TBTF for 8/11/97: Spam-free or die
T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t
Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994
Your Host: Keith Dawson
This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/08-11-97.html >
C o n t e n t s
Apple's new partner
Second-class search results
"Death penalty" imposed on UUNet for condoning spam
Java Mischief bug affects MSIE, Netscape, HotJava
Policy Oversight Committee to expand
..Apple's new partner
I went to MacWorld Expo on Friday for old times' sake. The peak ex-
citement was happening in the booth of Be Inc.; I left with a copy
of the Be OS on a CD-ROM.
Steve Jobs did the best he could for Apple. No other move could have
lent the company such support -- "removed the stink of death," as
one analyst put it. The image that ran in all the newspapers was
unfortunate: a 40-foot televised head of Gates towering over a live,
but merely mortal, Jobs. If Gates had walked onstage in person the
message would have been wholly different. This is what I had expec-
ted to happen based on anticipatory rumors. Adding to the Orwellian
overtones of that image, on Friday Apple re-appointed TBWA Chiat/
Day, the ad agency responsible for its groundbreaking "1984" spot
. Wall Street liked the Microsoft partnership : Apple stock
gained over 50% in the days following the announcement. (One person
of my acquaintence, lacking the courage of his convictions, now
kicks himself for having bought a mere 100 shares of Apple after
Amelio resigned.) The stock has since settled by 10%, but is still
at its highest point in over a year . Apple's new MacOs 8, which
shipped on-time and bug-free, is the company's fastest-selling pro-
duct ever, shipping 1.2 million copies in its first two weeks .
The clone makers aren't partaking of the OS8 bounty yet, as the par-
ties are still negotiating over licensing terms. Persistent rumor in
the weeks following Amelio's departure hinted that Steve Jobs was
applying brakes to Apple's licensing strategy. It was said that Jobs
favored moving the company in the direction of the Network PC (Larry
Ellison's appointment to Apple's board has done nothing to dispel
What does the deal mean for Microsoft?
- It has riven the anti-Microsoft camp, leaving Sun, Oracle, and
Netscape more exposed; the announcement that Apple will bundle
the Internet Explorer browser is the icing on the iron wedge.
- It has innoculated Microsoft against antitrust investigations.
- It has assured Gates the ability to strangle Apple's infant NeXT-
based operating system in its cradle. Rhapsody was nowhere men-
tioned in the deal.
- It raises the possibility that Apple might assist, or at least
acquiesce, in Microsoft's campaign to kill Java as a viable cross-
platform development language . Microsoft has announced that
it will not ship Sun's Java Foundation Classes with its operating
systems. Here is Microsoft VP Paul Maritz in an interview with
Computerworld . Customer-friendly it isn't.
CW: But say there's an electronic-commerce application that
somebody wants to run cross-platform, and that's why
they picked Java. And they use the JFCs to write it.
Maritz: Good luck.
CW: It's not going to run in Internet Explorer.
Maritz: It may or may not. But the point is, that's Sun's
problem. It's not our problem.
We'll give the last word to Forbes ASAP's George Gilder:
> With a $250 million check, Mr. Gates has managed to change the
> subject in the press from Microsoft's Java battle to a long-past
> conflict over desktop operating systems. But he has not shifted
> the tides of change. He has merely embarrassed Oracle's Mr. Elli-
> son by increasing the price of any purchase of Apple, and he has
> trumped Netscape by buying dominance for the Microsoft browser
> in the next Apple operating system.
Thanks to Mark Baker and Dan Kohn, who will recognize some of their
thinking in the foregoing analysis.
..Second-class search results
Back in March John Pike raised a fuss  about the indexing poli-
cies of Alta Vista, which at that time indexed only a small frac-
tion of the pages in large sites -- the unwritten policy seemed to
be a maximum of 300 pages for any site except the most popular ones.
Pike's Federation of American Scientists site had 6,000 pages at the
time and by dint of constant submittals to Alta Vista managed to get
600 of them indexed. Today the FAS site has grown to 13,000 pages,
and Alta Vista has (apparently) changed its policy again, this time
limiting pages listed to 40 -- responding to the continuing growth
of the Web by sampling ever-thinner slices of it. Pike initially
surmised that the limitation applied to .org sites, but in fact it's
more widespread than that. Alta Vista lists 40 pages for tbtf.com
(the nerve!) and for some other .com sites I checked. The TBTF site
has over 200 pages, and Alta Vista used to list most of them (albeit
not up-to-date). Here are the numbers of pages Alta Vista returned
recently from a selection of searches for "url:xxx.yyy".
fas.org 40 privacy.org ~ 79
epic.org 40 harvard.net ~ 616
vtw.org 40 eff.org ~ 911
cdt.org 40 microsoft.com ~ 1854
patents.com 40 w3.org ~ 3905
polymer.com 40 netscape.com ~ 4517
polymers.com 40 sun.com ~ 4831
pureatria.com 40 geocities.com ~ 14427
tbtf.com 40 yahoo.com ~ 32582
internic.net 41 stanford.edu ~ 49274
aol.com ~ 78651
The number of visitors who arrive at TBTF from Alta Vista has dropped
noticably in the last month, and the 40-page rule may explain why. I
invited Alta Vista's architect, Louis Monier , to
elaborate on the search site's indexing policy, but he did not respond.
.."Death penalty" imposed on UUNet for condoning spam
A group of activist Usenet administrators imposed the Usenet Death
Penalty , ,  on UUNet Technologies, the Net's largest
backbone carrier. All Usenet postings originating from UUNet ad-
dresses were cancelled over a period of more than a week. The UDP
was imposed because activists viewed UNet as insufficiently re-
sponsive and vigilant in fighting spam, both email and newsgroup.
The final straw leading to the UDP was a message, now identified as
a forgery, purporting to be from a UUNet administrator and stating
that UUNet "does not have the resources" to deal with spam and that
"other, more important matters take priority" . UUNet says that
its antispam policies have always been tough, and blamed the problem
on its downstream ISP customers, including Earthlink and the Micro-
soft Network. The penalty was lifted when UUNet announced that it
was adding three strict new policies against spammers , while
insisting that its actions were not inspired by the UDP or the re
sulting national publicity. Uh-huh, yeh right. UUNet rumbled about
taking legal action against the blockers, but was vague about what
laws might have been broken.
..Java Mischief bug affects MSIE, Netscape, HotJava
This bug was discovered by Ben Mesander <email@example.com> in
Microsoft's implementation of the Java Virtual Machine in Internet
Explorer. It allows a Java applet to establish a TCP/IP connection
to an arbitrary host, something that should be impossible under
Java's security model. Mesander's exploit page is here  and
Microsoft's response here . So far there is no fix for the bug.
Mesander discovered on investigating further that the same or a
similar bug may be present in the Netscape and HotJava implemen-
tations of the Java VM as well. Netscape is vulnerable only in cer-
tain HTTP proxy configurations. HotJava and MSIE are susceptible
to subversion of their Java class loaders. The Macintosh platform
is not affected.
Java Mischief becomes #12 in the TBTF list  of Microsoft security
exploits uncovered in 1997. Thanks to Glen McCready for the forward.
..Policy Oversight Committee to expand
Continuing its stance of responsiveness to community suggestions,
the group overseeing the IAHC process to expand the supply of do-
main names announced last week that it will enlarge its policy
board . By the end of 1997 the POC could expand by 3 or 4
members to include representatives from the ISP community and other
In the Gulf of Mexico, five hundred meters deep, colonies of eyeless
worms swarm over sea-floor outcroppings of methane ice , . Who
knew? The ice worms form part of a previously undiscovered but hypo-
thesized deep-sea ecosystem. Scientists believe that the worms are
grazing on or living symbiotically with bacteria that colonize the
ice mounds. Methane ice forms naturally at the high pressure and low
temperature of the deep sea, but is normally buried in marine sediment.
The Gulf of Mexico is one of the few places where the ice can be found
exposed on the ocean bottom, occasionally in mounds six to eight feet
Paul Saffo, resident futurist at SRI, gave a talk at the CFP con-
ference last March on his vision of the Next Big Thing: micro-
electromechanical systems, or MEMS. It turns out that the talk had
been premiered at the Millenium Conference several weeks before .
Here is a summary, from the science-week mailing list, of a 7/26
Science News article on MEMS. The article itself is not online; the
magazine posts only a small selection of its content.
> Material utilizing microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) is
> almost sentient in that is can sense (strain, temperature,
> pressure, motion, etc.), actuate (push, squeeze, deflect,
> switch, etc.), communicate (with fibers, antennas, wires,
> etc.), and calculate (with microprocessors). Machines or
> even arrays of millimeter and micron-sized machines on a
> chip, made with integrated-circuit technology, are still
> at an early stage of deployment, but researchers foresee a
> micro-industrial revolution: clouds of meteorological smart
> dust sent to keep an eye on a hurricane, programmable sili-
> con cilia to sort blood cells or position tiny machine parts,
> and microflaps to control a plane's wing shape.
N o t e s
> Today's TBTF title tips the Tasty Hat to the state of New Hampshire,
whose official motto , emblazoned on its license plate  since
1971, has aroused patriotism, outrage, or mere bemusement in the hearts
S o u r c e s
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