TBTF for 10/27/98: Drilling for jargon
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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technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994
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This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/10-27-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
The Net can't be secured
CDA II lawsuit filed
Navigator 4.06 spies on you
Antitrust this century
Where do you want to go wrong today?
The enterprisification of Linux
A bitcloud above the city
Controlling a computer by pure thought
Negative energy warp drive
Drilling for jargon
..The Net can't be secured
NRC study calls for long-term research
The 9 October 1998 issue of Science carries news  (subscription
required) of a National Research Council study funded by DARPA and
the NSA. Its goal was to ascertain how we can increase the degree
to which people trust the Internet. After 2 years the researchers
have concluded that, with current knowledge, we can't. "We couldn't
make [systems] trustworthy even if we wanted to," says the panel's
chair, Cornell University computer scientist Fred Schneider. The
report urges a long-term program of research -- which it notes is
too risky to interest companies and thus must be supported by the
federal government. A pre-publication draft of the report "Trust
in Cyberspace is online at  in the form of 22 MS Word documents.
For a quick overview download the three PowerPoint presentations
(just over 100K total). Thanks to Lewis A. Shadoff, PhD for the
..CDA II lawsuit filed
Deja vu all over again
The Child Online Protection Act, dubbed CDA II by its critics, was
challenged ,  in court the day after being signed into law by
President Clinton. The ACLU, EFF, and EPIC were joined by a dozen
commercial and nonprofit organizations including the Internet Con-
tent Coalition, OBGYN.Net, Philadelphia Gay News, and Salon Magazine
to kick off the court battle. Many of these same groups participated
in the challenge to the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which was
ultimately quashed by a unanimous Supreme Court. Supporters of CDA
II attempted to write the legislation more narrowly in order to pass
constitutional muster, and indeed experts agree that this law will
be tougher to overturn than the CDA was. Here is a comparison of the
provisions of the two statutes . CDA II is scheduled to go into
effect on 11/1, but it could be enjoined by the federal court be-
fore that date.
..Navigator 4.06 spies on you
Alexa technology, as used by Netscape, opens an alarming privacy
Once you click the button for the new "What's Related?" feature in
Netscape Communicator 4.06 (or 4.5 beta), in its default configur-
ation the browser sends the URL of every page you visit thereafter
to a site owned by Netscape . Thus Netscape (and anyone packet-
sniffing on the path between you and Netscape) acquires a complete
list of every web page that interests you. The "What's Related?"
button triggers an additional HTTP session with the host www-rl.-
netscape.com, which collects an electronic trail of your Web ac-
tivity as you wend from site to site. To prevent this tracking,
you have several options:
- Don't use version 4.06.
- Never click on "What's Related?".
- Set Preferences -> Navigator -> Smart Browsing to "completely
Matt Curtin's writeup  provides more detail, and it's chilling.
..Antitrust this century
Trust-busting lessons beyond Rockefeller's Standard Oil
The invaluable David Warsh, a columnist whose usual territory is
the currents of thought and turf battles among economists, has a
surprise-filled column  in the Boston Globe, a barefoot run
through the US government's antitrust actions in this century. It's
commonplace now to compare Bill Gates with John D. Rockefeller,
but the Standard Oil case is only Warsh's starting point. Did you
know that Pierre DuPont owned General Motors and was forced to
divest it in 1954? I didn't. If you want the long view of what the
government must accomplish in the Microsoft antitrust case, read
..Where do you want to go wrong today?
Microsoft's Java JIT compiler bungles tail recursion
A programmer from England has discovered a flaw in Microsoft's Java
environment running in Internet Explorer under Windows. On 10/20
Andrew Kennedy posted a note  to Java programming newsgroups
showing that jview, Microsoft's command-line interface to its just-
in-time compiler, calculates the factorial of 5 (i.e., 5 x 4 x 3 x
2 x 1 x 1) to be 16. Kennedy writes:
> Microsoft seem to have confused addition with multiplication.
> Such an easy mistake to make.
Followup postings pin down the likely source of the bug as incor-
rectly handled tail recursion in Microsoft's JIT compiler. Unfor-
tunately there seems to be no way to turn off JIT. Kennedy specu-
lates that this error may be responsible for the failure of a large
number of Java applets to run in the IE 4 environment. Thanks to
Bruno Bossola for alerting me to this problem.
..The enterprisification of Linux
Pray the E18N word doesn't catch on
The title of this note is expanded from a barbarism uttered by an
Intel representative and reported in The Register :
> We've put some money into Red Hat so we can enterprisify
> the OS.
He redeemed himself somewhat by adding:
> We're trying to make it industrial strength. At the
> moment it's dweeb strength.
Herewith a sampling of recent reports pointing to snowballing main-
stream acceptance of Linux. We're past the stage of straws in the
wind -- this is a haystack blowing by.
- American Megatrends is shipping a Red Hat Linux driver for their
RAID disk controller .
- After long negotiations Sun has licensed the Java JDK 1.2 to
the Linux porting team .
- Oracle adds substance to its announced plans to support Linux
- Hewlett Packard is reportedly pondering how Linux would fit
into its product line , .
- Corel has announced it will give away WordPerfect 8 for Linux
- Microsoft acknowledged in an SEC filing that Linux represents
increasing competition for Windows NT .
..A bitcloud above the city
Airplane-borne HALO Network to provide city-wide WANs
The field of contenders grows ever more crowded in the bid to de-
liver megabits-per-second bandwidth to homes and businesses. Cable
is in the lead  and ADSL is expected to grow quickly now that
the local phone companies are, however reluctantly, embracing it
, . Recently TBTF has covered satellite constellations 
and fixed wireless  solutions. Here is a look at another con-
tender bidding to bridge the last mile.
HALO stands for High Altitude, Long Operation aircraft. St. Louis-
based Angel Technologies ,  plans by the year 2000 to de-
ploy custom-designed jets over Los Angeles. Each of three planes,
flying an 8-hour shift, will scribe a 2.5-mile circle at 60,000
feet -- above air traffic and weather -- supplying multi-megabit
bandwidth to a footprint 60 miles across. Consumers will be of-
fered 1 to 5 Mbit/sec. service through their ISPs. Businesses could
initially sign up for 12.5 Mbit/sec and eventually 155 Mbit/sec.
The HALO aircraft, designed by Burt Rutan's company Scaled Compos-
ites , began flight testing in August and demonstrated 52 Mbit/
sec. wireless connectivity in September . At 40 KW radiated
power in the 28 and 38 GHz bands, and broadcasting from 1/100th the
distance of low-earth orbit satellites, HALO greatly simplifies the
technical challenges of providing wireless connectivity. Cities can
be brought online one by one, unlike LEO solutions whose constella-
tions which must be fully built out and deployed before serving
their first customer. And the HALO approach makes upgrading equip-
ment and service a no-brainer For an excellent overview of the com-
pany's plans and technology, listen to this RealAudio interview
with Angel's CTO Dr. Nicholas Colella . Thanks to John Kristoff
for suggesting this topic.
..Controlling a computer by pure thought
Talk about spooky action at a distance
Doctors in Atlanta have implanted devices in the brains of two par-
alyzed patients that allow them to control a computer's cursor by
thought alone . The patients are quite ill (one of them has
since died) and the training they underwent to use the implants was
extensive; the range of control they achieved was limited. But the
team running the project is enthusiastic about the possibilities
for the disabled opened up by this research.
The first time I was aware of work in this direction was in 1970,
when a scientist at the then-Stanford Research Institute (now SRI
International) developed a helmet sensitive to brain waves and
trained himself to move a cursor on a computer screen by saying
aloud the words "up" and "down." He then went further and refined
the feedback such that he didn't need to say the words, but merely
to think them. I never saw another word about this research; per-
haps it went "deep black." If anyone remembers this work and can
supply a citation, please drop me a note (firstname.lastname@example.org).
..Negative energy warp drive
As the tee shirt has it, "186,000 miles per second isn't just a good
idea -- it's the law." The idea behind Star Trek's warp drive (and
uncountable other science fiction inventions) is to bend the fabric
of space in order to circumvent this hard limit. Ken Olum, a re-
searcher at Tufts University, has speculated  that such warping
should be possible if one could endow a piece of matter with nega-
tive energy -- that is, make it less massive than empty space. In
Olum's model objects and signals don't actually travel faster than
light. Rather, the curvature of a spacetime near a negative-energy
object is such that one can arrive quickly at distant places without
violating the speed limit.
Scientists at Cal Tech claim to have completed the first success-
ful experiment in quantum teleportation . What they teleported
was information. Using quantum entanglement (which means that if
you tickle one the other laughs) they transported the character-
istics of one beam of light to another across the laboratory. In
effect they faxed a light beam. While entangled particles/waves
react instantaneously to one another no matter the distance, it
has been proven that no information can be carried faster than
light by this means. The Cal Tech researchers in fact used a sec-
ond, non-entangled beam of light to communicate the information
gleaned from the entangled one's collapsed superposition of states.
Entangled quantum states were first postulated in 1935 by Einstein
and two colleagues as the EPR Paradox . The implication that
the quantum realm features instantaneous non-local causality pro-
foundly disturbed Einstein: he derided it as "spooky action at a
distance." AIP Physics News Update  describes three recent
experiments that pin down the EPR effect with greatly increased
precision. Sorry, Einstein.
..Drilling for jargon
We mine the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference for
Faithful correspondent Carol Yutkins was last heard from in December
1996  (well OK, maybe she's not all that faithful) when she re-
ported on a virulent outbreak of fasgrolia  at Microsoft's PDC.
Here she is again to tell us about the latest phraseological excess
perpetrated on hapless developers at that forum.
> Two years ago it was the long list of incomprehensible acro-
> nyms -- and they did continue that trend this year, making
> up even more inscrutable acronyms, like "IMDB" for "in-memory
> database," co-opting that acronym from my beloved Internet
> Movie Database; and "Windows DNA" in which the "N" stands
> for, get this, "Internet" -- but I digress.
> This year at the conference, the Microsoft speakers all seemed
> to feel compelled incessantly to use the term "drill down."
> Inexplicably, this term was used in almost every presentation.
> It was used both as a verb, as in "we're going to drill down,"
> and as a noun, as in "then we'll get to the drilldown"! Even
> this month's Microsoft Journal is graced with the banner, "NT
> 5.0 DrillDown!"
> So what is this "drill down?" I searched the conference
> slides for quotes that might shed some light. And I got an-
> swers! Apparently, while it is "difficult to drill down on
> complex issues" it is not that difficult to "drill down into
> the Microsoft Repository Architecture." The Visual Studio
> Analyzer "does not drill down into code," but it does pro-
> vide "easy drilldown" and can also be used to "ensure cor-
> rect drilldown." What a relief! I wouldn't want my drill-
> down to be incorrect. Apparently you can also "drill into"
> things, as in: the "user clicks on '+' to drill into [a data
> And if you don't like drilling down, you can also drill up!
> The multi-dimensional data access query language (MDX) pro-
> vides handy keywords so you can DRILLDOWNMEMBER and DRILL-
> UPMEMBER and also TOGGLEDRILLSTATE.
> The only explanation I can muster up is that Microsoft is
> about to acquire the American Dental Association. (Four out
> of five dentists surveyed recommend Windows NT for fighting
> tooth decay!)
N o t e s
> TBTF's essay in geodesy  (for that's what it is called -- "geo-
mancy" was a joke) left the last issue nearly as bullet-riddled
as the infamous decent into economics , after which TBTF pub-
lished its first-ever retraction . The resourceful Lloyd Wood
located a geographer to whom to set a question on polar nomencla-
ture. Peter H. Dana's humbling reply  is posted on the TBTF
archive by permission. As it turns out, it's far from accurate to
state that there are five, or indeed any particular number, of
North Poles. Many different coordinate systems are in use ,
some of them pegged to a particular moment in time. Dana concludes:
> So while it is amusing to talk of three or five or ten Poles,
> it... demeans the science of geodesy... to think that there
> is any specific "number of Poles." And certainly we would not
> want to get our concepts of geodesy from the Web or the Boston
Perish forfend. As Toby Esterhasy once advised George Smiley ,
"You don't buy Degas from Signor Benati."
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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