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Monday, February 25, 2008, 02:55 pm PT (05:55 pm ET)

Intel Nehalem details; Apple phone recycling; Hymn shut down

Extra details and benchmarks have surfaced for Nehalem, Intel's successor to the Xeon processor found in the Mac Pro. Meanwhile, Apple has launched cellphone and iPod recycling programs, and is forcing the Hymn DRM-stripping project to shut down. The electronics maker may also face legal roadblocks for the iPhone in Australia.

Intel Nehalem's early details, performance revealed

An unintentional leak (PDF) by Sun Microsystems on its public website has slipped details about Intel's Nehalem processor platform.

Portrayed as a direct successor to Harpertown — Intel's nickname for the processor platform found in today's Mac Pro, Xserve, and other workstations or servers — Nehalem is already known to offer a new point-to-point bus design (similar to the HyperTransport found in the PowerMac G5) as well as an on-chip memory controller and hyperthreading, which allows multiple instruction threads on one processor. However, the platform is now known to have three-channel DDR3 memory that should eliminate the bottlenecks for the current dual-channel Harpertown design.

Early benchmarks provided by Sun also suggest that Nehalem will double the floating-point math of the fastest Xeon available today, the 3.2GHz Xeon X5482. Simpler integer math will also jump in speed by more than 40 percent.

Nehalem is due at the end of 2008 and should be accompanied by Dunnington, a six-core Xeon design that replaces the ultra high-end Tigerton platform unused in any current Apple product.

Apple kicks off cellphone, iPod recycling plans

Apple on Monday quietly launched its first mail-in cellphone and iPod recyling program.

While the company has already been offering such a plan for computers and allows in-store iPod recycling, the new plan allows customers to receive either a package or a mailing label to send in as many iPods or cellphones as they like, which are recycled free of charge by the Cupertino-based company.

There are no limits to the age of the iPod, and cellphones can come from any manufacturer, Apple notes.

The move is part of the new environmental policy launched by Apple last year, which company chief Steve Jobs said would bring not just cleaner products but also more aggressive recycling programs.

Apple pressures anti-DRM Hymn Project to pull downloads

Operators of the longstanding Hymn Project revealed late last week that the group has been issued a "cease and desist" notice from Apple, asking them to remove all downloads of the digital rights management (DRM) removal tool from their website.

The team has been one of the most adamant opponents of Apple's FairPlay copy protection scheme for iTunes purchases and has routinely played a cat-and-mouse game with the California company. Hymn has regularly been updated to remove copy protection locks on some iTunes songs and videos, only to find Apple issuing iTunes updates that break Hymn or files modified by the unofficial software.

No specific reason has been given for the shutdown, though proponents of the software believe the release of Requiem, a more aggressive program that allegedly cracked FairPlay altogether, has prompted the Apple legal response.

Australian law could hinder iPhone release

An attempt by Apple to repeat its procedures for past iPhone launches in Australia could face legal roadblocks meant to encourage competition, according to a report by law professors at Queenland University.

While the American company has successfully landed exclusive contracts that make just one carrier the official iPhone host in France, Germany, the US, and the UK, a clause in Australia's Trade Practices Act against forced line bundles may prevent Apple from signing such a contract in the southern country. Whether this is necessary may depend on a review from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission before any deal can be approved.

Queenland researcher Dale Clapperton observes that a non-exclusive deal is unlikely but still desirable. A single-provider iPhone agreement is likened to limiting a car's choice of fuel to one oil company.

"If you fill your car up with fuel from BP the ignition system will detect that and shut down the car," he says.