18th > April > 2001 Archive

McVeigh execution decision expected Friday

Execution enthusiasts will have to wait until Friday at the latest to find out whether they'll be able to witness the death of Timothy McVeigh live on the Web. A Federal judge yesterday heard a petition from the Entertainment Network Inc (ENI) which is seeking to change the law so that it can broadcast the death by lethal injection of the man responsible for the Oklahoma bombing. ENI which specialises in online voyeurism (although mostly of young college girl) claims it has a constitutional right to broadcast the execution. While representatives of the media will be present, the Government maintains that the media does not have the right to record electronically and broadcast the events that take place in the execution chamber. ENI is seeking permission to arm one of its people with a video camera to provide a live feed of the execution. Failing that, it will settle with pictures from the jail's closed circuit TV system. The Web company intends to charge viewers $1.95 to watch McVeigh die but insists all the money will go to the charities set up for the victims and families of the bombing in 1995 which killed 168 people. McVeigh is scheduled to be executed on May 16. ® Related Story Effort to show Tim McVeigh dying on line
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2001

Intel 0.13 micron crossover – ‘not this year’

Intel today said the world should not expect the crossover to 0.13 micron technology to take place in 2001. Speaking during a conference call where the chip giant announced its first quarter results, Paul Otellini, exec VP and general manager of Intel's Architecture Group, described Q1 as "a tough quarter". He said demand had been weak in all geographical areas, and especially bad in the US. He added that the disappointing levels of PC demand had spread to other product areas, such as servers and communication devices. In the Q&A that followed the announcement, Otellini was asked about when the crossover was likely to take place with the 300mm wafers using 0.13 micron technology. When would shipments of these wafers be bigger than those of the 200mm wafers with 0.18 micron technology? The only answer Otellini would give was: "Not this year." The 0.13 micron products will launch later in 2001 - with the mobile chips out mid-year, and those for desktops due on the market in Q4. Meanwhile, Intel CFO Andy Bryant said the worst seemed to be over regarding Intel's chip business, which he said he believed had bottomed out. ®
Linda Harrison, 18 Apr 2001

Restyled widescreen iMac to push iMovie, MacOS X

Mac Rumour RoundupMac Rumour Roundup Apple's next-generation iMac is due to be launched in July - at MacWorld Expo New York, we imagine - with widescreen monitors and touted as a MacOS X machine. That's according to AppleInsider sources, at any rate. The new machine is apparently designed as the bee's knees video editing system - an approach Apple is currently using to promote the PowerBook G4, thanks to its wide LCD display. Whether the new iMac will use the same LCD panel as the PowerBook isn't known. Since the iMac's launch nearly three years ago, there have been rumours aplenty that Apple was preparing a model with an LCD panel. Cost, we suspect, has been the main reason that the prototype has never been commercialised. AppleInsider points out that Apple needs "something radical to spice up interest in the iMac line". Apple certainly needs to revive interest in the line, but with the current iMac such an icon, it needs to make sure it doesn't lose that compact, stylish all-in-one look that has become as instantly recognisable as a VW Beetle. We reckon that's why Apple has always held back from shipping a version with an ungainly 17in CRT display. As the old Performa 5400 proved, it's very hard to make an all-in-one with that form-factor not feel like it's taking up ten times as much desk space as it does. Still, three years on, maybe the time is right for a true 'iMac 2'. Certainly one source tells AppleInsider the changes to the new machines will be "bigger and more apparent than ever before". Sources also say the new machines will sport a1 133MHz frontside bus, 533MHz and 633MHz G3-class processors, and Nvidia GeForce 2 MX graphics - all plausible extensions to the iMac family whatever changes Apple makes to the machine's styling. Interestingly, they will also be pushed as MacOS X machines. Apple wants to prove that its next-generation operating system truly offers the power of Unix with the consumer friendliness of the iMac, so such a move makes a great deal of sense, and stresses the new OS rather better than simply bundling it with existing machines. Steve Jobs said Apple's future success would be founded on solutions rather than systems, and the latest leaks from the company suggest his strategy is proceeding with vigour. Apple is sponsoring a seminar on digital photography workflow this Friday, and the details for the New York-hosted event happen to mention a product called iPhoto. An iTunes for pictures? iPhoto certainly sounds like it, and various Web sites have suggested it will allow users to get picture off a digital camera, do a little image manipulation and archive or print the results. Most of the comments on the software seem to be derived from extrapolating it's name rather than on data from sources, but given that 'i' name the guesses are likely to prove accurate. AppleInsider also mentions a product called Studio in a Bag, which it describes as a workflow management tool for digital photography based on AppleScript and ColorSync. Related Links AppleInsider: Apple to introduce iPhoto and Studio in a Bag AppleInsider: OS X iMac may contain widescreen
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

PDA plant to end Compaq iPaq supply woes

Taiwanese computer maker High Tech Computer will open a new factory next week and dedicate the plant to punching out Compaq iPaq handhelds. The Big Q has had a tough time of late getting anywhere near meeting the demand for iPaq, which has soared in popularity since late last year. Our sources in the handheld reseller channel suggest buyers are turning away from Palm and opting instead for the iPaq's shiny silver shell and colour display. The snag is, Compaq can't keep up, and earlier this year signed a deal with HTC to accelerate production significantly. The new plant, which opens for business on 24 April, will have a capacity of 10 million PDAs per year, HTC said. HTC has signed Taiwanese display screen maker ST LCD to keep it supplied with iPaq display panels. In January, Compaq CEO Michael Capellas claimed that demand is outpacing supply by a factor of 25:1. The two companies expect to get supply to meet demand during the second half of the year. That gives Palm some room to catch up with its new m505 PDA equipped with a shiny silver shell and a colour display (sound familiar?) Palm last week admitted it had rushed the launch of the machine to get it out at CeBit and so show the industry that it is working to compete with iPaq. The m505 is due to ship next month - it will, but not in volume until toward the end of May. ® Related Stories Compaq suffering iPaq shortages Palm m50x line to be late for PDA price war Palm cuts prices to clear unsold stock
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

Mobo makers turn backs on Rambus development

Taiwanese motherboard makers have stopped developing Rambus RDRAM, Pentium 4-based products in preparation for a shift toward DDR SDRAM - despite Intel's vigorous April price cuts, DigiTimes has reported. At issue is a fall in Q1 sales of Socket 423 P4s. Sales of the part missed expectations by around 50 per cent. Mobo makers reckon the arrival of Socket 478 P4s will swing things around, so that's the platform they are now dedicating their development efforts to. Socket 478 P4s have already begun sampling, primarily to pave the way for Intel's PC-133 Brookdale chipset, due Q3, but also for DDR-supporting chipsets from SIS, Acer Labs and VIA. Brookdale-based mobos are expected to ship in Q3, according to plan, mobo makers Gigabyte and MSI told DigiTimes. Intel has been sampling Brookdale chips since the beginning of the year. ® Related Link DigiTimes: Taiwan chipset and motherboard makers giddy about next-generation Pentium 4 Related Stories Intel cuts desktop, mobile CPU prices by up to 23% Intel tackles chipset rivals on price VIA sees SIS as a threat VIA talks to Intel about P4 licence...
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

Flights of fantasy

It seems that we may have been a little hard on Paul Moller, inventor of the M400 flying car. Despite the reservations of MIT and NASA boffins, Mr Moller's supporters insist that the vehicle is a viable proposition. Moller's flying car pedigree looks impressive - on paper at least. In 1989 he successfully flew the M200X. This rotary-engined flying saucer has since made over 200 flights, although there are currently no plans for a family saloon version. Perhaps Moller should take a leaf from The Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company. This San Diego outfit wowed the post-war world with its ConvAIRCAR - a flying car in the true sense of the word. Just drive to the airport, clip on some wings and a propellor and away you go. The ConvAIRCAR's design was truly revolutionary. On November 17, 1947, its 725 pound fibreglass body circled San Diego for over an hour, delivering 45mpg. Vultee's celebrations were shortlived, however. A few days after the maiden flight the prototype crash landed in the desert, proving that mid-air is a very poor place to run out of petrol. The disaster was later blamed on a faulty fuel gauge, but the damage was already done. Public confidence in the project plummeted, and the ConvAIRCAR was consigned to history. Manufacturers have since been unable to sell the flying car concept to a sceptical public. They keep trying though, bless 'em. Paul Moller is not alone in keeping the dream alive. The CarterCopter is: "is a vertical takeoff and landing aircraft projected to cruise at 400 MPH at 50,000 feet (230 MPH at sea level). It uses a rotor for vertical takeoff and landing and a small wing for high speed cruise." Actually, the CarterCopter is more or less an advanced autogyro. Its manufacturers claim that it offers: "the speed and efficiency of a fixed wing aircraft and the off-airport abilities of a helicopter, all with much less complexity than tiltrotor aircraft and other vectored thrust aircraft such as the Harrier." All well and good. The CarterCopter and Moller M400 are both offering themselves as an escape from commuter drudgery. To be a viable alternative to the car they need to address two issues: showroom price and fuel costs. The M400 will weigh in at around $700,000 - when and if it ever flies. For a bit extra I can buy a Harrier jump-jet right now. And will Moller be offering Sidewinders as an optional extra? I think not. Once again we ask - Where's our flying car?® Links Moller Industries Cartercopters Related stories So, where is my flying car? Skycar crashes and burns?
Lester Haines, 18 Apr 2001

Letsbuyit brands own PCs

Letsbuyit.com, the group buying etailer, is launching its own brand PCs. The systems will be called Ants. PC manufacturer Centerprise is building the machines. The company already makes Advent machines for the Dixons Group, Bonsai PCs for Tempo, and Vulcan computers for John Lewis. Letsbuyit very nearly went titsup in January and had to suspend trading. After laying off some staff, getting some extra funding, and ditching some lines, it returned to business in February. "We've homed in on the products that are most sought after by members and reduced down the sheer number of suppliers we will work with," said CEO John Palmer, in February. Centerprise MD Rafi Razzak thought the Letsbuyit concept was a good one but admitted he wouldn't have bought anything from it first time round. "But now its more interested in establishing the loyalty of customers," he said. It could be unlikely that the Letsbuyit/Centerprise relationship involves build to order. During a Register visit to Centerprise's factory Razzak conceded that it wasn't practical to do this kind of production with a larger number of PC models. "There's only about four SKUs [stock keeping units] you can handle building to order. So you make the others [models] prohibitively expensive." ® Related Stories LetsBuyIt trading again Letsbuyit gets $49.6m backing Letsbuyit ditches 200 staff Letsbuyit awakes from coma Letsbuyit.com very very nearly titsup.com
Robert Blincoe, 18 Apr 2001

HP hints Intel's Itanic is ahead of schedule

Hewlett-Packard reckons Intel's 64-bit Itanium CPU is sufficiently ready for market that it has canned a plan to buy and rebadge Unisys servers based on the 32-bit Pentium III Xeon and will instead offer its own IA-64-based hardware. That's according to HP's global head of marketing for its Intel-based server products, Jean-Jacques Ozil, interviewed by Reuters. Intel has been piloting the 733MHz Itanium since the beginning of the year. An 800MHz part is expected sometime this quarter, probably reaching volume production early Q3, with wider end user deployments taking place in the Q3/Q4 slot. Itanium's successor, codenamed McKinley, is due to ship early Q4 in a pilot programme, with broader end user deployments taking place during Q1/Q2 2002. Ozil's comments suggest that may happen sooner rather than later. "In the window of time we were looking at for the 32-way [server], IA-64 is becoming a better alternative from an investment protection perspective. The 32-way was for next year," he said. You'll note that the past tense is used to describe HP's 32-way server plans, implying 32-way boxes will arrive sometime during 2001. "Our high end products are eight-way products today. For this we feel we haven't seen major [market] softness besides what we anticipated and reflected at the beginning of the year," said Ozil. "If you look at the kind of timeframe that we had expected for the IA-64, we are not predicting any softness in the market." Ozil also talks about the Itanium being faster than the Xeon. The PIII part currently maxes out at 900MHz, so is Ozil referring to a 1GHz McKinley? Intel has given no public indication of McKinley's clock speed, and the last internal roadmap we saw made no mention of it either. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

Nerds are rampant sex machines…

Adult male nerds have sex more often than ordinary American blokes according to IT recruitment site JustTechJobs.com. Following a survey of more than 7,500 male nerds it concluded that this often-maligned group has sex 108 times a year compared to the average of just 79 times. The results have staggered those behind the survey who've concluded that it's "chic to be geek". "We were putting together a survey so we could get a better idea of who was using our site," explained Russ Curtis, CEO of JustTechJobs.com. "We put in a question about sex habits as a joke. But the response was definitely surprising to us." What's more, Curtis has his own theory as to why IT men are seeing so much action. "Think about it. If these guys are anything like I was, they were picked on and laughed at as kids, and they probably didn't kiss a girl until they were 23 years old. "Now they have money and power and members of the opposite sex find them very alluring. You better believe they are going to take advantage of their situation," he said. Despite its saucy conclusion, this survey is even more revealing about the state of the dotcom industry than it is about the sexual activities of IT professionals. As the sector slides further and further into the mire, dotcoms will have to be ever more imaginative to come up with stunts to get themselves noticed. ®
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2001

Cybercops are go!

Home Secretary Jack Straw has officially launched the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit today at the Science Museum in London. The unit and its £25 million of funding was announced in November last year as part of Mr Straw's clampdown on cybercrime. The "lynchpin" unit will be based in London and manned with 40 specialised officers, headed by detective chief superintendent Len Hynds. A further 46 will placed around the country. Its brief is to "proactively investigate serious and organised crime using IT". This mission will be hugely aided by a number of recent laws passed by Parliament which give the police unprecedented access to email and Internet traffic. Main targets will be hackers (now equivalent to terrorists), fraudsters and paedophiles. As well as this, it will advise police forces around the country, discuss policy with the government and be a 24/7 information service for other countries' police forces and secret services. At the launch - to which critics of the government's policies were not invited and/or were banned - Jack Straw gave his usual lines. "New technologies bring enormous benefits to the legitimate user, but also offer opportunities for criminals, from those involved in financial fraud to paedophiles. We are determined that the UK will be the best and safest place in the world to conduct and engage in e-commerce" etc etc. Director General of National Crime Squad, Bill Hughes, spoke about needing an agency to tie together all the different law enforcement agencies in order to effectively tackle Internet crime. The fact that money is going electronic means that organised crime will go electronic, he said. His deputy, Roger Gaspar, made the same point about Net crime's expected huge expansion. "The more IT is used in social and business life, the more IT will be used to commit crimes," he said. What about Lucky Len Hynds? He's 43, been a copper for 25 years and has a pedigree of detective work, having covered ganglands, drug trafficking and extortion. In short, he's a tough nut. He also knows how to deal with the press. He told the BBC: "We have no inclination, nor the desire, nor the ability to trawl people's e-mails." That isn't strictly true, but it was certainly the right thing to say. This desire to get the message across without embarrassing questions that would say otherwise may explain the exclusion of a number of people. In short, the police have the legal right to snoop wherever they desire. They also have the capability and knowledge to do a blanket surveillance of traffic. Whether this approach will prove effective in combating crime is debatable, but you can be sure that they'll try it in many different permutations. The ability of the NHTCU to bypass privacy at the click of a mouse aside, the creation of this hi-tech unit is a good bit of foresight by the police. By setting up a dedicated group before cybercrime has really kicked off will prove invaluable in future and will make the UK a far less attractive place for Internet crime. ® Related Stories Look out! Here come the cybercops Police request right to spy on every UK phone call and email 'Cyber Sweeney' host hi-tech crime meet
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Apr 2001

WinXP: product activation, updates and control freakery

XP diariesXP diaries A week or so ago Microsoft finally plied The Register with a small stack of state of the art XP code. We now have the official WinXP beta 2, a Corporate Preview Program CD of Office XP, and a production Office XP CD as well. All of this seems to work, which is more than can be said for the snazzy Office XP wristwatch we collected at the same time - but that's another story.* In recent months Microsoft's High Command has taken to describing WinXP as the company's most important product since Windows 95, and The Register has rather heartlessly suggested this indicates advanced Alzheimer's, considering that Win2k was the really big effort. But seriously, you can see where they're coming from. WinXP is rock solid stable, finally converges Microsoft operating systems onto a single codebase for business and consumer, and will be pitched as a universal platform not just for PCs but for all sorts of other 'successor' devices as well. You can reasonably grouse about how long it's taken Microsoft to do this, and grouse some more about the crash-prone rubbish the company has been serving up to consumers for the best part of a decade, but finally, it's happening. XP is the Big One for Microsoft, and there's enough about it that's good for it to look highly likely to see off any Linux threat - at least as far as the client and some areas of the appliance market are concerned. This naturally comes at a price; XP is aimed at fairly well-specced hardware, 128 megs of RAM and a decent speed Pentium III or better. But new machines are exceeding that spec already, and there won't be many footprint problems for XP by the time it ships later this year. Plus, it would seem that WinXP doesn't really need all that hardware - but more of this anon. The other component of the price you (maybe) have to pay comes under the general heading of Microsoft anti-piracy and control-freakery activities. XP will use Microsoft's product activation system (we're stopping calling it a technology - right now, it isn't), will allow Microsoft to elect itself as quality control supremo for device drivers and (later) applications, and will make a fair stab at putting you off MP3 files. It may also stop you burning CDs if you don't already own the data. These are sufficiently large downsides to make it possible that many of the more, ah, XPerienced users will simply boycott the OS. One senior industry exec we've spoken to who's close to the beta even views product activation as having the potential to become Microsoft's Stalingrad. That's probably putting it too strong, considering that most of the people who buy a new PC will get XP, and will tend to just go along the routes Microsoft has defined for them - but on the other hand, if they did get riled, then it all could snowball, and the Great Revolt could happen. So to sum up we've got a very good OS that's a pleasure to use, and that you're going to think just about justifies the vast hardware footprint. Sure, they could have done it better, leaner, coded it more elegantly and more efficiently, but it works, and that's a major blessing. On the other hand it wants to run your life rather more than you'd probably like (you want Microsoft to run your life at all? Exactly...), and it's likely just a couple of revs away from giving the scumbags in the recording industry direct access to your wallet. Decisions, decisions... Product Activation Finally having legit code gave me the ability to verify the activation procedure itself and the workarounds. If you want to avoid this process, then there's some good news and some bad news. First of all, the current product keys for Windows XP beta 2 circulating on the Web work with genuine code, as you'd expect them to. They do not of themselves switch off the timer which will compel your use of the activation process 14 days after you first boot the OS, but the cracks also circulating will do this. The beta code itself times out 180 days after first boot, but that's a separate crack, and anyway, won't you want production code by then? The universal key currently circulating for Office XP also works on the Corporate Preview Program code, and does circumvent activation. Try to activate after you've used it, and it comes back with the message "this product has already been activated." The CPP code itself times out, of course, but provided there's a time crack for it, copied versions could effectively be live code. But discerning pirates will no doubt go for copies of the production version instead, and not have to bother with the time crack. So that's the good news - activation still seems easy to get around, although naturally we're not suggesting widespread piracy of Office XP could be, ah, good news. The bad news is what it says in the licence agreement: "Mandatory Activation. The license rights granted under the EULA may be limited to the first fourteen (14) days after Recipient first boots the Software Product unless Recipient activates Recipient's copy of the Software Product in the manner described during the setup sequence of the Software Product and, as a result of such activation, Recipient receives a final confirmation number for the Software Product." That, I think, is the important bit. Activation itself is a paper tiger, but by not activating, you are in breach of your licence agreement. Hence, you do not have a legal installation. Think about the implications of this, and again you'll find good news and bad news. If you don't have a 'legal' copy, even if you have paid for it (which is what that paragraph says will be the case if you don't activate properly), it'll only be a problem for you if the feds come calling. Microsoft is not about to bust its way through the world's playgrounds so consumers are safe, and anyway, Microsoft's lawyers will probably be keen to avoid establishing the wrong legal precedent as regards people buying the product then not activating it. But it'll be a different matter in business. There, if you don't activate the product properly you're going to be in trouble, because the different licensing mechanism for XP Professional means that Microsoft knows who you are. Microsoft has also been getting keener and keener on software audits for businesses, and has identified small businesses as target number one for anti-piracy enforcement. The bottom line of product activation as currently constituted, it seems to me, is that it would be reckless for businesses, particularly small businesses, to try to circumvent product activation. They're going to come after you if you do, and it'll cost. I've still got some questions about activation. The basic transaction as far as consumers are concerned is anonymous; you type in the key, the software swizzles it around with the local hardware spec then sends a request to MS, and you get back a number. But Microsoft doesn't know who you are. So, if you use a known 'universal' or compromised key you're obviously not going to get a legit number back (I'll check this later just to make double sure), but the installation itself will proceed, and as Microsoft doesn't know who you are, nothing happens to you, right? Obviously you'd have to crack the 14 days to carry on using the software. In response to this Microsoft tells me, 'ah, but we know whose key it is you used.' But I don't see where this gets them - corporate key escapes onto market, is used by 10,000 warez enthusiasts, so what happens? Microsoft phones up the owner of the key and tells them they're naughty and careless? Microsoft invoices the owner for 10,000 extra copies of WinXP? (That'd go down a bundle with MIS) It's a puzzle. What about updates? Microsoft could conceivably check the confirmation number during registration for Windows Update and reject hooky installations, and considering that Microsoft intends to centralise all device drivers on Windows Update, this would be a major gotcha. But if Microsoft did do this, it would undermine the claimed one-time nature of the activation procedure. Loads of people would then shout 'we knew they were lying,' so it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. But again, I'll check. Finally, there's the status of cracks to consider. It's possible that Microsoft could interpret the use of cracks as a breach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). At the moment it's difficult to see how deleting the odd .exe and twiddling with the registry (isn't that what the registry's for?) could be an offence, but it wouldn't be hard for Microsoft to build in something that required a little light reverse-engineering, and that would be an offence. Windows Update The whole signed driver experience is the other bit of control freakery you're likely to run into during the install. Microsoft is mounting a major push to improve quality of device drivers and to improve the end user experience, so XP includes a driver rating system. You can set it to install all drivers without warning you, to install only signed drivers, or to warn you before installing unsigned drivers. As all signed drivers are intended to be stored at Windows Update, users who find they haven't been shipped a signed driver with their new piece of hardware can just check at Update. From the consumer's perspective the regime is positive, if Windows Update holds a huge pile of signed drivers for all of the hardware they're likely to be using. But with the Win2k and WinME experience in mind, one could doubt this just a tad as being a likely scenario for the off. At this stage at least, however, the process is a little troubling. One of the test pieces of hardware I've used so far uses an Asus AGP Pro 7700 graphics card, which isn't supported in beta 2. It installed with generic Geforce drivers instead, but as it seemed to be locked to a maximum 800x600 I decided to install the Win2k drivers instead. Actually, the card with generic drivers might not have been locked to 800x600 after all. I discovered after installing the Win2k drivers that these too seemed to be locked, but that it was really just the slide control that wouldn't move - go a little deeper into the settings, show all modes, and then you can switch display resolution. This is possibly an example of how Microsoft is shielding naiive users from themselves. These users will however also be extremely scared by the unsigned driver experience, which consists of big warnings and is clearly intended to discourage use of unsigned drivers, to direct users to Windows Update, and to hardware that does have signed drivers. That puts massive power in Microsoft's hands, and means hardware manufacturers will have to keep very close to Microsoft development if they're going to avoid a tech support hammering. Two more examples, for the moment. As I intended to actually try a 'legit' installation as well as the universal key ones, I needed a modem for the test rig, and as I'm currently in The Register's French premises, it was down the road to the hypermarche, then back clutching an Elsa Microlink Fun USB 56k external. Our German friends clearly have a different notion of "Fun", but there you go. It's a cute little red box that's eminently portable, and it'd be bound to come in handy in the future. Unless... There's no signed driver for WinXP, and the Win2k driver is not exactly operative. It apparently crashes the machine when querying the modem on install, but if you unplug the modem the machine comes back. Once the driver's installed, again it hangs when querying the modem, and comes back when you unplug. But as your modem's not plugged in, you can't activate, can you? Back to the hypermarche for an internal Olitec "V92-ready," and more on this later. If you're listening, Elsa, you'd do well to take a look at this 'issue' and get onside for signed drivers before RTM. But my second example should help get through to hardware manufacturers, if the penny hasn't dropped already. I installed beta 2 on an IBM ThinkPad 600 (233MHz Pentium II? Yes, I know they say you can't do that - more on this tomorrow), and it miraculously found the internal modem and installed signed drivers for it straight off the CD. This is the modem, you'll recall, that had sufficient proprietary tech in it to stop IBM producing a Linux driver for it for almost three years, and that driver has only just recently gone into beta. So go figure on the importance to hardware manufacturers of sticking close to Microsoft, in the wonderful new world of Redmond-approved drivers. Tune in tomorrow, when I'll finally get down to the installation itself, and a bit of comparative stuff. ®
John Lettice, 18 Apr 2001

Police raid ‘major reseller’ in Oman

Omani police have seized 20,000 bootlegged software programs in a raid on a 'major reseller' in the gulf Arab state, Reuters reports. There were no arrests, according to the Business Software Alliance, which announced the raid on Sunday (although it didn't say when it took place - or who the reseller is ) If this was a first time offence, convicted software pirates are liable to fines up to $5,200 or two years in jail. Presumably, the major reseller could find some of its software accreditations under threat too. HP is to offer Web-based support services to customers 'in conjunction with its value-added, second tier distribution partners', Euro-channel publication ESN reports. No we don't know what this means either. But the support programme is called hInstant Support, it's kicking off first in the UK and the Nordic region, and it's a part of a move to [develop] complete computer activity services with our channel partners," marketing manager Olivier Frank tells ESN. Specialist VAR Software For Sport has bought Integra Computer Systems for an undisclosed amount. The Leatherhead, Surrey-based firm said the acquisition of Integra will double its turnover. Integra is an accountancy software reseller, majoring on Multisoft and Sage software, but it also has its own inhouse product, called MemberNet. Software for Sport says this CRM product, designed for professional bodies, institutions and trade associations, will fit in very nicely with its portfolio of software for sports clubs and venues. There will also be some scope for cost-cutting through consolidation of offices and functions, post merger, the companies say. European Micro Holdings, the American-owned, European-based distie, has succeeded in getting claims against the company thrown out of the US Courts. The fight now moves onto Amsterdam, where the cost of redress is said to be considerably cheaper than the US. Senior Ingram Micro executive Steve McAdam has left the company after just six months in the job. McAdam was director of specialist sales, responsible for the sales strategy of Ingram's storage, connectivity, and components divisions. CRN reports his departure from the distributor is by 'mutual consent'. His job had been specially created for him, following spells at IBM, ChannelWeb, and Indus River Networks.
Drew Cullen, 18 Apr 2001

Motion Picture Ass. launches Gnutella offensive

The Motion Picture Association Of America has begun targeting Gnutella users, having successfully seen off Scour. The Ass. has started contacting US ISPs and university network administrators to warn them that some of their users are illegally sharing copyright movie material. And in response to such pressure from the MPAA, Excite@Home, for one, has begun emailing users demanding they cease their alleged copyright infringing actions on pain of being disconnected. Says the email: "We have received a complaint from [the MPAA] that you are distributing copyrighted material via Gnutella using your @Home Network services. We are requesting that you immediately remove any files which you are distributing in violation of copyright and cease this activity within 24 hours. "This behaviour is in violation of the @Home Acceptable Use Policy and continuation of this activity will result in termination of your @Home services." The Excite@Home emails provide lists of what movies were shared and when they were offered to other Gnutella users. That information will have come from the MPAA, which must be using snooping software to monitor sharing activity between Gnutella users. In this case, it appears to have used a third-party to do the tracking. The MPAA's move mirrors similar warnings sent out to US universities last summer by Metallica. The band alleged that its songs were being shared illegally via the Napster network, and demanded that Napster be banned. Unlike Metallica, the MPAA does not appear to be backing up its requests with legal action. It would be on a sticky wicket if it did. The Ass. cites the Digital Millennium Copyright Act as the law alleged movie sharers are infringing. What it doesn't appear to have pointed out is that the DMCA states that ISPs are not liable for the actions of their users. "What we're trying to do is educate the population about what is appropriate, both from an ethical standpoint and from a legal standpoint," said Ken Jacobson, the MPAA's anti-piracy chief. ® Related Story Music industry tracking individual MP3 file sharers
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

BBC to develop Weakest Link game

A computer game based on the hit TV game show the Weakest Link is being developed. The BBC is working with games publisher, Activision (which distributes Quake), to create a version of the show for PC and console gamers. According to BBC Multimedia, versions of the game for the PC CD-ROM, PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 by the end of the year. Activision also have an option to develop the game for Microsoft's forthcoming X-Box console. The quiz debuted with audiences of 14.7 million on America's NBC TV station last night, and a BBC Multimedia spokeswoman said the game would remain as true as possible to the format of the show. This will include voiceovers by Anne Robinson which are likely to include suitably barbed put-downs. Separate versions of the game will be create for different international territories and it'll be interesting to see which country is set the easiest questions. Everybody has their own ideas about who the "weakest link" among different countries is (never their own country of course) and perhaps the questions developed for the game will stir as much controversy as the show itself... ® Related stories PlayStation 2 gets hard disk, broadband slot
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2001

Apple lawyers attack MacOS 8.x skinning code

Apple has demanded the open source Mac Themes Project remove its MacOS theme editor from public servers. The Mac maker alleges the code contributes to infringement of its intellectual property by allowing users to improperly copy its trademarks and copyrights. In Apple's words, it "enables third parties to create themes that are identical or confusingly similar to Apple's copyrighted and trademarked themes". Apple also claims the code may be "a derivative work resulting from unauthorised reverse engineering of Apple's software". The MCP's editor has been in development since 1998, when Apple introduced technology to permit new skins - it calls them 'themes' - to be applied to the MacOS user interface. To date, Apple has not exposed the theming API to third parties. Why it's taken Apple so long to figure out there may be an issue with the MCP's work is anyone's guess, and that's certainly a question the project leaders want answering. They would also like to know why their software - which they claim uses no Apple copyright material - should be any more liable for the actions of its users than Apple's own iTunes is. Apple will presumably say that its software is licensed solely on the understanding it is not used to infringe copyrights and trademarks, so any such action is outside the scope of its licence and so beyond its responsibility. Presumably it will be happy if MCP includes just such a get-out clause in its own licence. On the reverse engineering charge, the MCP team claims its work is permitted by the doctrine of fair use. As to allowing users to duplicate the MacOS look and feel, that hardly applies in this case, since the code - open source or no - is tightly dependent on the Mac OS. It's not even a standalone app. Porting it to, say, Linux would involve so many modifications it couldn't be considered a port so much as a total rewrite. But that's not really the issue. Apple wants to prevent the code being used to make MacOS 9 look and feel like MacOS X's Aqua UI. Presumably, it feels they won't then buy MacOS X and upgrade to the new operating system. Which, since it implies users are only interested in the UI, isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the new OS' other features. ® Related Link The Mac Themes Project homepage
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

Reg cancer busters crack on

We have some excellent news regarding Vulture Central II - our team in the Intel/Oxford cancerbusting project. Having only been in existence for a week, Vulture Central II has returned over 5200 'work units'. This means that the 1166 team members have been processing for a combined total of 11 years. To put this in perspective, the boffins have 2.5 million molecules up for testing. Each work unit contains 100 molecules, amounting to 25000 work units. Vulture Central II alone has completed 5000 in a single week. We reckon that the boys at the University better start looking for some more molecules down the back of the sofa, or this project will be over within a month. So, if you want to get a piece of the action while there's still time, you can download the software here. Then sign up with Vulture Central II here. More useful information about the project can be found at http://www.chem.ox.ac.uk/curecancer.html ® Related stories Reg cancer busters are go!
Lester Haines, 18 Apr 2001

Dead Chinese fighter pilot footage

Footage of the dead Chinese fighter pilot Wang Wei has been released by the US government in a bid to put pressure back on the Chinese regarding the spy plane debacle. It was taken with a camcorder on another one of the US' spyplanes in January and shows Wang Wei flying incredibly close to the plane, holding up and pointing to a piece of paper that had his email address scrawled on it. The US military have released the film just before a key meeting in Beijing, in which the US is going to ask to have its spyplane back. The idea is to prove that Wang Wei was a reckless pilot and thus the crash was due to his antics. This puts the burden of blame on the Chinese for the crash, with consequent positive effects on the US military. Ironically, the image of buzzing another plane has a macho edge thanks to Tom Cruise US film Top Gun. Even though the crash and subsequent death of Wang Wei are no laughing matter, it's hard not to admire the fighter pilot's skill and derring-do in flying so close to a plane while pointing to a piece of paper. The BBC has a Real Video story with a few clips of the footage here. Incidentally, we were sent this interesting explanation from a reader of what the Chinese fighters pilots may have been doing just prior to the crash: "There is a well known habit among the Chinese and Russian fighter pilots to harass spy flights for obvious reasons. Since we are not at war, nor does anyone want an international mess like we have, they resort to harassment. It's called thumping. The jet positions itself, in front, and slightly under the prop plane. This disrupts the air flow across its wings, and make the plane fall, rather hard, about 20 feet or so, then its clear of the "wash" catches air again and "thumps" to a stop (of altitude loss). This rattles the pilots and crew, and can damage the aircraft when done repeatedly (and it is)." So there you have it. ® Related Story Downed Chinese fighter pilot immortalised on Web site
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Apr 2001

Microsoft promises it won't meddle with digital TV market

The European Commission's investigation into the negative effect Microsoft can have on the digital TV market (thanks to its giant share holdings) has concluded that everything can be left as is because Microsoft has "agreed not to influence" the market and future technology. Which is a weight off everyone's mind. Digital TV and the Internet access it will soon offer are seen as the future of communication, and so the EC was concerned that Microsoft was taking large stakes in some of the main players. Probably because of the company's domination of the PC operating system and Internet browser markets, not to mention large chunks of the software market, by its aggressive approach. But fortunately for everyone involved, Microsoft has agreed not to influence decisions on the set-top market. It has also abolished or changed the "technology boards" where a number of leading companies got together so Microsoft could tell them where the market was going, so we can be certain that digital TV will now evolve naturally. And with that, the EC has decided to close the investigation. We were worried for a minute because Microsoft owns large numbers of shares in Telewest, United Pan-European Communications NV, NTL and TV Cabo (Portugal). But now we can all sleep safely in our beds. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Apr 2001

Consumer slowdown forces HP to axe 3,000 jobs

Hewlett-Packard has announced plans to axe 3,000 management jobs as part of a plan to cut its costs in the face of declining PC and printer sales. News of the job cuts came when HP today issued its second profit warning this year, which stated that a decline in consumer spending means revenues for its second quarter will be between 2 and 4 per cent less than the same period last year. The computer giant said the decline in consumer spending first noticed in the US is spreading to Europe, because of which it now expects earnings per share to be in the range of 13 to 17 cents for the quarter ending on April 30. This estimate includes provision for $150 million of one-time inventory and capacity write-downs connected with some of its consumer products. "It is quite clear that the US downturn in the consumer market is now spreading to other regions, notably Europe," said Carly Fiorina, HP's chief executive, who said that adverse currency movements will also affect the company's bottom line. Fiorina said that recent market data indicates "growing softness in the retail sector and increasingly competitive pricing moves" in the European PC market, something that may spell trouble for HP's competitors as well as the printer giant itself. There has been a slight improvement in HP's sales to its business customers, but these are more than offset by its decline in consumer sales. HP believes that weak demand will run into its third and will result in revenues remaining flat despite an increase in gross margins. It not yet clear where the job cuts will fall but the one piece of good news for the firm's remaining staffers is that salary increases that were deferred for 90 days after the firm's last profit warning in January will now be paid out. That said staff would still be expected to take days off and trim discretionary spending in order to help HP save money. ® External links HP Expects Lower Q2 Earnings
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2001

Updated Samba one less reason for buying Windows

One of the cornerstones of free software, Samba, took another leap forward project leads Jeremy Allison and Andrew Tridgell announced yesterday. Unglamorous but hugely important, the new version of the Windows file and print services substitute, now at version 2.2.0, adds a bundle of goodies. As before, it continues to enhance its appeal as a replacement Windows authentication server. Samba makes Microsoft Client Access Licenses - mandatory for printing and basic file sharing in a Microsoft environment - effectively redundant. Which at $50 a pop, makes for a potentially huge saving. And CALs are a piece of tollbooth revenue that Microsoft has been singularly reluctant to drop. It's pretty much regarded as sacred, in fact: even Citrix thin clients are obliged to pay the Windows CAL tax. However, on Slashdot, Allison stresses that although the new release performs much of the work of a Windows PDC (Primary Domain Controller) server, it shouldn't be considered a drop-in replacement: "It doesn't do replication or BDC Stuff yet - but it works well enough to put Windows 2000 or Windows NT clients into a Samba hosted domain, and have people log in and authenticate against it, and download profiles from it. For many small sites this is all they need - not the full PDC stuff," he writes. Other neat tricks that the Samba Team can boast about include the ability to download Windows printer drivers transparently to non-Windows client machines, and unifying the access control lists on the Linux and Windows boxes. So BOFHs don't need to keep separate lists in sync. But where we've been most intrigued by Samba's progress is in hardware, as Annie Kermath highlighted here last June. File and print services are a commodity protocol, so it's only natural that you should have cheap, commodity box, right? Samba's winbind provides the lubrication for el cheapo print and storage appliances from Cobalt and VA Linux (Allison and Tridgell's daytime employer) among others. ® Related Story SAMBA team plots 'killer appliance' Related Links Samba.org Jeremy Allison discusses Samba 2.2.0 at Slashdot
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Apr 2001

ISPs claim victory over BT

A Basingstoke-based ISP is claiming a victory for small service providers following BT's decision to launch a wholesale unmetered Internet access service geared specifically to meet their needs. Available next month, WebPort24 is a "fully managed dial-up unmetered Internet access service that enables service providers to connect their customers directly to the Internet over BT’s network infrastructure". It has been specifically tailored for small and medium-sized ISPs and can be ordered in small volumes - as few as 10 ports. Emeric Miszti, MD of Cloud Nine, told El Reg: "WebPort24 is here as a result of the pressure we put on BT. "It is a victory for smaller ISPs," he said. While there are some question marks hanging over the quality of the product and bandwidth provisions, Miszti insists that WebPort24 is competitively priced leaving ISPs free to offer 24/7 unmetered Net access for between £12.99 and £14.99 a month. In January, Basingstoke-based Cloud-Nine complained to the telecoms regulator, Oftel, that BT had hiked the price of its wholesale unmetered Net access product (SurfPort24) making it all but impossible for small and medium-sized ISPs to compete with large providers. It insisted that the minimum up-front payment of £720,000 a quarter was simply out of reach for anything but the large ISPs. Minnow ISPs were dealt a blow in March when Oftel ruled that BT's SurfPort24 product was not anti-competitive. Today's announcement by BT appears to address some - if not all - the issues contained in Cloud Nine's original complaint. ® Related Stories Cloud Nine blasts 'incompetent' Oftel BT ruling ISP accuses BT of price fixing
Tim Richardson, 18 Apr 2001

US lawyer and pals indicted for shill bidding on eBay

Two men in the US, one of them a lawyer, have agreed to pay back $100,000 after pleading guilty to bidding for their own products on eBay's online auction site. In what is believed to be the first indictment for such cyber-behaviour, Kenneth Walton and Scott Beach pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to a total of 11 charges of wire and mail fraud. The duo agreed to pay back the cash and not take part in any online auctions for up to three years as part of a plea bargain arranged to reduce their prison sentences - the pair had each faced up to five years in jail for each of the criminal counts, AP reports. Walton was also disbarred as an attorney in California. The men ran a scam that duped art buyers out of $450,000 by using "shills" (bidding on their own products) to inflate prices in around 500 online auctions on eBay between 1998 and 2000. Authorities are still chasing a third man indicted in the scam - Kenneth Fetterman, but he has so far eluded them and remains a fugitive. Officials started sniffing around the three after a fake painting by US painter Diebenkom fetched more than $135,000 on eBay. Walton claimed to have found the painting at a garage sale but said that his wife wouldn't let him keep it, so he put it up for sale with a starting price of 25 cents. The bids rolled in, and so did the press. eBay smelt a rat and declared the sale void after saying it suspected shill bidding. The men are due to be sentenced on June 26. ® Related Link AP article Related Stories Online auctions top Net fraud complaints list Student selling everything he owns in world on eBay
Linda Harrison, 18 Apr 2001

MS ditches Service Packs for Windows NT 4.0

Microsoft has cancelled Service Pack 7 and any further development of service packs for the Windows NT 4.0 platform. The news will be announced to the channel first and then all Microsoft customers this week. Service Pack 7 was originally due to be released at the end of last year, but was then delayed until Q3, 2001. Now it has been shelved for good along with any plans for future service packs. In their place, Microsoft is to introduce the "hot fix" method of bug and security vulnerability fixes, a much more popular option with customers than the roll-out of cumbersome service packs, the company claims. This decision was reached through discussions with customers in the development cycle of Service Pack 7, who are (according to a Microsoft survey) mostly running a combination of service pack 5 and 6 with security patches applied. Microsoft is to urge customers who had planned a Service Pack 7 roll-out to standardise instead on Service Pack 6a (if not done so already) along with the combined Security fixes pack due Q3 of this year. Following the release of Service Pack 6a, the number of problems reported has fallen to very low levels, which in turn has meant much fewer hot fixes posted onto the Microsoft Web site, as well the long delay for the release of Service Pack 7, the company says. Customers have been anticipating Service Pack 7 for three reasons, according to Microsoft. 1. An easy mechanism for deploying the security fixes Microsoft has publicly released since SP6a. (This will be of major concern to customers, as it can be a logistical nightmare to applying these security fixes without a software distribution system such as their own SMS 2.0.) 2. Availability of the Windows NT 4.0 Active Directory client, originally planned to be part of SP7 - now available for download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/news/bulletins/adextension.asp 3.High Encryption for International versions of Windows NT which is now available through Internet Explorer and downloadable at: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/ Soon after Service Pack 6a arrived concerns were expressed by customers that this will be the last service pack, as Windows 2000 was imminent for release. In a response to these concerns, Microsoft posted an FAQ answering this question and many others. The following link worth a look - especially in light of this news. It states: "Our goal is to continue to support our Windows NT 4.0 customers with additional Service Packs. Microsoft remains committed to providing regular, timely releases of Service Packs to continue to address customer issues in Windows NT 4.0.". The LAST Windows NT service pack was released 17 months ago.
Rob Kerr, 18 Apr 2001

BAPCo releases SYSmark 2001

BAPCo, or in full The Business Applications Performance Corporation, today releases SYSmark 2001. This is designed around real world benchmarking, as opposed to simply raw megahertz power. SYSmark 2001 is a "robust set of 14 application benchmarks covering a wide range of Internet Content Creation and Office Productivity application categories". SYSmark 2001 supports Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium Edition. Costing $199.95, the suite is supported and distributed by MadOnion.com. Make your orders there. ® Related link BAPCo press release
Drew Cullen, 18 Apr 2001

My God! Someone's actually made a cyborg!

After years of sci-fi nuts and phoney professors claiming they have built a cyborg - part machine, part living tissue - it would appear that someone has actually done it. It can't do very much and it's incredible inefficient but it actually does use biological material to communicate with machinery to some practical end. What is it? The brain stem of a bloodsucking fish called a lamprey stuck in an oxygenated salt solution and connected to a robot. What does it do? Detect light and then turn to face it. If a light shines on it, the brain sends out an electronic pulse. This is sent through a microprocessor which causes the robots wheels to move and face the light source. That's it really. Not really very useful and it's not a cyborg in any sense of the word. And it dies after a few days. But we are bigging it up simply because it works and actually is what its creators say it is. Honesty basically. Of course, the scientists at the University of Chicago got a little carried away when quizzed about what the future may hold and rabbitted on about it being used for stroke victims or people with Parkinson's - but we'll let that go. Don't start thinking that media-hungry "scientists" will now start being honest though. At almost exactly the same time, a Russian scientist had reverted to the tradition of talking utter twaddle. Vitali Valtsev reckons he has built the world's first artificial brain that can compete with human brains. Amazing. Except, after 30 years working on the thing, he can't actually provide any evidence of the "brain" working. Or even that the brain exists. But Vitali won't let these small facts stop him. No, instead he's already predicting the end of mankind as his brain learns from mistakes and takes over. "This machine needs to be trained like a new-born child. It is extremely important for us to make it a friend and not a criminal or an enemy," he waffled. Reminds us of the UK's very own Captain Cyborg, Kevin Warwick. Planet GaGa must be getting very crowded. ® Related Story Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Apr 2001

Gassee on open source BeOS

Jean Louis Gassee has given a brief interview to Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News, in which he discusses the possibility of Be Inc releasing its jewel of an OS as source form. Last year Be registered the openbeos.com. .net and .org domains, although whether the intent was to really to free the source, or simply to pre-empt cybersquatters, remains to be seen. And the epigrammatic Frenchman doesn't give us too much of a clue here. "If I felt it was a way to make my shareholders happy I would do it in a heartbeat," says Gassee. Which as Dan concludes, "Sounds like a 'No' to me." Gassee mentions that BeOS contains elements licensed from third parties, although this doesn't make open sourcing impossible - merely difficult. Ironically, it was exactly this issue that dissuaded IBM from licensing OS/2 more widely, after it too realized it couldn't compete on the desktop. It's not unconceivable that Be could adopt some sort of a halfway house, which would encourage much needed driver development (ATA 100 and SCSI 160 aren't supported for example) without exposing BeOS' private parts. But with six months cash left before the company closes its doors - assuming it doesn't get new financing - Be's got other fish to fry. ® Related Link The Merc's Gassee interview Related Stories Be getting ready to open source BeOS? Open source BeOS clone gives Be a righteous nudge Be axes 25 per cent of staff
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Apr 2001

Canadian Tire fights for right to be called ‘crap’

Tyre retailer Canadian Tire is taking compatriot Mick Mcfadden to WIPO over his Web site, which the corporation feels infringes on its trademark. Nothing new there - if the Web site even contains a majority of the letters of the company name, WIPO will find a way of making Mick hand over the domain. Except that Mick owns www.crappytire.com. You'd think that Crappy Tire was a derogatory name, but not according to Canadian Tire. People call it crappy tire, but they don't mean it in a nasty way, says the company. In fact, it's a kinda loveable nickname that Canadians have for us. And that's why we demand to be handed the URL which clearly infringes our trademark rights. No, honestly, this is what is going on. Madness. The fact is that the company has tried twice to buy the URL off Mr Mcfadden, for $3,000 (£1,340) and $5,000 (£2,230). But he refused on the grounds that he didn't like their attitude. Apparently Mick had originally used the site to take the michael out of Canadian Tire, including an upside down version of its logo. Canadian Tire didn't like it and threatened to sue him, so he took it down but still owns the URL. He then loudly declared that he wouldn't sell it to the company for $1 million - and put it up for sale for $85,000. Desperate, Canadian Tire hit upon the incredible notion that it has rights to the name because that's what people call it colloquially - "impertinent" was the word they used to describe the friendly joshing between the company and Canadians. Well, Mr Tire, we're afraid you can't threaten to sue someone one day and then claim to have a cracking sense of humour the next. It don't work like that. Except, of course, at WIPO. When bored, we occasionally entertain ourselves by reading WIPO "judgments" - which are to an objective legal court what the Pope is to the Taliban. We can hardly wait to see what the WIPO judges come up with on this one. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 18 Apr 2001

TSMC touts ‘reasonably good’ 0.13 micron yield

Not content with boasting about its 0.15 micron process, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company was today claiming significant successes with 0.13 and 0.10 micron technology. TSMC's 0.13 micron efforts must be doing well - the company announced it had achieved "reasonably good" yields on its 0.13 micron 4Mb SRAM test chip, knocked out on 300mm wafers. We're not sure what "reasonably good" actually means, but TSMC is obviously very thrilled by it. More importantly, TSMC is now ready to start producing customers' chips at 0.13 micron - which uses copper interconnects - on a test basis. Meanwhile, TSMC also said it had finished work on test modules for its 0.10 micron process, which it expects to kick off with during Q3 2002. TSMC described this result as the basis for future 0.10 micron development work. Future efforts will centre on defining chip design rules, transistor models and interconnect parameters - essentially making sure that its customers can create chips that can be produced using TSMC's process. ®
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2001

Sun cuts prices of UltraSPARC II servers

Sun Microsystems has announced price cuts for its older mid-range Unix servers as it begins rolling out kit based on its faster UltraSPARC III microprocessors. Prices on mid-range UltraSPARC II systems, including the Enterprise 3500, 4500, 5500 6500 machines, has been cut by between 8 to 16 per cent. Top of the range E10000 servers will now cost 16 per cent less. Additionally, the prices of Capacity On Demand (COD) Sun Enterprise 10000 systems and Right-to-Use licenses were reduced by up to 28 per cent. Sun played down the significance of the announcement which it said was not a response to a slowdown in the server market nor increased competition from rivals like IBM, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard who have recently revamped their product lines. Ian Meakin, a product manager at Sun, said it was "routine" for Sun to announce small price cuts with the introduction of newer technology. Because of currency fluctuations and other factors, Meakin said that Sun's European customers might see price cuts of only around 5 per cent for its kit. Sun has previously come under fire for charging more to Europeans than Americans but Meakin said its pricing policy was consistent with that of the industry and reflected costs like taxes and shipping charges, to say nothing of support. "If customers want to buy from the US and arrange their own transport, delivery, installation and support, there's nothing to stop them doing that," said Meakin. This isn't an approach he recommends however. "Servers can weigh up to half a ton and need specialist handling," said Meakin. Sun last month introduced mid-range servers based on UltraSPARC III, but the release of a replacement for the E10000 will not come until autumn. Despite Sun's assertions to the contrary, early UltraSPARC III systems have been slow to come to the market in volume. While waiting for machines based on newer technology to become more widely available Sun's customers might hold off buying systems. The price cuts could be seen as a means of stimulating demand for UltraSPARC II-based technology in the transition period where Sun's production is moving over to UltraSPARC III. ®
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2001

AOL-Time Warner Net business doing nicely

AOL-Time Warner saw earnings rise for the first quarter, with its number of Net users growing by 16 per cent. The media and Net monster, seemingly unaware that the dotcom economy was in the grips of a downturn, reported cash earnings per share of 23 cents, excluding charges, for the quarter ended March 31, 2001. This compared to the 19 cents per share pro forma figure the previous year. After expenses, including the merger-related costs for the two companies and other charges, the giant posted a net loss of $1.4 billion, or 31 cents per share, slightly less than the net loss of $1.5 billion, or 34 cents per share, a year earlier. Sales grew nine per cent to $9.1 billion. The company said overall revenue from Net subscriptions grew nine per cent to $3.9 billion, advertising and commerce revenues increased ten per cent to $2.1 billion, and content and other revenues reached $3.2 billion. Total subscriptions grew 16 per cent to more than 133 million, with AOL adding two million users during the quarter (bringing its worldwide customer total to 28.8 million). Sales at the ISP for the quarter grew 17 per cent to $2.1 billion, with the average US AOL user spending 70 minutes online per day, compared to 64 minutes a year ago. ® Related Link AOL-Time Warner Q1 statement Related Stories AOL exceeds 29 million users AOL UK bans time AOL and Time Warner deal done
Linda Harrison, 18 Apr 2001

Labour Party in Web security gaffe

The yolk was on the Labour Party when it fell fowl on the most basic laws of common sense and Internet security in a jokey piece on its site attacking the Tories "eggstreme" right-wing policies. An item on New Labour's site called "Tory egg cups expose the Tories' hard-boiled policies" invited supporters to order a range of micky-taking merchandise that depicted Michael Portillo as "uneggonomic" and Anne Widdecombe as "eggscruciating". But the invitation to buy goods in the article contained seriously cracked security advice. Anybody wanting the tacky trinkets (who wants an eggcup with William Hague is "eggstreme" on it anyway?) was invited to "send an email with all your credit card details to shop@new.labour.org.uk" This (from a party in government that wants to make Britain the safest place in the world to do ecommerce) is just about the silliest advice we're heard in months. Considering New Labour Home Secretary Jack Straw launched a multi-million pound Hi-Tech Crime Unit this morning you think it might realise that it's a good idea to protect credit card information sent over the net. To do otherwise is the same as writing your credit card number on a postcard that anyone can see. As it is, Labour's rotten online security leaves surfers scrambling for safety. It's just as well the kit on sale is so naff... ® Related Stories Cybercops are go!
John Leyden, 18 Apr 2001

Netimperative.com extends begging bowl to readers

Netimperative.com, the online news service for British dotcom types, is asking readers to pledge money for subscriptions. The inference is, from the press release it issued today is that the doors will close for good - at least to a daily service, unless it raises enough cash. netimperative.com wants readers to pay £50 for membership (annual? life?) and it says it will convert pledges into cash only if it reaches critical mass. But what is critical mass? The site has an online MembOmeter which calibrates to 1,400 pledges, and has so far reached around 150 or so promises. With 1,400 paying subscribers, netimperative.com would have 70k a year membership income (assuming the company aims to charge annual fees) - but is that enough to fund the company's wage bill (when it went bust last year, following the withdrawal of support by lead investor Durlacher, the publication had 40 or so staff on its books - now it has 17, the FT says.). So that means income from other sources. By turning itself into a paid-for-online-newsletter, the company risks killing banner advertising revenues. Newsletter subscribers are not accustomed to seeing advertising on something they've paid for. And only WSJ.com appears to have pulled off the trick of making people pay ($59 a year, less than the 'membership' fee proposed by netimperative.com) and flogging advertising too. For good banner advertising revenues you need quantity and then you need quality. netimperative.com succeeds on the second score - it has 8,000 or so free-subscribers, but in a highly targeted demographic. But it fails miserably on the first count. netimperative.com says it has some offline content ideas up its sleeve, which will, presumably, bring it into direct competition with New Media Age, the offline market leader, and pretty much unrivalled since the unceremonious departure of Industry Standard Europe last week. Question is: are there enough loyal readers and is it different enough from the NMA for it to make the cut? It won't take long to find out. ® Related stories Durlacher falls on Net Imperative collapse Net Imperative saved at the bell Industry Standard calls time on Europe
Drew Cullen, 18 Apr 2001

Internet .com kills the dotcom

It's official - the dot.com era is over. The owner of the most emblematic dotcom brand of all, internet.com Incorporated is proposing changing its name to the "INTMedia Group Incorporated". And in suitably anti-climatic fashion, the directors propose the change in a turgid SEC filing almost designed not to be read:- "The Board of Directors believes that the inclusion of ".com" as part of a company's name is perceived to reflect the nature of that company as a provider of services or content to users or businesses solely over the Internet. The Board of Directors believes that the Company has grown to provide services to an expanded group of users, and that the Company does not provide these services solely over the Internet. Therefore, the Board of Directors believes that changing the Company's name will more accurately reflect both the Company's current business as well as its strategy to increasingly offer its services to users, merchants and service providers by means other than the Internet," declares the company in a PRE14a filing made last week. 'internet.com' went public at the height of the dot.com euphoria, in summer 1999. Despite references to 'TheRegister.com' on many web sites, we've only ever been The Register. ® Related Stories Internet.com joins Dotcom Firing Range Internet.com buys up EarthWeb sites
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Apr 2001

Kill all the managers! (Let's start with HP)

Hewlett-Packard is to "eliminate" 3,000 managers to cope with a small downturn in business. The company says Q2 sales will be 2-4 per cent lower than Q1, as well as the same period last year. This is the company's second profit warning in just a few weeks - it says it had only "limited visibility" last time around. American business was to blame for profit warning no.1: pesky consumers are to blame for profit warning no.2. Oddly enough, consumers aren't consuming consumables and other consumptive items in anything like the numbers that HP thinks they ought to. The upshot is a $150 million charge against inventory and something called capacity write-downs for consumer products. Consumers are not buying in the US and more worryingly since the sales downturn is not supposed to be here, they are not buying in Europe. Maybe some kind of boycott is going on, only no-one knows? Or maybe, consumers are buying cheaper computers, printers and consumables from other companies. HP notes "growing softness in the retail sector and increasingly competitive pricing moves". Which means that the price premiums it has traditionally commanded in, say, printers and consumables, are eroding. It's kind of interesting that HP has 3,000 managers to sack. Why were they employed in the first place? Is this a computer company, or the Civil Service? ® Related link Press release: HP expects lower Q2 earnings
Drew Cullen, 18 Apr 2001

AMD sales up in soft market

AMD saw profits drop in the first quarter, but still managed to beat analysts' expectations. The No.2 chipmeister, which released its Q1 figures a day after chief rival Intel, saw net income fall 34 per cent to $124.8 million, or 37 cents per diluted share, for the quarter ended April 1 2001. Analysts had expected 33 cents per share. This compared to $189.3 million, or 55 cents per share, for Q1 2000. Sales increased nine per cent to $1.2 billion. PC chip volume sales topped 7.3 million, including 6.5 million seventh-generation Athlon and Duron processors. Total PC processor sales increased 17 per cent to $661 million. "AMD had an excellent quarter in a challenging economic environment," said Jerry Sanders, AMD CEO. "The superiority of our seventh-generation PC processors enabled AMD to achieve record PC processor sales in both dollars and units even as the industry worked through inventory issues in a softening economy." Sales of flash memory dropped ten per cent sequentially to $411 million, "reflecting a sharp decline in demand from the communications sector of the industry," Sanders said. "Our broad product offering, excellent relationships with major customers, and long-term purchase agreements helped to mitigate the effects of this challenging environment and achieve 26 percent growth in flash memory product sales over the like period of 2000," he added, on characteristically optimistic form. AMD expects overall sales in Q2 to be as much as 10 per cent lower than in Q1. In January the chip giant forecast a weak Q1, saying the seasonal downturn would be made worse by an excess of PCs in the distribution channel. Unlike Intel, it was not forced to reduce forecasts for the quarter. "AMD has enough market share to give Intel a run for its money," said Steve Allen, senior analyst with Hotovec Pomeranz & Co. Allen estimated AMD had at least 40 per cent of the market on the consumer side and ten per cent of the business market. "AMD has been outflanking Intel for a while. They've managed to get ahead in the GigaHertz wars, and Gateway has legitimised AMD in the consumer space," said Allen. Intel may have done a good job of keeping AMD out of corporate America so far (the sector is dominated by Intel-only Dell), but with the downturn of the economy businesses may be looking for cheaper chips, he added. "In my opinion, AMD will probably go after the server or workstation market." And who is tipped to jump into bed with the chipmaker? "AMD needs a strong partner. Gateway legitimised them in the desktop market, I think IBM could do it for servers," said Allen. "2001 is going to be a really good year for AMD. And if IBM legitimises AMD for servers, 2002 and beyond will be even better," he added. Last year, AMD saw net income of $983 million on sales up 63 per cent at $4.64 billion, which led Sanders to label 2000 the "best year in its [AMD's] history". The company also reckoned it shipped around 26.5 million units, snatching 17 per cent of overall PC processor market shipments. Yesterday Intel said profits dropped 82 per cent in Q1 compared to the previous year. AMD this week followed Intel's lead by slashing chip prices by up to 34 per cent. ® Related Link AMD Q1 statement Related Stories AMD cuts CPU prices by up to 34 per cent Intel CPU biz 'stabilises' AMD ships 900MHz Duron AMD aims high with mobile roadmap Intel pressure mounts on AMD, Via AMD has wobbly Q4, but damn fine year
Linda Harrison, 18 Apr 2001

Elonex wins power saving, money making patent claim

For a short time, in the very early 1990s, Elonex was the UK's biggest PC maker. The north London-based firm rode the direct marketing boom better than anyone esle. And unlike most of its rivals, the company actually designed its own technology, even making its own mobos. This industriousness paid off with a clutch of intellectual property rights/claims, most notably over power management technology used in many monitors. A few years ago, this secretive company established a subsidiary to exercise these rights. And in 1999, this sub issued its first writs. The company has now won a useful battle with the decision of Taiwanese monitor firm Mag Technology to settle. Terms of the agreement, arranged through the Delware courts, have not been released. But money will be changing hands. It will also strengthen Elonex's litigious hand against other companies which include Compaq, NEC, Gateway and LG, according to Bloomberg. Elonex still makes PCs in the UK and it is a major shareholder in Web development firm Entranet But you don't hear much of its system-building/network installation activities these days. Stand-by IP has to be where it's at! ®
Drew Cullen, 18 Apr 2001