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The Independent Culture
LARRY ELLISON, chief executive officer of Oracle, the world's largest database software company, and owner and skipper of the US yacht Sayonara, said that it was only the skill of his 23-man crew that kept his yacht intact in last week's Sydney-Hobart race. Ellison's yacht won the 630 nautical mile race after leading from almost the start, but up to six sailors, including British Olympic sailor Glyn Charles, died in 70-plus knot gales and 20ft waves.

"Things got extremely dangerous," Ellison said. "Guys were knocked down time and time again and kept getting up and kept getting back to work to keep the boat in one piece and keep all of us alive.

"There were winds of 90 miles an hour, and huge seas sweeping the deck. The wind made sounds I have never heard before," Ellison said. "We were learning of people dying. I saw a couple of guys pretty choked up and this is a pretty tough crew."

Race organisers said a full inquiry would be held into the world's worst yachting disaster since the Fastnet race in 1979, in which 15 sailors died. Ellison, who had promised to join Ted Turner in this year's Fastnet, said he didn't know whether he would go ocean-racing again. "It will take a little time to place this in perspective," he said. "Ted did the Fastnet in `79. I want to talk to him about that. He didn't race much after that. Right now I'm not anxious to go back and do another ocean race.

"This is not what this [ocean racing] is suppose to be about - difficult yes, dangerous no, dying and life threatening, definitely not.''

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INTEL CONTINUED its price war with AMD and other chip manufacturers by making unscheduled, unannounced price cuts of up to 30 per cent on its Celeron processors last week and rolling out a cheaper version this week. Price cuts on the Pentium II family are expected to follow.

AMD's K6-2 chips, typically priced between 15-25 per cent less than similarly powered Intel devices, have made significant inroads into Intel's market, particularly in the well-specified pounds 500 entry-level range of systems. One advantage AMD has had is lower production costs because its chips plug into cheaper motherboards based on the open-standard socket seven. Intel's Celeron has required more expensive packaging for the proprietary "Slot 1" architecture designed for the Pentium II range.

The new, lower-price Celerons, running at 366Mhz and 400Mhz, take advantage of lower chip packaging costs associated with using a new "370 Pin Socket" design which is cheaper to manufacture than Slot 1. The new design will also fit Intel's Micros ATX motherboard, which will be used in "micro- tower" systems. The smaller system boxes, which fit more easily on to typical desktops, are around six inches shorter than standard mini-tower units.

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AOL, THE biggest Internet service provider (ISP) in the world, reached a landmark 15 million members in its home country last month - an increase of one million over the previous month. Christmas day saw the most new members signing up in a single day in the online giant's history.

According to research carried out by ZD Market Intelligence, by November AOL (excluding its CompuServe subsidiary) served one million more home users than all the US local ISPs combined. At the beginning of the year, AOL had eight million members compared with 12 million for local ISPs. Among business users AOL also outperformed local ISPs with a 32 per cent share against 29.9.

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MICROSOFT HAS filed suits in Texas seeking temporary and permanent injunctions against two companies it says are infringing its trademarks. TexasRGV.com and Trademarkdomains.com are accused of "cyber-squatting", registering well-known company domains and attempting to sell them on to the companies. Microsoft's complaint listed 10 disputed domains with names such as microsoftkids.com, windowsfiles.com and microsoftoffice.com.

"Microsoft is one of the most well-known and admired companies in the world. No one, on the Internet or off, should be permitted to benefit from using Microsoft's trademarks to mislead the public," Steve Aeschbacher, a Microsoft attorney, said. "That type of behaviour is not permitted under the law. Trademarks are vital pieces of intellectual property and are critical to the clear communication of information to individual consumers, businesses and others regarding a product's source, quality and compatibility."

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TWO HACKERS were sentenced to death by a court in Jiangsu province in eastern China, according to the official newspaper there last week, after being found guilty of breaking into a bank computer network and stealing 260,000 yuan. The court also confiscated 40,000 yuan from Hao Jinglong, formerly an accountant at the Zhenjiang branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and his brother Hao Jingwen. The pair opened 16 accounts under various names in a branch of the bank in September and later broke into the branch to install a device in a computer terminal which they used to move 720,000 yuan into their accounts.

Meanwhile, in Beijing, Chairman Mao's Little Red Book was updated to celebrate the105th anniversary of his birth last Saturday. The CD-Rom version of the Communist leader's sayings contains more than 3,000 pictures and 120 film and television clips as well as 20 volumes of political thought.

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JAPANESE POLICE said that a Japanese language Web-based suicide service has led to at least one death in Tokyo and seven deliveries of potassium cyanide capsules. The Web site gave advice to those "who do not know how to obtain the right drug", according to Reuters, and offered a lethal dose of cyanide for delivery by parcel post at a cost of 30,000-50,000 yen.

Police say the service came to light last month after a 24-year-old woman died from cyanide poisoning in hospital. They also said that a 27-year-old licensed pharmacist, believed to operate the service based in Sapporo, had killed himself after learning of the woman's death. The names of six other customers were discovered. One had attempted suicide by another means. Three had not taken the cyanide delivered to them. Two remained untraceable.

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