AMD today releases the Mobile AMD Athlon 4 1500+, its fastest notebook chip to date. Buy a thousand of them and you'll be quoted a unit list price of $525 (but as always with AMD suggested prices, there's some room to gouge some discount). You can catch AMD's press release here. This will tell you that the new part is built at Fab 30 in Dresden, using 0.18micron copper process technology. And also that you can buy Presario laptops featuring the chip from Compaq's web sites. Also supplied is a wodge of spec for the Athlon 4 processor. But what you won't find is a reference to the 1500+'s clock speed. For AMD is extending the PR rating to the Athlon 4 notebook family. In other words the 1500+ bit of the part number is meant to (but never explicitly stated) indicate an equivalence to the MHz rating a similar performing Intel chip. AMD is trying to get the industry to accept something it calls the "True Performance Initiative" (TPI), a standard way of measuring real-life capability of CPUs. It has in marketing veep Patrick Moorehead, appointed someone to promote this self-proclaimed consumer advocacy to the masses, as well as to computer makers and retailers. A challenging job, indeed. ®
Intel's new price list came into effect yesterday - there are cuts on middle-rank desktop P4s and Celerons, and Xeon and Pentium III-S server chips. For the P4 line prices are cut for the 1.6GHz (down 18%$133), 1.7GHz (-16% to $166), 1.8GHz(-14% to $199) and 1.9GHz(-12% to $241). The Celeron range sees prices fall for 1.GHz (-7% to $69), 1.1GHz (-11% to $79), 1.2Ghz (-14% to $89) and 1.3GHz (-13% to $103). Two Xeons, the 1.7Ghz with 256k cache and the 2GHz, also with 256K cache have new prices, both down 13 per cent to $224 and $396 respectively. And two Pentium III Processor-S are also cut, 16 per cent each. The new prices for the 1.13GHz and 1.16Ghz are $170 and $202. All prices are for 1,000-tray quantities. All in all, a fairly average round of price cuts for Intel. The cuts on desktop CPUs will flush out inventory in the mid-ranks, paving the way for newer parts; system builders will start ordering again - buying drops away in the week or so before a price cut. (In the absence of price protection, Intel is obliged to flag cuts well in advance, to ensure that smaller customers aren't caught out too much). As for Johnny Punter - cheaper CPUs will not translate to cheaper system prices, as the cuts are not great enough to compensate for the recent price rises for DRAM. ®
Oftel wants to standardise payment arrangements for unmetered services. Currently, operators have to pay BT in advance for unmetered capacity. the telecoms regulator wants to make sure unmetered capacity is paid in arrears – just like metered capacity. This proposal is part a clutch of otherwise highly technical and nit-picking issues in which Oftel is seeking clarification. In a statement, David Edmonds, head of Oftel, said: "The proposals announced today further support the development of unmetered Internet access in the UK by clarifying the obligations on BT." ®
Compaq Computer Corp will today formally debut its "QuickBlade" ProLiant BL blade servers, which have been the subject of much industry chatter in recent months. The ProLiant BL machines introduced today are the first in a family of blade servers that Compaq is expected to roll out this year for Windows and Linux environments that require high-density servers to support their infrastructure, application server, and database server workloads, writes Timothy Prickett Morgan. The initial QuickBlade machines, the ProLiant BL e-Class machines are uniprocessor blades that plug into a 3U form factor chassis that supports up to 20 blades; up to 280 blades can be crammed into a standard 42U rack with the QuickBlade design. The e-Class blades are based on the 700MHz ultra low power Pentium III processors from Intel Corp. Each blade has two 10/100 Ethernet links, a 30GB ATA disk drive, and two memory banks that support up to 1GB of SDRAM. The backplane in the QuickBlade box is industry standard Ethernet. The chassis are also equipped with redundant hot plug fans and power supplies. Mary McDowell, the general manager of Compaq's Industry Standard Server unit, says that the e-Class blade machines are intended to be used to support individual infrastructure workloads such as a web server, a firewall, a DNS server, or a gateway. According to Paul Santeler, vice president of high availability and networking at Compaq, over half of the early adopters of the QuickBlades were corporate customers rather than telecoms or service provider customers who typically press server makers for denser solutions. The e-Class nodes have also been tested by early adopters as a node in a Linux Beowulf cluster. "Universities may have low labor costs, but the cabling, keyboard and video costs of a Beowulf cluster using white box servers can be expensive. The savings from the ProLiant BL e-Class allows us to compete head-to-head with white box Linux clusters, and we think this opens up a whole new opportunity," he said. The savings from cabling is an important factor here. A 20-processor QuickBlade chassis has seven cables compared to over 80 cables for a configuration of four 1U form factor uniprocessor ProLiant servers. Santeler says that Compaq is working on TCO analyses that will prove its points. A QuickBlade Linux cluster will be demonstrated at LinuxWorld this week. A single ProLiant BL e-Class blade server will sell for $1,799 with 512MB of main memory. A ten-pack of these blades will sell for $17,091. These products are available immediately. Compaq will also today announce an updated DL360 ProLiant rack-mounted server using Intel's 1.4GHz Pentium III processor. Pricing for a base DL360 with the 1.4GHz processor starts at $2,679. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
PlusNet has axed a fifth of its workforce - around 20 people - in a restructuring exercise. Acccording to the Sheffield-based ISP, the job cuts were essential for the future of the business. And automated businesses processes means that some parts of the company were now over staffed. In a statement Alistair Wyse, Technical Director for PlusNet Technologies, said: "The Internet industry has grown more competitive, with margins getting smaller and smaller. "Now that we're at a point whereby 98 per cent of our processes are automated, we've found ourselves over-staffed in certain areas of the business. "The only way to carry the business forward confidently into 2002 is through a measured reorganisation." ®
GreatXscape, the ISP with close ties to telco Eurocall, is looking to invest in UK ISPs. Richard Simpson, Head of Acquisitions, at GreatXscape, wouldn't say exactly how much he's got to spend but that it was a "seven figure" sum. "We're looking to invest cash in the ISP sector – companies with good revenues and good business models that perhaps can't fulfil their potential because of lack of cash," he told The Register. "We have significant funds for serious investment," he said. Ideally, Mr Simpson is looking for medium sized ISPs – companies preferably serving the small and medium sized business market. That said, at the moment he's open to proposals and is prepared to keep an open mind. However, he insists that businesses will only be considered if they have good business models and good revenues. GreatXscape is already talking to a number of ISPs but is keen to talk to others. Mr Simpson can be contacted here. ®
Morpheus, the music and file-sharing application, is free of malicious code - although individual downloaded files carried by the service may be contaminated. According to recent Usenet reports some people were infected with Nimda worm variants after using MusicCity Morpheus. According to Morpheus, individual downloaded files, rather than the software application itself (which would present a far greater risk), are responsible for any problems. "It is not possible for the virus to be in a program that is downloaded from Morpheus," said a spokeswoman for StreamCast Networks, which provides the technology behind MusicCity Morpheus. "However It is a possibility that a user could have downloaded a file using Morpheus and that user created file could have a virus." A FAQ on the service explains that certain file types may contain viruses or so-called Trojan horses. "Although music, video, and picture files are generally safe... you should be cautious of executable files (.EXE) and Microsoft Word and Excel documents (.DOC and .XLS). These files are specified with a icon in the search results on Morpheus.com. back to the top." Morpheus advises users to protect themselves by been cautious – especially when downloading file types known to be unsafe – and by using up to date antivirus software. Eric Chien, chief researcher at Symantec's antivirus research lab, endorses this advice: "Remember that Morpheus, while used for music sharing, is a peer-to-peer file sharing program, so you can share anything - including viruses." Reports of a virus outbreak on Morpheus sparked fears of a variant of last month's news that file sharing software from Grokster and the Limewire Gnutella Client was infected with the DlDer Trojan. ® Related stories Popular file-share utilities contain Trojans Ala-KaZaA-m! Get your filthy hands off my CDs Genealogy more popular than sex, anthrax beats WinXP
Palm today launched its latest handheld organiser, i705, which can securely send and receive wireless e-mail, and browse the Internet, Paula Mythen writes. The Palm i705, set to replace the Palm VII model, uses the Palm.Net network to access e-mails and stripped down Web pages via a built-in antenna. The Palm.Net service for the new handheld is provided via Cingular Wireless' US nationwide mobitex-based packet data network. The i705 comes with a personal e-mail client, Palm multimail deluxe desktop and link, as well as an e-mail wizard utility for installation of six different Internet e-mail accounts. The PDA will also notify a user of incoming e-mail by sound or vibration as it is received. Weighing in at 5.9 ounces, including battery, the i705 measures 4.65 inches by 3.06 inches by 0.61 inches. The handheld is based on the Palm OS v4.1 platform. It features 8MB RAM and 4MB Flash ROM, a 33MHz Motorola Dragonball VZ processor, a rechargeable lithium polymer battery and HotSync USB cradle. The PDA has a monochrome screen with a resolution of 160 pixels by 160 pixels and an expansion slot to up the 8MB memory by an additional 64MB, with an option to add expansion card. The Palm i705 will sell for about $450. This summer, Palm will roll out a $2,500 server-based system that allows companies to securely transfer information to and from workers in the field. The corporate e-mail solution for Microsoft Exchange Outlook and Domino Lotus Notes server, called the Palm Wireless Messaging Solution, is currently in beta testing and will be available later this year. The new device is to feature AOL's Instant Messenger which will provide users with access to AOL Mail, news, driving directions, and local event and entertainment information. Palm has traditionally dominated the PDA market, but competition is becoming much fiercer. An IDC report in late 2001 claimed that Microsoft powered Pocket PCs were making a bid to overtake Palm in the market for handheld devices, which it projected would be worth USD6.6 billion by 2005. According to the research firm Palm devices still account for almost 60 percent of purchases by business and the popular iPaq handhelds by Compaq were at 30 percent market share and showing signs of rising. Meanwhile a Canadian firm known as Research in Motion (RIM) launched a product last year in the US called the BlackBerry, which gives users instant mobile access to e-mail as well as calendar and scheduling facilities. Blackberry is now making inroads in Europe after RIM signed a deal with mmO2 to supply the devices here. © ENN. All rights reserved.
I'd love to tell you how the Athlon-XP performs at its proper 1675MHz clock speed, but the new Gigabyte 7VTXE mobo we were sent was so severely hobbled that 1265 was all I could test Linux and Windows on reliably. (AMD declined our request to send a reference mobo of their choosing.) I started with a clean install of SuSE 7.3. I knew I was scheduled for some pain when I noticed the words "Unknown VIA SouthBridge" scrolling quickly by as I booted the install DVD. The installation died horribly, as I expected. So I dropped the bus frequency to 100MHz, popped in the most conservative CMOS params available, and tried again. This time I got SuSE 7.3 Pro (2.4.10 kernel) installed, but I couldn't enable DMA with hdparm. Well, I thought, the kernel update ought to take care of that. I needed to do a recompile anyway, as YaST somehow got the impression I was running an Intel P2. I took it to 2.4.17 and re-booted. And of course DMA didn't work. So I ran make config again, and using the shotgun approach enabled every IDE-related feature and driver available. I recompiled, re-booted, and got DMA working. (Sorry I can't tell you which IDE feature did the trick. You can pretty well bet I wasn't going to spend the entire weekend changing each one individually and rebuilding the kernel twenty times.) So then I got the bright idea that with all the tricky stuff out of the way and the system running quite nicely, I might just try 133 for the bus speed. That was a laugh. I tried six or seven different CMOS configs and kept rebooting -- to a preposterously unstable system. Apps would crash; I'd kill them, and then something else would crash, whack-a-mole-wise. After a cold boot, apps that had crashed before ran stably, and ones that had run stably before now crashed. There was no pattern; it was entirely too random to deal with. So back to a crippled Athlon clocking 1265MHz. At least I'd got 32-bit I/O and DMA working, and 512MB of PC266 DDR SDRAM on board. So, how does the AXP-2K/DDR system compare with a Northwood/RAMBUS setup running at nearly twice the clock speed? A lot better than half as well, that's for sure. We'll look at the Linux performance first, then Windows. I think you're going to as be impressed as I was with this crippled machine. As you may know, I have an aversion to standard benchmarks. They tell you that system A has better I/O through-put than system B. What they neglect to tell you is whether or not your machine is going to do the things you normally ask it to do any faster. I prefer to compare ordinary tasks, like copying files and directories, manipulating files, and launching and running applications in the same way that any user would do it. Naughty Penguin So, using Linux, it took the Athlon DDR system 5.0 seconds to launch Mozilla on the first go, and 2.2 seconds to launch it on the second go, compared with 5.0 seconds and 2.5 seconds on the 'faster' 2.2GHz Intel RDRAM system. (DSL connection already established and target page already stored in browser cache.) It took the AMD system 3.0 seconds to launch the Gimp on the first go and 1.0 seconds on the second go, compared with 2.5 and 1.2 on the Intel system. Perhaps, for some mysterious reason, RAM paging on the Athlon system is a bit better than on the Intel system. Displaying a directory of 778MB containing 10,174 files in 'detailed list' mode with Krusader took 3.7 seconds on the AMD kit and 3.2 seconds on the Intel kit. Copying that directory to another location on the drive took 3 minutes, 44 seconds on the AMD kit and 3 minutes, 51 seconds on the Intel kit. Displaying the directory with the Bash shell took 4.0 seconds on the first go and 1.6 seconds on the second go with the AMD kit, compared with 2.5 and 0.7 on the Intel kit. This suggests that the Athlon system does better than expected in GUI, but the video card and installed drivers were identical in both systems. This is made less confusing when we compare the Quake3 benchmarks. Using identical settings, we got an average of 214.4 FPS with the Athlon and 304.7 with Northwood in this relatively CPU-intensive test. Doze Having the 100/133 Gigabyte debacle under my belt, I wisely installed Win-XP with the 100MHz setting. Now this is interesting. The most stable Windows ever built wouldn't even boot with the bus subsequently set at 133. Linux ran crappily, all right; but it did actually run. Launching Mozilla in Win-XP Pro took 4.0 seconds the first time and 2.6 seconds the second time with the crippled Athlon, compared with 4.5 and 2.5 seconds on the Intel system. The Gimp needed 3.2 seconds and 1.7 seconds respectively to launch on AMD, and 3.5 and 2.0 seconds on the Intel kit. Opening a directory tree comprising 2.16GB with 30,562 files in 7 sub-directories took 18 seconds on the AMD kit (no Intel reference). Once this was accomplished, displaying the sub-directories in 'detailed list' mode took only a few tenths of a second. Copying a directory of 778MB containing 10,174 files to a different location on the same disk took 3 minutes, 16 seconds on the crippled Athlon system and 3 minutes, 13 seconds on the Northwood system. Listing the files with the DOS shell took 2.7 seconds on the AMD kit and 4.5 seconds on the Intel kit. The Quake3 benchmark returned an average of 196.1 FPS on the AXP and 272.2 on the Northwood. Again, the processor's brute power is a major factor here. Meaning what? So, what do we know? We know that the Northwood/RDRAM system runs almost twice as fast as our crippled Athlon test-system and costs almost twice as much. And it does deliver in situations where the CPU is stressed. But we're getting very good through-put with the AMD system (or piss poor through-put on the Intel system); and if we had a mobo that worked properly, we know the CPU gap would be narrowed quite a bit on both OS's. We also know that Windows likes the Athlon better than Linux does. As it is, the Athlon system runs quite tolerably on Linux and Windows in spite of significant obstacles from Gigabyte's engineers. If one had a more 'mature' AXP/DDR mobo, and could run the Athlon at its full potential, one would probably never notice the difference in CPU clock speed with everyday tasks, and the money saved could go into something very sweet like a really powerful graphics accelerator. For gaming, the resulting AMD system would blow the doors off the Northwood system as we tested it. ® Fine print Q3 benchmark settings: Mode: 640x480 Color depth: 16-bit Lighting: vertex Geometric detail: low Texture Detail: minimum Texture quality: 16-bit Filter: bilinear Video: 64M DDR GeForce AGP (2 yrs old) with Nvidia's latest drivers. AGP aperture 64MB (all systems). HDD's: Two Maxtor D740X 20G ATA-133 drives. SuSE Linux Pro 7.3 (patched) on master with ReiserFS; Win-XP Pro (patched) on slave with FAT. Mobos: Intel D850MVSE mobo with 2.2 GHz Northwood P4; 512M PC800 RDRAM. Gigabyte GA-7VTXE with 1265MHz Athlon-XP 2000; 512M PC266 DDR SDRAM. Related Stories The 2.2GHz P4 on Linux and Win-XP Linux Quake3 rocks Win-XP Quake3 on new P4
UpdatedUpdated Doing the rounds is a mass-mailing virus which promises photos from a party but delivers only embarrassment for Windows users. The worm, Myparty, may appear to have come from a colleague or friend and arrives as an email with the subject line 'new photos from my party!'. Attached to the email is a file called 'www.myparty.yahoo.com', which is not - repeat, not - a link to a Web site. Once the file (actually a .COM executable extension) is launched the worm sends a copy of itself to every contact in the Windows Address book. It also sends an email to email@example.com, presumably in order to allow its author to track its spread. The worm uses a cunning variant of well known social engineering tricks to spread itself, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus. Myparty may slow down computer users' email and Internet connections but is not believed to be particularly damaging. Although spreading, the Myparty outbreak is far short of hitting the epidemic proportions associated with damaging nasties such as Love Bug, Sir Cam or the Nimda worm. MessageLabs, a managed service provider which scans its users email for viruses, reports having blocked more than 8,000 copies of the worm. Antivirus vendors are updating their software to pick up the virus and protection is now largely in place. ® Update McAfee.com reports that the worm drops a backdoor Trojan (BackDoor-AAF) on WindowsNT/2K/XP systems. Myparty only attempts to mass mail itself and insert the Trojan if the system date is between January 25-29, 2002. External links Write up of the virus by Sophos
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched on investigation into accountancy practices at RSA Security. In a statement issued last Friday, RSA said that the SEC was looking at how it disclosed a change in the way it recognised distributor revenues. From Q1, 2001 revenues to distributors were accounted for on shipment rather than when disties sold security software onto the channel. The SEC will investigate whether this change should have been have been disclosed in RSA's Q1 earnings press release as well as "certain trading in the company's securities". RSA has stated that the investigation will not require any change to its financial statements. The firm said it intended to fully co-operate with the SEC in its enquiry. Confirmation of the SEC investigation came after RSA announced Q4,2001 revenues were $63.0 million, compared to $78.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2000. RSA reported a net loss of $10.1 million for Q4 2001, compared to net income of $103.9 million for the fourth quarter of 2000. Stocks in the company fell to $11.86 by close on Friday, down from $18 earlier last week. ® Related Stories RSA takes a long-term risk on safety RSA WebID agent can't read Unicode RSA supplies answer to drive-by hacking? Rogue WLANS - the next security battlefield? RSA poses $200,000 crypto challenge Blowjob-assisted hack defies logic
The number of ISPs in the UK continues to shrink following further consolidation in the Internet access sector. Gateway.net - the ISP of US PC manufacturer Gateway – is to close its doors at the end of the month with all its users being transferred to Tiscali. According to technical support, punters won't notice a thing – and they can even hang on to their email addresses. However, while Gateway is happy to discuss the matter, Tiscali remains tight-lipped on the subject, although we're told to expect some sort of announcement later this week. Gateway.net was created in February 1999 during a boom time for ISPs. Its subscription-free Net access service was pre-loaded onto Gateway PCs and ready to use for new computer owners. Of course, it should come as little surprise that Gateway has pulled-out of its ISP business in the UK. In August last year the US PC maker said it was shutting down its UK and Irish operations with the loss of 1,200 jobs. Gateway isn't the only PC manufacturer-turned ISP to leave the Internet business to others. Last week it was confirmed that CompaqNET - the ISP of Compaq - had migrated 18,000 customers in the UK to BTopenworld. CompaqNET said that the move – which happened in November but was only made public last week – reflected the company's decision to move away from being an ISP to allow it to concentrate on its core business. In the US, Compaq announced only last week that it was hitching up with Earthlink to offer high-speed Net access to US customers who purchase a new Presario Internet PC. IBM also announced a similar US-based agreement with Earthlink in a deal which gives new owners of IBM's Windows XP Home-based PCs free narrowband Net access for 30 days. Back in the UK, though, and last week proved to be a difficult time. Shockwaves rippled through the sector as Cloud Nine collapsed amid a security attack that left the Hampshire-based ISP with little option but to sell its business. Perhaps more than anything else it was the swiftness of the company's demise that stunned so many onlookers. And Friday, Zen Internet warned that others might follow suit. However, it argued that competitive pricing for DSL – and not security attacks – would be their downfall. On the day that Pipex announced it was subsidise the cost of DSL installation for 40,000 customers to the tune of £2 million, Zen warned that competitive pricing might be a gamble. Zen marketing manager, Ian Buckley, told the BBC: "You could take the option of a lower price in order to gain lots of customers but I suspect you will come a cropper. A few ISPs have already gone under as a result of ADSL and we expect to see a few more go under in the next few months." He said that ISPs charging around £30 - £35 a month for ADSL are working on extremely tight margins and may not be able to survive. This, though, has been challenged by Sheffield-based PlusNet, which believes that "the future of Internet services in the UK [is] a bright one" and claims that current pricing is sustainable. PlusNet's Technical Director, Alistair Wyse, said that the "very competitive" pricing levels at the moment were "the nature of Internet service provision". The company added that it can offer its own ADSL service "on a sustainable basis" because its "cost base is kept as low as possible, through automation and customer self service". Last week PlusNet axed around 20 jobs, which is perhaps one reason why it is able to keep its "cost base as low as possible". Still, it's not all bad news. Today, ISP GreatXscape said it had a "seven figure sum" to invest in UK ISPs. Which is nice. ®. Related Stories PlusNet sheds workers UK ISPs wanted for 'serious investment' Pipex invests £2m to get 40,000 DSL users online Zetnet rescues Cloud Nine Free Web service for Gateway UK customers
When investment house 3i casts its eye over the future development of Internet security the market takes note. After all 3i is a significant stakeholder in the industry and is in an interesting position to gauge trends in the market. So it was with interest that we went along last Wednesday night to hear about 3i's white paper on e-business security, which was based on a survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) involving the CEOs of 25 e-security suppliers. Some of the findings of the survey, particularly that two thirds of those esecurity companies interviewed thought the market would be owned by five brands or less in just three years, proved controversial - especially to the seven smaller firms 3i had invited to the launch. Representatives (with only one CEO present) from 3i clients, including integrator Articon Integralis, application security firm Kavado and digital rights management vendor Sealed Media, downplayed the idea of rapid industry consolidation. Baltimore Technologies and Network Associates tried this strategy and its been judged a failure, they opined. The view was that there may well be a shakeout in the industry, which is still immature, and a growth of dominant players in integration and services but the creation of security monoliths isn't likely, and probably wouldn't work. Ian McKenzie, a marketing exec at integrator Vistorm, summed up the feelings of the panel when he said "when a large firm acquires a best in breed player it doesn't stay that way for long". Far less controversially, the white paper also said the vendors surveyed are betting on authentication and administration, managed services and management tools as growth areas in the security market. Network security tools (such as firewalls) will take a lesser share of an increasing pie (IDC expect the network security market will be worth $8bn by 2003). We say this finding was less controversial but it has to be recorded that the digital rights management people were doing a lot on the night to talk up the potential of their technology. Financial services and telecoms are seen as the greatest potential markets for growth but 3i's white paper notes that telecoms lags behind financial services and government in security awareness, "in spite of the impact that 3G may have on the ability to access the Internet". Russ Cummings, technology group director at 3i, said this negative view reflected the perception that although carriers internal systems are made secure, the security of services provided to the public often have their shortcomings. Richard Barber, development manager at security provider Articon Integralis, said telcos fail to take security seriously until hit by hackers. Telcos are more used to operating circuit-switched technology and IP skills - particularly related to security - may be lacking as service providers face unfamiliar or emerging risks, like denial of service attacks against mobile networks, he added. ®
As predicted by MacUser, Apple revved its professional G4 series of desktops today. And it's a dramatic speed bump. Although the new machines are G4 and not G5 based, which isn't that surprising, real and potential bandwidth improvements suggest that Apple is serious about taking on SGI's low end business with its own professional Unix workstation. The Mac is finally joins the PC world mainstream in supporting DDR-RAM, but that's in the processor cache: the motherboard takes PC133 SDRAM, as before. The most eye-catching improvement is that two of the three options debut with a whopping 2MB of DDRAM Level 3 cache. The base model is now a 800Mhz uniprocessor box, the midrange a single 933Mhz and the high-ends two 1Ghz CPUs. The low end uses ATI's Radeon, the other two models the Nvidia GeForce4 through a AGP4x interface: a first for Apple. On the negative side, all models default to the ATA-66 interface, which means the Mac lags two generations behind high-end PCs, which now feature ATA-133. That's not something that will affect professional users who most likely opt for SCSI or RAID storage, but it leaves budget-conscious pros short-changed when it comes to those peak file transfers. ATA-66 cards rolled out in June 2000. Apple has left its price structure intact. If only the the midrange model at $2,299 sported two CPUs (our first, in correct misreading of the spec sheet), it would looks particularly good value , taking into account the dearth of SMP workstations on offer by PC OEMs. In Wintel-land, two-ways are typically aimed at the server market, where high-end video and Superdrives aren't a common option. All the pieces are falling into place for Apple to take on SGI's low-hanging fruit in the visualization market. It now has an SMP-capable OS, has worked hard to woo application developers such as Maya, and apart from the ATA default, has a bountiful spec sheet. ®
ExclusiveExclusive Sources close to Microsoft confirm that The Beast is set to include a new relational file store at the core of its next version of Windows. Some roadmap slippage has apparently occurred, too, as the database core will be introduced into Longhorn, and Blackcomb has been pushed further back. That leaves a gap for a point revision of XP next year, although there's no sign of this on the roadmap just yet. Despite the annual revisions being named as users' number one bugbear, Microsoft hasn't let a year go by without releasing a new version of Windows since 1997, when it was fighting the browser wars. The final feature set for Longhorn - the codename for the successor to Windows XP - hasn't been nailed down yet, and the database core had been rumored for inclusion in Blackcomb, the next Windows after Longhorn. It's highly significant, as it signals a much tighter integration between Microsoft's enterprise server products and the client. As Jon Honeyball wrote here last May - but it's still the most comprehensive dissection of the change - file systems would become plug-ins for a raw, native relational data store. We don't yet know if this runs in user land, or kernel mode. Peep to Peep Microsoft will also offer a new peer-to-peer networking feature, say sources briefed by The Beast. A new "sub-workgroup" network level - a subset of the current "workgroup" - offers a finer granularity of network access for ad hoc collaboration. Microsoft is intent on P2P-style workgroup collaboration looks seamless, with additional updates to NetMeeting built in to the OS. (Microsoft took a $51 million stake in P2P pin-up Groove Networks, the company started by Lotus Notes creator Ray Ozzie, last year). The demonstration version of Longhorn currently being demoed to Microsoft's teams and selected third parties displays a new type of task dock that can include everything from stock tickers to work group collaboration features. The task dock is similar to what is found in Office XP with the tasks panels. That's the pane in Office XP that provides a list of most recently used files, or clipboard entries, or other frequently-accessed features. Sources tell us that the Longhorn "screenshots" showing some of this functionality currently doing the rounds, but sources briefed by Microsoft assure us these are not genuine. Sane, useful, legal? There's a sensible rationale for such a move, argue advocates: our data stores are confined to silos such as our email application. A shared namespace would allow distributed corporate queries such as 'Find emails from Bob to Carole about ProjectX in FacilityY'. Although Microsoft has touted such a vision for a decade, precedents are rare. They've run into performance issues, and no namespace schema has won general acceptance. Hans Reiser, of ReiserFS fame, has been leading the discussion in how free software can respond to the challenge, and his arguments are summarized in his excellent paper here which should be compulsory reading. As we noted last year, Pick and IBM's OS/400 effectively run a data store as the file system, but they didn't get there from here, so to speak, having designed the OS around such an architecture from the ground up. On the desktop, the late Be Inc attempted such an ambitious scheme (hi Benoit) before reverting to a more conventional file system layer which has database-like properties [see Bootnote below]. The move has antitrust implications: it potentially puts Microsoft at an advantage over Oracle and other competing SQL implementations every copy of Windows will effectively come with a light version of Microsoft SQL Server. In practice, however, a distributed database is only as strong as its weakest link, and we can't imagine a corporate IS manager who'd turf out Oracle for a distributed network of Windows PCs running Longhorn. A mantra in recent years has been that IBM and Sun offer a "single point of failure", but the dangers of multiple points of failure become more stark in a distributed system. Want last quarter's accounts receivable? Ah, you'll have to wait until the cleaner's unplugged the Hoover. ® Bootnote: Dominic Giampaulo, designer of the Be file system BFS, mailed us with this clarification:- "The first system, written by Benoit Shillings, was actually generic hierarchical file system with a database built on top (in user space) and maintained on the side. I wrote the successor to that, BFS, which was a more tightly integrated system. The attributes could be indexed and the indexing was done on the fly -- as you changed attributes it updated the indices (and would send notifications if any outstanding queries were affected by the change). The indices were not constantly re-indexed (which implies some sort of disconnected operation). Benoit's system as a whole was more database like than what I did but both could achieve pretty much the same end result for the user. Thanks Dominic. Recent Leakware MS struggles to discredit Linux Leaked MS email reveals WinXP, Xbox launch spin plans MS promotes Linux from threat to 'the' threat - Memo Related Story MS poised to switch Windows file systems with Blackcomb