New motherboards may save money

New motherboards may save money

Members of the competing chip camps have announced new standards meant to make it easier and cheaper to build networking and audio features onto PC motherboards. Hardware manufacturers are most affected, but the result could be cheaper PCs with more features, configurations, and expansion slots. New specs are available now for both Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. systems. The announcements involve risers, which plug into a motherboard. They hold chips for functions like modems and audio devices.

Two years ago, Intel began pushing an Audio/Modem Riser specification that was widely adopted by the industry, though products didn’t ship until mid-1999. The two newest specs support network technologies now in demand, such as Ethernet and phone-line networks for home PCs.

Earning bragging rights

On the topic of chips, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. has upped the ante in the race to offer the speediest PC processor on the planet with the introduction of a 850MHz version of its high-end Athlon processor series. Several PC vendors, including Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and IBM Corp., are readying systems powered by the new chip for both business and consumer markets, AMD said in a statement. The 850MHz Athlon is priced at US$849 in 1,000-unit quantities, AMD said. Although a mere 50MHz faster than the fastest version of Intel Corp.’s Pentium III chip currently available, the 850MHz Athlon again gives AMD the bragging rights to the fastest PC processor.

Time to tighten privacy

The Canadian Information Processing Society of Toronto has joined with the Canadian Automobile Association in condemning what it is calling a violation of privacy on the part of the Ontario government. It recently came to light in the province that the Ministry of Transportation routinely sells driver license information, such as home addresses to private companies, many of them insurers. In a press statement, CIPS Toronto head William Pearson said the public should be concerned, and added that the enforcement of privacy standards must begin now, as the rapid pace of technology makes accessing such information easier every day. CIPS Toronto also points to a U.S .court ruling which upheld the privacy of driver license information.

How does your favourite OS rate?

Linux cornered 25 per cent of the server operating system market last year, according to preliminary data from International Data Corp. (IDC). But in terms of revenue share, Linux remains a tiny fraction of the market. Microsoft Corp.’s Windows NT held steady at 38 per cent of the server operating system market last year, while Novell Inc. finished at 19 per cent. Meanwhile, all of the combined versions of Unix garnered 15 per cent of the market. But IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky warned against reading too much in these numbers. All server operating systems, especially NT, are continuing to experience very strong growth, but the unusual Linux growth numbers are obscuring that fact.

Honouring your e-effort

Industry advocates CATAAlliance and the Ottawa Commerce 2000 e-commerce expo have launched a new e-business award program, the E-Canada awards, to be held annually in the nation’s capital. According to John Reid, head of CATAAlliance, the program is the first of its kind in Canada. The first award ceremony is slated for May 2, after a round of nominations and final selections. Awards include: e-business of the year with more than 100 employees, e-business of the year with 100 or less, and the top graduate student in e-business. If you’re interested, you’d better hurry; the last day for nominations is March 1. (Check out Three finalists in each category, selected by a panel of judges, will be announced on March 20. Winners will be announced on April 2.

Cisco enlists the homeless

In an effort to address a Silicon Valley staffing crisis, Cisco Systems Inc. is extending a company-run training program from its usual venue of high schools and vocational colleges into a homeless shelter. The 26-week-long program began this month in the James F. Boccardo Regional Reception Center, a facility that has 250 beds and provides three-month housing for single adults as well as families. The center provides services to 10,000 people per year in San Jose, Calif., where Cisco is based. A spokesman at the Emergency Housing Consortium in San Jose said the program’s recipients — young, somewhat educated and usually possessing some computer experience — don’t reflect the national stereotype of the homeless population.


Thin clients have so far failed to make major inroads in corporate markets. But users and analysts say Windows 2000 may change that. With the launch of Windows 2000 Server and the inclusion of Terminal Services as a standard feature, support for thin clients will no longer be an expensive add-on. That could ignite sales of thin clients, said Eileen O’Brien, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. She said she expects total thin-client sales, estimated at a mere 650,000 units for last year, to almost double to 1.2 million this year. Most of the growth will come from Windows-based terminals, rather than Java-based ones or other thin clients, said O’Brien. Windows-based terminals (WBT), due from several vendors this spring, will support local printers and a local browser.

An important cause

Symantec Canada has announced their sponsorship of the Missing Project, designed to warn teachers, parents and above all, children, about the dangers posed by predators on the Internet. According to figures from Symantec, 800 children went missing in North America in 1998. Though in the past, many children have been taken from public places, the Internet unfortunately allows predators to form secret relationships with children, luring them into going somewhere with them of their own free will. Symantec says children ages 11 to 14 are most at risk. Missing Project comes with a computer game and workbook, which takes children through a real-life abduction scenario.

Is the Web open to all?

Interesting debate from America: a government committee heard conflicting arguments recently over whether the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to virtual space in much the same way it now applies to physical spaces. The U.S. Department of Justice believes the ADA, a law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities, does apply to Web sites, and the federal government is expected to issue accessibility requirements directed at federal departments and agencies by March. A number of changes would have to be made to comply with these regulations, such as including streaming audio or video files to accompany text, captioning for video and restricting the use of colour to display information. Web sites will also have to provide formats that are compatible with braille- and speech-synthesis devices. But some legal experts question whether the ADA covers Web sites.

U.S. rebukes NATO laggards

Although NATO nations – including Canada — contributed significantly to the success of the 78-day air war in Kosovo, the significant high-tech “imbalance” between U.S. forces and its NATO allies could have long-term implications for the effectiveness of the alliance, a U.S. Department of Defense report has concluded. The report concludes that deficiencies in NATO’s command and control, information systems, secure communications and precision attack capabilities were among the “most important” problems and shifted a “disproportionate burden of responsibility for combat operations to the United States.” To rectify these problems, the Pentagon is throwing its support behind the Defense Capabilities Initiative, a long-term program that seeks to enhance U.S./NATO systems interoperability and logistics planning.

Now it’s eBay’s turn

Auction aggregator Bidder’s Edge Inc. has filed an antitrust lawsuit in the U.S. against on-line auctioneer eBay Inc., charging that the company engages in unfair business practices and is trying to monopolize the on-line auction market. The lawsuit, filed in San Jose Federal District Court by Burlington, Mass.-based Bidder’s Edge, comes in response to a complaint filed by eBay in December.

eBay is trying to stop Bidder’s Edge from accessing eBay and then placing eBay product and price information on its own site. In addition, eBay’s lawsuit alleges that Bidder’s Edge, which lists information from numerous auction sites, engages in unfair business practices and computer fraud.

Let ’em talk

The key to successful Internet publishing is to encourage readers to provide site content through comments and discussions, a panel of keynote speakers said at the recent opening of the Seybold Publishing 2000 conference.

One speaker said the difference between a boring site and an interesting Web presence comes down to user participation. As an example, he showed the audience the slow-loading Web site for gun-maker Smith & Wesson Co., which did not offer commentary on the relative merits of the various weapons offered in the on-line catalogue. However, the highly interactive site for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership with its “Ask the Rabbi” column provided plenty of opinion and discussion.

ERP skills good as gold

Now that Y2K projects have ended, information technology hiring managers are seeing a real shortage of talent that can handle enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. One reason is that ERP skills are specialized, and as such, numbers are lacking. Another reason for such hiring woes is that many IT professionals with ERP skills are being lured to higher-paying consulting assignments. But companies can’t rely on consultants alone, because when they leave, they take treasured knowledge of the companies’ ERP systems with them.

The bottom line: demand for ERP systems and talent may have dwindled last year as a result of the resource requirements of year 2000 projects, but industry professionals say this year will be a different story.

We told you so

Interesting sidebar to the much-talked about U.S. Web site attacks: A U.S. body called The National Infrastructure Protection Center, managed by the FBI, anticipated the kind of massive denial-of-service attacks that crippled a number of commercial electronic commerce sites last week, and offered a free software tool to help detect the software “demons” or “zombies” used to carry out those attacks. But few Internet service providers or Web-based companies downloaded the tool from the NIPC Web site. Michael Vatis, NIPC director, said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation-managed NIPC anticipated the denial-of-service attacks over the New Year, but said few of those who would be vulnerable took advantage of the availability of the tool.

Attention on-line retailers

The biggest culprit that kept on-line shoppers from becoming on-line buyers this past holiday season was poor customer service – not frustration over technical glitches – according to a report by Ohio-based Resource Marketing Inc. A six-member cybershopping team visited 50 sites over 10 weeks, placing orders, returning merchandise and contacting customer service departments. Among the charges: one site never responded to e-mail inquiries, did not include an invoice and did not post merchandise return information on its site. At another site, due to “technical glitches,” customers lost entire shopping carts of items at checkout. A separate poll of 1,500 consumers conducted by Resource and Research Connections @Talk City showed a gap between what they consider important and what they experienced when shopping on-line.

CA buys Sterling

Computer Associates International Inc. (CA) has announced its intention to buy Sterling Software Inc. in a US$4 billion transaction. Texas-based Sterling, which reported US$807 million in revenue for fiscal 1999, offers software and services for application development, business intelligence, and information, storage and network management, according to a statement from Computer Associates. CA plans to bring together many of the two companies’ technologies, including Sterling’s COOL suite and CA’s Jasmine ii information infrastructure, according to the statement. The merger, which has been approved by both companies’ boards of directors, will create the industry’s largest supplier of storage management technology, according to CA.

Wanted: superhuman IT staff

IT managers will become more integrated into the top management structure and strategic planning of companies, according to John Challenger, of the employment trend watchers Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s the good news. But IT managers need to polish their communication skills as they rise in the ranks. Here are five categories of workers Challenger says will be most valuable in the future: Border crossers — those who think like people in other parts of your company, in order to better relate; non-stop students — those who are eager to learn; trouble seekers — those who adopt a can-do attitude and seek out difficult assignments; the great facilitators — those who can bridge group differences; and clockless workers — those who love to work.

Network rivals get together

Seven major network vendors – including Brampton, Ont.-based Nortel Networks — got together last week in Mountain View, Calif., and formally announced the formation of the 10 Gigabit Ethernet Alliance. The group said its mission will be to promote this future and faster version of the Ethernet scheme for use in LANs, WANs and metropolitan-area networks. Transporting data at 10Gbps is a tenfold jump in speed over the Gigabit Ethernet that’s just now going mainstream, according to the new alliance. A spokesman from Santa Clara, Calif.-based 3Com Corp., one of the founders of the alliance, said it would be a couple years before the standards are ironed out and 10Gb Ethernet hardware becomes available. And, unlike Gigabit Ethernet that can now run over copper wires, 10Gb connections will have to be made over fibre-optic cables.