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Intel unveils new Pentium II amid controversy
By JIM BROOKS
Computer chip maker Intel unveiled its next-generation computer processor chip -- the Pentium III -- to great fanfare last week, but not without its share of critics. The chip will be available at month's end in new systems.
The new Pentium III offers the fastest-yet-processing speeds for business, Internet and gaming applications, according to Intel. However, the new chip has the ability to send its special serial number over the World Wide Web.
And it's this feature that has computer pundits and privacy watchdog groups up in arms, saying the feature violates users' privacy.
Intel officials worked to downplay this feature during the official kickoff events, according to the Associated Press.
Each Pentium III has a unique processor serial number (PSN), and the chips have the ability to transmit this identifier to Web sites that request it to help verify a user's identity.
Privacy watchdogs say this feature amounts to a violation of a user's privacy, and the groups are calling for a boycott of the processor and computers that are sold with the chip.
Intel says the Pentium III serial numbers will only be transmitted if the user allows them to be sent.
But beyond the privacy flap, the new chip received moderately positive reviews. But besides faster clock speeds (450 MHz and up), critics said the new chip offered few new features.
By year's end, expect to see Pentium III processors to reach speeds of 800 MHz -- light years faster than the original IBM PC's clock speed of 4.77 MHz.
AUCTION ACTION. If you've used the Internet for any period of time, you've probably visited the Web's biggest online auction house, eBay.com.
While eBay has been wildly successful, there's one aspect of auction buying that some people overlook, and that's the phrase "caveat emptor" or "buyer beware."
But even the most careful shopper can't always detect a fraud, even on eBay.
A Florida man was convicted recently for wire fraud in deals he conducted over the eBay and Up4Sale online auction sites.
The man used the online auctions to advertise new and used computers, attracting bids for as much as $2,700, and then never delivering the goods or providing refunds.
For his part in the scam, the Florida man must pay $22,000 in restitution and was sentenced to six months home detention and three years probation.
AOL/EBAY DEAL? Speaking of eBay, America Online is reportedly in talks with eBay to strike what the Wall Street Journal called "a closer business relationship."
A deal might include AOL buying a part of eBay, which has more than two million registered users and handles enormous numbers of online visitors who don't just visit the site once and leave, but return time and time again to browse the listings. The average eBay users stayed at the site for 27 minutes, according to a recent survey, the paper reported.
The deal would benefit eBay by protecting its early lead in the online auction arena, which is seeing more competition coming online all the time.
AOL Y2K FIX. The Y2K bug is responsible for killing off what was left of the old Prodigy online service, which its owners decided to end rather than prepare it for the next millenium.
But America Online, with its 15-million members, isn't about to pull the plug on its vast customer base.
The company announced recently it expects to spend about $8 million to get its network systems Y2K compliant.
According to its filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AOL believes its systems will be ready by year's end, but can't predict 100 percent success, or the costs to fix any additional, unforeseen problems.
SPEAKING OF Y2K. The Securities and Exchange Commission has created and released a new database on its Web site for investors seeking access to Y2K readiness reports filed by brokerage firms, mutual funds and other companies.
The database has 13,000 reports detailing companies' Y2K readiness, including anticipated costs and contingency plans.
The SEC is taking Y2K serious. It recently charged 37 small brokerage firms and nine stock-transfer agents with failing to fully disclose their Y2K readiness.
The SEC's Web site address is www.sec.gov.
SEARS ONLINE. Sears, Roebuck and Co. announced this week it will unveil the Internet's largest online appliance store this spring.
Sears -- the nation's second-largest retailer -- will also offer delivery, installation and repair services through the new Web site.
And for appliance owners, you'll be interested to know that Sears will also launch its Sears PartsDirect companion Web site, which will carry more than 4.2 million appliance parts from 400 manufacturers.
Sears PartsDirect will launch in March, offering parts for appliances as well as tools, lawn and garden equipment and electronics.
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