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back to article You're fired: Lord Sugar offloads faded PC builder Viglen to XMA

Lord Sugar has walked away from education tech supplier Viglen, which has inked a big channel merger deal with government reseller XMA. The company's customer services boss Glyn Wragg told workers on Monday about the takeover. An anonymous source, who works at the firm, told The Channel that it was the first official word …

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SidJamesonabike!

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WTF?

It does look like someone has photoshopped Sid's face onto a scuba diver!

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Anonymous Coward

Lacking a lunch box.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't even realise Viglen still existed...

I kind of assumed they'd died in the early noughties.

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Re: Didn't even realise Viglen still existed...

And the name sounds like some weird medical condition.

"I got a Viglen last week."

"Oh, sorry to hear that."

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Re: Didn't even realise Viglen still existed...

"I kind of assumed they'd died in the early noughties."

No they're still very much alive and peddling their shitty PCs forcibly into the education and healthcare sector. As someone who has to support them on a daily basis (and is forced to use one since they replaced my Dell) I can tell you that when they say "Built by the lowest bidder" they weren't bloody kidding. Most large-volume suppliers are always going to get niggles with their computers creeping in, but we now have an "is it a Viglen?" standard question we ask and if the answer is yes the we've pretty much identified the problem straight away. The ONLY reason the company is still alive is the education and healthcare contract, without them being forced on these sectors the company would disappear overnight as no one in their right mind would buy their shit.

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Bought a floppy disk drive for my BBC micro in the early 80s (massive 100kB per floppy with read/write speeds zillions of times faster than cassette!) from Viglen ... saw an ad in PCW and went to their address to buy one - when I got there it was clear that at that stage Viglen were a plastic box manufacturing outfit who'd just discovered that if you cut rectangular holes in the front of plastic boxes and pushed a FDD into the gap then you get a vastly improved margin over the original plastic box!

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@deshepherd

To be fair, they weren't the only people doing this. Part of the design of the BBC micro was that almost everything you needed could be installed in the BEEB itself, including the power supply, so all you needed was a bare drive (Viglen used TEAC drives, or at least mine was, a ribbon cable with the right connectors for the data, a four wire cable with the correct connectors for power, and something to put it in.

I had one of the 'luxury' drives that was 80 tracks, double sided, and even had the switch to double-step the head motor so that it could read 40 track disks!

When I looked, I could not understand how Viglen managed to make a profit on these devices, because the bare drives were no cheaper at retail prices than the cased ones.

Another thing. Viglen was not an Alan Sugar brand back then. He bought it in 1994.

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Headmaster

Inked

Whatever happened to that good, old-fashioned, simple word signed?

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Re: Inked

You may well ask! And where did helmed come from?

I suppose an El Reg hack has made a New Year's Resolution to be journalistically edgy...

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Re: Inked

I'm fairly sure in the fullness of time someone will be found guilty of something and be "caged!"

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Trollface

Re: an El Reg hack

You can ask him.

My guess is that he will not immediately respond

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Too bad

XMA have bought an albatross.

Any company which takes 6 WEEKS to deliver ordered systems doesn't deserve to survive in today's environment.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Too bad

What were you waiting for? I took a tour of their factory in St Albans a couple of years back where they showed us everything being built on demand. We ordered from them because they didn't fob us off with pre-built crap that they were desperate to shift and it still turned up within a week. They were only PCs though, so the order would have been cancelled and placed elsewhere if it had taken much longer than that.

Still you must have been keen to hang around after the first month!

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So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

Never really got to grips with did he? First he kills Sinclair, abandoning the brand to history. Then he does the same to his own Amstrad brand. Finally, he allows Viglen to fester and die.

I never understood the hype around Alan Sugar - more a used-car salesman than a great business leader.

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Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

He's a Sir... And that title covers a multitude of sins. Are you familiar with the house of lords?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

Sinclair was troubled, which is why he bought it.

Amstrad's computer business showed his naivety, he didn't think he needed to test anything.

Not sure about Viglen, I'm guessing it's just up against Dell and the like.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

So how does *your* bank balance compare?

Must be impressive to beat this not-so-great business leader known as Sir Alan Sugar ...

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Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

Nonsense - he actually did rather well. The quality of his av kit may have been a bit variable but let the owners copy tapes cheaply, which is what they really wanted it for.

PC wise the 1512/1640 were a revelation at the time - working and undercutting everyone else. The PPC series had a horrid screen but again worked and was very cheap for the time. Amstrad's in house developed CPC, PCW series were lovely pieces of kit, as was the somewhat niche NC100.

I don't think many would deny he improved the Sinclair line somewhat, and had enough sense to dump the QL.

After the 80s Amstrad did somewhat go into decline, but during the 80s it really succeeded.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

I miss the old days of El Reg's weekly coverage of the Amstrad Emailer and Kevin "Cyborg" Warwick.

The emailer was a huge flop, it's not even useful other than as a phone now, that is if you bothered to download the config change that was promised by using it to dial up a special number.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/10/02/amstrad_ceo_resigns_over_sir/

Says all you need to know about Sugar.

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Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

@AC (9 Jan 23:16); "Sinclair was troubled, which is why he bought it."

Amstrad didn't buy Sinclair Research itself, just the "Sinclair" brand and the existing computer lines (including the Spectrum and QL, the latter of which was discontinued soon after the takeover anyway).

Sinclair Research continued to exist, though mainly as an R&D and holding company (e.g. for "Cambridge Computers", the brand Sinclair's late-80s Z88 portable was sold under) It's still technically in existence, though apparently Clive Sinclair himself is the only employee these days.

Given how famous the "Sinclair" brand was at the time, it's somewhat surprising that Amstrad didn't exploit it more. The only new product they used it on (other than updated versions of the Spectrum and peripherals) was a failed all-in-one home PC in an Atari 520ST / Amiga 500 style case:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sinclair_PC200

I only vaguely remember hearing about this at the time, but apparently it flopped because it was massively underspecced against the ST and Amiga (and most other PCs).

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Re: So that makes three computer businesses flushed...

Not sure about Viglen, I'm guessing it's just up against Dell and the like

They were more than holding their own (in niche markets such as education and HPC) until maybe two years ago. You could order exactly what you wanted, and you'd know that there would be no component substitutions made without your approval. If you look after hundreds of PCs and want trouble-free image installations, that's quite important. Also, they were pretty reliable.

I think the problem is technological. As more and more got built into the chips, there's less and less customisation available to a system builder, and less and less to diffrentiate motherboards and base systems. Also Viglen specialized in systems build from Intel-branded motherboards, and Intel's stopping making them.

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Have built a school network with their kit. About the only big plus for me at the time was that they were early in the game of making all-in-one PC's that were suitable for a school environment (i.e. no cobbling together monitor and base unit on a precarious stand, etc.).

It was almost universally rebranded Dell or similar kit. And although we got a good price at the time and the kit was decent enough, ever since I've avoided them.

They don't like giving prices, they never have what you want, they can't beat other suppliers, and they pushed their Classlink junk too much (no, I don't want a school network based on your half-assed implementation of a school PC management system). And, yes, they take a while to deliver.

To be honest, ever since, I've only ever included them to get the requisite "three quotes" from someone the finance people have heard of ("You haven't heard of Viglen? Well Alan Sugar used to run it!" works quite well when you have the quote you want and need to pad out to the requisite three equivalent quotes). And every time, they've lost.

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Coat

I never understood why schools do not use a RAM-based OS, like slax Linux .... install it on the hard drive, copy2ram by default, after a lesson reboot in seconds, the OS is as was ... no undoing script kiddies bs ... but then again, who am I ?

Windows with the many holes and spyware/adware is so much better ....

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What's that got to do with the machines you use?

And the answer, almost universally, is hassle, cost and upgradeability. Linux is out. You can't run any of the software you need (most school MIS's are .NET based and, no, Wine isn't adequate to do your salary runs, store your kids exam results, etc. on). Integration with MS networks.

Fact is, we have proper security so that it's not necessary to have a single-session OS, it just gets in the way. Time between lessons needs to be minimised - as one lot leave, another enter in any school of significant size and that means that logon/logoff has to be quick and boot time doesn't matter. When your software image changes, you'd have to redo the OS. You'll probably have half a dozen or more separate images already (for different subjects, etc, due to licensing costs of getting site licences for everything), so you're into several "self-booting" OS (so do you have to choose one each boot? Or manage ten images? If you're managing ten images, what's the advantage in having slax-style boots?).

I have deployed PXE-booting re-imaging clients. From BIOS to working desktop it was less than 10 minutes (it was Ghost back then - bloody WDS/SCCM just make my imaging times atrocious nowadays). Re-imaging was rare (probably one a month or more outside of normal imaging upgrades?). As such, your solution just adds a lot of network bandwidth and work to something that isn't a chore. There's little difference between PXE booting an image on demand and what you suggest (except for improved boot times for my solution, because I don't have to wait for the OS to boot every time, I can just leave it in suspend between users).

And then when you get into actually integrating those images into network server shares, software shares, databases, AD-structures, etc. then the actual time saved is negative. How much have malware etc. cost me in the last 15 years of school IT management? Probably about a working day or two. Two or three weeks if you count deploying an antivirus-suite network-wide. It's just insignificant, and a 10-minute re-image solves the problem permanently without needing fancy solutions.

Please note: I push Linux in schools. I've had Slax in schools. I pushed for SafeDesk (google it, it's dead) in schools. I am one of the first batch of Raspberry Pi'ers (still never deployed in a school, because of various similar "someone on the net says it should be good for schools despite not knowing what we do" problems). My last workplace had 50 Linux netbooks, half-a-dozen Linux-based touchscreens, a Linux server doing more tasks than all the Windows servers combined (including critical ones), an external Linux dedicated server doing similar, etc.

There are uses for such things, but people who think we should "just" do things in schools need to go work in one. Or a few dozen, like myself. Fact is, as much as I hate MS, when you're managing swathes of machines that need to run commercially-available software, web-apps and internet downloads, with a sensible management structure, it's easier to stay MS-only (especially with educational licensing). Without educational licensing, yeah, I'd question it greatly. Fact is, I pay less for MS software each year for an entire school that I have spent PERSONALLY on MS software just for myself in my life.

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Unhappy

@Lee D

"Without educational licensing, yeah, I'd question it greatly."

And there you have it in a nutshell. Microsoft using their OS and software licensed at a loss in order to reinforce their market dominance.

If it were anything other than something reducing Government costs, this would be branded as an illegal subsidy by anti-competition bodies.

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Lets be honest

He's not the captain of industry that he would like us to think he is. B list celeb who made a few quid selling hifi's from a back of a van. If i were his age back then I could have done the same. Sir Rich is a businessman that has done much better for himself.

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Re: Lets be honest

Anything that accepts the "sir" title is scum, period.

I know it is "hype" to be posh, I have manners, when I speak, people say I speak like the queen, I learned English with the BBC, overseas, and I loath the posh with a passion. It is all about appearance, absolutely no manners, no political awareness ...

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FAIL

Re: Lets be honest

@c:\boot.ini - "Anything that accepts the "sir" title is scum, period."

Whoa, that's a pretty sweeping statement -

Winston Churchill, David Attenborough, Edmund Hilary, Paul McCartney, Tim Berners-Lee, Terry Pratchett, Ernest Rutherford, Steven Hawking, Isacc Newton, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Ernest Shakleton - I could go on for ages of Knights and Dames that are very deserving. You say they are all "scum"?

Accepting a Knighthood doesn't mean you're posh. I know many people who are posh do get them but unlike a peerage (Lord, Lady, Baron, etc) the Knighthood is given by the British state for things done or acheived, they aren't a birthright.

Lots of countries have state honours, they might not have the same names as the UK, nor does anyone else seem to give out titles but that doesn't change that it is the state's way of showing gratitute for something that has perceivied to be of benefit to the nation.

For christ-sakes Nelson Mandela had an honourary Knighthood, he was hardly posh was he?

If accepting Knighthoods makes you scum them so would accepting the Nobel prize?

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Don't compare Viglen with the Amstrad PC

Viglen did make a PC that behaved, most of the time, as a PC should behave. The Amstrad PC was just crap. Unreliable, slow, pure pure crap. It had problems running many standard packages (dBase, Supercalc) and needed its own version of Wordstar (Wordstar 1512 for the Amstrad PC1512). Viglen I might miss, Amstrad games machines I will certainly miss. Amstrad PC I was glad to see the back of.

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Re: Don't compare Viglen with the Amstrad PC

Back in the days of the 1512 I was teaching using that box (we had 30+ of them). Teaching bog standard WordStar, DBase II & III, Supercalc, Lotus 123 etc . We also had a couple of copies of WordStar1512, which was an OEM branded version of "new" WordStar, a very different beast from "proper" WordStar, not a "special" version, closer to WordStar2000 IIRC.

The 1512 was as decent as any other cheap PC clone of the day (and vastly cheaper) apart from the slighty nasty plastic case and the 4xAA batteries for the NVRAM/clock instead of the more usual (at the time) on board NiCd battery. The 16 colour "hi-res" graphics mode was non-standard, but then EGA wasn't really standard either due to cost and VGA was still to come.

The only real problem with the 1512 was the crappy Seagate 20MB HDDs which failed if you breathed too heavily near them and that was Seagates fault.

We did also eventually get a few Viglens PCs and they truly were built like tanks!

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Re: Don't compare Viglen with the Amstrad PC

Yes the Amstrad PCs were crap.

However, the extremely cheap (for the time) Amstrad PC1512 allowed me to own my first IBM compatible PC and begin development for it (in education we did Pascal on DEC Vax).

In other words, and to over-simplify it somewhat, the Amstrad PC1512 is what enabled my career - and despite being underwhelming was a game-changer for many I knew at the time.

It also ran Elite and Leisure Suit Larry fine ;)

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Re: Don't compare Viglen with the Amstrad PC

"crappy Seagate 20MB HDDs"

Ah, a downvote from a Seagate employee :-)

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Happy

I wonder

Are you actually forced to use this lord this and lord that. Lord Sugar, Lord Salt, Lord Shit or what ever. "Keeping Up Appearances" with Hyacinth comes to my mind. The royal family is trying to keep up appearance in exactly the same way. Are you actually sure you need it forever. In a way I hope the Americans introduced something like The Buffalo Gates and The Buffalo Ballmer and Buffalo Bush. I am sure North Korea could come up with some more interesting in "these times". Are you British actually the only people on this earth who has got stuck with shit like that. The thing that annoys me is this feeling that you actually, even to day, bow in front of this "lord" where ever, trying to get a cab or getting past the queue to the brothel. Oh My Lord. Dear BBC, give them once a nasty and dirty Lord, and not the one who was a fake and a bastard.

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FAIL

Re: I wonder

@Lars - Are people forced to call you by your name?

I assume you are in the US and the US isn't any different.

Remember, Lords and Ladys are the members of the upper house of the legislature. Don't Congressmen and Congresswomen get the title Congressman or Congresswoman? and Senators get the title 'Senator', Governors get the title 'Governor' and so on. The UK actually has less of this as our Members of Parlimament don't have titles other than Mr, Mrs & Dr. ALthough Cabinent members do get addressed as 'The Right Honorable'.

The likes to think it has no class system but it seems like the US is in big denial.

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Re: I wonder

The biggest thing that keeps the Monarchy going in the UK is the idea that we would end up with the sort of people that get elected head of state in the US and other republics. George Bush was a massive boost to the royalist cause here.

These days the title "Sir" or "Lord" confers no power or position in itself, it's merely a recognition by the political class of the wealth, power and eminence that you have already achieved. People may be intimidated by what, if we were feeling generous, we would call Lord Sugar's forceful personality, not by his title.

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Pint

Re: I wonder

Hello Don Dumb, I am sorry, I had no reason to stick my neck into something that is no business of mine. But that picture of Lord Sugar, and perhaps some beer made me feel that even Wodehouse would have run out of words. Perhaps the word "lord" annoyed me. I have no problems with saying - there you are, sir, if some drunk bum with shit in his trousers asked for a fag, but lord not. In most, or all European countries this "von" this "other" that has gone. There is nothing wrong when people are recognized by the state but why this name game. Sir John (Sir Lars), Perhaps I have got it all wrong, is Lord Sugars son Lord Sugar too. Never mind, each country has its traditions, some probably of great value.

"Don't Congressmen and Congresswomen get the title Congressman.." Yes,I suppose so. Policemen are called Policemen, or was it officers, Janitors are Janitors, boys tend to be boys even now, and so forth. I find it easier to understand if somebody good at singing or kicking a ball is recognized by the establishment than when money is the only reason. Bill Gates produced some doubts in my mind about the system. The class system, what a good question, or should I give you the "Sarah Palin" opportunity - what is your opinion. Some hove I have this feeling that you will produce "Up Stair, Down Stair" programs even longer than the US South will produce the "Big House, White Cotton, Black Labor" nostalgia.

All the same I love you. Sometimes I have this feeling that you British should come to understand that the "Piracy of the Seas" has ended and taken over by somebody else and now would be a good time to find your good old close friends from the reality like France, Germany and the Nordic countries. Cheers once again.

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Alan Sugar...

... You're fired!

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Re: Alan Sugar...

I quite like the thought of Claude Littner losing his job and going for new job interviews.

If I was his prospective new employer and the boot was on the other foot. It would be steel toe caps and a right good kicking!

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PC isn't all they do

Hands up how many of you know they also do HPC's! I didn't know until a few months ago when we had an external IT review and the consultants brought in Viglen to review our current and future HPC requirements. Viglen and HPC words you don't expect to see in the same sentence!

And finally two words for Lord Sugar "Email Phone"

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Happy

Bring out the gimp

"But the gimp's gone cycling...."

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This bike he is riding, of course would love to have one myself, but it's kinda wasted on Florida roads.....it's almost dead flat everywhere. I don't know where he lives, but cycleways or pathways are a bit absent where I have been and I wouldn't like to argue with a huge SUV.

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Viglen customer both past and present

My old Viglen 5.25" disk drive is still going strong on my BBC Master.

And I've used Viglen for Microsoft software licence renewals in education. Great pricing and good service.

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