02 Thank you for your loyalty to our company. We are here to provide a positive employment experience. All questions comments, concerns, complaints, frustrations, irritations, aggravations, insinuations, allegations, accusations, contemplation's, consternation's, or input should be directed elsewhere. Related Story Got a cold? Come this way
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

easyEverything opens un caff dans Paris

easyEverything is to open its first cybercafé in Paris tomorrow making it France's largest Internet café. Prices start at FF10 ($1.44) for three hours' Net access, although the outfit will later introduce a dynamic pricing structure that will alter prices depending on the number of people using the service. While easyEverything is keen to impress that the Paris café has 400 PCs loaded with MS software, The Register is far more interested in the building's sanitation arrangements. We can reveal exclusively that the cybercafé in Paris has a toilet. So does the one recently opened in New York. However, toilets in easyEverything's cafés are a recent development. The ones opened in London never had them, forcing Net users to take a jimmy riddle in the street, behind bins or in discarded beer bottles. It brought new meaning to the phrase log off. James Rothnie, director of corporate affairs at easyGroup, told The Register that its policy not to install lavatories in its Internet cafés had now changed. Indeed, easyEverything is now actively fitting lavatories in its new cafes and retro-fitting toilets to its existing premises. Which is a relief... ® Related Story No time to loos at easyEverything
Tim Richardson, 18 Jan 2001
DVD it in many colours

Boffins triple mobile network capacity

US scientists have developed a way of potentially tripling the amount of data that can be carried by mobile phone networks. A team from Bell Labs and Harvard University developed their technique for boosting bandwidth after investigating the way buildings scatter radio signals - a big problem in built up areas. In a scattering environment, an extra factor of three in channel capacity can be obtained, relative to the conventional limit using dual-polarised radio signals, because there are six distinguishable electric and magnetic states of polarisation at a given point, rather than two as is usually assumed. The team of Michael Andrews and Partha Mitra, from Bell Labs (Lucent Technologies), and Robert DeCarvalho from Harvard published their findings in today's copy of respected science journal Nature. Practical application of the polarisation phenomenon means having three antenna at right angles to each other, each aligned to a separate part of the polarisation field, on a reception device and incorporating additional signal processing technology into receivers. However the drive for mobile operators to deliver the higher speed internet access is so strong that the technique may be applied commercially. ® External Link Nature's "Radio communications: Tripling channel capacity" article (registration required) Related stories UK mobile networks connect 95% of the time 3G trigger pulled on mobile phone firms UK mobile firms shaft free SMS market for own greedy gains 3G's rubbish
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2001

1.4GHz squeezed out of a 1.2GHz Athlon

HWRoundupHWRoundup A nice little tidbit for you from OCWorkbench today. On the frontpage they have an overclocking record: Maku has squeezed nearly 1.4GHz out of a 1.2GHz Athlon using ASUS A7M266. Not too shabby, we think you'll agree. More fast running Athlons over at AMDMB.com. They took a look at the Epox 8KTA3 board and came back smiling. Have a look at their road testing here. Dr Tom and friends have fun with a bunch of Socket A boards today. But if you thought this would be a run of the mill affair, think again. Seven new boards join the field. To quote the reviewers: "Boards from Acorp, ECS, MSI, NMC, QDI and Transcend join the test field of a total of 23 KT133 boards. Three of them have surprises in store." Check it out here. Having finished his server upgrades, Anand gets back in the saddle to put together this look at the VIA Apollo Pro 266. Anand reckons VIA might have hit on something here, although he doesn't seem sure how this will make you life a zillion times better. And to finish off for today...a goodie over at Arstechnica who report that some boffins have found a way to stop light in its tracks and then get it going again. This is one I'll be reading more closely. Full story is here at the New York Times. Quantum light switching anyone? ® XXX Hot Hardware Action here
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jan 2001

The latest work email, Net problems

It's a big modern topic (look out for the sociolologists): email, the Internet and how they fit into the modern working environment. Plenty of complex issues abound, particular because of email's unique properties - bolstered by the RIP legislation. First of all, and disturbing, but - let's be honest - expected, is a survey by KPMG saying that one in five employers are sort of breaking the law by reading employees emails without first getting their consent. We say sort of because thanks to the cock-up over RIP and the delay in the code of practice, it currently sits in a legal grey area. Tied in with this, formal proceedings are frequently taken against those seen to be abusing email and the Internet. Twenty per cent of those disciplined for email abuse get the sack and 55 per cent caught downloading porn are sacked. On to the next - and possibly most interesting - part of the same survey. There appears to be a weird class divide still in large firms, with those on the lower ranks not being given Internet access. In 30 per cent of the 200 firms quizzed, staff below middle management aren't given Internet access (can't be trusted see?). If the IT firms are pulled out of the figures - this goes up to 40 per cent. Who'd have thought it? The reason behind it, apart from cost, is concern over the recent cases of Net abuse. Now we all know this is only scratching the surface. Plenty of managers see themselves as a race apart and their underlings as dumb beasts. Plus a few are sadists. But there you go. On the flip side, software company Surfcontrol has never had it so good (or so it told the FT). Revenue has tripled in Q2 due to demand for its product - Web filtering software. Of course, companies are all a bit shook up (ah huh huh) what with these newspapers stories connecting well-known companies with porn and the like. Surfcontrol doesn't discourage them either. And so people have thrown money at the problem, seemingly oblivious to the fact that most filtering software is poor, stopping some valid content and missing others. Staff will be quick to find the holes. If companies spent a bit less time trying to control staff and more time making the situation clear to them, we reckon they'd get a better result. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Jan 2001

Early birds catch Davinia worm

Even though the 'Davinia' worm has done far less damage than was first feared, anti-virus experts warn it exploits a vulnerability in Microsoft Office that most users have left open. And the techniques used to write the Davinia worm could be used by virus writers to wreak far more damage. According to the Virus boffins at Kaspersky Labs in Russia, Davinia has a very destructive payload, wiping the hard drive of any infected machine. However, it seems to have been defeated by its rather ponderous method of propagation. Antivirus companies are reporting that few of their customers have fallen victim to the virus - described as potentially another Love Bug by its discoverer, Panda Software. A target computer is sent an email containing two script programs. The first opens an Internet Explorer browser window and initiates a link to the virus writers' site and the second opens a Word document from the site. The Word document contains a macro that switches off built-in anti-virus protection, exploiting the "Office 2000 UA Control Vulnerability", discovered in May 2000 and for which a patch is available from Microsoft. Then it emails a link to the vandal's Web site to all contacts in the victim's Outlook address book. Kaspersky Labs says the rogue site is the only place where the virus part of the worm exists. This site has now been shut down. However, other virus writers could use the same trick to propagate new malicious code, so the Russian virus hunters recommend that people download the patch for the vulnerability here. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus vendor Sophos, said that many, if not most users, have so far failed to apply the MS Office patch. This is important because the vulnerability means a virus could be developed that infect users without them opening an attachment in an email message. Cluley criticised Panda Software, which discovered Davinia, for exaggerating the impact of the worm, and for its tardiness in exchanging copies of the malicious code through the Rapid Exchange for Virus Samples group, an industry group. ® Lucy Sherriff contributed to this story
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2001