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TRANSMETA, ONE of the most secretive Silicon Valley start-ups, has started to give out some details of a processor named Crusoe it is planning to release next year.

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system, who works for the company, said he could not give full details of the chip, but, speaking at the Comdex Trade Show in Las Vegas last week, he revealed that it would be a smart CPU with software as an integral part of the microprocessor.

Reports suggest that the chip, using hardware and software, will be able to imitate other chips, including Intel processors. "It has a very streamlined design and because of that versatile design, it can be made to look almost like any processor," said an industry spokesman who wanted to remain anonymous.

"The idea is to make it almost chameleon-like in nature. It consumes a limited amount of power and it can mimic any processor out there." It is expected that the chip will be able to run Windows applications, but without the performance drain usually associated with emulators. Significantly, it is expected to do this without having to license Intel technology.

THE MOTION Picture Association of America (MPAA) is trying to get websites to remove a program that breaks the encryption code in DVDs and allows them to be copied. Rather than target end users, the MPAA has sent letters to website owners citing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that makes it a crime in the United States to sell or distribute technology that can be used to thwart copyright protection devices. "The MPAA takes seriously any unauthorised compromises of encryption technology," said association spokesman Rich Taylor.

Many sites have removed the program, but some say the MPAA should not attack those who are building the market for DVDs and "rippers" that allow consumers to make legal copies of discs. "We all know that those rippers are available at 300 different sites over the Internet," the DVD Utilities Network said on its site. "The MPAA should be more careful when attacking trendmakers and webmasters."

MICROSOFT'S RELEASE last week of the latest version of its MSN Messenger software signalled the end of its ongoing tussle with AOL to try and make its software inter-operable with AOL's Instant Messenger (AIM). Microsoft said that to continue the fight would leave its users open to a serious security risk.

Microsoft has repeatedly tried to make its software work with AIM while AOL has blocked it, saying that the attempts amount to hacking and unauthorised use of AOL servers.

Both companies are working with an independent body on adopting industry standards for instant messaging systems.

Microsoft said it was giving up its struggle because AOL's latest block exposes a "very serious security bug". "We have now reached a point where an interim solution is no longer possible," Microsoft said. "With the release of MSN Messenger Service 2, Microsoft has decided it is more important to protect the security of MSN Messenger users while remaining focused on an industry standard."

Tricia Primrose, an AOL spokeswoman, said: "We're happy that Microsoft has decided to respect the privacy and security of our network and our AIM users. We look forward to continuing to work with the industry on the issue of instant messaging."

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