Windows 98 ships, lawsuits are filed
Twenty states and the federal government were poised to file lawsuits last Thursday accusing Microsoft of violations of the Sherman antitrust act of 1890. Microsoft was poised to ship Windows 98 to computer manufacurers last Friday -- the very system at the heart of the dispute. At the 23rd hour all sides agreed to hold off action and talk some more. That lasted quick. Microsoft and the federal and state authorities were actually done talking on Friday, but they met on Saturday anyway to wrap it up. Many lawyers have spoken to many reporters since then and you can read details  of how the talks broke down -- according to the NY Times they never really started at all. Once everyone realized how far apart the two sides are they gave it up. Boston Globe columnist David Warsh skillfully spins the spinning that emerged from the weekend's breakdown .
Now both the states and the feds have filed their coordinated lawsuits , . Neither lawsuit seeks to block Windows 98 from shipping. The states' antitrust claims are broader than had been expected, and include charges of anticompetitive pricing of office software suites as well as seeking relief on the browser front. The states claim that Microsoft "illegally stifled competition, harmed consumers, and undercut innovation in the software industry."
The states' suit seeks to force Microsoft to include Netscape's browser with every copy of Windows 98 that ships. Microsoft likened this request to forcing McDonalds to tell a customer who asks for a Big Mac to go visit Burger King first. At a press conference today one of the state attorneys general commented on this remark. He said a closer analogy would be to imagine that Coca Cola controlled the distribution of all soft drinks through every supermarket in the world
Texas was an early instigator of the state actions (with Massachusetts), but got wishy-washy and dropped out of the filing under pressure from its local computer makers. Here is the final roster of states.
California Louisiana North Carolina Connecticut Maryland Ohio Florida Massachusetts South Carolina Illinois Michigan Utah Iowa Minnesota West Virginia Kansas New Mexico Wisconsin Kentucky New York District of Columbia
Or you could settle for this report  from the Bogus News Network, but I won't be held responsible if you believe it.
As one legal wrinkle is smoothed another is wrinkled
On 5/13 a three-judge panel ruled unanimously  that the 1995 consent decree binding Microsoft does not apply to Windows 98. On the same day Sun added to Microsoft's world o'trouble by filing for an injunction  to force Microsoft to include a complete and compliant Java implementation in Windows 98. No injunction was immediately issued and Microsoft's OS tuneup shipped to computer manufacturers on 5/18.
Justice grinds slow but it grinds exceeding fine
In 1996 when I last wrote about the E-Data patent , also called the Freeny patent, TBTF's email circulation was a quarter what it is today , so this story will be new to most of you. Here's a timetable  to fill in the history.
The Freeny patent , filed in 1983, describes a method of reproducing goods made of bits (e.g., music) in physical form at a point-of-sale terminal, after receipt of an authorization code. The patent kicked around for years until it was acquired by Interactive Gift Express, later named E-Data. This company, three guys and a patent, sued 43 companies and sent letters of infringement to a further 139, then began sending letters offering "amnesty" to 75,000 software authors and vendors if they agreed to settle on given terms. Several companies settled with E-Data -- IBM notable among them -- and a couple of dozen more went to court in 1995 to contest the patent.
The Federal court judge hearing one of the two resulting cases  issued an Opinion & Order  on May 13. The judge construed the patent so as to cut the legs from under E-Data's claims. The essense of the Opinion & Order is this slap at E-Data:
It's the most crypto-friendly bill yet filed. Why does it raise the little hairs on the back of my neck?
Senators John Ashcroft and Patrick Leahy have introduced the E-PRIVACY Act (and have back-formed a plausible expansion of the acronym, with which I won't bore you). Here is the text of the bill  and here is an analysis of its plusses and drawbacks from the point of view of privacy and civil liberties . It was largely drafted by the industry group Americans for Computer Privacy, whose purpose is to get encryption export controls lifted for the benefit of US commerce and trade. Despite their name, privacy for citizens is not ACP's main concern. The E-PRIVACY bill contains a provision criminalizing any use of crypto in the commission of a crime, and it subjects products for export to heightened, if expedited, scrutiny. Finally the bill would establish a federal resource center to train local law enforcement officers in code-breaking and other technology useful for wiretapping or eavesdropping. The bill is given little chance of passing in this session of Congress.
The Canadian company is porting all of its applications, including WordPerfect, to Linux. Corel has also repositioned its NetWinder NC, originally conceived as a Java-based thin client, into a fully functional desktop computer running Red Hat Linux. The NetWinder is built around Digital's StrongARM processor. Here is Wired coverage of these developments . Open Source guru Eric S. Raymond commented: "Corel, a mainstream corporate entity with no special ties to open-source hacker culture, has completely accepted the logic of open source."
Intel helping Linux port to 64-bit Merced chip
Strengthening a rumor picked up in last week's TBTF , a French news page  has reported that Intel is helping 5 Linux companies port to Merced. The rumor was discussed on slashdot  and resulted in a front-page story in PC Week (UK), according to reporter Barry de la Rosa <bpdlr at dial dot pipex dot com>.
The following is badly translated from the French by Babelfish and me (with corrections from readers) from the French news page .
Use the Source, Luke
Ellen Ullman writes , persuasively and beautifully, on the folly of locking up our best knowledge in source code and forgetting how to read it. Here's her take on the "wizards" that have proliferated since Microsoft introduced them in Windows 3.1:
Shaving-close to the cutting edge of research
Unless you're on a private mailing list with the researchers, you won't find more timely dispatches from the frontiers of physics than those served up by Physics News Updates service of the American Institute of Physics. Last week's email brought this story  on work toward a transistor on the scale of single molecules (graphic ). To subscribe to Physics News Update, email firstname.lastname@example.org with any subject and with message: add physnews .
Fun and games at buttoned-down Microsoft
Are you running NT 5.0 beta 1 (NT5.00.1734)? I don't have access to it myself, so I can't verify this report from a usually reliable informant. Try this experiment: fire up Internet Explorer 4.0 on that version of the OS and visit www.sun.com. See if you aren't redirected without warning to www.arl.mil, the Army Research Labs site. Let me know what you find. This adolescent little Easter egg was apparently removed in a later build of NT 5.
Jorg "jbx" Brown takes the microphone
Brown is the genuis at Connetix responsible for RamDoubler, SpeedDoubler (a better 68K emulator than Apple could write), and Virtual PC. His talk at the Apple Developers' Conference is enshrined at Macintouch . Thanks to CobraBoy <tbyars at earthlink dot net> for the pointer.
Steve pioneered the art of using mostly dead spokespeople, some technophobes, to market a computer brand, and did it with a slogan that many argued was grammatically incorrect. His personal touch of industrial design inspired a Macintosh for the education market that was a scale model of his lower left wisdom tooth, and more recently, a $1299 beanbag-shaped vacuum cleaner designed for the Internet.
The lowest common denominator of Web searching
Joshua Eli Schachter <joshua at burri dot to> was scouring the Net for information on any interface between Perl and MAPI, the Microsoft Mail application programming interface. He stumbled upon Schachter's Hypothesis while poring over the uniformly odd results from submitting "+perl +mapi" to AltaVista :
Yadda-yadda, wack-wack, and other oddities
One of the reasons I ran the piece on pronouncing "http://www" in the previous issue was to mitigate a case of internesia : an age ago in Net time I had come across a lonely one-man campaign to get Web-site owners to name their sites "web dot" in place of, or in addition to, "www dot," but promptly lost track of where on the Net I had seen this suggestion. Figured someone would send it to me in response to "Lizard lips" ; and so several folks did.
Dave Yost is the man and his WebDot campaign  is perking along nicely. A quick check with Infoseek reveals more than half a million "web." URLs out of its database of 25 million.
Here is a selection from the mailbag in response to "Lizard lips." (Correspondents from the current and former British Empire will note that I have regularized punctuation around quotes to the American style.)
TBTF home and archive at http://www.tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the message "subscribe" to email@example.com. TBTF is Copyright 1994-1998 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Com- mercial use prohibited. For non-commercial purposes please forward, post, and link as you see fit. _______________________________________________ Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.