TBTF for 5/11/98: Lizard lips
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/05-11-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
Open source software gets hope for Merced
British crypto proposal released
Wang patent claims against Netscape thrown out
Congress belatedly authorizes fee for domain names
"Lawful access" in practice
Hotmail still running on Solaris and Apache
Gaming site opens to Netscape's browser
Is Microsoft buying academia?
Year 2000 corner
Legislative attempt to limit Y2K damages is dead, for now
Al Gore's Y2K problem
Tester, heal thyself
Your daily dose
Google: high-relevancy Web searching
A surprise bestseller
..Open source software gets hope for Merced
Intel offers help with non-disclosure concerns
TBTF for 3/23/98  picked up a thread of worry in the Linux and
Open Source worlds: that their drive into the mainstream of com-
puting could be stalled if the entrenched players, especially In-
tel, withhold critical programming information from these commun-
ities. In a recent talk  to a Chicago-area Linux users' group,
Donnie Barnes, a principal developer at Red Hat, allayed some of
these fears. Barnes let slip that Red Hat had been contacted by
Intel to consult on issues with running Linux on the new Merced
chips, when such chips become available. He also mentioned that
Intel seems willing to provide information about I2O programming
to the Red Hat folks -- this proprietary bus has been a source or
concern in the Linux community.
Barnes didn't say, and wouldn't be expected to know, whether Intel
was talking to other Linux venders. My bet is that they are.
Thanks to Michael Callahan <firstname.lastname@example.org> for notes from this
..British crypto proposal released
Seeks voluntary licensing of encryptors
On 4/27 the British Department of Trade and Industry released its
much-delayed encryption policy proposal. As reported in TBTF for
3/3/98 , the government wants to leave a backdoor for law en-
forcement to citizens' communications, and will introduce legis-
lation "to enable law-enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant for
lawful access to information necessary to decrypt the content of
communications or stored data" . The government proposal also
suggests making electronic signatures legally binding and intro-
duces a voluntary scheme for licensing companies that provide
encryption services, rather than a mandatory one. This proposal
represents an about-face from Labor's pre-election manifesto,
which read in part:
> Attempts to control the use of encryption technology are wrong
> in principle, unworkable in practice, and damaging to the long-
> term economic value of the information networks.
The day after the DTI report's release, Phil Zimmermann happened to
be speaking at the Infosecurity '98 show in London, and took the
opportunity to slam the government proposal . He pointed out that
a system could be imposed where a certification authority would not
sign for a signature key unless users handed over their encryption
keys. The initial PGP implementation guarded against this. Zimmer-
mann warned, "Don't go for this."
You can keep up-to-the-minute on developments in British crypto pol-
icy at this page  on the site of the Campaign Against Censorship
of the Internet in Britain.
..Wang patent claims against Netscape thrown out
A browser is not a Videotex terminal
A Federal judge has dismissed Wang's patent claims against Netscape
. The ruling stated that Wang's patent on the early-1980s "Video-
tex" system was "generically and fundamentally different" from In-
ternet Web browsers and related technologies. Netscape's Mozilla page
 thanks the hundreds of developers who responded to the company's
plea for help with the prior art:
> You guys blew away our lawyers. Tons of stuff came in, and
> good stuff.
..Congress belatedly authorizes fee for domain names
Does this mean the price will go back up?
You weren't waiting for a $30 refund from when you registered a do-
main name , were you? Now Congress has retroactively authorized
the collection of the fee ,  as part of Internet domain-name
registration. The President has signed the measure. The lawyer who
represented the companies filing suit against domain-name registrar
Network Solutions, Inc., is not ready to let the matter rest. "We
are going to very, very vigorously oppose any suggestion that that
vague language surreptitiously entered into the bill ratified an
NSI stopped collecting the Intellectual Infrastructure fee on 4/1.
.."Lawful access" in practice
Fourth Amendment shades of grey
Phil Agre's Red Rock Eater News Service carried an extended dis-
cussion  of the legalities of "lawful access" searches vs.
court-issued warrants, covered in TBTF for 4/27/98 . It details
the shades of grey that executive practice has patinated over the
Fourth Amendment down the years. Here is the CDT's Jim Dempsey
clarifying the role of Executive Order 12333 in the present day:
> ...section 2.5 of E.O. 12333 was superseded by legislation,
> adopted, I think, in 1994. 50 USC 1821 - 1829. Now the
> Attorney General can authorize physical searches on her own
> only of premises, property or material "used exclusively by,
> or under the open and exclusive control of, a foreign power."
> Searches directed at agents of foreign powers must be approved
> by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. My boss at
> the time, Cong. Don Edwards was one of the few who objected,
> arguing, that these "black bag jobs" should be abolished
> altogether, not given to the FISA court.
..Hotmail still running on Solaris and Apache
A leaked report  claims that after purchasing the Hotmail free
email service, which has 10 million subscribers, Microsoft tried and
failed to move it off of Solaris hosts and onto Windows NT. A source
is quoted as saying, "NT couldn't handle it. The issue is being es-
calated." The Web server in use on Solaris is Apache 1.2.1, which
does not run on NT due to technical and other difficulties encoun-
tered by the Apache team. This report first appeared in Network News
(4/22/98), but I could find no online source for it.
..Gaming site opens to Netscape's browser
Microsoft's Internet Gaming Zone  opened its gates to Netscape
users yesterday, rolling out a new version of its software that will
support the Netscape Navigator Web browser. This is the site that
originally inspired the TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame .
..Is Microsoft buying academia?
A professor who mentions Microsoft programming tools in a scholarly
presentation, or even just uses the tools, can get a check for $200
from Microsoft. The company extends this offer on the Web page of
the Academic Cooperative , a Microsoft "speakers' bureau" for
computer-science professors. Ethics watchdogs call the program a
baldfaced attempt to turn professors into advertisers. Microsoft
says it's a well-intentioned effort to help faculty members cover
their conference costs, and notes that $200 is not that big a deal,
anyway. But it's a bigger deal for a professor in a public insti-
tution than for a stock-optioned Microsoft employee. "We're so
strapped, we don't look a gift horse in the mouth," says a CS pro-
fessor at U.Mass-Lowell.
Thanks to Jon Callas <jon at worldbenders dot com> for the
..Year 2000 corner
..Legislative attempt to limit Y2K damages is dead, for now
The California bill, covered in TBTF for 4/20/97 , died last week
in the Assembly's Judiciary Committee. Supporters plan to reintro-
duce the legislation . The idea is spreading: other states and
the Congress are considering similar laws .
..Al Gore's Y2K problem
We expect the millenium bug to have financial and legal impacts. Now
the Netly News  has uncovered the first evidence of its likely
political fallout. Republican strategists are maneuvering to pin the
Y2K problem on the Vice President, who has cast himself as both the
champion of high tech and the prime mover in the Reinventing Gov-
ernment initiative. So why hasn't he been leading the effort to
stomp this bug in government and industry?
..Tester, heal thyself
Risks 19.71 (5/1/98)  introduces a subject we will be hearing
more about as testing for Year 2000 fixes accelerates: problems
caused by systems that can't handle date records jumping around.
The scenario: testers set the system date ahead to late 1999. After
testing they set it back but forget to purge the log and transaction
data that is stamped with out-of-sequence dates. The anonymous Risks
correspondent notes that such problems are easy to fix but that
there may be a lot of them.
Risks 19.67 (4/14/98)  carried this "inverse Y2K" note culled
from the UK Daily Telegraph by <email@example.com>.
> Wine broker Bordeaux Index has spent a fortune making sure
> its computers can handle the Millennium bug. Yesterday it
> had no trouble shifting a magnum of Chateau Margaux 1900 for
> 9,000 pounds -- but trying to log the sale proved more dif-
> ficult. No matter how hard they tried, the computer kept
> changing the description to Ch. Margaux 2000. "We are stumped,"
> says a spokesman. "We can't get it to register the proper
..Your daily dose
Visit  for a quotidian load of press clippings on Y2K. For a
wider view -- a robot that watches (currently) fifteen Y2K summary
pages and reports differences day by day -- see Ingenious Technol-
ogies' Daily Diffs .
..Google: high-relevancy Web searching
Ranking Web pages for better search results
This site , one of the few rigorous academic research projects
on Web searching, presents a demonstration database -- only 25M
documents -- that already blows past most of the existing search
engines in returning relevant nuggets. Google employs a concept of
Page Rank derived from academic citation literature. Page Rank
equates roughly to a page's importance on the Web: the more inbound
links a page has, and the higher the importance of the pages linking
to it, the higher its Page Rank. The project used to be called
BackRub and its spiders are still so called; those of you hosting
Web pages will have seen its tracks of late in your log files. I
tried a search for "Schmanthrax" -- the title of TBTF for 2/23/98
 -- and of the 16 items returned, the top one was that very
issue and 10 were linking pages on the TBTF archive. Alta Vista and
HotBot returned a far larger number of hits, predominantly the
mailing list archives of TBTF republishers.
The site has this to say about the name:
> We chose our system name, Google, because it is a common
> spelling of googol, or 10^100 and fits well with our goal
> of building very large-scale search engines.
Funny, I thought the common spelling of googol was "googol."
They'd survive a nuclear war
This TechWeb story , covering a NetWorld+Interop talk by a Uunet
executive, slips in an appealing piece of jargon, which the Jargon
Scout  is more than happy to pick up. We are to believe that
this is how ISPs refer to the data bursts on which business-to-
business Internet commerce is built.
> The biggest challenge to ISPs such as Uunet is presented by
> "silicon cockroaches," or computer-to-computer communications
> that cause short bursts of huge amounts of data traffic in
> highly unpredictable patterns.
..A surprise bestseller
Mr. Bunny and Farmer Jake take on technical book publishing
The bestselling book on ActiveX in the Boston software community --
in fact the bestselling software book in any category -- is Mr.
Bunny's Guide to ActiveX . The book is a joke from cover to
cover, perpetrated by Gary Swanberg <firstname.lastname@example.org> writ-
ing as Carleton Egremont III. Last February object expert Charlie
Kindel mentioned the book favorably on a DCOM developers' mailing
list and launched an underground publishing phenomenon. As far as
I know, Softpro Books is the exclusive distributor of Mr. Bunny's
Guide. Amazon professes total ignorance of its ISBN. You can buy
the book here , and since Softpro has no "associates" program
I won't even get a kickback, but hey, don't let that stop you.
It's only $13.95 and cheap at half the price.
When the Net hands you mockery, make mock turtle soup
This year when People magazine began hyping its annual Most Beau-
tiful People poll, some People person had the bright idea to open
up voting on the Web. Bad idea. Usenet fans of radio schlock-jock
Howard Stern began encouraging Netizens to write in votes for a
regular character on the show: Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf. The
campaign spread across the Net and surely lots of people who had
never heard, perhaps never heard of, Howard Stern voted for the
Dwarf. (Yours truly did.) The magazine suspended Web voting after
Hank pulled ahead of Leonardo DiCaprio. The Net, its fun spoilt,
howled in protest; the magazine relented and reinstated the vot-
ing page, even adding Hank's name to a preconfigured button to
save visitors the trouble of a write-in. Voting closed on 5/8 and
the last time I looked before that, Hank was outgunning Lenny the
Cap by twenty to one. The final tally  should be announced on
Monday 5/11. Here is the page that, so it claims, started the
write-in campaign . The vote for Hank took off seriously after
Stern allowed a caller to cite this URL on his broadcast. This
story was picked up by some media outlets more traditional than
the one you are reading .
How to pronounce http://www
I've long been a fan of pronouncing "www" as "triple-dub," a neo-
logism proposed in one of Wired's first Jargon Watch columns. Sev-
eral other suggestions for verbalizing URLs appeared recently on
the newsgroup alt.religion.kibology, whose chaos is presided over
by James "Kibo" Parry <email@example.com>. The newsgroup sprang
up in the days before the Web out of the conviction that Kibo must
be God. Parry had set up filters on a full Usenet newsfeed and was
known for sending email, posthaste, to anyone who used the word
"Kibo" in any Usenet posting. Kibo's posting is an object lesson
in quoting a discussion thread and running it off a cliff. See why
they think he's God?
>>:>I want to invent a time machine just so I can kill the guy
>>:>who named the letter W and have its named changed to "wee."
>>:You know, I've always been meaning to introduce "wee wee wee"
>>:as a pronunciation of "www", but I've had such little occa-
>>:sion to pronounce an URL aloud.
>>I've gotten a couple of other DJs at the radio station to an-
>>nounce our URL as "hut-up wow", but I haven't heard anyone
>>else say it that way yet.
>My preferred pronounciation is "Hat Tip, Woo Woo" but I can't
>get anyone to use it. Maybe if I actually paid them to do it.
But this skirts the real issue: what's the name of "://"?
I like to call it "lizard lips" because we all know that
sideways lizard faces have diagonal lips. Nowadays most
smileys are too kissable.
:-X <-- DO NOT KISS MY SMILEY
Notice, in the second quoted passage, that the writer appears to
believe that "URL" is pronounced "earl." Must be a newbie. Coming
to you live from hat-top, lizard-lips, triple-dub, tbtf dot com,
I remain, yrs. sincerely, &tc.
N o t e s
> Flash Crowd is a short story by Larry Niven, collected in The Flight
of the Horse , now out of print. The story imagines a near-future
time when a system of cheap teleportation in use around the world
enables instant mobs to gather at newsworthy events. How like the
> A small celebration will be in order with the publication of the next
issue of TBTF, which will be number 150.
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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