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Week of May 20, 2001 News Archive

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Monday May 21, 2001 Top

New IBM Technology Will Make Major Increase Hard Drive Capacity

IBM has announced a new innovation in hard drive technology that shatters what many in the industry saw as an unbreakable barrier. In each of the past five years, hard drive capacities have doubled, keeping storage costs low and allowing technophiles and PC users to sock away more data. However, storage buffs believed the rate of growth could continue for only so long, and many asserted that the storage industry was about to hit the physical limit for higher capacities. But according to IBM, a new innovation will push back that limit. Technically called antiferromagnetically coupled (AFC) media and informally referred to as "pixie dust" at IBM, the innovation introduces a thin layer of the element ruthenium onto the disks inside hard drives where data is stored. AFC allows more data to be packed onto a disk. Jim Porter, president of data storage research company Disk/Trend , said prices of hard drives are unlikely to increase dramatically because AFC increases the density and storage capacity without the addition of expensive disks, where data is stored, or of heads, which read data off the disks.

Before AFC, hard drives could store about 20 gigabits of data per square inch. IBM unveiled new Travelstar drives this spring that use AFC. The drives, which began shipping in volume three weeks ago, can store 25.7 gigabits of data per square inch. An IBM representative said the company chose not to publicize AFC until now for competitive reasons. With further refinements to the process of adding the AFC innovation to hard drive production, IBM Research Director Currie Munce expects data densities of 100 gigabits per square inch by 2003. Munce added that AFC will be used across all IBM hard drive product lines. "We've found a way to add AFC to our current hard drive production methods, so we'll be able to double capacity with little or no cost, essentially maintaining or even dropping the price per gigabit," Munce said. AFC will also allow smaller drives to store more data and use less power, which could lead to smaller and quieter devices, Munce said. Drives with densities of 100 gigabits per square inch will enable desktop drives to reach 400GB storage levels, notebooks 200GB, and one-inch Microdrives 6GB. Storage researchers have worked on AFC for years, Porter said. "But IBM is the first to turn theory into practice." Porter pointed out that because AFC is used in current production methods, he expects IBM competitors in the hard drive industry, such as Seagate Technology and Fujitsu, to follow soon.

New Features In Windows XP Could Affect Many Companies

When Microsoft releases Windows XP in October, will smaller software companies benefit from jumping aboard the bandwagon or be run over by it? That's a question Microsoft critics, consumers and some software companies are asking as the software giant prepares to dump more features into Windows XP than into any version of its ubiquitous operating system since Windows 95. Windows XP--the upgrade to versions 95, 98, Me and 2000--goes on sale Oct. 25. Microsoft says the new OS will be the company's biggest and costliest product launch ever--twice as much as Windows 95's coming-out party. Among the new features: an Internet firewall, an integrated media player with CD-burning and DVD-playback features, remote access tools, moviemaking and photo-editing software, wireless capabilities, broadband networking and Internet messaging. The long list of new features potentially puts an even longer list of companies in Microsoft's crosshairs, including Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, AOL Time Warner, Corel, InterVideo, MGI, Netopia, Network Ice, RealNetworks, Roxio, Ulead, Zone Labs, Symantec and as many as 20 other companies.

Companies caught in the Windows XP crosshairs fall into three categories: those that may benefit from new features, those insisting they aren't affected, and those that may lose business because of what XP offers. The first category is easily defined and has more to do with hardware makers than with those developing software, analysts say. By adding moviemaking and photo-editing features, for example, Microsoft could help digital camera and camcorder sales. Support for wireless could be boon for 802.11B wireless networking. But other features, such as the inclusion of a personal firewall or broadband sharing, could hurt some companies selling routers used for home networking and cable connections, Gillett said. "There's no question these could hurt these hardware manufacturers," he said. Interestingly, few companies appear concerned about Windows XP's newest features--at least publicly. "We're very excited about Windows XP and are doing whatever we can to take advantage of what Microsoft is introducing there," said MGI spokesman Shelly Sofer. The Toronto-based company is best known for its PhotoSuite image-editing and VideoWave moviemaking software.

Apple Emphasizes Unix Kernel In Bid For Software Developers

By choosing to build Mac OS X on Unix, the company opens up thousands of new applications to Mac owners--potentially expanding Apple's market share--and gives Unix developers access to a lucrative new audience. Unix developers' interest in Mac OS X is simple: It is the first desktop, Unix-based operating system to reach the mass market. Early signs show that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is off to a good start in wooing Unix developers despite the loss and replacement of its head of developer relations earlier this year. Still, developers and industry analysts warn that Apple has a long way to go before it understands the Unix community or delivers to them the tools needed to effectively bring their programs to the Mac. Mac OS X, the first major overhaul of Apple's operating system since its 1984 introduction, is based on BSD Unix, a popular variant of Unix. Apple in late March released Mac OS X at retail and on Monday said the OS would ship on all new Macs. For one, Apple must convince its existing cadre of developers to move established applications over to Mac OS X. Although Macromedia this month released FreeHand 10 and Bare Bones Software BBEdit 6.1 for Mac OS X, some of Apple's largest partners, such as Adobe Systems and Microsoft, are six months or more away from releasing some of the most popular applications for the Mac. Other programs are coming out, but the majority are from smaller developers.

At the same time, Apple is trying to woo Unix developers to Mac OS X, which would open up thousands of new programs to the Macintosh operating system. "Right now, there's definitely curiosity about Mac OS X" from Unix developers, said Derrick Story, managing editor for O'Reilly Network. "What they find when they begin poking around inside (Mac OS X) will have a lot to do with whether that interest is sustained or remains a curiosity. It's hard to say right now how that's going to go." Still, Story sees promising early signs--and not only from Unix developers. The larger, established Mac development community is also seeing a new side of Apple. "The biggest gripe of Mac OS developers in the past was you couldn't get inside it," Story said. "The tools just weren't there. Now they are." Keeping both sets of developers happy will be a challenge, and that is something Apple is taking seriously, said Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing. "We're not getting ahead of ourselves with Mac OS X," he said. "We know there is a lot of work in front of us, and probably the biggest thing and a major milestone is the developer conference."

New Browser Promises User The Choice of Speed Or Compatability

A group of developers in Perth, Australia, calling themselves "The Four Horsemen" are working to ready a new open-source browser before the end of the year. The browser, which the group plans to release under the GNU General Public License, will be called No Limits. The main distinguishing characteristic of No Limits will be its ability to support two rendering engines, i.e., the code that displays a Web page. Users will be able to opt between the engine that displays a page the fastest or the most compatibly. "We plan to have NO limits in terms of compatibility," explained the primary keeper of the No Limits code, Peter Revill, who also goes by the handle "Nick Nervlord." Revill added that "there will be two options for users: fastest and most compatible, and they can be switched between at any time and the page refreshed." The Four Horsemen have developed a few other programs, such as a PC security program designed to prevent unauthorized access to users' systems while they are away from their machines, said Revill.

The No Limits coders had completed a browser with multiple rendering engines but then went back to the coding drawing-board once they decided to add an HTML parser that would decide automatically which rendering engine to select. No Limits is written in Visual Basic and currently supports the Internet Explorer and Mozilla Gecko rendering engines. But The Four Horsemen are "strongly considering looking at a browser in Linux that would use the (KDE) Konqueror and Mozilla engines, instead of the IE/Mozilla combination," Revill said. He added that such a switch was just an idea at this point and had not been undertaken by the group. Revill said he is planning on making a binary beta version available to interested parties soon. The Four Horsemen are aiming to deliver the final No Limits browser before year-end, possibly in November. The group will make the browser available for download for free.

Apple Will Now Ship All Systems With OS X Installed

Apple Computer has started installing the new Mac OS X operating system on all of its new computers, CEO Steve Jobs told developers at a conference here Monday. The move comes two months ahead of schedule, amid what Jobs said is great enthusiasm for the new OS. For now, machines will also come with Mac OS 9, which will remain the default OS that appears when a new computer is turned on for the first time. "It is going to be so easy to change the default to X, that we think a lot of customers are going" to make the switch, Jobs said during his "fireside chat"--complete with giant video fireplace--at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference. All Macs leaving Apple's factories as of Monday have the new OS installed, while those Macs already in the distribution channel will come with a free copy of OS X. Jobs also confirmed that, as previously reported , Apple is phasing out its use of traditional cathode-ray tube monitors. To facilitate that transition, Apple cut the price of its two flat panels and introduced a new 17-inch flat-panel display for $999. The price of the 15-inch Studio Display was cut by $200 to $599. And the price of the 21-inch Cinema Display was chopped by $500 to $2,499.

Tuesday May 22, 2001 Top

AOL Announces Price Increase for Unlimited-Use Service

Internet giant America Online is raising monthly subscription rates by $1.95 for its 29 million subscribers, a move widely anticipated by Wall Street as the company attempts to meet near-term financial goals. Beginning in the July billing cycle, AOL said Tuesday it will charge subscribers $23.90 for its monthly unlimited-use plan, a 9 percent increase from the current rate of $21.95. AOL has not raised the price of its unlimited-access service since April 1998. The price increase underscores the Internet and media giant's confidence in its business despite the current economic slowdown. Company executives have said in the past that AOL Time Warner, the parent company of America Online, is resistant to a recession because of the company's multiple revenue streams, its ability to cross-promote its products, and its steady subscription income. However, the price increase will likely test consumers' appetite for the service while opening the door for competitors to follow with their own rate hikes. "It's about continuing to invest in the service," she said. Brackbill noted that the company is planning to release the 7.0 version of its software and unveil an online music service later this year.

Intel States That Itanium Is Mainly A Development Chip

Despite multiple delays and the stringent requirements of much of its target market, Intel still says its Itanium processor launch this year will be one of the biggest introductions of its kind. But a senior executive admitted that telecommunications companies and other businesses won't be tempted to switch their existing 64-bit systems over to IA-64 until next year. The chip giant is in the midst of launching the first IA-64 chip, Itanium, for workstations and servers--and now for telecommunications servers. But Gordon Graylisch, Intel's director of e-business and communications solutions, admitted on Friday that Itanium will mainly be used as a development technology for IA-64 while companies wait for Itanium's successor, McKinley, next year. "With McKinley people will start taking existing environments and moving them over," said Graylisch. He said Itanium will mainly be bought by companies that happen to be in the market for new servers and workstations and are interested in the new technology. "But I don't see that as particularly limiting for Itanium," he said.

Intel's main selling point is the notion that IA-64 will be one of the few platforms that will be running high-end servers and that it could eventually also become the standard for lower-end servers, desktop PCs, and even mobile and embedded devices. Because of Intel's massive manufacturing base, Itanium is also far less expensive than its competitors. Graylisch said Itanium's release will be "small by PC standards," but it will be "one of the strongest introductions from anybody." Industry analysts believe that Itanium's multiple delays have partly damaged its attractiveness by giving it a short shelf life before it is replaced. "The first version will get a very respectable rollout, and people will be deploying around that," Graylisch said. "McKinley makes it an absolute no-brainer."

Nvidia Continues to Grow During PC Slowdown

Graphics chipmaker Nvidia reported Tuesday that quarterly earnings rose 41 percent--in contrast to other chipmakers' results--as sales surged 62 percent. For its fiscal first quarter that ended April 29, Nvidia had pro forma earnings of $33 million, or 40 cents a share. That figure excludes acquisition-related charges, amortization of goodwill and purchased intangible assets. The results compare with year-ago earnings of $18.3 million, or 24 cents. On that basis, its earnings exceeded the analyst consensus estimate of 39 cents per share, according to First Call. Sales rose to $240.9 million, compared with $148.5 million last year. Including charges, Nvidia's earnings grew to $25.9 million, or 31 cents a share.

Second Major Rambus Case Pushed Back Due to Earlier Ruling

A U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., was scheduled to begin hearing part of the Micron case May 31 as part of a nonjury proceeding. Instead, hearings will begin on the original date of Oct. 29, said Micron representative Sean Mahoney. The case could be worth many millions of dollars. The delay is so the court can review findings from a Virginia case involving similar claims between Rambus and Infineon. In that case, the judge threw out all of Rambus' claims, which alleged that Infineon violated Rambus patents in producing SDRAM, the most common type of memory used in current computers, and faster DDR DRAM. Mahoney said that decision and previous rulings in the Virginia case are likely to heavily influence Micron's case against Rambus, which involves similar fraud allegations. "A lot of the claims are similar," he said. "We believe the Virginia fraud ruling is applicable to all the JEDEC members." While the Virginia court's findings are not legally binding on other cases, they are expected to heavily influence decisions in the Micron case and a similar action against Hynix Semiconductor (formerly Hyundai Electronics). The stakes are high for Rambus. According to royalty rates revealed during the Infineon trial, Rambus collects close to $2 for each 128MB DDR DRAM chip sold by chipmakers--including market leader Samsung--that have signed agreements with the company.

First Information About ePSXe 1.4

First off, Pete Bernert developed a new, unique feature ePSXe will use, developed for people who always had troubles finding out where they actually saved what into which savestate. Well, with this feature you'll actually be able to see at which place you saved the game in a small window in the upper right corner. Looks like a pretty cool feature, which will require a new plugin version from Pete (and hopefully, other authors will also include this code) and the new ePSXe version. The other feature is the (currently not yet working) attemp to add the possibility for netplay through CyberPad into ePSXe - that means when everything runs smooth, users will be able to enjoy 2 players game over the net with the next ePSXe version, only requiring a slow ISDN line (of course faster lines will perform a bit better).

Wednesday May 23, 2001 Top

Specification for Faster Version Of FireWire Finalized

The speed boost for FireWire, officially known as IEEE 1394 and marketed by Sony as I-link, comes as a faster version of the universal serial bus heads to market. USB 2.0 and FireWire will compete directly for a spot on computers. USB started out as a replacement for older parallel and serial ports as a way to connect keyboards and mice to PCs. It is now also used for MP3 players and CD burners. FireWire has its roots in consumer electronics such as digital camcorders but is also increasingly popular for connecting to storage devices such as hard drives and recordable CD drives. After 18 months of work, the 1394 Trade Association said this week it has approved the specifications for the new FireWire, which will be called IEEE 1394b. The standard still requires final approval by member companies.

The new 1394b standard is expected to deliver data at up to 800 megabits per second, while USB 2.0 is designed to exchange data at 480mbps. Industry sources said Apple Computer will likely be first out of the gate with computers that support 1394b, with the technology likely to show up in Macs as soon as late this year or early next year. Although the initial version of 1394b is designed to double the speed of today's FireWire using the same type of copper wiring, the standard is expected to eventually allow speeds of up to 3.2 gigabits per second using plastic optical fiber instead. Fiber optics will also allow FireWire to transmit data over longer distances than today's FireWire.

VIA Plans to Announce Faster Processor in Early June

In an invitation to a June 5 event at the Computex trade show here, Via said it will display a smaller, faster version of its C3, a processor for computers that cost $500 or less. Without a new chip, analysts say, Taiwan's biggest chip designer will probably not sell the 5 million processors this year as previously expected. "Via's real hope is with the C3," said Joey Cheng, an analyst with Indosuez W.I. Carr Securities in Taipei. "Most of the units should be out by the second half." Processors are expected to contribute about 15 percent toward Via's revenue this year if the company can sell 5 million units, Cheng said. The company needs to diversify into new products to maintain sales growth because competition in chipsets, its main business, is driving prices down, Cheng added. Via expects full-year sales to increase by half from last year to about $1.5 billion. Revenue in 2000 almost tripled from the year earlier. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. will produce the chip for Via. The new C3 will be made with TSMC's 0.13-micron process. By making the chip smaller, TSMC will allow Via to cut production costs and improve the performance of the chip.

First IM Buddy Service Will Be Online Soon

Real-time stock quotes may soon be available on request through popular Internet chat programs under a deal this week that offers the latest sign of instant messaging's growing maturity. Software start-up ActiveBuddy said it has secured agreements to deliver real-time stock quotes via automated instant messenger "bots" with the Nasdaq Stock Market, the New York Stock Exchange and the American Stock Exchange. The New York-based company is testing a service to send news, weather and related information via instant text messages. Monday's endorsement comes as ActiveBuddy prepares to launch a financial "buddy" branded by Reuters, one of its two financial backers. The buddy, which will sit on a chat program's friend list, will let people send an instant message with the text "GE stock," for example, and instantly receive a response with the current price of General Electric shares.

ActiveBuddy is planning a broad launch of its service in June. ActiveBuddy plans to make money by licensing its technology to major brands wanting to reach consumers. It recently inked a deal with Capitol Records to build the first "activebuddy" to market the launch of a new record from rock band Radiohead, due out June 5. The buddy will let fans pull up fast answers on the band's tour dates, song lists and bios, among other tidbits. It is also negotiating with the major IM providers to offer its service on their networks for a fee, analysts say. ActiveBuddy has developed a natural-language search called "buddy script." This script can communicate with various content databases, such as Reuters, to pull up answers on topics at lightning speed.

First Two 64-bit Versions of Windows XP Announced

Microsoft announced two versions: 64-bit Windows Advanced Server Limited Edition for servers and Windows XP 64-Bit Edition for workstations. The 64-bit versions of Windows will be made available on a limited basis, bundled with systems using Intel's Itanium processor. Itanium, Intel's long-anticipated and much-delayed successor to the Pentium processor, will move computers to a 64-bit architecture from 32-bit. New 64-bit systems can accomplish roughly double the amount of work as 32-bit systems in a given amount of time. Major computer manufacturers including Compaq Computer, Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard and IBM have shown off early versions of Itanium systems in the last couple of months. While both 64-bit operating systems are technically test, or beta, versions, Microsoft in an unusual move will provide product support for both, said Michael Stephenson, Windows 2002 Server product manager. Customers also will receive free upgrades to the final versions when they are available.

Stephenson said Microsoft has been working with Intel for about five years to deliver a 64-bit operating system. "We're still in the phase of working with (PC makers) to do early customer evaluations, and we're still working with software developers to get applications ready," he said. Microsoft has identified about 300 applications being developed for Intel 64-bit processors. "Intel really wants a Microsoft OS to run on Itanium," Silver said. With 64-bit versions of Linux also available, "Microsoft doesn't want to not be on the platform with Unix variants out there for Itanium." Beyond testing, real-world use may have to wait until 64-bit applications reach the market. The problem is a lack of applications, analysts say. "Right now, if it's an OS without apps, what good is it?" Silver asked. "Even though 32-bit apps run, it's not something you don't want to do." While Itanium will run 32-bit applications in emulation mode--a way of simulating older processors--testers report unsatisfactory performance. "You use this in 32-bit emulation and you're going to be underimpressed," Howe said. With the delivery of 64-bit Windows XP and Advanced Server, computer makers can finally start selling Itanium-based systems, which initially are expected to be used for more demanding applications.

Update Released for Internet Explorer 5.1 for Mac OS X

Microsoft on Wednesday updated the Internet Explorer 5.1 Preview Release for Mac OS X. The Redmond, Wash.-based company shipped an earlier version available only on the Mac OS X CD. The new version fixes some bugs and adds features. Among the new features: the ability to select links on a Web page by typing the first few letters on the keyboard; improved plug-in support, including QuickTime 5; support for USB printers and scroll-wheel mice; and content viewable in six languages. The updated browser, which is not the final release, requires Mac OS X 10.0.3. That latest version of OS X can be retrieved using the operating system's software update feature. Although Internet Explorer takes advantage of Mac OS X's advanced features, it is considered a "carbon" application, or one that was converted to the new version of the operating system from the old. By contrast, Omni Group's OmniWeb 4 browser is a native Mac OS X application.

Thursday May 24, 2001 Top

Iomega Releases New Drives With 10 and 20 Gig Capacity

Iomega Corporation , a global leader in data management solutions, today announced that its new PeerlessTM 10GB and 20GB drive system is now shipping. The Peerless drive system, winner of two editor's choice awards upon its introduction in January 2001 at CES and Macworld, is shipping more than a month ahead of schedule and marks the arrival of a new generation of portable high-speed storage devices. Configured with a USB interface module, the first Peerless drive systems are going to customers who pre-ordered through Iomega will begin shipping the system with FireWire interface modules within weeks, and the Peerless drive system is expected to be widely available by late June when PC Expo opens in New York City. "Many of today's digital applications demand a storage system that is truly portable, truly high capacity, and truly high performance," said Doug Collier, senior vice president, marketing and product management, Iomega Corporation. "With pocket-sized Peerless disks, users can back up an entire hard drive, migrate computer systems, and automatically protect all of their vital data with Iomega's easy-to-use QuikSync file backup software."

The Peerless drive system incorporates world-class technology based on IBM's TravelstarTM 20GN 2.5" notebook hard disk drive in 10GB and 20GB capacities. As the highest shock-rated removable hard disk drive, Travelstar provides Iomega's Peerless drive system with a solid technology platform in a rugged and reliable sealed disk that is roughly the size of a PDA. The Peerless disk slips into a base station only slightly larger than the disk itself - a slim, vertical enclosure that minimizes the footprint on the desktop. The Peerless drive system's unique design lets users save money as they add capacity. The system's hard drive electronics are located in the base station, rather than on the disk itself, so users only have to buy the drive's electronics once. This industry-first technology is a product of collaborations between Iomega and IBM and results in disk prices as low as one cent per megabyte. The fully sealed disk design also eliminates the risk of dust contamination and allows sustained transfer rates up to 15 MB/sec with a FireWire interface module.

Nvidia Now Controls Majority of Graphics Processor Market

Processor makers, memory chip manufacturers, network chip specialists and digital signal processor sellers have reeled in the face of the U.S. tech recession, but Nvidia apparently hasn't flinched. This week's quarterly report underscores the fact that the 3D graphics champ keeps winning the game--and that there's hardly anyone left to play with. Nvidia reported better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter of fiscal 2002, but the more important news came during the conference call when a company executive reiterated the same forecast made in February. Chief Financial Officer Christine Hoberg told analysts to stick with First Call estimates calling for 50 percent revenue growth in fiscal 2002 and a 40 percent sales improvement in 2003. Mercury Research analyst Mike Feibus points out that Nvidia went public just as 3D graphics moved from a high-end niche into broader products used in virtually all desktop PCs. Nvidia recognized that trend and introduced new chip designs every six months, a breathtaking pace for an industry used to seeing new products every 18 months. Nvidia actually fires out chip architecture at the traditional pace, Feibus noted. But while other graphics chipset companies utilized one-size-fits-all approaches, Nvidia uses the same architecture to design chips for different segments. The GeForce2 line, to use one example, includes MX for cheapskates, GTS for the midrange and Ultra at the high end. And there are further subdivisions for these products.

Nvidia's only publicly traded competitor left, ATI Technologies, lately has started doing the same thing with its Radeon chips, but Nvidia has already built a clear lead. Nvidia's share of the stand-alone graphics processor market has increased from 37 percent a year ago to 53 percent, according to Mercury Research numbers cited on this week's Nvidia conference call. In the latest generation of graphics processors, it claims 83 percent market share. Nvidia could be dubbed the Intel of 3D graphics. Actually, Nvidia is in a better position because there's no equivalent to Advanced Micro Devices in 3D graphics. "There really isn't a company looking over Nvidia's shoulder," Feibus said. That's accurate for 3D graphics in Windows desktops. The company's new horizons include notebooks, workstations, and desktop chipsets that combine graphics with core functions. Nvidia just started selling cards for Macs. And the company will get at least some boost this fall when Microsoft starts selling the Xbox game console, which will house an Nvidia chipset.

Gracenote Case Could Effect Many Internet Communities

Roxio products no longer supported by Gracenote's CD information service, a collection entered in large part by individuals on the Net. The data blackout is the result of a copyright battle between the two companies that may have far-reaching consequences. Already, thousands of customers have been cut off from the largest such online database, a collection of 885,000 records called CDDB. While the legal dispute centers on whether Roxio can use online databases created by people on the Internet, many people are concerned that CDDB--maintained for the last three years by Gracenote but built from individuals' submissions--can be owned. The issue is central to a lawsuit that could potentially affect a variety of communities throughout the Internet, from so-called open-source programming projects to comments archived on online bulletin boards. If Roxio wins, open-source competitors to Gracenote will be legally free to build databases that can't be co-opted by others. If Gracenote wins, other databases relying on individuals' submissions could be considered the property of whatever company collects and formats the data.

More immediately, the case will determine the fate of two alternative CD and --that were created after several programmers on the Internet realized that Gracenote had essentially fenced off the original CDDB by changing the terms of the licenses. Like Gracenote's CDDB, the two open-source services allow people to download information from the Internet on just about any audio CD they insert into their computer. While uses a different system that is incompatible with the Gracenote database, uses the same kernel of software and data--information that Gracenote claims is its own. Roxio originally intended in late April to shift its software from Gracenote's CDDB to the database run by However, the suit aims to prevent any of Gracenote's 1,800 commercial licensees and 2,200 free licensees from jumping to competitors. The outcome of the suit will determine whether CD-listing services owned by the public can exist.

While Gracenote claims the collection of CD information at the heart of the CDDB system belongs to the company, many cyber-rights activists and open-source advocates are raising eyebrows. Because much of the database was entered in by the public, they argue that the public should own the result. "The most egregious part of this lawsuit is that the company has taken the public's work and propertized it," said Robin Gross, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for public rights on the Internet. Furthermore, Gracenote's copyright is backed with a software patent, which in some part gives the company a lock on the organization of such a database. Gracenote's case will clarify how current database laws should be interpreted. Today, few laws protect a database. While two bills aimed at protecting a collection of data are wending their way through Congress, companies with proprietary databases typically rely on copyright to protect their archives of data. In the past, the protection has only been granted for data organized in a way that is considered "original." Yet, the creator of the database doesn't have to be Picasso, said David Marglin, general counsel for Gracenote.

Dell Doesn't See Linux Taking Over Desktop Market

Dell Computer says Linux is set to make significant headway into the market for graphics workstations, but also says the dream of a desktop competitor to Windows remains just that--a dream. The initial optimism over Linux as a client desktop environment has given way to more sedate projections, even as Linux continues to make extraordinary progress on servers. The closure of Eazel last week, which was working on an easy-to-use Linux graphical user interface, was a sign to many in the industry that the Linux desktop promise has failed to pan out. Linux has less than 2 percent of the desktop market, according to industry analysts. "It's still a fundamentally technical operating system," said Steve Smith, Dell's European market development manager for client systems. "It's very easy for someone who doesn't know what they're doing to break something. It's not designed for the novice user." Microsoft's grip on the applications market, with Office, also shows no sign of weakening, Smith said. Instead of the mass market, the biggest target for Linux at the moment is the high-end graphics workstations used by engineers and industrial designers, according to Dell. So far Linux hasn't made much progress there because of lack of support for graphics cards. "What we aren't seeing yet is much in the way of real engineering applications [for Linux]," Smith said. "That is the thing changing now. All the effort at the moment is going into robust graphics support."

Aimster is Being Sued by the RIAA

The record industry on Thursday filed a lawsuit against file-swapping company Aimster, charging that it is violating copyrights in much the same way as Napster or Scour, targets of previous lawsuits. The lawsuit caps a bad week for the small company, which lost the rights to its domain name to AOL Time Warner in an arbitration panel Monday. The Recording Industry Association of America, which has previously sued file-trading companies Napster and Scour on similar issues, sent a warning letter to Aimster several months ago, noting that the company's activities were similar enough to Napster's that it was likely in violation of the law. But unlike other file-swapping companies that received similar letters, Aimster has declined to filter songs or monitor its members' activities. The Motion Picture Association of America was expected to file its own separate suit later. "Aimster is Napster all over again," Cary Sherman, general counsel for the RIAA, said in a statement. "Beneath the added bells and whistles lies the same service that Napster provides." The company started with a different twist on the idea of file sharing, allowing people to create "buddy lists" such as those on AOL Instant Messenger and to open their computers just to this select group of people. By creating these small, private networks, Aimster said it was preserving people from outside scrutiny. But for the last month or two, the company has also offered a more sprawling, Napster-like service, in which people can search for music, video or software across a network comprising tens of thousands of people. New Aimster users were automatically added into this network unless they configured their software specifically for the smaller buddy list trading.

Friday May 25, 2001 Top

Windows XP's Forthcoming Release Forces Major Decisions

No sooner had Rick Kelley made the painful decision to migrate his division's 4,500 desktops from Windows 95 and NT to Windows 2000 than he had to stop and consider Microsoft's latest, greatest operating system: Windows XP. It took an entire year of intensive testing and a lot of convincing before Kelley, desktop and asset manager for the Orlando, Fla.-based Missiles and Fire Control division of Lockheed Martin, felt the time was right to start migrating the division's desktops as each finished its two- to three-year life cycle. The migration to Windows 2000, which began in February 2001, is about one-third finished, with completion scheduled in about two years. Kelley and thousands of information technology managers like him are now facing an even more daunting decision: whether to halt migration to Windows 2000 at some point in favor of a direct upgrade to successor Windows XP. Microsoft promises that XP, scheduled to be released this fall, will be even more stable, have more robust security features, and be more reliable than its predecessors.Part of the problem, said Dan Kusnetsky, vice president of systems software research at IDC , is the awkward timing of XP's potential release. By following so closely on the heels of Windows 2000, Microsoft is putting many corporations in the untenable position of having to decide whether to switch to Windows XP midstream.

"Organizations tend to not just adopt new software, but to take the time to test it with their applications and procedures, gain some experience with it, and then start rolling it out in a very measured and careful way," Kusnetsky said. "Because of that process, the adoption of Windows 2000 Professional and Windows 2000 Server has been relatively slow. "If you are a chief information officer and you have just decided that the benefits of upgrading to Windows 2000 are worth the expense and pain, and Microsoft starts banging the drum for Windows XP, it might arrest every effort you have to move to Windows 2000." For many organizations, it's not a question of whether they will migrate to XP, but when. Despite the unfortunate timing, many believe it's simply inevitable. "You've got two situations: companies that have already migrated to Windows 2000 or are in the middle of it, and those that are just beginning," explained John Minnick, manager of technology development in the corporate IS department of Siemens Energy & Automation. "For the group that has already gone through a substantial amount of upgrade planning, moving to an XP client is more of an incremental upgrade in terms of effort. For the group still on Windows 95 or 98, the amount of effort will be much more substantial, but it can and should be done."

Microsoft Release Patch For Windows Media Player

A patch has been released for Windows Media Player 6.4 and 7 due to following vulnerabilities:

A buffer overrun in the functionality used to process Active Stream Redirector (.ASX) files. This vulnerability is a variant of the buffer overrun vulnerability identified in Microsoft Security Bulletin (MS00-090). Windows Media Player supports the use of .ASX files to enable users to play streaming media that resides on intranet or Internet sites and allows the use of playlists. However, the code that parses .ASX files has an unchecked buffer, and this could potentially enable a malicious user to run code of her choice on the machine of another user. The attacker could either send an affected file to another user and entice him to run or preview it, or she could host such a file on a web site and cause it to launch automatically whenever a user visited the site. The code could take any action on the machine that the legitimate user himself could take.

A vulnerability affecting how Windows Media Player handles Internet shortcuts. Windows Media Player has a flaw that causes it to save Internet shortcuts to the userís Temporary Files folder with a fixed known filename. This results in a security vulnerability because itís possible for HTML code to be stored in such a shortcut and launched via a web page or HTML e-mail, in which case the code would run in the Local Computer Zone rather than the Internet Zone. An attacker could exploit this vulnerability to read - but not add, delete or modify - files on another userís computer.

In addition, this patch provides a solution to a potential privacy vulnerability that was recently identified. This issue could be exploited by a malicious set of web sites to distinguish a user. While this issue would not by itself enable a web site to identify the user, it could enable the correlation of user information to potentially build a composite description of the user. Users can protect themselves by installing the patch.
Windows Media Player 6.4 Patch | Windows Media Player 7 to 7.1 Upgrade

Microsoft and AOL Discuss Future Partnership

America Online and Microsoft are in preliminary discussions to revise their long-standing partnership agreement, a move that could see renewed cooperation between the technology giants after a period of apparent discord. Some of the issues on the table include the inclusion of AOL software on Microsoft's upcoming Windows XP operating system and AOL's use of Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser, sources familiar with the talks said Friday. However, these sources cautioned that the talks are at an early stage and may not lead to a deal. The discussions highlight the sometimes-awkward alliance between the two companies, which compete vigorously in some markets but have called a truce in others. Their uneasy relationship recently faltered, but the companies appear to be attempting to work out a new deal to mutually benefit from their market leadership. Specifically, AOL had a contract with Microsoft to use Internet Explorer as its default browser. In return, Microsoft agreed to bundle AOL software on the Windows desktop. Microsoft has said the contractual agreement expired Jan. 1, 2001, and AOL declined to renew it. AOL is a unit of AOL Time Warner.

Last month, internal documents showed AOL is developing software, code-named Komodo, that would allow the company and its CompuServe subsidiary to support multiple Web browsers. With the move, AOL appeared to be laying the foundation for browser options if a contract extension could not be struck with Microsoft. Another issue included in the talks involves AOL's possible support of Microsoft's Windows Media software, which delivers audio and video content on the Internet. Although no agreements have been inked, the possibility of AOL using Windows Media could signal a significant blow to RealNetworks, which is engaged in a market share battle with Microsoft. RealNetworks has an agreement with AOL to be its exclusive streaming media provider. The contract, however, is slated to expire by mid-July, raising the question of whether AOL could strike a new deal to include Windows Media into its software. However, sources have emphasized that the streaming media discussions have not come close to being resolved.

Rambus Loses Italian Court Case

Micron Technology said an Italian court has ruled against a Rambus request for Micron to halt production of memory chips on the grounds of patent infringement against Rambus' high-speed chip designs. "The court in Monza, Italy, rejected Rambus' request for an injunction against our factory," said Sean Mahoney, a corporate media-relations official with Micron in Idaho. "We were not infringing on their patents." Micron makes synchronous dynamic random access memory, or SDRAM, chips at a factory it acquired from Texas Instruments in Avezzano, Italy. Rambus, a designer of high-speed memory chips, sought a court order to halt Micron's production of the semiconductors, which it said violated its patents. Micron didn't disclose how much it stood to lose if chip production were halted. Losses from closing an entire chip plant typically cost a manufacturer millions of dollars per day. Rambus officials said they were unaware of whether the Italian court has ruled on the issue. "We haven't gotten an official report on the outcome yet," said David Mooring, president of Rambus. "We won't know until tomorrow." Rambus will appeal if it loses the case, he said.

HP Executive Feels Linux Will Become Market Leader

Financiers may be increasingly reluctant to fund companies to come up with a consumer-friendly Linux interface, but that is just a temporary setback, in Perens' view. "[The Linux] desktop is not dead, and will perform in the market as Linux has in the server market--going from a toy to a curiosity to a contender to having a big piece of the market," he told ZDNet UK. Industry analysts and major players in the PC market, including Dell, say they don't see Linux breaking into the mass market any time in the next few years. But dismissing Linux for the desktop is shortsighted, says Perens. "Consider the age of the Linux desktop. Development started from zero sometime in 1997. It's almost maturation time for that desktop, and four years is a lot less time than it has taken any other desktop project to get to the level that Gnome or KDE are at," he said in an interview. Perens is the senior strategist on Linux and open source for Hewlett-Packard, and the company says it is committed to driving Linux into the mass market. For now HP says cost is the biggest issue--Linux allows HP to sell PCs for lower prices in countries like China because of the lack of operating system license fees. Eazel may be gone, but several initiatives are continuing to develop a simpler Linux interface, such as Ximian and the Gnome and KDE foundations. In fact, Eazel's legacy, the file manager, is "a great piece of software", according to Perens, and it will continue to be developed for Gnome.

Weekend May 26 & 27, 2001 Top

Prices and First System to Feature Itanium Announced

At long last, Intel will lift the veil of silence next week from its Itanium chip, setting off a new round of competition in the market for servers and advanced workstation PCs. Intel on Tuesday will announce that it has started shipping of production versions of the 64-bit chip, according to sources familiar with Intel's plans. Itanium workstations and servers will begin hitting the market as soon as next month, the sources said. Itanium is the first step in Intel's effort to shake up the market for high-end servers, currently dominated by Sun Microsystems, which uses its own expensive Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) chips. Itanium machines are expected to cost considerably less than traditional Unix servers sold by Sun and others, giving the chip giant a wedge to get businesses to switch.

Initially, Intel expects eight to 10 PC makers to announce products based on the chip. It also expects 20 to 60 applications. Currently, Itanium will work with seven operating systems, including the HP-UX and IBM's AIX-5L versions of Unix, Microsoft's Windows and 64-bit versions of Linux from Red Hat, Caldera, SuSE and TurboLinux. Over the course of the year, Intel expects another 15 computer manufacturers to pick up Itanium, for a total of 25 companies shipping about 35 models. Over the course of the year, Intel expects developers to announce many more applications, for a total of about 400, an Intel representative said. HP, for example, will ship three new products in the near future, including a dual-processor i2000 workstation and four- and 16-processor models of the HP Server rx, said Mark Hudson, worldwide marketing manager for HP severs. Meanwhile, Dell has said it will begin selling its first Itanium server this summer. IBM is expected to ship one server and one Intellistation workstation fitted with Itanium. Compaq and Gateway are also expected to ship Itanium servers.

The new machines will cost more than servers using Intel's current Pentium III Xeon chip. However, Intel insists customers who budget for the extra cost over and above a Pentium III system will receive added performance and reliability. Initial price lists indicated that the chip would range in cost from $4,227 for an 800MHz Itanium with 4MB of performance-enhancing tertiary cache memory to over $3,500 for a 733MHz Itanium with 2MB of tertiary cache. While the 4MB version will cost the same, the lower-end models will cost less. For workstations, Itaniums running at 733MHz and containing 2MB of cache memory will sell for between $1,000 and $2,000, or in the range of Intel's current Xeon chips. Judging by Intel's pricing history, the 800MHz Itanium with 2MB cache will likely have a similar price.

Electronic Gaming Expected To Reach 86 Billion In 5 Years

Driven primarily by the release of new gaming systems, the worldwide electronic games sector is poised to jump 71 percent to nearly $86 billion over the next five years, according to a new study. A growing number of people will use the Internet to play games as a wider choice of systems--including improved game consoles, TVs and PCs--becomes available, according to a report released Friday by London-based publisher Informa Media Group. "The big difference over the next few years will be a move away from the image of gamers as 'nerds,'" said Adam Thomas, co-author of the report. "Games will move very much into the mainstream--something that will see 'ordinary' people playing games much more, using their mobile phones and TV sets. This will mean the games market is addressing a much bigger segment of the population and revenues will go up quickly because of it," he added. The study found that game revenues from the Internet, interactive TV and mobile phones, which accounted for less than 2 percent of the industry total in 2000, will rise 27 percent by 2006.

During the next five years, sales of game consoles, which will remain the dominant system, will rise 73 percent from $18.8 billion to $32.6 billion. In 2000, interactive TV and mobile-phone games generated $842 million in sales and in 2006 will account for $22.8 billion. Online games sales are expected to hit $5.6 billion. In the interim, the struggling video-arcades market will continue to see sluggish sales, falling from $13.9 billion in 2001 to $10.7 billion in the next five years. The U.S. electronic games market this year is expected to see sales of around $15.7 billion, with revenues expected to rise to $23.7 billion by 2006. Sales in other markets that have lagged, such as Asia-Pacific and parts of Europe, will see increased revenus, gaining some share of the overall sector.

Sharp Plans Major Boost in Large LCD Display Production

Sharp, Japan's top maker of liquid-crystal displays, will reach full production at a new plant sooner than previously planned to meet brisk demand for displays for PC monitors and flat-panel TVs, the company said Friday. The company plans an 85 percent increase in the output of large thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD panels of 10 inches or more, he said. TFT is a type of active-matrix display, which offers clearer and brighter images than average displays. The representative did not give the original schedule for boosting output at Sharp's Mie No. 2 plant in central Japan but said it now aims to be at full production by the end of the calendar year. The Sharp representative said demand for its flat-panel televisions and Meibius notebooks was boosting orders for large LCD panels. With its second production line, the plant will boost output of 680mm-by-880mm LCD plates to 3,000 per day by the end of the year from 1,500 plates at present.

Gordon Moore Retires From Intel

Three years before cofounding Intel in 1968, Gordon Moore predicted the number of transistors on a silicon chip would double every 18 months. More than 35 years later, "Moore's Law" still describes growth in the high-tech industry, as more transistors lead to more processing punch, new products and greater demand for computer power. On Thursday, the Silicon Valley legend retired from the board of directors of Intel. He will continue serving as chairman emeritus and director emeritus but will no longer hold any voting power. After the company's annual meeting--during which former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt was elected to the company's board--Moore said he has no regrets about instituting a mandatory retirement age for directors. And Moore said he intends to remain at least as active in the company as he has been since giving up the chairmanship title in 1997. Asked about his thoughts on the future, Moore pointed to the demands for greater processing power by scientists developing new drugs and by consumers looking for better voice-recognition software. Moore's Law, which was later updated to reflect a doubling of transistors every 18 to 24 months, is expected to hold true at least through the next decade. Moore himself said Thursday that the axiom will ultimately be limited by engineers' ability to make things smaller. "No exponential ever goes on forever without some kind of disaster happening at the end. Sure it has a limit," he said. "Materials are made of atoms, and we're not too far from where that starts to bite us."

ATI Optimizes Radeon Chipset for Mac OS X

ATI Technologies Inc., a world leader in graphics, video and multimedia solutions, announced today that its technology-leading RADEON MAC EDITION graphics processor affords Mac users the best performing graphics solution under Apple's next-generation operating system, Mac OS X. Working with Apple, ATI engineers have ensured that RADEON MAC EDITION optimizes the Mac OS X operating environment. With its 32 MB (megabytes) of DDR (double data rate) memory, ATI's RADEON MAC EDITION graphics processor provides the fastest OpenGL acceleration available on Mac OS X. This acceleration delivers the industry's highest graphic performance for Mac OS X in millions of colors (32 bits per pixel) at all screen resolutions. "RADEON MAC EDITION provides Mac users with the best performance for the powerful graphic capabilities of Mac OS X," said Stephanie Castura, Product Manager, Macintosh, ATI Technologies Inc. "We have a large team of dedicated Mac engineers, representing 125 years of development experience, who are working with Apple to further enhance our hardware's capabilities for OpenGL and the Mac platform." "Mac OS X's Quartz graphic engine and use of OpenGL deliver a powerful and stunning graphic environment for Mac OS X users," said Ron Okamoto, Apple's Vice President of Developer Relations. "We are excited that ATI has tapped the power of Mac OS X and optimized its RADEON technology for our next generation operating system."

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