Your tax dollars have been put to good use for a change, as the US National Security Agency (NSA) has been busy figuring out how to make Windows 2000 more secure, and has released a set of templates and instructions to enable anyone to batten down their '2K hatches. The package had been available briefly at NSA's Web site, but has temporarily been taken down due to overwhelming demand. The files will be available again from NSA within a week's time. Meanwhile, Cryptome has kindly mirrored it all here. The templates (.INF files) cover domain controllers, domain policy, and server and workstation settings. The recommendation guides are supplied as .PDF files and address numerous topics such as group policy, Active Directory, DNS, certificates, IIS, routers and Kerberos. The NSA has also developed a more secure version of Linux, which is available here. ®
The number of enterprise software purchase influencers in the US channel will double to 47,000 companies in 2001, a market research firm claims. As product margins and average selling prices (ASPs) slip, it becomes less attractive to jump through ever-increasing financial hoops to obtain and retain channel accreditation. Lack of accreditation in turn makes it more difficult to resell product. So increasing numbers of systems integrators are junking product sales in favour of recommending software to their clients. This presents software vendors with a headache: how to reach so many companies? Clearly, the traditional product sale channel programme is not the way to reach these influencers. So every major software vendor is considering introducing new schemes to bring these companies on board, Reality Research says. Reality Research is a unit of CMP and it bases its conclusions on interviews with 400 systems integrators in the US. ®
Intel cut the prices of selected Mobile Celeron processors yesterday, as we anticipated. "These moves are part of Intel's strategy to align the prices of individual products to meet the needs of each market segment," is the official line. ® Mobile Celeron CPU New Price Old Price Cut 800MHz $107 $170 37% 750MHz $91 $134 32% 700MHz $75 $93 22% Related Stories Intel to cut Mobile Celeron prices this weekend Intel Tualatin to replace Coppermine, fast Intel unwraps very-low-voltage mobile CPUs Intel slices up to 38% off PIII, Celeron prices Intel pegs 27 May for Pentium III, Celeron price cuts
BT's massive £5.9 billion rights issue is off and running and the telecoms giant has revealed that 89.5 per cent of shareholders have decided to take up their allocation. Nearly all institutional investors have gone for the offer to buy extra discounted BT shares (three for every 10 held), but 1.8 million private investors (nearly half of all private investors) have decided not to risk it, leaving 207 million shares for the market to fight over. The shares came at a huge 47 per cent discounted rate of £3. BT's share price has risen slightly this morning. The rights issue was launched as one element in reducing the company's huge debt. Other measures have included selling real estate and selling off stakes in mobile companies and Yell. ®
Networking equipment monolith Nortel is in big trouble. The Canadian company recently announced record losses of U$19.2bn. To put that in perspective, this amount would be more than enough to run a couple of banana republics for a decade, keep Imelda Marcos in shoes for a year and still have change to see George Formby at the Rex, get a tram back home and buy cod'n'six for your tea. So, how is the company handling this crisis? Brilliantly, natch. Nortel issued this internal memo on Friday 15 June. It shows that the trend to hide unpleasant truths behind euphemisms is alive and well. As the old song goes: You say: 'Alignment Plan', I say: 'You're fired' - Let's call the whole thing off.... Read it and weep: Audience: Nortel Networks Employees This morning we issued an important announcement regarding our outlook and the steps we are taking to continue to align our business to a severe economic and industry downturn and what is a period of profound adjustment for our customers. As we indicated in our announcement, we believe that this downturn will be protracted. We should fully recognize how difficult this period will be. The six priorities in our "Alignment Plan" reflect the seriousness of the situation that we, and our customers and other market participants, find ourselves in. We must continue to: 1. Accelerate our cost reduction and reset to "break even" at current business levels; 2. Return to positive cash flow by management of expenses, inventories, capital and receivables; 3. Focus business around core growth areas and exit/dispose of/transition our ownership in others; 4. Retain employees by implementing initiatives such as the Stock Option Exchange; 5. Target top customers and direct sales opportunities for incremental and new revenue and ensure superior customer satisfaction; and 6. Deliver on our key product initiatives targeting high-growth markets. As I indicated today, and in our town-hall of last week, we are making good progress against this "Alignment Plan." The programs that we have implemented since the beginning of the year are expected to result in excess of US$3 billion in savings on an annualized basis. We have more work to do, but this is a good start. We have thus far notified approximately 20,000 employees. Sadly, due to the protracted downturn, we will be eliminating another 10,000 positions as we continue to align with the market. We will move as quickly as we can with the aim of having this completed by the end of the third quarter. Despite the times, Nortel Networks remains one of the best-positioned companies in our industry. Our leadership bench-strength and employees are among the best in the world. We have a world-class portfolio of solutions that lead the market today and we are on track to bring the next generation of solutions to market. Our sales and technical teams are lined up against the top service providers and are focused on delivering a superior customer experience. The challenge before us is clear: execute our "Alignment Plan" and emerge from the severe downturn and this period of adjustment as a strongly positioned company. I want to thank you all, along with our shareholders and suppliers, for the support we are receiving during this very difficult period. I do not underestimate the toll it is taking on you and your families, and I want you to be assured that we are doing everything we can to get through this period of alignment as fast as we can. By my retirement in April, my goal is to have Nortel Networks returned to profitability and positioned as the undisputed leader in our target markets and with the customers we serve. Although we will continue to face a challenging market environment for the near term, I am personally committed to building on our leadership, re-establishing our momentum, and getting our realignment completed. Thank you, John Roth Hold on. One minute you're going to Retain employees by implementing initiatives such as the Stock Option Exchange, and then the next you're eliminating another 10,000 positions as we continue to align with the market. As someone once put it: So come on and let me know - should I stay or should I go?
Palm is certainly having problems, but is the PDA company really in quite as much trouble as market research firm Gartner Group is suggesting in its latest report? Gartner report, apparently to be released today but announced early and uncritically on CNET, goes as far as to claim Compaq will make more money selling iPaqs this quarter than Palm will make selling its PDAs. The argument is based on expected sales figures and some questionable maths. Palm shipped 1.18 million PDAs this time last year, but will only manage around half that number this time - some 622,000 units, according to Gartner. In addition, the average selling price of a Palm machine has fallen to $209. Multiply one number by the other and you get a little under the $135 million Gartner reckons Palm will report as hardware revenue this quarter. Compaq, in contrast, will report between $200 million and $250 million. How? Its average selling price is $500, and Compaq has said it will ship 450,000-500,000 iPaqs this quarter. Again, multiply the two together and you'll see how Gartner's sums have been done. Several points occur to us. First of all, average selling price doesn't translate into the amount of money each company will make. Gartner's calculations assume all products are sold direct and no resellers take a cut. Compaq certainly charges more for its PDAs than Palm does, and its margins may well be higher, but the kind of corporate markets it sells into means is loses margin to distributors and resellers. Second, according to Palm's own pricing, its average price comes out at around $281, not $209, which should put its sales at $181 million. And that assumes the 622,000-unit figure is correct. Palm's own guidance points to revenues of $140-160 million. Gartner estimates the final figure will be $145 million, from which it subtracts $10 million in software and licensing revenue. That last figure isn't likely to change much, so Palm could end up with a hardware revenue of $150 million, which would imply higher unit sales. But here we're making predictions based on certain assumptions, just like Gartner is, and using similar mathematical jiggery-pokery. The truth is, no one outside Palm's inner circle will know exactly how the company stands alongside Compaq's iPaq division until both companies' quarterly figures are published. Gartner raises some important questions nonetheless. Compaq's iPaq is selling well, despite what many observers once thought would be too high a price, and it does seem to be finding particular favour with corporates. Palm has won plenty of executive support, but those sales have always gone primarily to an organisation's individuals, less to its IT department. Then again, given Palm's previous sales figures, Compaq's numbers, focuses on a potentially much larger target market, are hardly electrifying. They may also reflect sales catching up with demand. Six months ago, iPaqs were a lot harder to come by than they are now. The company may yet be hit by the same downturn that has hit Palm and, more recently, Handspring, once this lag between supply and demand is removed. If that's the case, this revenue blip - which says little about about Palm's marketshare lead or its ability to retain it - shouldn't matter too much. But what Palm did in the past is far less important than what it's doing now. And if Gartner's estimates, pessimistic as they may seem, are correct, that's a worrying trend, whatever effect it eventually has on Compaq. The relatively tiny licensing revenue ($10 million, according to the Gartner numbers) suggests that spinning off its PalmOS division will be tricky - it's simply too dependent on the hardware sales Palm is making. Or not, as the case may be. ® Related Stories Compaq almost doubles iPaq sales in Q2 Palm halves Q4 revenue guidance, doubles loss
E-district.net has confirmed that key financial and operational data was fabricated at the dotcom. Releasing full year results for the year ended 31 December 2000, the entertainment and games outfit confirmed preliminary investigations which pointed to widespread "financial irregularities" at the AIM-listed company. The full year results showed that the company made a pre-tax loss of £2.19 million compared £384,000 for the 17 months to December 31 1999. Reports from Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers Forensic Services confirmed that there was "substantial overstatement of registered users, page impressions and revenues" and evidence of "collusion". The reports found that no one implicated in the collusion remains at the company. In February, CEO Steven Laitman was sacked and his assets frozen in connection with irregularities at the company. Two senior managers at the company also resigned. The investigation also confirmed that Mr Laitman used around £980,000 of his own cash between November 1999 and February 2001 to inflate artificially revenues for the business. The irregularities at e-district.net are currently under investigation by the Fraud Squad. In a bid to draw a line under the affair and look to the future, Frank Lewis, Chairman and acting CE, said: "Despite continued expansion of the company's activities in developing its interactive television services...the financial year to 31 December 2000 has proved extremely difficult. "We faced the challenge of a significant downturn affecting valuations in the technology sector, followed by the discovery of financial irregularities." E-district said that it would focus on providing subscription and pay-per-play services tailored for digital TV and broadband Internet services. As of May 31, the company had £10.5 million in the bank and is burning cash at a rate of £200,000 a month. ® Related Stories e-district.net finds £1m blackhole e-district.net sacks CEO E-district.net CEO accused of inflating figures
ReviewReview Time's sub-£400 Ellipse 700 may be cheap, but it's a system of compromises. With its reliance on underpowered onboard peripherals, the 700MHz AMD Duron processor is hardly the most promising start, and its WorldBench score of 110 is a throwback to the figures we were getting from mainstream PCs six months ago. The poor 64MB of RAM virtually precludes Ellipse users from upgrading to the next version of Windows, and the average-sized 10GB hard drive is hardly generous. However, it is the Ellipse 700's graphics sub-system that's its weakest area. The own-brand 15in monitor suffers from an insipid colour palette and its 0.28mm dot pitch does little to aid strong image definition. The on-board S3 Savage graphics card is also lacklustre – it has no memory of its own and 3D performance is poor. Audio facilities aren't a great improvement, and the on-board sound card can do little with the speaker set. The 48x CD-ROM drive (no DVD facilities) and lack of software are disappointing. 'Super-budget' doesn't begin to describe the Time's sub-£400 price tag. If you want to indulge in a spot of word processing or surfing, this PC could be ideal. For the more demanding user, the Ellipse will be outdated in the time it takes you to get it out of the box. ® Info Price: £382 Contact: 01282 777 555 Website: www.timecomputers.com Specs WorldBench 2000: 110 Processor/Speed: AMD Duron/700MHz RAM: 64MB HDD: 10GB Monitor: 15in SoundCard: VIA on motherboard GraphicsCard: S3 Pro Savage on motherboard Warranty: one-year return to base This review is taken from the July 2001 issue. All details correct at time of publication. Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved.
Former dotcom workers in Silicon Valley have ended up on skid row after their high flying firms went titsup.com. It's always being thought that staff from failed e-commerce ventures had gained marketable experience, however ropy the business plan of the firms they worked for was. However Associated Press has uncovered evidence to the contrary after visiting the soup kitchens and homeless shelters that lie on the flip side of the American dream. Depressed database programmers and the like have joined drug addicts, alcoholics and the mentally ill as society's hard luck cases. Nearly 30 unemployed high tech workers are among the 100 men at shelters run in San Jose by charity InnVision, according to Robbie Reinhart, director of the charity, who said the high cost of housing in the area in contributing to the problem. Part of the problem is that workers at start-ups have dedicated themselves to their job, almost to the exclusion of anything else, so redundancies have hit staff especially hard. It's a depressing picture and there's precious little hope of an early resolution of the problem. Ilene Philipson, a clinical psychologist at the University of California at Berkeley, told AP: "People have given up all sorts of things to give to their job, and when there's a layoff there's no other support for them." The unemployment rate in San Francisco has risen to 4.2 per cent from 2.6 per cent a year ago, according to figures obtained by AP. ® Related Stories 147 dotcoms die in Q1 The Great VC Squeeze of 2001 Related Link Housing shelters housing dotcom casualties
Tiscali UK is to ditch a number of celebrity columnists from its LineOne portal just six months after they started work. It's not known exactly who will be for the chop but sassy actress Joan Collins could well be a victim of Tiscali UK's latest axe-wielding exercise. It seems the Italian-owned ISP is tightening the purse strings as part of its bid to trample on the British market place. In December (before LineOne was bought by Tiscali), LineOne announced it had created a "portal with personality" by recruiting a number of celebs to boost the editorial direction of the site. Insiders tell us this little project cost LineOne a cool £1 million although this has yet to be confirmed. Joan Collins, Honor Blackman, Ruby Wax, Craig Charles, Jeremy Hardy, Dame Thora Hird and George Best were among a stable of high-profile names to boost the site. Six months on and sources tell us they're for the chop. A spokeswoman for Tiscali UK was unable to say exactly which celebs would get their marching orders. However, she said: "I finally confirm to you that Tiscali is terminating some of the celebrity content contracts, but not all of them. "This is part of the rationalisation process that is happening across the three portals," she said. On a separate issue, did you know Tiscali's PR company in Italy is called - get this - "Image Building". By 'eck, Tiscali UK could sure do with some of that. ®
MSNBC has been caught doctoring copy originating from the Wall Street Journal to make it more favourable to the news channel's co-owner Microsoft. The changes introduced by MSNBC also had the effect of removing references to Microsoft competitors. Amongst many fairly harmless edits, designed to improve readability, were some more ominous changes. The original WSJ report gave a harsh analysis of Microsoft' offensive against open source software and the GNU General Public License, initiated six weeks ago by Craig Mundie. The WSJ cited Microsoft's own dependence on open source software, and cited lawyers who were critical of its interpretation of the General Public License. "Microsoft said that since last summer, Hotmail has been running on both Windows 2000 and the Solaris operating system from Sun Microsystems Inc.," noted the original copy from the WSJ. MSNBC amended this to:- "Microsoft said Hotmail has been running on Windows since last summer." By Friday, the original version of the story that appeared in the WSJ had been restored to MSNBC. Although it ruins a good conspiracy theory, not all of the changes introduced by MSNBC were as pejorative as the Hotmail example above. MSNBC corrected the phrase "freely available programs" - a radical misinterpretation of the word 'free' . Nevertheless, it's likely to raise questions about the editorial independence of the Microsoft co-owned channel. The London Independent newspaper reports that Microsoft is helping to underwrite Rupert Murdoch's bid for satellite broadcaster DirecTV. Such creative editing is going to be essential if Microsoft provides content, as well as software, for News Corporation. ® Related Story Botzilla sinking fangs into second MSNBC Windows poll?
Though Nvidia isn't saying anything about the pricing of its nForce integrated graphics chipsets we're getting a few numbers back from system builders. The 64-bit nForce 220, formerly known as Crush 11, is priced at $45 without audio and the 128-bit nForce 420 - aka Crush 12 - is $55 because this has got the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. This should mean mobos are priced between $100 and $125 depending on what they include. What Nvidia says is that is looking for the nForce to be included in $1,000 to $1,500 machines. The mobo men expect to get their chipset samples in July and volume numbers in September. System builders should have machines out for the Christmas sales period. Meanwhile Extremetech has come up with a preview of the nForce which seems to be getting respect from the hardware sites. It says its not printed any firm benchmark numbers because Nvidia won't allow it, but "feel free to read between the lines..." Nvidia still considers the nForce to be a work in progress and Extremetech got an nForce with "beta BIOS, beta drivers and a pre-production motherboard". Extremetech's conclusion states it "encountered zero stability problems - even that was simply a boot problem, not a stability issue when the system was running. All the benchmarks completed, there were no crashes during gameplay, no blue screens of death. Having just gone through a huge motherboard roundup, we'll just say the Nvidia reference board ran as smoothly as most, and more so than a few. In the end, we're quite encouraged by what we see." "While this board clearly has some rough edges, they all seem fairly minor and generally fixable. In fact, for a product consisting of multiple beta pieces, it was surprisingly robust. Performance was impressive at this stage of development and we believe it will only get better. The Athlon may have found it's soul mate in the nForce." ® Related Stories Nvidia's nForce to cost $50 Nvidia's nForce chipset unwrapped Related Link ExtremeTech: nForce review
Lawyers have warned that companies using AltaVista's new search engine technology are at risk of breaching data protection laws. Launched last week, AltaVista's new software lets people search entire corporate networks allowing employees to access all network folders, personal computers and emails. Announcing the launch, Phil Rugani, executive VP of AltaVista's Search Software division said: "Wherever data resides, whether it is structured or unstructured, AltaVista's software architecture provides a single, universal view to create efficiencies and more intelligent decision making throughout an organisation." And therein lies the problem. Lawyers are warning that the search facility could be too intrusive. Unless these are protected in some way, it could allow others to pry into personal records and emails. E-commerce solicitor Joanne Ashley of Sprecher Grier Halberstam, said: "Companies using this tool are going to have to ring-fence human resources data and consider how to address the issue of the search tool not discriminating between work and personal emails and information. "If employee personal data is released companies could find themselves in breach of the Data Protection Act. For this reason I advise companies to make sure they have appropriate email and Internet use policies in place and to get advice on monitoring employee communications before buying this software," she said. She also warned that strategic and board-level confidential information could also be at risk unless protected. On Friday, The Register asked AltaVista to comment on the story. We were told no one was available but assured someone would be available first thing Monday morning. No one from AltaVista was available for comment this morning either. ®
Intel will officially launch its 0.13 micron Pentium III die-shrink, codenamed Tualatin, tomorrow, 19 June, if company sources cited by Web site X-bit Labs are to be believed. With a clock speed of 1.13GHz (as predicted) and an L2 cache of 256KB or 512KB (ditto), tomorrow's Tualatin will apparently be aimed at the server market. We knew Tualatin would make an appearance in the Value end of the General Purpose and Front-end Dual-Processor server sectors (as Intel calls them), but we'd heard that the part will debut at 1.26GHz. We expect the server part to ship with the second of those two L2 options, 512KB. It should be supported by Micron and ServerWorks chipsets. We also expected it to ship after the desktop version, but X-bit's sources suggest desktop Tualatins won't appear until 6 August, at which point two more 1.13GHz and 1.26GHz parts will be launched with 512KB of L2. According to Intel roadmaps we'd seen previously, the desktop parts would contain 256KB of L2. Between then and now, Intel will officially unveil its Mobile Tualatins on 30 July. The Intel Mobile roadmap we saw earlier this year pointed to 1.06GHz and 1.13GHz parts in July, but later leaks suggested 866MHz, 933MHz and 1GHz chips had been added to the list, and X-bit's sources appear to confirm that. These newer clock speeds suggest Intel may be shipping Tualatin in preference to the Coppermine-T variant of its 0.18 micron Mobile PIII which was scheduled to provide those speeds. Such a move would be consistent with a plan to migrate to 0.13 micron across the PIII range as soon as possible. The spread of releases points to the time it will take Intel to ramp up 0.13 micron production. Indeed, VIA and Acer Labs have already announced Mobile Tualatin chipsets. And don't forget that, as X-bit points out, these are official launch dates. Shipments of the chips will take place sooner to allow PC makers to announce and, ideally, ship product based on the new chips at launch. Indeed, Tualatins are already coming off the production line and have been seen on sale in Japan. X-bit notes that the Mobile Tualatins will be accompanied by the 830MP chipset, but our (admittedly slightly older) roadmap has it down as 830M, which will support Mobile Tualatins in all markets but the sub-notebook arena (Intel is sticking to the 440MX through Q1 2002). ® Related Stories Intel Tualatin to replace Coppermine, fast Intel 0.13 micron Tualatin Pentium IIIs to ship late June VIA Socket 370 chipsets to support Intel Tualatin Acer, Trident intro mobile Tualatin chipset Related Link X-bit Labs: Tualatin news
The Met Office, Britain's government run weather forecasting agency, is investing £500,000 in an e-commerce firm which aims to create a market for trades based on the weather. Weatherxchange.com, a joint venture between the Met Office and technology partner Umbrella Brokers, will provide information about the weather from European and UK weather centres to traders specialising in weather derivatives. Unlike conventional weather insurance (which only cover one-off events), weather derivatives are more complex financial instruments which allow firms to receive payments if, for example, there was a sustained cold spell. By using these instruments organisations like power generators and leisure firms can limit their exposure to weather conditions that might have an adverse effect on their businesses. The market for weather derivatives is worth around $9bn worldwide but is immature in Europe compared with the US - which is slightly surprising given the well known fixation of the British with our unpredictable weather. By creating a portal with a comprehensive set of European weather data, the Met Office hopes to stimulate the development of a market for weather derivatives and allow contract settlement times to come down from 80 to five days. ® External Link Weatherxchange.com Related Stories Lloyds of London (twice), Met Office follow Railtrack UK in hack attack BT dreams of long hot summer
Intel will fill out and extend its Pentium 4 line-up with two new versions in two weeks' time, on Monday 2 July, Web site X-bit Labs has claimed, citing sources close to the company. The two chips will increase the P4's top clock speed to 1.8GHz, and add a 1.6GHz part between the current top-end part, the 1.7GHz chip, and the 1.5GHz P4. Of course, with the release of the 2GHz P4 due this quarter, the 1.8GHz part won't stay at the top for long. Hints that Intel was preparing 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz P4s emerged last month when the parts turned up on a Japanese Web site that claimed to have seen them listed in a Tokyo store. Whether the new chips will be based on Intel's upcoming 478-pin mPGA packaging, or the current 423-pin P4 packaging isn't yet known. Intel's Rambus-based 850 mobo is designed for Socket 423 parts, but the PC133-based 845 (aka Brookdale) will use Socket 478 chips. ® Related Stories Intel to launch Tualatin tomorrow? Intel lets slip 2GHz P4 release timeframe 2GHz Intel P4 will cost $562 Intel juggles 2GHz P4 release timeframe Chipzilla gears up for 2GHz-plus PCs Related Link X-bit Labs: P4 update
Microsoft and Vodafone have launched new products that will enable you to pick up Outlook emails from your mobile phone. The plan is to extend it to any Web-enabled apps. On Microsoft's part, it has produced Microsoft Mobile Software, run on the Microsoft Mobile Information 2001 server (MMIS); Vodafone has launched Vodafone OfficeLive. The set up requires a mobile operator to have some Microsoft kit in its exchange and then a company will have to licence the MS server, put in between their internal and external firewalls. All this will basically enable someone to use a mobile device to gain access to their email, address book, calendar etc. The company will have to pay Vodafone a per-user per-month fee (£5 was the figure we finally managed to get out of the company) as well as a usage charge. Vodafone reckons the increase in office productivity will see a 12-month return on investment. Some big corporates like the idea: so far, NTL, KPMG, ICL and HP have signed up, with more acronyms to follow. Representatives of both Vodafone and Microsoft waxed lyrical about how well they have got on with each other. Perhaps this is true - it seems Vodafone has beem persuaded that non-proprietary is the way to go with mobiles. Hence the system will work with standards from W3C, IETF, WAP, 3GPP, MWIF, ETSI and the MD of Vodafone Multimedia Amit Pau also said it would include the new M-Services guidelines from the GSM Association. Mind you, what other choice does Microsoft have? It can't exactly produce a new mobile infrastructure - although you can bet it thought about it. What we did get though was a Microsoft employee (a Swedish one, mind) admitting that the Beast of Redmond was slow in realising the Internet market and has been slow in picking up mobility as well. Its mobility arm has even been moved out of Redmond and dropped on the big mobile boys in Sweden (even though it's a "core component of the .NET vision"). We were even privileged enough to get this press conference half a day before the launch in Atlanta. The OfficeLive service is being aimed squarely at the corporate market and a brief demo showed how people could communicate and access data where they may be. Get an email and you can get Vodafone to SMS the fact to your mobile. Then connect to Outlook in real time, have a look, reply, check the calendar, whatever. Connecting... connecting... connecting We were informed that the user interface was exactly the same as being at the desktop, but using our visual senses we detected a somewhat different story. It's basically Outlook on WAP. Useful though, and sales reps will love it. The more interesting aspect is that any application that is Web-enabled should theoretically be accessible on a mobile or PDA. Good for gathering information but not all that practical in returning it - tapping out an email with the little pointy stick is enough to drive you mad. It might be a little better if people start using those mini-keyboards that mobile manufacturers are producing. It isn't super-fast at the moment either - five to six secs lag getting to each new page. While the assembled tried to convince us this was "the biggest improvement in office productivity since desktop PCs", we aren't so excited. Systems like this have been available for some time - or has everyone forgotten the entire ASP hype machine of six months ago? It was also inevitable that this sort of thing would happen. The news is basically that Microsoft has teamed up with Vodafone and finally released it. Also, while we're rewriting history, Microsoft promised it would do an Outlook WAP version by the end of last year with Ericsson. What happened to that? The companies both accepted that Ericsson has played a part in the process but were keen to point out it was their baby. Funny. As for productivity, we can see how that will work. However, isn't there an equal risk that we are entering an even worse information-overload world? Not only will we get too many emails but we'll also have text messages for them as well. And people will expect you to get back even faster, making life even more disjointed as you do little tasks all day every day. Ah well, that's the future. Press conference add-ons What does it say about Vodafone and/or Microsoft if they are obsessed with the death of Timonthy McVeigh? During the demo, a techie sent a reply email using his PDA. Rather than torture the hacks assembled by slowly taping out a message, he went simply for "OK". When he hit the "k" however, the automated word producer offered "Oklahoma City". Hmmm. Answers on a postcard. Also, when we asked why we'd be given a frisbee with flashing lights that spell out a word when it spins round, the PRs were dumbstruck. "I'd get back to you on that one," said one lovely lady, before the top man informed us: "I've no idea. It's just a stupid PR thing." We can't work out what the word is supposed to be. Is it "Vodafone", "Microsoft", "OfficeLive" or something else? By the time it starts flashing, the bloody thing hits the office wall. Why do they call it a frisbee? Two IT hacks were kind enough to tell us. Stems from William Russell Frisbie's pie factory. The tin used for the cakes were flung around by students in the same way as the modern day Frisbee. Hence the name. ® Related Story MS/Ericsson mobile link-up launched GSM Association launches new standard for next-gen mobiles
Nintendo says its GameBoy Advance sold through 500,000 units during its first week on the market in the US, and claims this makes it the US' fastest selling game system ever. It went on sale on 11 June and total shipments are on track to reach more than one million by the end of June. The GameBoy Advance goes on sale in the UK on Friday 22 June priced £89.99 - apparently it's a good time for the launch because kids are looking for something to buy for their summer holidays. And nothing else is happening in the games market. Indies have been selling GameBoy Advance imports for ages. Nintendo says the Advance displays more than 500 times as many on-screen colours, and is several dozen times as powerful, as the GameBoy Color, which has been a steady, though unexciting, performer for retailers. ® Related Stories UK PC games industry: What recession? US video games market soars
AMD won't have a 2GHz Athlon out this year and the company's fans probably won't see one before Q2 2002. So says roadmap data posted on Danish (?) Web site ComputerDK. According to the site's handy little table, the Athlon will, as expected, jump up to 1.5GHz and 1.53GHz during Q3, but the best AMD can manage for Q4 is 1.6GHz. Q1 2002 will see the Athlon's clock speed upped to 1.73GHz. We expect the 1.53GHz Athlon to be introduced next month when AMD launches the third CPU line based on its Palomino core: its mainstream desktop Athlons. In May, it introduced the Palomino-based Mobile Athlon 4. Last month, it was the turn of the workstation and server-oriented Athlon MP. AMD recently released a 1.4GHz desktop Athlon based on the previous iteration of the CPU's core, Thunderbird. We're not sure the source of ComputerDK's information, but since the Intel data included in the article is reasonably accurate, we guess the AMD roadmap is too. The site's data has the Palomino-derived Duron (aka Morgan) out next quarter at 950MHz and 1GHz, rising to 1.1GHz in Q4 and 1.2GHz in Q1 2002. Intel, meanwhile, is set to release its 2GHz Pentium 4 next quarter. Athlons are said to perform rather better than equivalently-clocked P4s, so holding back on high clock speed Athlons may not hurt AMD too much. In any case, why fight a clock speed battle too fiercely when demand for top-end systems is low? Besides, when the PC market does pick up again, analysts reckon buyers will buy on price rather than performance, which, it's thought, will also favour AMD's products. ® Related Stories AMD preps slimline Athlons for slimline PCs AMD to sample Hammer by year-end AMD launches 1.4GHz Athlon AMD unveils MP Athlon - but no big-name partners AMD says 1.4GHz Athlon due 'early June' AMD samples 1.5GHz Athlon 4 AMD launches Athlon 4, Duron mobiles Pentium 4 to be upped to 1.8GHz on 2 July Related Link ComputerDKAMD og Intel Roadmap (in Danish)
Oftel is to clamp down on people running phone-related scams after seeing a rise in complaints concerning "find me anywhere numbers". Today's missive from the winged watchdog focuses on the misuse of personal numbers beginning with the prefix 070. While many people use these numbers legitimately (they enable people to have one number which can be diverted to other numbers, hence finding them anywhere) others are abusing the situation. According to Oftel, the most common scam is to get people to call a personal number where the tariff has been set at a higher rate. As people call the number they run-up large bills with much of the cash going to the owner of the number. In one such 070 scam, an ISP claimed to offer an adult-orientated material. Although the service was advertised as being "free" it was being charged at 38p per minute. The scam also changed their default dial-up settings so that accessing the Net was costing them more than £1 for three minutes online. According to Oftel, some people got hit with bills up to £13,000. Ouch. In a bid to stamp out such scams, Oftel has come up with a clever plan to close the loophole. It seems owners of 070 will be unable to charge any kind of premium for using their number. Simple. In fact, so simple, you have to wonder why Oftel didn't think of it before. ®
Maxtor is pushing away at the fat end of the hard disk market, saying its 100GB DiamondMax D536X and 80GB DiamondMax D540X are volume production. The DiamondMax D540X stacks two double-sided platters to achieve 80GB because Maxtor has managed to bump the data-storage of a two-sided drive platter from 20GB to 40GB. This announcement comes a week after rival Seagate claimed a world areal density record with its latest U Series hard drive. This holds up to 80GB on two platters - equating to an areal density of 32.6GB per square inch. Seagate's and Maxtor's 40GB per platter drives spin at 5400rpm, but both reckon 7200rpm is coming shortly. The 100GB D536X is less technically spiffy than the 80GB drive; it uses three stacked platters. In its press release Maxtor says the 100GB drive "can store 100 hours of compressed digital video or can load up to 25,000 four-minute MP3 files." The 80GB DiamondMax D540X will retail at around $239.95. The 100GB DiamondMax 536DX drive will have a suggested price of $299.95. Both will be available in July. ® Related Link Maxtor press release Related Stories Seagate leapfrogs data density rivals Hard drive bloodbath (who's left standing?)
Microsoft has bought the Xbox trademark off its original owner for undisclosed sum. The current incumbent, Xbox Technologies, will change its name. Surprise, surprise. Well, when Xbox Technologies' attempts to get money out of Microsoft emerged earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before the Beast of Redmond got its way. As a spokesman said at the time, "we will prevail". It was never going to be much of a battle. Xbox Technologies is a Florida-based holding company for products acquired off little-known hi-tech companies (not that it has many) and has a market cap lower than Bill Gates' sock budget. Xbox Technologies has a single subsidiary, Knowledge Mechanics, run by its former CEO, John van Leeuwen. The parent is currently being run by an interim CEO and an interim CFO. Interested investors can by stock at around 18 cents a pop. In the six months to 28 February, it lost $3.9 million on revenues of $946,000. Yahoo! Finance notes the company has a Management Effectiveness rating of -381.36 per cent based on return on assets. The loss-making company was most recently known as Nicollet Process Engineering, Inc, and "designs, manufactures, markets, and supports monitoring and control systems, host level client/server software, and machine diagnostic tools for the die casting and plastic injection molding industries". Now it's going to have to change its name again... Xbox Technologies registered 'Xbox' as a trademark back in March 1999. Microsoft didn't try to do so until October 1999, but has still managed to add a little 'TM' sign to ever mention of the word it has ever made. Now it has the right to do so. ® Related Story Software company beats M$ to Xbox trademark
Level 3 Communications is canning 1,400 workers and has lowered its 2001 sales estimates. The network provider now anticipates 2001 revenues of $1.5 billion, down on earlier projections of $1.6 billion to $1.7 billion. "The continuing slowdown in the economy is significantly impacting our business," said CEO James Crowe. The company blamed bad payers as a major problem and noted 20 per cent of its total revenue base is "at risk" of going titsup. As for the job cuts: 820 will go in the US; 550 in Europe; and 30 in Asia. The company employed 5,900 before the cuts. It anticipates a one-time charge of $100 million in the second quarter related to the staff reductions. If Level 3's top brass posted a company memo saying the job cuts hurt them more than it hurt the people out on their ear, or couched the redundancies in some enraging form of management speak then let us know. ® Related Stories MemoWatch Nortel 're-aligns' 10,000 employees
Usually when a computer dealer begins to call itself an e-business consultancy, it is time to look for a large vat of salt to pinch. But not in Business Systems Group's case. Once a major UK reseller shifting tin to all sorts of corporates, BSG is now an almost fully-fledged consultancy-cum-Web applications software house. But when you're a consultancy you need to book out your staff time. Keep the staff idle too long, and you end up losing money. As has BSG, which didn't pull in enough customers for the first half of its financial year and made a loss of £148,000 on £37.7m turnover for the year to March 31. This resulted in lower than expected gross margins of 18.1 per cent. Consultancy business picked up again in the second half of the year, but the company reports that current levels are more like the first half of last year. The loss includes £1.6 million of operating expenses incurred by Webgenerics Limited, BSG's Web application unit. Also there was £219,000 of costs related to a group re-organisation. BSG made its LSE debut in July last year, raising £15 million net of expenses to fund development of its Web Generics business. The company retains net cash balances of £14.9 million net of expenses at March-end 2001. Last week, the company bought the Experience Design Team of Atomic Tangerine, a Web development agency for £932K upfront. It will pay up to another £5.75m over the next year, depending on sales levels. ®
The new home secretary David Blunkett has suggested he will introduce a US-style green card system in the UK for immigrants. The scheme works by giving priority to those with skills needed in the country. IT professionals would come high in the list thanks to a skills shortage. A Home Office spokesman stressed however that this was no official policy at the moment. The Home Secretary was talking to several journalists last week and mentioned he was considering such a system to help sort out the disastrous immigration system currently in place. There is no formal announcement planned at the moment, we were told. The idea is a good one and comes after immigration became a political hot-potato during the election campaign. Sorting the mess out is known to be one of Mr Blunkett's main priorities. Such a system could possibly attract more highly skilled people to the UK, although there remains the problem of the IR35 tax legislation which has prompted many UK IT professionals to threaten to leave the country. A High Court judge ruled that the legislation - which treats IT consultants on short-term contracts as employees - as legal but flawed in its implementation. The practicalities of the new law are still being worked through. The Home Office also finally has an official stance on immigration. Immigration can benefit the UK and its economy and we should be looking at welcoming those that can contribute to the country. A nice change from the language used by some during the election, which verged on racism. With regard to Mr Blunkett himself, we feel he's done a grand job so far. There have been more post-election announcements out of the Home Office than any other department. And so far all of them have made good sense. He has vowed to put an end to the habit of police officers claiming illness and leaving the force on a good pay package when they have been the subject of an inquiry into their conduct. He has also told the police that he doesn't want to see want more speed cameras on Britain's roads. He said that if the police wanted more cameras it should be CCTV cameras that help cut crime. ®
DigitalConvergence, which markets the CueCat scanner, has become the latest victim of growing sentiment in the market against Internet stocks. Peter Eschbache, a vice president at the Dallas-based start-up, confirmed that a large number of employees were told they would lose their jobs last Friday, though he didn't have exact figures. Reports suggest 160 people will go. According to Eschbache, the firm would lower its headcount from around 300 to "in excess of 200" to reduce expenditure because, in light of prevailing market conditions, an anticipated public offering was no longer possible. He said job cuts would be across the board and wouldn't result in the closure of any of its offices in New York, London or Dallas. The job cuts leave the firm in what Eschbache described as "maintenance mode", meaning DigitalConvergence wouldn't be aggressive about going after new business but would continue to be able to service its existing clients. He said the redundancies were not related to sales but rather that financing was drying up. The CueCat system, which has been the subject of privacy concerns, allows customers to visit a Web site after scanning the bar code on products or on a page of a magazine, so saving consumers from typing in potentially lengthy web addresses. RadioShack, under contract from DigitalConvergence, distributes scanners that permit this. ® External Links Fuckedcompany.com - chronicler of firms that go titsup.com DigitalConvergence Related Stories CueCat profiling potential described What the Hell is... CueCat?
iSyndicate, the US online syndication business, is selling itself to a rival concern, Yellowbrix. The enlarged group has 400 paying customers, concentrated in the corporate sector. iSyndicate is seek to complete the sale from the safety of Chapter II - the company has filed for this bankruptcy protection today. Presumably this means that its operating business will fly into the arms of Yellowbrix unencumbered by anything so vulgar as debt. If times had been better, iSyndicate could have expected to have been bought out by Infospace, a bigger content aggregator, and shareholder in the company. Trouble is, times are not better and Infospace has issues of its own to deal with. iSyndicate has a joint venture in Europe with Bertelsmann. Odds-on that this business is unaffected by the collapse/reshuffle/takeover of its US parent. ®
Online spending in the US and Canada fell by $400 million in May according to the latest figures from Forrester Research. Total monthly online sales fell from $4.3 billion in April to $3.9 billion in May. The number of households shopping online also fell from 15.7 million in April to 14.8 million in May. Consumer spending online also dived with an average of $265 spent per person in May, compared with $273 in April, the report said. The figures announced today are broadly in line with sales from last year. Online sales rose gradually form 3.4billion in May 2000 to $4.4 billion by October 2000. In November, Forrester reported that online sales jumped to $6.4 billion before sliding back to $6.2 billion in December. In January, online sales halved. ®
A lunatic pulled a gun on Captain Cyborg during his gibberish tour of Switzerland and here is the exclusive snap. While the man handling the gun is a lunatic, sadly he failed to blast a small piece of metal through Kevin Warwick's cyborg exo-skeleton rupturing internal organs on the way. The crazed geek is instead fellow phoney professor Hugo de Garis. The shot, we have found, was nothing but a lame publicity stunt from two people that rely on such things to get attention because no one with half a brain will listen to their deranged ramblings. The two fruitcakes were apparently having a debate on whether we should build "artilects" - de Garis' made-up word for cyborgs and the like. De Garis tells us about it all excitedly, not forgetting to mention the sponsor and the fact that he was hoping more press would turn up to see two grown men who should know better trying to carve themselves a career by playing to sci-fi fantasies. See here. De Garis is the Belgian version of Captain Cyborg, with a habit for inventing words and terminology to fit in with his fantasy world. He also seems to fancy himself as a historian. Apparently, "Prof. de Garis has sleepless nights since he has learned to estimate how much power over humans the artificial brain, which was developed during his seven year research sabbatical in Japan, could have at the end of the 21st Century." He has a Web page at his Starlab company, which has gone bust. He also doesn't know what "fubar" means because he spells it "foobar" (and yes, we know the term foobar as used in IT, hacking etc - but Mr de Garis is fubar in the correct sense). So Captain Cyborg is still alive and continuing his delusionary existence. And it looked so promising at first. ® Related Stories Captain Cyborg goes on a lecture tour Kevin Warwick wanders into Reg territory Captain Cyborg back on the BBC Captain Cyborg: I'm embarrassed to speak Captain Cyborg's media monkey business back No! No! No! Captain Cyborg is back
The TFT LCD glut which caused notebook-size panel prices to fall in Q1 2001 is ending and screen prices are expected to start rising by Q4. But before that happens prices will have fallen by 23 per cent in the current quarter ending 30 June, following the 17 per cent plunge in Q1. According to DisplaySearch, a research specialist in the display market, price reductions for large-area TFT LCDs will slow in Q3 and then rise slightly in Q4 for 10-inch to 15-inch panels. The market surplus for large-area TFT LCDs will narrow to less than five per cent in the second half of 2001. But DisplaySearch says that the glut of small/medium TFT LCDs, for PDAs and mobile phones etc., will continue through the first half of 2002. Weak demand means a surplus in excess of 20 per cent in Q4 and Q1 2002 before tightening to single digits in the second half of 2002. ® Related Links www.displaysearch.com DisplaySearch press release Related Story Notebooks will make up 25% of PC market in 2005
Creative Labs' SoundBlaster Audigy sound system - details of it, at least - have leaked out onto the Web. Part of what looks suspiciously like the company's launch presentation has been smuggled out onto a Russian Web site. Creative describes the as-yet-unannounced Audigy - from 'Audio Energy'? - as "the most advanced digital audio entertainment centre". In addition to the hardware and the software that controls it, Audigy appears also to refer to the sound chip underlying it all, also known as the EMU10K2. A previously leaked roadmap suggests that Audigy is scheduled to be released any day now. According to the Russian site, Audigy appears to be aimed at home music and video buffs. So there's the obligatory Dolby Digital 5.1 and Surround support, plus audio in. It also supports Windows Media Audio and MP3. Interestingly, Creative has also included an IEEE1394 interface - or SB1394, as Creative calls it - to transfer files to hard drives, CD-RW units or even Creative's own Nomad Jukebox MP3 player. Ready for copyright-protected material, Audigy contains ContentPass technology to prevent unauthorised music duplications. The presentation also claims that users will be able to "transfer your very own home video" using the 1394 link, but it's not clear whether Audigy will ship with video editing tools. A 'Home Studio' slide refers to "DV Movie making", so we assume it does. Alas the presentation appears to be incomplete, so we can't say for sure. We can say - on the basis of what is up on the Russian site that Audigy will ship with Cubasis music composition software. The Audigy system contains the Environmental Audio eXtensions (EAX) technology developed by Dolby and Creative, and will allow users to download plug-ins, adding sound effects such as reverb, chorus, echo, flanger, ring modulator (good for Dalek voices, this), and pitch and frequency shifters. It also supports something called ASIO recording technology, but the presentation says little more than it "assures multi-track recording with low-latency and individual EAX-enabled effects per stream". ASIO, we're told by savvy Register readers, stands for Audio Stream Input/Output Architecture. It was developed by Steinberg for sequencing software. Says one: "No new sound-card can possibly be taken seriously without ASIO drivers." Audigy also ships with PlayCenter 2 software, which handles MP3 encoding at up to 320Kbps. Photos in the leaked presentation suggest Audigy comprises not only a PC add-in card, but a drive bay unit - called, we hear separately, Audigy Drive - that provides the same set of input/output ports as the card's backplane (IEEE1394, mini-jacks and RCA connectors), plus remote control and optical connections for true digital I/O. Incidentally, we hear that Creative will offer Audigy in a variety of forms, aimed at different types of users, including gamers, MP3 and online music listeners, and home music makers. Prices will range from $99 to $199. ® Related Link You can view the Creative Audigy slides here if Creative hasn't had them pulled yet
Toshiba have announced details of digital camera that features the ability to capture high-resolution images with a 4.2 megapixel screen. The PDR-M81 digital camera will be unveiled by Toshiba at PC Expo trade show in New York on June 24, and is expected to be available from July at a retail price of around $600 (says dpreview.com). Along with the ability to capture 2400 x 1600 images on a CCD sensor, the PDR-M81 features a newly designed lens system from Canon that comes equipped with a 2.8X optical zoom and a 2.2 X digital zoom. It weighs around 240g (or 8.5 ounces). Like Toshiba's last generation of digital cameras, the PDR-M81 has an AVI movie mode that lets users film a short video clip of up to three minutes. Sound can be recorded during the video filming by using the camera's built-in microphone. The camera features a USB cable for downloading images. How much memory comes with the camera, or the availability of print devices that can match its impressive resolution, were questions left unanswered by the press release. We should be seeing a lot more of these resolution camera soon. Sony has come up with a 4.1 megapixel CCD, which is exactly the same size as its 3.3 megapixel CCD. This means manufacturers can update their ranges, if they're using Sony CCDs, without redesigning their cameras. They can just stick the latest CCD in their last model. It should work for Canon, Olympus, and Nikon. ® External Links Review of Toshiba PDR-M81 by DPReview Related Stories Sony releases CD-R/RW digital camera
We reported on Friday how anti-spam company ORBS has been reborn as ORBS UK, after its demise following a New Zealand court case. The owner of ORBS UK, Paul Cummins, has been back in touch to tell us that he has renamed the company ORBZ - standing for Open Relay Blocking Zone. He was also keen to point out that Actrix and Xtra - the two companies that sparked the original court case after being falsely listed on ORBS' blacklist - have now been removed. Hang on though, Michael Rawls, who previously said he would also set up a new ORBS, has done just that and it calling it ORBL - Open Relay Black List. You can see his new site here. We wonder whether any others that made noises about setting up an anti-spam list using ORBS' database as a start point will do so as well. It's far too early to tell whether either will survive, so we'll sit and wait. We have heard some interesting things about ORBZ owner Paul Cummins though. Paul wasn't interested in replying to our questions about him being kicked off CIX, an ISP trade association [actually a UK ISP and online conferencing service, there are two CIXes]. Having tried to call him on personal redirect numbers, we managed to contact him via email. He replied: "As I worked for CIX (now Nextra) up until September 1999 I suggest you ask them." He wasn't much more talkative when we inquired about ORBZ. "Have a look at www.idg.co.nz, for a pretty clear statement of what's going on," he wrote. And that was it. Old associates of Mr Cummins have told us this limited response is unusual - his exuberant approach to making his point known has apparently seen him escorted away from discussions in the past. ® Related Links ORBL ORBZ Related Stories ORBS is reborn ORBS to be reborn? Not bloody likely, says Alan Brown ORBS' death: Alan Brown replies ORBS is dead. Again