28th > August > 2001 Archive

Ex-Apple brains to lead Palm software revival

Palm has turned to two former Apple luminaries to revive its software fortunes. Board member Dave Nagel has been talked into heading up the new PalmOS business as its CEO, and Steve Sakoman fills the CTO seat vacant since Bill Maggs departure earlier this year. Both figure prominently in Apple's history, although their Cupertino stints barely overlapped. Sakoman has spent ten years at Be Inc., which was effectively acquired by Palm this month, and which he co founded, but prior to that he started and lead the Newton project. Nagel left Apple in 1996, where he was in charge of software. Characterised in Jim Carlton's history of Apple's blunders as an "exceedingly nice guy and a brilliant intellectual," but "lacking the sense of urgency to get products shipped out quickly", Nagel is shouldered with the blame for the Copland OS death march. Perhaps unfairly, as Apple had plenty of technical options for rescuing the project, but failed to get a clear strategy from successive CEOs who were more preoccupied with trying to sell the company. And intriguingly, Nagel himself led long negotiations which almost delivered Apple to IBM in 1994. This may or may not have relevance to his new job. We'll see. Palm yesterday said that Nagel would report to a newly formed Board responsible for Palm Software. Loyal Palm users who've grown weary of the company taking refuge in fuzzy marketing over hard-headed technology decisions ought to be cheered by the appointment of Sakoman as CTO. According to legend, Sakoman began to build the first Be hardware the day after Jean Louise Gassee left Apple - October 1 1990 - after the pair paid a visit to Fry's Electronics store. (That work resulted in a prototype with five AT&T Hobbit CPUs, and later morphed into the short-lived dual PPC processor BeBox). More recently as VP of Engineering he led the BeIA initiative and was instrumental in signing Sony as a licensee to put Be's technology in its eVilla internet appliance. More pertinently for Palm, Sakoman's background in handheld computers is impeccable. Prior to the Newton, he worked on a portable MS DOS machine for HP. He can't be lumped with the blame for the Newton project, which spun rapidly out of control after his departure from Apple and which - by the time it was launched three years later - was an unwieldy device lacking the simplicity of the original vision. But can a guy who's led the engineering for a company that lost money for ten years be Palm's saviour? Well, the history of Be may be viewed as a great Quixotic disaster, but we'd beg to differ. The fact that the company survived for ten years - and through such dramatic shifts: taking it from being an independent workstation manufacturer, to an alternative Macintosh software platform, through to being an alternative x86 OS, and finally to being an embedded media appliance platform - without a discernable revenue stream is a testament to its engineering prowess, practicality and foresight. Never in this period was Be fashionable enough to be showered with bubble-economy quantities of capital, so it made do with the resources it had. For example, in its pomp Be Inc had only a sixth of the engineers of the Apple Copland project, and still managed to turn out a working operating system... and quite a good one, at that. Although Be was forever improvising, but the result was of impeccable taste - and that's a good omen for Palm. Sakoman looks sure to bring as much focus as ingenuity to the task, and Palm needs both. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Aug 2001

2GHz P4 will turn us all into DJs

Intel has crossed the 2GHz barrier with the launch of the latest edition of its Pentium 4 processor. OEMs will begin shipping PCs based on the 2GHz P4 from today featuring the 850 chipset, which includes dual RDRAM memory banks. The lower-cost i845 chipset, which features cheaper SDRAM memory, will also support the 2GHz P4 and allows system builders to produce systems that come in at a lower price point. During a presentation at the Intel Developer Forum to announce the launch, Louis Burns, Intel VP and general manager of its desktop platforms group, made a fair stab at persuading the audience that the world really needs chips the run at 2GHz. According to Burns, users' need for higher speed processors is based on "changing usage models". The 2GHz P4 responds instantaneously to requests, which he said allowed people to be more creative. We enjoyed the demo of a music and video creation package, which along with a piece of kit that resembled an electronic drum machine, allowed a young Intel techie to play a self-assembled techno track that wouldn't sound too out of place in Ibiza. There was also a demonstration of a medical application for doctors, which featured the use of Microsoft's visual clipboard and Smart Tags technology, which allowed physicians to retrieve detailed case-history information in an electronic format. Burns said these kinds of emerging applications, and others that would, for example, manage email or work with encrypted peer-to-peer tools, needed the performance headroom that processor like the 2GHz P4 can provide. That's not to say we've reached a plateau in the performance of P4 processors, which feature the Netburst architecture. During his presentation, Burns suggested the Netburst was scalable up to 10GHz (or enough for some really serious VDJ action, we guess). Responding to a question on how the 2GHz P4 compared to chips from other manufacturers (read AMD), Burns said that it was "faster than anything on the planet" and promised the Pentium family would get "faster and faster". The 2GHz P4, which is made using 0.18 micron process technology, and is available now. In 1000-unit quantities, the 2GHz P4 is priced at $562, as we predicted. Intel also launched a 1.9GHz version priced at $375. Intel is shipping boxed Intel Pentium 4 processors up to 2GHz to distributors and system builders worldwide. ®
John Leyden, 28 Aug 2001

Counter Struck!

While many Americans and Europeans take computer games far too seriously, the Far East is a constant source of bizarre gaming news stories, from real-life gangsters demanding protection money in massively multiplayer role-playing games to professional Starcraft players earning six-digit salaries and making regular TV appearances alongside footballers and Olympic athletes. One of the more disturbing stories we've seen coming out of Asia recently though was a report in the Electric New Paper about a Counter-Strike player in Thailand who dropped dead after an all-night gaming session. "Mr Thanet Sommoi, 22, was found slumped over the keyboard by his friends", according to the Thai website. "He had started playing on Wednesday evening and continued playing without a break. Police said friends rushed Mr Thanet to a nearby hospital, where doctors declared him dead. He had died of heart failure. Police said investigators believed the Thai worker developed tension and fatigue after playing the game for hours." Even more worrying though was a story in the Straits Times about a computer games player who was jailed after stabbing one of his opponents who had knifed him in the back during a game of Counter-Strike. "In the middle of the game, Tan suddenly yelled out who had 'killed' his computer game character", the Straits Times reports. "When Qiyong confessed it was his game character, Tan hurled vulgarities at him. He then stormed over to Qiyong's computer terminal and a scuffle ensued. During the scuffle, Tan pulled out a knife and stabbed the teen in the back. Tan's victim suffered a 1-cm-deep cut and the wound had to be stitched." The 21 year-old player has apparently now been sentenced to six years in jail and six strokes of the cane, although his cause probably wasn't helped by the fact that he was caught taking drugs while on bail before the trial. And speaking of drugs, police apparently suspect that gaming bars in Thailand like the one in which Thanet Sommoi died may be adding amphetamines to the water to keep people playing longer. No arrests have yet been made, but Ananova reports that a number of locations were raided after the man's death. © Eurogamer.net. All rights reserved.
Eurogamer.net, 28 Aug 2001

£999 2GHz P4 box approaches

Mesh chose the Bank Holiday weekend to jump the Intel gun slightly and announce its 2GHz P4 machine. It also seems up for a price fight. Mesh brought out a PC with 256MB SDRAM, 40GB hard drive, 19 inch monitor, DVD, CD-R for £1099 ex VAT - pretty close to the golden £999 number we predicted 2GHz P4 boxes would appear at in late September. The Mesh PC is £1291.33 inc VAT and if the company had trimmed down some of the specs, such as the monitor size, or a Dell-style 10GB hard drive, it could have come in under a grand. We expect to see a £999 2GHz P4 before the week is out. Meanwhile PC World did a three-day only Bank Holiday special on an Advent brand 1.7GHz P4. This was £1024.43 ex VAT and came with 128MB RDRAM, 40GB hard drive, but you did get a 15-inch TFT flat panel display. Beleaguered Gateway came in with a bit of a sale following the P4 price cuts. It knocked off £100 from its inc VAT prices to produce a 1.6GHz P4 with 128MB RDRAM, DVD for £899. Also on sale is a 1.8GHz P4, 256MB RDRAM, DVD and CD-R for £1,299. ® Related Stories 2Ghz P4 will turn us all into DJs 2GHz P4 PCs to hit £999 in September Dell skimps on spec to hit PC price points
Robert Blincoe, 28 Aug 2001

Handspring preps Prism II?

Handspring's anticipated pair of new Visors weren't launched last monday, as some sources had suggested, but the company is up to something if pics and details leaked to Palm Infocenter are anything to go by. This time, the PDA is called the Prism II. As it's name suggests, it's a follow up to the original colour Visor, the Prism. The site's source claim it has a 16-bit 240x320 colour screen. It will run Palm OS 4 - essential, if it's to support that colour depth - on a 33MHz Dragonball processor, and ship with 16MB of RAM. So far, so plausible. However, we're sceptical about some other suggested features. First, the Prism II is said to hold its OS code on Flash memory, to allow it to be upgradeable, which is possible but seems unlikely since Handspring has always avoided this in the past. Second, there's a mention of a virtual Graffiti area. Again, that's possible - the HandEra 330 Palm OS device has one - but it's a little too close to the recent, false Sony Clié PEG-N750C rumour to our mind. Then there's the size. It's said to be even thinner than the Visor Edge, Handspring's top-end model which is sold on the back of its slimline casing. It seems unlikely to us that Handspring would maker a thinner model without the Edge brand. The image looks a bit like a bastardised Visor Platinum too - if it's not an outright fake, we wonder if it's an early mock up of an Edge prototype (given the pointed... well... edge along the bottom. Elements of the spec. could have come from the rumoured Ace and Columbia PDAs Handspring was expected to have released last week. Anyone from Handspring keen to put us in the picture can email us here. ® Related Stories Handspring to update Visor line RSN Handspring slices PDA prices by up to 25% Related Link Palm infocenter: Handspring to Release Prism II
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

Sony unveils Palm OS 4.0 Clié PDA

Sony's updated Clié PDA isn't the PEG-N750C or the PEG-N760C - it's the PEG-N770C. And, as expected, it looks like it's little more than a PEG-N710C bundled with Palm OS 4, allowing it to offer 16-bit colour. The 710C has the hardware for 16-bit colour, but shipped with Palm OS 3, which maxed out at 8-bit. Details of the N770C appeared on Sony's German Web site after Sony Deutschland unveiled the machine at a local consumer electronics show. Says the site: "The new Clié PEG-N770C electronic organiser is capable of displaying as many as 65,536 colors on its high-resolution (320 x 320) TFT LCD." It also sports "an integrated audio player capable of reproducing ATRAC3 and MP3 files in top quality by way of external speakers or headphones" and 'operating system of the highly portable PEG-N770C is the most recent release, Palm OS 4.0". The official arrival of the N770C follows rumours that Sony was about to launch a 32-bit colour PDA, the N750C. That claim was quickly dismissed by Sony watchers, many of whom suggested that the new model was actually going to be called the N760C and would simply bring PalmOS 4 to the existing N710C. Sony Deutschland didn't say when the N770C will ship or how much it will cost, but sources suggest it will go on sale in Germany (and, we'd reckon, elsewhere too) late September. The local price (for local people) will be DM1200 ($560). ® Related Stories Sony's next Clié - N750C, N760C or what? Sony to upgrade Palm-based PDA to 32-bit colour? Related Link Sony: PEG-N770C details
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

PCG appeals against IR35 ruling

The Professional Contractors Group is to take the government to the Court of Appeal over the controversial IR35 tax legislation. In March this year, The PCG, which represents 14,000 independent mostly IT contractors, lost a High Court case which held the tax legislation was not illegal under European law. It would not say at the time whether it would take the case to the Court of Appeal. It has now decided to do so. Chairman of the PCG Jane Akshar said: "Our members decided to fund an appeal against the High Court decision because we believe we have a good case and we want to fight for our right to run small businesses. These people are hard working businessmen and women whose businesses are being damaged and in some cases destroyed because of unfair treatment by the government." In March, a High Court judge ruled that while the IR35 measure was flawed and the Inland Revenue's approach needed review, it was not against European law and so would stand as passed by Parliament. The PCG points enthusiastically however to the judge's agreement on nearly all "findings of fact" as presented by the PCG against IR35. IR35 seeks to treat contractors on short-term contracts as employees of the company rather than independent workers. This has immediate tax implications and strongly affects the IT consultant market which is organised typically on a project-based basis. The PCG was set up to support the contractors' cause and argues that the law demonstrates the government's lack of understanding of the modern work market. It went to the High Court on the legal point that by introducing the law, the UK government was effectively allowing unfair state aid and creating a barrier to free movement - illegal in European law. No date has been given for the appeal yet, but a spokeswoman for the PCG told us it expected it to happen around November this year. ® Related Stories IR35 judicial review over IR35: the govt's viewpoint IR35 protesters enter High Court IR35 High Court date set CBI, FSB, PCG ask for rethink on IR35
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Aug 2001

Microsoft delays Xbox Japan debut

Microsoft has confirmed that the Japanese debut of its Xbox games console has indeed been delayed, to 22 February 2002. The news won't come as a surprise to quite a few Xbox watchers, from within the games industry and out of it. As early as last March, Electronic Arts CFO Stan McKee said he would be surprised if the console would ship in Japan in the same timeframe as the US launch. The revised Japanese launch date was announced yesterday by the head of Microsoft Japan, Hirohisa Ohura. He didn't give much else away - launch software titles, shipment targets, that sort of thing - but he did say that 12-20 titles will ship alongside the console when it finally goes on sale in Japan. And that may well point to the reason for the delay. Ohura wouldn't give specific reasons why Microsoft had chosen to put back the launch, preferring to suggest that it's all about giving the company room to focus its attention on the US launch (still set for 8 November) and the Christmas sales period. Ohura clearly regrets not being able to bring Xbox to market in Japan in time for Chrimble. After all, it's arguably one of the best times to ship a console. However, Microsoft has long been accused of focusing too closely on the US market, which it knows well, and being vague about the Japanese market, which it doesn't. That it has some major Japanese developers on board suggests that it has already realised it needs to think about these two markets very differently, but the delay implies it didn't begin doing so soon enough. Having plenty of good Japanese titles ready to ship alongside the new console would seem to have been Microsoft's main criterion for deciding when to bring Xbox to market. Sega, Capcom, Konami and Tecmo have already committed themselves to develop one or more titles for Xbox. Yesterday, Microsoft said Altus, From Software and Namco had agreed to do so too. "We will make public further details of Xbox at Tokyo Game Show in October 2001 and on other occasions," said Ohura. ® Related Stories Xbox not delayed by notabug in Intel mobo Microsoft hints at Japanese Xbox delay Microsoft to delay Japanese Xbox launch?
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

FBI let off cyber snooping hook

The FBI has been let of the hook in its court case against mobster Nicodemo Scarfo. US District Judge Nicholas Politan has now ruled that the Bureau will not have to reveal precisely how it managed to log evidence that Mr Scarfo was involved in illegal gambling and loan sharking. Mr Scarfo's lawyers claim that the FBI bugged him without possession of a bugging warrant and so the evidence it gathered is inadmissible in court since it was obtained illegally. Previously Judge Politan said the FBI would have to reveal how it managed to bug Mr Scarfo's computer after it had failed to unscramble encrypted files on his computer. Not unreasonably, the judge said that for him to decide whether it had been obtained legally or not, he would have to know the method that was used. This information would have had to be given to the defence. But the US government has persuaded the judge that the defence should only get an "unclassified summary". How'd it do that? Well, would you believe it but there's some strange law that can be invoked at times such as this. This one is called the Classified Information Procedures Act - which amazingly allows information to be withheld if national security is at risk. The FBI also promised to give a secret meeting in which it would go into further details over how the system worked. The FBI installed some kind of key-logging software on Mr Scarfo's machine after it failed to crack his encryption software. Since it didn't have a warrant to bug him, Mr Scarfo's lawyers say his constitutional rights have been infringed. The FBI says the technology it is using falls under current bugging legislation but many remain unconvinced and claim the FBI is going beyond current laws. It doesn't inspire confidence either when the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, testified to the Senate a few weeks ago that he was "not familiar" with key-logging technology. That seems about as likely as the Pope being a closet Jew, but then Robert wouldn't lie, would he? Many observers will be concerned at the failure for the American legal system to bring out into the open the unnerving possibilities that the latest technology makes available to intelligence agencies. ® Related Stories FBI chief Mueller lied to Senate about key-logging Mafia trial to test FBI psying tactics
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Aug 2001

Samsung confirms Toshiba is trying to sell DRAM biz

Toshiba must undergo a "drastic restructuring" the company's president, Tadashi Okamura, warned on Monday as the company announced it would sack around 17,000 of its staff - 12 per cent of the workforce - around the world, although the bulk of the cuts will be made in Japan. Part of the programme involves the amputation of the company's memory business. Yesterday, Okamura raised the possibility of an Infineon-style spin off plan. During the day, Infineon itself said the two companies were discussing possible avenues of co-operation. Today, Samsung claimed it had been offered Toshiba's chip business for sale. At the root of Toshiba's problems is the worldwide slump in chip sales. Some observers expect them to recover during the remaining months of 2001, but Toshiba takes a different view: it "won't recover in a short time", said Okamura . "We expect that it will take until 2003 for the IT industry to complete all necessary reorganisation." "We expected that economy will start to recover in the second half, but now we can not expect it because of the drastic economic slowdown in the US started late last year and in the other parts of the world," he added. "We cannot expect the recovery in the second half as well." You can understand the company's gloom. As a result of the downturn, Toshiba now expects to record a loss of ¥80 billion ($667 million) on sales of ¥2650 billion ($22 billion) for the first half of the year. Previously it had anticipated make a profit. For the year as a whole, it will just break even (it originally expected earnings of ¥200 billion) on sales of ¥5750 billion (down from its previous forecast of ¥6440 billion). Toshiba reckons its electronic device and component division will lose ¥120 billion for the full fiscal year. Semiconductors will lose ¥94 billion and discrete components will be down ¥26 billion. The restructuring charge is expected to total ¥120 billion. A cost reduction programme and a business review is expected to yield some savings, however. So too will the sale of its memory business. On Monday, the company wouldn't comment on claims that it was talking to Samsung and Infineon, stressing it doesn't want to name names. Infineon, however, went on record to say the two companies were discussing ways they could co-operate over DRAM production. And this morning, a Samsung spokesman told Reuters "we have recently received the takeover offer from Toshiba [and] as far as I know, Toshiba is contacting several ranking DRAM makers around the globe". Toshiba had already said it planned to shut at least one memory plant, temporarily, to help limit the deluge of memory parts that has driven prices so low, but clearly the company feels that is too little, too late. Worse, it's unitlateral. Any serious attempt to limit production must be conducted with the co-operation of other manufacturers. Taiwan's memory makers have agreed production limits, but together they account for only 15 per cent of memory sales. Few of the large players seem willing to make cuts unless they're forced too. Calls from some memory companies, believed to include Micron and Infineon, have failed to come to anything. Indeed, the mood seems too predatory for co-operation. You can almost sense the stronger players sitting tight, waiting for weaker rivals to collapse. Debt-laden Hynix was expected to be the first. Only the largest players, like Infineon and Samsung, can afford to buy Toshiba's memory business, but even they may decide it's too expensive, given the company controls less then ten per cent of the market. ®
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

Cisco appoints new head Borg for UK and Ireland

Cisco has got itself a new top boy for UK and Ireland. British born Duncan Mitchell is the new head Borg for the region, replacing American Dick Gillespie who retires this month after two years in the job. Mitchell has held senior management jobs with Cisco for the last five years. He has said Cisco's restructuring plans, announced on Friday, will apply to the UK business. The company will move from three lines of business to 11 technology groups. At the time of the announcement Cisco chief exec, John Chambers, said: "We are making these changes at a time when we are beginning to see signs that our business is stabilising. Our line of business structure has served us very well in the past, when customer segments and product requirements were very distinct." Cisco's 11 technology groups are: Access, aggregation, Cisco IOS Technologies Division (ITD), Internet Switching and Services, Ethernet Access, Network Management Services, Core Routing, Optical, Storage, Voice and Wireless. Mitchell is taking the top dog role at a tough time for Cisco. Earlier this month Cisco posted profits for its fourth quarter of just $7 million, down 99 per cent from $796 million profits in the same period last year, as the slowdown in the telecoms market continued to hit sales at the networking giant. The results, which were in line with Wall St expectations, showed Cisco's sales dropping 25 per cent from $5.72 billion to $4.3 billion in its fourth quarter this year. For the full year, Cisco recorded losses of $1.01 billion compared to income of $2.67 billion for fiscal 2000. ® Related Story Cisco splits into 11 technology groups
Robert Blincoe, 28 Aug 2001

AMD cuts up to 49% off CPU prices – again

UpdatedUpdated AMD has cut its prices. It updated its official processor price list on 20 August, and yesterday it did so again. The latest prices more closely match what AMD's chips are actually being sold for, so perhaps they shouldn't be regarded as a cut at all. After we ran our last item on AMD's official prices, numerous Register readers wrote in to tell us they could but AMD CPUs far below the listed prices. In today's official changes, the 1.4GHz Athlon fell from $253 to $130, a fall of 49 per cent. The 1.3GHz part fell from $230 to $125, down 46 per cent. The 1.2GHz chip was down 40 per cent, from $199 to $120. The 1.1GHz Athlon dropped from $179 to $115, a fall fo 36 per cent, and the 1.0GHz chip fell from $160 to $115, down 28 per cent. We understand AMD chips can still be found for less than these prices by buyers keen to shop around, parimarily because these ones appear to be effectively AMD's price recommendations, and some resellers are willing to take a little less margin than AMD reckons they should. For example, we've seen these prices for Athlons sold to resellers: 1.4GHz Athlon, $117.25; 1.3GHz, $113.25; 1.2GHz, $103; and 1.0GHz $76.25. Like the 'official' prices, these ones are for single processors bought in batches of 1000. Here's how the prices pan out: Desktop Athlon 1.40GHz $130   1.33GHz $125   1.30GHz $125   1.20GHz $120   1.13GHz $115   1.10GHz $115   1.00GHz $115 Athlon MP 1.20GHz $265   1.00GHz $215 Duron 1.00GHz $89   950MHz $74   900MHz $64   850MHz $59 Mobile Athlon 4 1.10GHz $425   1.00GHz $290   950MHz $260   900MHz $230   850MHz $195 Duron 900Hz $130   850MHz $100   800MHz $90 Related Story AMD trims prices by up to 49%
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

Credit card scam puts dotcom close to death

An online gift certificate site, Flooz.com, has filed for bankruptcy. This may be because it was the victim of a major credit card scam costing it $300,000. The FBI are investigating a ring of Russian and eastern European bandits who are believed to have used stolen credit cards to buy Flooz's gift currency, known as the Flooz. The problem really kicked in last month, according to head Floozy Robert Levitan, when banks halted all payments for goods made using the Flooz. Levitan blamed the fraud and the current dotcom doldrums for forcing his company to seek bankruptcy protection. Cisco was a major partner in the venture, and Whoopi Goldberg advertised the launch of the site in return for a stake in the business. Flooz.com had raised $35 million over the last three years. It's going into Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, which unlike Chapter 11, means there's no real hope of coming out of it alive. A netcraft scan reveals Flooz.com is running Microsoft IIS/4.0 on NT4/Windows 98. ® Related Stories Beenz is dead: official Online Fraud Museum details CC hacking techniques California indicts Russian hacker
Robert Blincoe, 28 Aug 2001

BBC ditches online ads plan

The BBC has ditched plans to slap adverting on its Web site for non UK-based surfers. Ashley Highfield, the BBC's New Media director, admitted at the weekend that it would be virtually impossible to run a scheme aimed at making money out of ads for non-licence payers abroad. "The government would like us to try and monetise the non-UK traffic but it is actually bloody difficult," Highfield said at the Edinburgh International TV Festival. "It is not always easy to tell where someone is accessing from," he added. According to a BBC representative, these comments refer to Auntie Beeb's plans for online advertising, and not to proposals to charge surfers for online content via a pay-per-view scheme. The idea to charge for downloads is still being looked into, despite press reports to the contrary, the representative said today. If this scheme got the green light, it could mean Brits coughing-up extra cash on top of the existing licence-fee for online content. ® Related Stories BBC publicly mulls idea of charging for Internet programmes Only UK viewers have to pay for the BBC on the PC
Linda Harrison, 28 Aug 2001

ATI shows off Mobility Radeon 7500

ATI launched the latest chip in its renewed assault against its arch-rival, Nvidia, yesterday: the notebook-oriented Mobility Radeon 7500. From a graphics perspective, there's little that's new here. The mobile 7500 offers the same core technology as the desktop 7500, and both are essentially little more than faster Radeons. However, the notebook part does incorporate ATI's latest power-conservation technology, PowerPlay, which the company claims can "extend DVD playback" by 25 per cent more than "competing solutions". PowerPlay appears to work like Intel's SpeedStep technology: the chip adjusts its core voltage and clock speed depending on whether the user is running off the mains or on battery. Users can choose to select their preferred voltage and speed parameters depending on how they themselves want to balance performance and battery life. The chip groups its voltage/clock speed settings into three modes: DVD, 2D and 3D. ATI reckons the Mobility Radeon 7500 can consume less than 0.5W of power, but even it has to admit that's in optimal "light use" conditions. PowerPlay also reduces a notebook's LCD refresh rate to further cut battery power in instances when it can get away with doing so. The Mobility Radeon supports 128-bit DDR SDRAM, the first chip of its kind to do so, and it can access up to 64MB of the stuff. The chip also supports digital flat panel LCDs and a straight-to-TV port. ATI hopes all this will help it maintain its lead in the notebook graphics chip market, having lost the desktop space and others to Nvidia. Nvidia is slowly making headway here, with its GeForce 2 Go and - it hopes - its mobile workstation-oriented Quadro 2 Go, so ATI's alternative needs to be compelling. The 7500's incorporating of the Radeon technology left out of previous Mobility chips - transform and lighting, in particular - should help. ® Related Stories ATI unveils Radeon 8500, 7500 Nvidia eyes mobile workstation market with Quadro 2 Go Nvidia lost 13% marketshare in Q2
Tony Smith, 28 Aug 2001

Unique ID is built into WinXP final build

Microsoft has quietly slipped a Universally Unique ID (UUID) into the ISO of build 2600 of Windows XP, thus giving itself the capability of tracking code leaks back to whoever it was that leaked them. News of the UUID's presence originally broke in the Microsoft beta newsgroups, but the matter has been followed up by Steve Gibson of GRC after postings were forwarded to him. The UUID is located 9400 bytes from the start of the file, and is a HEX ASCII identifier which specifies the downloader's beta test ID and the IP address they're downloading from. So, all Microsoft has to do is download the warez ISO images of 2600 that are currently spreading through the usual channels. It then knows whose beta ID was used to leak the software, and can maybe figure out a little more of what's been going on from the IP address. Naturally this only works for copies of the ISO that have leaked before the warez guys and any careless beta testers figured out what was going on. If the UUID is simply a standalone serial number or similar, then it should be fairly simple for them to obliterate it, and carry on happily distributing Microsoft's intellectual property as before. Microsoft will still have got some useful information about the leaker(s). If the company's viewing the matter with any degree of sophistication, it's going to be interested in figuring out what leakers have in common, and how many there are, rather than in busting the individual culprits (although they can no doubt kiss goodbye to their chances in future beta tests). But even if it is just an easily removable identifier at this juncture, you can see the potential. Microsoft could put in dependencies so that software wouldn't install if the UUID had been messed around with. It could use the UUID to uniquely identify the software once it was actually installed on a PC, possibly giving itself the ability to identify and break installations that had derived from unauthorised leaks. It's highly unlikely that anything as extreme has been implemented in build 2600, and Microsoft will surely think long and hard before unleashing this kind of system on users in general. But maybe some day, in the wonderful world of .NET, it might start to wonder how much more it could get away with. And meanwhile, we can all wonder what else might be lurking in there, somewhere... ® Related link: Discussion at Steve Gibson's grc.com
John Lettice, 28 Aug 2001

Minolta Dimage 7

ReviewReview The Minolta Dimage 7 is a high-end camera with a price and specification to match. At just over £850 it won't appeal to all, but if you need a good quality single lens reflex device then this Recommended Buy is worth investigating. You'd be hard pushed to find a 4Mp (megapixel) camera below £1000. However, Minolta has given the competition something to think about by putting a huge 5.2Mp CCD into the Dimage 7. That's a true resolution of 2560x1920, yet it's still possible to squeeze out 20 shots in economy mode with the 16MB CompactFlash card. It can also capture images in Tiff or Raw format, although at 14MB a photo, it takes 30 to 40 seconds to process on the camera. Shots were brilliantly detailed and colourful - you can blow them up to A4 without image degradation. The heavy magnesium alloy chassis is bulky but accommodates a stunning variety of manual settings that should appease all photography professionals. The majority of options can be automated and the user has manual control over all aspects of photography - from the 7x optical zoom to colour saturation and focus. Despite the host of configurations it's remarkably easy to use. Though peerless, it's not perfect. The digital hyper-viewfinder means always relying on the LCD and there's no lithium-ion battery. The bundled NiMH batteries don't come with a charger and there's no mains adapter. It lacks decent software by only including a basic Minolta graphics utility package and QuickTime. The high price means the Dimage 7 won't be to everyone's tastes, but as a digital camera in its own right it's simply the best we've seen. No other manufacturer currently comes anywhere near this high-end consumer camera. ® Info Price: 7#163;851 Contact: 01908 200 400 Website: www.minolta.co.uk Specs Megapixels: 5.2 Max resolution: 2560x1920 Min resolution: 640x480 Storage: 16MB CompactFlash card Min photos on 16MB: 6 Max photos on 16MB: 118 Connection: USB Batteries: 4xAA NiMH rechargeables Dimensions: 117x91x113mm Weight: 505g Scoring Build quality: 9 Features: 9 Performance: 9 All details correct at time of publication Copyright © 2001, IDG. All rights reserved
PC Advisor, 28 Aug 2001

DTI wants to shut down five resellers

The Department of Trade and Industry has applied to the High Court to shut down five computer dealerships - "in the public interest". The five companies are: NU-TECH SUPPLIES LIMITED ORACAL SYSTEMS LIMITED PASTEL HOLDINGS LIMITED NORAD MARKETING LIMITED TRITECK ELECTRICAL LIMITED The court has appointed the Official Receiver The companies are all registered and trade in Essex they all supply computer equipment to the public, the DTI says in a press release. Nu-Tech, Oracal and Pastel Holding share the same registered office and trading address - 8,The Centre, Lakes Industrial Park, Lower Chapel, Braintree Essex. Dean Edware Morter is the director of all three companies, while Edward Charles Parker ACCA is listed as the company secretary for all concerned. Tritek is registered in Maldon, Essex and it trades from the same town. Director Simon Manthorpe is a former employee of Nu-Teech and the former secretary of Oracal, the DTI says. The move to close the companies follows a DTI investigation, results of which have not been disclosed. The Court has appointed the Official Receiver as provisional liquidator of the companies, to safeguard the public interest. It will hear the DTI petitions to close the companies for hearing on 3 October 2001. ®
Drew Cullen, 28 Aug 2001

ICANN rottweiler savages Net consultant

If you ever doubted that the legion of Internet consultants rushing around telling Net-ignorant business folk what the World Wide Web means to them have been talking out their respective arses, worry not longer. Following the posting of an article by one such consultant on an influential newsgroup concerned with domain name issues, ICANN rottweiler Karl Auerbach felt compelled to reply. Karl started off by saying: "Whoever is posting this stuff - please stop. The article that was posted under the above heading contained more errors than facts. It is amazing that the writer could get so much so wrong." The article in question was written by Joe Burns PhD and posted on his own site, HTML Goodies. Titled "So, you want your own domain name, huh?", it purported to be in response to the question Joe gets asked all the time: How do I get my own domain? Apparently it was a combination of Joe's research and his own experiences. And Joe's had a few - he is, after all, Assistant Professor of Communications at Louisiana University as well as an Internet consultant and seminar leader. Unless you hadn't noticed, he's also got a PhD. Why not visit his business site at www.JoeBurnsPhD.com? Unfortunately, recognised authority on the Internet's structure and permanent headache to the ICANN board, Karl Auerbach, was not so impressed. He adopts the dissection style of quote and comment popular in email: > So, what's a domain? A domain is a larger site on the Net Wrong. > You must first buy (register) the name and then set to putting that domain on the Web. That means getting your own static IP number. Wrong. > Actually, if you use an Internet Service Provider (ISP) you are assigned a random (drawn from the multiple IP numbers under the ISP's domain) IP each time you attach. Largely wrong. > This does not apply to AOL or Compuserve users, because you are not attached to the Internet as such, but are only allowed to surf through the use of AOL's browser. Wrong. > "://" are some leftover UNIX commands Wrong etc etc. But it gets worse... > An ISP will most likely be a Class C IP. Of course, now you need to know what that means. Clearly the writer does not. > IP numbers are assigned in classes. As I said above, your ISP is most likely a Class C. Classfull addresses went the way of the dinosaurs when CIDR came along years ago. > Class D I'm a class D. I use all four octets. Sheesh, that's not even in the same universe as the correct answer. (The 224/8 through 239/8 space is for IP multicast.) And so the dissection continues until, well, you're fairly convinced that Joe maybe isn't the authority he purports to be. If you wish, you can see his full article here. But we suspect you don't. Just another demonstration of how wonderful the Internet can be. Experts available at the click of a button. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Aug 2001

Deutsche Telekom soothes market with debt reduction plan

Deutsche Telekom has followed a rough week by announcing half-year results almost exactly in line with expectations. For the first half of the year, it has seen a 16.9 per cent rise in revenues (to £14.1 billion) and a 12 per cent rise in profit before interest, tax etc (to £4.5 billion). However, overall it made a net loss of £219 million. Shares have risen 4.5 per cent on end of selling yesterday but this demonstrates relief that the results weren't worse rather than confidence in the telecom giant. As with the other two main European telcos, France Telecom and British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom has been beset by huge debt and has seen its share price fall week-on-week to the lowest in recent memory. Last week, the company saw 20 per cent wiped off its share price in almost one day as a huge swathe of shares in the company were dumped on the market. The shares had been released from an agreement with Hutchison Whampoa following the purchase of US company VoiceStream. That caused panic since nearly 590 million shares are also due to be released on 1 September. It also sparked a conversation between the German finance minister Hans Eichel and DT's chairman Ron Sommer yesterday. DT has dismissed it as "routine" but with a 43 per cent stake in the telco, the German government is not over pleased to see shares goes down the toilet. And so what is DT going to do about it all? Well, you won't believe this but it seems to be following exactly the same steps as British Telecom when it found itself in the same position six months ago. Without the sacking of its chairman and demotion of its chief exec of course. It will cut its debt from £41 billion today to £36-39 billion by the end of the year and £31.4 billion by the end of 2002. And how will it do this? By floating off mobile arm T-Mobile for £6.3 billion, selling stakes in other non-core companies (£3.1 billion in cable companies, £0.63 billion in France Telecom, others) and selling off real estate (worth another £1.6 billion). All it needs is a rights issue and we've got BT recovery program version two. The monster has also wisely decided to keep the market informed of everything that's going on so it's not caught out again. Hence its announcement that "only" 170 million shares of the 590 million issued for acquisition of VoiceStream and Powertel are expected to be traded on 1 September (although it went for the term "flow back" to the market). At least 350 million are "safe" it told the market. Oh, and VoiceStream is going to make a "significant" profit in 2002, according to DT - a change from the £59 million loss it made last quarter. Deutsche Telekom has clearly seen the light and not too soon either. It must have helped seeing BT go through it all earlier in the year. ® Related Story Deutsche Telekom takes out full-page ads to explain share slump
Kieren McCarthy, 28 Aug 2001

Cypherpunk Bell gets ten years

Cypherpunk Jim Bell was convicted of stalking IRS agent Jeff Gordon (who had previously investigated him) back in April, and finally sentenced last week to an incredible ten years in stir and fined $10,000. Bell is the author of a 1996 essay called Assassination Politics, which appears to advocate using digital cash to reward people who kill corrupt or otherwise undesirable members of the government. This, in combination with his keen interest in the comings and goings of a couple of federal agents, added up to a decidedly less than wholesome appearance which landed him in the dock in Washington State. Bell might have distanced himself from the essay as a bit of fiction and exhibited some compunction in court. Unfortunately, he played the martyr and thus did pretty much everything he could to damage himself during the trial, making paranoid claims that his lawyer wished to kill him and otherwise sprinkling his testimony with liberal pinches of fantasy and delusion. He capped off his performance by filing a civil lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Practices (RICO) Act against the judge, the prosecutor, and even his own lawyer. His chief crime was to be a fat, unattractive, mean-spirited loner with a thinking disorder. Possibly dangerous, certainly self-destructive, but far more in need of treatment than punishment. Unfortunately, extravagant public spending on prisons needed to accommodate the war on Negroes drugs has made it necessary for America's penal institutions to serve as its default mental health infrastructure, the distinction between 'justice' and 'punishment' having long ago evaporated from the popular imagination. And so once again an obviously sick man is to be 'treated' with the finest warehousing money can buy. ® Related Stories Cypherpunk Bell found guilty Wired reporter forced to testify at cypherpunk trial
Thomas C Greene, 28 Aug 2001

WIPO shafts AOL over porn site

WIPO has slapped AOL in the face over the domain Nudescape.com. The ISP went to WIPO to try and grab the domains Nudescape.com and AOLfind.com from Canadian company Media Dial, which was using the Nudescape URL for a porn site. AOL, part of media giant AOL Time Warner, claimed the domain names were "confusingly similar" to the AOL and Netscape brands. It added that confusion was particularly likely with Nudescape.com because the porn site sported a banner stating: "Nudescape.com - The Site of Choice for AOL Users". WIPO ruled that AOLfind.com should be transferred to AOL. But, surprisingly, it disagreed with the Internet monster over the other domain. The Net body stated that "scape" and "nude" were common words used in English, and that the Netscape trademark should not prevent others from using these two words in their URLs. Media Dial "should have a right to use these common English words to describe its pornographic services," according to WIPO. "Otherwise, parts of the English language would soon be acquired and removed from common use by those wishing to name their businesses or describe their services." Unfortunately, the Nudescape.com site was out of action this afternoon. WIPO was unable to explain why, AOL didn't return our call, and Media Dial remained elusive. WIPO has previously helped AOL to win bucketloads of cases over domains that the ISP claimed were similar to its trademarks. ® Related Link WIPO statement Related Stories Professor tears ICANN domain dispute policy to pieces US dotcom keeps ownership of SouthAfrica.com AOL wins rights to Aimster domain name
Linda Harrison, 28 Aug 2001

Black Box buys UK cable firm

Black Box, the acquisition-crazy networking reseller, has bought a cabling company in Cumbria. Based in Dalton-in-Furness, Optech turns over $2m a year approx. Terms are undisclosed.
Drew Cullen, 28 Aug 2001

Microsoft ports XP to Mac?

An eagle eyed reader spotted this gem hidden deep in the promotional bumf for Windows XP. It shows an Apple Mac user staring perplexed at his machine. With good reason, for his Mac has just booted Microsoft Windows XP. "Windows XP is designed to prevent problems..." runs the assuring blurb. "But if you do encounter an obstacle, Windows XP gives you tools that enable you to help yourself". Perhaps by giving the user the option to return to the familiar MacOS - which is all God, and Steve Jobs, ever intended the machine to run. Actually in the pursuit of accuracy, we must point out that the Mac pictured here looks like an 7/8000 series pre-G3 tower - the noisiest Mac Apple ever made until the recently-introduced "QuickHoover" G4. And it could run the PowerPC version of BeOS or Linux. But never, unless we've missed some secret parallel computer history, Microsoft WinXP. Viral marketing, anyone? ®
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Aug 2001

Project Jackson breaks cover – Xeon in 2002, Itanic later

Intel Developer ForumIntel Developer Forum Intel took the wraps off Project Jackson today, the multi-threaded chip technology we told you about back in February. It's the art of making one processor behave like two or more logical processors, which adds a little extra hardware overhead to the chip but offers the possibility of much better parallelism. And it's probably Chipzilla's biggest design innovation since it put the x86 charabanc on Risc internals with the Pentium. In preference to the standard academic term for this architecture, SMT (simultaneous multi-threading), Intel calls it Hyperthreading. The first implementations will appear in Xeons, or 'Xeon MP' next year, which will have two logical processors. Intel also says that SMT will find its way into the Itanic family eventually. Intel claims that the SMT Xeon offers a 30 per cent improvement over the same processor with the threading turned off. That's running MS IIS. Figures of 23 per cent for Exchange and 22 per cent for SQL Server were also offered. Intel couldn't or wouldn't give figures for a two-logical-processor, but single-chip Xeon MP against a two-processor Xeon SMP. Which is fair enough at this stage, as the two will be priced differently. When we ran over the history of SMT earlier this year, Dean Tullsen - who co-authored the landmark academic paper that put SMT at the top of the academic design agenda - told us he'd been advising Intel on various techniques (he couldn't say which, being in purdah). Tullsen it was who worked with DEC on making Alpha multi-threaded in 1995. With Compaq sending the Alpha EV8 to sleep with the fishes (see Alphacide articles passim) Xeon MP will become the first processor to be generally available in volume systems. The first Jackson will incorporate an 8KB L1 data cache, a 256KB unified L2 cache and 1MB of L3 cache on the chip. The Xeon MP will alternate between the two logical processors so if one processor misses a fetch cache request it goes to the other. If they both miss it will alternate between the two. There's an eight-way associative cache line for resolving conflicts on a LRU basis. Of course Jackson-ized Xeons will share data in their caches. When conventional SMPs encounted a cache miss, they have to hop across the bus to sniff (we believe the technical term is 'snoop') the instructions out the cache of another processor. That's one of the reasons why SMT is a big performance win. The other is the parallelism: the processor makes more efficient use of deep pipelines. There slides from today's SMT sessions are online here. OS vendors - who've been briefed about Jackson for almost a full year now - will need to make few tweaks, but those tweaks help. There will be some scope for processor affinity, it emerged. Engineers in the packed introduction had plenty of questions. If Xeon MP was so dandy, wouldn't this affect low-end Itanic? Gosh, no, came the predictable reply. But Jackson chips will run hot - very hot. Although peak power consumption is only slightly increased, the average power consumption is "greatly increased", because the processor is being run much closer to its theoretical maximum throughput. Of course that's better than having it draining the grid while simply throwing instructions away. ® Related Jackson Stories Intel's Jackson will offer two chips for one Project Jackson - why SMT is the joker in the the chip pack UltraSPARC V wears extreme threads Related IDF Stories McKinley, Deerfield speeds and feeds Wintel touts the next leap in computing Smack My Bits Up - Intel exec Intel goes bananas over Banias 2GHz P4 will turn us all into DJs
Andrew Orlowski, 28 Aug 2001

Smack My Bits Up – Intel exec

Intel Developer ForumIntel Developer Forum People attending an early morning keynote at the Intel Developers Forum were given a rude awakening today when a senior Intel exec let slip risqué language, which was anything but PC. Paul Otellini, Intel's executive vice president, was in the middle of a presentation outlining Intel future technology when he said the firm needed to "stretch the bitch". We think he meant to say "stretch the bit" but it just came out a bit wrong. The alternative, that the argot of Blaxploitation movies has permeated Chipzilla and is being applied to its latest generation of processor design doesn't really bear thinking about... ® Related IDF Stories McKinley, Deerfield speeds and feeds Wintel touts the next leap in computing Project Jackson breaks cover - Xeon in 2002, Itanic later Intel goes bananas over Banias 2GHz P4 will turn us all into DJs
John Leyden, 28 Aug 2001