TBTF for 9/14/98: Hypocrites

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Mon, 14 Sep 1998 00:13:47 -0500


TBTF for 9/14/98: Hypocrites

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/09-14-98.html >

C o n t e n t s

The Net handles the Starr report in stride
New York Times site defaced
Digital execs say Microsoft killed their project
New backdoor in town
Microsoft search site peeks into view
A 200-dpi flat-panel display
An advance in holographic storage
Quantum error correction

..The Net handles the Starr report in stride

The report may have damaged the Presidency, Congress, and
families -- but not the Net

When the report of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr hit the Net,
to the immense relief of Web workers everywhere it was in text form.
Its 7 files total 854K; the largest is 466K. Many newspapers and
news sites obtained the report from the Associated Press, which set
up an FTP server with a zipped text file, a Mac Stuffit file, and a
Unix tar archive, each under 300K. I had dreaded the vision of clue-
less government functionaries distributing the 445 pages as PDF
files or even as scanned GIFs. They seem to have obtained a clue
somewhere along the way. (Do you think the 46 TBTF subscribers in
the .gov domain helped? Nah...)

The report appeared on House of Representatives sites and mirrors
[1], [2], [3] as advertised; almost immediately it was hosted and
linked from the top pages of most news sites and some ISPs, such as
AOL and @Home. The result was that, while overall Net traffic jumped
to record levels around 2:00 PM eastern time on Friday 9/11, no site
or handful of sites caused a bottleneck. CNN reported record traffic
levels of 5600 hits per second [4], but was handling the load. Traf-
fic through the MAE-East exchange point jumped by 100 MBit/sec at
2:00. Here is a picture derived from a posting to a network opera-
tors' mailing list [5].

One other aspect of the Starr report is germane to TBTF concerns,
and that is the confluence of prurience with politics and public
policy. Had the Supreme Court not struck down the Communications
Decency Act, passed as part of the omnibus Telecommunications Reform
Act in 1996, anyone posting the Starr report to the Web might have
been liable for a fine of $250,000 and a jail sentence of 5 years.

How many of the Congresspeople who voted for the CDA do you suppose
also voted to release the report that reads like a borderline por-
nographic dime-store romance written by a Texas preacher's son?

We can find the answer easily with the help of Thomas [6], [7]. 366
individuals were Members of Congress during both of the votes, 197
Republicans and 169 Democrats. Of that total, 261, or 71.9%, voted
Aye both times. 171 of the Republicans, or 86.8%, voted Aye both
times. 90 of the Democrats, or 53.3%, voted Aye both times.

Here are the names of the two-hundred sixty-one most hypocritical
members of the US House of Representatives on the subject of the
Internet [8].

Thanks to Dan Kohn and Alexander Blakely, who first suggested this
exercise in democracy and public accountability; Dan Thompson wasn't
far behind.

[1] http://www.house.gov/icreport/
[2] http://www.access.gpo.gov/congress/icreport/
[3] http://thomas.loc.gov/icreport/
[4] http://cnn.com/TECH/computing/9809/11/internet.congestion/index.html
[5] http://www.tbtf.com/pics/starr-spike.gif
[6] http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=1996&rollnumber=25
[7] http://clerkweb.house.gov/cgi-bin/vote.exe?year=1998&rollnumber=425
[8] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/hypocrites.html

..New York Times site defaced

All the news that's fit to hack

The Times had a time of it Sunday morning, as its front page [9]
was replaced by this screed [10] from the hacker group H4CKING F0R
G1RL13Z, or HFG. Technicians tried several times to restore bona
fide Times content, but the hacked page kept reappearing; finally
the site was taken offline to fix the problem. The hackers may have
set up a surreptitious cron job to reinfect the site repeatedly.
The hack was announced by email to 27 usual suspects (yours truly
not included -- I don't know whether to be offended or relieved)
from the root account of one of the Times's content servers. Do
yourself a favor and View Source on the mirror [10]. The comments are
far funnier, and more informative, than the visible page. Carolyn
Meinel, who writes about hackers, and the Times's John Markoff come
in for singular abuse (including publishing Meinel's home addres-
ses, phone numbers, and Social Security number). Don't believe HFG's
email address, @hfg.org -- that's the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foun-
dation, which "sponsors scholarly research on problems of violence,
aggression, and dominance." Come to think of it, these guys might
qualify as subjects.

[9] http://www.nytimes.com/

..Digital execs say Microsoft killed their project

Are you a friend of Bill?

Five current and former executives at Digital Equipment Corp. (now
owned by Compaq) charged that Bill Gates forced Digital to abandon
an Internet product under development using Oracle's Network Compu-
ter technology. A NY Times story [11] (free registration and cookies
required) today quotes one researcher who worked on the Shark pro-
ject: "It was a bad week. Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, and the
Shark all died during the same week." Oracle head Larry Ellison is
quoted as saying that then-Digital CEO Robert Palmer had called him
in July 1997 to tell him that he (Palmer) was cancelling Shark.
Ellison said that Palmer wouldn't reveal the reason for his decis-
ion, but told the Oracle executive, "If I'm subpoenaed, I'll tell
the truth." Through two levels of hearsay the Times quotes Gates
as telling Palmer: "You have to decide if you're Larry's friend or
my friend."

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/09/biztech/articles/10digital.html

..New backdoor in town

NetBus does most of what Back Orifice does, and on Windows NT

NetBus is a remote-control application implanted via a Trojan horse
program, like the better-known Back Orifice [12]. But NetBus is no BO
clone; it's been around since the spring. At first its interface was
in Swedish, which limited its spread. It lets a perpetrator do an-
noying things to a remote computer such as swap the functions of
left and right mouse buttons, bring up any URL in the default brow-
ser, and send keystrokes to the active application. NetBus runs on
Windows 95/98 and also on NT, which Back Orifice does not.

The security firm ISS has updated their advisory, originally cover-
ing BO, to include information on identifying and removing NetBus as
well. I've posted the advisory on the TBTF archive [13]. NetBus com-
municates between client and server using TCP/IP on ports 12345 and
12346. Unlike BO, these port numbers are not modifiable. Its commun-
ications are not encrypted.

[12] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/08-10-98.html#s01
[13] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/iss-backdoor.txt

..Microsoft search site peeks into view

A further step toward portalhood

Gary Stock, who runs the Javelink site [14], writes: "As of 19:00
EST yesterday, we're suddenly getting hits from [15], which refers
to itself as "web search -- BETA." The adventurous might want to
try the advanced search page [16]. It offers options such as "all
the words," "exact phrase," "words in title," "Boolean phrase," and
"links to URL," and lets you specify media types which the result
set must contain (such as Java applets or images). The search engine
does not seem to make any attempt to rank results into relevancy

The search site uses the Inktomai engine, which has been licensed
widely. The sits using this technology will have an increasingly
difficult time distinguishing themselves. According to a Wired
report [17] on the Microsoft site, submitting the same search on
GoTo.com, HotBot, and Snap yields results identical to those from

[14] http://www.javelink.com/
[15] http://search.msn.com/
[16] http://search.msn.com/advanced.asp
[17] http://www.wired.com/news/news/technology/story/14890.html

..A 200-dpi flat-panel display

Incremental manufacturing improvements yield a display "indisting-
uishable from paper"

IBM has developed new technology [18] that packs 4 times the pixel
density of conventional CRT or LCD displays. At 5.2 million pixels
on a 16.3-inch (diagonal) viewing area, the display is said to be
virtually indistinguishable from the printed page. One of the re-
searchers says, "We are right at the point at which human vision
ceases to notice any distortion." The news.com article [19] implies
that such displays might be commercially available soon from IBM at
an initial price above $5000. IBM already offers a 150-dpi display
on its high-end ThinkPad 770.

[18] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,26232,00.html?tbtf

..An advance in holographic storage

Doubly-doped lithium niobate proves more stable

The idea of using holograms to store information in blocks of crys-
tal dates from the 1970s, but its development has been stymied by
volatility: for most storage materials, reading them using laser
light quickly degrades their content. Approaches to making holograms
more durable to date have had serious limitations -- for example one
requires that the storage medium be heated, and another needs high-
powered lasers. Researchers at Caltech [19] are developing holograph-
ic storage based on lithium niobate doped with trace amounts of iron
and manganese atoms. They have evolved an approach using ultraviolet
(not laser) light during recording to encode the hologram in both
kinds of impurity atoms, and then to read data back from only one of
them. The researchers, who have applied for a patent on the tech-
nique, are upbeat about its commercial potential. They believe that
100-fold performance improvements over their laboratory demonstra-
tions are possible, bringing the devices into the storage realm of
terabytes per square inch. Thanks to Caleb David for the story sug-

[19] http://www.sciam.com/1998/0998issue/0998techbus3.html

..Quantum error correction

Keeping a superposition of states honest

Physics News Update reports that quantum error correction has been
experimentally demonstrated for the first time [20]. Researchers at
Los Alamos and MIT have used radio-frequency pulses to spread a
single bit of quantum information onto three nuclear spins in each
molecule in a liquid solution. Using quantum entanglement, the re-
searchers were able to determine whether all three spins carried the
same information without "reading" that information. With this tech-
nique, they were able to detect and correct errors in the phase re-
lationship between the quantum waves corresponding to the 0 and 1
states. The research was published in Physical Review Letters.

[20] http://www.aip.org/enews/physnews/1998/physnews.388.htm

N o t e s

> The famous incident with the kid outside the courthouse saying to
Shoeless Joe Jackson, "Say it ain't so, Joe!" was made up by
Charley Owens of the Chicago Daily News. Good story, but it never

> Following this issue TBTF will skip two weeks, returning October 5.
I'll be aboard the SS Ryndam [21] off the coast of Alaska. Hold my
calls. If you've ever successfully connected to the Internet from a
cruise ship, please drop me a note, dawson@world.std.com.

[21] http://www.hollandamerica.com/2_ry.html

S o u r c e s

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

TBTF home and archive at http://www.tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send
the message "subscribe" to tbtf-request@world.std.com. TBTF is
Copyright 1994-1998 by Keith Dawson, <dawson@world.std.com>. Com-
mercial use prohibited. For non-commercial purposes please forward,
post, and link as you see fit.
Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.5