5th > November > 2001 Archive


The BOFH Content Management System

Episode 29Episode 29 BOFH 2001: Episode 29 "..And what would you suggest would solve this problem?" the Head of IT asks, over his lunchtime meal. "Some form of document management system seems appropriate?" The Boss suggests, providing conclusive proof that he's been talking to vendors without supervision again. "Oooh, a licence to print money!" The PFY interrupts excitedly. "What do you mean?" "Well, we'll obviously be expected to take something unpleasant from the vendor in order to get this... i.e. a heeeuuge bill, content locked into the server or something.." "No, no, it's all Open." "Open to anyone who's bought the client to extract the documents from their database perhaps?" I add. "No, open to everyone!" The Boss responds, obviously having done several weeks homework with the colour brochure. "They say it uses standard windows files. . ." "Ah - the old 'Change-the-filename-to-something-obscure-with-a-custom-extension' trick so you can never find it, except via their interface. Yes, I like it!" "What do you mean?" "Well it's simple. Remember that time stores wanted to move all those archived documents offsite to get some of their space back?" "Yes?" "And they got that Document storage company in to pack it all up and store it in 'standard' boxfiles?" "And index EVERYTHING so all someone had to do was ring them and tell them the document name and they'd deliver it?" "Yes." "And we paid them a fat wedge of money to do it, plus recall fees, etc?" "Uh-Huh." "And remember when our company had a huge falling out with their company?" "When you set fire to their premises, yes." "When I tested their environmental monitoring systems to ensure that our documents were safe from fire, yes." "Whatever.." The Boss adds doubtfully. "And remember, we ended up demanding all our documents back?" "Yes." "And they came back, each in its own brown envelope - with a cryptic number on it, taking up over twice the space as originally. Then we had to employ that student to sit in the basement and extract them and file them all again.." "Last I heard he was still down there," the head of IT comments. "So you're saying that this software is the same as that document storage company, and that they're trying to disguise it by saying it's open and offering all-expenses-paid trips to the US for 'training'???" ***JUNKET ALERT!!!*** "No, I'm saying we can learn from our mistakes!" I blurt quickly, before The PFY can put his foot in it. "So there IS something in the Content Management Server?" The Boss gasps. "There may very well be..." The PFY inserts, catching on at last. . . . THREE LAGER-FILLED HOLIDAYS IN THE US LATER . . . "So how's the Content Management going?" The Boss asks, trying to peek over The PFY's shoulder at the categorisation process. "Good, but a few teething problems with which categories to choose from.." "Really, can I help? I've been looking at one of those documents you bought back, and I think I've got the hang of it. Financial Documents can be categorised under department, supplier, purchase type, purchaser, purchase category, project, monetary expenditure, assets, physical location, intention, name.." The Boss burbles on for a while and then wanders off excitedly to put a comprehensive list together for our benefit. The PFY, meantime, continues with his work with the devotion of a professional. "IT'S AMAZING!!!" The Boss blurts, entering Mission Control with a smug expression on his face. "I've been looking at the datastore occupancy figures, and apparently there's been a huge amount of growth in the holdings just this morning and it's saying the machine needs some extra hard drives!!! I didn't realise it would be so popular!!!" "Oh yes!" I agree. "And it's proving to be of most benefit to telecommuting workers, who can access their files direct from the Internet. Just look at the Internet usage figures!" "My goodness! That's amazing! But how long do you think we've got before the disks run out?" "Two, maybe three days. We're putting stuff in from older data tapes at the moment, which is why it's all going online so much faster. What are we up to at the moment?" "The McHenry.. uh, Service documents." "Really? Gosh, it's amazing what the company's got that you've never heard about! What's next?" "Let’s see.... Well, there's about three or four tapes of the RustyNEddie, um, interactive processing stuff." "Rustianeddy. Hmmm, I spose I should give that the old once-over to familiarise myself with it." "Well, I'd probably allow myself several hours if I were you." "That boring? Well I suppose I'll just leave it to you. Let me know if there's any problems tho." "Sure thing!" . . . Barely a day later, it's all over. The Boss's presentation to senior management took a major nosedive when a random choice of "Financial" categorised documents turned up an image from the "Gurlz who do it for Cash" series - as categorised by The PFY. The Boss bought the 'hackers' story, but the machine had to go... ... to a storeroom, where the website's gaining customers like nobodies business. You've got to love newfangled technology...® Tune in to http://www.salmondays.tv for a live-action comedy vid-strip, inspired by our beloved BOFH BOFH 2K+1: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 BOFH is copyright © 1995-2001, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 05 Nov 2001

Oops! MS.de ‘pirates’ its own WinXPs

Microsoft Deutschland seems to have accidentally pirated itself by shipping the same copy of Windows XP over and over again. Sort of, anyway. German sites 3Dwin.de and Heise Online report that numerous copies of XP with the same product key have been turning up, and naturally these won't activate, because they've been activated already. The copies appear to be genuine, and Microsoft Deutschland is currently trying to figure out what happened. It's not yet clear whether it's just one key that's been duplicated (chewing gum stuck on the ticker?) or whether it's some kind of production fault that's been churning out multiple duplicates. 3DWin claims a count of over 30 for one attempted activation, and says the problem affects several dealers, including Amazon.de. Whether its an isolated glitch or something more widespread, it's embarrassing for Microsoft, which has been trying to paint Windows Product Activation as a simple, hassle-free process that doesn't trouble users at all. In this case, however, the honest customers have paid their money for the real product, then found themselves bounced when they try to activate online, then been told their product's already being used by somebody else when they phone up the hotline. The Register, mindful of the war stories that came out of the Australian test of WPA, confidently predicts that there'll be a lot more of this sort of stuff before we're done with WPA. ®
John Lettice, 05 Nov 2001

BTopenworld charges £900 for satellite broadband service

People living in rural Britain will have to pay through the nose if they want access to broadband Internet access. Finally announcing pricing details for its broadband satellite service, BTopenworld has stung Internet users just where it hurts the most. BTopenworld's Business Satellite 500/1 service will allow a user to connect a single PC to the service. This costs £69.99 a month plus a whopping one-off connection charge of £899. The Business Satellite 500/4 service - which allows up to four PCs to be connected at one time - costs £139.99 a month with a one-off connection charge of £1,299. The connection charges cover the purchase of the satellite dish and indoor broadband unit, plus a charge for installation. All prices are exclusive of VAT. At these prices, the products are very much geared towards business users - once again delivering a kick in the teeth for the 40 per cent of the population who want broadband at a cost they can afford. The two-way satellite service is to be made available in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland and Northern Ireland later this month and should be made available to the rest of the country from April next year. ® Related Story BTopenworld's broadband satellite service kicks off next month
Tim Richardson, 05 Nov 2001

Prelim PowerPC G5 hits 2.4GHz

Motorola has released the latest update to its PowerPC 8500 - aka G5 - processor that ups AltiVec performance and delivers consistent 1GHz and up clock speeds, one of our Apple sources tells us. Indeed, the source claims, two of the chips in the sample set of CPUs sent to the Mac maker, clocked at 2.4GHz. Most, however, ran at 1GHz, 1.2GHz or 1.4GHz, and some - a "considerable number", says our Deep Throat - operate at 1.6GHz. Even if some chips run at 2.4GHz, it's clear that the yields of such parts is very small indeed. So don't expect Apple to offer a 2GHz Power Mac G5 any time soon - it's more likely to be rather more conservative about the speed it can deliver. Still, 1.2GHz or 1.4GHz will be very welcome to many Mac users wondering whether we'll see anything higher than 867MHz. The 8500 update is revision 0.6, and is said to fix the cache coherency bug we reported a little while back. There still appears to be an issue with the G5's AltiVec performance, so while that has been improved with this revision, it's still only around 85 per cent of the third-generation G4-class processor, the PPC 7460 aka Apollo. Our source suggests that revision 0.6 also features "minor changes with... the positioning of the L1 and L2 cache on the die". We're a little concerned by this. We'd have assumed that would have been to significant a change to be made in a point revision since the positioning of one, large collection of transistors will affect the positioning of all the others. Then again, in these days of computerised chip design tools, perhaps it's not that big a deal. We welcome comments from readers engaged in chip development work to give us some insight into this one. Looking ahead, G5 revision 0.7 is expected to arrive sometime during the next few weeks. It promises to improve AltiVec performance further. Its upcoming availability hasn't stopped Apple shipping 1000 prototype G5s to "key developers", according to our source, under plain wrappers - beige ATX cases, in this instance. "There are 500 machines out there, and with this revision the aim is to bring it up to 1500," boasts our source, noting this will be done through a mix of complete systems and upgrade logic boards. Someone, somewhere out there in developer land must have seen one of these beasts. If you have, feel free to drop us a line about it. ® Related Stories PowerPC G5 'blazingly fast', claims Motorola mole PowerPC G5 performance 'stunning' - sources Bugs fail to knock PowerPC G5 off schedule Motorola completes 1.6GHz PowerPC G5
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

MS Passport cracked with Hotmail

Passport and Wallet users are going to be disappointed to learn that these feature-rich tools can't be used until MS fixes a little bug which makes sport of taking over someone else's account. Passport authenticates a user for access to his credit cards and Web site accounts and passwords, to make life easy for on-line merchants and shoppers, and hackers and identity thieves. The flaw was discovered by Seattle researcher Marc Slemko, who devised a Hotmail exploit which enables an attacker to use a malicious e-mail to obtain the victim's entire on-line shopping kit, and take any action the owner can take. Briefly, the exploit involves stealing session cookies used to authenticate users to the Passport server and other sites which support Passport, and impersonating the victim. "If, for example, a user enters their password to sign in to Hotmail, they are then allowed access to their Passport Wallet without further authentication for the next 15 minutes! So if someone logs into Hotmail then reads an e-mail sent to them that uses one of a variety of attacks to steal their Passport cookies, that attacker has then effectively stolen that user's Passport Wallet, without the user ever knowing," Slemko explains. Step-by-step instructions for doing just that are laid out on Slemko's Web site here. It is definitely not as difficult as it should be. ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Nov 2001

AMD's XP goes 1900+

HWRoundupHWRoundup AMD's latest Athlon XP chip is out today - the 1900+, clocking in at 1.6GHz. Reviews so far mostly agree that the chip provides a modest performance increase over its 1.53GHz predecessor, the 1800+, but is not wildly exciting. The chip costs $269 in OEM quantities of 1,000. AMD Zone gives this summary at the end of its review: "No architectural or marketing changes with this release ... expect the previous CPUs to decline in price ... expect a bit higher performance and power consumption." Anandtech agrees, saying the chip will not offer any significant extra performance over the 1800+, so early adopters need not sweat too much about being left behind. The site believes that AMD is currently the performance leader on desktop processors. VIAHardware.com reckons users could be just as well off picking up the 1800+ at 1.53GHz and simply overclocking it to 1.6GHz. Users already owning a high-speed XP chip are better off waiting for the next upgrade on the platform to significantly increase performance. Tech Report has some extensive benchmarking, putting the 1900+ slightly ahead of Intel's P4 2.0GHz in most of them, while SimHQ.com gets very excited about the new chip. Amdmb.com also has a piece showing the expected five to six per cent performance increase. ® Related Stories XP hangs, AMD stomps Intel AMD Processor Products, Prices Intel cuts P4, PIII prices by up to 29% Related Link AMD Press Release
James Watson, 05 Nov 2001

UK home Net use flat

The number of UK homes connected to the Net plateaued in the three months to August, according to the latest stats from Oftel. Home Internet use has grown steadily since Oftel's first study in January 1999. In May 2001, Oftel reported that 40 per cent of UK homes were connected to the Net but in August, that figure dipped by one per cent. According to the experts at the winged watchdog, it's too early to tell if this represents a change in the long-term upwards trend or whether this is just blip. What's clear is that the role of flat-fee dial-up services has been vital in the growth of the UK's Internet market with just under half of those homes connected to the Net using some form of unmetered narrowband access. This, Oftel reckons, is a key driver in getting lower income groups online and using the Net. Elsewhere, the report found that dial-up access remained the most popular method for getting online. No surprises there, but once again, the number of broadband users is so small - around one per cent - Oftel can only give an estimate of usage numbers. However, we should all take heart because the winged watchdog is "planning to carry out an additional benchmarking exercise for the broadband market". Note, it is "planning to" not "actually carrying out" this particular exercise. Apparently, Oftel wants to establish "whether and if so why, UK consumers are making more or less use of Internet broadband access than other countries". Heaven help us. ® Related Link Consumers’ use of Internet Oftel residential survey Q6 August 2001
Tim Richardson, 05 Nov 2001

PocketPC sales slide

Palm retained its lead in the worldwide PDA arena last quarter as PocketPC's share of the business fell significantly and the market as a whole dipped on the previous quarter. According to market watcher Gartner Dataquest, third-quarter global PDA shipments fell by just under ten per cent, from 2.81 million units in Q2 to 2.54 million. Palm's share of that total dipped to 29.7 per cent - some 745,000 units worldwide - down from 31.7 per cent in Q2. Palm OS licensee Handspring took 14 per cent of the market, a market trend-breaking increase on the 11 per cent it held during the previous quarter. The company then shipped 300,000 units; during Q3 it shipped 352,000 PDAs. By contrast, Compaq shipped 185,000 iPaqs - down from 300,000 in Q2 - for a marketshare of 7.3 per cent. Casio grabbed 5.6 per cent. Like Handspring, it shipped more devices in Q3 (145,000) than Q2 (94,000), although the indications are that most were less expensive electronic organisers, rather than PocketPC products. Hewlett-Packard shipped 135,000 machines and won 5.3 per cent of the market. It shipped 193,000 units in Q2. PocketPC devices collectively accounted for just 18 per cent of the PDA market, rather less than the 30 per cent in shipped in Q2. As per the similar decline noted last week in Europe's Q3 PDA shipments, Gartner Dataquest blames the steep decline on buyers deciding to wait for the PocketPC 2002 upgrade in this quarter. It forecasts PDA shipments will grow to between 2.8 million and 2.9 million this year. ® Related Story Euro PDA shipments fell 34.5% in Q3
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

AMD cloaks Athlon 1900+ clock speed

"We're not trying to hide clock speeds," said AMD Europe's marketing chief, Robert Stead, at the launch of the company's controversial Athlon XP model numbering scheme on 9 October. Stead and co. were at pains to point out that the company intended to be open about its chips' clock speeds. And, indeed, AMD was quick to point out each member of the Athlon XP family's clock frequency: 1.33GHz for the 1500+, 1.40GHz for the 1600+, 1.47GHz for the 1600+ and 1.53GHz for the 1800+. The company also said it would quickly push down the path of righteousness any chip reseller who inadvertently failed to indicate or mis-quoted an XP's clock speed. So perhaps AMD's new performance rating advocacy manager, Patrick Moorhead, would like to investigate the latest violator of AMD's clock speed rules: AMD itself. As far as we can see, the chip maker's latest press releases, announcing the arrival of the Athlon XP 1900+, has no reference to the part's clock speed. We're sure the chip's clock-speed - it's 1.6GHz - is somewhere on AMD's site - it's tucked away in the FAQ, we've just seen - but it's not exactly obvious to the casual viewer. So much for openness... ® That press release in full: AMD INTRODUCES THE AMD ATHLON™ XP PROCESSOR 1900+; EXTENDS AMD'S PERFORMANCE LEADERSHIP IN DESKTOP PCS AMD's QuantiSpeed™ architecture delivers extreme performance for Microsoft Windows XP SUNNYVALE, CA-NOVEMBER 5, 2001 - AMD (NYSE: AMD) today announced the new AMD Athlon™ XP processor 1900+, which sets a new level of performance and continues to extend AMD's leadership with the world's highest overall performing PC processor. The AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ features QuantiSpeed™ architecture and delivers up to a 25-percent performance advantage versus competitive processors on real-world applications, in such categories as digital media, office productivity and 3D gaming. AMD has worked closely with Microsoft to ensure systems powered by the AMD Athlon XP processor with QuantiSpeed architecture provide Windows XP users with extreme performance for a great PC experience. QuantiSpeed is the key architectural feature of the AMD Athlon XP processor that allows it to work more efficiently and increase application performance. "The AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ with QuantiSpeed architecture accelerates AMD's position as the PC processor performance leader," said Ed Ellett, vice president of marketing for AMD's Computation Products Group. "AMD continues to demonstrate that megahertz is not the sole measure of performance. The AMD Athlon XP processor combines innovative architectural design and expertise to deliver the highest PC application performance for home and business consumers." AMD identifies the AMD Athlon XP processor using model numbers, as opposed to clock speed in megahertz. Model numbers are designed to convey the relative performance of AMD Athlon XP processors, as well as communicate the architectural superiority over existing AMD Athlon processors. The higher the model number, the better the performance. To communicate processor performance in the future, AMD is driving the True Performance Initiative, or TPI. TPI is intended to define a new, more accurate measure of processor performance and assist customers in understanding the benefits of PC performance. "Compaq is pleased to offer PCs powered by the latest AMD Athlon XP processing technology," said Brett Faulk, director of Home and Small Office Desktop Marketing in Compaq Computer Corporation's Access Business Group. "The advanced performance of the new AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ with QuantiSpeed architecture will enhance the superior gaming, digital video, and productivity applications for which Compaq Presario PCs are preferred." "The AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ with QuantiSpeed architecture is designed to work exceptionally well with today's demanding real-world and mission-critical applications," said Paul Petersen, vice president of product marketing and development at MicronPC. "By providing the optimum balance of processor clock speed and the amount of work done per clock cycle, the AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ with QuantiSpeed architecture is an ideal platform to provide our PC enthusiast customers with a superior computing experience." AMD and its partners continue to drive performance improvements to the Socket A platform. One of the latest innovations includes VIA's KT266a chipset, which improves overall AMD Athlon XP processor performance. "The combination of the VIA Apollo KT266A, the AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ with QuantiSpeed architecture, and DDR memory, provides consumers with powerful technology that delivers exceptional performance," said Ted Lee, vice president, sales and marketing, VIA Technologies, Inc. Availability Systems featuring the AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ are immediately available from MicronPC. Other top-tier manufacturers, including Compaq Computer Corporation, Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard Company, also are planning to offer AMD Athlon XP processor-based systems. Pricing The AMD Athlon XP processor 1900+ is priced at $269 in 1,000-unit quantities. For more information on pricing, please visit: http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/VirtualPressRoom/0,,51_104_609,00.html About the AMD Athlon(tm) XP Processor The AMD Athlon(tm) XP processor features QuantiSpeed(tm) architecture, 384KB of on-chip, full-speed cache, and support for AMD's 3DNow!(tm) Professional instructions for enhanced multimedia capabilities. The AMD Athlon XP processor is compatible with AMD's Socket A infrastructure, and supports the advanced 266MHz front-side bus. AMD Athlon XP processors are manufactured using AMD's 0.18-micron copper process technology in Fab 30 in Dresden, Germany. About AMD AMD is a global supplier of integrated circuits for the personal and networked computer and communications markets with manufacturing facilities in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Asia. AMD, a Fortune 500 and Standard & Poor's 500 company, produces microprocessors, Flash memory devices, and support circuitry for communications and networking applications. Founded in 1969 and based in Sunnyvale, California, AMD had revenues of $4.6 billion in 2000. (NYSE: AMD). AMD on the Web For more information about today's announcement, please visit our virtual pressroom at http://www.amd.com/news/spotlight. Additional press releases are available at http://www.amd.com/news/news.html. AMD, the AMD Arrow logo, AMD Athlon, and combinations thereof, QuantiSpeed, and 3DNow! are trademarks of Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. Microsoft and Windows are registered trademarks of the Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other jurisdictions. Other product names are for informational purposes only and may be trademarks of their respective companies.
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

Intel brings forward Brookdale G

Intel will begin to ship the integrated-graphics version of its 845 chipset - codenamed Brookdale G - next February, ahead of its official introduction in April and considerably in advance of its previously timetabled launch in Q3 2002. According to a report in DigiTimes, the chip giant has told mobo makers that it has had to bring the schedule so far forward to allow it to compete more effectively with rival Pentium 4 chipsets from SIS, Acer Labs and, yes, VIA too. The move follows a recently reported decision to bring forward the release of the DDR version of the chipset, the 845D, from late December to mid November. Officially, the part will still be formally launched early next year, Intel told us this morning, though clearly the part will ship ahead of that event to ensure sufficient availability at launch. Whether those preliminary shipments will take place this month or next, the company's spokesman wouldn't say. Mobo sources, meanwhile, say they have been requested not to ship product before mid-December even though the 845D will go into mass-production this month. Interestingly, one of the key features of Brookdale G is support for the upcoming P4 533MHz frontside bus. Now since 533MHz FSB P4s aren't expected to ship until Q3, we wonder if the early arrival of the chipset will mean the early arrival of those processors. Equally, we wonder if the new 845G release date will also be applied to the 845GL. ® Related Link DigiTimes: Intel unveils technical version of 845G, official launch in April 2002
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

Thus sales up, losses up

UK telco Thus has released a reasonably good set of results and set aside some people's fears of impending financial trouble but increased its pre-tax loss to £42.75 million from £37.27 million. The company, which owns Demon Internet, reported increased sales for the six months to 30 September - up 36 per cent to £140.8 million; reduced loss before interest, tax etc of £1.8 million from £37.3 million but an increased loss thanks to a six-fold increase in interest costs. The market was initially relieved that the company said things were looking good and it didn't expect to have to borrow such large sums of money (it was expected to need £140 million, that now looks like £90 million). Thus' £320 million overdraft facility should be enough to carry it through to 2003 and the company reckons will reach positive cash flow by 2004 or 2005. As such, share price went up slightly as the market opened but has since fallen. Today Thus also announced deals to: supply BT Ignite with voice and data services; extra optical fibre for Linx; and the services and technology behind Amstrad's e-m@iler product (which isn't universally loved), when it is re-relaunched in the next couple of months. "Thus continues to deliver on its promises," said William Allan, Chief Executive. "The first half of this financial year was marked by strong growth generated by our core business services... Our strategy, outlined at the time of flotation, to focus on delivering high quality reliable services to corporate and small-to-medium enterprise customers, is delivering results. "During the year, we have successfully managed our transition from UK-wide geographic expansion to a more sharply focused sales and marketing led business [It got rid of its media sales business to iTouch last month for one]." "With our core network complete, we have enhanced our sales and marketing and service development capabilities, winning new customers nationwide..." - okay, we'll stop it there. Basically, Thus looks like it's making the best of a tough time. Waiting until 2004 or 2005 for positive cash flow is still going to worry many investors but if it keeps knocking out results like this, there shouldn't be too many problems. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Nov 2001

Mac OS X beats Win XP. Then it doesn't

Apple was victorious against Microsoft last week, after CNET ran a Windows XP versus Mac OS X death match, and eventually awarded Mac the trophy. The punch-up was actually a dead heat but Apple won when the judges ruled its upgrade/licensing deal gave it the edge. However, Apple's victory was shortlived, as a quick rethink saw the battle royal reduced to a draw - apparently the Mac OS X upgrade/licensing path is only better value than WinXP's if you pirate the software. While not quite MTV celebrity death match style, the whole affair has a cartoonish air. Ar first, CNET proudly displayed the winner as Mac OS X, which MacCentral quickly picked up on and published. When the judges changed their decision, MacCentral had to post a revision. On MTV's death match, this would be the instance when dead contestant one (having had his heart removed, crushed and flung into the crowd) suddenly pulls out a hidden chainsaw and severs winning contestant two's head from his shoulders. [Can anyone remember who won the Bill Gates v Steve Jobs death match? - ed] Contestants John and Matt (representing Mac and Windows, respectively) duke it out through the review, comparing the two OSes on a variety of topics before making their conclusion: installation (winner: OS X); interface (Win XP); software compatibility (OS X); hardware compatibility (Win XP); and Internet support (draw). In the revised version, this 3-3 draw remains the same, but the motivation behind the winner is altered, as this correction states: "Some of you may have noticed that in an earlier version of this story, we gave a slight edge to OS X. One of the primary factors behind this decision was the cost of each upgrade as it relates to licensing requirements. Although it is true that OS X lacks a feature like Windows XP's product activation that would bar you from installing it on more than on system, it is still a violation of Apple's end-user licensing agreement to install the upgrade on multiple systems. We regret any misleading information in the initial version, which has now been updated to clarify this issue. (11/2/01)" ®
James Watson, 05 Nov 2001

UK is still broadband laggard – OECD

Britain remains rooted at the bottom of an international league table of broadband countries despite recording an increased number of hi-speed Internet users. The latest report from the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) provides further gloomy reading for the e-minister and his broadband cronies as countries such as Korea, Canada and Sweden steam ahead with the adoption of broadband Internet access while the UK trails pitifully behind. According to the report, The Development of Broadband Access in OECD Countries, Britain languishes in 22 place out of 30 countries with broadband penetration of just 0.28 connections per hundred people. While many will use this to bash the Government, BT, Oftel - and anybody else who they think is responsible for this abysmal ranking - it is an improvement on the 0.08 broadband connections per hundred people recorded by the OECD earlier this year. But only just. However, what's clear is that the UK's progress is slow and below average. Indeed, the UK compares poorly with the OECD average of 1.96 broadband connections per hundred people and the EU's average of 0.82 broadband connections per 100 people. By comparison, Korea boasts 14 broadband connections per 100 people, Canada 6.22 and Sweden 4.52 broadband connections per hundred people. The finding of the report makes a mockery of the UK Government's goal of becoming a leading broadband nation by 2005. ® Related Story UK is broadband laggard - OECD Related Link The Development of Broadband Access in OECD Countries
Tim Richardson, 05 Nov 2001

SIS has Rambus chipset in sight despite denials

SIS is still in the running to offer a Rambus chipset for the Pentium 4 despite the denials company executives issued last week. Industry sources cited by EBN claim that the company has offered to develop a chipset that would support Rambus' quad-channel RDRAM - 4i Direct DRAM - after Intel decided that it wasn't going to produce one of its own. Intel had planned to introduce Tulloch, a quad-channel Rambus successor to the current 850 chipset, mid-2002. But recently it dropped Tulloch from its roadmaps in favour of an updated version of the 850, codenamed Tehama E, which will support the upcoming 533MHz P4 frontside bus. SIS was cited as the developer of the first non-Intel PC-oriented RDRAM chipset by unnamed industry sources cited by CNet. Last week, executives quoted by DigiTimes claimed that such a product was "unlikely". As we said at the time, that's hardly a denial and could easily mask a programme to determine whether a market exists for a quad-channel RDRAM chipset. ® Related Stories SIS poo-poos Rambus chipset plan SIS announces DDR400, Pentium 4 chipset SIS to offer Rambus chipset for Pentium 4? Related Link EBN: SiS said to be developing low-cost Rambus chipset
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

CompactFlash hits 1GB

Storage company SanDisk will ship a 1GB version of its CompactFlash (CF) card in the first quarter of next year. It claims that this is the largest capacity CF card on the market. The type I card is expected to at a price "under $800." SanDisk currently ships CF cards in the following capacities: 16, 32, 48, 64, 96, 128, 160, 192, 256, 384 and 512MB at prices ranging from $21.99 to $449.99. The small CF cards provide a storage format often used in handheld computers, digital cameras and other devices. A variety of manufacturers, including HP, Kodak, Casio and more all have products that use the CF format. SanDisk recently announced its Ultra CompactFlash format, intended for use in high-performance digital cameras. Compatible with existing CF-based cameras, the Ultra version allows transfer speeds of up to 2.8MB per second. ® Related Stories Intel super shrinks flash memory Big fat 5GB PC card for photographers Related Link Sandisk Introduces 1-Gigabyte Compactflash Card
James Watson, 05 Nov 2001

UK way behind in e-gov plans

The UK is lagging Western Europe, North America and Asia Pacific in e-government usage. This is despite the fact that we have a dedicated e-envoy and e-minister, offices full of people surrounding them, and a political party in power that repeatedly say how much e-government is integral to its dream of a connected Britain. In an extensive survey of 29,077 people in 27 countries by Taylor Nelson Sofres, Britain comes a pitiful 19th in terms of using e-government services, beating only Turkey, Indonesia, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and Malaysia. Just 11 per cent of UK citizens have used government online services in the last six months. The average, amongst the countries surveyed, is 26 per cent. This figure is all the worse when you consider the number of people actually online in each country. Britain comes a disappointing 12th in terms of the percentage of the population online (34 per cent) but does manage to beat the average of 31 per cent. It is the disparity between the two figures that is most worrying. Britain is the third worst of the 27 countries regarding the difference between those online and those that use e-government services. It is beaten only by the Netherlands (where 31 per cent of the country use government services but 56 per cent of the population are online) and Korea, where 51 per cent of people are online but only 17 per cent use e-gov services. What is going on? Well, the survey concludes that the main reason why people don't use e-government services is because they are worried about security. It's a fairly close tie-in with those that think government online services are unsafe and the number of people not using them. For example, the greatest discrepancy in the online versus e-gov figures are for the Korea, Netherlands, UK, US, Germany and Japan. Amazingly, Korea and the UK are the only two countries which don't figure in the study's government security figures - which is very odd and we waiting to hear back from Taylor Nelson Sofres why this is so. Anyway, Germans are the most unhappy with e-gov security, with 85 per cent saying it is "unsafe". Next is Japan and France with 84 per cent. The US has 72 per cent, the Netherlands has 70 per cent. The average "unsafe" figure is 62 per cent. Security? What security? And it's no wonder UK citizens are concerned about security. Last month, we told how a reader had been sent someone's else PIN number for the UK Online site by mistake. The government told us there wasn't a security problem since the PIN had to be used in conjunction with a password. Fine. Except three weeks later, the reader - Ed Hoppitt - received the same man's Inland Revenue form complete with tax reference, employee reference and other identifying details. We asked the government to explain and were told: "We cannot comment on individual cases, but we have investigated the facts and are satisfied that the security features for the issue of Government Gateway User IDs are both sufficiently robust and appropriate." Which wasn't what we asked. What we asked was: Why on earth is one man's Inland Revenue forms being sent to a stramger, especially when we pointed out the error to the correct people three weeks earlier? This elicted a second response: "The normal procedure when receiving mail addressed to someone else is to return it to the sender. All Inland Revenue correspondence has a return address on the back of the envelope. When a department receives this returned mail they stop sending mail to that address and take steps to find the correct address for that individual. "A user registering with the Gateway is required to supply a password electronically, a accompanying PIN is then generated by the Gateway and sent to the address held on record. If registering to complete online tax information the user is asked to identify themselves by tax reference and one of two other means; postcode or National Insurance number. This information is then matched to records held on the Inland revenue database. These security measures ensure that even if the address details are out of date, an individual's information cannot be dishonestly accessed online as both the password and PIN are needed." We were then told individual cases could not be discussed but there wasn't a connection between the tax forms and the PIN number. The government may be absolutely right but it's hardly reassuring is it? Britain's old lags Susannah Quick, a director at Taylor Nelson Sofres, said of the report: "These findings show that Britain is lagging far behind many countries in its take-up of e-government. There is a real challenge here for the Government to increase this level in line with other Western European countries. Britain is a country where general internet use and purchase of products over the Net is as high as or higher than many Western European countries, yet this has not translated into use of e-government. "There are some excellent government websites available in the UK, but people do not seem to be making maximum use of them. The Government needs to explore exactly what people are interested in, and how the benefits of using these sites can best be presented. It also needs to understand whether people know where to find the relevant sites and whether the information on the sites is presented in a user-friendly format." In fact, we, Forrestor and Eurim have been saying it for ages. We asked the Office of the e-envoy what they made of the survey and they gave us this response: "The UK is widely recognised as a leader in e-government. The UK approach has been to concentrate on establishing a robust infrastructure for e-government and the UK online citizen portal and the government gateway provide us with world-class foundations for doing that. The approach taken by the UK directly addresses the security concerns identified in the survey. We will put transactional services online when we are confident that they are robust and secure. "All surveys are open to a certain degree of interpretation, for example how you define the word 'government', many people use local authority services without particularly thinking of them as 'government'." So there you have it. ® Related Link The e-government study Related Stories Government cock-up over online PIN numbers UK's e-Govt plans are a joke Downing Street hammered for 'failing' eGovt strategy E-government project doomed to fail UK govt new encryption system only works with MS kit
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Nov 2001

Don't give a frag about ATI's Quake III driver tweaks

CommentComment What is it with all this fuss about ATI's Quake III-optimised drivers? A number of online game-geeks appear to have gotten all hot and bothered about it, and we've even had ATI's rivals trying to grab the moral high ground - and, presumably, the headlines - by hinting at how underhand ATI's behaviour has been. At issue is how the company optimised its Radeon 8500 drivers for specific applications, in particular Quake III Arena. Essentially, ATI's engineers decided to sacrifice a little texture quality for frame-rates. Nothing wrong with that, you might think - it's what most Quake players do with the game's own setting. But what's got some gamers up in arms is that ATI hadn't, until challenged, told anyone about it. That, they say, is cheating. But what exactly does the optimisation do? Essentially, ATI's drivers detect that Quake III is running and modifies the game's visuals to maximise frame-rate. Web site HardOCP discovered the effect when it modified the game's code to change its name. ATI's drivers didn't detect the change, and ran the modified version as if it were any other application. The upshot: better visuals but lesser frame-rates. Tweaking textures, fiddling with frame-rates The drivers improve Quake III performance by reducing the quality of the textures, probably by increasing the level of texture compression used. As a result, the textures are smaller, take up less memory and are thus easier to move in and out of RAM and across system buses. That means less time spent juggling textures and more time rendering, and so higher frame-rates. You can see what difference it makes over at Firing Squad, here. There's no doubt that the drivers do increase Quake III frame-rates, but what about the downside, the dip in image quality? This is, of course, a highly subjective criterion, but we reckon the difference between driver-'enhanced' Quake III and the same game running without the drivers' optimisations is minimal. Look at two full-size screen shots and yes, you can see a difference - if you know what you're looking for. To really see the difference, you need to blow up the image by 400 per cent. There's no doubt: at four times normal scale, the display of a version of Quake III hacked to fool the driver is sharper than that produced by a driver-adjusted standard version of the game. But who plays Quake at 400 per cent? No doubt some clever-dick will write in and say that he does, but we'd venture that the vast majority of Quake III players don't. And in the hurly-burly of frenzied fragging, we doubt very much whether any gamer will detect the minimal difference in visual quality. Card != Hardware - Card = Hardware + Driver Would anyone have complained about the visual quality of Quake III played on a Radeon 8500 had they not known about the driver optimisation? We suspect not. Let's assume that the visual impact of the driver is rather more obvious than it is. Reviewers would almost certainly have credited the 8500's high frame-rate but (rightly) lambasted its poor image quality, just as they have done for countless previous products from ATI, Nvidia, 3dfx et al. Essentially, then, ATI has tweaked one factor among many to enhance the Radeon 8500's Quake III performance. The trade off - as always - is image quality, not that you'd notice. Finding the balance between visuals and frame-rate is a key part of designing a graphics platform. Choosing how your driver interacts with software, OS and hardware is as core a decision in the graphics card development process as selecting the source of your on-card RAM. No one would know if the same effect resulted from the bundling of a cheaper VGA connector or the use of less-expensive resistors, to take two extreme examples to stress the point. There's more to graphics than Quake So hardware and the software (the drivers) should be treated as two components of a single package. Running Quake III out of the box on an out-of-the-box Radeon 8500 will produce a certain level of performance and a specific degree of image quality. As HardOCP discovered, you can hack the system to alter performance, but that's no more a more 'real' measure of the 8500's performance than claiming benchmarking an overclocked Athlon XP 1800+ is a more 'real' way of measuring that chip's performance. Or measuring the Athlon XP's performance with a single application. Few users would trust a benchmark based on a single test. Equally, no one should evaluate a graphics card on the basis of a single application, in this case Quake III. Or by considering frame-rates alone. The ATI controversy exposes not only a over-reliance on Quake III as the be-all and end-all of graphics performance testing, but of frame-rates over all over considerations, such as image quality. If the gaming community doesn't like ATI's attempt to improve its Quake III frame-rates, perhaps it shouldn't place such a heavy emphasis on the game as the ultimate benchmark. It's not particularly scientific, after all. Quake's best graphical settings don't provide a base level of image quality across all cards - they simply provide a comparable number of graphical features that the cards have to deliver during the test. Claiming otherwise is like saying two televisions' have the same picture quality because they can both show the same channel. Had ATI sent reviewers far better drivers than those on general release, we'd be right behind anyone complaining about the company's underhand behaviour. But not in the case of driver optimisations that, provided no hacks have been employed, affects everyone equally. As we say, if you like the 8500's Quake III frame-rate but aren't willing to put up with the dip in image quality, buy a different card. Or wait for ATI to change its drivers, which, we understand, it's in the process of doing. Either way, the driver optimisations for Quake III are just one of the (many) factors that differentiate different vendors' products. ®
Tony Smith, 05 Nov 2001

Having a bad Monday?

If there's any day most likely to really get you clawing at your desk, it's going to be Monday. Bob Geldof made a career out of the fact. Therefore, just for those of you that feel ready to rip someone's head off, we joyfully provide you with this link to the Swear-o-Tron. Sold as a site that is "taking the strain out of verbal abuse", click here, turn the sound down real low or put on a pair of earphones and run your mouse over the bloke with the silly hat/helmet. We think it'll help. The Swear-o-Tron. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Nov 2001

UK Govt wobbles on support for broadband

The Government's commitment to broadband has been called into question following remarks made by the e-envoy at the CBI conference today. Netimperative.com reports that Andrew Pinder "told business chiefs to embrace the broadband revolution if they want the Government to support its roll-out". Can this be right? The Government will only support the roll-out of broadband if business gets behind it? And this from a Government that has made a song and dance about broadband Britain, and yet now it won't give its support unless business pays through the nose for services it may or may not be able to get. Only last week one of Mr Pinder's underlings told delegates at a conference in Brighton that price, broadband availability and lack of content were all hampering the take-up of broadband in Britain. Chris Parker of the e-envoy's office also admitted that both industry and Government have "failed to communicate a compelling argument as to why we need broadband". Now, though, it seems Mr Pinder method for communicating this "compelling argument" is by using threats instead of any other cohesive argument. Slick. And that's in spite of a recent report by the respected Communications Management Association (CMA) which found that more than two thirds of businesses want broadband Net access but can't get it. Instead of putting the frighteners on business, perhaps Mr Pinder would be better employed using his strong-arm tactics on the likes of BT, Oftel and others in a bid to make broadband available nation-wide and at a cost that is not punitive to those who sign up for it. Just a thought. ® Related Stories Broadband hobbled by high prices - E-envoy's office Broadband shortage hits UK economy
Tim Richardson, 05 Nov 2001

MS bootloader concession could boost Linux, BSD – Gassée

One possible concession by Microsoft in the proposed AntiTrust settlement has come too late to save the company which pressed hardest for its inclusion: Be, Inc. Section C/4 of the remedy states that Microsoft may not forbid OEMs "offering users the option of launching other Operating Systems from the Basic Input/Output System or a non-Microsoft boot-loader or similar program that launches prior to the start of the Windows Operating System Product". OEM agreements preventing PC manufacturers from advertising the fact that an alternative was in fact, right in front of the user, pre-installed. In the case of Hitachi, the most significant OEM to offer BeOS preinstalled, the user had to manually install a boot manager to activate the BeOS partition, a process which involved creating their own floppy boot disk. The package could not include a boot floppy, and the Windows desktop had no icons enabling the automation of the process, or even giving any indication that an alternative existed on the PC. After the sale of Be assets to Palm was announced in August, Be founder Jean-Louis Gassée revealed that he had pressed the DoJ to add bootloaders restrictions to its case. But myopic DoJ lawyers were only interested in hearing Gassée's views on bundling the Web browser, and ironically that's an issue with which he had few complaints. Plus ça change? Gassée is cautious on whether the proposed remedy provides carte blanche for OEMs to promote alternatives alongside Windows. "I'm always cautious around what these guys 'promise'," he told us via email at the weekend. Be effectively abandoned its crown jewels - the glorious BeOS operating system - in January 2000 to refocus on the information appliance niche. Palm says it has no plans to invest in the moribund OS, although equally it has nothing to lose either if it simply turns over the unreleased BeOS v6 binaries as an unsupported release. However, the winners may yet be Linux and the other alternative operating systems: "If it means they can no longer force OEMs to use their boot manager and then license said boot manager only to launch MS OSes, then it's a victory for consumers and the Linux, FreeBSD community," wrote Gassée. Be scheduled a stockholder meeting for next Monday to seek approval for the sale of assets to Palm. ® Related Story Jean Louis Gassée on the antitrust dog that never barked
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Nov 2001