December 2000

Real World
Web-wide World
Wireless World
Hard World
Soft World

Real World

  • A secret chatroom built into the CIA network was recently uncovered. The chatroom had been going for some five years, and was reportedly used mainly by employees for the passing of smutty jokes. The CIA top brass are unamused, and the 160 or so chatroom users have faced prosecution. This week four were sacked, eighteen received 'letters of reprimand' and seventy-nine others received 'warning letters'.

    The rival secret FBI chatroom remains as yet undiscovered.
  • A recently leaked document, originating from the deputy director-general of the National Criminal Intelligence Service, advances the idea that all emails and telephone calls made in the UK should be archived for seven years. The document reportedly has the backing of MI5, MI6, GCHQ, Customs & Excise and the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Web-Wide World

  • As is now well known, there is an increasing problem with availability of domain names. Apparently (although the Softsteel team hasn't tried to verify this seductive factette), all single English words are now unavailable as .coms. The generally accepted solution to this problem is to increase the number of name extensions. So ICANN (the quango somewhat unilaterally set up by the US to regulate name extensions) has just approved for general use the following seven extra extensions: .info for general use, .biz for businesses, .name for individuals, .pro for professionals, .museum for museums, .coop for business cooperatives and .aero for the aviation industry. Sites with these extensions are expected to start appearing in the middle of 2001.

Wireless World

  • The Japanese firm DoCoMo is reportedly poised to buy 20 percent of the American telecommunications giant AT&T, for some 9 billion dollars. DoCoMo is currently the world's largest telcoms firm by market value, and dominates the Japanese mobile Internet market. Its "I-mode" protocol is an alternative to the European WAP protocol, and America is seen as the main battleground for the competing standards.

Hard World

  • The first chips in Intel's new Pentium 4 range have just been released, showing clock speeds of 1.4 and 1.5 GHz. Regardless of these clock speeds, however, the new system architecture of the P4 chips means that their actual performance when running standard office software will only be comparable to that of earlier chips running at 1 GHz - Pentium 3s or AMD Athlons. The only speed advantage will be seen by those running 3D graphics, where P4s give significantly better performance. Also, the new P4 chips are expensive, as the currently only work with an expensive type of RAM.

    So is this all bad news for Intel? Not really. An important feature of the new architecture is that it is capable of supporting much higher clock speeds, moving towards 3 Ghz. So subsequent releases of P4 chips will start to pull away from the opposition.

Soft World

  • After Microsoft has released Internet Explorer 5, Netscape has now released the long-awaited Netscape 6. (Note: anyone looking for Netscape 5 will be disappointed, as Netscape decided to go straight through to 6). The industry reception of the new Netscape browser has been mixed, with the product falling short of very high expectations. The new features on top of a completely redesigned engine include an easily customisable user interface; various functions copied from Internet Explorer, like a sidebar; improved security; integration of messaging systems. Fans of Netscape will welcome it; fans of Internet Explorer will have no compelling reason to swap sides.

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