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Week of November 18, 2001 News Archive

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Monday November 19, 2001 Top

Controversial Via Pentium 4 Chipset Reaching Shelves Soon

Via Technologies claims it has won international distribution deals for its controversial Pentium 4 chipset, despite an ongoing intellectual property dispute with Intel. The Taiwanese company, which is the world's second-largest chipset maker after Intel, has reached agreements with Ingram Micro, Eprom, Leadman Electronics, Leadertech Systems of Chicago, Eastern Data, Agaman and Daiwa to distribute motherboards based on Via's P4X266 chipsets for the US market, Via marketing director Frank Jeng said in published reports. The distribution deals mean that Via's Pentium 4 chipsets will reach end-users on retail store shelves in the form of unbranded motherboards, but are unlikely to be used by manufacturers building new PCs. The idea behind using unbranded motherboards is to protect the motherboard makers from Intel legal action, but it is not known whether such a strategy will prove effective. Following Via's introduction of the chipset, Intel filed suit against Via in several countries, and Via has responded with lawsuits of its own. Most top-tier motherboard manufacturers have stayed away from the P4X266 because of the legal entanglements. To get around the legal blockade, Via recently launched its own motherboard unit, which subcontracts all manufacturing to third parties. Via is relying on the chipset for a significant proportion of its revenues. The company said its revenues for October were flat on the same month last year, largely because of the legal dispute with Intel. The P4X266 is desirable in part because of its lower price and because it is compatible with double-data rate (DDR) memory, a low-cost, high-speed memory. Intel's Pentium 4 chipset only uses standard SDRAM memory or more expensive Rambus DRAM.

Microsoft Releases Mac Office v. X

Microsoft's Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU) today officially announced the release of Office v. X, the much-anticipated suite of applications built for Mac OS X. Office v. X includes Entourage X, Word X, Excel X and PowerPoint X, as well as many extras like Windows Media Player X and an Import Mail to help users transition from Apple's built-in Mail application. "We're delighted to bring our award-winning set of productivity tools to Mac OS X," said Kevin Browne, general manager of the Macintosh Business Unit at Microsoft Corp. "Office v. X delivers on the promise of Mac OS X by taking full advantage of the new operating system, and by adding many new and improved features as well. When our customers pick up their copy of Office v. X this week, they will finally be able to work full time in Mac OS X." Office v. X takes advantage of many of the built-in technologies of Mac OS X like the Aqua interface, Sheets and the Quartz graphics engine. Sheets have replaced select dialog boxes and alerts in Office v. X, enabling users to multitask within or between applications. When a user clicks to save a Word document, for instance, a Sheet appears in place of a dialog box. The user can choose to open a different Word document or continue working in another application, without having to complete the save first.

Quartz graphics technology in Office v. X makes it possible to create graphically rich documents. It allows users to add anti-aliased lines and shapes to give documents a smooth and finished appearance. Quartz also enables true transparency, so shapes, objects and pictures can be layered to reveal items behind them. "Microsoft has created the new benchmark Mac OS X application -- Office v. X -- and Mac users are going to be thrilled with it," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs. "Now users of Mac OS X can seamlessly exchange documents with users running Office on Windows." Office v. X will be available as an upgrade for an estimated retail price of US$299 and as a standard version for $499. Until January 18, 2002, users of Office 2001 for Mac, Word 2001 for Mac, Excel 2001 for Mac, PowerPoint 2001, Word + Entourage Special Edition (SE) can upgrade for $149 directly from Microsoft. Between now and Dec. 31, Microsoft is offering a Technology Guarantee to customers who have acquired Office 2001 for Mac or an individual application such as Word 2001 for Mac. The Technology Guarantee makes these customers eligible for a free copy of Office v. X for Mac. For details and to download the coupon for the Technology Guarantee, customers can visit the MacBU Web site or their nearest reseller.

Apple Tries To Bring Back Users to the Mac

Apple Computer has a message for Windows users considering an upgrade to XP: Come back to the Mac. In the wake of a $1 billion Windows XP marketing campaign, all eyes would appear to be turned away from Mac OS X 10.1.1, the new operating system Apple significantly upgraded in September. But the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is convinced that Windows XP's endorsement of technologies that first appeared on Macs--802.11b wireless networking, CD burning, DVD playback, movie making, and easy retrieval of digital camera images, among others--will help Apple system and software sales. While Apple says that the differences between the two operating systems are greater than ever, at first blush consumers will see many similarities between the two products. The deciding factor may come down to the deftness of the marketing Apple employs to woo back customers who once used a Mac. "There are lots of Windows users who used to own a Mac," said Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing. "We're starting to see a combination of things getting those customers interested in our platform again."

Without question, Apple faces an uphill battle against Windows PCs, even as Microsoft's most significant operating system since Windows 95 storms the market. In the third quarter, Apple captured a mere 4.5 percent of the U.S. PC market--up from 4.3 percent a year earlier--according to market researcher Gartner Dataquest. But from its low market share, even a couple percentage points could represent huge gains, analysts say. "There's no place to go but up, and small gains could be a significant number of users," said IDC analyst Roger Kay. "There is certainly an opportunity for them, given 95 percent of the market is not Apple," agreed Charles Smulders, a Dataquest analyst. "The question is, will the value proposition Apple is providing be enough to persuade users to switch to the platform?" Selling that value proposition could be tough in a weak economy, where PC sales are sluggish at best. During the third quarter, U.S. PC shipments plummeted nearly 19 percent year over year, according to Dataquest, which expects little upturn in the fourth quarter. "Obviously, the current market is very difficult, and people tend to be more value-oriented," Smulders said.

Tuesday November 20, 2001 Top

Via Announces Faster Version of It's Pentium 4 Chipset

Via Technologies announced a faster version of its chipset for Intel Pentium 4 processors on Tuesday, in the face of a continuing dispute with Intel over the product's legality. The chipset is an upgrade to Via's Apollo P4X266, called the P4X266A. It boosts access speeds for memory and can be combined with other, faster components. A chipset links a PC's processor with other components such as memory. Via and Intel have filed lawsuits against each other in several countries, centering on whether Via is legally allowed to make a Pentium 4 chipset. Taiwan-based Via is the second-largest chipset maker after Intel, and the two have had a love-hate relationship for several years, alternately suing each other and supporting the market for one another's products. Earlier this week, Via representatives said the company had secured retail distribution for unbranded motherboards using the P4 chipset. The P4X266 series supports double data rate (DDR) dynamic random access memory (DRAM), which is faster than standard SDRAM but not as expensive as high-end Rambus memory. Intel's chipsets support only SDRAM and Rambus memory.

Microsoft Makes Settlement Deal for Private Antitrust Suits

Microsoft once again may have snatched a victory at the settlement table that it might not have been able to achieve in the courtroom. The Redmond, Wash.-based software titan has cut a deal that would dismiss more than 100 pending private antitrust cases against the company. Lawyers brought the majority of the cases last year after a federal judge ruled that Microsoft had violated two sections of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. If approved by a federal judge in Baltimore, the agreement could help Microsoft increase its presence in schools, where rival Apple Computer has traditionally had a leading presence. Under proposed terms of the settlement, Microsoft would donate software, services, training and software licenses for reconditioned computers--an array valued at more than $1 billion--to qualifying schools, said lawyers representing consumer plaintiffs. "We have reached a settlement with Microsoft for what we believe are the consumer portions of the civil complaints, and we're going to submit it to the court tomorrow," said Michael Hausfeld, a partner with Cohen Milstein Hausfeld and Toll in Washington, D.C., and the lead attorney representing the cases. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz in Baltimore is expected to hold a hearing on the proposal next Tuesday. "The settlement provides more than $1 billion for training, support, hardware and software to thousands of schools with the greatest needs all across America," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said Tuesday during a conference call with the media.

The donations would go to public elementary and secondary schools at which 70 percent of students are eligible for federal meal assistance, or approximately 14 percent of the nation's schools, according to Microsoft. "It is a settlement that avoids long and costly litigation for the company, and at the same time I think really makes a difference in the lives of millions of school children in some of the most economically disadvantaged schools in the country," Ballmer said. Microsoft said Tuesday that if the settlement is approved, it will take a pretax charge of approximately $550 million in the current fiscal quarter, ending Dec. 31. In some ways, the settlement is not typical. Often consumers receive coupons for discounted products or small paybacks, but the plaintiffs' lawyers did not want that option in this case. "We wanted to avoid a situation where consumers received a coupon for a dollar or less or had to purchase another piece of equipment," Hausfeld said. "So we tried to aggregate the clients and come up with the greatest social benefit." Helping schools made the most sense, he emphasized.

Four New Apple Stores Opening This Weekend

Apple has updated the number of stores that will open this week from three to four. Added to the list is a store at the Walden Galleria in Buffalo, NY. The Buffalo store joins the previously announced openings of Miami, FL; Santa Clara, CA; and San Diego, CA. The Walden Galleria is located at 1 Walden Galleria Drive in Buffalo, NY. The store will open at 8:00 a.m., which is earlier than usual. The Santa Clara and Miami stores will also open at 8:00 a.m., while the San Diego store is still officially scheduled to open at 10:00 a.m. You may want to check with that store to make sure it will not be opening early too. The Santa Clara store, located at 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd. at the Valley Fair shopping center, was originally scheduled to open Saturday, November 17, but was changed to Friday, November 23. The Miami store, located at The Falls, 8888 SW 136th Street and the San Diego store in Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Road will also open on November 23. Expect to see long lines and all the latest Apple hardware and software. The Apple stores have areas where people can get first-hand experience with how Macs can interface with digital cameras, PDAs, MP3 players, consumer and professional equipment.

Wednesday November 21, 2001 Top

Sony Undecided on DVD Rewritable Standard to Support

Sony is straddling the fence in the struggle over which DVD rewritable format will eventually dominate the market. The consumer electronics giant has begun shipping to retailers DVD+RW drives and discs, which should be available to consumers by the end of the month. At the same time, Sony is continuing to support competing DVD rewritable formats--an unusual decision in the industry. Sony's move comes amid an ongoing donnybrook in the DVD rewritable market. There are several formats, including DVD-RW, DVD-RAM and DVD+RW, that are competing to become the industry standard. However, each format offers its own advantages and challenges. DVD-RW is mainly for people looking to record video and play it on consumer DVD players. But that format isn't as convenient for data storage as are DVD-RAM and DVD+RW, which allow drive owners to store data randomly, like a hard drive does. In addition, consumers can only record once per session with DVD-RW drives, meaning that if people want to add a video clip to others already on a disc, they must erase the entire disc and record all the video clips at once.

DVD+RW discs can "essentially act like a big floppy," which is why Sony is supporting the format, Sony marketing manager Bob DeMoulin said this week. The support for DVD+RW from Sony, as well as from other major manufacturers such as PC makers Dell Computer and Hewlett-Packard, is a sign that DVD+RW is picking up momentum. But by no means is the debate over. "We're firmly behind +RW, and we believe it will be successful. But we're not so sure that its success doesn't mean that -RW won't be," DeMoulin said. "That's why we continue to support -RW." Gartner analyst Mary Craig said Sony's caution is warranted because DVD+RW still has two major hurdles to overcome: compatibility and supply. "Compatibility with DVD-ROM players will be a key issue for (DVD+RW), and the manufacturers will have to establish credibility with the market that they can supply (enough DVD+RW) drives," Craig said.

Sony plans to continue supporting DVD-RW through its membership in the DVD Forum--a group of hardware makers developing the DVD-RW, DVD-R and DVD-RAM formats--and by selling and manufacturing the competing discs. Still, DeMoulin said the company does not plan to manufacture DVD-RW drives. Sony is also one of the key members of the DVD+RW Alliance, a group formed to develop and promote the format. The alliance includes Dell and HP. Some Sony Vaio PCs already come with DVD-RW drives from other manufacturers. That's only because the DVD-RW drives were available before DVD+RW drives, DeMoulin said. "Our PC guys had to add the technology for competitive reasons, and it was the right decision at the time," DeMoulin said. "But if DVD+RW drives were available at that time, I think there would be DVD+RW drives in those PCs now." Mark Hanson, Sony vice president of Vaio marketing, concurred that the PC division went with DVD-RW drives because at the time that was the only option. "We're continuing to evaluate -RW, and it is probably still the main option," Hanson said. "The key is whether or not people can burn and play content on a device."

Mozilla 0.9.6 is Released has released the latest beta-test version of Mozilla, the open-source browser suite on which AOL Time Warner's Netscape 6 is based. Mozilla 0.9.6 fixes several bugs and adds new features, such as displaying page icons in the location bar and cross-platform support for .bmp and .ico image formats. Although the browser is still in beta form, it is already used widely by the development community. Its page-rendering engine, Gecko, is used as the core of other browsers such as the Linux browser Galeon, from the open-source development project GNOME. WhenMozilla reaches its 1.0 release, it will be used as the default browser by Red Hat, distributor of the most popular Linux distribution. Among other tweaks, the new beta adds a Print Preview feature, and adds Page Setup for the Mac. An improved search feature lets users highlight any word on a page and find matches via a contextual right-click menu. The software is available from Mozilla's site, for Windows, Macintosh and Linux.

New Vulnerability Found In Microsoft SQL Server

Companies with servers running Microsoft's database application should watch out for a new hacker tool that scans and then infects systems, network security experts warned on Wednesday. The hacker tool, named "Voyager Alpha Force," has already been used to infect more than 300 computers, said Elias Levy, chief technology officer at That is a small percentage of the hundreds of thousands of computers that were infected by the Code Red and Nimda computer worms in August and September, and the tool heavily relies on the unreliable Internet relay chat (IRC) system, reducing the threat of the tool. However, even a few hundred machines could be used to cause some trouble, Levy said. Although the computers that have been infected with the new tool have not yet been used to shut down Web servers via a distributed denial of service attack, they easily could be, he said. "It's a weapon that is waiting for someone to pull the trigger," he said.

In such an attack, software that has been surreptitious loaded onto multiple computers is instructed to send many requests to a targeted Web server. The deluge of data overloads the target, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate Web requests. The new tool infects computers running Microsoft's SQL Server database software that has not been configured to change the blank password used by default, according to the advisory. Once a computer has been infected, it automatically logs onto an Internet relay chat (IRC) channel, through which people can converse in real-time on the Internet, and waits for commands, he said. Levy recommends that computer systems managers change the default passwords on machines running SQL Server and put the server behind firewall software to block unauthorized access.

Weekend November 24 & 25, 2001 Top

Suse Linux PowerPC Edition Gets Update

Suse introduces Suse Linux 7.3 PowerPC EDITION. On 8 CDs, Suse Linux supplies the latest Linux operating system and more than 2,000 applications tuned to the needs of PowerPC users. This includes powerful image processing programs, desktop applications and emulators, as well as an extensive range of window managers, network tools, and editors. The improved KDE 2.2.1 desktop sets high standards with respect to user-friendliness and functionality. XFree86 4.1 and SaX2, the expanded graphical configuration tool which ensures a simple and secure setup of supported graphics cards, complement this Linux package. The virtual machine MOL (Mac on Linux) has also been improved. Using it you may start a network-capable MacOS in Linux in window- or full- screen mode.

The sound system ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) for PowerMacs among other functionalities enables you to integrate up to 8 sound cards at the same time. Even newcomers will encounter no difficulties whatsoever, thanks to Suse's proven administration and configuration tool YaST2. The automatic hardware detection and a selection of preinstalled configurations render the setup mere child's play. If you should have questions exceeding the 60-day installation support, you are welcome to access our comprehensive support database at any time. With the brand new Kernel 2.4.12, Suse Linux 7.3 PowerPC Editions boasts a greatly enhanced USB support as well as the possibility to use up to 3 GB RAM.

KDE Gets an Update

The K Desktop Environment Project has released a new version of KDE. The software is a desktop environment running on top of Linux, the open-source operating system favoured by software developers and many Web sites. KDE 2.2.2 fixes bugs and security glitches and adds a few new features over 2.2.1, released last month, but the main advantage to users will be speed improvements. The new desktop speeds up icon loading and some dialog boxes. Some developers feel that KDE's performance -- which has been criticized as slow -- is now the main issue developers should focus on. Version 2.2.2 is the last scheduled update of the KDE 2 series before version 3 appears. The KDE Project unveiled a KDE 3 alpha in October designed to encourage developers to begin porting applications to the new environment. Screenshots of what the new desktop will look like appeared earlier this month.

Packages for installing the new desktop are available on KDE's Web site and will soon be available through the automatic software update programs in individual Linux distributions, like Red Hat, Mandrake and Suse. KDE also runs on other implementations of Unix, such as FreeBSD. In August the organization, which draws on the efforts of a large number of open-source enthusiasts, released version 1.1 of its office suite. KDE's aim is to create an easy-to-use desktop for Unix-based systems, similar to those found on consumer operating systems like Macintosh or Windows. The other most popular desktop scheme is GNOME.

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