TBTF for 12/24/97: Tormenting the Babel fish

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Wed, 24 Dec 1997 23:17:18 -0600


TBTF for 12/24/97: Tormenting the Babel fish

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/12-24-97.html >

C o n t e n t s

Microsoft agonistes
No overtime for Washington State permatemps?
Trademark dispute over the word "Internet"
Overbroad censorware
Secret intelligence services invented public-key crypto
Hacks of public pages are growing with the Internet
Second Certicom challenge falls
IBM to abandon Cryptolopes
The Internet Clock
Exclusionary sites, continued
The end of spam in the UK
Tormenting the Babel fish

..Microsoft agonistes

An eventful two weeks for the software giant and its government
(and other) pursuers

Unless you you've been deprived of Net access for the past two
weeks, you've been immersed in a storm of news, as pervasive as
pre-holiday commercialism, about the DoJ / Microsoft antitrust
battle. News.com collects URLs to all of its coverage here [1].
To recap:

12/11: Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issues a preliminary injunction
[2] requiring Microsoft to offer a version of its operating system
that does not include Internet Explorer. He also appoints a Special
Master, Lawrence Lessig, to advise the court on the legal and tech-
nical intricacies of the case [3].

12/15: Microsoft complies [4] with the injunction in a way that the
San Jose Mercury News calls "compliance with a raised middle
finger" [5] (this link requires Mercury Center membership). Here
is Wired's coverage [6], which sums up Microsoft's response in
two words, the first of which is not printable and the second of
which is "you." The company said it would proceed full steam ahead
with Windows 98, in which IE is so completely integrated with the
OS that it practically disappears.

12/17: The DoJ files a motion accusing Microsoft of contempt of
court [7].

12/17: Other parties are lining up to take their whacks at Microsoft.
Attornies General from nine US states meet for three days to dis-
cuss a coordinated antitrust action [8].

12/18: Users post their own solutions to removing IE from Windows
95, and Netscape promises to post detailed instructions for remov-
ing IE [9], complete with a button for replacing it with Netscape's

12/19: Judge Jackson deinstalls Internet explorer from a new computer
in 90 seconds [10] and asks both sides to file comments. A Microsoft
spokesman acknowledges informally that the "deinstall" program
shipped with Windows 95 will remove visible portions of the browsing
software, but stressed that it deletes only about three percent of
the IE code; some of the remaining 97% is needed by other applica-

12/23: Microsoft files its comment [11] in response to the above,
says these shenanigans demonstrate that "poorly informed lawyers
have no vocation for software design." (A bit arrogant, do you
think?) In a separate filing [12] the company asks Judge Jackson
to remove the Special Master [13], claiming that Lessig's writings
betray an anti-Microsoft bias.

12/23: Former Senator and presidential candidate Robert Dole is
quietly building an anti-Microsoft coalition [14].

12/23: Mother Jones weighs in with an investigative piece [15]
claiming that Microsoft so dominates the Software Publishers
Association that it can and does offer foreign countries re-
lief from copyright and trademark actions if they agree to re-
place their current software with purchased Microsoft products.

12/24: Hiawatha Bray, writing in the Boston Globe (the article is
apparently not online), notes that some of the fellow SPA members
cited in the Mother Jones article disclaim its accuracy.

12/24: Microsoft stock falls to a 6-month low [16]. (MSFT is still
up 45% over year-end 1996.)

[1] http://www.news.com/SpecialFeatures/Textonly/0,161,17033,00.html
[2] http://www.news.com/SpecialFeatures/Textonly/0,161,17312,00.html
[3] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17345,00.html?pfv
[4] http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/doj/oemdoj.htm
[5] http://spyglass1.sjmercury.com/premium/business/docs/gillmor16.htm
[6] http://www.wired.com/news/news/business/story/9223.html
[7] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17468,00.html?pfv
[8] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17440,00.html?pfv
[9] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17502,00.html?pfv
[10] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17534,00.html?pfv
[11] http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/doj/12-23appeals.html
[12] http://www.microsoft.com/corpinfo/doj/12-23.lessig.htm
[13] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17634,00.html?pfv
[14] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17625,00.html?pfv
[15] http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/JF98/burstein.html
[16] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17635,00.html?pfv

..No overtime for Washington State permatemps?

State government in Microsoft's backyard contemplates changing the
rules on non-permanent software professionals

The state of Washington moved quietly to deny overtime pay to soft-
ware professionals who work on a part-time or contract basis. The
Department of Labor & Industry held hearings behind closed doors;
the Seattle times carried no word of the planned rule change until
after the period for public comment had closed. The first coverage
[17] caused such a storm of calls and letters to government officials
that the comment period was reopened [18].

The proposed rule would exempt from overtime "any employee who is
a computer-system analyst, computer programmer, software engineer,
software developer, or other similarly skilled worker" who has ex-
perience and theoretical knowledge of computers. Those employees
would be paid "straight time" for extra hours, while those earning
under $27.63 per hour would continue to receive an overtime premium.
Most software temps earn well above this cutoff.

The exemption was proposed by the Washington Software and Digital
Media Alliance, whose largest member is Microsoft. The company
supports the rule change but has let the Alliance and contract-
employment agencies lead in lobbying for its adoption. Microsoft is
the state's largest employer of contract software professionals,
with an estimated 3,500 to 5,000 temps in its Seattle-area work
force of 16,000.

This item from Edupage (12/2/97) sheds light on another reason why
such a no-overtime rule might appear politically attractive.

> Rising tech salaries cause resentment among non-tech workers

> One side effect of the increasing shortage of qualified
> high-tech workers is a sharp rise in salaries for technical
> jobs, which is causing morale problems among non-technical
> staffers working side-by-side who are beginning to see the
> pay scales diverge. "Salaries are escalating really quickly,"
> says one technical director. "Sometimes, it's difficult for
> human-resources people to comprehend how fast that is hap-
> pening." The increase in salaries is also making it harder to
> pitch technology projects to top management, says another
> information technology director: "Management always reads
> about technology costs going down. But now costs are going up,
> and it's hard for them to digest this." (Wall Street Journal
> 1 Dec 97)

Thanks to cal@tpdinc.com for the alert on this story.

[17] http://www.seattletimes.com/extra/browse/html97/temp_120597.html
[18] http://www.seattletimes.com/extra/browse/html97/temp_121097.html

..Trademark dispute over the word "Internet"

A banking company trademarked the I-word in 1990, and it doesn't want
to give it up

David Black <d.black@opengroup.org> sent the following account from
the recent IETF meeting in Washington.

A truly amazing story was told by Robert Kahn (CNRI) and Don
Heath (Internet Society, a/k/a ISOC). In 1990, a company
called "Internet Inc.," working on electronic networks for
banking, registered the word "Internet" as a trademark to
refer to interconnecting banking networks. At that time,
Robert Kahn says the company CEO assured him that there was no
problem with using "Internet" to refer to the Internet -- that
was a completely separate domain of usage. Since that time,
they have retracted that assurance, and claimed that use of
the word Internet in "Internet Society" (and by implication in
IETF also) infringes their trademark. CNRI and ISOC filed a
petition to cancel the trademark in 1994, so that the term
"Internet" would be freely usable when referring to the In-
ternet, and that case has been winding its way through the
works ever since. The owners of the trademark apparently
regard the trademark as a valuable asset and are not inclined
to part with it. The US Patent and Trademark office is not
being helpful at the moment -- they're apparently inclined to
uphold the trademark on the basis that nobody seems to care.
Among the evidence that the term Internet has gone into
widespread public usage is the fact that an Alta Vista search
during this presentation turned up over 8 million documents
online that use the word "Internet."

Since the US Patent and Trademark office does not want to be
contacted via email (e.g., see [19]), it's necessary to contact
the Secretary of Commerce (US Department of Commerce):

Email: wdaley@doc.gov
Phone: 202-482-2112
Fax: 202-482-2741

The Honorable William M. Daley
Office of the Secretary
Rm. 5854
U.S. Department of Commerce
14th & Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20230

The Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, Bruce Lehman, may
also be reachable via email at Bruce.Lehman@uspto.gov .

[19] http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/com/comm.html

..Overbroad censorware

A new report focuses on the questionable, and the simply inexplicable,
exclusions of a leading vendor of censorware

A new organization of Net activists and writers, The Censorware
Project, has produced an in-depth look at some of the sites blocked
by a leading censorware product. The report [20] is called Black-
listed by Cyber Patrol: From Ada to Yoyo. It lists entire ISPs
blocked, sites with names similar to offensive sites, and sites
on gay issues. Cyber Patrol blocks all of the Tripod site -- 1.4
million members' home pages -- even though Tripod's terms of ser-
vice explicitly forbid members to post the kind of material that
censorware is meant to deflect.

[20] http://www.spectacle.org/cwp/

..Secret intelligence services invented public-key crypto

The English predated Diffie and Hellman by 3 years. Did the Yanks
also invent PK, 7 years eariler still?

The British intelligence agency GCHQ last week released a paper [21]
stating that officers of the bBitish intelligence service discovered
public-key cryptography years before Hellman, Diffie, Merkle, Riv-
est, Shamir, and Adelman. The New York Times coverage of the story
is here [22]; those without an account at CyberTimes may prefer this
TechWeb article [23].

John Ellis wrote the history of the British development in 1987,
soon after his retirement from government service; the document was
classified until last week. Ellis published an existence theorm in
a secret memo in 1970 for what he called non-secret encryption.
Colleagues at GCHQ then developed algorithms equivalent to RSA in
1973 and to Diffie-Hellman in 1974. The first public step toward
public-key encryption was the publication of Diffie and Hellman's
paper in April of 1976.

Evidence is beginning to emerge that may award first discovery to
American spooks. The CD-ROM version of the 1997 Encyclopedia
Britannica says, under "Cryptology: Cryptography: Two-key Crypto-

> Adm. Bobby Inman, while director of the U.S. National
> Security Agency, pointed out that two-key cryptography
> had been discovered at the agency a decade earlier [than
> the public discovery].

That is, in 1967. Recently Bell Labs cryptographers Matt Blaze and
Steve Bellovin made available [24] a sanitzed copy of National Sec-
urity Action Memorandum No. 160 (6/6/62), a memo from the desk of
John F. Kennedy regarding the problem of securing the arming codes
of nuclear weapons. NSAM-160 was signed by science advisor Jerome
Weisner. Bellovin recounts a retired NSA hand saying that NSAM-160
was the basis for the invention of public key cryptography by NSA
[24]. Discussion on the Cryptography mailing list has centered on
the aspects of PK crypto -- such as non-repudiation and simplified
key handling -- that would have made it an ideal solution to the
problem of arming codes.

To date the NSA has not followed the lead of GCHQ; they have said
nothing on record about the early development of PK crypto. It's
safe to assume that the last word has not been spoken on this his-
torical question.

[21] http://www.cesg.gov.uk/ellisint.htm
[22] http://www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/week/122497encrypt.html
[23] http://www.techweb.com/news/story/TWB19971218S0008
[24] http://www.research.att.com/~smb/nsam-160/

..Hacks of public pages are growing with the Internet

A Web site of reference emerges for signed breakins

Hacked.net is developing into a complete historical reference for
hacked Web sites, including copies of the pages with which hackers
have replaced the front doors of Coca-Cola, NASA, Amnesty Inter-
national, and a couple of hundred other sites. Here is a summary
[25] of all known hacks of public pages since March 1977, and here
are details [26] for the month of December. The totals:

12/97 83 Fox Network, Yahoo, Trivial Pursuit
11/97 27 Spice Girls
10/97 44 Iomega Corp., ValuJet
09/97 31 Coca-Cola Company, USGS
08/97 15 First Michigan Bank
07/97 8 Minnesota State Government
06/97 11 Geocities, Face-Off film site, USDA
05/97 7 Asahi TV Japan, Polish Cabinet
04/97 8 Amnesty International
03/97 3 NASA

[25] http://www.hacked.net/exploited.html
[26] http://www.hacked.net/december_1997.html

..Second Certicom challenge falls

This is getting repetitive, repetitive

Robert Harley, who announced [27] the solution of the first incre-
ment of the Certicom challenge two weeks ago, succeeded with the
aid of a larger group of collaborators in breaking the second
challenge goal as well [28].

[27] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/12-08-97.html#s06
[28] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/certicom2.html

..IBM to abandon Cryptolopes

Users say they want the secure container technology embedded in
applications, not standalone

IBM is shutting down [29] the operation developing its much-hyped
Cryptolopes [30] software, a secure container technology used for
sending content over the Internet and for tracking intellectual
property rights. Elements of the technology may be appear in Lotus
Notes and/or in IBM's net.Commerce merchant server. An IBM spokes-
woman said the company will not be bringing the Java-based Crypto-
lopes Live product to market as planned. Beta testing revealed that
customers wanted to see that technology melded into other applica-

[29] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17474,00.html?pfv
[30] http://vinegar-bend.infomkt.ibm.com/ht3/crypto.htm

..The Internet Clock

The Net is getting big enough that the most accurate way to track its
growth may be statistically

This site [31], developed at BellCore for internal use, recons the
size of the Internet by purely statistical means. (It uses a Java
applet for display, so enable Java before you visit.) The authors
figure that the Net is now large enough that statistical methods
for estimating its size will give better accuracy than sampling or
enumerating [32]:

> Nearly 100,000 randomly generated IP addresses (from the
> universe of 2 to the power 32 possible addresses) are sampled
> on a daily basis and the DNS system is used to find out
> whether or not a host with each sampled address exists in the
> name service. The number of hits and failures obtained from
> this sampling methodology is then used to obtain the Raw
> Estimates (nonparametric estimates) along with confidence
> intervals using statistical techniques appropriate for large
> samples, as is the case in this application.

This page is quite new (to those outside of BellCore); when I first
hit it I was visitor number 60.

So how big is the Net right now? 29,920,069 hosts and counting.

[31] http://www.netsizer.com/
[32] http://www.netsizer.com/info.html

..Exclusionary sites, continued

More entries in the TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame

Lots of responses to the Hall of Shame feature [33], [34]. "Shame"
is a strong word; it grabs attention, perhaps more attention than
putting up a less than universally available site deserves. Here
are two more such sites pointed out by readers, in both cases ex-
cluding visitors using MSIE; and one response from a Hall of Shamer.

1. Joel Rosner <joelhr@columbia.edu> writes that his school, Columbia,
discriminates against the Internet Explorer browser. To enable
access to the Internet, members of the Comumbia community need to
register their Ethernet card for the network. The page on the site
that lets you do that says:

> Browser Note: This page will not work properly if you are
> using Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. If you plan
> to register, pre-register, or lookup your RHNO connection
> information then please use any browser other than In-
> ternet Explorer. Netscape and Mosaic are two examples of
> browsers which work properly.

2. Joe Barrera <joebar@microsoft.com> notes an "MSIE need not apply"
site maintained by CitiBank. Its online banking page [35] says:

> If you're already a Citibank Checking account customer with a
> valid Citicard and a Netscape 128-bit encryption browser,
> you're all set. Just click here to go to the sign-in page and
> get started with Direct Access!

Barrera is running IE 4.0 with 128-bit encryption, as verified
by Wells Fargo's browser test page [36], but CitiBank tells him
"Internet Explorer and AOL browsers are not yet compatible with
Direct Access." Can't say plainer than that.

3. Finally, Tesco [37] got wind of their inclusion in the Hall of Shame
and sent this note:

> The site is currently on trial and only available to users in
> certain areas. The site was writen in ActiveX and VBScript for
> quick development. A new version is in the pipeline (available
> in February) which will use server side Active [sic], thereby
> allowing the vast majority of browsers to access the site.
> Also we have a CD Rom (offline version) which is available to
> anyone with Windows or Virtual Windows. (The new online ver-
> sion in February will be available to Mac users.)

(I presume by "server side Active" they mean active server pages.)

[33] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/11-24-97.html#s11
[34] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/12-08-97.html#s08
[35] http://home.da-us.citibank.com/docs2/directaccess/
[36] http://wellsfargo.com/per/services/browser/
[37] http://www.tesco.co.uk/superstore/tis.asp

..The end of spam in the UK

Oh heck, you weren't talking about email?

Peter Langston <psl@langston.com> forwards the following perfect
little item from David A. Bayly <dbayly@udena.ch>.

> The last spam factory in the UK closed today, according to
> BBC Radio today (12/23). They had quite a long report on it,
> I think mainly as an excuse to play excerpts from a very
> famous Monty Python episode. Curiously, the factory was still
> profitable, but the US parent closed it anyway. Production
> has shifted to Denmark. Perhaps they have less BSE [mad cow
> disease] in Denmark?

> Sorry to disappoint those who thought email when they read
> the title.

..Tormenting the Babel fish

The collaboration of Alta vista with SYSTRAN is good news for non-
English speaking users of the Web. It's good fun, too

SYSTRAN language-translation software was first reviewed here in
TBTF for 1/29/97 [38] when it was in an early stage of development.
At the time, it took me four days to get the Jargon Scout page [39]
translated into Spanish [40] -- the server was that overloaded. Now
Digital's Alta Vista search service has teamed up [41] with a more
mature SYSTRAN to offer on-the-fly translation of non-English Web
pages returned from Net searches.

Given Alta Vista's track record in maintaining sub-second search
times over tens of millions of requests per day, capacity limit-
ations in translation should be a thing of the past.

You can go directly to Alta Vista's translate page [42] and enter
text to be translated, or a URL. Five languages are supported: Ger-
man, French, Spanish, Portugese, and Italian. In its alpha test
SYSTRAN also offered Russian but this has been dropped. The service
requires English on one end of each translation, so you can trans-
late from, e.g., German into Italian only indirectly.

The translations are serviceable for simple text and should prove a
boon for their intended audience of Web searchers. Some Net wags
couldn't resist torture-testing the translation engine, however,
and I must number myself among them [43]. It was from Anthony Baxter
<arb@connect.com.au> that I got first word of the Alta Vista -
SYSTRAN collaboration. Baxter tried a simple experiment using the
common phrase "Go stick your head in a pig." (Douglas Adams would
have us believe [44] that this phrase is a registered trademark of
the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. Complaints Division.) Art Medlar
<art@ua.com> provides a tool [45] to automate this sort of trans-

> English: Go stick your head in a pig.
> French: Disparaissent le baton votre tete chez un porc.
> English: Disappear the stick your head in a pig.

> English: Go stick your head in a pig.
> German: Verschwinden der Stock Ihr Kopf in einem Schwein.
> English: Disappear the stick your heading in a pig.

> English: Go stick your head in a pig.
> Italian: Va il bastone la vostra testa in un maiale.
> English: Your head in a pig goes the stick.

> English: Go stick your head in a pig.
> Spanish: Va el palillo su cabeza en un cerdo.
> English: Its head in a pig goes the small stick.

> English: Go stick your head in a pig.
> Portugeuse: Vai a vara sua cabega em um porco.
> English: Vai the pole its head in a pig.

What we're seeing here is the linguistic equivalent of successive
multiplication by a number less than one. If each translation is 70%
faithful to its source, for example, two trips through the trans-
lation engine result in a 51% degradation in meaning, four trips
a 76% degradation, and so on.

SYSTRAN makes so bold as to claim to handle idiom in its various
languages. Baxter's example, and these experiments of mine [43],
demonstrate the hollowness of the claim. Here is a prose sample from
SYSTRAN's Web site [46] -- obviously rendered, by the very software
in question, into a language curiously like English, and not since
examined by any eyes attaching to an English-speaking person.

> SYSTRAN, famous for its past as supplier for the government
> and industry, has a flexible organization which allows to
> develop at the rhythm of technologic evolution and emerging
> ideas in the field of computer linguistic. Without losing
> benefit from hundred of people / years invested since 1968 in
> the development of linguistic dictionaries and rules for its
> impressive choice of language pairs, SYSTRAN has learned to
> evolve successfully towards a sophisticated system of transfer
> type automatic translation.

SYSTRAN sells its translation services both in the form of Windows
software, priced per bidirectional language pair [47], and online
for a penny per word [48]. Another language translation company,
Comprende [49], which has announced a partnership with Best Inter-
net, intends to offer translation services by subscription. Both
companies will have to find a way to position their online offer-
ings as premium services, since SYSTRAN's deal with Alta Vista
means that neither can compete on the bases of price or capacity /

[38] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/01-29-97.html#s06
[39] http://www.tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html
[40] http://www.tbtf.com/explorador-jerga.html
[41] http://altavista.digital.com/av/content/pr120997.htm
[42] http://babelfish.altavista.digital.com/cgi-bin/translate?
[43] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/trans.html
[44] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0345391802/forkrecommendedA/
[45] http://www.archive.org/~art/babelphone.html
[46] http://www.systransoft.com/howworks.html
[47] http://www.systransoft.com/PriceList.html
[48] http://www.systranet.com/english/trans.html
[49] http://comprende.globalink.com/

N o t e s

> Today's TBTF title is due to Guy Harris <guy@netapp.com>, who posted
various Alta Vista / SYSTRAN experiments to a private mailing list.
The Babel fish is the fanciful invention of Douglas Adams in The
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [44]: place this small symbiotic
fish in your ear and thereafter it telepathically translates any
language for you. Digital has honored this invention in the URL of
its translation service [42].

S o u r c e s

> For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
< http://www.tbtf.com/sources.html >.

> Edupage -- mail listproc@educom.unc.edu without subject and with
message: subscribe edupage Your Name . Web home at
http://www.educom.edu/ .

TBTF home and archive at < http://www.tbtf.com/ >. To subscribe
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Commercial use prohibited. For non-commercial purposes please
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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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