Minor slips in the market and major slaps in court
The Microsoft trial, running at a witness a week, may drag into next March. Imagine our joy. By then even diehard reporters may tire of the cut-and-thrust. Netsurfer Digest puts it nicely :
Oct. 1998 July 1998 n=113 n=259 n % n % Microsoft -- -- -- -- IE4 36 32 88 34 IE3 9 8 30 12 --- --- 40% 46% Netscape Com4 33 29 69 27 Nav4 24 21 40 15 Nav3 10 9 32 12 Nav2 1 1 0 0 --- --- 60% 54%
True thing: the statistics are less than ideal. But this survey is one of the few of its kind still in operation. Intersé used to make public the numbers from their visitors but stopped when Microsoft acquired them (see [6a] for a pickled graph). Even in their heyday those numbers were suspect, because Intersé's tool ran only on Wintel, so what do you suppose most of their visitors were running? Browserwatch.com once carried such stats but now runs only simple news items. Sure, the browser battle is long past its headline days, but reliable numbers could still tell us something about market trends.
Reverberations from a leaked Microsoft memo
Moral media for a new age
Self-described "technologically challenged media critic" Jon Katz discovered Slashdot.org  and straightaway got religion. (He got such a case of it that yesterday he subscribed to TBTF. Welcome, Jon.) Katz believes that bottom-up sites such as Slashdot, untidy and boisterous, deliver on the promise of a revolutionary new medium in a way that crossover old media such as Slate and Salon can never aspire to. The white-hat character of the Open Source movement spawns media with built-in moral authority.
Purchase of Ingram gives Amazon.com pause
On 5 November Barnes & Noble announced it will buy the closely held Ingram Book Group . Ingram is the country's largest book distributor and Amazon.com's biggest supplier -- 57% of Amazon.com's book purchases came through Ingram last year. Amazon.com officials immediately voiced their concern over the combination, as did industry analysts . Barnes & Noble's online unit, Barnesandnoble.com, is Amazon's principal Web competitor. Ingram insists it will honor existing contracts and distribution arrangements.
For a good time, follow these links and read the press releases in order.
And privacy loses, again
As if to demonstrate that the Justice Department is not about to slow it down, Microsoft has purchased  the LinkExchange advertising network and its family of related sites servicing mostly small businesses. LinkExchange will be folded into Microsoft's MSN collection of Internet properties. The services the new acquisition brings to MSN include:
The acquisition has a privacy wrinkle that none of the traditional media outlets caught. Stephen Heise <stephen at streetprices dot com> describes the problem this way.
This dwarfs the Netscape URL sniffing software  because it's not optional and, what's more, it's retroactive.
Flawed concept or just flawed execution?
The pioneer in e-cash, the company considered by privacy experts to offer the gold-plated standard for anonymous transactions, announced  on 4 November that it will seek Chapter 11 protection in bankruptcy court. The demise of David Chaum's groundbreaking company has stimulated reams of commentary on mailing lists such as e$, micropay, and cryptography. Some posters paint DigiCash's demise as indicative of the fatal flaws they see in the very idea of anonymous digital money. Others chalk up the failure to Chaum's dogged insistence on unrealistically high royalties for using his patented blind-trust process. These two views are reflected in this posting  to the Red Rock Eater News Service, in which moderator Phil Agre introduces Robert Hettinga playing Gordon Gekko . (Note: the Gekko reference comes from Hettinga's own posting, and is not implied by Agre's introduction.) I agree with Hettinga more than I do with Agre in this case, but Agre's prose is not to be resisted.
A new hacker tactic: low-frequency, coordinated scans
Beginning last July, security experts began to document a new type of probe directed against protected networks. Low-frequency scans originating from multiple IP addresses could slip in beneath the notice of most intrusion-detection software. In September the Shadow group, an anti-hacker coalition, issued a report on the tell-tale signs of such stealth attacks . See  for a readable summary of this report. Developers of intrusion-detection systems such as Network Associates and ISS are hard at work on detectors for low-frequency attacks .
Finding things where you expect to
The ever-reasonable Greg Knauss has proposed a standard to help ease the complexity of navigating unfamiliar Web sites . He writes:
Grown like grass on glass
Nanotubes are thin, elongated versions of buckminsterfullerenes -- soccer ball-shaped carbon molecules named for the late Buckminster Fuller, architect and inventor of the geodesic dome. Buckyballs have intrigued scientists since they were first made in 1985. Now a team at SUNY Buffalo has found a way to grow nanotubes onto thin sheets of glass , in rows resembling a buzz-cut head of hair, for use in display panels. The nanotubes are much stronger than steel and are highly efficient electron emitters. "Our nanotubes are beautifully aligned, they grow at relatively low temperatures, and they grow on glass," one of the researchers said.
An obscure and controversial Y2K bug
A mysterious anomaly called the Crouch-Echlin Effect may strike computers with a nonbuffered real-time clock even after they have been checked for Y2K problems and fixed. This NY Times article  (free registration and cookies required) describes the reported glitch and gives equal time to its critics, who suspect the motives of Msrs. Crouch and Echlin and claim that the problem cannot be reproduced. Compaq Computer, nee Digital, exacerbated the controversy recently by announcing for sale software to check for Crouch-Echlin, and paying a royalty to the discoverers.
Better news on embedded processors
Electric and gas utility Washington Water Power tested 540,000 embedded components and found only 1,800 (3.3%) that contained year-2000 date dependencies . Of that number, only 234 needed to be fixed or replaced -- only 4/100 of 1% of the total. Earlier guesstimates of likely failure rates ranged up to a few percent overall for embedded processors in the power and transportation industries.
Bank of Canada prepares for a run on cash
The bank is ready to print more money should people become anxious about the millennium bug and want to withdraw extra money as a safeguard . A spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association said banks expect consumers' worries to increase as Jan. 1, 2000 draws closer.
Spectre of military intervention raised in Scotland
A leaked letter  reveals a warning that the millennium bug could spark a Scottish civil emergency requiring military intervention. The letter is part of a feud between a Scottish parliamentarian and the British defense secretary over cuts to the Territorial Army north of the border. It reads in part:
I believe he is quoted as admitting signing said letter but disputing whether or not he actually *read* it....
Ian Usher sent this link [35a] to a story in today's Guardian detailing government contingency planning about the use of troops in case of Y2K troubles.
Blinding 'em with science
On the 20th anniversary of its coverage of science and technology, The Economist is running its second science quiz . The first was 10 years ago. I've subscribed to the magazine for 8 years and have read the science news religiously -- their coverage often surpasses that of Scientific American in clarity and comprehensibility to the layman -- but I found this tightly designed little quiz humbling. The Web quiz  rides an easier medium than the dead-trees edition and it scores you automatically.
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