Cyber Ramblings - Aug 21, 2001

21 August 2001 Closes Down Site

After an online ad slump, New York-based chat and gaming site has decided to shut most of its Web business and reduce its staff by half. The company also closed its community site and its web hosting business It has placed its U.K.-based Games Domain, as well as Happy Puppy, Kids Domain, and Chips & Bits sites up for sale. Another 60 jobs, 49 percent of its remaining workforce, will also be let go.

Plans to move its headquarters to smaller offices will take place in mid-August. According to CEO Chuck Peck, the company had faith in the future of online advertising, but it is simply not in a position to stay in business in the long-term. He blames the current spending slump to "a temporary pause in market's overall growth."

Coffee Pot Brings in Record Price

Cambridge University computer scientists have unplugged their famous Internet coffee pot, and turned a profit that many a dot-com might envy. Spiegel Online of Germany successfully bid $4,750 for the coffee maker in the university computer lab.

The lab set up a video camera in 1991 to save staff from trudging a long distance to the Trojan Room only to find the pot empty. When it was hooked up to the Internet, becoming a Web cam, "this whole cult thing took off," said Ian Pratt, a lecturer in the department.

The Krupps Pro-Aroma Model 30 coffee maker, which originally cost about $70, was auctioned off on eBay.

CBQ Importing Cheaper Chinese PCs

Hunt Valley, Maryland-based company CBQ said that it plans to import Chinese personal computers, laptops and Internet appliances that will sell up to 40 percent cheaper than their equivalents in the U.S.

CBQ, which has been working primarily on software development services in China for U.S. clients, said it has agreements with two leading Chinese computer makers. "The price differentials are stunning," CBQ chief executive officer Bart Fisher told NewsFactor Network. "It's going to make what is already a very competitive market more competitive."

Fisher said that CBQ has agreements with Legend Computers, the biggest computer maker in China, and Superior Computers, a smaller, privately-owned company in Beijing that makes notebooks.

Korean-based Plan Could Create E-commerce Protection

A payment guarantee system for online transactions of goods and services will be introduced next month as part of efforts to promote e-commerce and e-trade.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy said yesterday that the state-run Korea Credit Guarantee Fund (KCGF) will begin to issue electronic payment guarantees for online transactions for businesses on a trial basis from Sept. 1.

The ministry plans to expand the guarantee scheme to all eligible firms as long as it produces successful results and receives a good response from the business community. Manufacturers and suppliers will be able to sell their goods and services to corporate buyers after obtaining paper-less electronic payment guarantees issued by the KCGF.

Corporations will be also able to make use of electronic payment guarantees by the KCGF when they want to get bank loans to be used to settle their online purchase of goods.

Students in Show-Me State Shown it All

Missouri students hoping to find information about their future careers got more than they bargained for.

A state-sponsored career guide listed a Web address leading to a pornographic site. The address originally had led to an education-related site, but the domain name was dropped and then bought by a company that owns the adult site, state officials said Monday.

The site now contains explicit pornographic material and a warning that those younger than 21 should not view it.

The Missouri Occupational Information Coordinating Committee distributes about 200,000 copies of its tabloid career guide annually.

In an internal e-mail obtained Monday by The Associated Press, committee director Mark Mehmert said the group was instructing schools and state agencies to return the career guides.

Ireland Tech Economy Faces Another Blow

Ireland's high-tech sector suffered its second blow this month as General Semiconductor Inc. announced Friday it was closing its Irish factory and cutting 670 jobs, or 13 percent of its work force.

General Semiconductor, based in Melville, N.Y., said it will shut its plant in Macroom in County Cork by the end of the year and transfer the bulk of its business there to factories in Taiwan and China, where production costs are lower.

The announcement follows a similar decision by U.S. computer maker Gateway Inc. to shut its European headquarters outside Dublin and eliminate 900 jobs.

General Semiconductor's Macroom plant makes diodes and other components for use by automotive and computer equipment makers. It was doomed by a weak global economy and an "unprecedented" decrease in demand, the company said.

Chinese Government Tries Internet Site Operator

Defiantly flashing an "OK" sign to his family, the organizer of an Internet site that published writings about democracy has been tried in China in a case that highlights the government's determination to stamp out online dissent.

No verdict or sentencing date was announced for Huang Qi, who stood trial in a closed-door two-hour session Tuesday at the Chengdu Intermediate Court, said his father-in-law, who asked to be identified only by his surname, Zeng, according to the Associated Press.

The completion of the trial, which was postponed in February in an apparent effort to avoid spoiling Beijing's winning campaign for the 2008 Summer Olympics, comes as China is tightening its already stringent controls on cyberspace.

Huang is the first Chinese Webmaster known to have been prosecuted for publishing political materials.

He was arrested in June 2000 after his site carried articles about an outlawed would-be opposition party, the Tiananmen Square protests, the banned Falun Gong spiritual sect and other topics deemed subversive by prosecutors.

Houston Looking to Decrease Gap Between Haves and Have-Nots

Houston hopes to become one of the first major U.S. cities to bridge the digital divide through a program that would give every citizen with a library card access to e-mail, word processing and spreadsheet capabilities.

The city is negotiating a contract with Internet Access Technologies, a Houston company that hopes to start making the service available within the next 30 days. The contract needs City Council approval.

The program would enable citizens to access their accounts through computers at libraries, fire stations and police stations throughout the city.

Currently, people in Houston can get Internet access - including free e-mail - at the city's libraries. This program would expand their options to word processing and spreadsheets.

How much the technology would cost the city has not been disclosed.

Amazon Teams with Circuit City

Online retailer said Monday it will begin offering thousands of Circuit City products on its website, but customers will have to go to their local Circuit City store to pick up those purchases.

Amazon expects to begin showing the Circuit City products in November, spokeswoman Patty Smith said. Under the terms of a three-year agreement, the companies hope to be able to deliver Circuit City products to customers sometime next year.

Seattle-based Amazon will take a percentage of each Circuit City purchase made through the Amazon Web site, Smith said.