5th > February > 2002 Archive

PIPEX slashes home ADSL charges

PIPEX, is slashing monthly fees for its home user ADSL service, Xtreme Solo, to a "cable-cutting" £24.95 ex VAT. So if you're not VAT-registered and working from home, it'll set you back £29.32. And there are no connection charges for the first 40,000 people who sign up - last week, Pipex announced a £2m Broadband Development fund to subsidise home user connections. The DSL modem is not included - Pipex is offering an Alcatel Speedtouch complete with two micro-filters for £99.95 ex-VAT. But all in all, it's still a bloody good deal. The veteran British ISP has stolen a march on its rivals, but if it's got its sums rights, other ISPs will quickly follow suit with cheaper prices. ® Related story PIPEX invests £2m to get 40,000 DSL users online
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Open source a needed outlet for programming pros

Open source hackers are very likely to be programmers with a decade of professional experience employed by a commercial software company, and very unlikely to be the stock high school math-club geeks of popular press reports, a survey of SourceForge members conducted by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) indicates. These and other findings were revealed at last week's LinuxWorld Conference in New York by BCG's Bob Wolf and Karim Lakhani, and OSDN's Jeff "Hemos" Bates who collaborated on the project. "What's impressive is that the picture of sixteen to twenty year-olds working in their basement is not true," Bates observed. "They're twenty-two to thirty-seven essentially, by and large working within a corporate environment." The chief motivations for donating time and effort to the open source community are varied, but include professional advancement; the need for mental stimulation; a personal belief that software ought to be open (not necessarily free); a chance to acquire new skills or refine existing ones; and practical needs for code which isn't commercially available. Respondents were broken into clusters of 'believers', 'skill enhancers', 'fun seekers' and 'professionals'. Respondents classified as believers indicate a strong commitment to the idea that software should be open; skill enhancers overwhelmingly reported a desire to refine skills; fun seekers were those most likely to seek mental stimulation; professionals were those most interested in practical coding needed for a project, and CV bulking. However, these categories don't appear to be exclusive. That is, a 'fun seeker' may well be employed as a commercial programmer. Indeed, the great majority of respondents are employed in the field, so it's reasonable to infer that a lot of them are getting less than the desired amount of personal satisfaction and mental stimulation on the job. The two greatest motives reported were intellectual stimulation and skill improvement; and the last thing motivating hackers appears to be any desire to 'defeat' proprietary software. Volunteers Respondents reported devoting a great deal of time to open-source projects. The mean contribution among respondents for all projects was a hefty fourteen hours per week. Additionally, a large number of respondents appealed to the creative nature of open development and freedom from traditional corporate supervision as primary attractions. No doubt this reflects the fairly universal desire among professionals to ply their trade in circumstances which conform to their values. A doctor may participate in Médecins sans Frontières, for example, because it enables him to practice the sort of medicine that originally drew him to the field. We see this all the time: a plastic surgeon sick of tightening the gelatinous facial skin of blue-haired Manhattan matrons (however necessary this may be to keep his Mercedes from the repo man) may find himself happily practicing 'real' medicine in Asia or Africa for a month or two each year, repairing the faces of needy children devastated by accidents or birth defects. It should be no surprise that programmers have their own set of work values, albeit somewhat less humanitarian in nature, which a volunteer program like the open source movement permits them to exercise. Dream job If we look at what respondents say they want from leaders in the open source community, we see a picture of something quite unlike corporate project management, and remarkably like the open-source model as it's practiced. That is, there's a clear desire for 'space' for individual creativity and initiative. Thus it would be reasonable view the open source movement as, in part, an extension of the need for professional programmers to break free of corporate paternalism and enjoy doing their work in a more idealized environment. We may take from the data some reassurance that the open source community is chiefly a responsible group of experienced professionals, which is a message the IT suits definitely need to get; but perhaps more importantly, additional data like this might be accumulated and used to adjust the corporate work environment to make it more appealing to programmers, and make them, in turn, more productive. If a company would exploit the way programmers like to work, it needs to forget about we-so-hip window dressings like cappuccino makers and scooters, and look more closely at how programmers work when they're not getting paid. Surely the open source movement is an excellent ecological venue for further research along such lines. ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Feb 2002

Major privacy hole in Windows/MSN Messenger

A nifty feature in MSN and Windows Messenger which apparently was intended to identify IE users (without their knowledge or consent) on Microsoft Web sites can easily be abused by any Webmaster with a bit of Javascript or VBscript, a clever empiricist has discovered. The feature allows anyone to obtain a surfer's Messenger username and those of his contacts, according to Richard Burton in a post Monday to the BugTraq mailing list. Worse, if a username is not available, the e-mail address of the surfer and those of his contacts are displayed instead. Only Microsoft.com, Hotmail.com and Hotmail.msn.com should be able to access the e-mail address of the surfer and his contacts -- which of course is bad enough. However, a piece of software could easily make a registry entry during installation which would allow an associated Web site to obtain full details from Messenger. Using the registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\MessengerService\Policies\Suffixes a semi-malicious program could easily enable Web access by adding domain suffixes. According to Burton, the suffix can be as little as .org or .com, which would enable any Web site with that suffix to access your details. By default, there are no suffixes listed in the registry, Burton says, but the Microsoft domains are hard-coded into Messenger, presumably to enhance the company's renowned devotion to customer service, or to accommodate the advertising industry in some backchannel manner. Presently the only known, sure fix for IE users is to disable Messenger before visiting the Microsoft sites mentioned above. It would also be a good idea to check for entries under the above registry key, especially after installing software, Burton says. On the plus side, we've had anecdotal reports from readers indicating that users of other browsrs like Opera, Mozilla and Netscape aren't affected. We've also heard that Trillian users are safe as well, even if they use IE. Finally, it appears that users of IE and Messenger can avoid revealing themselves by setting their browsers to prevent scripting ActiveX controls. All of this is preliminary, however, and we'll update as we get more information. A simple demonstration of the Messenger hole feature can be found here. ®
Thomas C Greene, 05 Feb 2002

Intel caches up ahead of McKinley launch

Intel has pulled a little more tarpaulin off its McKinley processor, revealing ramped up cache and a faster system bus, which it claims will help to double the Itanium platform's performance, Joe Fay writes. The architectural changes, unveiled at the International Solid State Circuits Conference last weekend, will be built upon in further generations of the processor, as the vendor widens its assault on the high end computing market. In the upcoming versions of the vendor's 64 bit processor, level 3 cache is shifted onto the die itself. The McKinley will feature 3Mb of Level 3 cache, along with 256K of level 2 cache and 32K of level 1 cache. This compares to 4MB of onboard level 3 cache, 96K of level 2 cache and 32K of level one cache in the first generation Itanium. At the same time, the system bus in McKinley will be 128 bits wide, offering 6.4GB/s and running at 400MHz. This compares to its predecessor which offered 2.1GB/s, was 64 bits wide and ran at 266MHz. Intel claims that together with an increase in clock speed to 1GHz from 800MHz on the original Itanium, the changes will help increase performance by one and a half to two times, without the need to recompile software. Optimizing applications could eke a little more performance the firm said. The performance increase is perhaps the least you could expect from such a monster of a chip. The total size of the chip will be 421 square millimeters, and it will carry 221 million transistors, including the on-die level 3 cache. The previous generation carried 25 million, although the off-die cache accounted for a further 300 million. Other changes include a reduction in the number of pipeline stages from 10 to eight. Two further execution units have been added. While the Itanium is reckoned to be the biggest microprocessor ever designed, some relief is on the horizon. McKinley will be built on the same 0.18 micron process its predecessor was manufactured on. However, Madison, the generation due after McKinley, will be built on 0.13 micron technology, potentially freeing up real estate. However, much of this will be accounted for by the 6MB of cache Madison will carry. The vendor is also planning a dual processor version Itanium, although this is not expected till the architecture moves onto a 0.09 micron process. All these changes will be directed towards pushing Itanium into high end computing applications traditionally dominated by RISC-based architectures. At a briefing last week, Intel chief technology officer Pat Gelsinger, when asked if there was a plan for Itanium on the desktop, said "it ends up on the desktop in workstation. In terms of general desktops, no." While the design of McKinley is now pretty much set in stone, and samples have been with customers since last year, the company still has one or two surprises to spring on the market - Gelsinger said the firm had yet to specifically say how the chip will be named. © Computerwire.com. All rights reserved.
ComputerWire, 05 Feb 2002
Cat 5 cable

HP bows OpenBlade spec

Hewlett Packard Co will today announce that it has released an open enhancement of the CompactPCI (cPCI) specification for servers commonly used at telecoms and dot-coms that the company hopes will eventually become a standard adopted by all manufacturers of blade servers, Timothy Prickett Morgan writes. This is an ambitious goal, considering the amount of account and engineering control that server vendors get from the server designs. Compaq Computer Corp and RLX Technologies, both hoping to be dominant in the blade server market like HP, have proprietary blade board designs that do not adhere to the CompactPCI standard. IBM Corp is widely expected to debut its own blade servers before the year is out, and is also expected to use its own proprietary blade and chassis design. And Sun Microsystems Inc, which supports the cPCI standard in select Netra telco servers, is planning on non-cPCI blade servers based on its UltraSparc-IIIi processors and a proprietary interconnect for blades and peripherals. HP announced its "Powerbar" blade servers, which adhere to the cPCI standard, in early December 2001. The cPCI standard is an open specification supported by and controlled by the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group, which is a consortium of more than 700 companies that use PCI for embedded applications. CompactPCI embedded servers have been used in real-time systems for industrial control, data acquisition, and other applications like military systems as well as in infrastructure servers for telecoms, dot-coms, and other service providers. The consortium's 700+ companies are keen on extending the cPCI standard, says HP, so their devices can plug into enterprise servers like HP's Powerbars. Anne Keffer, worldwide marketing manager for server appliances at HP, says that the OpenBlade specification will be posted on HP's web site today and that the company is hopeful that server and other peripheral suppliers will be compelled by history and self-interest to drop their proprietary designs and embrace and evolve this OpenBlade standard. HP has made no secret of this desire. Despite the noises being made by rival Sun about how the future of blade servers at Sun is not cPCI but rather a much denser design - Sun wants to increase server density by a factor of five while cutting costs in half - HP is still optimistic that Sun, and indeed all the players in the blade server market, will get involved in the evolution of an open blade server standard and steer clear of proprietary designs. "We are hoping that companies will meet and create a standard, especially the bigger vendors that are not adhering to CompactPCI," says Keffer. "I can't predict the future, and I don't know if they will pick it up, but we are strongly encouraging this." The reason why HP is so gung-ho about cPCI, or rather an eventual turbo-charged cPCI, is that it believes correctly that a standard describing the size, interconnect, and manageability features of blades will provide enterprise customers with choices and force vendors to be truly competitive in what they offer. Truth be told, this openness is what all vendors secretly loathe, and probably HP, too. But the idea of blade servers almost presupposes interoperable blade components and chassis. As soon as the OpenBlade standard is public today, HP will start making the rounds with server and other cPCI component vendors to show them the wisdom of this. While from the customer's point of view HP should be commended for its efforts to create an open standard - which it says it can afford to do because it wants to differentiate its blade offerings on the chassis design, systems manageability features, price, and performance - these things are dicey at best. Unix never became the standard it should have because of infighting amongst the Unix vendors. And no vendor has willingly designed major server components, with the exception of peripheral interconnect cards, that would allow a competitor's similar components in their frames. In a related announcement, HP says that it has signed up over 100 partners for its HP Blade Server Alliance Program, an initiative to get cPCI component suppliers and other interested parties to get their products certified for use on the Powerbar blade servers. Back in December, HP had signed up 20 such partners. "This is a new technology, and customers are a little wary of running all the different operating systems and devices in a single chassis," says Keffer. "The certification gives both partners and customers confidence." Intel Corp, Oracle Corp, Novell Inc and Microsoft Corp were among the early members of the HP certification program. © ComputerWire.com. All rights reserved
ComputerWire, 05 Feb 2002

McKinley packaging – first photo

Intel had long planned to give the technical details of McKinley, the second generation IA-64 chip, a public unveiling at the huge chip engineers conference, ISSCC in San Francisco this week. Unfortunately press materials accompanying NDA press briefings last week were left on a public server and were became circulated. In some cases without any additional editorial. But that's old news now. We've obtained photographs of what we believe to be McKinley in its final form, packaged and ready for deployment in a production environment, etc. So in the tradition of indiscriminately reprinting photographs of things that look like chips without having a glimmer of any technical understanding of what they really are - and don't all the tech news sites do this now? - we proudly present the second generation of IA-64ium. McKinley in rack-mount configuration This first stackable, rack-mount McKinley appears to gather a number of execution cores in a highly dense 24x SMP. To counter the thermal problems which dogged the first generation 64ium, McKinley chips explictly require a cooling unit, as the packaging makes clear. The "refrigerator" [not shown] paves the way for much higher frequencies. The cores share a "floating" point unit in a separate package, remarkably, which itself demonstrates out-of-order execution. Or, it appears to be slightly out-of-order from the main rack, our expert eye tells us. Whatever. Is that the time? Is the pub open? [authentic specs on McKinley can be found here]®
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Feb 2002

The axe falls at mmO2

mm02 is to cut 1,900 jobs in the UK and Germany in a major restructure. It will cost £110m this year to implement the plan which is expected to produce annual savings of £70m. In the UK, the mobile network operator is to close 133 of its 320 outlets and will implement job cuts throughout the back office functions. The company says it will make 1,400 people redundant, leaving it with 6,100 staff, in the UK in the next financial year. In its announcement it refers to the 'permanent workforce' - the inference we draw is that there will also be significant scaling back of contractors and temporary staff. In Germany, mmO2 will cut staff levels at subsidiary VIAG Interkom by 500, leaving it with 3,400 employees in the country. An unspecified number of shops will be closed, and management will be streamlined to "enhance customer responsiveness and optimise cost efficiencies". In the current financial year, 250 staff have gone from BT Cellnet and 400 jobs have been axed at VIAG Interkom. mm02 also operates in the Netherlands and Ireland, through Telfort Mobiel and Digifone brands. The company intends to rebrand all its networks under the 02 banner. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Explain yourself Miguel, demands RMS

A surprised and dismayed Richard M Stallman says Gnome project founder Miguel de Icaza owes the community an explanation for comments made to The Register, last week, in which de Icaza advocated basing the project on Microsoft.NET APIs. "I can't believe it's Gnome you're talking about but if it is, I wouldn't like that," Stallman told an audience at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil last week. Stallman only learned of de Icaza's intentions to slip the Mono project - based on Microsoft's .NET framework - into Gnome as "the natural technology upgrade" when asked by the audience. Gnome - the GNU Object Model - is the part of the GNU Project, started by Stallman in 1985. "I didn't know he was doing that, I find that very hard to believe," he said. "We would like him to come to the free software community and explain himself to us about it." Brazilian tech site HotBits has more details here, with a number of other snippets of RMS on globalization, and GNU matters, accessible from the current edition's front page. We're grateful to Renata Aquino for providing us with a translation. Outraged Gnome users were mailing us over the weekend vowing to abandon the platform, and GnomeVFS maintainer Ian McKellar (who we inexplicably missed when we called in on Danger the other week) took a swipe at Miguel on the Gnome hackers mailing list: "You don't speak for me and you don't speak for most of the Gnome developers I know". (He also takes a sideswipe at us - we're "usually full of FUD and lies," apparently). However , Miguel has been entirely consistent. From our own interview at the time of the Mono announcement, to this recent Q&A, he's justified Mono primarily is a better technology infrastructure for Gnome. So if you didn't see this one coming, you simply haven't been paying attention. Nor has Miguel made any secret of his ambitions to enrich the software libre desktop with more sophisticated infrastructure, using Microsoft Windows as the model. The Bonobo technology was designed to provide a lightweight compound architecture inspired by The Beast's COM, and there was even a Gnome Basic scripting language mooted at one point. Miguel has told reporters that only an immigration technicality prevented him from becoming a Microsoft employee four years ago - the small print of the H1-B Visa process disqualifies students who haven't completed their degree course. Sheep in wolf's cloning With the community gathering at LinuxToday, to discuss the wisdom of the suggestion, a couple of interesting areas have emerged. One of the justifications offered for Mono cloning the .NET APIs is that other open source projects do too. Don't WINE and Samba clone the Microsoft protocols or interfaces? Isn't it really all OK? The difference, however, is that Win32 and SMB are dominant standards, and producing a workalike, particularly in the case of Samba, provides an interoperability technology that doesn't entrench the monopoly; Samba is in effect a great big device driver that lets a non-Windows machine access Windows network hardware. .NET is different, in that it the .NET framework has precisely zero users right now, if you discount the more nebulous services such as Hotmail, which have been dragooned into the markitecture. More worrying for any open source project - particularly one as broad and pervasive as Gnome - is the wisdom of committing to a single vendor's semi-open specifications. As de Icaza acknowledged last week, "few, very few" of the .NET classes have been submitted to ECMA. And Microsoft has hinted that it would make sure .NET clones pay for using Microsoft technology. How, we'll have to see. It may be worth noting that The Beast typically doesn't view patent infringements in the simple, hand-over-the-money style of a Qualcomm or a Rambus, and is actually more frequently the recipient rather than the initiator of patent infringement lawsuits. But rather, it looks for downstream opportunities it can leverage with business partners. And in any case, does de Icaza have the personal capital to influence such a decision? Well he might, but in theory it should only go so far. The industry-sponsored GNOME Foundation, has an elected board, which meets fortnightly, and where agenda items such as "8.b. Proposal to sell our souls to The Satan of Redmond in perpetuity" can be postponed until after tea and biscuits. One of the sponsors of the Foundation is Sun. As we pointed out on Friday, the prospect of selling boxes with the sticker "Solaris - Powered by .NET" might persuade Sun to start taking an active interest in the Foundation. Like, really, really active. ® Related Story Gnome to be based on .NET - de Icaza
Andrew Orlowski, 05 Feb 2002

EuropaIT exits PC biz in France

EuropaIT has given up the fight to turnaround its French PC distribution business. The privately-owned company has also hired PricewaterhouseCoopers to explore options, including restructure around profitable elements, or a sale of some or all of the company's assets. It says it will make a decision on its future in the next few weeks. Three French legal entities, Metrologie SA, CHS France and Europe du Sud, were placed into receivership on January 30, and are continuing to operate while a buyer is sought. Metrologie Systems, the part of the group which handles servers and enterprise storage, is unaffected by the announcement. And operations in the Nordic region and Eastern Europe are safe "as there are no inter-group guaranties related to the French PC business". EuropaIT is in effect a management buyout of the bulk of the European operations of CHS Electronics, now defunct, but for a short while the world's second biggest computer distributor. The company says it was unable to "make up for the very weak capital base of the PC business, inherited from the previous owner, CHS Electronics Inc", despite vendor support and "superhuman" efforts from French management. Turnover is currently $1bn making the business one of Europe's top six IT distributors. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Pogo bounces onto Carphone Warehouse shelves

Pogo, the British designer of the eponymous mobile internet/PDA/MP3 phone device, has at last secured a retail launch date from Carphone Warehouse, its exclusive high street partner. Pogo devices is on the shelves as of February 4( and not March 1) as we wrote earlier. This is our review of a pre-release prototype, dating from November, so note that some 'features' will have been ironed out. The Pogo costs £299 inc.VAT, plus a £30 connection charge for the One2One-operated, Carphone Warehouse-branded Fresh phone tariff. Calls are charged at 10p per minute. Finally, mobile internet internet access,supplied with email account, costs £7.99. This has been in the public domain since November, so no shocks here. The Pogo has been shortlisted an award at the GSM Congress in Cannes this month. It is one of three finalists in the 'Best Wireless Handset/Terminal or Handheld Device' category, along with NTT DoCoMo's FOMA device and the Handspring Treo Communicator. Exalted company indeed. But design plaudits won't pay the bills: this will require big budgets for distribution and marketing. In the absence of such a war-chest, a piggyback deal with Carphone Warehouse, Europe's biggest independent mobile phone retailer, makes good sense. For now. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Chinese SMS can crash Siemens mobiles

Siemens is evaluating the impact of a security bug that allows malicious hackers to crash phones by sending a malformed SMS message in Chinese. The flaw, which affects Siemens 3568i (or below) mobiles but not Siemens 6688 phones, involves a bug in the way exceptional characters are displayed, Chinese researchers xfocus advise. According to xfocus, a malformed message can shutdown a vulnerable mobile and make it impossible to delete a rogue message without downloading software that does not normally come with the phone. The exploit might be used as a denial of service attack. xfocus published its discovery exploit last month but the bug was news to Siemens UK operation when we first contacted them about it last week. A spokesman said its product management team was looking into the issue, which is thought at this time to be restricted to Chinese language SMS messages. In December we reported how a malformed text message could crash older Nokia mobiles. That bug is related to sending SMS messages where the User Data Header is broken and is a separate issue from the Chinese language SMS vulnerability, although the effects are much the same. ® Related stories SMS phone crash exploit a risk for older Nokias
John Leyden, 05 Feb 2002

Maxtor goes large with external HDDs

Maxtor is inching its way into Iomega territory, by tripling the disk size for its Personal Storage 3000LE USB 2.0 external hard drive line. The latest 120GB model ships in the US 'in early February' and carries a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP)of $299.95. You can buy it also online through MaxtorDirect. Maxtor is retaining the 40GB Personal Storage model - this has an MSRP of $199. The line is aimed at people who need extra storage capacity but would really rather not open up the computers to install a new hard disk. It also treads on Iomega's toes, as people who only need bigger hard disks (and not bigger storage media), have one less reason to purchase Zip drives. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Nvidia is Jon Peddie ‘Segment Leader’

Tomorrow, Nvidia launches the GeForce 4 GPU, of surprise to anyone interested in computer hardware only if they've kept their head in a bucket in recent weeks. The GeForce 4 will occupy the top of Nvidia's product line, with GeForce 3 boards now taking the middle ranking. GeForce 2 products occupy the low-end, while the TNT GPU is now end of life. Usually, Nvidia is tight-lipped pre-launch, and it keeps good discipline among the troops. However this time around it has been entirely unable to stop its associates, partners and NDA'd journos from springing more leaks than a leaky sieve. Pictures here, leaked press releases there - all very entertaining, if youre an outsider. The reviews will flood in thick and fast tomorrow: in the meantime we note that Jon Peddie, the most famous analyst for the graphics chip and computer display industries, has named Nvidia as his "Segment Leader" of 2001, for its technology leadership. "NVIDIA had an exceptional year and is a sterling example of a technology leader," he writes in his Techwatch newsletter. "The company has a solid road map, impressive product lines, incredible customer loyalty and the combined experience of many industry veterans that will keep it from repeating the troubled history of past performers." The same quote appears in Nvidia's press release, except for the bit in italics. In its place, the quote ends: "allowed it to grow and prosper." Jon Peddie names IBM as his industry leader of 2001. You can read this issue of Techwatch (in PDF) here. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

Broadband in Europe stalls

Price is key to the take-up of broadband, according to the latest research from Gartner. The analyst firm found that punters are unprepared to fork out the extra cash needed to buy broadband services and will only consider it if the price falls below £20 (E30) a month. According to Gartner, only one in ten people currently thinks broadband provides value for money. Not only do they want to pay less, they also need a reason for buying it in the first place. Based on this lukewarm assessment of broadband, analysts forecast that only ten per cent of households in France, Germany and the UK will have broadband access by 2005. According to analysts the situation is made worse because they argue that there is currently no 'must have' application to convince the majority of consumers they need broadband. And paying for content is simply just not on. Said Adam Daum, vice president and chief analyst at GartnerG2: "The industry has assumed that broadband would set consumers on fire. "However, speed alone is not enough: there must also be attractive broadband content...[and] in the absence of good content, our research shows that consumers are very price-sensitive. "To achieve widespread adoption of broadband, the price needs to fall from its current level of E45-60 per month to less than E30." To stimulate demand Gartner reckons there needs to be "attractive content", lowers prices and the chance for people to try broadband before they commit to buying it. Gartner's theory may soon be put to the test. According to reports BT is set to announce on Thursday that it is to slash the cost of its broadband service in the UK. We live in hope. Still, while Europe gets to grip with its broadband shortcomings, Bill Gates told the World Economic Forum in New York that the high cost of broadband in the US was stifling demand. Amazingly, there are still some people who belive that the take-up of broadband is not reliant on price. Imagine. ® Related Story BT to slash broadband charges
Tim Richardson, 05 Feb 2002

UK census site stays shut

The re-opening of the 1901 census Web site has been delayed – again. Last month the Public Record Office (PRO) said the site would be up and running by the beginning of February, after it was taken down for vital maintenance. Its re-opening has now been delayed for another three weeks and could remain offline for longer unless the problems that have plagued the site are resolved. A limited service enabling people to access the database from selected Public Record offices has been made available over recent weeks. However, even this will be pulled from tomorrow to allow vital work to be carried out. It is due to be re-instated on February 20. A spokesman for Qinetiq, the outfit behind the site, told The Register: "Evaluation work is still on-going and that has to continue until it is felt that the site can go up. "We won't put it up until we're confident that it will work." ® Related Stories Census site stays offline Census site shuts for a week 1901 Census site closed for urgent repairs Brits flock to1901 census site
Tim Richardson, 05 Feb 2002

Totalise suspended on AIM

Totalise, the formerly mutual ISP, was suspended on the AIM stock market on February 1 for failing to file its interim accounts on time. At time of writing, Totalise has not returned our calls to the company. So far as press coverage is concerned, Totalise has escaped pretty lightly - the announcement of suspension on RNS, the Regulatory News Service of the London Stock Exchange, does not appear on Etrade.co.uk, where we look for our UK company financial information. All we can find is an article on the Yorkshire Post (good for financial background), a tiny reference on iii.co.uk, and this copy of RNS notice on UK-Wire.com Companies have three months after the end of the half-year to file interims, and up to six months after that. Failure to file within the time means cancellation of a company's listed status. ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002

5,000 punters wait for Tiny PCs

Up to 5,000 consumers are without a PC following the acquisition of Tiny Computer by Time Computer. The punters had all bought machines before Tiny called in the administrators last week but have yet to receive them. Time says it is currently trying to contact these customers to provide them with alternative PCs. It is also offering the chance of a refund to others. A spokesman for Time assured consumers that they would be looked after. "Customers should not worry - we are trying to resolve this matter," he said. While Time struggles to handle the back log of orders it's also facing difficulties tying up loose ends following its acquisition of Tiny's business. It says that Scotland-based Fullarton Computer Industries - Tiny's PC assembler – is holding Tiny stock estimated to value around £2 million. Time argues that it acquired this stock as part of its acquisition of Tiny and is eager to get its hands on it. A spokesman for Fullarton declined to comment on the matter except to say that "everything belongs to the administrator" and that the "administrator is in charge". Elsewhere, Time reckons around a thousand PCs are trapped in transit following Tiny's demise. No one from couriers Business Post was available for comment by press time. And electrical retail chain Powerhouse last week shut all 20 of Tiny's instore concessions following the appointment of administrators. A spokeswoman for Powerhouse said that this had been done to make sure that the "products were secure" and to ensure that "all the stock could be accounted for". No one from administrators, Grant Thornton, was available for comment at time of writing. ® Related Stories Tiny HQ to shut in May Tiny Computers = big losses Time rescues Tiny
Tim Richardson, 05 Feb 2002

HPaQ timetables merger vote

Hewlett-Packard has set March 19 as the day for shareholders to vote on the Compaq takeover. Their counterparts at Compaq make their marks the following day. This gives the HP board a useful few weeks to get the Big Mo going, more time to mop up stragglers in its proxy toe-to-toe with Walter Hewlett, son of a founder, leader of the HP naysayers and dissident director who never listens to what's going on at the few board meetings he intends, any way. For now, the mudslinging against Hewlett Jr, appears to have stopped. In the coming month we can expect a relentless flow of good news from HP: for instance this week, the company said that Q1 sales would be much better than analysts had expected, fuelled by an upturn in sales of PCs (Hewlett Jr is not a fan of low-margin PC commodity business you recall). But how do analysts expect - surely, they receive some guidance from the companies they follow? Next up, we expect, a crop of HP's major shareholders and customers to announce their support for the deal - at judiciously-spaced intervals of course. A pro-merger user survey or three wouldn't come amiss either. And all the while, cheerleader-in-chief Princess Fiorina will express relentless optimism. This is what's she's paid for, handsomely. Fiorina's performance on the hustings has earned her a rebuke from her courteous opponent. Yesterday, Hewlett Jr. accused the HP CEO of making a "clearly false statement" for predicting the outcome of the Compaq vote. "Ms. Fiorina's statement appears to be a clear violation of the Securities and Exchange Commission rules. Based upon information available to us, Fiorina's statement is clearly false. We are meeting with investors and what we are hearing is clearly contrary to her assertions. Given the significant volume of negative public statements from industry experts, the widespread unhappiness communicated to us by institutional investors, as well as the intention to vote in opposition by Walter B. Hewlett, Eleanor Hewlett Gimon, Mary Hewlett Jaffe, The William R. Hewlett Revocable Trust, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, we believe that HP's statement could only be motivated by an intention to mislead the market." It's getting very interesting: when the Hewlett and Packard camps, holders of 18 per cent of HP, announced their opposition in January to the takeover, it seemed it was all over bar the fighting. Slowly, perception is changing, although this is not so surprising, considering the massive disparity of resources at the disposal of the two camps. We can't call it - is anyone conducting a shareholder poll out there? ®
Drew Cullen, 05 Feb 2002