This week log entries: < http://tbtf.com/blog/1999-10-24.html >
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On Saturday, 1999-10-23, I inaugurated the TBTF Log with this item.
I give! News comes far too fast to keep up with in the format of the
Tasty Bit of the Day. Overload can lead to paralysis. I've enlisted
Blogger's  help in an attempt to bleed off some of the pressure
generated by Internet time.
The Tasty Bit of the Day now retires in favor of the TBTF Log, which
provides more timely news, more frequently updated. Those who require
their Tasty Bits on Internet time will read the TBTF Log daily, or
continuously, at . Those without the need or the inclination for
such an up-to-the-minute service can read each week's Log on Monday
morning in convenient email form.
The traditional TBTF newsletter, delivered by email and Web, will
continue. It won't be weekly -- but then for some time it hasn't
observed a strict schedule. The TBTF Log acknowledges that fact while
expanding the newsletter's dynamic range.
Please let me know your thoughts on the TBTF Log and its email
incarnation, either by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in this forum
at Take It Offline .
++ Domain names -- has the little guy already lost?
Judith Oppenheimer is a telecomms consultant who runs a newsletter
site. She recently posted this rabble-rousing screed  pointing
in alarm at ICANN's dispute-resolution policy, which she calls a
corporate takeover of the cyber realm. Excerpt:
> Under new guidelines recently imposed, the user (no longer
> "owner") of a domain name may find the name has been reassigned
> to another company without their knowledge or permission (even
> if there is no trademark infringement claimed), and without any
> rights of adjudication.
Meanwhile, Dave Farber posted to his Interesting People mailing list
this rather anonymous call to action  against a proposed law, HR
3028, which the unnamed organizers claim would "grant sweeping new
powers for trademark holders and undermine the rights of domain name
holders, Internet users, and small businesses." Their exemplar of
the proper way do resolve domain-name disputes is -- get this --
++ Panel at Stanford on government computer surveillance.
The ACM will host a free panel on this subject, moderated by the NY
Times's John Markoff, on November 9 at Stanford. Panelists will
discuss the implications of the proposed Federal Intrusion Detection
Network (FIDNet) and the general issue of the government's role in
computer surveillance. (I will be in attendance.)
Tuesday, November 9, from 5:45 to 8 PM PST
Stanford Law School Kresge Auditorium
595 Nathan Abbott Lane
Scott Charney -- Department of Justice
Whitfield Diffie -- co-inventor of public -key crypto
Marc Rotenberg -- Director, EPIC
John Markoff -- Moderator, Technology Reporter, The New York
++ A fine attitude towards Y2K.
PLN, Indonesia's national electricity board, was recently asked by
an Indonesian newspaper about its Y2K preparedness. The reply is a
> We can observe what happens [at midnight on 1999-12-31] in
> Western Samoa, New Zealand and Australia and still have 6 hours
> to make plans.
++ France may mandate Open Source.
The Register carries this story  of ongoing French opposition to
globalisme: "French senators Pierre Laffitte and Rene Tregouet are
proposing that national and local government and administrative
systems should only use open source software... Private companies
dealing with the state, in bidding for contracts, will tend to
switch to open source to make it easier to do so electronically,
while those who supply the state with computer systems will have to
redouble their open source efforts." The senators have set up a
discussion forum  for proposed law, which is designated "495."
TBTF Irregular t byfield writes:
> Coming from any other country this would sound like utter
> madness, but coming from France -- where aggressive opposition
> to globalisme plays really well (cf. McDonalds) -- this isn't a
> joke. And it's not just wacky politicians hopping on the Linux
> bandwagon: the French are peeved in a maniere grandiose about
> US espionage.
++ Doubleplusungood Astroturf.
Microsoft's Freedom to Innovate site , constructed for the
purpose of mobilizing their developers to lobby antitrust-sensitized
government functionaries, contains the following appalling example
of marketspeak [emphasis added].
> We formed the Freedom to Innovate Network (FIN)... The FIN is a
> non-partisan, grassroots network...
++ More popular than sex.
TBTF for 1999-10-05  passed along a search Easter egg originally
promulgated by Memepool . Now TBTF Irregular Joshua Eli "Don't
Call It A Blog" Schachter, who runs Memepool, passes on the word (at
second hand) that on Google the search more evil than Satan himself
briefly exceeded in popularity the search for sex.
++ Punchline optional.
Keith Bostic passed along this note from Joseph Boykin on his Nev
Dull mailing list (see TBTF Sources ). Noted on a Microsoft
> Anti-Virus Software Users: Some anti-virus software programs
> may interfere with the download and should be disabled while
> installing the Microsoft software.
Also from Bostic's Nev Dull list -- an interview  with BSD old-timer
> The big debate [was] over Richard Stallman's emphasis on the
> "free" in "free software." The way it was characterized
> politically, you had copyright, which is what the big companies
> use to lock everything up; you had copyleft, which is free
> software's way of making sure they can't lock it up; and then
> Berkeley had what we called copycenter, which is take it down
> to the copy center and make as many copies as you want.
++ Hollywood objections threaten content-protection scheme.
TBTF Irregular  Mark Kraml notes this article  on
Hollywood's likely derailing of a two-year effort to form consensus
on copy protection in IEEE 1394 devices. PC and consumer-electronics
manufacturers are ready to incorporate the hard-won Digital
Transmission Content Protection scheme in next-generation TVs,
set-top boxes, DVD players, and other recording devices that use the
IEEE 1394 interface. Hollywood studios are again insisting on
last-minute changes. Here is a sample of the studios' thinking,
which Kraml calls "crazy."
> The link that concerns Hollywood more... is the one currently
> used to hook an analog SVGA monitor with a PC subsystem. Unless
> copy protection can be provided for this analog interface, some
> studios are insisting that PCs should not be allowed to
> display, for example, the full resolution of movies broadcast
> in high-definition format. "Perhaps it should be constrained to
> standard-definition format," said a movie industry source, so
> that pristine copies of high-definition movies would not flood
> the counterfeit market.
++ Rules may change for crypto source export.
TBTF for 1999-10-05  noted the relaxation the Clinton
administration plans to implement in December for US export of
strong crypto. The proposed changes do not apply to the source code
of cryptographic algorithms, the issue in the Bernstein case 
Greg Broiles posted a note to the Cryptography mailing list (see
TBTF Sources ) pointing out this government filing  in its
request to delay the Bernstein appeal . The filing states:
> It is possible that the [December] revised regulations will not
> materially change the treatment of source code. But it is also
> possible that the revised regulations will alter the treatment
> of source code in ways that could have a bearing on the
> constitutional issues before this Court.*1*
Footnote *1* says that the Bureau of Export Administration's Q&A
document "does not reflect the review that is taking place." In
other words, the Clinton administration is debating whether
finally to get into compliance with the First Amendment.
++ 503 Fled.
After the military takeover of Pakistan's government, the official
Web site  was down. (Duh.) The error page simply stated "The
site is temporarily down." The Apache Software Foundation's Ken Coar
speculated on what error code ought to be returned in the event of a
> Either 500 Internal Government Error, 501 Government Not Yet
> Implemented, 410 Gone, or maybe 503 Fled.
> For a less violent overturn, say from a vote of [no]
> confidence, 417 Expectations Unfulfilled or 406 Not Acceptable
> would probably be appropriate.
Thanks to TBTF Irregular  Dan Kohn for the forward.
++ Sleazy domain-name marketing.
TBTF for 1998-02-23  introduced the .CC registry of the Cocos
and Keeling Islands, northwest of Australia. (See the TBTF Guide to
Non-US Domain Name Registries  for a historical look at some of
the earliest country-code domains to open their doors to
By now many .COM name registrants have been introduced to eNic, the
Seattle-based .CC registry: eNic did a mass snail-mailing to
everyone who has registered several names with Network Solutions. So
far, so fair -- eNic paid the freight after all. But the offer 
to register the equivalent names in the .CC domain looked at first
glance suspiciously like an invoice -- and its design was not
dissimilar to that of the invoices NSI sends out. The letter said in
several places that it was merely an "offer." But I wonder how many
people (or companies) just routinely paid the $100 for two years
rent on their name.cc?
++ Cat's eye.
This item is old news, on Net time: almost two weeks ago. Stop me if
you've heard it. Neuroscientists have seen, and videotaped, through
the eyes of a cat . Using electrodes implanted in the animal's
brain, they intercepted neural signals and algorithmically decoded
them. 177 neurons were monitored; the output of the artificial
signal processing was mapped to a 32 x 32-pixel array. The
reconstructed scenes are startlingly similar to what the cat was
looking at. Here's the summary page . Turn off graphics before
visiting -- the authors use full-size images for their thumbnails,
coerced with the width= and height= parameters of the <img> tag. (If
they can reconstruct cat vision why can't they figure out HTML?)
++ New Crypto Law Survey.
Bert-Jaap Koops has released a new version (16.1) of his Crypto Law
Survey . This is an indispensible resource for anyone working on
either side of the crypto-policy debate. Here's what's new:
* Wassenaar (asymmetric limits)
* European Union (free internal mass-market crypto)
* Germany (mass-market liberalization; government crypto policy)
* Ireland (consultation paper)
* Luxembourg (draft e-commerce law)
* Netherlands (TTP document, draft Computer Crime II bill)
* Switzerland (telecom crypto, export)
* United Kingdom (draft E-Communications Bill)
Middle East / Africa
* Egypt (free use, import controls)
* South Africa (import & export)
* Canada (URL of policy summary)
* United States (SAFE votes in House Committees; Gramm/Enzi Bill;
Goss Tax Review, National Interests Bills; EAA emergency again
extended; export liberalization announced; Bernstein rehearing;
Asia / Oceania
* Australia (Wassenaars export; e-export)
* New Zealand (Wassenaars export)
++ .NU domain is the first to respect holder's privacy.
The registry that handles .NU names  for the island nation of
Niue has announced  the first privacy-friendly Whois policy. The
registry's  public Whois database returns only a domain's status
and its date of registration. The registrant's name, home address,
and phone number are kept private; all other registries make these
personal items public. .NU names are available at the .NU Domain
Ltd. site .
++ Zeppelin NT.
This month's Scientific American runs an article  on the design
of a new generation of rigid airships, written by the managing
director of Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. The company of Graf
Ferdinand von Zeppelin is still very much alive; for the last 50
years it's been in all sorts of businesses except the design and
manufacture of Zeppelins. In the late 80s the company sponsored a
Lockheed-style skunkworks to come up with a design for a modern
rigid airship. The result is the Zeppelin NT . Yes, they really
call it that and it stands for New Technology, just like your
favorite operating system. The LZ N07 (7,000 cubic meters of helium)
first flew in 1997. It requires a ground crew of three -- the giants
of the earlier era of rigid airships needed dozens.
++ Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet.
RKCP is now available for downloading . This long-awaited
package claims to be
> a comprehensive collection of "intelligent" poetry-authoring
> tools designed to make writing poetry (and song lyrics) easy
> and fun. It also includes an entertaining and ever-changing
> screen saver. RKCP is a full-featured program and does not time
I'm downloading my copy of RKCP now so can't evaluate it at first
hand. Will report here after a bit of experience with the package.
Many thanks to TBTF Irregular doesn't-quite-wannabe Dave Newbold for
++ webACE -- the world's smallest Web server, for now.
Here's a credible entrant  for the world's smallest Web server.
It's made from a single Fairchild ACE1101MT8 chip, which is
considerably smaller than the head of a wooden match; it would fit
comfortably between George Washington's nose and ear on a US quarter
dollar . It looks to be about 3mm in its longest dimension.
Fredric White programmed a mini-TCP/IP stack and Web server that
serves two pages -- whose data is also stored on the ACE chip -- a
total of 1010 (decimal) bytes of code and data. White paid $2.12 for
the chip. Here is the server's URL . Go visit and toggle its LED.
Fewer than 400 people have hit it so far. [True wneh posted; total
is about 2700 now.]
++ Blogging goes mainstream.
San Jose Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor is now supplementing
 his columns with a Web log . Must be a trend .
++ Sneaky customer tracking by email.
Scot E. Wilcoxon notes that he got an email from TurboTax -- so far
so innocent, he uses their software. It was titled "Priority
Announcement for TurboTax Customers." At the bottom of the email was
a link to an image:
If your email client is set to display HTML, then TurboTax knows
that you've read their email -- your browser displays a one-pixel
invisible graphic and the "Key=" records your identity in their Web
log. No cookies involved.
Moral: if you care who knows what you read, then stop your email
client from interpreting HTML.
++ US all but shut out of ICANN board.
ICANN's first round of elections  is complete, selecting 9 of an
eventual 18 directors for what arguably will be the cat-bird seat of
Net governance. Only one American made the cut: Vint Cerf, who is
one of the few living people with a strong claim to having invented
the Internet. (No, Al Gore is not one of the others.) Cerf is now a
senior VP at MCI.
++ OpenSRS blows open wholesale domain-name competition.
TBTF Irregular t byfield sends word that TUCOWS, which started out
life as a Winsock shareware site, has announced OpenSRS . This
open-source project will allow any ISP or Web site operator to offer
domain-name registration services to customers at $13 per name per
This is revolutionary. Now registering domain names will not be
limited to the small number of registrars approved by ICANN. And all
of those registrars, including NSI, will have to address the sudden
arrival of open-source price competition in their midst.
From the announcement:
> The net result of the process of transactions between OpenSRS
> and NSI is that a customer can now register a domain name with
> their local Internet Service Provider or web-hosting company in
> real-time, with prices that are finally competitive. In order
> to provide quality customer support service, TUCOWS has
> established a 24 hour customer service center for OpenSRS.com,
> enhanced with email, pager and a emergency toll-free number.
Finally, someone who will answer the phone on domain-naming
++ ICANN under heavy fire.
(ICANN is the nascent Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers.) TBTF Irregular t byfield submitted this item; I have edited
it mainly for style. See also this earlier TBTF Log item.
1. On 19 October the Domain Name Supporting Organization
elected its three reps to ICANN's board; there are some
interesting notes on Jessica Litman's Law in Cyberspace: New
Developments page , including URLS for an NYTimes writeup
 (free registration and cookies required) that dwells on
the fact that none of them are Americans. Evidently, some
Congressmen are peeved about that.
2. On 15 October ICANN's public comment period on its Uniform
Dispute Resolution Policy ended; comments are here .
Michael Froomkin's comments  are notably harsh: ICANN, he
says, failed to live up to even its own dubious procedures.
3. Jamie Love reports that Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) is forcing
the General Accounting Office to review  all aspects of the
Commerce Department's dealings with ICANN. It looks a lot like
he wants to kick the legal legs out from under ICANN.
[t byfield opines:] I can't imagine that ICANN's upcoming LA meeting
will do much to assuage its enemies.
++ Aeneid Corp. buys InGenius Technologies.
The parent company of the Eocenter  vortal  has acquired
leading Web personalization firm InGenius Technologies for
undisclosed stock and cash. TBTF was an early booster of the first
InGenius service, javElink  (see TBTF for 1997-03-21 ), and
the company has had close ties with the Technology Front since 1997
++ No deposit, less return.
I'm shamelessly picking up the title Declan McCullagh used in an
email alert about a chilling proposal : that US currency should
include tracking devices that let the government tax private
possession of dollar bills. If this proposal comes to pass, the
longer you keep a dollar in your mattress the less it will be worth.
A Federal Reserve official, Marvin Goodfriend (he's no good friend
of mine), wrote in a recent presentation to a Federal Reserve System
conference in Woodstock, Vermont:
> The magnetic strip could visibly record when a bill was last
> withdrawn from the banking system. A carry tax could be
> deducted from each bill upon deposit according to how long the
> bill was in circulation.
Goodfriend's 34-page paper argues that a "carry tax" would
discourage hoarding currency and deter black markets and criminal
McCullagh said on his mailing list (see TBTF Sources ) that this
topic has generated more feedback than anything he's written about
in months -- 95% of it negative.
Note: The TBTF Log took the weekend off for my twice-annual getaway
to Cape Cod. Normally I expect to publish log items every day.
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.