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Dux Computer Newsletter
May 15, 2001; Vol. 1, No. 3

Recent News and Commentary
Tech Tip
Around the Internet

Recent News and Commentary. The computer price wars continue this month among the big players with HP and Compaq following Dell's price cuts.  So far, Dell has established itself as the latest price leader (if not, certainly the largest) and Dell intends to keep it that way.  Earlier this month Dell's Chief Financial Officer Tom Meredith said,  "We will be ruthless in how we address our cost structure going forward."  When asked if these measures include layoffs he answered, "Absolutely."  Dell followed-up a couple of days later with an announcement that they would cut up to 4,000 jobs, or 10% of their job force, in addition to 1,700 positions they cut three months ago.

Well, history shows that PC price leaders (e.g., Packard-Bell) have had to cut things somewhere and those things in the past have been quality and support.  Low prices typically led to a surge in sales and market share followed by the demise of the price leader as end users and potential buyers become disillusioned by poor quality and support.

E-machines "was" another one of those price leaders with el cheapo computers (I don't say that lightly; I have looked under the hoods of a few of them) and, according to the owners of those PC's I had in my shop, not much in the way of support.  I say "was" because on the same day that Dell announced the latest round of price cuts, E-Machines announced that they may try to find a buyer (ok, nearly "was").

There is no doubt that times are tough in the PC industry.  Today, Merrill Lynch reduced its forecasts of PC growth for the current year from 7 to 3 percent.  And purveyors of quality computers and customer support are fading as attested to by the recent news that Micron actually agreed to pay $70 million to the Gores Technology Group to take its PC division off it's hands.

Things should start to look up for the PC industry next year as new technologies kick-in and the large number of computers that were purchased 1999 during the Y2K fiasco start to show their age.  Perhaps Dell et al have a new twist that will allow deep price cuts while maintaining a resemblance of quality and support until the market improves.  I am skeptical.

AMD just introduced its latest entry in the CPU wars, the mobile Athlon 4 and Duron processors with the long-awaited Palomino (now Athlon 4) core.  These processors have AMD's PowerNow! technology which optimizes battery life and reduces heat  by dynamically changing the CPU voltage and operating frequency in response to the system's demand for processing power without noticeable impact on the user's perception of speed.  In this automatic mode, the mobile AMD Athlon processor "consumes as little as an average of 2 Watts running typical office applications."  For a comparison, the non-mobile, 1 GHz Athlon toaster eats up power roughly equivalent to that of a half an incandescent light bulb.  Currently, the mobile Athlon 4 comes in 1GHz, 950MHz, 900MHz and 850MHz versions and the mobile Duron is available in 850MHz and 800MHz flavors.  Both have 200 MHz front side buses instead of the 266 Mhz FSBs found in the new non-mobile DDR Athlons.  AMD press release.   Mobile Athlon 4 section of AMD's web site.   At the same time Compaq announced the availability of a 1 GHz AMD Athlon 4 processor in its Compaq Presario 1200Z notebook.  Look for AMD to roll-out it's dual CPU server platform with the AMD 760MP chipset and using Athlons with Palomino cores at COMPUTEX in Taipei, Taiwan, on June 4th.

Solid Nitrogen.  Researchers at the Carnegie Institution have found that applying extreme pressure to Nitrogen gas converts it into solid semi-conductor.  This solid maintains its solid state if the pressure is gradually reduced and the temperature is kept below 100 K.  Nitrogen makes up 75% of the Earth's atmosphere and must be as common as the sand that is used to make the silicon semi-conductors in most of today's electronics.  Click here to read a little more.

More news.

Tech Tip.  What is the uplink port on an Ethernet Hub or Switch?   There is no big mystery about the difference between an uplink and a regular port.  Each Ethernet interface has two transmit pins (+ and -) and two receive pins (click here for a diagram)).  The transmit pins at one end of a cable have to be connected to the receive pins at the other and vice versa.  An uplink port does not crossover the transmit and receive pins and a regular port does.  If two hubs/switches (What is the difference between a hub and switch?) are connected together with a straight-thru cable then one end must crossover (regular port) and one end must not (uplink port).  If a crossover cable is used to connect them, then the ports at both ends must be the same kind of port.  If a straight-thru cable is used to connect them, then the ports must be different.  A PC can be connected to an uplink port with a crossover cable and to a regular port with a straight-thru cable.  Also, be aware that many hubs/switches share the uplink port with one of the regular ports, usually port 1.  Both ports will not work if they are both connected at the same time.  Finally, many hubs and switches have a switch associated with the uplink port that can switch the port between uplink and regular port configurations.

Around the Internet.  Microsoft just launched its Tools on the Web.  This web site includes more than 120,000 images, over 1,000 sample documents, help for office products, and other free goodies.


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Copyright, Disclaimer, and Trademark Information Copyright © 1996-2006 Larry F. Byard.  All rights reserved. This material or parts thereof may not be copied, published, put on the Internet, rewritten, or redistributed without explicit, written permission from the author.