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Week of May 13, 2001 News Archive

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Monday May 14, 2001 Top

Athlon 4 Released, But Only For Notebooks

Athlon 4 will come in four speeds: 850MHz, 900MHz, 950MHz and 1GHz. Compaq Computer will be the first PC maker to offer the Athlon 4, in a Presario notebook, according to AMD. According to AMD, the Athlon 4 is the fourth major revision of the processor. Starting with the original Athlon, launched in August 1999, AMD revised the chip by moving it to a 0.18 micron manufacturing process from the previous 0.25 micron process. With its "Thunderbird" processor core, the company revised the chip again, moving its Level 2 cache from a 512KB external cache to a 256KB integrated or internal cache, a move that sped up performance. Code-named Palomino, the Athlon 4 contains a number of improvements. Most importantly, the chip will consume far less power than current Athlon chips. Though the Athlon 4 is slightly bigger than previous versions of this chip, it consumes 20 percent less power, de Frere said. Desktop Athlon chips right now consume about 60 watts of power, more than the Pentium III or 4. The Athlon 4 chip was designed to consume 24 watts or less, he said. The chip is similar to a desktop Athlon in that it shares the same Socket A packaging system and cache sizes as well as a 200MHz front-side bus--the data pathway from the chip to system components such as memory. The Athlon 4 also packs AMD's PowerNow technology and 52 new multimedia instructions in the form of Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions, or SSE1.

Those instructions were introduced with the first Pentium III chips to help the chip handle multimedia by breaking data into smaller chunks, which can be processed in parallel. PowerNow serves to increase notebook battery life by lowering the clock speed and the voltage of the Athlon 4. The technology features an "automatic" mode that continuously varies the chip's clock speed and voltages based on the demands placed on it by applications. The 1GHz Athlon 4 will be able to scale from 500MHz to 1GHz and run at voltages of 1.2V to 1.4V. Thanks to the enhancements, AMD says Athlon 4 and other Palomino-based chips offer a 15 percent performance gain over previous Athlons running at the same clock speed. This additional gain also gives AMD a wider performance margin over Intel's Pentium 4 chip, the company said. Much of this extra performance will come from a new Palomino feature: look-ahead cache. A cache serves as a repository for frequently used data. The look-ahead feature allows the cache to recognize patterns and automatically fetch the data needed by the processor. This way, the chip does not have to wait for the data to perform an operation. AMD says this will juice the chip's performance, especially in workstation and server settings.

Microsoft Now Plans To Partially Support USB 2.0

In a softening of its earlier position, Microsoft has said it will support USB 2.0, a budding peripheral-connection standard, in its next version of Windows--but only in the form of add-on drivers. The lack of native Windows support for USB 2.0, the most recent version of the universal serial bus connection technology, is troubling for the system's proponents, notably Intel, because it adds to the complications of using USB 2.0-based devices. Microsoft now says it will make available drivers that can be manually installed, but the drivers will mainly appeal to early adopters who are not afraid of installing them. The software giant made the decision earlier this year not to support USB 2.0 natively in Windows XP, to be launched in October, because final hardware was not yet available for testing. Microsoft has said it is being considerably more cautious about what features are supported by Windows XP because it wants to ensure the OS's stability. Microsoft said it will make the USB 2.0 drivers available through Windows Update, manufacturers or other channels.

New Technolgy Would Allow Real 3D Images to be Displayed

A New Zealand research company is developing monitors that it says will display three-dimensional images. Deep Video Imaging's so-called actual-depth monitors can display images on two physical planes to create a depth of field, the company said Monday at a news conference in Singapore to announce the product. "People have tried like crazy to get the illusion of depth, and the closest you can have is wearing (3D) goggles and standing at a particular position,'' DVI director Lim Soon Hock said. The company plans to create prototypes for desktop computers by next year. The monitor, which uses multiple layers of liquid crystal display (LCD) screens to create depth, allows people to work across what appears to be a foreground and background seamlessly, without the need for 3D glasses or specialized software. "We have not come across anything which comes close to a DVI monitor,'' said Fong Yew Chan, an engineer and the business development director for the Singapore government-funded Institute of High Performance Computing. The institute, focused on high-end simulation research, is collaborating with DVI on applications for the monitor. "There are technological challenges to be overcome before you can have this kind of display (which) not even the LCD manufacturers could overcome so easily,'' Fong said. A rainbow effect called moire interference, which occurs when two LCD screens are placed one behind the other, was one problem. The "window box'' effect where the side portion between the two planes can been seen had to be eliminated, along with the reflection of the screens off each other, DVI executive chairman David Hancock said.

Online File Trading Software is Adding Hidden Software

As online file traders stream to Napster alternatives, many find their computers saddled with unwanted piggyback software that tracks their online movements and feeds them unwanted advertising. In efforts to locate revenues from their free services, companies that create popular programs, including BearShare, Audio Galaxy Satellite and iMesh, are adding outside pieces of software that have nothing to do with file trading. Dubbed "adware," or "spyware" by their critics, these software programs run in the background even when the original file-swapping software isn't operating, popping up advertisements while people surf online, and sometimes quietly uploading information about a Web surfer's habits. The programs have sparked a swell of protest from some people computer-savvy enough to figure out what software is running on their machines and what it is doing. But the companies defend themselves, saying there are worse alternatives and they need some revenue sources if they are to continue to offer their products for free.

"One of the issues around free software is the need to make money somehow," said Vinnie Falco, chief technical officer of FreePeers, the company that created the BearShare Gnutella software. "It's a great compromise between protecting user privacy and the ability to support free software." File-swapping companies aren't alone in a scramble for revenues that is threatening to alienate some people online. The drive for personal information that might be valuable for advertising purposes has prompted several companies to offer software that collects this data and sometimes sends it back to the parent company. Although most of the companies doing this are relatively small, even larger companies such as RealNetworks have occasionally tried to keep surreptitious tabs on computer users' actions. Another similar program is distributed with Audio Galaxy. Created by a company called Gator, the "Offer Companion" is slowly downloaded to a person's computer after Audio Galaxy is installed and eventually starts sending information such as e-mail addresses and Web surfing habits back to It also pops up advertisements as people surf. This is an optional feature with Audio Galaxy. People who don't want it must pay close attention when first installing the service, or the ad software will be downloaded automatically.

Another Major Trial for Piracy Protected CD's Is Coming

As teenagers slip through Napster's increasingly dense filters for the latest pop craze, veteran country music singer Charley Pride is trying to sell a new method of thwarting file traders: copy-protected CDs. Nashville, Tenn.-based Music City Records is betting that the technology protecting "A Tribute to Jim Reeves," to be released Tuesday, will keep the songs from appearing on Napster and alternative free file-swapping services. As a result, the music, publishing and film industries are working with digital rights management companies to thwart would-be pirates. Although record labels and film studios have had some success in courts, the technological side has proven more difficult. Last year, BMG Germany's push to secure CDs using technology from Israeli security company Midbar failed. BMG abandoned its project after complaints piled up from customers who said their players could not read the discs. On Pride's new album, encryption technology by Phoenix-based SunnComm prevents people from copying the CD's music on a burner or downloading it onto Napster in a digital form, according to Music City Records. The recordings can be downloaded into MP3 or other music file formats, but only after an individual purchases the CD, which has a list price of $16.98, and registers that copy. Bob Heatherly, chief executive of Music City Records is confident that the CD will prevent people from breaking the encryption code. The label, which was founded in January, decided to release copy-protected CDs in response to Napster's controversial service, which does not compensate artists. Heatherly added that when he negotiated with Pride to sign him on his label, the singer wanted to ensure that his music was protected.

Tuesday May 15, 2001 Top

Linux Interface Maker Eazel Closes

Eazel closed its doors this week after 16 months of developing a Linux interface for the consumer market. The company had spent the last several months in pursuit of a second round of funding. That search came to an end this week as an Eazel co-founder notified members of the GNOME software development community that the company was going out of business. "I regret to inform you that Eazel is in fact shutting down," Eazel co-founder Bart Decrem wrote in a notice to GNOME developers. "Over the past six months, our board members and executives worked tirelessly to secure financing for the company. Unfortunately, the high-tech capital markets have all but dried up and we have been unable to secure funding." Eazel was founded by veterans of some of the most successful consumer endeavors in computing history. These included Chief Executive Mike Boich, who joined Apple Computer in 1982 and was an evangelist for the budding Macintosh project, and "Software Wizard" Andy Hertzfeld, who started at Apple in 1979, where he wrote much of the original Macintosh OS. Eazel's work was an extension of the GNOME user interface that sought to make a graphical interface as easy to use as those that made the Macintosh and AOL hits with average consumers. With the current GNOME and the competing KDE user interfaces for Linux, it's still hard to avoid typing in commands.

Eazel was not alone in trying to deliver easy-to-use Linux. Corel in 1999 released a user-friendly Linux version, and MandrakeSoft , a French company with a U.S. presence, is marketing its Linux product as "a complete pre-configured graphical Linux operating system (that is) easy to install, easy to use and stable." Eazel, the brainchild of Mac OS co-author Hertzfeld, got as far as releasing version 1.0 of its Nautilus interface in March. The company subsequently laid off half its staff in attempts to attract funding. Like the rest of GNOME, Eazel was designed to be developed under the open-source model, in which anyone can use or contribute to code under a public license. That means that the software development may potentially outlive the company that initiated it. "It all depends on what kind of volunteers show up to work on it and who's interested in keeping it going," said Darin Adler, Eazel's first employee and an independent consultant. "There's no guarantee that people will show up." At the height of the Eazel development effort six months ago, out of the 15 contributing developers, 13 were paid, according to Adler. One month ago, after the launch of Nautilus 1.0 and subsequent layoffs, those numbers shrank to four or five paid developers out of six.

New Worm Masquerades as Symantec Virus Warning

Symantec has confirmed the existence of the worm, known as VBS.Hard.A@mm, VBS/Hard-A or VBS/Hard@mm, and created software to detect it. So far, the virus has not spread far geographically and has infected only a small number of sites, according to a Symantec report published earlier this week. The worm--like the earlier LoveLetter and Homepage worms--distributes itself as an attachment to an e-mail message. The e-mail message that VBS.Hard.A@mm sends is called "FW: Symantec Anti-Virus Warning" and claims to contain a description of a (nonexistent) worm in an attached file. When the attached file, "," is activated, it changes the Microsoft Internet Explorer home page to a fake Web page, warning against a (nonexistent) worm called VBS.AmericanHistoryX_II@mm. It also causes Outlook to send copies of the fake virus warning to all users in the address book. Every Nov. 24, the computer will display the enigmatic message, "Don't look surprised! It is only a warning about your stupidity. Take care!" The worm is relatively nondestructive. To undo its effects, Symantec recommends deleting several files, making changes to the Windows registry, and resetting the Explorer home page.

Via Continues Dominance With New Athlon 4 Chipset

Via Technologies, which doubled its share of the chipset business last year at Intel's expense, is introducing the first chipset designed for an Advanced Micro Devices new processor for notebooks. The chipset, which manages the flow of data between AMD's new Athlon 4 processor and other parts of a computer such as the display and memory chips, is part of a plan by AMD and Via to take more of the notebook business away from Intel, the largest chipmaker. ''Via and AMD working closely together over many years have created a partnership which has brought many high quality, exciting and technologically advanced products to market,'' Wen-Chi Chen, Via's president, said in a statement. ''The Via ProSavage KN133 is further proof of this.'' Still, analysts doubt whether Taiwan's Via will make a dent anytime soon in the market for notebook chipsets. ''It's more like an image thing,'' said Joey Cheng, an analyst with Indosuez W.I. Carr in Taipei, Taiwan. ''It won't immediately contribute to revenue like chipsets in the desktop business.'' Via, which last year increased its market share in the desktop business, said it hopes to continue building its share this year in the notebook market. AMD, which nearly doubled its market share in the processor business last year against Intel, introduced the Athlon 4 for notebook PCs on Monday. AMD has nearly 15 percent of the processor business, compared with more than 80 percent for Intel.

Songs From Piracy Protected CD on the Internet

Free copies of songs from country music singer Charley Pride's latest album appeared on the Internet this week, just shortly before a version of the CD incorporating new anti-copying technology was released in U.S. stores Tuesday. The CD, released by Nashville, Tenn.-based Music City Records, features Pride's new album, "A Tribute to Jim Reeves." Eight of the 15 songs on the CD were posted Monday on a private Web page hosted by Yahoo. The appearance of MP3s from the album muddies the debate over the effectiveness of CD encryption schemes in one of the first such commercial releases. Phoenix-based SunnComm, which provided the copy-protection technology for the CD, said the leaked songs did not come from a cracked CD but were likely copied from an unprotected set of 2,000 CDs released in Australia. "It's not a breach of our technology," said SunnComm Chairman John Aquilino. "We have a way of looking at what the content is and telling if someone has legitimately circumvented what we do, and this does not have those elements in it." Aquilino added that Pride did everything he could to make sure his content in the United States was protected but was unable to do anything for the Australian market.

Apple is Putting the Finishing Touches on Mac OS X Server

According to sources, the current Beta 3 of this OS (the final name may be, somewhat redundantly, Mac OS X Server 10.0) will be the final beta; some sources suggest that this means a final release will be ready for Apple's World Wide Developers' Conference, which begins on May 21. Apple is casting Mac OS X Server as a "next-generation server platform," combining many of the features of the existing AppleShare IP software (which currently runs on Mac OS 9.x) with the open-source FreeBSD and Mach kernel underpinnings (called Darwin) of Mac OS X. The server product, which Apple has said will be targeted toward educational and network administrators as well as professional Web masters, includes IP-based file services for Mac, Windows, Unix and Linux clients; PostScript print spooling; Internet and Web serving; and network and directory services. The most obvious difference between the upcoming Mac OS X Server and the previous version is the wholesale adoption of the Aqua graphical interface, which made its debut, to some consternation among longtime Mac users, in Mac OS X. Also new to the new version are extended Web service capabilities, including Java Servlets and PHP; Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning (or WebDAV); DNS Service; IP Filter Service; and a new version of NetBoot Desktop Administration. In addition, sources said, Apple is preparing an update to the Macintosh Manager features, which allows for administering network-wide policies for setting user access to applications, home directories and printers, as well as determining the log-in environment for individual users.

Wednesday May 16, 2001 Top

Microsoft Releases Second Service Pack for Windows 2000

Windows 2000 SP2 includes updates based on customer feedback and continued Microsoft internal testing. Windows 2000 has demonstrated extremely high levels of quality; Windows 2000 SP2 improves on this quality by addressing the following issues: application and hardware compatibility, Windows 2000 setup, operating system reliability, and security including the latest updates for known Windows 2000 security issues. Windows 2000 SP2 automatically upgrades your system to 128-bit encryption. It is not possible to disable or uninstall this feature. If you remove Windows 2000 SP2 after installation, your system will continue to use 128-bit encryption; it will not revert to back to 56-bit encryption. Windows 2000 SP2 adds high encryption support for all Windows 2000 encryption-based services, including Kerberos, Encrypting File System, RAS, RPC, SSL/TLS, CryptoAPI, Terminal Services RDP, and IPSec. High encryption support improves the security of local data and online transactions, as well as any other content you share over networks or the Internet.

Some Bugs Fixed are as follows: USB Devices Missing in Device Manager After Computer Resumes from Hibernation. PS/2 Keyboard/Mouse Not Recognized When Plugged Into Running Computer. Drive Letters Automatically Assigned to Unrecognizable Partitions. Hewlett-Packard OfficeJet G-Series Fax and Printer Devices May Not Work. Windows 2000 Cannot Read CD-R Discs Created with DirectCD SCSI Port Driver May Cause Your Computer to Hang. Cannot Gain Access to a Device on Windows 2000-Based Computer. "Unsafe Removal of Device" Message When You Eject a Docking Station with an Attached USB Device. Computer Hangs After Attempts to Use CD-ROM Drive on a Computer with Low Memory. No Sound from Non-PCM File with Windows Driver Model Audio Drivers.
Download The Service Pack

Intel Announces Plans for Faster Pentium 3 Based Chips

The chips--code-named Tualatin (pronounced "TWO-ala-tin")--will be the first new and faster Pentium III chips in more than a year, boasting clock speeds of up to 1.13GHz, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. The fastest new mobile Pentium IIIs will compete with AMD's Athlon 4 chip--announced Monday--a mobile version of the Athlon that runs at speeds as high as 1GHz. The five Tualatin chips will run at clock speeds of 866MHz, 933MHz, 1GHz, 1.06GHz and 1.13GHz.The chips are being built using the company's new 0.13-micron manufacturing process. The transition from the current 0.18-micron process to the new process provides a number of advantages. It allows for the increases in clock speed while reducing the physical size of the chip, letting Intel manufacture a greater number of chips per single silicon wafer. At the same time, the chips will consume less power. The five new Pentium IIIs will sport a 133MHz front side bus--the data pipeline that connects the chip to other PC components, such as memory--and are also expected to feature improvements including a larger 512KB Level 2 cache and a new version of Intel's SpeedStep notebook battery-saving technology.

"We are committed to having the highest-performance and the lowest-power" mobile processors, MacDonald said. "There's a road map of (Tualatin-based mobile) products coming out throughout the year. "The advantage is two ways, depending on how you spin some dials," he said, referring to the ability to increase clock speed or to decrease power consumption on slower Pentium III chips. As a result, Intel also plans to launch low-power versions of the Tualatin Pentium III chips later this year for smaller-sized notebooks. The chips will stick to the same or lower power consumption as the current line of low-power Pentium III processors but will offer higher clock speeds. After the launch of the Tualatin mobile chips, Intel plans a host of other processors based on the new Pentium III design. The chipmaker will also launch new Pentium III desktop and Xeon server processors based on Tualatin. The desktop Pentium III chips are expected at speeds of 1.13GHz and 1.2GHz. However, Intel is not expected to aggressively market Tualatin Pentium III chips for the desktop. Intel will, over time, move all of its chips to the new 0.13-micron process. The chipmaker will, for example, move the desktop Pentium 4 chip to 0.13 micron in the fourth quarter. A mobile version of the Pentium 4 will ship in the first half of 2002.

Intel Releases Road Map for Pentium 4 Based Xeons

Intel on Monday will announce a new high-performance version of its Xeon processor for PC workstations. The chip, code-named Foster, is based on Intel's NetBurst architecture and 0.18 micron manufacturing process--the same technology behind the company's current Pentium 4 chip used in desktop PCs, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. After a short delay , Xeon will arrive in single- and dual-processor workstations from a number of PC makers. Workstations are hopped-up PCs with greater processing power for running complex software, such as computer-aided design. Intel will ship the first "Foster" Xeon chips in three clock-speed variants, 1.4GHz, 1.5GHz and 1.7GHz, sources said. Multiprocessor servers based on the new Xeon chip will come later in the year, the sources said. The latest Xeon chip not only gains a new architecture, but a slightly different name. Intel chose to drop the Pentium name on the newest Foster-based chips, calling them Xeon, instead of Pentium 4 Xeon. Pentium III Xeon chips, however, will continue with their current name. In coming months, Intel will seek to increase the clock speed of Xeon. The company plans to move the chip to its 0.13-micron manufacturing process later this year. As a result, a new Xeon chip code-named Prestonia will begin life at about 2.2GHz in early 2002, sources said. Intel is also expected to produce faster versions of its Pentium III Xeon chips, based on 0.13 micron. Starting later this year, the chips should reach speeds approaching 1.2GHz, sources said.

Microsoft Releases Patch for Second Recent Error for IIS

Microsoft has released a patch to fix a security flaw in its Internet server software that could allow a hacker to gain control of a company's Web server in a matter of minutes. The flaw affects users of Windows NT's Internet Information Server 4.0 and Windows 2000's Internet Information Server 5.0, the company said. The vulnerability originated from a flaw that makes the software run an extra security check each time a user requests a URL, or an Internet address. If a hacker knew what to look for, that person could use the second check as a window to break into the system. The patch released by Microsoft Monday fixes that and all other security flaws found since the release of the Internet server software. But Shawn Hernan, team leader for vulnerability handling at CERT Coordination Center, an Internet-security research center affiliated with Carnegie Mellon University, said the flaw is serious in that it is a very simple hack to execute. "It is the kind of vulnerability that is easily exploited, and it affects a very popular product," he said. Microsoft is urging users to get the patch immediately.

More Details On Apple's Upcoming Stores

Apple Computer's decision to get into the retail business is drawing cautious praise from analysts and longtime Mac owners, as well as criticism from some computer dealers. In a press briefing Tuesday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said the company is opening 25 retail outlets this year to expand brand awareness, among other reasons. The company will open the first two Apple Stores on May 19 at Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va., and at the Glendale Mall in the Los Angeles area. Jobs said the other stores will open this year throughout the country, including in Bloomington, Minn.; Chicago; Littleton, Colo.; and New York. Some Mac owners and analysts greeted Apple's plan for retail stores warmly, calling it an important step in the right direction. NPD Intelect analyst Stephen Baker, while more cautious, also praised Apple's strategy. "I think the idea of having a limited number of stores in the country is a great idea for Apple," he said. Apple needs to build brand awareness in a number of ways, he added. "One of them is to be in front of a lot of people who might not otherwise pay attention to it."

Mac dealers reacted differently. "Apple might do just well enough to really hurt our business. They've also done a...poor job telling us how sales and service will work when an Apple Store opens nearby," one complained. Another dealer said he was ready to "go to war" if necessary against Apple. "What are we supposed to do when Apple opens a company store in our back yard without any kind of warning?" "The key thing for Apple to be aware of: When you're in a store, you're in the real estate business," Guernsey Research analyst Chris LeTocq said. "That's a different business than the technology business. So you want to make sure you're not owned by the real estate. That's what happened to Gateway." In stores run by Apple, analysts said, the company is in control: The message is clear, the products are all Mac, and Apple can guarantee there is sufficient supply of software and peripherals. But Apple may gain much more from increased visibility, say analysts and Mac owners. Niche companies such as Apple have a much harder time promoting their brands, Baker said. But particularly for Apple, which sells products as much on the looks as on the features, the stores could go a long way toward showing the differences between Macs and PCs.

Thursday May 17, 2001 Top

Intel Plans To Make Major Cuts In Pentium 3 Prices

Intel will trim chip prices up to 38 percent on May 27 as it seeks to clear out inventory before launching a flurry of new Pentium III desktop and mobile processors this summer, sources say. The discounting comes as Intel prepares to release seven chips in late June and July built using its new 0.13 micron manufacturing process, according to the sources. The faster Pentium III processors, known collectively by the code name Tualatin , will include two desktop versions, at speeds of 1.2GHz and 1.13GHz, and five mobile versions, clocked at 1.13GHz, 1.06GHz, 1GHz, 933MHz and 866MHz. In addition, the chipmaker will release two low-voltage chips in the next two weeks, a 750MHz mobile Pentium III and a 600MHz Celeron, designed to offer extended battery life for mobile users. The May 27 discounts, noted in a memo to Intel business partners, will affect select mobile and desktop Pentium IIIs and desktop Celerons, which serve as the workhorse chips for corporate users.

In the next round of discounting the fastest desktop Celeron, clocked at 850MHz, leads the way, falling 38 percent, from $138 to $86 a chip. (Prices are based on 1,000-unit shipments.) In addition, the 800MHz desktop Celeron will drop 20 percent to $74; the 766MHz will slip 13 percent to $69; and the 733MHz will be trimmed 12 percent to $64. Two Pentium III desktop chips, the 1GHz and 933MHz, will be discounted, dropping 14 percent to $193 and 5 percent to $183, respectively. Mobile Pentium III chips will see sweeping cuts, sources said, in order to help clear out inventory before the arrival of the new mobile Tualatin chips. The mobile 1GHz Pentium III will drop 12 percent to $637; the 900MHz slips 17 percent to $423; the 850MHz falls 30 percent to $241; and the 800MHz and 750MHz both fall to $193, resulting from 26 percent and 18 percent discounts, respectively. Further cuts are tentatively scheduled for mid-June, sources said.

VIA Positioning New Processors to Low-End Systems

Taiwan chipset designer VIA Technologies has rebranded its microprocessor line under its own name and is releasing new products to gain market share in the low-end personal computer market, marketing director Richard Brown said on Thursday. Brown, speaking to an investor forum sponsored by Credit Lyonnais Securities (Asia), said the company will introduce its first 1GHz microprocessor--the central brain of a PC--by the fourth quarter under the VIA C3 name, just in time for Christmas. "We've dropped the Cyrix brand name. It was well known, but there were certain negative connotations because of issues with heat and with some of the older CPUs," Brown said. VIA is targeting PC customers looking for desktop machines that sell for less than $500 and notebooks that sell for less than $1,000--an area of the PC market which Brown said is poised for significant growth.

The company also believes it can sell VIA C3 chips to makers of other Internet-access devices, such as television set-top boxes, portable computerized tablets and other information appliances. VIA recently introduced its first 733MHz VIA C3 processor using 0.15-micron semiconductor technology. The 1GHz version will use state-of-the-art 0.13-micron technology. Brown said VIA's costs are low because of the smaller size of its processor, which it says is half that of Intel's Celeron. "It means we can sell CPUs at $40 or $35 and still generate similar margins that we do for our chipsets. For our competitors, it's very, very difficult for them to do that, and nearly impossible at this price point," he said.

New Sony PC Records TV to DVD

The new Vaio Digital Studio PCV-RX490TV includes digital video recorder technology and a DVD-rewritable drive. These features will allow people to watch shows on a PC monitor or a TV set and record them to a hard drive or DVD-RW disc as if they were recording to a VCR tape. IDC analyst Roger Kay said the new unit targets PC enthusiasts and is typical of Sony's strategy to address the PC market with high-end features, which has worked well for the company in the past. Digital video recorder technology has been hyped in the United States recently, but analysts have said the service cannot stand on its own and needs to be surrounded by other features to gain acceptance by consumers. A number of companies besides Sony are already doing just that. Microsoft has made digital video recorder technology the centerpiece of its UltimateTV service, which also offers Web surfing, e-mail and satellite TV. Digital video recording pioneer TiVo is also working with manufacturers to incorporate its service into interactive TV set-top boxes that will allow people to surf the Net, handle e-mail and make online purchases. Unlike other companies, Sony will not charge a monthly fee for its DVR service. Sony desktop PCs sold in Japan have included the digital video recorder technology for two years, Sony spokesman Matt Brady said. The new PC will feature a 1.7GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor, 128MB of memory, an 80GB hard drive and an integrated modem. It will hit store shelves in June for $2,599. A monitor is not included.

Tech Group Warns That XP and .Net Will Extend Microsoft Monopoly

With a U.S. appeals court still reviewing a landmark antitrust ruling against Microsoft, the software giant's rivals on Thursday accused it of plotting a scheme to monopolize the Internet. Procomp, a group funded by Microsoft's competitors, charged Microsoft with planning to use its new Windows XP operating system and .Net strategy to extend its monopoly. The group said Microsoft plans to use its dominant Windows operating system and Internet Explorer browser to force consumers to adopt its new .Net Internet platform. "Microsoft's current strategy to extend and preserve its monopoly position is .Net, which can most basically be described as Microsoft Windows for the Internet," the group said. In essence, Procomp complained that .Net amounts to an attempt by Microsoft to "turn the Internet into a big Microsoft subscription service--taking services that are currently free and turning them into revenue streams for Microsoft."

In their latest blast at Microsoft, competitors complain that that the company is trying to force people to use its technologies by tying them to the new XP operating system. They said the company used the tactic before to promote its Internet Explorer browser at the expense of Netscape Navigator. "When consumers start Windows XP, therefore, (they) will have precisely one browser, one e-mail product, one media player, one instant-messaging program," the Procomp report says. In the new XP operating system, software applications are "tied every which way like a big eight-headed Siamese twin," said Procomp President Mike Pettit. "It would be very, very difficult for anyone else to compete and have full functionality if they only intend to compete in (just) one of these (software) categories," Pettit said.

First Public Display of Record Companies Music Service

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser gave a first public look Thursday at the MusicNet subscription service his company is building, describing features that resemble Napster's file-swapping service. MusicNet , a joint venture with major record labels from AOL Time Warner, Bertelsmann and EMI Group, plans to let music fans search for and download or stream a broad range of music owned by those three labels, Glaser said. These songs could be downloaded from other MusicNet subscribers, as people would on Napster, as well as from central servers. But there are key differences between the labels' effort and the popular file-swapping service. Only music that has been authorized by the labels will be available to trade. Any music downloaded via MusicNet will be "tethered" to personal computers, so it can't be burned to CDs or transferred to portable devices. Consumers will also get an occasional reminder to "relicense" their downloaded music, meaning they will have to keep paying monthly subscriptions to listen to downloaded music.

MusicNet's peer-to-peer capabilities will be a far cry from Napster's old unregulated community, however. Only those songs already available for download from the companies themselves will be allowed to be traded through the network. Instead of the old anarchic grassroots file-swapping, MusicNet is putting peer-to-peer to a new use that looks more like the Net-speeding capabilities of Akamai Technologies and its rivals. If a song that one member wants can be downloaded more quickly from another member instead of from the central servers, the system can go to this other member instead. The idea of using peer-to-peer technology as a content distribution mechanism has been taken up by a few start-ups in the technology community, including Zodiac Networks, but has not yet been used by major entertainment companies. Although no details are yet available on the type of security that the service will use to protect songs against unauthorized copying, a representative said the MusicNet technology will be ready by the end of June. At that point it will go to distribution partners--which today include only AOL Time Warner's America Online and RealNetworks--that offer it directly to consumers.

Friday May 18, 2001 Top

Faster AMD Athlon Coming in Early June

Advanced Micro Devices will ship a 1.4GHz version of its desktop Athlon processor in early June, sources familiar with the company's plans confirmed. The chip launch will mark AMD's fourth Athlon launch for the year, including its new family of Athlon 4 mobile processors. The 1.4GHz chip has been expected for some time. Earlier this week, AMD announced the Athlon 4 , its first Athlon processor designed for use in notebook PCs. The Athlon 4 chip is based on a new processor core with several improvements. This core--known by the code name Palomino--will also give rise to new desktop Athlon chips running at 1.5GHz and above starting in the third quarter, CEO Jerry Sanders said during the company's recent first-quarter earnings call.

FCC to Decide on Allowing Faster Wireless Transmissions

The FCC last week said it is considering whether to allow faster wireless networking kits, technology that allows people with laptops to roam around their homes and businesses and still surf the Web. The proposal would allow tech companies, such as Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Dell Computer, Intel and Agere Systems, to speed their products that use the 802.11b, or the Wi-Fi, wireless standard. The networking kits wirelessly link laptops and computers, so people can share the same Internet connection and peripherals such as printers. The faster rates will improve the quality of streaming audio and video and provides the extra bandwidth needed for the swapping of big files. Because of concerns of interference in the airwaves, the FCC previously had a regulation that resulted in a data transfer rate that was limited to 11 megabits per second (mbps). But technology advances in the last two decades allow the FCC to speed up the data transfer rates without causing extra interference.

The FCC is now seeking public comment before making a final decision, probably later this year. If the FCC approves the speed boost, it will pave the way for a technology standards group, called the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers , to make the Wi-Fi standard faster. The standards group, which oversees wireless standards, is currently considering a proposal to speed the Wi-Fi standard to 54 megabits per second (mbps), nearly five-times faster than existing Wi-Fi technology. Analysts say increasing the speed of Wi-Fi will allow tech companies to capture more sales in the emerging wireless market by giving its existing Wi-Fi customers new technology to upgrade to. The faster Wi-Fi standard, which, if approved by the IEEE, would be dubbed 802.11g and would be compatible with the existing, slower Wi-Fi products. The wireless networking market is expected to explode in the coming years. Sales of wireless networking kits in businesses reached $1.2 billion in revenue last year and is expected to grow to $4.6 billion by 2005, according to market research firm Cahners In-Stat Group.

SDMI Can't Decide On Music Piracy Protection

The struggling Secure Digital Music Initiative took another big step backward Friday, breaking from its latest meeting with an admission that members can't yet agree on an industry standard for anti-piracy. The group, made up of record labels, technology and consumer electronics companies, has been working for two years to find a way to protect digital music from unauthorized copying as it is released on the Web. But after early agreements on a first, rudimentary version of its technology, SDMI suffered repeated delays and setbacks in creating the next, more ambitious copy-protection plan. The group broke from its latest meeting Friday with an official statement that "there is currently no consensus for adoption of any combination of the proposed technologies." "This is not by any means the end of the world," said Paul Jessop, chief technical officer for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. "All these technologies can live to fight again another day in other combinations and in other ways."

At its last meeting in January, the group said it was putting its plans on a fast track , hoping to have technology on the market by Christmas. Friday's announcement marks the failure of that effort, as companies with different goals were unable to agree on a technology plan. Although the SDMI effort may be increasingly irrelevant in a digital music market beginning to move ahead without it, its original goals of protecting music from online piracy are not. Companies such as Microsoft and InterTrust are gaining new traction for their "digital rights management" technology, which protects songs from being copied or distributed without permission as the major record labels begin to move online. Three major music subscription services from Napster and the major music labels are slated to launch this summer or early fall with some anti-copying protection built in. None of the efforts have yet given details on which technology they would use. The SDMI group said it would meet again in September to "reassess technological advances in light of emerging consumer needs."

Linux Worm Patches System Infected by Previous Worm

System administrators worldwide reported signs Wednesday that another self-spreading program--or worm--had started to infect Linux systems. This worm appears to be different, however: Dubbed the Cheese worm, the program is basically a self-spreading patch. It enters servers that have already have been compromised by a previous bit of malicious code--the 3-month-old 1i0n worm--and closes the back door behind it, adding security to the system. "In some cases, yes, it will remove the back door," said Kevin Houle, leader of the artifact analysis team at the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University. "Yet many Linux systems use different (Internet) files. The worm's commands will fail on those types of systems." However, for many computers compromised by the 1i0n worm, the Cheese worm will fix the problem and then use the server to scan for other vulnerable computers connected to the Internet. That doesn't mean that such a "patch worm" is good, Houle said. "The idea of a patch worm is a nice thought, but it is not a solution," he said. "Essentially, it's doing the same thing that any intruder does, which is to modify a system in an unauthorized way and use it to attack other sites." Although Houle did not know how widely the worm has spread, he believed it's moving quickly.

OS X Will Be Center Stage at Apple's Developer Conference

Mac OS X is expected to take center stage next week as Apple Computer kicks off its annual Worldwide Developer Conference. In addition to allowing Apple to rally programmers around the new desktop operating system, the conference offers the Mac maker the opportunity to announce a new version of OS X for servers. When Apple launched Mac OS X in March, Apple CEO Steve Jobs promised that an updated server version of OS X would ship by the end of June. Given Apple's penchant for launching new products at company-sponsored events, an announcement at the developer conference appears possible. The first version of Mac OS X Server was released in January 1999, offering some of the same technology used in the consumer version of Mac OS X but without the snazzy Aqua interface or compatibility with existing Mac applications. Apple expects thousands of developers to converge in San Jose, Calif., on Monday as Jobs gets things rolling with a keynote speech billed as a "fireside chat" with developers. Another key question is whether Apple will be able to draw developers beyond its traditional base to the weeklong gathering. "The key look for will be the number of Unix developers at the conference to see if the Mac platform is getting more interest from the Unix guys," said Andrew Scott, an analyst at Needham.

Weekend May 19 & 20, 2001 Top

HP Announces Fee-Based Computer Recycling Program

Joining a growing group of companies in the electronics industry, Hewlett-Packard on Monday plans to announce a fee-based service that allows consumers and businesses to recycle unwanted computers and related products. The service, part of HP's Planet Partners program, will accept the equipment regardless of the manufacturer for a fee ranging from $13 to $34. People will be able to purchase the service online at the Environment section of HP's Web site, the company said. The announcement puts HP in sync with a movement among computer makers to take back obsolete equipment from consumers in the United States, riding a wave of current and pending legislation in Europe and elsewhere mandating programs along these lines. The efforts mark governments and industry coming to grips with the rapid obsolescence of electronics equipment, which has become the fastest-growing component of municipal waste. HP will launch the service in Europe on June 1, tailored to individual countries. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy already require manufacturer-financed take-back programs, the company said. IBM launched a similar recycling initiative in November, in which consumers can get rid of any manufacturer's computer equipment for $29.99. Sony Electronics has a no-cost drop-off program that is limited to its own products and to the state of Minnesota. Retailer Best Buy this summer plans to begin a recycling program that will involve a fee. Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP drew praise from waste watchers in the state. The technology giant has its recycling facility in Roseville, Calif., and plans to open a similar recycling site in Nashville, Tenn., in July.

Opera's Deal With IBM Shows its a Player in the Browser War

After years of waiting patiently for AOL Time Warner or Microsoft to stumble, Opera Software is trumpeting its relationship with IBM as evidence it's making progress against its massive rivals in the browser market. Opera, based in Oslo, Norway, on Tuesday took the wraps off its 6-month-old contract to supply IBM's Internet appliances with browser software. Following similar announcements with Advanced Micro Devices, Ericsson, Psion and Be, the development signals that major players in the Internet appliance market may be looking at Opera as an attractive alternative to Microsoft and AOL. The IBM contract to use Opera in its NetVista Internet Appliance and another device not yet disclosed "is certainly something that the AOL folks would have liked to have," said David Smith, an analyst with research firm Gartner. "It sounds like Opera is muscling in." The IBM contract is the latest in a series of moves by the second-tier browser company. Late last year, Opera began offering an advertising-supported, free version of its software. The company says that move is paying off handsomely. Not only have downloads spiked, with as many as 25,000 per day since the beginning of the year, but paid licenses for the software have doubled since the free offering as more people have tried the software and opted to pay $39 for an ad-free version. "Our customers are coming to us after evaluating all the alternatives, including the Mozilla browser," Tetzchner said. "A lot of customers got fed up with waiting. Corporate customers who had intended to go with Mozilla have come over to us." Tetzchner thinks Opera is benefiting not only from Netscape's programming woes, but from Microsoft's reputation in the wake of its antitrust trial.

ISPs Warn That Baby Bells Are Gunning For Them

Already reeling from a declining economy and a cash crunch, Internet service providers around the country are worried that the Baby Bell local phone companies are winding up for a knockout punch. At stake is more than ISPs' fragile business models. Competition means lower prices and often better service for consumers. With fewer network providers or ISPs in the market, there will be more opportunity for higher prices on everything from basic dial-up service to the fastest business connections. The relationship between the local phone companies and their rivals--smaller telephone companies and ISPs--has never been good. But as the smaller network companies tumble into oblivion, ISPs say they are under renewed pressure from the local phone companies. In some places ISPs say this takes the form of advertisements telling potential customers not to trust smaller companies. They also report the Bells are making slow progress in offering the network connections ISPs need to offer service to their customers. But nowhere have the large phone companies been more aggressive than in Congress, where in recent weeks they've pushed hard for a new bill that would make them much more powerful in the high-speed Internet market.

"The Bell companies have been invigorated by the troubles facing the competitive industry," said Jason Oxman, senior counsel for Covad Communications, a DSL (digital subscriber line) provider that offers service to ISPs and directly to ordinary customers. "But they've been invigorated in the wrong direction." The local phone companies say they are only trying to level a regulatory playing field that has long favored their competitors in the high-speed Net business, in particular AT&T and its fast-growing cable modem service. But a critical element in their survival, ISPs say, was the existence of the smaller companies offering data and network services, keeping prices affordable. Helping this was a string of decisions from federal regulators that has forced the local phone companies to give competing companies access to home and business telephone lines. Bell companies are pressing hard on a bill they say would allow them to offer broadband services more widely and compete more fairly with rivals like AT&T. As a part of its proposal, the bill would relieve the local phone companies from some of their obligations to rival companies. The bill would also remove regulation that limits what the Bells can charge for pieces of their network that the ISPs use to provide even ordinary dial-up service. A massive lobbying push from all sides has focused on the bill in recent weeks. The local phone companies say they're getting a bad rap and that they're actually helping the ISPs on the ground and with the bill. They do allow a wide variety of ISPs to offer high-speed service, while cable companies give few or no choices, they note.

First Apple Store Draws In Crowds and Praise

The opening Saturday of the first Apple Store turned a suburban Washington, D.C., mall into a scene from a rock concert. More than 500 zealous Mac fans lined up as early as 4 a.m. EDT for the chance to be the store's first customer and to support Apple Computer's retail experiment. The crowd--which earlier broke into chants of "Apple! Apple! Apple!"--roared when the stored open at 10 a.m. EDT. The spectacle drew curious gazes from early-hours shoppers and mall workers, who occasionally stopped to puzzle over the crowd building outside the store. Excited Mac enthusiasts and curious PC users rushed into the store at its opening to find hardwood floors, high ceilings, bright lights and subdued displays reminiscent of Gap stores. Apple contributed to the clean look by using AirPort wireless networking, rather than unsightly cables, to connect 35 demonstration Macs to the Internet. Jazz music that greeted the first people in the store later gave way to the B-52's "Love Shack" as customers played with Apple's iTunes digital music software and burned music CDs.

Security guards kept close track of people entering the store, as local regulations limited capacity to 80 people. An hour after the store opened, the line outside only grew longer, even after early shoppers walked out with their purchases and new buyers made their way inside. Eric Kulczycky, marketing director for Tysons Corner Center, said he expected the crowds to grow throughout the day. Located in the nation's wealthiest county, Fairfax, Va., Tysons Corner Center averages about 57,000 customers a day--or more than 21 million shoppers a year. The Apple Store appeared off to a good start, selling four iBooks within five minutes of opening. Rand got one of those. Sales people, who tabulated purchases on Blue Dalmatian iMacs, said software also was extremely popular. The Apple Store carries about 300 software titles. Apple's technical assistance area, the Genius Bar, drew about 25 people within the first 30 minutes of opening.

Latest AMD Prices

This listing reflects pricing for direct AMD customers in 1000-unit tray quantities as of May 14, 2001.

AMD Athlon Processor for Desktop:
  • 1333MHz (266MHz Front-side Bus) $253
  • 1300MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $230
  • 1200MHz (266MHz Front-side Bus) $219
  • 1200MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $199
  • 1133MHz (266MHz Front-side Bus) $197
  • 1100MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $179
  • 1000MHz (266MHz Front-side Bus) $176
  • 1000MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $160
  • 950MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $149
  • 900MHz (200MHz Front-side Bus) $140

  • AMD Duron Processor for Desktop:
  • 900MHz $115
  • 850MHz $99
  • 800MHz $81

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