TBTF for 8/17/98: Silly season
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
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This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/08-17-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
Microsoft depositions will be public
Churn in Linux-land
Tracking users by the tens of millions
Backbone provider Priori going down
Too late to start on Y2K?
..Microsoft depositions will be public
A delay in trial's start date is weighed
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled on 8/11 that the depositions of
Bill Gates and 16 other Microsoft executives must be opened to the
public and the media . The 1913 Sherman Antitrust Act gave him
very little leeway, he said. Depositions were to have begun on 8/12,
but have been put off until lawyers for the two sides can work out
how to protect Microsoft's proprietary information in an open forum.
The open hearing was requested by the New York Times, the Seattle
Times, and other media companies. Microsoft has appealed this rul-
ing; Judge Jackson, no fan of media in a courtroom, had in fact
given them subtle encouragement to do so.
A reader suggested that the hearings should be televised over the
Web using RealVideo. A fine idea that would not be allowed. The
ground rules for the open hearing are similar to those for old-
fashioned trials: no cameras and no tape recorders.
Because of the delay sure to be introduced by open depositions,
both sides in the case have requested a two-week delay in the start
of the trial ; the judge did not immediately assent.
..Churn in Linux-land
Diversity-fed evolution in action
Bruce Perens, who led the Debian Linux effort for a time, had been
working on the Linux Standard Base, a standard for binary Linux
distributions. The effort was somewhat controversial and one edi-
torialist has opined  that Perens lost the support of the LSB
working group when he took entirely upon himself the task of build-
ing the reference distribution. Whatever the truth of the matter,
two engineers, from Red Hat and Debian, mutinied in favor of a more
open process that their organizations have now endorsed as the Li-
nux Compatibility Standards Project . At the same time Perens
resigned from Software in the Public Interest, the Debian legal
front-end which he himself had founded in 1996; two other SPI offi-
cers also departed.
As usual, Slashdot is the place to turn for informed commentary on
Open Source culture . The consensus in this community as I read
it is that Perens's LSB was too rigid. The LCS approach is given a
better chance of reducing unnecessary divergence among Linux dis-
tributions. There is little disagreement that diversity is a bene-
Erik Troan (Red Hat) and Dale Scheetz (Debian) will jointly manage
an LCS working group coordinated via an open mailing list -- to
subscribe, email email@example.com with subject:
..Tracking users by the tens of millions
Would you like another cookie, my dear?
A report by Saul Hansell in the 8/16 NY Times (front page, below
the fold) documents a trend guaranteed to disturb those concerned
about online privacy . Some very large commercial sites have
agreed to feed information about their customers' reading, shop-
ping, and entertainment habits into a system called Engage that
is already tracking the movements of 30 million Internet users
by means of cookies. This program is a perfect exemplar of the
kind of application for cookies that Net privacy advocates have
long warned of (and cookie-loving Webmasters have long disparaged).
CMG Information Services's Engage system in theory guarantees ano-
nymity, but it would be trivial to abuse. GeoCities (rhymes with
"atrocities") and Lycos-Tripod between them will bring over 29 mil-
lion additional Net users under the guns of the target marketers.
Note that the NY Times site itself requires free registration and
makes you bite the cookie to get to content.
..Backbone provider Priori going down
Last one out, please turn off the routers
A source at Global Communications says that Priori is about to file
for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For those not steeped in US backruptcy law,
this means: lights out, doors locked, assets sold to pay creditors.
Their Web site was down as of 8/14 but their network was still oper-
ating. ZDNet carried the only mainstream reporting  I saw on these
Patrick Gilmore, former director of operations for Priori, posted
these points to the NANOG mailing list on Friday 8/14:
> * Priori has not filed for bankruptcy, but likely will Friday
> or Monday barring a miracle.
> * I turned off our web page.
> * The backbone is running and has a high likelihood of con-
> tinuing to run until at least 3 PM PDT, Friday, 8/14, 1998.
> After that, I do not know.
> * The employees are all laid off. (I'm technically unemployed --
> so I can't be speaking for "the company"! ;)
> * All customers have been notified.
And Gilmore thanked the NANOG members who had worked above and
beyond the call to make sure Priori's customers wouldn't be
stranded when the plug exits the wall:
> Thank you all for the tremendous response. With your help I have
> gotten all of my customers moved so that not one Priori customer
> should suffer any significant downtime. (Just long enough to move
> the line.) I do appreciate everyone's offer of help. Kinda
> restores my faith in the industry.
> I would like to single out Above.Net, specifically Dave Rand and
> Steve Rubin. Above.Net is helping our customers in ways I would
> not expect any profit-minded company to do. They are bending over
> backwards to help people who will probably never pay them a dime,
> and doing it quickly and cheerfully. These are really good guys
> and I think they deserve a lot of credit for helping me and my
> downstreams out of a VERY tight spot. Thanx guys.
> Of course, there are lots of other upstreams who are making
> extraordinary efforts to keep one or more of my downstreams on
> Net in the near future. Please do not think that I do not
> appreciate it. Thank you all.
Many thanks to my evil twin Jeff Schult <firstname.lastname@example.org> for first
word on this story.
Lycos bids for the portal big leagues
Logitech has acquired the QuickCam business from Connectix for $25M
. And Lycos has purchased WhoWhere for $133M , along with its
community subsidiary Angelfire, which ranked number one in a recent
survey of the 50 fastest-growing Web sites . Angelfire's 1.3M
members catapult Lycos near the front of the pack in the portal wars
now raging unchecked on a Web near you.
..Too late to start on Y2K?
One consulting firm thinks so
According to a Computerworld story , within the last three days
Andersen Consulting has adopted a global policy of accepting no new
year 2000 consulting work. The fear is that clients whose systems
fail when the century turns might sue the consultancy. Spokesmen
for Andersen would not confirm that such a policy exists.
N o t e s
> It's the silly season for politics and for reporting. Cities empty out
and email dries up. The news this week isn't particularly silly, but
it is thin.
> TBTF's Siliconia feature  inspired and was linked from an excel-
lent piece of reportage in Wired titled "Silicon Envy" (pp. 136-137
in the September issue). The magazine plotted various Silicon Valley
wannabes on a world map, including some not yet tracked on the Sili-
conia page, and assigned each a ranking based on infrastructure, bus-
iness density, schools, and ethos. Who's on top? North Texas, New
York, and Kempele, Finland.
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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