19th > October > 2004 Archive

Old-timers leave IBM flat in Q3

IBM's pension plan woes kept the company's third quarter results flat, as a $320m settlement charge erased a double-digit rise in income. IBM reported revenue of $23.4bn in its third quarter - a nine per cent rise over the $21.5bn reported in the same period last year. The company also posted $2bn in income - a 12 percent rise over the $1.8bn reported one year ago. Including its partial pension plan settlement, IBM's net income for the period dropped to $1.8bn, leaving it very flat for the quarter. IBM made particular gains from sales to the communications and public sectors and with small- to medium-sized businesses. In addition, it saw revenues rise in the Americas and Asia Pacific regions, while sales to Europe were flat in constant currency. The company's hardware business was its best performer during the third quarter. Hardware sales rose 12 per cent year-over-year to $7.5bn. Xeon server and mainframe sales carried this unit. Software sales jumped five per cent to $3.6bn with IBM's middleware products and DB2 database performing well. IBM's services business also posted a 10 percent rise in sales. The company's relatively small financing unit saw revenues drop 11 per cent to $638m. Overall, IBM expects its full fiscal year results to come in ahead of analysts' estimates. IBM's CFO Mark Loughridge said recent strength in the Americas and Asia has pushed the company's prospects higher than they were at the start of the year. ® Related stories Sun kicks off fiscal '05 with a $174m loss Compaq's servers save HP from enterprise sales hell IBM mocks Itanium server sales - again
Ashlee Vance, 19 Oct 2004

Toshiba TV cries for help

Forget the Patriot Act and overactive spooks. It's your TV that could have the Feds knocking at your door. Chris van Rossman earlier this month learned this lesson when Air Force staffers, a policeman and a search and rescue officer stopped by his apartment in Corvallis, Oregon. The officials were hunting down an international distress signal picked up by a satellite. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia received the message, and the rescuers sprung into action. What they found was a man watching his Toshiba flat-screen TV equipped with a built-in VCR, DVD and CD player. It seems the TV was sending out the 121.5 MHz distress signal. Van Rossman was ordered to keep his TV turned off - or face a $10,000 fine for emitting a false distress alert. Toshiba has not received word of similar incidents and has pledged to give van Rossman a new set. ® Related stories Boffin channels god, scares students Evesham e-box Media Center 2005 PC Interactive urinal cake aimed at ravers, C&W fans
Ashlee Vance, 19 Oct 2004

PeopleSoft boss gets $18m to walk away

Craig Conway, the former chief executive of PeopleSoft who was pushed out by the board, is to receive an $18m severance package. The golden goodbye is made up of cash and the value of his share options, according to an anonymous source talking to Reuters. PeopleSoft refused to comment on the story, but a public filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed the firm was making a one-off payment of $3.2m to Conway. The firm said the money represented "the company's obligation for continued payments of 24 months base salary and 24 months target bonus discounted to net present value." Conway opposed the attempted takeover by Oracle and was accused of misleading analysts about the impact of the hostile takeover. He was fired earlier this month because the board of directors lost confidence in his ability. He was replaced as chief executive by Dave Duffield who started the company. Oracle's bid of $7.7bn for the firm looks more likely to go ahead after US courts turned down the Department of Justice anti-trust case. European regulators are still looking at the deal. ® Related stories PeopleSoft defends poison pills Oracle vs Peoplesoft Customer views from PeopleSoft Connect OK, so Ellison is not a sociopath...
John Oates, 19 Oct 2004

Apple preps 'black iPod' U2 limited edition promo

The infamous black iPod looks set to make a second appearance next month, when Apple ships a special edition digital music device to commemorate the arrival of rock band U2's newest long-player. So claim a variety of web sites, including Forbes.com. Apple itself isn't commenting on the specifics of the rumour, but it has already sent out invites to a music-oriented event taking place on 26 October. U2's new record, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, isn't due for release until a month after that, but lead singer Bono (vox) and axe man The Edge will join Steve Jobs on stage. U2's fondness for Apple was seen most recently in the band's latest video, which pastiches Apple's iPod ads. Or is it an iPod ad that pastiches U2 - we're not sure. Either way, they both do nicely out of it, promoting player and single. According to reports, the black iPod will come with How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb pre-installed, along with selections from the band's back catalogue. The black iPod - once the source of much speculation - surfaced briefly this past summer when car company Jaguar ran a competition offering one of the devices as a prize. The contest was a promotional exercise for the Ford subsidiary's X-type. Apple may also use the 26 October event to unveil the rumoured 'PhotoPod' iPod with a colour screen, and photo synchronisation and display capability. ® Related stories Apple iTunes tops 150m downloads Apple profits leap as iPod sales rocket Apple iPod grabs 82% US retail market share Apple colour-screen 'PhotoPod' said to be in production Dell to ship iPod Mini rival next month Creative unveils 5GB Zen Micro Virgin unveils 5GB mini music player
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Sharp pulls Linux Wi-Fi PDA out of US

Sharp has confirmed reports received by The Register that the company has dropped its Zaurus Linux-based PDA in the US market. According to our sources, Sharp USA canned the SL-6000 in the US at the end of September, dropping the device's developer support website. A Sharp spokesman yesterday confirmed the decision, InfoSync World reports. Sharp will continue to sell the Zaurus line in Japan. The company killed Zaurus support in Europe in 2003. Indeed, the SL-6000 was never officially sold over here. Sharp's move to focus solely on the Japanese market mirrors similar retrenching operations made by Sony and Toshiba. Sharp last week announced a new clamshell Zaurus - one of the first PDAs with an integrated hard drive - for the Japanese market. Having launched the SL-6000 in Japan in October 2003, Sharp began shipping the PDA in the US in April 2004, allowing the device only five months to build up an audience. ® Related stories Sharp to ship world's first HDD-based PDA Sharp ships Linux Wi-Fi PDA in US Sharp confirms next-gen Linux PDA specs Sharp to update Zaurus PDA line this month Sharp preps upgraded, rugged Linux PDA Sharp to plot worldwide Linux PDA plan Sharp cans Linux PDA in Europe Sharp goes clamshell for new PDAs
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Amsterdam Internet Exchange goes photonic

Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) has connected its member Open Peering to a 10 Gigabit Ethernet per second public-peering service using photonic switching for the first time in Europe. Public peering is a means for internet service providers to send and receive traffic destined for one another's networks. Previously, switching was exclusively based on electronic switches. With the new technology mirrors are used to send out bundles of light in all possible directions. Internet organisations can find their way between end-users even faster than before, AMX-IX claims. CEO Jan Hoogenboom of Open Peering says he faces an explosive growth of traffic; with the availability of the new 10GE-service there is sufficient capacity to facilitate growth until late 2006. The 10GE connection in itself is not exceptional. LINX, the UK's main peering centre for ISPs, implemented 10 Gigabit Ethernet two years ago. Based on its new technology, AMX-XS expects it will be the largest internet exchange in Europe in 2005 in terms of public peering traffic. ® Related stories ISPs gang up on spammer-run websites LINX links smaller ISPs More police needed to tackle e-crime
Jan Libbenga, 19 Oct 2004

Finland can't live without Nokia

Manufacturer Nokia is more important to the Finnish economy than was previously thought. According to preliminary figures by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA), Nokia's share of Finland's Gross Domestic Product has risen to at least 3.5 per cent, up from 3 percent last year. Finland is the only western country where a single company commands such a large proportion of the nation's GDP. ETLA-researcher Jyrki Ali-Yrkkö sees the situation as potentially threatening. "Nokia is not the problem, but rather the small size of other companies," he told the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat. Ali-Yrkkö also discounted fears that Nokia might leave Finland. Nokia's 23,000 employees in Finland would be difficult to relocate to another country. Not that the company has indicated it will do so, but like any other European company Nokia is taking offshoring seriously. Nokia has a big production facility in the southwestern Finnish city of Salo. ® Related stories Much smoke to BPI's fileshare suits, but where's the fire? Motorola pilots 'digital wallet' phone trials Nokia blames prices for profit fall
Jan Libbenga, 19 Oct 2004

PalmOne Treo 650 details confirmed

Details of PalmOne's launch plan for the much-anticipated successor to the Treo 600 have leaked on to the web. The Treo 650 will launch - unless PalmOne now changes its mind - in just under a week's time, on 25 October. The venue: the CTIA Wireless IT show in San Francisco. The information came courtesy of PalmOne product marketing chief Greg Shirai, in an interview with Internetnews.com, which appears to have run the piece too early. Whoops. The site has now pulled the story. However, before the site did so, it was possible to read a confirmation of much that has been written about the Treo 650. The communicator, codenamed 'Ace', will indeed feature a 320 x 320 colour display, mini QWERTY keyboard, removable battery, and phone-style call make and break buttons. The device is expected to ship with 32MB of memory, 20MB of which is available to the user. Shirai suggested that all or some of this memory will be Flash, to retain data when the battery is swapped out. That mirrors what PalmOne has done with the Tungsten line: the recently launched Tungsten T5 PDA includes 256MB of memory, all of it Flash. The Treo 650 will be offered in quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and dual-band CMDA/1XRTT versions, with North American carriers expected to announce availability in the next few weeks, according to Shirai. The 650 is not expected to ship from launch, but will be made available in the US in time for the Thanksgiving/Christmas sales period. Sources close to Taiwanese handset manufacturer HTC have claimed that the company is producing the 650 for PalmOne and has already begun ramping up volumes. Beyond the details provided in the Shirai interview, the 650 is expected to be powered by a 312MHz Intel XScale PXA270 processor and run PalmSource's 'Garnet' OS, aka Palm OS 5.4.5, as does the T5. The 650 also sports an SD card slot with IO support. ® Related stories Next-gen PalmOne Treo details show up on Web PalmOne 'Ace' Treo piccies leak out HTC 'begins Treo 650 volume shipments' to PalmOne PalmOne unveils 256MB Flash drive T5 PDA PalmOne pockets a profit
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Scot develops dust-busting hovercraft

Readers might be forgiven for thinking that boffins could not possibly squeeze any more innovation from the humble vacuum cleaner. After all, we now now have micro-filtering vortex hoovers with sufficient power to make short work of the cat — without loss of suction — and more accessories than you can shake a feather duster at. That would be to underestimate the creative power of the British mind, however. Step forward Mike Rooney and his Airider - the world's first hovering hoover which uses a "1400-Watt Thermal protected high-speed fan motor, creating 192 MPH high velocity airflow for maximum suction at base of hose". Blimey. The Airider apparently took eight years to develop and major manufacturers' interest in the concept was limited to offering to buy Rooney out. Now, however, he has perfected the design and is poised to launch an 80-country sales blitz. We wish Rooney well with his Airider, but suspect that he will meet a fair degree of scepticism from the British buying public - as did his fellow hooverologist James Dyson. On the other side of the Pond, in contrast, once an enthusiastic US military get hold of the Airider they will invest huge sums in improving and expanding the concept to the point where it can be used to transport hundreds of Marines on clean-up operations world-wide while we Brits will be back to sullenly pushing a broom around our fluff-filled domiciles. ® Bootnote Thanks to all those readers to have asked us to note that Hoover got the jump on this one way back yonder with the 1952 Constellation. According to 137.com: "Later models were said to 'float on air' — a cute advertising gimmick but in reality all it meant was that the exhaust blew onto the floor under the metal ring that the machine rested on. This did make it easier to drag the machine around; the exhaust formed a sort of cushion of air. However, it also affected the suction power of the machine because the free-flow of air through the cleaner was impeded and tended to blow dust around when the machine was lifted from the floor. A textbook example of form not following function!" Related stories A robot in every home by 2010 Computer controlled houses go on the market Top British boffin is a muppet
Lester Haines, 19 Oct 2004

Ofcom conjures up idea of public IP TV broadcaster

UK communications regulator Ofcom has called for the setting up of a new public service provider (PSP) which would distribute TV programs in a digital format through broadband lines, networked PVRs, and mobile networks, as well as more conventional TV distribution systems. It has also proposed funding of £300m ($540m) a year, which would include the commissioning of TV programs, and Ofcom said it would be able to spend as much as £200,000 ($360,000) for each hour of content it created. The aim would be to compete with the BBC and other publicly funded TV, to provide high-quality content, and instead of a 24-hour TV channel, it should aim for about 3 hours of programming per day. Content of that quality could eventually be made available internationally on a pay per view basis. The PSP would be different to existing broadcasters. Inevitably, in its early years in the transition to digital, much of the PSP's digital content would be more likely to resemble traditional TV programs, but it would not be a TV channel in the traditional sense, nor would it publish books, magazines or newspapers (as the BBC has done). There should be a series of public bids to run the PSP in the UK, but it should not be awarded to the BBC, insisted Ofcom. Ofcom said it would not rule out carriage arrangements whereby the PSP secured agreements to distribute publicly funded material on analogue TV before digital switchover. Of course it is primarily seen as a shortcut to both digital TV programming and internet delivery. If Ofcom gets this original idea off the ground there is a good chance that other European countries with prominent public service broadcasting commitments might also adopt it. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of events that have happened each week in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories UK rings up new 'real phone' VoIP service Open-source IP Telephony slashes costs BT blocks 1,000 rogue dialler numbers
Faultline, 19 Oct 2004

Let's Parlay over Open APIs

Telecoms standards group Parlay was in London yesterday to bang the drum for new developers. The Parlay Group sets and promotes open standard APIs to allow easy interaction between traditional IT applications and telecoms networks. The group says its standards are already allowing the development of enterprise applications and that consumer services will soon follow. Sprint and BT have already deployed enterprise applications based on the standards. Parlay Group president Zygmunt Lozinski, told The Register: "Old value-added services created by the telcos were proprietary - they only worked on their own networks - open standards allow thousands of developers to work on them." "For developers it means shorter and easier testing. They can download emulators so they can do the development and basic testing in their offices - it cuts the costs of getting started." Lozinski added that enterprise applications often come to market through big ISVs but consumer applications are more often created by smaller start-up firms. He said both types of firm can use Parlay standards to create services. Marc Leclerc, chairman of Parlay Group's marketing committee, said: "We need a supply of applications. Parlay has created a single standard to enable a worldwide market, this reduces the risks for developers because it ensures a global market for their products." Parlay Group members include: Alcatel, BT, France Telecom, IBM, Lucent, NTT, Sprint and Telecom Italia. More info on their website here. ® Related stories Developers finger Google's text service OpenGL 2.0 launched with built-in shader language MS expands WinCE 5.0 'shared' source licence
John Oates, 19 Oct 2004

419ers take Aussie financial advisor for AU$1m

A Melbourne financial manager faces a hefty prison sentence after stealing AU$1m from his clients and handing it over to Nigerian advance fee fraudsters. Robert Andrew Street, 58, fell for a classic 419 scam after receiving an email from the Reverend Sam Kukah offering him a cool $65m in return for relocating cash held by Nigeria's Presidential Payment Debt Reconciliation Committee. Naturally, Street quickly learned that there were certain expenses he had to meet to oil the wheels of the illicit transfer. Accordingly, he set about fleecing clients of his financial planning business - Making Dollars & Sense - by getting them to invest in fictitious get-rich-quick schemes. Street raised a total of AU$1,039,910. AU$10,000 of this went on mobile phones apparently required in Nigeria. Street transferred the balance direct to the to the scammers. When Kukah did not cough up the expected windfall, Street's clients began to complain and he eventually had his collar felt after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) investigated the matter. Street was charged with five counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception between September 2001 and August 2002. He pleaded guilty yesterday in a Melbourne court on all counts and now awaits sentencing on 4 November. Each offence carries a maximum penalty of 10 years' jail. But even if Street does avoid lengthy incarceration he will not be handling other peoples' cash in a hurry - the ASIC ensured that he was barred for life from the financial services industry. ® Related stories Anatomy of a 419 scam 419 scammers take US con artist for $750,000 Woman falls for Nigerian scam, steals $2.1m from law firm Related products Been fleeced by the Lads from Lagos? Get your "My money went to Nigeria and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" right here.
Lester Haines, 19 Oct 2004

AMD slashes prices, ships Athlon 64 4000+

AMD today introduced the Athlon 64 4000+ and Athlon 64 FX-55, as anticipated, along with price cuts across the rest of its 64-bit desktop and desktop-replacement mobile CPU line-up. The company also cut the prices of its mainstream Mobile Athlon 64 processors, and those of the XP-M chips. The latter saw a number of lower-end parts knocked off AMD's official price list. Gone too is the Athlon 64 FX-53, replaced by the new, faster model. The FX-55 is available immediately, AMD said. The new Athlon 64 4000+ is clocked at 2.4GHz, like the existing 3800+, but gains a boost from its bigger L2 cache: 1MB to the 3800+'s 512KB. It too is a Socket 939 part. The 3700+ is also clocked to 2.4GHz and equipped with 1MB of L2, but its memory controller is single-channel to the 4000+'s 128-bit, dual-channel controller. The FX-55 is clocked at 2.6GHz, up from the FX-53's 2.4GHz. ®   AMD Desktop Chip Prices Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Athlon 64 FX-55   $827   Athlon 64 4000+   $729   Athlon 64 3800+ $643 $643   Athlon 64 3700+ $507 $470 -7.3% Athlon 64 3500+ $346 $288 -16.8% Athlon 64 3400+ $288 $238 -17.4% Athlon 64 3200+ $227 $208 -8.4% Athlon 64 3000+ $189 $163 -13.8% Athlon 64 2800+ $173 $144 -16.8% Desktop Replacement Athlon 64 3700+ $500 $463 -7.4% Desktop Replacement Athlon 64 3400+ $417 $228 -54.7% Desktop Replacement Athlon 64 3200+ $278 $198 -28.8% Desktop Replacement Athlon 64 3000+ $218 $153 -29.8%   AMD Mobile Chip Prices Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Mainstream Mobile Athlon 64 3400+ $432 $243 -43.7% Mainstream Mobile Athlon 64 3200+ $293 $213 -27.3% Mainstream Mobile Athlon 64 3000+ $233 $168 -27.9% Mainstream Mobile Athlon 64 2800+ $193 $148 -23.3%   AMD Athlon XP-M Chip Prices Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Desktop Replacement Athlon XP-M 3000+ $147 $135 -8.2% Mainstream Athlon XP-M 3000+ $150 $138 -8% Mainstream Athlon XP-M 2800+   $125   Low-power Athlon XP-M 2200+ $97 $81 -16.5% Low-power Athlon XP-M 2100+ $97 $76 -21.7% Low-power Athlon XP-M 2000+ $80 $74 -7.5% Related stories AMD turns profit on strong 64-bit chip sales AMD dual-core Opterons gain SSE 3 support Intel to maintain 775-pin P4 prices to 2005 - report Intel decides speed matters less these days, kills 4GHz Pentium Laptops, servers buoy Intel's results Intel defeats AMD in court Intel delays Xeon E-0 core update to 29 October
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Egg losses soar on France debacle

Egg's decision to pull out of the loss-making French market is continuing to hammer the UK internet bank as the group recorded a pre-tax loss of £103m in the nine months to the end of September. Much of this loss is down to the £113m Egg has already announced it is spending to exit France, along with the £35m its French business has lost so far this year. Instead Egg, 79 per cent owned by The Pruduential, is talking up its UK business, which delivered a "satisfactory set of results in what has proved to be a challenging year for Egg". The UK made a pre-tax profit of £53m for the first nine months of the year, down from the £57m profit notched up last year. In further retrenchment to its core UK business, Egg today said it had flogged Egg Invest, its funds supermarket, to Fidelity FundsNetwork. The transaction comes with one-off costs of £3m, but should help the company save money in the future. Said chief exec Paul Gratton: "Our UK business has delivered a satisfactory set of results, with the potential sale process initiated by Prudential in January creating uncertainty in addition to the increased competition and rising interest rates that have impacted the credit card and personal loan markets. "Looking forward, Egg people are firmly focused on the future development of our core UK business, leveraging our brand and high quality customer base to expand our franchise." By mid morning shares in Egg were up 0.5p to 90.25p.® Related stories Pru pulls out of great Egg race Egg still hasn't got a buyer Egg flees France Egg punters up, losses down
Tim Richardson, 19 Oct 2004

AMD heralds PCI Express chipsets

AMD formally welcomed its Athlon 64 processor family into the world of PCI Express, touting the availability of chipsets that support the new add-in card format. According to AMD, chipset makers ATI, Nvidia, SiS, ULi and VIA will be offering "a broad range" of PCI Express products. No great surprise there, since details of almost all of these vendors' AMD-oriented PCI Express parts have long since leaked out. Even ATI chief, Dave Orton, recently admitted that the company was already shipping its PCI-E chipsets, believed to be offered under the Radeon Xpress brand name. Nvidia, meanwhile, unveiled its nForce 4 chipsets earlier this month ahead of today's formal introduction of the new family. The vanilla nForce 4 is expected to sport dual Serial ATA channels and be pitched at Socket 939 AMD processors, with the HyperTransport bus clocked at up to 1GHz. An Ultra version will add improved network processing facilities, while the SLI release will naturally provide a pair of PCI Express add-in slots. There's also talk of a budget version, pitched at Socket 754 processors and equipped with just a single Serial ATA bus. This may be the product once suggested as a server-oriented nForce 4, though the processor socket implies that Nvidia has other roles in mind. VIA's K8T890 won't ship until next month, but will offer one PCI-E x16 slot for graphics and four more x1 slots for other add-ins. The chip maker announced today plans to offer a dual-x16 version of the chipset in due course. Dubbed DualGFX Express, the technology "stands ready to support all dual graphics card industry standards", said VIA, SiS is expected to ship its SiS716 chipset next month, followed by an integrated version incorporating the company's Mirage1 graphics core. ® Related stories ATI CEO confirms AMD PCI-E chipsets shipping SiS readies November AMD PCIE chipset launch Nvidia to launch nForce 4 'next week' ATI readies 'Radeon Xpress' Athlon 64 chipset Athlon 64 PCI-E chipset here by end of year 'for sure' Nvidia 'nForce 4' details leak Nvidia roadmap said to tout AGP at high-end well into 2005
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

The .NET Developer's Guide to Windows Security

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Team Register, 19 Oct 2004

Microsoft moves in on music downloads

AnalysisAnalysis The press say this is Microsoft IBM all over again from the 1980s with only one result possible. We're not so sure.
Faultline, 19 Oct 2004

Peruvians develop super-tasty guinea pig

Scientists at Peru's La Molina National University reckon they have developed a world-beating culinary experience - the plumper, tastier "Peruvian Breed" guinea pig, AP reports. The average Peruvian guinea pig weighs in at best at a modest one-and-a-half pounds and offers the locals a lean, sinewy eating experience. The new überpig, by contrast, tips the scales at a whopping two-and-a-half pounds packing plenty of low-fat, low-cholesterol meat. It took 30 years to develop and the team behind the advance reckons that it might sell the consumption of the animal to westerners who are traditionally averse to eating household pets. Gloria Palacios, director of La Molina National University's "project to promote guinea pig exports", enthused: "I think if they become familiar with the cuisine, maybe suddenly they'll give in and be tempted to try it. It is really delicious." Those keen to taste-test the Peruvian Breed might be interested to know that it reportedly tastes like rabbit. The fact that it does not taste like chicken - as allegedly does every exotic animal from snake to capybara - must come as an immense relief to the locals. Peruvians get through 65m guinea pigs a year, which must make a welcome change from, er, chicken. The animal has a long history in Peru as sacred animal and menu item. It is reckoned to have been domesticated 2,500 years ago and its popularity survived Spanish efforts to stamp out the indigenous rodent. Indeed, it is still used by healers who use the furry diagnostic device to pinpoint patients' ills - as well as gracing dinner tables across the country. La Molina National University is already exporting 1,000 Peruvian Breed guinea pigs per month to the US, Japan and Europe. Most end up delighting the taste buds of America's Peruvian expat community. ® Related stories Killer hamster ices owner Aussie boffins probe lesbian cows Sheep pine for absent friends: official
Lester Haines, 19 Oct 2004

NEC to show laptop with built-in fuel cell

NEC will this week show a prototype notebook PC powered by its own fuel cell unit, the company said today. The power supply marks a big improvement over NEC's previous fuel cell efforts, the company said, with what is effectively a 20 per cent reduction in the size of the cell for the same power output. Indeed, where the current prototype doesn't look out of place as part of the notebook's contruction, the previous version, shown over a year ago, had a rather large fuel cyclinder positioned behind the screen. NEC's fuel cell notebook prototypes from 2003 (left) to 2004 (centre, right) Last year's system had a power output density of 50mW per cm², compared to the 70mW per cm² NEC has managed to get out of the new model. The focus of NEC's development work is equipping the fuel cell with monitoring and management systems to ensure smooth, stable power generation. Of course, it's all a very long way from commercialisation - NEC didn't provide any timeframe against which the release of a fuel cell-powered laptop might be measured. Interestingly, NEC was not so circumspect this time last year when it promised to bring a fuel cell-equipped notebook to market by the end of 2004. Back then, it also scheduled a similar machine capable of 40 hours' continuous operation to appear by the end of 2005. NEC isn't the only Japanese company developing fuel cells for notebooks - so too is Toshiba and Hitachi, who have also demonstrated prototype systems this year. Intel-funded start up PolyFuel is also working on direct methanol fuel cells for laptops. So is German company Smart Fuel Cells. Toshiba has also shown off cells aimed at PDAs, MP3 players and mobile phones, as has Hitachi. ® Related stories Toshiba touts pump-free fuel cell for MP3 players Sulphur fuels battery breakthrough Fujitsu breakthrough slims fuel cell size Hitachi readies fuel cell for PDAs Toshiba demos cellphone fuel cell NEC, Hitachi prep notebook fuel cells Toshiba boffins prep laptop fuel cell
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

The problem with Informix

OpinionOpinion IBM has a problem with Informix. It is one of those problems that is actually a good problem, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't cause headaches. The problem is twofold: first, IBM's main database product is DB2 - but actually Informix is a very good database and always has been. In appropriate circumstances, you would expect Informix to outperform DB2 and it certainly has a lower management overhead than DB2, even when you take into account all the autonomics (which are impressive) that IBM has introduced in the new release of DB2. So, there are circumstances when it makes sense for IBM to promote the use of Informix as opposed to DB2. But, and here is the nub, it cannot be seen to be promoting anything other than DB2, since the company has put all of its database eggs into the DB2 basket. Actually, it's worse than this. The second problem with Informix is that IBM has branded its entire data management story under the name of DB2. Funnily enough, existing users of Informix in particular (but also UniVerse, Unidata, Redbrick, et al) tend not to be too happy when IBM tells them that they are part of the DB2 umbrella. In other words, there is some seriously bad branding and marketing going on here. Funnily enough, IBM is actually doing a lot with Informix, it has recently introduced the new CopperEye Datablade and it has some major enhancements planned for Informix in future releases. Moreover, IBM is keeping to its promise about enhancing both products from the other: the latest release of DB2 reuses a number of important bits of Informix technology and I understand that the next release of Informix will see some significant traffic in the other direction. So, in a sense, all is rosy: IBM is keeping its promise to existing Informix users, it is selling the product to new users, it is enhancing the product, and DB2 and Informix are moving closer (albeit slowly) together. However, IBM's exclusive focus on DB2 as a brand obscures whatever good news there is about Informix. It means that the company cannot publicly identify markets and opportunities that are more suitable for Informix, as opposed to DB2. This would not necessarily be hard to do. For example, DB2 has never been a major player in the embedded database market. That is, the market for ISVs and VARs to develop applications with the database embedded within it. Conversely, this has always been an area of strength for Informix. Of course, there are other areas of strength where making such a clear delineation may be more difficult, but that does not mean that the attempt should not be made. IBM's argument is that one day, maybe decades from now, DB2 and Informix will merge into a single entity. If that is true, and if it is also true that each product has its own strengths (as they clearly do) then a parallel database strategy would seem to make much more sense than the single focus that the current structure imposes on the company today. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories IBM sweetens G5 Linux deals IBM gives code to Apache open sourcerers IBM grabs Alphablox
Philip Howard, 19 Oct 2004

German claims mobile phone chucking record

A German man is claiming the title of world mobile phone-chucking champion after hurling his handset 67.5m - that's 223 feet in old money. The new record set by Nico Morawa - a member of the association of German mobile phone throwers - thrashes the former monster throw of champion Heiko Scholl, who flung his mobile 65.8m four years ago. Morawa beat 70 other contestants who took part in a cellphone tossing event on Sunday. AFP reports that both men are from Kamenz in the eastern state of Saxony. Which is nice. ® Related stories Mobile users twice as likely to get tumours - report Germans develop bad breath-detecting mobe
Tim Richardson, 19 Oct 2004

Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music

ReviewReview With so many PC owners now having large collections of music on their hard drives, it's no surprise that we're seeing more and more devices designed to get that music off the computer and into the living room. Creative's Sound Blaster Wireless Music attempts to do all of this without the hassle of network cables, instead using a Wi-Fi network to stream audio data, writes Dave Cusick.
Trusted Reviews, 19 Oct 2004

HP Labs demos plastic LCDs

HP Labs, HP's research arm, demonstrated a prototype plastic colour LCD screen in London yesterday. Although the prototype is small - just 3cm by 4cm - the team says the technology could be scaled up to extremely large displays, with resolution comparable to that of printed material. The researchers have developed a way to eliminate the LCD's active matrix, the silicon layer that controls the polarity, and hence the opacity, of the crystals. Instead, they use a layer of imprinted plastic which makes the liquid crystal bistable - that is, able to stay in either orientation without a continuous power supply. In essence, a normal LCD is a sandwich of liquid crystal between two sheets of polarising glass. The liquid crystal changes orientation when an electric field is applied: in one orientation it transmits light; and in the other, it does not. By controlling where and when that field is applied, the screen can display an image. The field is controlled by the active matrix layer, a silicon sheet that, in effect, can switch individual pixels on or off. However, there are several drawbacks to this technology, not least in terms of cost: silicon is not cheap, after all. Using thin film transistor (TFT) technology also means that the image only lasts as long as there is a power supply. The researchers at HP wanted to replace this layer with something more physically flexible, and less expensive. They came up with the idea of printing a template on to plastic that the liquid crystal would sit on. "If you put LCD crystals on this surface, they have to arrange themselves around the posts," Adrian Geisow, a researcher at HP Labs explained. The team discovered that when the posts of this template are at exactly the right height, both polarisations of the crystal are stable, meaning that an image can be retained indefinitely without being powered. Within each cell, there is also scope for finer control of opacity, meaning that each pixel can take on five shades in greyscale, the researchers said. This could be refined further still, and eventually as many as 33 shades could be displayed per pixel. However, the technology has been explicitly developed for static displays, and does not handle video well at the moment. It takes approximately half a millisecond to switch a cell, so there is some shimmer in moving images. The researchers stress that the technology is still in the early stages of development, and has some way to go before commercialisation. "This is a research prototype, and there is plenty of commercial R&D to be done," Geisow told reporters. Some areas still be researched include the limits of the flexibility of the material and back lighting for very large displays, he added. ® Related stories 34 tech firms sued for alleged LCD patent theft Sharp's 3D LCD: how's that work, then? Sony unveils Wi-Fi multimedia Clié
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Oct 2004

UK watchdog blocks 11 rogue dialler operators

Eleven companies have been barred from running premium rate internet dialler services as part of a crackdown on scammers ripping off UK punters. Another 33 companies also face the chop after premium rate watchdog ICSTIS used emergency powers to tackle the growing problem of rogue diallers, which hijack people's computers and run up huge phone bills. ICSTIS has dictated that all companies running internet dialler services must be licensed. If not, ICSTIS says it will shut them down. George Kidd, ICSTIS director, said: "We have only granted permission to those companies that satisfy our stringent requirements, covering key areas such as clear terms and conditions, user consent, information about how to delete diallers, and responsibility for customer refunds. Any company we find running a dialler without our permission will be cut off immediately." Kidd called on telcos to be more aware of the problem and to issue premium rate numbers only if operators are licensed by ICSTIS. "They also have a duty to carry out thorough checks on those they give numbers to and to look at the speed at which they pass money on to them. Billing phone companies have the systems to identify suspicious call patterns and should take action before their customers unknowingly run up huge bills," he said. ® Related stories Watch out, there's a scammer about BT blocks 1,000 rogue dialler numbers Ireland soothes South Pacific over rogue dialler crackdown British Gas warns punters about rogue diallers Ofcom to crack down on premium rate scamsters UK premium rate phone complaints rocket MPs slam premium-rate 'criminal scams'
Tim Richardson, 19 Oct 2004

Hefty savings on the Inova X1

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion We know how popular state-of-the-art torches are with our readers, so we've secured just 50 of the magnificent Inova X1 at a one-off offer price of just $25.38* - that's a hefty saving on the usual retail price of $39.60. The facts are these: the Inova X1 torch delivers a focussed beam of light precisely where you want it. Its double-coated glass lens concentrates light into a powerful, uniform, circular beam with a 65' effective range. The stainless steel head, aircraft aluminium hard-coat anodized body and intelligent power regulation giving a non-dimming brightness for up to 10 hours from one AA battery (included), make the X1 a trusted companion in extreme environments. The pocket-sized torch - a sleek barrel shape just 10cm long - is available in titanium or black finish. Of course, this is a "once they're gone, they're gone" deal, so if you fancy grabbing some quality illumination at a bargain price, you can do so right now, right here. ® *Price may vary due to fluctuations in Sterling-Dollar exchange rate.
Cash'n'Carrion, 19 Oct 2004

Hefty savings on the Inova X1

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion We know how popular state-of-the-art torches are with our readers, so we've secured just 50 of the magnificent Inova X1 at a one-off offer price of just £13.61 (£15.99 inc VAT) - that's a hefty saving on the usual retail price of £21.99 inc VAT. The facts are these: the Inova X1 torch delivers a focussed beam of light precisely where you want it. Its double-coated glass lens concentrates light into a powerful, uniform, circular beam with a 65' effective range. The stainless steel head, aircraft aluminium hard-coat anodized body and intelligent power regulation giving a non-dimming brightness for up to 10 hours from one AA battery (included), make the X1 a trusted companion in extreme environments. The pocket-sized torch - a sleek barrel shape just 10cm long - is available in titanium or black finish. Of course, this is a "once they're gone, they're gone" deal, so if you fancy grabbing some quality illumination at a bargain price, you can do so right now, right here. ® Sign up for our monthly Merchandising Newsletter and receive exclusive discounts from our shops
Cash'n'Carrion, 19 Oct 2004

UK preps major security awareness campaign

A major UK government campaign to help small businesses and consumers protect themselves from Internet security threats will launch in the UK next year. The National High-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) is co-ordinating the £2m three-year security awareness campaign, codenamed Project Endurance, and it is seeking business sponsorship. So it is off to rattle the tin at a Confederation of British Industry conference on 8 November. Public launch is scheduled for the second quarter of 2005. John Lyons, crime co-ordinator at the NHTCU, said the campaign will aim to arrest the growth in computer security risks that threatens to slow down the rise of ecommerce. "The aim is to reduce fraud losses and to consolidate information, which is currently fragmented," he said. Project Endurance will focus on the basics of Internet security. Subjects covered will include advising users to maintain up-to-date anti-virus signatures, patch operating systems and use firewalls. Protecting personal information, password usage and protection and counter-fraud measures will also be covered. The campaign will aim to educate users about spyware and adware risks. Another planned element will emphasise the importance of backing up systems. Lyons compares Project Endurance to government campaigns against drink driving, or the "clunk, click" campaign advising users to use safety belts in cars. Early ideas for the scheme were outlined last week at the Information Assurance Advisory Council's fifth annual symposium in London. Andrew Miller MP, Joint vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Information Technology Committee, backed Project Endurance's wide-ranging approach. "Spam, virus and extortion are intellectually separate but are all tied together. You can't pick out one part of the [cybercrime] spectrum because they are all interlinked," he said. Paul King, principal security consultant at Cisco Systems UK, said the UK scheme is similar in aims to the US National Cyber Security Alliance's StaySafeOnline scheme. Peter Sommer, a security expert from the London School of Economics, asked how the scheme would avoid to risk of overlap with the "proliferation of initiatives" around computer security already underway. Lyons said the programme would concentrate on basic IT security and focus on the UK. The scheme will not look at child protection issues, which are well-covered by other programmes, he added. ® Related stories UK banks launch anti-phishing website Small.biz told to swot up on Net security The IT security vuln league table of fear
John Leyden, 19 Oct 2004

UK tech specialist school pioneers open source switch

a Felixstowe school has taken advantage of the UK government's Specialist Schools Initiative to implement a switch to Open Source software as its chosen capital project. Under the Initiative Orwell High School, which was recently granted Specialist School for Technology status, qualifies for a government capital grant of £100,000 and £129 per pupil per year over four years. In order to achieve Specialist status a school has to put forward a detailed plan to raise standards in technology, maths and science, pass a submission process and raise at least £50,000 in sponsorship. Having successfully done so Orwell's funding amounts to approximately £500,000 over four years, while the capital project is a complete overhaul of the school's ICT infrastructure and refurbishment of its technology facilities. As a Technology school, you could say it's therefore walking the talk. The notion of an Open Source switch arose in conversations between deputy head John Osborne and Andy Trevor of Ipswich-based Total Solution Computing. As Trevor had recently been discussing Open Source implementations in schools with Mike Banahan of GBdirect (relation - see below* for Register declaration of interest) and Open Forum Europe, a plan emerged. At the time an upgrade to XP for the school would have meant replacing 50 or so PCs, and Osborne estimated that costs would be around £25,000 plus a licensing spend of approximately £13,000 a year. This was well outside the budget, and open source started to look like a more effective use of resources. The school needed four main ICT classrooms with approximately 30 workstations in each, distributed printing services and support for a number of smaller clusters of one to five workstations. As staff are now using laptops, it also needed wireless. Using OSS packages such as OpenOffice, MySQL and The Gimp had advantages over using proprietary software because the school didn't need to worry about licensing issues connected with pupils running the software at home. Support for Windows-based legacy software that had no direct OSS equivalent was also needed. The system installed currently uses SuSE 9.1 at the core with a desktop based on KDE kiosk-ised to reduce admin and complexity. The workstations are thin client, running on two central application servers, and it was possible to use all the existing hardware. Students can log into any application server from any workstation, and get access to all their files, and where legacy apps are needed a server running Microsoft Terminal Server 2003 is used via an RDP client from a Linux desktop. John Osborne is enthusiastic about the move, which he says was simple and painless. It means the school doesn't face the costs of the Windows upgrade cycle, and doesn't have to worry about licensing for the open source parts of the system. "We shall be moving to a complete Open Source basis as quickly as is practical," he says, "and hope to start working with other schools interested in this type of development to share ideas and best practise". ® * Mike Banahan and GBdirect are of course old friends and colleagues of The Register, but if we hadn't thought this was interesting we'd have told Mike to go away when he tugged at our sleeve. We think the deployment could be useful model for other schools to learn from, and that it's something the Department for Education & Skills would do well to look at, and maybe publicise. In the meantime, you can get further information from Mike's case study, here. By the way, what's this "Orwell" and "John Osborne"? If they start claiming they've got a Pirandello too, we'll know we've been had... Related links: Details on SSI status
John Lettice, 19 Oct 2004

ARM rise bucks Q3 trend

ARM made solid gains during the third quarter of its current fiscal year, with rising royalty revenues and improving margins pushing up the chip designer's income in what CEO Warren East called a "seasonally weaker quarter". For the three months to 30 September 2004, ARM received revenues totally £39.4m - £14.6m from licensing, £16m from royalties on licensees' shipping products, and the rest from sales of development tools and related services. That compares to revenues of £36.9m in Q2 and £31.7m in Q3 2003, with growth set at 6.8 per cent and 24.3 per cent, respectively. Licensing revenue was static sequentially but rose 11.5 per cent year on year, from £13.1m. Licensing contributed 37 per cent of ARM's revenue in Q3, down from 39 per cent in Q2 and 41 per cent in the year-ago quarter. Royalty revenues rose 15.1 per cent sequentially, from £13.9 million, and 45.5 per cent year on year, from Q3 2003's £11m. Quarterly device shipments hit an all-time record: 341m units, up from 286m in the previous quarter and 188m in the year-ago period. With operating margins reaching 28.9 per cent, from 23.8 per cent in Q2 and 17.7 per cent in Q3 2003, ARM's Q3 2004 net income reached £13.3m (nine pence a share), up 27.9 per cent from Q2's £10.4m and up 95.6 per cent from Q3 2003's £6.8m (a ha'penny a share). Gross margins for the third quarter were 92.8 per cent, compared to 93.2 per cent in the second quarter, the dip due to the higher proportion of development systems revenues in Q3 versus Q2. The company quit the quarter with £174.6m cash and equivalents in the bank. If ARM's revenues remain the same during Q4, then the company will certainly achieve its £150m revenue target for FY2004 - the same figure it achieved in FY2002. That 2004 target translates into dollar-term growth of 30 per cent, an increase ARM CFO Tim Score said the company was now "well positioned" to achieve, despite a slowdown in growth rates throughout the chip industry. ® Related stories ARM Q2 profits swell ARM to add media booster to next-gen chips ARM unveils multi-core chip design Samsung chases Intel with 80% sales growth Chip biz slowdown to stretch through Q1 '05 World chip sales flat in August Inventory issues fail to hamper chip biz growth
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004
homeless man with sign

Weak US drags down PC sales growth

Though the global market for personal computers continued to expand in the third quarter, shipment levels were not as strong as expected. In its quarterly update on the PC business, research outfit Gartner said that global PC shipments rose by 9.7 per cent in the three months to September 2004, compared to a year ago, slightly behind its forecasts. It blamed the weaker-than-expected shipment levels on the US, where growth amounted to just 5 per cent - versus an 8 per cent forecast. In the US, PC shipments totaled 16.2m units in the third quarter of 2004. In that market notebook sales were strong, but desktop demand was much weaker, Gartner said. "US home notebook shipments were strong during the quarter, but desktop demand was much weaker, which brought down back-to-school shipments overall," said Charles Smulders, vice president of Gartner's computing platforms worldwide group. Dell grew its global market share lead to 16.8 per cent, shipping almost 7.9m PCs during the period, up from 6.5m a year ago. Hewlett-Packard took the number two spot with 15 per cent market share, or 7m unit shipments, a rise of more than 500,000 from a year ago. Smulders noted that HP is under pressure in the US market, where other PC makers are taking up more retail shelf space. In fact, the company lost a portion of its US market share during the quarter as shipments remained largely flat at just over 3m units. Dell, meanwhile, gained share, taking control of 30.4 per cent of the US market, partly at the expense of Gateway, which saw its share slip one per cent to 5.1 per cent. Rounding out the top five globally were IBM with 5.6 per cent market share, Fujitsu-Siemens with a (3.6 per cent) and Toshiba (3.1 per cent). All three vendors saw shipments grow and both IBM and Toshiba gained worldwide market share, while Fujitsu-Siemens' share was the same as last year. Copyright © 2004, ENN Related stories
Matthew Clark, 19 Oct 2004

Digital Retro goes coffee table

Book ReviewBook Review Gordon Laing's Digital Retro (Sybex Books, ISBN 078214330X) is a trip down memory lane. When memory was £5 a kilobyte and 64k was 'elephantine'. It's a look at forty computers from 1975 to 1988, starting with the MITS Altair and finishing with the NeXT Cube. There is some scene setting from the days of Babbage to the invention of the microprocessor and then to the first machines, and at the end there is a 'what happened next', but it's the look at the machines themselves that's the core of the book. The emphasis is on home machines with some consoles like the Atari VCS and Mattel Intellivision and significant business machines like the HP85, IBM PC and original Mac. Your first computer is probably there. Just the nostalgia is reason enough for this book to exist, but it's a real history of the personal computer. Gordon Laing was the editor of PCW and is a well-known technology journalist. He's now also a historian. You could knock a book like this up by trawling the web and digging out a few old pictures, but Gordon is a perfectionist. He tracked down and interviewed many of the people who worked on the machines in the book, often the founders of the companies that made them. He borrowed exhibits from computer museums and personal collections. Digital Retro drips detail, from how the designers of the sound chips in the Commodore 64 went on to make music synthesisers, to Jay Miner's dog's paw print on the case of the Commodore Amiga, and the Acorn Atom being designed with a cheap NTSC colour video chip that produced an acceptable mono PAL signal. The book looks great with detailed shots of the machines, and many rare and no doubt cherished accessories. This is a coffee table book, designed to be dipped in and out of; there's nothing worthy or academic about Digital Retro, but you find yourself reading more and more, laughing at both the things you'd known and forgotten and those you'd never known. There is at least one fact that I thought would never be made public. Those computer creators clearly enjoyed talking to Gordon about their work twenty something years ago. It's a great time to produce a book like this because although the computers are fading memories, the people who designed them are, in the main, still alive. Capturing what went on in the era before PC compatibility, when every time you bought a new computer you also bought - or more often wrote - new software for it, is important. It was a time when there was a real advance in computing every month. Getting it down on paper now matters, history isn't just about dead people who wore crowns. You'll find more details on the book, some FAQs and a list of the machines in the book at www.digitalretro.co.uk ®
Lance Davis, 19 Oct 2004
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Apple updates iBook laptops

Apple updated its iBook consumer notebook line today, as expected, and extended its Power Mac G5 family downmarket with a single-processor 1.8GHz model. The latest iBooks essentially feature faster processors and bundle AirPort Extreme 802.11g adaptors, previously offered as an optional extra, but the pricing remains roughly the same as before. Bluetooth remains optional. Apple is offering three standard models, a 1.2GHz unit with a 12.1in display and a 30GB ATA-100 hard drive, and two 1.33GHz iBooks, both with 14.1in LCDs and 60GB ATA-100 disks. All three ship with 256MB of 266MHz DDR SDRAM, 512KB of on-die L2 cache, two USB 2.0 ports, one Firewire 400 port, 10/100Mbps Ethernet and 56Kbps modems. The lower two models feature combo DVD/CD-RW drives, while the top-end model has a DVD-R/CD-RW unit. Graphics come courtesy of am ATI Mobility Radeon 9200 with 32MB of DDR SDRAM on each model. All three machines are shipping now, Apple said for £749, £899 and £1049, and in the US for $999, $1299 and $1499. At the same time, Apple introduced a 1.8GHz Power Mac G5. 'Re-introduced' might be a better word, since the single-processor model was dropped when the Mac maker last updated its G5 desktop line-up in June 2004. Clearly, the new model is not only intended to provide a low-cost Power Mac G5, but to modulate demand for dual-processor rigs while G5 CPU availability remains tight - a fact Apple alluded to once again during its recent financial results conference call. The latest G5 machine provides a 600MHz frontside bus, 256MB of 400MHz DDR SDRAM, an Nvidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics chip with 64MB of DDR video memory fitted on a card in the Mac's AGP 8x Pro slot, a DVD-R/CD-RW optical drive, an 80GB Serial ATA hard disk and Gigabit Ethernet. Bluetooth and 802.11g Wi-Fi are available as optional extras. Available today, the 1.8GHz G5 will retail for around £1099 here, and $1499 in the US. ® Related stories Apple unveils iMac G5 History repeated as Apple slams CPU supplier IBM 'readying dual-core G5' Apple launches liquid-cooled G5 Mac Apple iTunes tops 150m downloads Apple eyes Birmingham for next UK store Apple profits leap as iPod sales rocket Apple iPod grabs 82% US retail market share Apple colour-screen 'PhotoPod' said to be in production
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

IT contractors dream of fat futures

The UK IT contracting market is enjoying a boom last seen in the heady days of desperate Y2K projects. The finance market, with upgrades needed to ensure compliance with new regulations, has helped push up demand. The number of IT contractor posts jumped from 16,518 in Q1 04 to 29,898 in Q3, according to the Computer Weekly/SSL quarterly survey of appointments data and trends. The finance sector saw advertised contractor posts increase by 81 per cent, fuelled by demand for staff to ensure systems are fully compliant with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act - changes to US accounting practise designed to prevent the high profile fraud cases of recent years. Two swallows do not a summer make, but there are signs that the IT jobs market is improving. Results from recruitment firm Harvey Nash last week revealed turnover was up over 20 per cent. Sales in the UK and US did even better - turnover in these two markets was up 41 per cent. Ian Kirkpatrick, chairman of Harvey Nash, told the Evening Standard: "The market for our services has continued to improve with demand for IT consultants increasing across the world." Back in July the Register reported a survey from Reed Recruitment predicting two thirds of firms would be taking on more IT staff in the next few months and 94 per cent of surveyed firms expecting to take on staff in the third quarter. In September we reported growing demand for contractors within the public sector. What do you think? Has the jobs market really turned the corner? Let us know at the usual address. ® Related stories Public sector snaps up IT pros IT company gives workers free beer - wins award UK IT recruitment hits two-year high
John Oates, 19 Oct 2004

Motorola MPx220 to hit UK in December

Motorola will ship its eagerly awaited second-generation Windows Mobile 2003 smart phone, the MPx220, in the UK in December, The Register has learned. Sources close to the company this week revealed that the handset, which began shipping in the US earlier this month, will almost certainly make it to market here ahead of Christmas. Motorola formally announced the MPx220's US availability on Friday, 15 October, but it actually began to appear in Best Buy stores the previous weekend, seven days ahead of schedule. Details of the MPx220, the successor to the MPx200, emerged in June 2004 when a preliminary press release was published on Motorola's web site. By the time the handset was formally unveiled, in July, the release date had been put back from Q3 to Q4. As previously reported, the handset features a 176 x 220, 270,000-colour display and an integrated 1.23 megapixel digicam with a 3x digital zoom and flash. It will offer quad-band support - 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz - GSM and GPRS connectivity. The handset supports Bluetooth, and includes 64MB of Flash ROM. There's a Mini SD card slot capable of taking a 512MB memory card. The unit weighs 113g and measures 8.9 x 4.8 x 2.7cm. Its design is broadly similar to that of the 200, but the screen hinge is mounted further down the keypad half of the clamshell device. The 220 will be offered in silver and black colour schemes. In the US, the MPx220 is initally shipping for connection to the Cingular network. The handset's UK networks have not been named, though sources close to Orange, for one, say that service provider is evaluating the MPx220, alongside Motorola's slimline, titanium-cased V3. The handset is also likely to be made available in a SIM-free form. ® Related stories Best Buy sells Motorola MPx220 smart phone Motorola delays MPx220 MS smart phone Motorola smart phone to offer 1.3Mp cam, Bluetooth Motorola widens Microsoft smartphone line Motorola touts 'razor thin' metal mobile
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Boffins moot chilled light for optical comms

A group of American theoretical physicists have, on paper at least, proven the existence of a new class of soliton that could help simplify high-speed optical communications because it can be slowed down. In the 1 October issue of Physical Review Letters, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) physicists outline how a pulsed laser could create a soliton capable of travelling through a supercool gas of Rubidium atoms for more than five centimetres without noticeable distortion. A soliton is a solitary pulselike wave that can travel long distances without becoming distorted, even when it is moving very slowly through a supercold gas. It doesn't obey the superposition principle, nor does it dissipate. The phenomenon was first identified in 1800s when a naval engineer observed a water wave travel more than a mile within a canal without dissipating, but light, too, can be found in solitons. These very short, stable, pulses are the subject of much research because in principle they could be used to pack more information into fibre-optic communications systems. In practice, though, light often needs to be slowed down (to around the speed of a jet airliner) so that signals can be correctly routed and synchronised around a network. However, when light-solitons are slowed, they quickly become distorted or attenuated, causing data loss. This can happen before the packet has travelled even one millimetre, which is a tiny distance anyway, but is even tinier when you consider that light from the Earth can get to the Moon in less than two seconds. The scientists are now working on the experimental proof of their theory. It should be more practicable than many experiments in the field, which require around 300 kilometres of fibre to delay an optical signal for one thousandth of a second. This new soliton might only need a few centimetres. ® Related stories Online poker ace scores £4,500 - per week University gets £1m complex systems grant Perfect balls and rubber sheets
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Oct 2004

Robbie Williams: crooning soon on a phone near you

Record label EMI will release Robbie Williams' Greatest Hits on mobe and PDA-compatible Multimedia Memory Card (MMC) memory card from next month. Pundits say it's the first time that music has been made available in this format. The album will come with video content and will be on sale at 600 Carphone Warehouse stores in the UK for £29.99. EMI has plans to deliver more pre-loaded memory cards this Christmas. Kevin Gillan, Carphone Warehouse's director of group business development, told BBC News: "We see pre-loaded music memory cards as the next step and part of a general consumer hunger for more mobile content." Mobile phones are inreasingly becoming viable alternatives to portable MP3 players, many now equiped with stereo-quality sound systems and ever-expanding storage space. Last month, Samsung's SPH-V5400 handset - the first phone to be equiped with a hard drive - hit the streets. Some analysts believe the mobile phone with hard disc capacity could revolutionize the MP3 player market just as the camera phone did for the photography world. "There's no reason to think we won't have a five-gigabyte hard drive on the market next year," Hubert Gertis, a technology analyst for Berlin-based consultancy Gertis Media, told Reuters. He added that top-of-the-line mobile phones could have hard drive capacity of 400GB by 2007 - 10 times the capacity of Apple's top-end iPod which can currently handle 10,000 songs. ® Related stories Best Buy sells Motorola MPx220 smart phone PalmOne preps Bluetooth GPS bundle Motorola E398 mobile phone
Robin Lettice, 19 Oct 2004

UK Gov unwraps Gambling Bill

The Government has published its new gambling bill today designed to shake up the gambling industry. Although the legislation covers the whole of the industry, part of it also covers the explosion in internet gambling and casinos. The Government insists the new measures would protect children (by including compulsory age checks for gambling websites for example) and the vulnerable. Critics claim the measures - which include a relaxation of some existing laws - would lead to a massive rise in gambling addiction and indebtedness. Publishing the bill today the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell said: "It is nearly forty years since Parliament last had the opportunity to take a serious look at our gambling laws and it's not just attitudes that have changed since then. The technological revolution has touched all our lives and the gambling industry is no exception. "Internet gambling and roulette machines in bookmakers are just two examples of where laws introduced nearly ten years before the first home computer hit the shelves are no longer able to protect children or vulnerable people properly." In July research by children's charity NCH found that kids as young as 11 are able to set up accounts and gamble online. Speaking today John Carr, Director of the Children and Technology unit at NCH, said the gambling industry has been unable to regulate itself and that new rules were needed. "We are greatly encouraged to see the Government taking this issue seriously in the Gambling Bill. It brings in a number of vitally important and new protections for children, creating new obligations on companies to do everything they can to stop children gambling online," he said. Two major credit card companies - American Express and Citigroup - have recently taken steps to prevent their punters from using their cards to gamble online over concerns of fraud and fears that people might run up debts. ® Related stories Amex prevents punters gambling online Online poker ace scores £4,500 - per week 11 year-old-kids free to gamble online Parents clueless about kids online
Tim Richardson, 19 Oct 2004

Microsoft spruces up Navision

Navision accountancy software is getting its first big upgrade since it was bought by Microsoft two years ago. Jon Hughes, director of Microsoft Business Solutions Partner Group, believes the mid-sized market, where Navision has most customers, is maturing: "A few years ago it used to be just finance packages but now mid-sized firms want more functionality." Hughes said Navision 4.0 had three main areas of improvement. First, it has better ERP functions including the ability to set alerts into the system to warn you if inventory falls below a certain level. Secondly it has an improved user interface. He told The Register: "It looks and feels more like Office. Outlook users will recognise the look and feel. Getting people to actually use these applications is key and I think this will help." The application is more closely integrated with BizTalk Server. The new release includes more business intelligence functions: "Businesses need to look at the information they have as an asset not just a database," Hughes said. He added that early feedback suggested strong demand for the software. Danish-based Navision forms part of Microsoft's Business Solutions Group along with Great Plains and Axapta, which provide similar enterprise applications to larger businesses. MS does not make public turnover figures but Hughes said the division was growing well and Navision is growing at between 20 per cent and 25 per cent year-on-year. ® Related stories Ballmer has seen the future, and it s Danish Managers buy Cedilla The Microsoft CRM wait goes on
John Oates, 19 Oct 2004

Sainsbury's, Accenture and the £3bn IT flop

Sainsbury's, the UK supermarket group, is blaming Accenture for the disastrous state of its new logistics system. It is recruiting 3,000 shelf stackers to fix the damage manually. The new system is unable to track stock properly and Sainsbury's is taking a £550m charge to its profits. Writing off IT assets which are now useless will cost the supermarket £140m, writing off the cost off automated equipment in its distribution centres will add another £120m. The failed systems have also cost Sainsbury's £30m in stock lost or damaged by the new system. The four-year "Business Transformation Programme" has cost £3bn was the pet project of previous chief executive Sir Peter Davis. Cost of IT as a percentage of sales is higher now than it was four years ago. The supermarket group is to renegotiate its contract with Accenture, which will it see it rebuild its inhouse IT team. In a statement today, the company said: The objective is to simplify systems to increase effectiveness. Key initiatives have been actioned. The rollout of future systems and upgrades has been slowed down while focusing on driving benefits from the systems already in place. Priority will be on forecasting and scheduling systems. Certain systems cannot now be used and others will require additional expenditure to simplify and improve their functionality. Sainsbury's chief executive Justin King complained: "'We will renegotiate our contract with Accenture because they can and should help us get systems where they need to be and because the current contract has been unable to do that. The balance of responsibility currently lies far too heavily on Accenture." But Accenture was quick to distance itself from the problems, stressing the firm was not involved in Sainsbury's four automated (or not) distribution depots. ® Related stories Exel trials RFID in House of Fraser European retailers have the hots for RFID HP's supply chain king steps down
John Oates, 19 Oct 2004

Nvidia details nForce 4

Nvidia made public details of its nForce 4 PCI Express chipset, as expected - doubly so since AMD welcomed the company's Athlon 64-oriented product earlier today. The leaks pretty much had it right. The nForce 4 family comprises three models: nForce 4, nForce 4 Ultra and nForce 4 SLI, the latter providing support for Nvidia' 'two GPUs, one image' multi-processing technology. The nForce 4 provides one x16 PCI-E interconnect for graphics cards and three x1 slots for other boards. It can also handle up to four Serial ATA drives and four parallel ATA drives, with RAID 0, 1 and 0+1 running across all of them. On the communications side of the Media and Communications Processor (MCP), the chip provides a hardware firewall and Gigabit Ethernet. There's also support for TCP offloading, a system that's compatible with Microsoft's 'Longhorn' OS 'TCP Chimney' acrchitecture. The media component includes AC97 support, and not the anticipated hi-definition system. The Ultra part adds support for Serial ATA 2.0, with its 3Gbps operation, again over four devices. There's support for ten USB 2.0 ports, too. The MCP features a beefed up security sub-system. The nForce 4 SLI is an UItra part with support for a further ten PCI-E lanes. Both SLI and Ultra will also ship with nTune's Nvidia's performance control software - overclocking, to all intents and purposes. Nvidia dubbed the code an "industry first", but this is the kind of thing companies like ABIT have been doing for some time. The utility offers a "powerful... tuning engine that customises various system parameters to automatically adjust for the ultimate performance", Nvidia claimed, adding: it "also offers customisable computing environments, ranging from extreme performance for 3D-intensive applications to quietened operation for DVD playback and other traditional PC applications". All three chipsets are geared toward 939-pin AMD processors. Nvidia said it expects mobos based on the nForce 4 family to ship within the next 30 days from all the usual suspects. ® Related stories Nvidia to launch nForce 4 'next week' Nvidia 'nForce 4' details leak Nvidia confirms Socket 939 Semprons on way AMD heralds PCI Express chipsets AMD slashes prices, ships Athlon 64 4000+ SiS readies November AMD PCIE chipset launch
Tony Smith, 19 Oct 2004

Talented flunkeys unite against phishing

LettersLetters We thought we'd spice things up a little this week and do something different. Among all the letters we get telling us that we are ignorant morons undoubtedly in the pay of [insert large technology company's name here], we do get the odd bit of praise. Don't worry, we won't let it go to our heads, but were running one such letter today. It arrived following our report of Google-competitor Copernic's warnings over the privacy implications of the Google Desktop: Hi Andrew, I have just installed and started using GDS so your article was an interesting and relevant read. I think the problem with this all and the inevitable take-up of GDS as a worldwide product is that Google has achieved a trustworthy status, both from their "free" products and from their philosophy during their IPO. This causes a certain blindness on the part of the user and a willingness to click-through the license agreements, act first and think later. But the other problem is nobody is doing this as well as them - I haven't tried the Copernic search but GDS sure as hell kicks Windows Search .... perhaps this is part of the reason that Microsoft has dropped WinFS from Longhorn.... as usual, let the competitors develop their products, then assimilate later on! Anyway, I thought your article was very interesting and just wanted to drop you a few of my views - completely uninvited, of course, but I'm new to all this pro-active internetting....! Cheers, Tom Now, we're sure we can look forward to the usual torrent of abuse resuming, unabated. Next, a few thoughts about Bits of Freedom's experiment with some Dutch ISPs. Would the providers take down material on the basis of totally unsubstantiated threats? Well the answer is that yes, they would. Quite happily. But this should not be a surprise, you said: Although it is quite unfortunate that ISPs react so badly, I feel that it is hardly surprising. An ISP is not a Free Speech advocate, it is a technically-specialized company with earning money in mind. And litigation is a very costly prospect. ISPs have come under constant attack by RIAA et al. shenanigans for the past few years. Some have attempted resistance, and many of those have had their ears cuffed by a judge. The fact that those who have been vindicated by a court are entirely too rare has obviously sent a wake-up call to the ISP community : cave in quickly to avoid litigation. Once the example was set, the ball started rolling. As long as there is the possibility that any judge decide in favor of a copyright holder over Free Speech, you can count ISPs out as your first line of defence. Pascal It's interesting that whilst some hosts do this readily for legitimate sites, they won't pull a fake bank or security company for love nor money. Ask the guys at 419eater. David I realize you were only quoting your source in writing, "freedom of speech stands no chance against Texan-style private ISP justice", but I want to note that, as a resident of Houston, after reading your story I fear Dutch-style private ISP justice a deal more than Texan. Perhaps Bits of Freedom should test some Texan ISPs before they start slandering them. Regards, Robert A. Allen Houston, Texas For various reasons, you were not impressed by the banking industry's anti-phishing efforts: Let me get this straight ... because people aren't reading sites properly (and therefore screwing themselves over) and are just submitting any old rubbish as long as it 'looks ok' (forget the blatant spelling errors etc) to any old site ... the banks create a text heavy, boring, monotonous site which requires people to pay the utmost attention to understand, which is the 'ignorance' they're 'guilty' of already? Right. Genius. That's going to work isn't it? Richard I'm postmaster at Sussex University. The UK banks' anti-phishing website is very welcome, especially at a time when we have students arriving on campus, many of whom will be new to banking. Its a shame that the banks accessibility version doesn't work in the Safari web browser! Ian A couple of, rather different, thoughts on the use of David Beckham's picture in a trojan: >his highly talented singer wife Victoria. A couple of things. Firstly, thank-you for the biggest laugh I've had all week. Secondly, the G+T I have just sprayed all over my laptop isn't cheap, so can I have some warning next time please? Kind Regards, Craig. To quote from your article: "Beckham's marriage to his highly talented singer wife Victoria" Is it fair to mislead those fortunate enough not to have heard her yet? Adam All we're saying to that is: "Oh dear." And finally, we also reported this week that efforts are being made to address digital exclusion. It seems the most unlikely people will benefit. You wrote that "The DIP report defines those most at risk of digital exclusion as the unemployed, people with 'literacy issues' and old age pensioners". And, of course, people like the Prime Minister, who by his own admission can barely operate a keyboard. Of course, he meant that as a proud boast, not a confession of ignorance. After all, he has flunkeys to do that sort of thing for him. Tom Doesn't everyone have a flunkey to type for them? Type faster, minion...no, don't type that, or that I said that, look, stop it will you? [Could all staff stop abusing the flunkeys, please - Ed] ...which is as good a point as any to conclude this Tuesday's trawl of the postbag. Keep 'em coming though - there'll be another load of letters going up on Friday. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Oct 2004
server room

Software gains plump EMC's Q3

EMC's 2004 surge continued in the third quarter with its more than ample software business driving growth. EMC pulled in $2bn during the period - a whopping 34 per cent more revenue than the $1.5bn reported in the same quarter last year. EMC's income jumped as well to $218m - a 37 per cent rise over last year's $159m. The biggest reason for EMC's success stems from contributions made by its software division, which has added the portfolios of Documentum, Legato and VMware over the past year. Software license revenue surged 56 per cent. The software unit pulled in $538m compared to $345m in last year's Q3. The company's VMware subsidiary posted 200 per cent revenue growth to $61m, while EMC's core software business pulled in $351m. The company's hardware business also boosted revenue. It reported $949m in sales, which compares to $800m last year. EMC's services revenue hit $523m compared to $341m last year. So, gains all around. EMC doesn't look ready to slow down either. Earlier this month, it announced the purchase of backup software maker Dantz Development Corp. in a bid to boost its standing with small- to medium-sized businesses. It seems that no data backup firm is safe from EMC these days. EMC is looking for fourth quarter revenue to come in between $2.23bn and $2.27bn. Investors rewarded the firm by sending its shares more than three per cent higher to $12.58, at the time of this report. ® Related stories Europe's SAN avoidance strategy IBM slays Shark, intros Power5 storage monster EMC makes run for SMBs with Dantz buy EMC adds triple-threat to replication software Sun Thumper server plans excavated by The Reg
Ashlee Vance, 19 Oct 2004

ID scheme? 'Nah, it'll never fly', says UK eGov head

The Register's department of bizarre coincidence notes with some concern Sainsburys' squeal of 'It was Accenture!' with reference to its sad IT disaster, together with the arrival at uk.gov of Ian Watmore, formerly UK MD of, er, Accenture. Watmore's role as head of e-government has been differentiated from that of his predecessor, e-envoy Andrew Pinder, as being an enabler rather than an evangelist. Pinder having done that stuff (allegedly), Watmore will run e-government "more like a traditional IT department looking for ways to improve business processes". He will, it has been said, operate rather like a CIO. To that end, his responsibilities will include: "developing policy and planning for ICT within Government and providing an element of programme management for implementation, to support the Government's objectives for public service delivery and administrative efficiency" (and you can find all sorts of other key CIO-type responsibilities at the end of the appointment announcement, here. The Register's department of bizarre coincidences is however untroubled by Sainsbury's £3bn IT flop. The UK is not a supermarket chain, and the flop was obviously not Watmore's fault. Or indeed Accenture's. A further bizarre coincidence in reference to a forthcoming £3bn IT flop, the national ID scheme, does however give us some pause for thought. Watmore's been on the interview circuit since starting work in September, and set out his store to BBC Online earlier this week, apparently describing the planned national identity register as "technologically impossible and not today's big worry." So the e-government head describes a major IT project that the government quite clearly intends to implement as "technologically impossible"? Hmmm... Moving on so soon, Ian? It seems pretty clear to us that Watmore could not have intended to say this with reference to either the ID card or the identity register, and that there's some key element he did say it about that's gone missing. We'd appreciate it (probably not as much as Watmore would) if the BBC would find it, and put it back. For the record the interview is here, and the key passages are currently: BBC For many the ID card itself is not as worrying as the database that the government wants to create to hold information about individuals and possibly be accessed by a variety of government agencies. BBC But that is not currently on Mr Watmore's radar. Watmore "It is technologically impossible and is not today's big worry. Plans for how we share information is in the early days," he said. The department of bizarre coincidences further notes that if a government IT project goes wrong, then it's not going to be Watmore's fault: "If a particular project were to go wrong the accountability for that would rest very clearly in the department concerned," (so he's going to blame Blunkett, fair enough) "My accountability would lie in terms of have we bitten off more than we can chew in terms of overall projects? Are there too many projects of this type for the capacity and capability we have?" If you've got a second, Ian, we'll tell you the answer to that one... ®
John Lettice, 19 Oct 2004

Microsoft mocks software rivals with dual-core chip embrace

Microsoft has bucked most of the major software makers by agreeing to count multicore processors as a single chip in its product pricing schemes. Rightly recognizing an opportunity to boast, Microsoft today dedicated an entire press release to its pricing decision. The company will stick with its per processor model for products such as Windows Server and SQL Server regardless of how many cores Intel or AMD manage to pack into a chip. Microsoft's openness on this matter is commendable and in stark contrast to the likes of Oracle and IBM, which tend to shy away from admitting they will price software per core. Anytime, however, that Microsoft comes off looking rosier than Oracle and IBM (all of whom are equally aggressive) in a pricing issue, you know deeper motives than just customer satisfaction are at hand. Oracle, IBM, Veritas, BEA and a host of others have considerably more to lose than Microsoft from multicore chips in the short term. For starters, all of these vendors run their software on Unix and Linux servers, which are already running on dual-core chips from IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP. At the most basic level, these software makers would lose half of their revenue on a per processor pricing scheme if they gave in to the chip makers. (IBM is an especially interesting case as it has DB2 and WebSphere code to profit from and makes its own Power5 chip). None of these enterprise software makers are prepared to sacrifice their wonderful profits just because some over-active chip makers are offering double the performance in the same, old package. This is one reason Sun has moved to a per employee model. Sun doesn't have huge existing software revenue to defend and is looking to tempt customers with a model that makes solid use of multicore chips. Microsoft, by contrast, is still playing in the single core processor world. AMD isn't expected to deliver a dual-core chip until the later bit of 2005, and Intel won't come to market with a dual-core Xeon until 2006. Intel will have a dual-core Itanium chip next year, but due to Itanium's tepid sales, this shouldn't chuff Microsoft too much. In addition, Microsoft tends to play on smaller systems. It's not losing out millions and millions because a 64 processor box has suddenly turned into a 32 processor box. Still, there is no denying that paying for a four-processor SQL Server license and being able to run that on 8 cores is attractive to customers and a potential loss situation for Microsoft. What the company has done, that others aren't prepared to do, is wake up to the realities of the processor market. The chip makers used to boost performance by ratcheting up GHz. Software makers couldn't complain about this. Now, the chip makers are just improving performance by adding more cores to a chip. This trend will only get more and more dramatic as four, eight and 16 cores processors roll out over the next couple of years. It will also be interesting to see how Red Hat responds to this challenge from Microsoft. A move to Linux could be much less attractive if you get twice the bang for your buck than before on a Microsoft box. It's doubtful that Oracle, IBM and others will be able to hold out much longer with their old school pricing plans. Microsoft has sided with the chip makers and put some real pressure on the competition. ® Related stories UK tech specialist school pioneers open source switch Open Source and software rental Microsoft offers cut-price cut-down Windows to Russians MS tweaks volume licensing
Ashlee Vance, 19 Oct 2004