Thursday, October 28, 1999
10/28/99 9:58:28 AM
No deposit, less return.
I'm shamelessly picking up the title Declan McCullagh used in an
email alert about a
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withdrawn from the banking system.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
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 added 1999-11-19:
On Tuesday 1999-11-16, Rep. Ron Paul introduced
to thwart the carry tax proposal.
H.R. 3399, the "Currency 'Carry Tax' Prohibition Act of 1999," would
prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of
the Federal Reserve System from including any information storage
capability on the currency of the United States or imposing any fee
or penalty on any person for the holding by such person of currency
of the United States, including Federal reserve notes, for any
period of time.
Wednesday, October 27, 1999
10/27/99 7:49:39 PM
10/27/99 2:03:44 PM
10/27/99 1:50:37 PM
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 year.
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
10/27/99 1:28:14 PM
US all but shut out of ICANN board.
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.
Tuesday, October 26, 1999
10/26/99 7:27:33 PM
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
Moral: if you care who knows what you read, then stop your email client
from interpreting HTML.
10/26/99 11:08:07 AM
10/26/99 10:25:03 AM
webACE -- the world's smallest Web server, for now.
Here's a credible entrant for the
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
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.
Monday, October 25, 1999
10/25/99 6:01:16 PM
Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet.
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 out.
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 the tip.
10/25/99 5:35:12 PM
This month's Scientific American runs an
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.
10/25/99 4:57:09 PM
10/25/99 3:23:16 PM
New Crypto Law Survey.
Bert-Jaap Koops has released
a new version (16.1) of his
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; CESA act)
Asia / Oceania
* Australia (Wassenaars export; e-export)
* New Zealand (Wassenaars export)
10/25/99 2:21:12 PM
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
of a cat. Using electrodes implanted in the animal's brain, they
intercepted neural signals and decoded them algorithmically. 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
page. Turn off graphics before visiting -- the authors use full-size
images for their thumbnails, coerced with the width= and height=
paramaters of the <img> tag. (If they can reconstruct cat vision why
can't they figure out HTML?)
10/25/99 12:12:36 PM
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 auslanders.)
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
10/25/99 11:50:09 AM
10/25/99 11:14:41 AM
10/25/99 10:52:24 AM
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
concensus 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.
10/25/99 9:56:37 AM
Also from Bostic's Nev Dull list -- an
with BSD old-timer Kirk McKusick:
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.
10/25/99 9:30:53 AM
Keith Bostic passed along this note from Joseph Boykin on his Nev Dull
mailing list (see TBTF Sources). Noted on
a Microsoft download page:
Anti-Virus Software Users: Some anti-virus software programs may
interfere with the download and should be disabled while installing
the Microsoft software.
10/25/99 9:16:11 AM
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.
Sunday, October 24, 1999
10/24/99 7:56:33 PM
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...
10/24/99 6:23:36 PM
France may mandate Open Source.
The Register carries this
of ongoing French opposition to globalisme:
"French senators Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët
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 manière grandiose about US espionage.
10/24/99 4:41:42 PM
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 gem.
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.
10/24/99 4:36:01 PM
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
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 Times
10/24/99 4:25:51 PM
Domain names -- has the little guy already lost?
Judith Oppenheimer is a telecomms consultant who runs a
newsletter site. She recently posted this
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 --