TBTF for 5/18/98: Talking's done
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/05-18-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
Sun to Microsoft: Ship a compliant Java
E-Data patent falls in court
E-PRIVACY bill introduced
Corel lines up behind Open Source software
Intel helping Linux port to 64-bit Merced chip
Use the Source, Luke
A carbon nanotube transistor
An NT 5.0 beta Easter egg?
A jaundiced take on Steve Jobs
Windows 98 ships, lawsuits are filed
Twenty states and the federal government were poised to file law-
suits last Thursday accusing Microsoft of violations of the Sherman
antitrust act of 1890. Microsoft was poised to ship Windows 98 to
computer manufacurers last Friday -- the very system at the heart of
the dispute. At the 23rd hour all sides agreed to hold off action
and talk some more. That lasted quick. Microsoft and the federal
and state authorities were actually done talking on Friday, but they
met on Saturday anyway to wrap it up. Many lawyers have spoken to
many reporters since then and you can read details  of how the
talks broke down -- according to the NY Times they never really
started at all. Once everyone realized how far apart the two sides
are they gave it up. Boston Globe columnist David Warsh skillfully
spins the spinning that emerged from the weekend's breakdown .
Now both the states and the feds have filed their coordinated law-
suits , . Neither lawsuit seeks to block Windows 98 from
shipping. The states' antitrust claims are broader than had been
expected, and include charges of anticompetitive pricing of office
software suites as well as seeking relief on the browser front. The
states claim that Microsoft "illegally stifled competition, harmed
consumers, and undercut innovation in the software industry."
The states' suit seeks to force Microsoft to include Netscape's
browser with every copy of Windows 98 that ships. Microsoft lik-
ened this request to forcing McDonalds to tell a customer who asks
for a Big Mac to go visit Burger King first. At a press conference
today one of the state attorneys general commented on this remark.
He said a closer analogy would be to imagine that Coca Cola con-
trolled the distribution of all soft drinks through every super-
market in the world
Texas was an early instigator of the state actions (with Massachu-
setts), but got wishy-washy and dropped outm of the filing under
pressure from its local computer makers. Here is the final roster
California Louisiana North Carolina
Connecticut Maryland Ohio
Florida Massachusetts South Carolina
Illinois Michigan Utah
Iowa Minnesota West Virginia
Kansas New Mexico Wisconsin
Kentucky New York District of Columbia
Try this CMP/TechWeb hub  for links to many of Microsoft's woes.
While it has sections for DoJ vs. Microsoft, states vs. Microsoft,
etc., it does not mention efforts undertaken by Japan, Europe, the
Congress, the Software Publishers' Association, the Business Soft-
ware Alliance, Ralph Nader, etc. For all of these, follow "Ganging
Up on Microsoft" in TBTF Treads .
Or you could settle for this report  from the Bogus News Network,
but I won't be held responsible if you believe it.
..Sun to Microsoft: Ship a compliant Java
As one legal wrinkle is smoothed another is wrinkled
On 5/13 a three-judge panel ruled unanimously  that the 1995
consent decree binding Microsoft does not apply to Windows 98. On
the same day Sun added to Microsoft's world o'trouble by filing for
an injunction  to force Microsoft to include a complete and
compliant Java implementation in Windows 98. No injunction was
immediately issued and Microsoft's OS tuneup shipped to computer
manufacturers on 5/18.
..E-Data patent falls in court
Jusice grinds slow but it grinds exceeding fine
In 1996 when I last wrote about the E-Data patent , also called
the Freeny patent, TBTF's email circulation was a quarter what it
is today , so this story will be new to most of you. Here's a
timetable  to fill in the history.
The Freeny patent , filed in 1983, describes a method of re-
producing goods made of bits (e.g., music) in physical form at a
point-of-sale terminal, after receipt of an authorization code.
The patent kicked around for years until it was acquired by Inter-
active Gift Express, later named E-Data. This company, three guys
and a patent, sued 43 companies and sent letters of infringement
to a further 139, then began sending letters offering "amnesty"
to 75,000 software authors and vendors if they agreed to settle on
given terms. Several companies settled with E-Data -- IBM notable
among them -- and a couple of dozen more went to court in 1995 to
contest the patent.
The Federal court judge hearing one of the two resulting cases 
issued an Opinion & Order  on May 13. The judge construed the
patent so as to cut the legs from under E-Data's claims. The essense
of the Opinion & Order is this slap at E-Data:
> In an obvious attempt to expand the scope of its patent beyond
> that which was intended, plaintiff implausibly asserts that
> its patent covers certain uses of the Internet and World Wide
> Web, and applies to certain CD-ROM applications. It is abun-
> dantaly clear to the Court, however, that the Freeny patent
> clams and specification do not support plaintiff's broad in-
The case is not over, but the individual defendent companies are now
likely to file motions asking the court to dismiss the claims against
them, and the judge has construed the Freeny patent's claims so nar-
rowly that it is likely that many if not all such motions would be
..E-PRIVACY bill introduced
It's the most crypto-friendly bill yet filed. Why does it raise
the little hairs on the back of my neck?
Senators John Ashcroft and Patrick Leahy have introduced the E-
PRIVACY Act (and have back-formed a plausible expansion of the
acronym, with which I won't bore you). Here is the text of the bill
 and here is an analysis of its plusses and drawbacks from the
point of view of privacy and civil liberties . It was largely
drafted by the industry group Americans for Computer Privacy, whose
purpose is to get encryption export controls lifted for the benefit
of US commerce and trade. Despite their name, privacy for citizens
is not ACP's main concern. The E-PRIVACY bill contains a provision
criminalizing any use of crypto in the commission of a crime, and
it subjects products for export to heightened, if expedited, scru-
tiny. Finally the bill would establish a federal resource center to
train local law enforcement officers in code-breaking and other
technology useful for wiretapping or eavesdropping. The bill is
given little chance of passing in this session of Congress.
..Corel lines up behind Open Source software
The Canadian company is porting all of its applications, including
WordPerfect, to Linux. Corel has also repositioned its NetWinder NC,
originally conceived as a Java-based thin client, into a fully func-
tional desktop computer running Red Hat Linux. The NetWinder is
built around Digital's StrongARM processor. Here is Wired coverage
of these developments . Open Source guru Eric S. Raymond com-
mented: "Corel, a mainstream corporate entity with no special ties
to open-source hacker culture, has completely accepted the logic of
..Intel helping Linux port to 64-bit Merced chip
Strengthening a rumor picked up in last week's TBTF , a French
news page  has reported that Intel is helping 5 Linux companies
port to Merced. The rumor was discussed on slashdot  and resulted
in a front-page story in PC Week (UK), according to reporter Barry
de la Rosa <email@example.com>.
The following is badly translated from the French by Bablefish and
me from the French news page .
> "In 1999 we will publish the Merced specifications, but
> accompanied by a confidentiality contract to be sure
> that they are well used," explains D. Bhandarkar, processor
> architect for Intel's workstation division. Amid concern
> that the Merced instruction set remain secret, the porting
> of Linux cannot be carried out. However: "We're working with
> five companies to port Linux to Merced," Tom Gibbs told us
> on 4/28/98. Gibbs is in charge of development at Intel's
> workstation division. Merced is the Intel processor that
> will implement its new 64-bit architecture. Merced is an-
> nounced for mid-1999.
..Use the Source, Luke
Ellen Ullman writes , persuasively and beautifully, on the folly
of locking up our best knowledge in source code and forgetting how
to read it. Here's her take on the "wizards" that have proliferated
since Microsoft introduced them in Windows 3.1:
> No matter if, like Microsoft's definition of a software
> object, [the wizard's] viewpoint is haphazardly designed,
> verbose, buggy. The tool makes it look clean; the wizard
> hides bad engineering as well as complexity.
Ullman tries Linux, installing it clean on a new Wintel box, and
revels in uncluttered software that you can see all the way down
to the bottom of.
> Don't let anyone ever say that Linux is an unsupported
> operating system. Out there is a global militia of fear-
> less engineers posting helpful information on the Internet:
> Linux is the best supported operating system in the world.
..A carbon nanotube transistor
Shaving-close to the cutting edge of research
Unless you're on a private mailing list with the researchers, you
won't find more timely dispatches from the frontiers of physics than
those served up by Physics News Updates service of the American In-
stitute of Physics. Last week's email brought this story  on work
toward a transistor on the scale of single molecules (graphic ).
To subscribe to Physics News Update, email firstname.lastname@example.org with any
subject and with message: add physnews .
> An electronic device based on a single rolled-up sheet of
> carbon atoms has been built by researchers in the Netherlands,
> providing a demonstration of room-temperature, carbon-based
> electronics at the single-molecule scale. A semiconducting
> carbon nanotube (only about 1 nm in diameter) bridges two
> closely separated metal electrodes (400 nm apart) atop a sil-
> icon surface coated with silicon dioxide. Applying an electric
> field to the silicon (via a gate electrode) turns on and off
> the flow of current across the nanotube, by controlling the
> movement of charge carriers onto it. Although carbon nanotubes
> are robust and durable molecules, they can't yet be made uni-
> formly. While this can provide disadvantages (a slight dev-
> iation from the desired radius can give the nanotube metallic
> properties), it can also bring about advantages -- such as the
> possibility of a metal-semiconductor junction made completely
> of carbon nanotubes. (S.J. Tans et al., Nature, 7 May 1998)
..An NT 5.0 beta Easter egg?
Fun and games at buttoned-down Microsoft
Are you running NT 5.0 beta 1 (NT5.00.1734)? I don't have access
to it myself, so I can't verify this report from a usually reliable
informant. Try this experiment: fire up Internet Explorer 4.0 on
that version of the OS and visit www.sun.com. See if you aren't
redirected without warning to www.arl.mil, the Army Research Labs
site. Let me know what you find. This adolescent little Easter egg
was apparently removed in a later build of NT 5.
..A jaundiced take on Steve Jobs
Jorg "jbx" Brown takes the microphone
Brown is the genuis at Connetix responsible for RamDoubler, Speed-
Doubler (a better 68K emulator than Apple could write), and Virtual
PC. His talk at the Apple Developers' Conference is enshrined at
Macintouch . Thanks to CobraBoy <email@example.com> for the
> Steve Jobs completed the takeover of Apple. Whereas others
> would spend hundreds of millions to acquire a large stake
> in Apple, then force a board meeting to discuss a hostile
> takeover, Steve Jobs was paid $400 million, _sold_ all his
> shares but one, got the board to fire the president, then
> fired the board and replaced most of Apple's high-level
> management with newcomers or old colleagues from NeXT.
> Steve pioneered the art of using mostly dead spokespeople,
> some technophobes, to market a computer brand, and did it
> with a slogan that many argued was grammatically incorrect.
> His personal touch of industrial design inspired a Macintosh
> for the education market that was a scale model of his lower
> left wisdom tooth, and more recently, a $1299 beanbag-shaped
> vacuum cleaner designed for the Internet.
The lowest common denominator of Web searching
Joshua Eli Schachter <firstname.lastname@example.org> was scouring the Net for
information on any interface between Perl and MAPI, the Microsoft
Mail application programming interface. He stumbled upon Schachter's
Hypothesis while poring over the uniformly odd results from submit-
ting "+perl +mapi" to AltaVista :
> Given two unrelated technical terms, an internet search engine
> will retrieve only resumes.
Yadda-yadda, wack-wack, and other oddities
One of the reasons I ran the piece on pronouncing "http://www" in
the previous issue was to mitigate a case of internesia : an
age ago in Net time I had come across a lonely one-man campaign to
get Web-site owners to name their sites "web dot" in place of, or
in addition to, "www dot," but promptly lost track of where on the
Net I had seen this suggestion. Figured someone would send it to
me in response to "Lizard lips" ; and so several folks did.
Dave Yost is the man and his WebDot campaign  is perking along
nicely. A quick check with Infoseek reveals more than half a mil-
lion "web." URLs out of its database of 25 million.
Here is a selection from the mailbag in response to "Lizard lips."
(Correspondents from the current and former British Empire will note
that I have regularized punctuation around quotes to the American
Danny O'Brien <email@example.com>:
At NTK, we're pushing very hard for "www" to be replaced by
"yadda yadda yadda." Not shorter than the alternatives, but
more descriptive of prospective site content. [And appro-
priate for the week of the last Seinfeld episode as well --
Richard Probst <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
I once heard Tim Berners-Lee say that he chose the name
"World Wide Web" because he wanted the name to have fewer
syllables than the acronym.
Pete Murray <email@example.com>:
A free booklet with "Tomorrows World" magazine suggested the
commonly accepted pronunciation was HIT WEB (?!)
Hendrik Levsen <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
We in Gemany are better off, since "www" spells "way way
way" in German. This is what everybody should do: name their
sites without www and have them be reachable with the www,
too. But publish the no-www name.
allen hurst <email@example.com>:
I usually call "//" "wack-wack," and "www" "wuh-wuh-wuh".
It's weird, but people always know what I'm talking about.
Hence: huttup-colon, wack-wack, wuh-wuh-wuh dot, tee-bee-
tee-eff dot com. I derived this unusual verbiage from a
poem entitled "waka-waka-bang-splat" . I figured if "<"
or ">" was a "waka", then half of one of those ("/") must
be a "wack." Making little chopping motions with one's hand
while enunciating the URL also helps.
Joshua Newman <Joshua_Newman@heald.edu>:
"Aitch-tee-tee-pee, double-dotter, wack-wack, three-dub dot"
and go on from there. This should be said as quickly as pos-
sible, perhaps by a coffee auctioneer.
Ian Douglas <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Me, I always say "wawawa," which invariably gets really
weird looks from people hearing it for the first time. They
seem to think I have regressed to baby talk.
Julianne Chatelain <email@example.com>:
Over a year ago, Dave Shaw proposed "three-dub" as the
quickest (2-syllable) way to say "www."
David Long <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
Three w's must surely be a hexa-u.
S o u r c e s
> For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
TBTF home and archive at http://www.tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send
the message "subscribe" to email@example.com. TBTF is
Copyright 1994-1998 by Keith Dawson, <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Com-
mercial use prohibited. For non-commercial purposes please forward,
post, and link as you see fit.
Keith Dawson email@example.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.5
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----