TBTF for 1/19/98: With a whimper
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/01-19-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
Microsoft's bid to remove the Special Master is rejected
Japanese officials investigating Microsoft
Another factor in Microsoft's ascent: quality
What programmer shortage?
A "fixed" MSIE security hole reopens
Excite warns of a security vulnerability
Palm Pilot to use elliptic curve cryptography
Site to charge only IE4 visitors
Netscape needs a laugh
1997 e-commerce totalled $7B
Office Depot opens its virtual doors
Sun sells on the Web
NSI opens up for Web-based registration
You want to shine _what_ behind my knees?
With a whimper
..Microsoft's bid to remove the Special Master is rejected
The company loses another round; may be biding its time for the
In an order handed down on 1/14 , Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
refused Microsoft's request to remove Lawrence Lessig, the Special
Master assigned to the case. The judge called Microsoft's allega-
tions against Lessig "both trivial and altogether non-probative" and
slapped the company for besmirching Lessig in public. "[The accu-
sations] are, therefore, defamatory, and the court finds that they
were not made in good faith," Jackson wrote. "Had they been made in
a more formal manner they might well have incurred sanctions." Mi-
crosoft has appealed the ruling  (as it has the judge's main
ruling in the Justice Department's favor).
Infoworld speculates  that Microsoft has simply given up on Judge
Jackson and is placing its bets on the appeals panel, scheduled to
hear the case in April. Infoworld quotes a Washington law professor:
"Jackson is showing all the signs of a man who is ready to side with
the government on this one. His response to Microsoft's arguments
reveals a real irritation with Microsoft's advocates and their pos-
ition." Another Washington lawyer notes that the three judges who
will hear the Microsoft appeal are known for their conservative,
anti-regulatory stances. "When Microsoft saw that list [of judges],
they thought, 'this is the first bit of light we've seen.'"
..Japanese officials investigating Microsoft
"One of the most frequently used words around here these days is
'incoming'" -- a Microsoft employee
Japan's Fair Trade Commission raided Microsoft's offices  in
Tokyo on Tuesday and searched for more than six hours for evidence
that Microsoft may be violating Japanese antitrust laws. The FTC
also visited several Japanese computer manufacturers, including NEC.
The Japanese FTC later said it would launch an investigation into
Microsoft's bundling practices. The Japanese authorities' concerns
are broader than the issues in the Justice Department case, in-
volving Excel and Word as well as Internet Explorer. (In the US
Microsoft won the battle for desktop office supremacy a long time
ago.) Wired reports  that Japanese and US antitrust officials
have conferred on the Microsoft question.
..Another factor in Microsoft's ascent: quality
Many customers are frustrated with Microsoft software; here's some
who appreciate it
Simpson Garfinkle's article "The firm we love to hate"  accen-
tuates the frustrating side of dealing with Microsoft software, in
particular its operating systems. Garfinkle proposes that a huge
reservoir of pent-up frustration and rage against the Redmond giant
simmers inside everyone who has been obliged to install and rein-
stall Windows NT on half a dozen occasions. Well, duh.
Here is another view of Microsoft's march to dominance -- that the
company, at least in some markets, has earned its market share by
paying careful attention to local requirements. This article is
copyright 1998 by EM Ganin <firstname.lastname@example.org> and is published here
> I just returned from a family visit to Israel. As I traveled
> around visiting friends and relatives, I found that nearly
> every one of them is running Windows 95 on their home com-
> puters. In earlier visits, I had found most people using
> DOS and very few people running any windowed OS (Mac or
> earlier versions of Windows). Microsoft has clearly won the
> Israeli market. They did this partly by bundling components
> into the OS, but also by doing an excellent job adapting to
> the language needs of the market.
> I was initially surprised at how effectively Microsoft
> translated every single English-language text item into
> Hebrew. The menus, icons, and dialog boxes all look the same
> as the US version, yet the text is correctly translated into
> Hebrew and formatted for right-to-left display.
> I also saw a Russian version of Windows 95 that seemed as
> comprehensively translated as the Hebrew version (I don't read
> Russian, so this is just an impression).
> All of the common Microsoft applications were similarly
> translated -- in particular, the components of MS-Office and
> Internet Explorer. When working on the Internet, URLs still
> appear in English (even for Israeli sites with all-Hebrew
> content). The only time I saw English text appear from the OS
> was when the system crashed.
> Microsoft Office is not automatically bundled in with the OS,
> yet it is very widely used. I heard (but did not verify) that
> MS-Word is the #1 word processor used in the country. Even if
> MS-IE were unbundled from the OS, I suspect that it would
> still remain as the dominant Web browser in this market.
> At least for the Israeli market, I think that Microsoft earned
> its monopoly position by spending the time and resources to
> offer fully localized applications that easily integrate into
> the OS.
..What programmer shortage?
A professor questions the ITAA's cry of "wolf"
The US administration announced plans to spend $28M  on a pro-
gram of technical training and public education -- monitor tans are
attractive, really -- to ease what it called a critical shortage of
programmers, citing industry figures that 1 in 10 programming jobs
(a total of 346,000) are going unfilled. A UC Davis professor has
published a paper  called "Debunking the Myth of a Labor Short-
age." He claims the hidden agenda of the Information Technology
Association of America's campaign is to "develop an image of a
software labor shortage in the public consciousness" and thereby
increase the number of cheap college graduates available to em-
ployers. Thanks to Walter Lamia <email@example.com> for the
..A "fixed" MSIE security hole reopens
Renewed vulnerability in code that integrates browser and
A security problem Microsoft thought it had laid to rest last Oct-
ober , #15 on the TBTF list of Microsoft security exploits ,
is back in slightly modified form. Dildog -- who discovered the
original weakness, found that the bug in Internet Explorer's pro-
cessing of the res:// scheme is also present in mk://. The mk://
scheme is a proprietary Microsoft method used internally by pro-
grams to extract information from compressed files, such as Info-
Viewer Topics. Here is dildog's complete description of the exploit
, including code for IE 4.01. Finally, And Lloyd Wood
<L.Wood@surrey.ac.uk> offers this exploit page , which will
crash your Pentium by invoking the f00f bug. (Remember f00f ?)
..Excite warns of a security vulnerability
Thousands of webmasters are asked to patch Excite's free search
Excite for Web Servers is a free (and unsupported) package that
webmasters can download to provide flexible search functions across
a Web site. On 1/15 Excite sent a notice to everyone who has ever
downloaded EWS that it contains a security vulnerability that could
be used to compromise Unix or NT systems on which it is installed.
Excite has submitted a patch to CERT for verification and pointed
EWS users to a patch page . The company stresses that the bug
does not affect the Excite home or partner pages, only sites that
have installed EWS.
..Palm Pilot to use elliptic curve cryptography
Cracks are appearing in RSA's dominance of commercial cryptography
3Com, makers of the popular minature organizer, announced  that
future versions of the Palm Pilot will use ECC crypto technology
from Certicom. The Palm Pilot should provide an ideal test-bed for
ECC's claims to robust security with small key sizes and a minimal
In other Certicom news, on 1/12 Robery Harley <Robert.Harley@-
inria.fr> announced  the fall of the third in Certicom's
series of crypto challenges. Harley's ever-growing team, now num-
bering 56, has been first to overcome each of the Certicom chal-
lenges broken to date. (I wonder if any other teams are even com-
..Site to charge only IE4 visitors
An escalation of bad feeling in the TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall
The practice of building exculsionary Web sites has taken a turn for
the nasty. The Official Lost & Found site  will begin charging
visitors who reconnect with lost property -- but only those who come
in using IE4. Users of all other browsers, including older versions
of IE, will continue to get free service. The site owners say they
are taking this step to protest Microsoft's increasing tendency to
produce and encourage IE-only content. C|net covered this story 
as a followup on their recent interest in exclusionary sites .
(But you read it here first.)
These folks will pay you to mess with the mind of the consumer
The rTMark site  is the public face of a shadowy organization
that sponsors and pays for acts of culture hacking. Their aim is to
"encourage the intelligent sabotage of mass-produced items." (The
name is intended to suggest "circle-R TM ark," and is pronounced
"art mark.") This is the organization that solicited and then paid
money to a programmer at Maxis who added kissing boys action figures
to the game of SimCopter just before it shipped , . The pro-
grammer, Jacques Servin, was fired for his trouble but has bounced
right back with the Whistlesmiths Web site , from which he offers
career councelling for those dismissed for acts of product sabo-
tage. In 1993 rTMark orchestrated the notorious Barbie Liberation
Organization's GI Joe / Barbie voicebox switcheroo . Read the
rTMark manifesto here . Wired covered the emergence of rTMark
from its veil of secracy last April .
Incidentally, the Web host fof the rTMark pages is paranoia.com in
Austin, Texas, whose owner, as Zero Micro Software, registered the
domain name micros0ft.com. After Redmond lawyers convinced the
InterNIC to suspend the name, he preserved the joke page at .
Another prolific and lifelong culture hacker is Joey Skaggs, self-
described "socio-political satirist, media activist, culture jammer,
hoaxer, and dedicated proponent of independent thinking and media
Finally, a tip of the Tasty Hat to the Boston Globe, which on 1/11
ran an article (not online) profiling two software evangalists. The
article describes a game they play called "reality hacking": They
invent a meaningless jargon term, brainstorm a plausible meaning for
it, then drop it into business conversations. The point is to get
the term into play. Sort of like Jargon Scout  does, but less
..Netscape needs a laugh
The poetic justice goes on for days
The ossifragian speculation on how many layoffs the company will an-
nounce along with its final earnings figures on 1/27 -- estimates
center on 400  -- must be freighting the atmosphere in Mountain
View. But the boys can still enjoy a laugh at Microsoft's expense.
Steve Kremer has just the thing on his Joke Wallpaper site  --
a 640 x 480 picture  captioned "Bill Gates' daughter Jennifer
visits Santa Claus." The girl is saying, "It's homemade cookies
Santa. You can have them only if you agree to use Internet Explorer
4.0 on all your computers at the North Pole." Kremer's logs show
that between 1/4 and 1/10 this file was downloaded 568 times from
113 different addresses inside Netscape. Whether any of them was
Marc, Bark, or Clark is not known.
A collection of notes on e-commerce, domain naming, and the farther
reaches of scientific research
..1997 e-commerce totalled $7B
A new survey by Simba Information  says that the largest category
was business-to-business, with Cisco doing $3B and Dell $1B. Online
sales at a number of organizations (for example amazon.com and Digi-
tal) grew year-to-year by triple-digit percentages.
..Office Depot opens its virtual doors
The office-supply superstore  joins the growing ranks of "cate-
gory killer" retailers, such as Walmart , selling merchandise on
the Web . The category should have strong appeal in the small-
office, home-office market, but the trick for Office Depot, as for
the others, will be to grow the online business without cannibali-
zing its bricks-and-mortar sales.
..Sun sells on the Web
Sun has adopted two key concepts from the PC world: online sales
and offshore manufacturing . The company's new, low-cost
Ultra 5 and Ultra 10 Solaris servers are available at the com-
pany's online store  at prices starting below $4000.
..NSI opens up for Web-based registration
Long noted for its arcane and consumer-unfriendly email-based reg-
istration procedures, the current monopoly registrar of .com and
.net names may be responding to impending competition  as it
offers simplified, 90-second registration  from your browser.
The WorldNic service  costs $10 more than the bad old way:
$110 for two years. US customers can also call 1-888-642-9675 for
..You want to shine _what_ behind my knees?
New research  by scientists at Cornell University suggests that
jet lag and insomnia can be relieved by a beam of light being shone
behind the knees. Three hours of blue light applied before a certain
point in the circadian rhythm retards the body's clock; light stim-
ulus after this point advances it. The treatment is most effective
when applied during the time in which the subject would normally be
..With a whimper
At last month's AAS meeting in Washington three separate groups pre-
sented research  on the ultimate fate of the universe. Different
lines of evidence all underscore the liklihood that the universe
contains insufficient matter ever to reverse the expansive impulse
imparted by the Big Bang . Tens of billions of years after the
sun expands to engulf the earth and then contracts to a fading white
dwarf, the universe will be sliding towards the state dreaded by the
protagonist of Pamela Zoline's 1972 story : The Heat Death of
N o t e s
> The readership has spoken: last week's inaugural number of "The
view from Softpro"  was an enormous hit. I'll lose the Ascii
formatting, though, and content myself with this isolated example
of the warlord's art .
> The Tasty Bit of the Day is back. Since 1/12/98 I've been posting
one or a few bits of intelligence daily on TBTF's top page .
Visit each day after 10:00 eastern US time if you can't wait for
the weekly retro-push.
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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