Archive 11

Even being the richest man in the world doesn't stop you from getting a pie in the face.

"But godliness with contentment is great gain."
1 Timothy 6:6 (NIV).

Intel Fixit

Posted 22 June 2000.

Intel yesterday said it would take a charge of US$200 million in the second quarter to cover costs associated with a motherboard recall, bringing the total cost of the recall to approximately US$253 million.

The motherboard recall stems from a flaw with a chip called the memory translator hub (MTH), which allowed computer makers to combine a Pentium III and Intel's 820 chipset with standard computer memory rather than costly and scarce Rambus-based memory. As part of the recall, Intel is eliminating the MTH entirely and giving users a new motherboard stocked with more expensive Rambus memory.

Earlier, Intel reduced its first-quarter earnings by US$53 million to pay for costs associated with the recall. The motherboard recall, which was announced in May, will apparently cost less than the notorious Pentium recall of 1994, which costs the company roughly US$475 million.

The Case Of The Bouncing Ball

Posted 22 June 2000.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson has moved the appeal to the Supreme Court, and at the same:

... indefinitely stayed business restrictions against Microsoft that had been set to go into effect on Sept. 5, a move that made the day a mixed victory both for the government and Microsoft.

For Microsoft, the stay removes the immediate threat of radical changes to how it conducts its business. For the Department of Justice (DOJ) and 19 states, it removes a deadline that could have compelled the Supreme Court to kick the case back to the appellate level without having time to review the appeal's merits.

The Supreme Court is better for the government (for some reason) than the appeal court.

"The sly fox," said Rich Gray, an intellectual property attorney with Outside General Counsel Silicon Valley in Menlo Park, Calif. "Jackson clearly wants to give the Supreme Court as much time as it needs to review the case."


Today's maneuvering by Jackson almost guarantees the appeals court will not touch the case unless the Supreme Court refuses to hear it.

Gray said he chuckled at Jackson's sidetracking of the appeals court with his handling of the stay motion. "It's interesting to see a judge acting in a strategic matter. There's no other way to explain what he did."

Jackson's actions today had both Microsoft and the government claiming victory.

"We are very pleased with the Court's decision to place the appeal directly in the Supreme Court," the DOJ said in a written statement. "This decision affirms the Department's position that a quick and effective remedy is necessary to resolve this significant case."


Posted 22 June 2000.

Compaq Computer today launched a new consumer PC strategy as it jockeys to recapture the retail sales crown.

Taking yet another chapter from Apple Computer's marketing playbook, Compaq's new Presario 5000 and 7000 PCs will use a design accented in translucent colors.

In the first major redesign of its consumer line in almost four years, Compaq introduced six new colors--smokey quartz, emerald green, ruby red, amber orange, sapphire blue and amethyst purple--and kits that let consumers change colors later on. Smokey quartz will be the standard color.

Besides new PC models, Compaq also unveiled matching monitors and Presario 1400 and 1700 series notebooks. Presario 1400 portables also will be available in the six colors.


Others have followed suit in a trend Apple started with its fruit-colored iMac. IBM chose dark gray for its new NetVista line, and HP yesterday unveiled color panels for changing the look of Pavilion consumer PCs.


The Presarios also come with a new easy-open supporting frame, similar to that on the Apple's PowerMac G3 and G4 systems.

And they've replaced the normal serial and parallel ports with USB and FireWire. I bet they're hoping that Apple will remember: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.




Sapphire blue


Amethyst purple


Emerald green


Ruby red


Amber orange


Smokey quartz

Aiming For Monopoly on Security Risks

Posted 23 June 2000.

It seems that Microsodit isn't satisfied with just creating security risks in Windows and all their PC software. No, they must create security risks everywhere, on all platforms, such as the Mac:

Microsoft Word 98 creates temporary work files that contain backups of the Word documents on which you're currently working. When you quit Word these temporary files are supposed to be vaporized. On rare [?] occasions they aren't.

Because these files may contain information you'd rather not see shared around the office it's not a bad idea to occasionally use Sherlock to search for Word Work files and, upon finding them (making sure they're not Word Work files from documents you currently have open) give 'em the boot.

Rambus Slow And Still Expensive

Posted 14 July 2000.

From CNet News:

A new series of benchmarks have emerged that show Rambus memory provides less oomph than cheaper, standard high-speed memory.

And the odd part is that the tests come from Intel, the major proponent of Rambus.

In benchmark tests conducted by Intel, computers equipped with standard high-speed memory and Intel's 815 chipset outperformed similarly configured PCs with Rambus memory and the corresponding 820 chipset from the company.

The results have already reinvigorated the debate over Rambus, one of the semiconductor industry's most polarizing topics. Mountain View, Calif.-based Rambus designs fast computer memory. While proponents have maintained that Rambus-based memory can boost PC performance, detractors have said the benefits are minor, especially in light of its high cost.


In this latest round, the detractors appear to have the upper hand. A 933-MHz Pentium III computer with 128MB of PC 133 memory, or standard high-speed memory, edged out a 933-MHz computer with 128MB of Rambus memory in 11 out of 14 benchmarks. Computers with standard PC 133 memory outdid Rambus on all six productivity benchmarks, which test computers on how they run business applications. Standard memory also outdid Rambus when it came to running most multimedia and 3D applications.

The results were similar for computers containing 866-MHz chips and slower.

Although nearly all of the test results were close, Rambus effectively loses in a tie. For years, Intel has maintained that Rambus will provide superior performance.

The performance issue is critical because Rambus costs much more than standard memory. Computer makers have said that Rambus costs them twice as much or more to include in computers. At retail, Rambus memory can cost at least three times as much as the same amount of PC 133.

So at this stage there doesn't seem to be any point in Rambus technology at all.

MS Incompetance

Posted 17 July 2000.

Microsoft's strategy for Web-based software omits Sun Microsystems in favour of its own Java-like software. The decision will likely complicate developers' efforts to bring Java programs to Windows.

Such is the power of a monopoly. "Forget the user - we just want to make money."

In other news, a flaw in Microsoft's Hotmail program is inadvertently sending subscribers' email addresses to online advertisers. The problem crops up when people who receive HTML newsletters open messages that come packaged with banner ads.

Also, Microsoft's lastest browser came under fire from Web standards advocates. The newly released Internet Explorer 5.5 introduces shortcuts for Web developers that make adding page elements, such as calendars, as easy as inserting a tag; but these innovations and the company's questionable adherence to basic industry standards for technologies like HTML mean that Web pages created to work for IE won't work with products from Netscape, Opera Software and other companies.

MORE Patches, MORE Unpatched Security Risks

Posted 19 July 2000, updated 20 July 2000.

Microsoft has issued patches for security vulnerabilities in its Office 2000 applications, including one an Internet security group described as perhaps the "most dangerous programming error" by the software company to date.

However, Bugsoft (formerly known as Microsoft) has not issued a patch for the "IE Script" bug that affects its Access database management software, but has recommended a workaround for it.

Locally, Ihug is taking the flaw so seriously that yesterday evening it posted a notice recommending that customers currently using Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express "consider the use of alternate software ... until such time as Microsoft releases a patch or upgrade for these products".

The message offers links to the mail clients Pegasus Mail and Eudora Light and to the BugTraq report on the security problem.

The System Administration, Networking and Security (SANS) Institute has issued a warning that Access users are "vulnerable to total compromise simply by previewing or reading an email (without opening any attachments)." (Emphasis added.) Or by just viewing a malicious web page.

"It allows [a cracker] to do anything I can do as a user of my computer," said Alan Paller, director of SANS. This includes editing files, deleting them or e-mailing them to remote destinations without a user's knowledge.

All users of Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 workstation edition who have installed Microsoft Access 97 or 2000, while running Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher, are vulnerable to this sort of "total compromise," according to the SANS alert.

Which pretty much includes anyone using MS Office while connected to the Internet.

Doesn't scare me - I use a Mac and refuse to use MS products. Resist compromise - buy Mac.

Bug History

Posted 20 July 2000.

With the revelation of the new serious security risk (see story immediately below) comes recollections of other serious - and unfixed - security problems with MS bugware.

Quote Elias Levy, chief technology officer at SecurityFocus: The Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension buffer overflow in e-mail clients such as Outlook basically allows crackers to plant malicious code that executes even before a user opens an e-mail message. Microsoft hasn't really implemented a fix but provided only a work-around to the problem.

Compaq Gives Up On Colour

Posted 21 July 2000.

Is cool out at Compaq Computer?

When Compaq introduced the Presario 3500 in October, the sleek, new, dark blue consumer PC followed CEO Michael Capellas' edict to "make it cool." Eight months later, Compaq has quietly pulled the Presario 3500, which will still be sold in Japan but nowhere else.

The demise of the stylish PC, decked out in a magnetic blue case and sporting an LCD flat-panel display and speakers, comes as rival Dell Computer pulls the plug on its colorful WebPC.

Both systems were heralded as a response to Apple's distinctive iMac, the all-in-one machine generally credited with reinvigorating the company. But consumers weren't buying similarly style-conscious PCs, which generally cost more than plain PCs and offered less value.

The "Sharper Image" set and second-PC buyers Compaq hoped would flock to the stylish Presario didn't take to the system. Changing buying habits--performance over style--led to the Presario 3500s demise, say analysts.

More On (No) Security

Posted 21 July 2000.

The gap was discovered last month by a South American internet security company, USSR (Underground Security Systems Research), and it alerted Microsoft.

The software giant worked on ways to fix the problem before alerting the public, so no hacker could cause damage with the knowledge. But news leaked on to the net and Microsoft was forced to release details this week.

Affected software versions include Outlook Express 4.0, 4.01, 5.0, 5.01 and Outlook 97, 98 and 2000.

Ryan Russell, moderator of Bugtraq, a popular security bulletin board, said the hole gave people the ability to access a victim's hard drive. "That is about as serious as it gets."

The information security group System Administration, Networking and Security Institute said the hole was a dangerous program error because it allowed "crackers" to take full control of another computer.

Auckland software designer Phil Saleh was not surprised by the news. In May, the Herald reported that he believed he had discovered a loophole in the same Outlook Express program that could allow hackers to control a computer through an e-mail or introduce dangerous viruses.

Microsoft denies Mr Saleh's claims, despite independent verification last month from IT security company E-Secure IT.

But Mr Saleh said: "It looks very similar to the vulnerability I warned them about months ago, but they refused to accept there was any problem."

Arjen de Landgraaf, director of E-Secure IT (a division of Co-Logic), said that although the technology involved with the latest flaw was different, the result was the ultimately the same.

"We have discovered similar flaws and forwarded them to Microsoft. They always play the problem down."