TBTF for 9/7/98: Say it ain't so

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Thu, 10 Sep 1998 08:13:13 -0500


TBTF for 9/7/98: Say it ain't so

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

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This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/09-07-98.html >

C o n t e n t s

E-mall slamming
Microsoft and Sun square off in court over Java
DoJ and Microsoft name their witnesses
Bottom-fishing the bulletin boards
A digital signature makes e-commerce history
Crypto policy costs the US a citizen
A comparison of virus scanners
Say it ain't so, Luke

..E-mall slamming

A recent excess of Web marketing

Last May Wired wrote [1] about an enterprising Toronto e-mall mer-
chant whose site, Hotflyers [2], incorporates images and other con-
tent from many small electronic storefronts without asking first,
implying hundreds of relationships and endorsements that don't in
fact exist. These were not merchants who had joined his mall, they
were victims of misappropriation of intellectual property. The man
behind Hotflyers, Tony Comparelli, was unapologetic: "It was just
easier for us to build the sites than try to convince the vendors to
join us." One merchant told Wired that a guest book on the HotFlyers
site, with the name of her company at the top, offered more infor-
mation about her products to those who signed up -- but no names and
addresses were ever forwarded to her.

Recently complaints have cropped up anew about this dubious tech-
nique for building online traffic and credibility. HotFlyers is
still at it. A new target of complaints is the Sustainability Store
[3], whose practices are colored a lighter shade of grey. Steve Wood
<steve@woodsite.com> complained about Sustainability on a private
mailing list:

> I put up a site offering items for sale for a client a couple
> of months ago. This a.m. I discovered a site which has dup-
> licated elements of my client's site including listing a
> number of the items for sale and offering them for sale it-
> self.

Wood was the first to refer to this practice as "slamming," in ana-
logy with the practice of unscrupulous telecomm operators who switch
customers to their (expensive) long-distance services without per-
mission. He has written "a serious letter" to the company, with
copies to their ISP and to the director of an ethical national
business network they claim as a sponsor. I'll follow up this story
as it develops.

Thanks to Julianne Chatelain for putting me in touch with Wood and
for the coinage "e-mall slamming." Keep it up, J, and you'll make
TBTF Irregular with a Jargon Scout cluster.

[1] http://www.wired.com/news/news/business/story/12499.html
[2] http://www.hotflyers.com/
[3] http://www.sustainabilitystore.com/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/contactss.htm?L+mystore4+buzd8014+905365203

..Microsoft and Sun square off in court over Java

Much depends on Sun's ability to enforce the language's cross-
platform nature

Tuesday marked the first day of three in which lawyers for the
archenemies trade jabs in a complex, highly technical pre-trial
session. (The trial itself is scheduled to begin next June.) Did
Microsoft have the right, as it claims, to develop two versions of
Java -- one to Sun's standard and another for Windows developers?
The best coverage of the coverage is to be found, as it usually
has been of late, in the Industry Standard's Media Grok [4], which
leads off with "Where do you want to go to court today?" The cov-
erage they like best for completeness and depth of technical back-
ground is from Dan Goodin and Ben Heskett in news.com [5]; I can't

[4] http://www.thestandard.com/articles/article_print/0,1454,1649,00.html
[5] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,26078,00.html?tbtf

..DoJ and Microsoft name their witnesses

Heavy-hitting academics top the lists

The complete witness lists, 12 each, are at the bottom of this link
[6]. Microsoft is calling eight of its executives -- not including
Bill Gates -- plus two academics and the CEOs of two partner com-
panies. The government roster is four academics, an economist, and
seven industry executives. The unexpected entries on this list are
officials from America Online and Boeing, presumably to testify about
pressure to adopt Microsoft's browser and to drop Netscape's. The
government's list includes grand old men of computing and economics:
Dave Farber of the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin Fisher,
MIT professor of economics.

[6] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,26091,00.html?tbtf

..Bottom-fishing the bulletin boards

Digging for dirt inside Netscape

The Wall Street Journal reports [7] (subscription required) that
Microsoft has subpoenaed the contents of internal Netscape dis-
cussion lists. Microsoft is particularly interested in two com-
plaint bulletin board called "Bad Attitude" and "Really Bad At-
titude" founded by early Netscaper Jamie Zawinski, now a driving
force in Netscape's Mozilla open-source initiative. Microsoft
hopes to bolster their contention that internal bad management,
not predatory competition, dragged Netscape down in the browser
wars. The WSJ attributes the following quote to Zawinski, but
other evidence fingers Netscaper Sarah Clatterbuck as its source.

> And I keep thinking to myself, Microsoft is going to pay some
> jackass lawyer $200 an hour to find out that we hate our caf-
> eteria food, don't like the security posters, had a sucky
> newsfeed, and think "Navigator" was a cooler name than "Com-
> municator." And I smile.

[7] http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB904517750937473000.htm

..A digital signature makes e-commerce history

Using smart cards in place of pens

On his visit to Ireland last week, President Clinton and Irish Prime
Minister Bertie Ahern made technology history as the first heads of
state to sign an intergovernmental document digitally (it was a com-
munique on e-commerce). The signing took place at 4 PM GMT on 9/4/98
at the Gateway 2000 plant in Dublin, Ireland. The smartcards and
software for the event were provided by Baltimore Technologies [8],
whose account you can read here [9]. Thanks to Mike Hanafin <mike@-
baltimore.ie> for timely word of this milestone.

[8] http://www.baltimore.ie/
[9] http://www.baltimore.ie/news/press/pr980904.html

..Crypto policy costs the US a citizen

A financial cryptography practitioner becomes an African-Caribe

Vince Cate gave up his US citizenship last Sunday [10] (registration
and cookies required for this site). Cate, who lives in Anguilla,
said he wants to be "free from the silly US laws on crypto." His
company [11] develops software for financial cryptography. Cate is
one of the organizers of the Financial Cryptography conferences on
his Caribbean island; he's also the man who brought us the "Become
an international arms trafficker in one click" page [12]. Before
renouncing his US citizenship Cate paid about $5,000 for Mozambiquan
citizenship. The Times article quotes a lawyer who specializes in
export licenses as opining that Cates's gesture was not strictly
necessary, because the law has always given more latitude to crypto-
graphy used strictly for financial transactions [13].

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/yr/mo/cyber/articles/06encrypt.html
[11] http://www.secureaccounts.ai/
[12] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/05-05-96.html#i-a-traf
[13] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/07-20-98.html#s08

..A comparison of virus scanners

Surprised? They're not all equally effective

Shake Communications Pty Ltd. has released the results of an indepen-
dent study of the top 20 virus-scanning products on the market. Here
are the press release [14] from Shake and coverage in an Australian
newspaper [15]. The complete results appear in the September issue of
the Shake Security Journal [16], a semi-monthly, subscription-based
publication (3 issues US$25, 6 issues US$40).

The study tested each product in a "hot zone" of 16,000+ viruses --
including executables, Word and Excel macro viruses, Microsoft Ac-
cess viruses, Lotus 123 viruses, Trojans, and bait files. (So they
say; I don't know what "bait files" means.) Shake says that few of
the programs performed consistently across all virus categories.
The company cautions that a product's ranking on this list is only
one of a number of factors to consider when choosing a scanner. Here
is a capsule of the survey's results, in terms of the percentage of
viruses detected. Thanks to Simon Johnson <simon.johnson@shake.net>
for forwarding this table, not available in the cited public sources.

1 Anywhere Anti-Virus 99%
2 F-Secure 94%
3 Norton Anti-Virus 93%
4 Find Virus (Dr Solomon's) 93%
5 Inoculan AntiVirus 93%
6 Avast 93%
7 McAfee VirusScan 91%
8 Thunderbyte 91%
9 LANDesk Virus Protect 90%
10 Sophos 88%
11 AntiViral Toolkit Pro 87%
12 House Call 86%
13 ViruSafe 79%
14 Vet 73%
15 Virus & Macro Buster 2%
| 16 Quick Heal n/a
| 16 Panda Anti-Virus n/a
| 16 Guard Dog n/a
| 16 Fiber n/a

[14] http://www.shake.net/press/070998.html
[15] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/techno/4001410.htm
[16] http://www.shake.net/products/journal/

..Say it ain't so, Luke

Watching the watchers watch Transmeta

Transmeta, the Silicon Valley company that employs Linus Torvalds,
isn't saying what kind of technology it's working on. (Their Web
site says, succinctly if paradoxically, "This web page is not here
yet.") The Red Herring tried to find out what they are up to --
or perhaps their account of the attempt, "Stalking Transmeta," [17]
is all in good fun. PC Magazine prints a more substantial guess [18]:

> [Transmeta] has been working for about two years on a CPU for
> PCs, which is rumored to have its own internal instruction set
> but to use a fast software translator to execute x86 instruc-
> tions. Transmeta has raised a large (undisclosed) amount of
> venture capital and is well staffed; a product debut is likely
> in 1999.

In the NY Times for 8/31, John Markoff relays a rumor [19] that he
says has some Sili Valley techies quite upset.

Markoff's article is mostly about evidence of increasing strain
in the "Wintel" alliance. One factor contributing to the wobble
is the rapid growth of technology areas such as telephony and
personal digital assistants that do not use Intel hardware or
Microsoft software. Microsoft has an entrant at this end of the
market -- Windows CE -- but Intel is seen as concentrating in-
creasingly on the shrinking top end. (Its purchase of Digital's
StrongArm technology may have been reduced in value by the defec-
tion of key technical talent.)

If Transmeta, which was founded by a former Sun Sparc architect,
is working on a platform for portable computing -- let's call it
a "media chip" [20] -- what OS will it run? Well, with Linus on
board, you would assume the answer would be "Linux, duh." Some
flavor of Java would certainly be a contender. But Markoff says
the word is that Transmeta may run Microsoft software. A hardware
designer is quoted thus:

> It would be a little like hiring Luke Skywalker and then
> turning the whole organization over to Darth Vader.

[17] http://www.herring.com/mag/issue58/stalking.html
[18] http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/features/cpu98/intro10.html
[19] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/08/biztech/articles/31chip.html
[20] http://www.techweb.com/se/directlink.cgi?EET19980706S0069

N o t e s

> Today's TBTF title nods to the Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919,
when eight Chicago White Sox accepted bettors' bribes to rig the
outcome of the World Series. They were blacklisted from the game
for life. Shoeless Joe Jackson, called the greatest natural hitter
the game has known (this was before Mark McGwire), was among those
implicated. During a game a young boy who had idolized Jackson
implored from the stands: "Say it ain't so, Joe!" Jackson was ac-
quited in a court of law in 1921, but never appealed his banning
to the baseball commission. Fans and supporters today [21] agitate
for removing the blot from Jackson's escutcheon and for elevating
him to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Eric Asinof and Stephen Jay Gould
have written an engaging history of the affair titled "Eight Men
Out" [22]; John Sayles made a movie of it in 1988 [23]. From the
blackbetsy.com site [24] (Black Betsy was the name Shoeless Joe
bestowed on his Louisville Slugger):

> Contrary to popular belief, the name Black Sox was not given
> to the 1919 White Sox because of the 1919 World Series scan-
> dal. The name was given to them because they played in dirty
> uniforms because their owner... used to charge the players 25
> cents for cleaning [them]. The players refused to pay...

[21] http://www.blackbetsy.com/
[22] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805003460/tbtf
[23] http://us.imdb.com/Title?Eight+Men+Out+(1988)
[24] http://www.blackbetsy.com/jjfaq.htm

S o u r c e s

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

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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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