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Netscape and Microsoft push

Netcaster, Netscape's push channel software integrated into the latest version of its Communicator suite, has been launched. Based on open Internet standards, such as HTML, Java and JavaScript, Netcaster allows virtually any Web site to become a channel that sends up-to-date information directly to the PC desktop. Rather than using search engines to locate information, users can have it pushed in their direction by subscribing to channels, viewing them off-line, or creating a Webtop - a permanently open channel on the desktop that is continually updated every time an Internet connection is opened.

Seven hundred channels have already been set up for Netcaster with content provided by the likes of ABCNews and CNN as well as MTV and Disney. The software is available for download at Microsoft has also announced its first UK push channels for Internet Explorer 4, the browser which will be bundled with every computer running Windows or MacOS next year. Customised content will be delivered from the Web pages of, among others, Virgin Net, BBC, New Scientist, Vogue, BSkyB and The Financial Times.

Pentium Pro replacement

The Pentium Pro will be phased out by the end of 1998. New Pentium II chips are set to be running at 333MHz when they make their debut next year with speeds rising to 400MHz later in the year, according to plans unveiled by Intel last week. A new "Slot 2" design, scheduled for a mid- 1998 release, will operate at higher bus speeds - 100Mhz rather than the current 66MHz. By avoiding a bottleneck between the bus and the processor there will be an increase in overall computer performance. Further features include support for multiprocessor servers that can use four processors, and the ability to communicate with high-speed cache memory twice as fast as current Pentium IIs do. The new chip will be aimed at "mid-range and higher-end server and workstations. The same market that the Pentium Pro processor is selling into today," said an Intel spokesman. Versions of the chip will also be made for use in notebook PCs.

Cloning go slow

Power Computing Corporation, the first company to win a licence to build clones of Apple Macintosh computers, has stopped work on its new $28m headquarters in Texas and cut back on its recruitment drive. The company blames Apple for not committing itself to the continued licensing of clone makers. Although clone manufacturers were largely responsible for the relative cheapness of the PC and its consequent position as the industry standard, Apple were wary of following suit and refused to grant licences until in 1994 a PC clone builder, Stephen Kahng, set up Power Computing with backing from Olivetti and won a MacOS licence. However, since Steve Jobs has once again taken a more influential role at Apple there have been suggestions that the company may curtail or even scrap the rights of other companies to build Mac clones.

Fighting junk with junk

A hacker broke into Earthlink's dial-up service in the US and "spammed" thousands of newsgroups and sent out millions of junk e-mails - many pretty crude - aimed at embarrassing Sanford Wallace, head of Cyberpromotions (source of much junk e-mail). While the effort clearly didn't come from Wallace, it may encourage Earthlink to tighten up its dial-up network (on machines) so it can't be used for similar junk e-mail abuses