3Com, the increasingly harassed networking equipment vendor, is scrapping production of DSL and cable modems for the consumer market. "There is an industry-wide glut of consumer cable and DSL modems that has driven down prices and margins", according to the company which says the decision conforms to its previously stated intention to withdraw from markets where "lack the potential to deliver superior growth and financial returns". 3Com will retain a presence in business DSL and cable modems and will honour all warranties on discontinued product lines. 3Com announced this plan on the publication of revised financial performance guidelines for Q4. The company now estimates that sales will be $450m to $475m. Lower sales means higher inventories in 3Com's case, and the company is taking a charge to cover this. Add this to one-time charges for restructuring and the result is margins that are "expected to be negative". On the bright side, 3Com has reduced operating expenses faster than expected. It expects to have $1.5bn-$1.6bn in cash and equivalents when it announces its Q4 results on June 26. According to 3Com, business conditions deteriorated in its fourth quarter. But the company says that it is "taking the steps necessary to achieve future profitability in this unfavorable climate". All well and good, but 3Com operates essentially a scale business. It built an enormous business on the back of commodity networking cards. Now the business is not so huge. Scale down too much, withdraw from too many market sectors, and it becomes increasingly vulnerable to bigger competitors. ®
Here is an example where determination to deliver short-term shareholder value could harm long-term company success. Compaq CEO Michael Capellas is reported to be pulling his company out of the PC price war. According to CW360.com, Capellas told analysts at Merrill Lynch last week that there were no more price cut plans, and Compaq would walk away from deals where pricing was too low. In other words it is prepared to lose market share to Dell rather than take a loss on hardware sales. This will please Wall Street... but is it wise? Compaq will end up making Dell stronger. The risk is that this will leave Compaq weaker. Compaq already ceded the crown to Dell as the world's biggest PC manufacturer, earlier this year. It has already told analysts that it would no longer focus on being the world's biggest PC maker (just as well, really), and now it says it won't fight all the way on price. In the last major PC price war in the early 1990s, Compaq, under Eckhard Pfeiffer, led the way, killing off huge numbers of competitors. This time it is Dell's turn to drive down prices. Trouble is, when Compaq loses tenders against Dell, it (and its resellers) gains an increasingly serious competitor in its corporate accounts for high-margin server and storage business. Dell has declared its intention to torch network storage prices - there is an awful lot of margin fat to burn. ®
Microsoft will be able to subvert the content of any Web page with Smart Tags, which will act much like hyperlinks to Web content which Redmond either recommends, or is paid to recommend, if the company integrates the technology with its Windows-XP browser, as predicted in an article from Thursday's Wall Street Journal. Smart Tags are already included in Office-XP, enabling users to implant a hyperlink-esque reference into data files using XML (Extensible Markup Language), and may be rather handy at that; but integrating them into the XP version of Internet Explorer opens up an entire new realm of on-line commercial perversions. Assuming the Journal's prediction holds true, we can imagine, for example, that if this page were being viewed with a Smart-Tag-enabled browser, our reference to XML above could be highlighted automatically, inviting readers to pop over to Microsoft's own PR output, cheerfully burbling about its miraculous benefits. On the other hand, we might prefer to refer our readers to a Web page denouncing XML; but whether we would or not, it ought to be our own editorial judgment which determines what links will and won't appear on our pages. Furthermore, a reference, say, to a certain popular, white crystalline nose-rotting powder might inspire a Smart-Tag link to an advertisement for a certain carbonated water, sugar and caramel-color tooth-rotting drink known by the same name. We're not sure we like the idea of generating copy that can be automatically converted into advertising for which we're not getting paid. And we don't imagine our venerable advertisers are going to be especially thrilled about it either. The Smart Tag browser feature will be turned off by default in the XP final release, and MS will provide a meta tag that site owners can use to prevent Smart Tags from appearing on their sites, the Journal says. And it will of course be possible for MS' competitors to create their own Smart Tags, but we wonder what that really means when the vast majority of surfers are going to be taken for a ride around the Web on Microsoft's virtual conveyances. In all, this sounds like a grotesquely tasteless bit of consumerist schlock of the sort MS just adores; and we haven't begun to contemplate the security implications of Smart Tags in combination with maliciously-crafted Web pages. But we know our beloved readers will rise to the challenge and propose a plethora of devious mis-uses for Redmond's most recent on-line marketing toy. ® Related Story Smart tagging in Office XP -- what Melissa did next?
Intel stuck with its sales forecasts when it released mid-quarter financial guidance yesterday. The company's shares gained five per cent, reaching $32.61, on the news. During the day, it rose four per cent. The chip giant dismissed analysts' claims that it would be forced to cut its $6.2-6.8 billion revenue estimate for Q2 2001. Some Intel watchers believe that the company will have a hard time fulfilling its prediction thanks to the downturn in the world semiconductor market. Intel re-affirmed its previous prediction, claiming its Q2 sales will fall "slightly below the mid-point of the range". CFO Andy Bryant said Intel's CPU business was now stable. However, he added, the comms chip business had yet to end its decline. There's no doubt about the downturn, but some observers believe that Intel is betting on strong pre-Q3 orders this month to lift what otherwise would have been a below-expectations quarter. With the chip industry itself predicting a slow return to growth through the second half of 2001, Intel really only needs to weather Q2. June will see the company shipping Tualatin, its 0.13 micron die-shrink Pentium III processor which it hopes will sell particularly well into the mobile sector. ® Related Stories Intel's first mid-quarter report to trim sales forecast Chip sales to fall 14% in 2001 Intel Tualatin to replace Coppermine, fast
PDA maker Handspring halved its quarterly sales forecast yesterday, a sign that Palm's woes are not entirely of its own making. Handspring said it now expects to make between $60 million and $65 million for the quarter, the fourth of the company's current fiscal year. That's significantly down on Q3's $123.8 million and the $136 million it had originally forecast for Q4. First Call's poll of Wall Street shows analysts were expecting only a dip of $500,000. To blame, the company says, are the price cuts it has been forced to make following Palm's reductions, designed to help erode its mountain of unsold older models. Handspring also noted a severe drop in customer demand over the last couple of months. Palm only has itself to blame for screwing up its transition from the older Palm Vx PDA to the new, flash m500 and m505, by announcing the latter and then not shipping them for months. However, the dramatic fall in demand that Handspring notes is surely a broader problem. Corporate IT belt-tightening is the likely cause. Palm's decision to back away from its planned merger with corporate PDA integration specialist Extended Systems - and Extended's subsequent job cuts - point to that. It certainly explains Handspring's recent attempt to flog off kit to developers by offering a 15 per cent discount on its high-end models. It's also the motivation behind Handspring's $100 rebate on its Visor Edge product offered to US-based owners of older PDAs. When it even makes the offer to folk with dusty old unused Apple Newton MessagePads tucked away in cupboards, you know times are hard. ® Related Stories Handspring offers developers 15% discount Handspring revenue growth defies market trend Palm halves Q4 revenue guidance, doubles loss
IBM has figured out how to boost processor speeds by up to 35 per cent for a given transistor size and clock speed. That said, we'll have to wait until 2003 to see it in commercially available chips. The new technique, which will be detailed in a paper to be presented at the Symposium on VLSI technology, held in Kyoto next week, forces silicon atoms further apart than they would naturally be by aligning them with a wide grid of substrate atoms. This stretching of the bond between each silicon atom - known as 'straining' in the silicon chemistry trade - has the handy effect of reducing the substance's resistance. The upshot? Electrons flow more freely - they move up to 70 per cent more quickly, IBM's boffins claim - and so chips operate more quickly too. It also reduces a chip's power requirements. With faster electrons, you need less of a potential difference (the core's voltage) to drive them. And it "should give us at least a couple of years' lead over the rest of the industry", claimed IBM Microelectronics semiconductor development VP Bijan Davari in a Reuters report. Davari said he wants to get the technology to market as quickly as possible. If it is indeed commercialised, the 'straining' technique will join copper interconnects and silicon-on-insulator as a key processor production process pioneered by IBM. ® Related Boffinry IBM skips through HDD Land with pixie dust Boffins make silicon shine Intel plans $1500 10GHz PC Semiconductors trip the plastic fantastic Chip biz challenged to develop molecular CPUs Boffins pave way for optical transistor Boffins unveil 'instant download' chip
Two of the US' leading ISPs are to merge to create North America's second largest service provider in a deal worth $70 million. NetZero and Juno - which have seven million active customers between them - will be second to AOL but ahead of MSN, EarthLink, and AT&T Worldnet. The new merged ISP will be renamed United Online. Both ISPs offer predominantly subscription-free services relying heavily on advertising revenue, although the newly merged ISP will also boast one million paying punters. United Online plans to market its subscription-free services under the NetZero brand and its billable service under Juno. The strategy appears to rely on attracting punters to the "free" service before persuading them to dip into their pockets and upgrade to a premium service. Mark R Goldston, the current chairman and CEO of NetZero, and the new chairman, president and CEO of United Online, said: "This merger brings together two leaders in the rapidly growing value segment of the Internet access market. "Both companies have built widely recognised consumer brands that we plan to continue to leverage as we work to attract new users and upsell our current subscribers to higher levels of service and revenue. "As the second-largest ISP in the United States, United Online should represent a very attractive audience for the nation's largest marketers and advertisers. "Equally important, we expect the merger of our two companies to generate significant synergies that will result in increased financial strength, numerous operating efficiencies and an improved user experience." The merger is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The reorganisation is expected to cost between $20 million and $25 million. For the quarter ended 31 March 31 2001, the companies' combined quarterly revenues totalled $41.5 million. Revenues from billable services accounted for $24.7 million (60 per cent) of total combined revenues, with the remaining $16.8 million derived from advertising and e-commerce. The companies' combined cash balances as of 31 March 2001 stood at $209.8 million. ®
The UK's three major broadband suppliers have told The Register they have no plans to introduce any usage limits for customers. Neither BT, or cable companies ntl and Telewest currently impose quotas, all three told El Reg today. And none of them have any plans to impose any usage restrictions - although none was prepared to rule it out completely. The assurances follow in the wake of the decision by Australian broadband provider, Telstra BigPond, to limit the amount of usage for residential users to just 3GB of data a month. BigPond said the limits - due to come into force on July 5 - were imposed because a small number of users were effectively hogging the service. BigPond reckons its decision will not hit the majority of users. However, the move has angered users, who've set up an online petition to try and get BigPond to reverse its decision. Several readers have told El Reg that the petition is no longer accessible from a Big Pond account. Some critics have suggested that it would have been simpler to simpler to evict the five per cent of users BigPond said were abusing the service. The events in Australia raised some concerns among broadband users in the UK that operators here might follow BigPond's lead and impose restrictions. ® Related Story Aussies revolt over broadband cap
There was a glimmer of good news for failed dotcom Gameplay today, with news that it has successfully sold its Spanish boxed games division to high street chain Electronics Boutique for £3.4 million. This is somewhat higher than the £1 that the UK boxed games division raised in a management buy-out that must have been paid for by hunting for loose change down the back of the sofa cushions. Sadly it's all been too little too late though, with Reuters reporting that most of Gameplay's remaining staff of 80 have now been laid off, with only a skeleton crew remaining onboard to prepare for the eventual sale of what is left of the dotcom to other companies. Shares were down again on the news, reaching another all-time low of under 3p. And there is still no report of any prospective buyers for the company's technology division, which includes popular online gaming service provider Wireplay, formerly part of British Telecom. ® Copyright © 2001, Eurogamer.net. All rights reserved
As of June 11, Yoshio Sakai will be President and Chief Operating Officer of Sega Europe, the company announced today. Sakai will shortly be moving to London to take up the post at Sega's West London HQ. His predecessor, Kazutoshi Miyake, intends to move elsewhere in the industry, but will remain at Sega Europe as an advisory to Sakai in the short-term. Sakai is said to be "delighted" about the state of affairs, and who can blame him. "This is a challenging time for Sega Europe, the transition from a hardware business to a multi-platform business continues and I have a great deal to do in restructuring Sega Europe for a profitable future," he said in a statement. "My first task will be to develop a business model in line with our new multi platform strategy and I will be looking to ensure that our invaluable know-how is redirected in the most productive manner." Yoshio Sakai has been a main board director of Sega Enterprises for several years, and also occupies a place on the board of Isao, Sega's Japan-based network company. ® Copyright © 2001, Eurogamer.net. All rights reserved
ReviewReview Handspring made its name by coming up with a Palm clone that went one better - offering improved expansion options in the shape of Springboard modules, plus a USB connection at a lower price. However, with the Visor Edge, it looks more like the innovator has turned imitator. The VisorEdge looks uncannily similar to the Palm V, with its brushed metal case and slim silhouette. However, it is playing catch up a bit too late as Palm has already announced the latest additions to its m500 series, and the Visor Edge's specification of 8MB of memory and 33MHz DragonBall VZ processor adds nothing that these don't also offer. The Visor Edge is the slimmest Visor to date at just 11mm, and it looks very slick. However, we were less than impressed by the detachable metal cover for the mono screen. This comes in three metallic covers - red, blue and silver - but is rather awkward to use, as it doesn't flip all the way back over the unit. It is also a pain if you use Springboard modules, as you must detach it and attach the slot to add these - not a very elegant solution. The VisorEdge comes with the extras you’d expect, including a USB docking cradle, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and infrared port. On the software side, Handspring provides Graffiti handwriting recognition tools, a diary, to-do list, contacts book, world clock, calculator and memo pad, plus the Palm Desktop package for use on your computer. The Visor Edge is a good-looking device, but we'd hold off before buying as the Palm m500 might well be the better deal. ® Info Price: £271 Contact: 020 7309 0134 Website: www.handspring.co.uk Specs Operating System: PalmOS Weight: 136g Ram: 8MB Screen Size: 160x160 Colour: No Dimensions: 119x79x11mm Modem: No This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved
The Church of England has told its bishops to get with the real world, learn about computers, office management and cut down on their lavish spending. A report, commissioned by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, has taken two years to compile and considered why some clergy were living on the poverty line while some £16 million a year was being spent on looking after the Church's ranks. The cost of running a bishop has jumped ten per cent in the last year - five times inflation - and smaller numbers of churchgoers are being asked to stump up the difference. The Church has therefore decided that bishops should stop living a life of splendour and behave a little more in keeping with their modern-day level of influence. This means out go the chauffeurs to be replaced with taxis. Smaller houses in less expensive areas. Less on gardeners. Asking the missus to act as a secretary (if she has the skills). Cutting down on lavish hospitality (consecrations come in at £2,250 a pop). And so on. It also calls for the boys to be trained in using computers, although the Internet still seems not to have entered the clergy's consciousness. The idea, presumably, is to turn the upper ranks into lean, mean preaching machines. Good luck. ® Factoids In 1999, the Church spent £11.8 million in running costs Your average bishop will cost you £100,000 a year, although the range is from £45,000 to £130,000. For this you get a 24-hour on-call representative of God with a funny hat. A medical consultant would be looking at the same sort of money but with physical rather than spiritual healing skills. It costs £3.3 million a year to house the clergy. £725,000 to tend their gardens There's 113 senior clerics in the UK
AMD is chasing double-digit marketshare in the low-end server and workstation market, according to the chip company's VP for workstation and server marketing, Ed Ellett. AMD's thinking on this one is interesting. According to Ellett's comments, reported by DigiTimes, IBM and Sun will dither over whether they should stick with the x86 architecture or pull out of the market. Their indecision, says Ed, will allow AMD to get in there and - since AMD doesn't make servers, but Sun and IBM do - persuade those companies' rivals to adopt AMD's Athlon MP processor. The reason for this uncertainty on the part of IBM and Sun, says Ellett, is the falling price of x86-based servers. Of course, exactly the same opportunity - if it is such, and we're not as sure about it as Ellett appears to be - applies to Intel, through its well-establised Pentium III Xeon and the new Xeon parts, based on the Pentium 4 architecture. And surely Intel will be working very hard to promote Xeon, not only to stitch up its arch-rival but to help recover the margins it's lost by slashing the prices of its desktop P4 line soo aggressively. AMD has still to announce any big-name workstation or server vendors who have decided to use the Athlon MP. Intel, on the other hand, has lined up well-known (ie. big selling) customers for Xeon, including... er... IBM. IBM is also supporting Itanic, which is at least nominally aimed at all sectors of the server market. Unlike Intel, however, AMD has nothing to lose, since it has almost zero presence in the server market as it is (thanks to NEC, there is an Athlon-based server out there, but it's based on the older Thunderbird core, not the new Palomino-based part). Whatever marketshare it gains is a extra business, and it can easily boast a massive increase in server marketshare even if it signs only a small percentage of server vendors. To make a real contribution to AMD's bottom line, though, it's got to get some of the top-tier vendors on board. ® Related Stories AMD unveils MP Athlon - but no big-name partners AMD touts 'modest revenue growth' Related Link DigiTimes: AMD expects to grab double-digit share in server and workstation market by year-end
VIA is going to issue $300-500 million worth of shares on the New York Stock Exchange, the culimination of a scheme it announced some time ago but got cold feet thanks to the dotcom crash and the decline in the semiconductor market. The chipset maker has revived its plan on the back of expectations that the global chip biz will begin to start growing again through the second half of 2001. However, the first half has been so bad - Q2 in particular, with industry players' comments on it ranging from "very bad" to "disastrous" - that even modest growth in Q3 and Q4 will only bring the annual decline to around 14 per cent. Still, VIA reckons, the time is right to reconsider its US listing, and it has engaged the services of Credit Suisse First Boston and others to manage the rights issue. "The sooner we kick off the sale, the better It'll be for us to expand," said an unnamed VIA executive, according to DigiTimes. The shares to be offered will be American Depository Receipts, and they will be offered sometime in the second half of the year. To date, VIA's 2001 sales have totalled $480 million, around 36 per cent of its target for the year. ®
Infineon has declared that 2003 will be the year of DDR SDRAM. Two years down the line, DDR will have taken 50 per cent of the memory market and displaced single-rate SDRAM as the leading memory product, the company says, according to DigiTimes. At the same time, Infineon will be reducing its focus on memory products from accounting for around 45 per cent of its revenue to under 30 per cent, the chip maker said. So what's taking DDR so long? The relative scarcity of DDR-based chipsets, apparently. Prices may fall to within a gnat's willy of the cost of SDRAM by the end of 2001 - or so many DDR players, such as Micron, predict - but the big leap won't come until Pentium 4 chipsets that use DDR memory come to market. What DDR chipsets there are are aimed at the AMD Athlon. But for all AMD's success in growing its marketshare, DDR has only around five per cent of the memory market. VIA is pushing ahead with its unofficial - inasmuchas Intel hasn't given the product its blessing - P4+DDR chipset, the P4X266, as are SIS and Acer with their Intel-okayed parts, but none are likely to ship before Q4, sources close to the companies have said. Come 2002, however, and the arrival of the DDR version of Intel's 845 chipset, aka Brookdale, and DDR usage will increase considerably, Infineon reckons. Memory's shift to a lower contribution to Infineon's overall revenues will come, the company said, as a product of falling prices and a move to grow its networking and wireless comms chip businesses. Infineon expects these three areas to each contribute just under a third of its overall revenues. ® Related Links DigiTimes: Infineon: DDR will be the mainstream product in 2003 and Infineon to reduce DRAM revenue proportion to 30%
EU ministers yesterday gave their backing to plans to make manufacturers pay to recycle electronic equipment. Ministers met in Luxembourg and approved a draft law for the Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, today's FT reports. The agreement will make vendors pay to collect and dispose of unwanted products, such as PCs and laptops. It aims to get countries to guarantee that at least 4kg of such waste will be collected per person every year. Orgalime, Europe's representative group of electronic manufacturers, estimates that implementing the waste directive will cost the sector 7.5 billion euros annually. The industry also believes there will be one-off costs totalling 55 billion euros related to setting up the recycling scheme before the directive comes into force. ® Related Stories EU inches towards PC recycling levy E-Minister slams IT recycling plans PC makers - or garbage collectors?
Sony's peripherals division has followed 'big five' recording company EMI's lead and signed a deal that effectively legitimises copying music onto blank CDs. Sony Electronics today said it has licensed online music company MusicMatch's Jukebox software and will bundle it with internal and external Sony CD-R and CD-RW burners. Initially, seven models will ship with Jukebox, but all of them will include the code by the end of the year. Jukebox competes with software from RealNetworks and Apple's iTunes applicatin for Mac users. The CD burning compnent of RealNetworks is provided by Roxio, the Adaptec spin-off that has caused a furore among Windows 2000 with the poor state of its Easy CD Creator software's support for that OS. Roxio this week joined with EMI to develop a secure way to download tracks for burning straight to CD. The terms of the Sony/MusicMatch deal were not disclosed, but we note that a spokesman told Reuters the company would see its 2001 revenues come in at more than double 2000's figure of $10 million. Sony must be contributing significantly to that extra $10 million. ® Related Stories Napster signs away its soul Easy CD Creator affecting Win9x machines as well Stop! Don't install Easy CD Creator 5 til you read this story
WinXP diariesWinXP diaries Earlier this week Microsoft released a 'final' public interim build of Windows XP, prior to producing Release Candidate 1 in about ten days time. One of the more interesting things about this build, 2481, is that at this point Microsoft has decided to freeze the new user interface, so at least theoretically it has the look and feel of the final shipping product. But 2481 has other significant features, and not very welcome ones at that - the Beast, it would appear, has awakened. Although I'd intended to take a look at 2481 anyway, I was driven to do so yesterday by a series of Microsoft-triggered events, of which more anon. For the moment, suffice to say that if you're running beta 2 (build 2462) and you spot that there's a critical update for it on Windows Update, just don't install it, OK? Don't. First looks at 2481 kind of leave you wondering where the radical new UI that was hyped to the skies all those month ago actually went. What we've got now is pretty similar to the UI in the pre-beta 2 code, and that's just a bit of rearranging of folder structures into something somebody thinks is more logical. Alongside this there's the 'bubble up' system on the start menu that presents the most used apps first. Aside from that the icons have been twiddled with and - the most obvious big difference between 2481 and 2462 - there are no icons on the desktop. None of this seems particularly hard or radical to me. I keep trying to benefit from the new folder structures, but I keep giving up and switching to classic view so I can get things done. The bubble up I quite like, but the clear desktop is just plain silly, and the bolt-on that's intended to keep it clear is sillier still. It pops up at irregular intervals, tells you you've got icons on your desktop you haven't used for a while, and asks if it can throw them away please. This can happen just after you've installed a program so, gosh-wow, you've never used that icon. Yet. This wizard is related to Clippy. But the real news of 2481 is the amount of 'no more Mr Nice Redmond' that's infiltrated it. It looks distinctly likely that all of that stuff you were paranoid about is getting switched on at last. The 'cookie minder' privacy settings have finally been switched on, putting Doubleclick et al squarely in the crosshairs, MP3 has been practically outlawed, numerous Microsoft services are more in your face than ever, and the search dialogue has sprouted a ruddy animated dog. The wretched mut will surely turn out to be the greatest irritant, but it's the least of your worries. Cutting Cookies the Microsoft Way The privacy system incorporates P3P, the idea of this being that sites will carry standard privacy statements in a format that can be understood by the browser, which can then decide what the user wants to do with the site, depending on the preferences they've already set. In The Register's view this is pure, pointless hokum that we'll only support under protest if the system takes off. As far as IE6 is concerned, the loaded aspect of the privacy settings is the preset default, which is where the vast majority of users are going to leave them. In 2481 the default is medium, and this declines to accept third party cookies. Taking The Register as an example, this will block the cookie for a Doubleclick ad, this being a third party cookie. This might well strike you as a good thing, but consider the consequences. Most sites that fund themselves via advertising are dependent on third party organisations like Doubleclick. Very large Web operations, like for example Microsoft, needn't be because they have the resources to do the ad serving themselves, so they can manage without third party cookies. So by happy coincidence, you could say, Microsoft's cookie defender activities will tend to help Microsoft while hurting smaller rivals. But maybe not quite yet. The Register certainly had a stabbing pain in the corporate wallet when IE blocked one Doubleclick cookie from our front page, but a quick check of the MSN UK homepage (which of course installs as the default homepage for UK users when you install XP) revealed nine blocked cookies. We're entirely unable to check to see if this works for MSN US as well, because even with all cookying switched off and security at high, IE still redirects us to msn.co.uk. So Microsoft is taking the precaution of not needing cookies anyway. One last thing on MSN. The URL that flashes by on the way the the MSN UK homepage is as follows: http://www.msn.co.uk/webinclude/migratecookiesacrossdomains.asp?URL=/Default.asp I don't know what it means, but it sounds sinister. MP3 gets the E In the form that shipped with 2462, Windows Media Player is uninspiring but largely unthreatening. It seemed to give up whining about not being the default pretty fast, and although Microsoft had thoughtfully sabotaged the quality of MP3 recording to make its own WMA format look good, you could set it to use MP3 rather than WMA. But not any more you can't. It's possible - I haven't checked yet - that some registry fiddling will let you use MP3 again, but out of the box WMP is now hard-wired as WMA only, with the box you used to use to change format greyed over. Next to this is something that is if anything even more despicable. It's a button labelled MP3 Information. Click on it and it takes you straight to the WMP home page, which didn't actually have any MP3 information on it when I looked. But presumably in the shipping version of WinXP you'll go straight to one of the many 'why MP3 stinks and why WMA is great' pages Microsoft hosts. Shortly after this shock discovery I tripped over a couple of idiocies that illustrate why WMP/WMA aren't great, and why they should be avoided. I checked the unbootable but still readable 2462 partition for an MP3 file, to confirm that WMP still actually plays MP3, which it does. Try to play a WMA file on that partition though, and it doesn't - it reports I don't have a licence for this music, even with the 'protect my music' box unchecked (you can still uncheck this, but for how much longer?). The reason for this is that WMP is still busily managing your licences whatever you do to the preferences settings. The 'licence' for the particular track I was trying to play is something that the unbootable 2462 partition is aware of (although WMP still officially insists it isn't licensed, because it was copied from an audio CD). The new 2481 partition doesn't know about it, however, so won't play it. WMP gets around this little silliness, but only sort of, via a backup and restore system. So for example if I'd had to reinstall after a machine failure and wanted my music back, I'd simply restore the backed up licence data. But what about this scenario? On your home network you've collected all you favourite tracks and recorded them on a big, fat hard disk. The licence data is on that machine, so if you want to listen to them from another machine in another room, you can't, unless you start cloning the licence data on that machine. Which is presumably tricky. So in snuggling up to the record industry by making it difficult for people to pass around copied music in WMA format, Microsoft has torpedoed one of the most obvious applications for PC-based home entertainment. Aside from these little difficulties, there's something shifty about the licence backup and restore procedure as well. When you try to restore, XP goes into one of those little routines where it uses the web to link up to something you don't know about to do something it's not telling you about, then it tells you it's OK for them to be restored. A close relation of product activation? Is there a database of offenders and compromised licences out there already, or is it just getting you used to the idea before the system gets switched on? There's probably quite a lot more of this sort of stuff in 2481, but unfortunately my installation is sufficient of a dog for it to border on unusable. I'll try it on a different machine next, and see if it turns out to be a little more stable. ®
Transmeta has been awared a US Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star gong for services to energy efficiency. The chip maker joins AMD, which won an EPA award earlier this year for its PowerNow! technology and support for DDR SDRAM. It's the processor producer's LongRun technology that has got the EPA all excited, it seems. LongRun, part of Transmeta's Crusoe CPU, dynamically adjusts Crusoe's clock frequency according to the needs of the application the chip is running. The EPA also likes Crusoe's code-morphing techonology, which, apart from converting x86 instructions on the fly into Crusoe's native VLIW code, can regulate the CPU's voltage, again saving power. Says a glowing comment from the EPA's Energy Star product manager, Craig Hershberg: "Transmeta has made a significant, innovative contribution to energy efficiency and power management with the development of the Crusoe microprocessor." "Transmeta's development of code-morphing technology and LongRun power management has made it possible to drastically reduce the Crusoe microprocessor's power consumption without sacrificing performance," Hersheybar continues. Not, of course, that Transmeta is actually contributing much to energy conservation in real terms. For all the advantages of LongRun and code morphing, there aren't exactly that many notebooks out there drawing less power out of the mains while their batteries are recharging, or Crusoe-based servers sucking fewer amps while hosting Web sites etc. Or are there? Says the EPA release: "The EPA also noted that Transmeta's innovative approach to microprocessor design is enabling many Energy Star Partners to meet program energy-efficiency specifications." That would suggest that there are rather more Crusoe-based systems being developed than we had previously thought. Either that or there really aren't that many Energy Star Partners out there too... ® Related Story AMD PowerNow! wins EPA gong
Employees using Windows 2000 Professional gain around two hours a week in productivity, a report claims. The survey by Giga Information Group/Sunbelt Software found Windows 2000 Professional was up to 83 per cent more reliable than Windows 95, 80 per cent more than Windows 98, and 59 per cent more than NT Workstation 4.0. Windows 2000 Server was also a hot favourite among the 1,200 IT professionals quizzed for the survey. It cut unnecessary server reboots by 64 per cent compared with Window NT Server 4.0. However, the server OS did not fare so well against products from rival Unix. According to the respondents, Windows 2000 Server required 300 per cent more unnecessary reboots than Unix. Giga analyst Laura DiDio said computer users who switched from Windows 9x/NT Workstation to Windows 2000 Professional got an average of an extra 1.8 hours of productivity time per week. Meanwhile, companies say they were confused by clashing product releases, and therefore postponed buying the latest systems. ® Related Link Giga release Related Stories Win2k for Alpha lurks in MS cubicles Delphi dumps W2k, downgrades to NT4
Since the unexpected demise of anti-spam company ORBS, there has been quite some discussion on the news.admin.net-abuse.email and spam-l newsgroups. Several people have thrown themselves and their egos into the mix, vowed to take on the mantle of ORBS and to lead it into the future (only the Doctor changes, the Tardis remains the same). One has gone so far as to produce a blueprint for a new ORBS. But despite the various grand plans being drawn up, the current owner of the ORBS list, Alan Brown, has dismissed efforts so far as "ego wanking". One - Michael Rawls, a sysadmin for Dancris Telecom (a US ISP), who once found a minor defect in an email program - posted: "A replacement for ORBS is in the works. The domain name has been registered. The code is being tested, and the web page is being built. The server is already on-line. Currently it is testing and updating the existing ORBS database. I'll release more details and the official domain name as the project evolves." Chris Fuhrman, a techie at call centre specialist Twenty First Century Communications, has uploaded a pdf file of his Relay Abuse Deterrent System (RADS) vision, although it has been roundly criticised by other posters (and all the main "rads" URLs have already gone). And this is the crunch. The whole ORBS/MAPS/anti-spam company debate over the last few years has centered almost entirely on the rules of engagement. Every prospective new entry to the market has a new way of approaching an old problem. What all of them have forgotten, as one poster pointed out, is that without "a very, very, very thick skin" none of them stand a chance. Another good point is that if you wish to be an active anti-spammer i.e. look for possible problems rather than wait for them to happen, you need to be based somewhere where litigation isn't a reflex action. That rules out the US and now Australia and New Zealand. (The UK still looks like a fair bet to us, but best to find some offshore tax haven.) Also stirring up trouble was John Warren, the president of Warren Engineering in California (but where's the Web site?) and Julian Haight from SpamCop (but he's too busy at the moment). The point is that Alan Brown still owns ORBS, it's his baby, and any other new ORBS will either be out of date or will require a huge amount of effort and strife. ORBS has always been the in-your-face anti-spam company: who will realistically take on the mantle when such characters as Alan Hodgson and Alan Brown have been battered? According to an email from Alan Brown, there is still hope for his version: "ORBS has multiple hosting offers. I can't take them up for the same reason I can't talk to you about things," he told us in an email. Despite all this negativity though, Mr Brown still accepts that if someone sets something up and gets the backing (a tough call) then it'll be a success. We watch and wait. ® Related Stories ORBS' death: Alan Brown replies ORBS is dead. Again
Microsoft rebuts XP Net instability claims MS may well have rebutted them 'thar Net instability claims, but this is what Kisai has to say on the matter: Having had to service Windows machines of all ages and versions, I can tell you that unless the OEM installs all the service packs before the machine is bought, the user will 99% of the time not even be aware that service packs are needed. For instance, All the windows 95 machines I've ever seen, not only were "stock" patch levels, but there was lack of anti-virus software as well, guess what nasty surprises there were in a lot of these machines? Then there is Windows 98/98SE/ME machines that come preconfigured for the internet. Many of these machines are also stock, with the occasional firewall or antivirus program that the user doesn't know how to use. What about Windows NT4 or 2000? I honestly have never had to service any of these machines except to install software/service packs on them. The rest of the time they run fine, even with clueless users sitting at them. The key point with Windows NT is that because the OS can restrict the user, it also restricts trojans and viruses ability to damage and spread. Case study: The college I went to. One lab of Windows 98 machines: Antivirus: Stock Norton Antivirus 4, never been updated Patch level: Nothing. Random machines have ICQ, trojans, viruses, warez servers, distributed processing clients, and other "resource wasting" software running on them. Anyone who sits down at the machine need do nothing more than hit "Cancel" on the login prompt to do whatever they wished with the machine. The next user who logs into the network properly will also wind up unleashing any junk that the user who didn't login installed onto the network. Win32.CIH virus's were on 50% of the machines when I manually updated the virusscanner (and in some cases the virus scanner was damaged and wouldn't work anyways.) I must really say that whatever they were paying the network admin isn't worth it. Now take the Windows NT4 lab: Patch Level: Whatever the latest was at the time, SP4 or 5 probably. Probably because the video drivers insist on at least SP3 being present. Nothing else, no patches to office suite, internet explorer or any other program they had on the system. However, try to write to the hard drive, and you get denied. Whoever setup the NT lab knows what they were doing. Unlike the 98Lab. So this restricts all the junk to the current session only. The NT lab was much more efficient to use than the 98 lab, which was not usable from my perspective. Now in the last scenario, the Stock Windows 95 (not OSR2), No service packs, Norton 4 (stock) in the library. These machines were the slowest things in the school. These also had all the exact same problems the 98 lab had, with the addition of BSOD's almost hourly. Of course, the librarian's "technician" didn't have the slightest clue what I was talking about. As far as she was concerned, the computers were supposed to do that. *sigh* Which lead me to withdraw from the "computer" program they had, since I clearly knew more than the instructors, assistants, technicans and network administrators did about the computers. The only things that actually worked as far as I was concerned was their servers. The danger lies in the fact that not only "technically iliterate" customers buying XP, but the fact that colleges, businesses and universites will buy the cheapest version which isn't very secure (instead of the professional version.) This results in a false sense of security overall. And these are the people you trust to educate , when they don't know what they are teaching? Another case: Insurance company, all running Windows 95 or 98, No antivirus software at all. Running everything from 386s to Pentium II's. They were not even aware that their server had run out of disk space. I think their only salvation from their entire computer systems collapsing was that they ran all their internet off a 56K modem that only connected on demand. They didn't do much (or any email.) And yes, no service packs or patches had ever been applied to any of the computers. High School: All Win3.1 or 95 machines (Not OSR2) No service packs No patches They were all running netscape through a proxy server. They have to perform yearly reinstalls because the technican is to computer illiterate to figure out how to delete the profiles directory. Everyone who logged into the computer would wind up creating a 2MB (before temp files) profile directory on the machine, multiply this by 800 students... and everything that was downloaded or worked on wound up saved to the hard drive. Because they hid all drives with the profile system (to so called prevent people from messing with the computer) the computer illiterate students and teachers would save it wherever the program defaulted to. This all comes back to the fact that because Microsoft doesn't put any kind of security in their baseline software to prevent "stupidity by the masses" they just contribute to the problem by producing unsafe software. I plan to keep my Windows 2000 Pro and preventing other people from using it without my permission through the simple fact that there is a login screen that refuses access ALWAYS. Not like windows 95/98/me that you can "cancel" and have instant access to the machine. I will not be downgrading to WindowsXP consumer version, nor do I plan to ever spend the outragous amount of money to purchase another windows license. This is the end of the road. Righto. Any questions?
PC parrot drives firemen crazy Screensavers, eh? How much more mischief can they cause? Plenty, according to David Thatcher: Ha! I have a story to tell about screensavers. I was in Alaska, and went to optimize a friend's Packard Bell. I helped them load a screen saver that featured a dog howling at the moon. Well, I get a call several days later, their dog, agitated by the apparent presence of another canine in his territory, urinated on the computer. Destroyed his hard drive, had to clean off the circuitry with rubbing alcohol. It looks like there might be an amusing screensaver mishap article to be had out of this. Send in those stories and we'll have a look.
Gateway never knowingly undersold Reader Philip Brown has yet another contribution to the US/UK PC price differential conundrum: Your article on Gateway prices interests me. I wonder if their price promise extends to matching their OWN prices, except those in the US? How does a server with a dual-capable Serverworks motherboard, P3-933, 128Mb RAM, dual Ultra-Wide SCSI, 9Gb SCSI HD, ethernet, CD-ROM, integrated graphics etc. sound? For $500???!!! Have a look here. Choose to customize the 6400, and pick Option 1 in the System Promotion dropdown. That gets you a $400 rebate. Reduce the 3-year on-site warranty to 1 year, and you can get the price down to $500. Thats £350!! The closest I could get to on the Gateway UK website, which had far more restrictive options available, was around £1200. If they can do this offer for the US, why not the UK? Well, why can't they? Any suggestions?
US boy caged for drawing gun in class Canadian boy runs riot with chicken finger Our recent coverage on US and Canadian clampdowns on foul-mouthed and deranged gun-toting schoolkids provoked Erik Frechette to write from Oldsmar, US. You will recall that this is where an 11-year-old was led cuffed from school for drawing a gun on a piece of paper: I actually live in Oldsmar, FL USA and understand the operation of a computer...something that is probably amazing to you and your readers after reading the article "US boy caged for drawing gun in class". Coincidentally, I am also an artist who started exploring the visual arts during my time in grade school. Believe me when I say that I drew much more frightening things than guns. :;) To see something like this happening in my hometown is both embarrassing and disgraceful. Such is the level of hysterics the US culture has brought about in our schools. I can only imagine the rest of the world looking at our insane society and shaking its collective head...or worse! LOL In conclusion, we are all indeed sliding off the edge into a free fall of utter lunacy. For your sake, let's hope we don't take anyone with us. Keep up the good work and Dog bless America! Not everyone, however, believes that the school authorities have gone completely off the rails. Daniele Procida writes: Frankly, I'd be delighted to see school authorities take a much stronger line against play violence in schools (I wouldn't advocate suspensions for drawing pictures of guns or playing with chicken bones. But given the history of guns and schools (in Britain and the US) over recent years, it's not anyone should shrug off. It gives me the creeps to see my children's nursery-school companions turn up in the playground bearing toy assault rifles and so on - now *that* is madness. On the other hand, I couldn't give a flying fuck about swearing (though I've been embarrassed once or twice when something I've said has been repeated in front the wrong grandparent.) Daniele, what kind of example is that to set your kids? Finally, Spencer T. Kittelson asks the big question: Are we screwed up in this country (USA) about what's important or not? Yes you are. Sorry 'bout that.
Gypsies to sue IBM over Nazi 'links' The spirit of litigation is alive and well. IBM's wartime activities are about to be put under renewed scrutiny. 'NoNco' reckons that it's about time that we forgot about the war and moved to the bar: Oh man. More people trying to get more money for something that happened over 50 years ago. I'm not a Nazis supporter but I am so sick and tired of having to listen or read about people who still want to go on about WW2. Isn't it about time they get over it. We don't need to forget but we don't need to try and squeeze every dollar out of if. Its bad enough we have reruns of WW2 every time the English play Germany in football. All these people who want to sue for WW2, were they even alive then. Why doesn't someone sue someone for WW1 or even the Italians for the Roman empire If you want to sue someone sue Bill Gates for the loss of data on your PC or sue the US Government for something or even Tony Blair for Foot and Mouth. Maybe I should sue my manager for being an asshole Bla Bla Bla. Enough now. I need a beer......... Young man, we fought in two world wars to defend your democratic right to drink a beer without jack-booted brownshirts spilling your pint with impunity. Take note.
New web ads target floating readers The possibility of advertisers resorting to 'floating' web ads has found very little favour with Reg readers. As for our own experiment with a mobile Reg logo, it appears that the exercise has been counter-productive. Do Kiun is very, very irritated: I just read an article yesterday on your website and came back to read more today, however I will not be coming back ever again due to some inept idiot placing a floating bird head over the text I was trying to read. This is the most annoying feature I have ever seen at any website. It has definitely permanently killed my interest in anything your site may have to say. There is no possible way anyone could have come up with such an idiotic idea without knowing for absolute certain that it would piss people off and chase them away from your site. Are you trying to cut down on the number of people who visit your site? If so, you will succeed wildly. If you hope to increase repeat visitors with such an annoying feature, you will fail miserably. Mr Kiun, we have forwarded your email to the idiot responsible for this outrage. Rest assured that he will be mopping out the toilets for the next six months. In any case, what's the problem? Alexander Wright has a solution: I hate floating ads! I have found, however, if you had any offending website to your IE "restricted sites" zone, and then edit the permissions on the zone to give absolute minimum permissions, they very effectively go away. And if advertisers are going to ruin people's reading enjoyment, what about the interactive element? Darius Thabit expressed his disappointment thus: Cute game but how do I shoot the vulture? My mouse doesn't seem to work. Sorry about that. A late submission to the debate was Ernie Mercer. We like Ernie. Why? Because, in an uncaring world, Ernie is a man who understands why you run a piece on floating ads and then ruin it with a flying vulture: The floating logo was a nice touch! One of the reasons I enjoy The Register is your sense of humor. Keep it up. Thank you Ernie. Drop by for a beer anytime.
LibDems should win election Find out who to vote for tomorrow Gareth Moore of How2vote.co.uk would like to take Kieren McCarthy to task on his results fudging claims. Not that it matters much now, of course: Sorry to bother you but since your website (theregister.co.uk) currently rather prominently says: "Yesterday, we ran a story on How2vote.co.uk. Since then we have had good reason to believe it is fudging the results (see bottom) in favour of the LibDems." As the person who created that website I thought I would drop you a quick email since this is a bit of a strong aspersion against a site that exists purely to give policy analysis, in addition to the detailed one I sent your reporter two hours ago. Your logic is a bit silly. The result shown is easily obtained by answering just one question in each of the sections shown as 'conservative' and then all the questions in the remaining section shown as 'liberal democrat', giving an overall result in favour of the liberal democrats simply because the majority of questions - all in that one section - were in their favour. In other words, the overall score is a total of the per-question results, so if you answer more in one section it will take priority - as simple, and as non-biased!, as that. You can trivially obtain the reverse result by selecting a few sections, picking one lib dem policy in each and then a whole lot of conservative ones in a remaining section, obtaining a lib dem win overall despite all bar one section showing conservative wins. Anyway, since your comment is quite strongly worded I felt I should email you directly - your original writeup yesterday was much appreciated, however, so thank you for that! ;) However with all due respect it would be nice if you could apply a moment's thought before then being quite so damning! ;-) Kieren writes: He's quite right of course (we checked it out). But our belief in LibDem bias was proven completely right in that the system is clearly run on a proportional representation ethos. Like it or not, we're first past the post citizens. How else would you get an abusive majority in the modern world?
A game controller that gives you electric shocks is being developed by Mad Catz in the US. There isn't a press release and the office hasn't woken up yet (that's Californians for you) but the New Scientist has reported it, so it must be true. Following on from the controllers that fight against you while playing (thus making it all far more involving), the prototype BioForce will give you electric shocks - ideal for fighting games, says a company spokesman. Don't worry though, the shocks won't be enough to cause real physical pain (can you imagine the lawsuits if they did?). But it may be enough to cause a muscle spasm and make you lose grip of the controller. "We like to describe it as a tingling low-power electrical stimulus," said the spokesman. D'you reckon he's been watching too many James Bond movies? "Stand by for World Domination." How's it work? Well, you'll have to stick two electrode pads on your forearms (16 milliamp from three 1.5 volt batteries) and then whenever you character takes a punch (or kick) gazaam! up your arm. Sounds a bit disturbing but in a world where we're mollycoddled to the extent of legislation, we can see this being a great success. Of course, for blokes it also introduces machismo ("I can take it, I can take it"). And the inevitable cheating by putting the electrodes on different parts of the arm or putting an insulator between the electrode and your skin. Is it practical? Nah, not with the additional electrode thing. You really need the shock through your hand but then this will mess with the actual controller itself. Mad Catz has so far connected the shock with the rumble mechanism in other controllers but it hopes to get people to write games especially for the controller. We foresee heavy success and huge lawsuits in five years' time when ESI - a modern cousin of RSI - becomes the lawyers' favourite cause. ® Related Link New Scientist article Related Stories Canadian boy runs riot with chicken finger US boy caged for drawing gun in class
Scientology critic Keith Henson has been released from a Canadian jail where he'd been detained since 28 May on suspicion that he gave incomplete information to Immigration when he entered the country. Henson, who's given the CoS a good deal of perfectly legal grief on Usenet, was inexplicably convicted of interfering with a religion by a California court on 26 April. He fled to Canada hoping to file for status as a political refugee, only to be swept up by Immigration police weeks later. The Feds were acting on a tip which his supporters assume was made by someone in the CoS hierarchy, as the arresting officers were kitted out as if preparing for combat with band of armed mercenaries. The arrest warrant was based on Henson's alleged failure to disclose an outstanding fugitive warrant from California when he entered Canada on 12 May. However, our sources say that the California warrant was issued subsequent to his entry to Canada, so he could not possibly have reported it at the time. Apparently the Canadian officials have finally sorted this out to their satisfaction. Henson was released Friday, and his application for refugee status has been accepted. We're told that a decision might take as long as two years, so it would seem he'll be able to breathe easy for a bit -- assuming no one goes out of their way to make his life difficult, that is. ® Related Stories Online Scientology critic jailed in Canada Online Scientology critic seeks political asylum Related Link Updates on Henson's status