9th > December > 1999 Archive
Apple's multi-hued iBook continues to dominate the US retail, online and mail-order sales charts, according to PC Data figures for October.
This is a fun one, comes from a very reliable source, and happened a few years back. An exec at a newly set up components distributor, whose name will remain secret, was negotiating with Intel to supply some of its products. Negotiations between Intel and the start-up went extraordinarily well, right up until the very last minute, when he had a visit from a Chipzilla executive. Chipzilla to distie: "There's just one last thing. I can see several competing products in this space that you'll be using to store our inventory. Before we conclude this deal, we want you to build a wall so that our products can be separated from our competitors' products." Distie to Chipzilla: "Get stuffed." Chipzilla to Distie: "Oh, OK then..." Whether the distributor was supposed to hire an Intel Accredited Brickie (AIB) to build the wall remains unclear. ®
Sources close to Intel's plans have now provided us with details of the price adjustments the company will make on its Pentium IIIs on the 12th of December. And it's clearly a fine tuning exercise, as we already suspected, in preparation for the big bang that will happen on the 23rd of January 2000. Many prices on Pentium III parts will remain unchanged. There will be no reduction, for example, on the PIII-500 chip. However, Intel will reduce prices on its top of the range Pentium III 733MHz chip, with a minor reduction of $12. The Pentium III 600MHz chip will fall in price by $10, as will the PIII 500E. Distributors, meanwhile, are reporting tough supply constraints on Celeron 433MHz and Celeron 400MHz, with system builders rapidly depleting stocks of the popular parts. As reported here earlier, Intel will intro 750MHz Pentium IIIs but using a 100MHz front side bus (FSB) in January of next year. ®
UpdatedA glitch in HP's fibre channel adaptors has forced the company to do a world wide recall of the parts, but now the problem is apparently fixed. A representative from HP UK confirmed that there had been a problem with fibre channel adaptors using the GLM laser component. But, he said, the problem has now been fixed. "We've fixed it for our customers," he said. "Some customers needed component replacements and in other cases we've been into sites and swapped units out. He claimed that customers were satisfied by the fixes that HP has now instituted. A corporate user of HP equipment told The Register yesterday that he had other problems with kit including CPU failures, raid controller failure, multiple disk failures and backplane problems. HP was unable to confirm these reports. Another end user of HP boxes, independently confirmed the reports. He said: "The recall happened about September time frame. Basically there was both a hardware and a software problem. Once the bad batch (it was a rather large batch) of hardware was fixed and the latest patches installed everything was good. "Our site didn't really roll out fibre channel until late November, and we haven't had any hardware problems after about 20 systems installed (but the software support in HP/UX 10.20 is a real kludge). "The CPU problems I think were more of a supply problem, the ones I saw were on K580's. We had several failures, a few more than usual when dealing with lots of hardware, but not too many. Finding replacements, however, was so hard that a production server ran for a week with a dead CPU. That one seems to have blown over too." He said: "I'm not sure if by backplane problems your corporate user was referring to the N-Class memory controller problem, but that one is nasty. You have to shut the machine off to check whether you are affected or not. Of course, if you are getting consistent kernel panics you probably already know that you are affected". ® See also Gartner warns of Sun server reliability problems
BuyOne or two of our long-time readers were rather surprised when we ran a story a couple of days back suggesting that Rambus Ink, maker of fast memory, was undervalued. We said that the introduction of the Sony PlayStation II was sure to give the company a fillip, regardless of whether or not it was worth stuffing RIMMs into Intel i820 or i840 motherboards. Needless to say, the share price of Rambus Ink fell after our buy recommendation, showing that punters prefer to ignore our advice. Yesterday, Rambus closed at $68 and a bit. Now Geoff Tate, CEO of Rambus Ink, has confirmed to local newspaper The Wall Street Journal that its business will indeed get a boost when PlayStation II uses its technology. Rambus will announce the fact it will support the PlayStation II and other platforms later on today. Tate also told the WSJ that it would extend its markets into routers and switches too, and announced a slight re-shuffle in management. As we correctly predicted two days ago, the chips will start shipping in PlayStations, in volume in spring of next year. In summer, against all indications from Wall Street financial analysts, we said AMD and Compaq stock was undervalued. And, sure enough, they were. So, because we've reiterated that Rambus is undervalued, watch its share price continue to fall on Wall Street, and if you're smart, buy accordingly. One reader on our bulletin board recently commented: "Hey, The Register. Thank you for the poop on semi-conductors. By daily reading of The Register I bought AMD and sold Intel ahead of the crowd. In fact, my rate of return has tripled since I began reading The Register 12 months ago. Nothing like "inside information." ® See also Rambus Ink has brilliant future AMD thoroughly undervalued
Police have arrested 11 men today in connection with Internet kiddie porn as part of country-wide raid on 27 addresses. Computer equipment and CD-ROMs were confiscated as part of Operation Queensland. The arrests targeted those people who possess and distribute indecent images of children. Those arrested are not thought to be connected or part of a paedophile ring. A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Police said she hoped more would be made later today, but added that not all the results from the raids had been reported to the operation headquarters in Manchester. The arrests were part of a six month undercover investigation by Greater Manchester police. Today's dawn raids were conducted by 20 police forces in England, Scotland and Wales. Last month one-time glam rock star, Gary Glitter, was jailed for Internet-related kiddie porn offences. ® Full Coverage/Child pornograhy
Fears that Britain is becoming a nation of hypochondriacs increased yesterday after the Government revealed that one and a half million people visited a new health site on its first day of operation. The site is an extension of a 24-hour telephone helpline that enables people to get in touch with health professionals without necessarily having to visit their local doctor or hospital. Announcing the figures, Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, said the interest in the NHS Direct On-Line Web site vindicated the Government's decision to provide the additional service. "[It] certainly is not the 'gimmick' that some people have claimed," he said. "Alongside the NHS Direct telephone advice service, ours is the only health care system in the world to have this sort of integrated access to expert phone advice and information in published form through the telephone and Internet," said Milburn. NHS Direct On-Line provides information about the NHS including how to use its services, facts and advice on health stories in the national press, and pages on 200 specific diseases and their treatment. The service will be made available in hundreds of pharmacies and supermarkets up and down the country next year giving access to those who don't have Net access at home, he Government said. ®
If Dell ever starts using the AMD Athlon in its machines, then that would be a mighty blow for Intel. There are rumours spreading like wildfire through the UK industry that Dell is just about to take such a step, which would really be an unprecedented move for the direct vendor, acting, as it does, like an Intel distributor. What seems likely to us is that Dell will not do an Athlon machine, but it is disseminating the rumour itself just to let its long-time buddy that it's somewhat unhappy with the last six months of their deep and intimate relationship. Nothing's impossible in this business so it's quite possible that the Dell domino might fall to AMD. The reasons why it just might are the same reasons that have persuaded Gateway and Fujitsu Siemens to adopt the chip. Those reasons are all to do with a shortage of Coppermine chips, a shortage of good, fast motherboards (Caminogate), and the fact that in the top selling season, it's pretty important to have machines for the power-mad souls who will pay additional margin for a PC that will sock it to the games they want to run. Dell, too, may have its eyes on the future. We know that AMD can pull a 1GHz .18 Athlon out of its pocket as early as January, if it so wishes. And we understand that AMD can do a 1.2GHz copper interconnect Athlon just a few weeks later. Sources close to AMD here in the UK tell The Register that it is very unlikely indeed that Dell will do an Athlon, although the hardware sites have run riot with these rumours for several weeks too. ® See also How Dell is really an Intel distributor
Sun pulled Java out of the ECMA standardisation process earlier this week, citing its concern that compatibility could otherwise suffer. But there are many subtle and not-so-subtle issues underlying the decision. Sun thinks that ECMA, the Geneva-based European Association for Standardising Information and Communication Systems (previously known as the European Computer Manufacturers Association), has been unduly influenced by Microsoft and HP, who have agendas that are quite different from that of Sun. Scott McNealy noted this week that standards bodies are highly political and are influenced by their need for money. In May, after moves in the US slowed Sun's effort to standardise Java directly through the ISO, the company turned to ECMA in the hope of getting fast-track ISO standardisation for Java, since ECMA is a liaison member of TC97 of ISO and IEC, and subsequently part of ISO/IEC JTC1. Alan Baratz, then Java Software president, noted at the time that Java had been developed through the Java Community Process, and that the Java language spec, the JVM spec, and the Java API class library would be submitted. Microsoft, funnily enough, hasn't come under anything like as much fire vis a vis standards as Sun has, despite having done everything in its power to keep Windows out of the standardisation business. But the arguments go back a long way. To get the whole story straight, we have to go back to 1992, when Apple had announced its Open Collaboration Environment. Microsoft hastily responded with the concept of a Windows Open Services Architecture (WOSA), which was described at the time by Forrester as "nothing more than a backgrounder put out by Microsoft's PR department", but it did result in "an awful lot of saluting and much less shipping" as one wag put it at the time. Novell responded with a white paper on Systems Applications Services, but it was Sun's proposal for WABI, a Windows Application Binary Interface that caught the imagination, since it provided a way to give Unix users the ability to run Windows applications in an open environment, without the need for Dos or Windows, and without emulation or any change to the Windows application. Shock horror in the Microsoft camp, with Redmond threatening litigation, claiming that Windows intellectual property rights were being violated. Apart from Sun's traditional antithesis to Microsoft, Sun advanced the WABI approach because Microsoft would not offer it any acceptable terms for licensing Windows source code, although it had licensed Insignia, Bristol and Locus. Microsoft was upset when identical 486s running the same benchmark, one with WABI and the other with Windows, showed that WABI out-performed Windows by 50 per cent. If Microsoft needed a prod to move it in the direction of 32-bit APIs, this was it. Microsoft was further embarrassed when in 1994, Sun, Novell, Microsoft and the European Commission met at Gleneagles in Scotland ostensibly to discuss the future direction of the desktop environment, but Sun made the event the launch of the Public Windows Interface (PWI) that was to be submitted to standards bodies. Nigel Burton, then Microsoft's manager of Microsoft's solutions development group admitted that Microsoft "should have done a better job" of documenting Windows, but "the idea of relinquishing ownership of the Windows API" was not open to discussion. WOSA was not open at all, it transpired. In 1994, the PWI proposal was submitted to ECMA. As can be easily imagined, Microsoft had some strong reasons to get its revenge on Sun, which brings us back to the recent events. Sun did not deliver the Java 2 Standard Edition to ECMA on 1 December because of its concern that although ECMA protected patents in submissions, it did not provide protection for copyright or other intellectual property rights. Sun did not wish to encourage Microsoft's amorous embrace-and-extend moves, so decided to withdraw. It is still possible, but unlikely, for ECMA to continue Java standardisation. Sun remains a member of ECMA, and has been very active, proposing not just the API for Windows, but also ECMA Script and ECMA Object Data Interfaces. Pat Sueltz, who has managed Sun's Java operation for the last two months and previously did the same job at IBM, said at the Java Business Conference earlier this week that: "We are steadfast about controlling the compatibility, but not about controlling the technology, not about stopping innovation. We just want to make sure that we continue to drive the process of compatibility from the largest server to the smallest embedded device". McNealy said that "There are times when we need flexibility. We're not moving Java forward in a secret way, in a non-participatory way." The irony of the whole situation is that Sun is still losing money on Java, which could account for it being perceived as being a bit slow on the Java front at times. However, two significant announcements were made this week - the final preview version of the Linux version of Java 2 Standard Edition, co-developed with Inprise (Borland), is now available for download. In addition, Fujitsu is supporting Java 2 Enterprise Edition on its Interstage Application Server, and has obtained the first CORBA approval through X/Open. It would be good for Sun to beef up its Java Community Process so that the stakeholders in Java - including Microsoft of course - are happy about progress and collectively prevent its fragmentation. Meanwhile, Sun and Microsoft have to meet again in their ongoing litigation over Microsoft's effort to subvert Java. Microsoft's new release of IE (5.5) includes Java. ®
Apple Japan's suspected violation of Section 19, Articles 12 and 13 of the Japanese Anti-monopoly Law provoked this week's raid by on the Mac maker's Tokyo HQ, other Apple sites and wholesale partners by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission (FTC), it emerged this morning.
Toshiba will ship its diGo MM300 portable digital music player on Christmas Day when it will become the company's first product to be sold only via the Internet. The Y29,800 ($290) diGo measures 54mm x 86mm x 10mm and weighs 52g, including the battery. It's compatible with both Windows PCs and Macs, suggesting it hooks up to a host computer using a USB connection. Downloaded songs are stored on a SmartMedia card, and encoded using a format called SolidAudio, developed by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) and others. SolidAudio essentially integrates SmartMedia storage with a compression scheme called TwinVQ and a copyright protection mechanism called InfoBind. The Nikkei newswire story announcing Toshiba's player also talks about "the availability of MP3" in relation to SolidAudio, so presumably the player also supports this popular but controversial digital music format. Already-shipping portable audio players from Fujifilm Axia, Hitachi Maxell and Hagiwara Sys-Com also support SolidAudio. It's not clear as yet whether the technology conforms to the Secure Digital Music Initiative's specification. ® Related Stories BMG to launch MP3 sales site in January Sony to sell digital music online before Christmas
Soon there are going to be more business incubator companies than there are start-ups. Ernst & Young, the top five accountancy firms and the latest to set out its business incubator stall, says it will work only with companies "capable of producing producing billion-pound entities based on unique business models". Well that narrows the field. A lot. Called future-wealthuk.com, this business incubator will "eschew conventional thinking on e-business and instead leverage Ernst & Young's massive integrated resources and the strength of the E&Y brand, to create businesses capable of becoming billion-pound global companies". Incubatees (Ernst & Young's phrase, not ours) will need to display "extensive, exceptional management experience, along with a very refined product with significant barriers to competition". Their proposed businesses should have the ability to start trading profitably within months, not years. Successful applicants will receive 200-300K worth of consultancy and access to "everything Ernst & Young knows about developing the right business model, management structures and processes". And once they're out of the incubator sausage mill, incubatees get the chance to pitch for more capital before a investment review board, comprising Ernst & Young along with its VC partners. "The launch of future-wealthuk.com means it is no longer enough for an e-business to have a good idea, or follow another to market," future-wealthuk.com co-founder Eric Benedict says. "The market is going to change radically: grabbing market share and hoping to be acquired is no longer a valid strategy. We believe only the holistic approach future-wealthuk.com advocates will create businesses with the right structures capable of producing sustainable profits." This is important, he says, because "the next wave of e-business will be far more complex than the ones we see today, because they’ll leverage the Internet in ways that require more complex structures". Here's a link to future-wealthuk.com's Web site, which goes live sometime on Friday, 10 December. And here you'll find Cash Register, our daily Net finance news round-up.
Toshiba's plan to manufacture notebook PCs in China will increase pressure on the government to let Taiwan's manufacturers follow suit, say industry observers. Foreign companies, such as Toshiba, order billions of dollars worth of notebook PCs from Taiwanese manufacturers every year. The Japanese company's new factory, near Shanghai, will take advantage of lower labor costs, and better access to the growing local market - both benefits that are denied to Taiwanese manufacturers by the island's own government.. Government restrictions on technology transfer and investment prevent Taiwan's notebook vendors from manufacturing in China. "I think increasingly the restrictions will be lifted, especially after the election next March" said Christine Lee, a notebook industry analyst at Merrill Lynch in Taipei. "We don't know if other foreign companies will also start manufacturing in China," commented Henry Wang of Acer, one of Taiwan's largest notebook makers, "it really depends on costs. Setting up a plant in China is expensive." He conceded that if initial ventures like Toshiba's were successful, others would follow. Analysts agreed with Wang that making notebooks in China may not be as simple as it seems. Taiwan, which makes almost half of the world's notebook PCs, has an established components supply chain. Key notebook components, such as LCD screens, are increasingly being made on the island. Christine Lee pointed out that initial production at Toshiba's Shanghai plant would be quite low, compared to Taiwanese manufacturers' output. The factory will produce about 110,000 notebooks next year, rising to 370,000 in 2004, according to Toshiba. Acer's planned output next year is 2.5 million, said Henry Wang. Toshiba, which has traditionally made its notebook PCs in house, has recently begun outsourcing some work to Compal of Taiwan. Compal executives did not return calls yesterday. According to Japanese press reports, Toshiba's Chinese factory will manufacture models from its full range of notebook computers, possible including products similar to those made by Compal. Set to begin operations next April, the Shanghai factory, situated in a high-technology park in the Pudong zone, is 90 percent owned by Toshiba or its subsidiaries. Taiwanese companies are making plans for the day when government restrictions are lifted. "If the government changes its policy, we may set up notebook production in China," predicted Henry Wang of Acer. One of Acer's competitors, Twinhead Corporation, has already built a notebook PC factory in mainland China. Currently it is making keyboards and other components, however a Twinhead executive said earlier this year that production lines could be switched to notebook production when regulations are changed. ®
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), Taiwan's largest chip maker, has doubled its monthly sales over the past year. The company's record November sales figures, up 98.5 percent to NT$7.85 billion, are evidence of a dramatic turnaround in the industry, from slump last year to boom today. TSMC and its main competitor, United Microelectronics Corporation (UMC), which yesterday reported a 66 per cent increase in November sales, are both running at full capacity. "The major issue for the industry here is capacity constraints," said Alex Hinawi, a UMC spokesman. If additional capacity was available, said Eric Wang of ABN Amro, UMC and TSMC would have boosted sales by at least 20 per cent more. UMC will open a new chip factory this month in Hsinchu, and is working to increase capacity at existing plants. Speculation is rife in the industry that UMC and TSMC are also looking to expand capacity by investing in other chip makers, or buying one outright. Earlier this year, TSMC bought a 30 per cent stake in Acer's semiconductor manufacturing subsidiary. UMC has acquired semiconductor plants in the past, and sources say the company may be close to announcing a significant investment. UMC's current business plan should bring capacity growth of 35 to 40 per cent in the next year, said Hinawi. The company is gradually introducing more advanced, and more profitable, 0.18 micron technology, he added,, and will introduce 0.15 micron processes in the first quarter of next year. He would not comment on possible acquisition plans. UMC and TSMC will probably be "very successful" with their plans to phase in new technologies, Wang predicted. The new production processes compare favourably with those in use at some of the most advanced foreign manufacturers, he said. TSMC still leads UMC in sales, selling NT$7.859 billion worth of chips in November, more than twice UMC's NT$2.955 billion. However, at the beginning of January, UMC will complete a re-merger with four former subsidiaries, boosting its official sales figures considerably. Utek Semiconductor, the only one of the former subsidiaries which is listed, and has to release financial data, reported sales of NT$0.8 billion in October. "The numbers will jump significantly... if you look at it on a consolidated basis, then our capacity's getting close [to TSMC] now," said Hinawi. Without acquisition, UMC will need at least two year to match TSMC's sales figures, said Eric Wang of ABN Amro. "There's no physical way they can build the facilities in less than two years," he explained. The main competitor to TSMC and UMC, Chartered Semiconductor Manufacturing of Singapore, appears to have fallen by the wayside recently. The company announced a major loss last year, and failed to make a profit in the first nine months of 1999, despite a booming market. ®
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has gone ahead and filed its long-awaited contributory copyright infringement lawsuit against Napster. Napster produces software (also called Napster) that essentially combines an MP3 music player with Web search, FTP and chat facilities. The company bills the product as a new, communal way to find, share and enjoy online music. The RIAA sees it differently. According to RIAA general counsel and senior executive VP Cary Sherman, Napster is all about "facilitating piracy". "After a random sampling of thousands of recordings available on Napster revealed that the overwhelming majority of recordings Napster was making available were pirated, we contacted the company a number of times, including in writing. But the same recordings we advised Napster were infringing then are still available today," he said. Napster's counter claim is that since it doesn't host any MP3 files, it's not responsible for what people do with its software. "The MP3 files that you locate using Napster are not stored on Napster's servers," says the Napster Web site. "We do not, and cannot, control what content is available to you using the Napster browser. Napster users decide what content to make available to others using the Napster browser. Therefore, it is the users' sole responsibility to comply with all applicable federal and state laws applicable to such content, including copyright laws." It's a tricky case. It's broadly comparable to, say, Microsoft being sued because its Outlook Express software contains a Usenet newsreader that can be used to visit newsgroups containing pirate software, or Apple because the MacOS contains Web searching software (Sherlock) and QuickTime MP3 playback tools. Unlike the Microsoft and Apple examples, Napster is targetting a very specific kind of download, many of which, like it or not, are illegal copies. Napster itself makes no attempt to filter out illegal material. Still, its questionable whether Napster can be declared guilty of contributory copyright infringement on the basis of what other people do with its software. If it can, then the manufacturer of every tape deck, floppy drive, CR-R unit is equally culpable. Of course, the RIAA isn't going to sue Microsoft, Apple or any hardware vendor, but it can at least try and scare the bejaysus out of much smaller operations which can't afford to fight the RIAA's claims, and this seems to be its approach here, no matter how valid are the RIAA's concerns. According to CNet, the RIAA wants $100,000 for each song pirated through Napster. According to MP3.com, Napster has around 1244 users swapping some 200,000 songs. Even if only a fraction of those can be shown to be illegal, that's still a huge amount of money for a five-month-old start up to find. ®
As if it weren't enough that you can't buy Coppermine Pentium IIIs for love nor money, the latest list of erratanotbugs on the Intel Web site (over 60 and counting) includes one guaranteed to send a shiver down the spines of everyone at Satan Clara: "E56. It is possible that a negative sign bit may be incorrectly applied to the result of an x87 floating point operation if it is closely preceded by a Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) multiply operation... ...Implication: If this erratum occurs, the result of an x87 floating point instruction which should be positive will instead be negative." It is apparently possible for a BIOS mod to provide a workaround for the bug, but at the moment, any Coppermine could be doing its sums wrong. This is terribly embarrassing for Chipzilla, which still uses the original Pentium FDIV (floating point divide) fault to put a scare into new recruits and to remind employees of the inherent fallibility of man. It's not entirely clear whether this bug applies to Katmai as well as Coppermine cores. The original Pentiums were made into expensive keyrings after Intel refunded millions of dollars to users, so if you're lucky enough to have a Coppermine, maybe those nice folks at Intel are about to refund you the purchase price... The URL for the site where you can download the PDF is here. Intel adds: "Intel publishes Spec updates, listing Errata (all processors have errata) to end users and manufacturers. This errata was identified and a fix published some time ago." ®
Alta Vista has launched three localised services for Britain, Germany and Sweden. Here are the URLs: www.altavista.co.uk www.altavista.de www.altavista.se Er, that's it. ®
Networking distributor Azlan is to offer free delivery on orders placed online when it launches its e-commerce Web site next week. Azlan.com will open its virtual doors to the UK on 14 December, and the service will be rolled out in the remaining 12 European countries the company operates in by 2001. The site will offer real-time availability and prices -– with orders logged directly onto Azlan's main computer system. The company also aims to cross sell products, training and support in packages to its existing 2500 UK resellers. Features include 24-hour delivery from the time orders are placed, and a call-back facility for resellers nervous of using the Web. The free delivery offer will only apply to orders placed in December. Azlan has spent £3 million on the site, which uses the Broadvision platform. According to Barrie Morgans, Azlan chairman, the pan-European service will not run into problems in recruiting resellers to order online. "It is a natural evolution in the growth of the business. This service is what resellers have been asking us for," he said. Only last month, broadline distributor Computer 2000 was forced to introduce a similar free carriage incentive scheme, after admitting that reseller uptake of its online ordering service had been slow and was bringing in less than ten per cent of UK sales. It has started offering free delivery on online orders and says demand for the Web service has increased. Azlan's shares were up just 3.5 pence at 140 pence on the back of the news this afternoon. ®
Memory Corporation is raising $10.25 million (before expenses) to help fund the transition from DRAM-only business into Internet appliances developer. The EASDAQ-quoted company is getting the money through a placing of 450,000 Global Depository Receipts, representing 11.25 million ordinary shares, at $22.50 each. It has appointed Datrontech to orchestrate the British retail roll-out of its MP3-GO suite of products. European, US and online retail appointments are expected shortly. ® You can find out more about Memory Corp's MP3-GO here.
The jury in a US paedophile sex trial has heard how a former Infoseek executive flew to Los Angeles on business before dashing off to meet what he thought was a 13-year-old girl.
Three-quarters of beer drinkers have taken steps to prepare themselves against the potential negative effects of the millennium bug on beer. According to a global survey conducted by beer.com, almost half of those surveyed said they would need more than two kegs of beer on hand in the event of Y2K bedlam. One in five has already begun hoarding beer in the event of millennium bug mayhem, and some drinkers have already set up a beer bartering system in case the Y2K problem brings the world's monetary system to its knees. "From preparing early to establishing an official Beer Barter System (BBS), the beer.com Y2K poll demonstrates that beer lovers are not taking any chances should the taps suddenly be turned off at midnight 2000," said Rocco Rossi, president of beer.com. "And, beer lovers are so committed to their brew that if given a choice almost a third of die-hards would prefer to have a lifetime supply of beer over a million dollars," he said. Although half of respondents plan to ring in the New Year with a significant other, a third refuse to embrace anything but a cold beer, the survey said. ®
The British Government has introduced a reel of red tape to improve the effectiveness of its Web sites. Although the new guidelines will be welcomed by some, others will scoff at that the new media measures, saying that the Government is simply playing catch-up. The new Web site policy will also open up the Internet to the visually impaired thanks to the adoption of voice technology, Cabinet Office Minister, Ian McCartney, said today. McCartney also announced that a "New Media Team" would be set up at the heart of Tony Blair's pro-digital government headed by the new e-envoy Alex Allan. This team will act as agents for change -- driving up standards of Government Web sites and paving the way for a revolution in the way many public services are delivered. "We are working to harness the potential IT has to transform Britain," said McCartney. "These new initiatives will transform public services to make them more accessible and responsive to the needs of citizens. "Measures to boost services for visually impaired people, will also help stamp out inequality of opportunity and help tackle the culture of diminished expectations and inadequate services," he said. The guidelines will be published on at iagchampions.gov.uk, which has been created by web design company cScape. The site is the Government's first to be entirely developed in XML, allowing a series of style-sheets to deliver the same content in a variety of ways, depending on which browser is used. The initiative is backed by Cisco and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). ®
Auction-house QXL.com plc has acquired Norway's largest online auction site, DinSide Auksjon, for £13.2 million. The deal, covered by the issue of 1,296,154 QXL shares, strengthens the auctioneer's presence in Europe.
Microsoft is suing alleged software pirates across six US states for selling illegal goods via the Internet. According to Microsoft, three of the defendants were flogging fake software through online auction sites, and at least two relied on spamming via email. All used the Inernet as their primary forum for distributing the software, it said. The software giant has filed legal action and asked for injunctions to stop the individuals offering and distributing the goods. One of the companies, Capital One, is also accused of having forged email headers and disguising the source of its emails to pass fake software off as genuine. Those hit with the legal action are: Abu Salahuddin, Morgantown, W. Va: for alleged distribution of counterfeit Office 97 Professional Edition via Internet auctions. Capital One CDRom Warehouse, aka Internet Marketing, of Corpus Christi, Texas: for alleged distribution of counterfeit Office Professional 97 via mail as advertised through mass unsolicited e-mail. KT Services, aka Vantage Software, Pacific Ventures, Los Angeles: for alleged distribution of counterfeit Microsoft Windows 98 operating system and Office Professional 97, via various Web sites as advertised through unsolicited e-mails. http://www.vantages.com, http://www.softwareselect.com,http://mall5.register.com, http://www.cdsales.com, http://www.ebiz5.com, http://www.kts1.com,http://www.cheapy.net, http://184.108.40.206, http://220.127.116.11, http://18.104.22.168 Martin Johns, Fond Du Lac, Wis: for alleged distribution of counterfeit Office Professional 97 via Internet auctions. NC Software/Kent Bishop, Wilmington, NC, for alleged distribution of counterfeit Windows 95 and 98 and Office Professional 97 via Web sites and Internet auctions. http://store.yahoo.com/ncsoftware/ Software Blowouts and Arthur Young, Hackettstown, NJ, for alleged distribution of counterfeit Office Pro 97 via various Web sites. http://wwwsoftwaremadness.com, http://www.nationalsoftware.com,http://www.bargainsoftware.com, http://www.softwareblowouts.com "Internet piracy is growing nearly as rapidly as the Internet itself, and it is severely harming confidence in feeling safe to conduct legitimate business online," said Tim Cranton, corporate attorney for Microsoft anti-Internet piracy. Related stories Novell takes pirate to task BSA breaks chatroom piracy ring Stealing Microsoft software is wrong -– but...
UpdatedLinux-based hardware vendor VA Linux Systems launched its IPO today - making itself $132 million in the process, with shares originally mooted to fetch $11-13 going for round $30.
DRAM memory prices slid by around 15 per cent on the spot market in November. According to memory manufacturer and distributor DMC, the price of a 64MB DIMM (PC-100 8x8) on 1 November was £52.53. By the end of the month, this price was down to £42.43. Andrew MacKenzie, VP of DMC Europe, said he expected this steady decrease to continue until the end of December. "There'll be a slight price surge in the first week of January, but I expect prices will continue to fall," he said. Components distributor Microtronica saw a 20 per cent drop in prices during November. Steve Clark, sales and marketing director at Microtronica, said prices for a 64MB DIMM (PC-100) were around £60 at the beginning of the month, and down to £53 by the last week of November. This meant an average unit price of £59.02 for the month, down on October’s average of £84.85. "We are back to February's prices," said Clark "But demand is fairly well matched to supply at the moment, so any increase for product will probably be met by a price increase." But he said prices were generally expected to soften as December progressed. Today DMC was quoting around £44 for a 64MB module, and Microtronica around £50, with system builders hanging on for Intel’s expected price cuts on Monday. Related story DRAM stabilises in quake wake
Be has licensed the Opera Web browser and plans to include the software with both the BeOS and its upcoming Stinger 'BeOS Lite' for information appliances. BeOS already has a built-in browser, but it's one that hasn't fully been kept up-to-date with the latest developments in HTML. Opera brings to the alternative OS a modern Web browser, and one that's significantly smaller than its bloated rivals from Microsoft and AOL/Netscape. However, such a full-function browser is more important to Stinger, since good Web access is the very raison d'etre of the platform -- that and making Be the money it has largely failed to make by targetting the mainstream OS market. Stinger has already been selected as an optional OS for National Semiconductor's WebPad wireless Net access terminal reference design. Stinger will be officially announced sometime during Q1 2000. Opera for BeOS is already in beta, ahead of ports for Linux, the Mac OS, EPOC 32 and OS/2. The browser -- currently only available for the x86 version of BeOS -- is available as a 30-day trial from Opera's Web site. ®
Brits prefer using their PCs to having sex or a bag of chips. According to research by Microsoft, a quarter of Britons would rather be using their computer than having sex. And one in five rated silicon chips above the potato variety -- that's 'french fries' to our US readers. But our technical prowess apparently does not fall on deaf ears on the continent. The study revealed that the French, Germans and Spanish all viewed Britain as the most computer- literate nation in Europe. And while we like talking to our PCs, the Swedes stroke theirs and the Spanish favour hitting theirs. Microsoft also revealed that within two years, almost half UK homes would have a PC. Shareholders in the Durex empire will no doubt be shuddering at the news. ®