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TBTF for 1998-08-17: Silly season

Keith Dawson ( dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com )
Mon, 17 Aug 20:31:11 -0400


Threads Ganging up on Microsoft
See also TBTF for
1999-08-16, 07-19, 02-15, 02-01, 01-13, 01-04, 1998-12-23, 12-15, 12-07, 11-11, 10-19, more...

Microsoft depositions will be public

A delay in trial's start date is weighed

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ruled on 8/11 that the depositions of Bill Gates and 16 other Microsoft executives must be opened to the public and the media [1]. The 1913 Sherman Antitrust Act gave him very little leeway, he said. Depositions were to have begun on 8/12, but have been put off until lawyers for the two sides can work out how to protect Microsoft's proprietary information in an open forum. The open hearing was requested by the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and other media companies. Microsoft has appealed this ruling; Judge Jackson, no fan of media in a courtroom, had in fact given them subtle encouragement to do so.

A reader suggested that the hearings should be televised over the Web using RealVideo. A fine idea that would not be allowed. The ground rules for the open hearing are similar to those for old-fashioned trials: no cameras and no tape recorders.

Because of the delay sure to be introduced by open depositions, both sides in the case have requested a two-week delay in the start of the trial [2]; the judge did not immediately assent.

Note added 1998-08-20:
A federal appeals court will hear arguments on the question of open depositions, but meanwhile has set aside Judge Jackson's order. The liklihood is that the most sensitive depositions, of Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer -- if not indeed those of all 17 executives -- will take place before the appellate court even hears the matter.

[1] http://www.thestandard.net/articles/article_print/1,1454,1384,00.html
[2] http://www.techserver.com/newsroom/ntn/info/081498/info10_18482_noframes.html


Threads Open source software and the Linux OS
See also TBTF for
1999-08-16, 05-22, 03-26, 02-15, 02-01, 1998-11-17, 11-11, 11-03, 10-27, 10-12, 08-31, more...

Churn in Linux-land

Diversity-fed evolution in action

Bruce Perens, who led the Debian Linux effort for a time, had been working on the Linux Standard Base, a standard for binary Linux distributions. The effort was somewhat controversial and one editorialist has opined [3] that Perens lost the support of the LSB working group when he took entirely upon himself the task of building the reference distribution. Whatever the truth of the matter, two engineers, from Red Hat and Debian, mutinied in favor of a more open process that their organizations have now endorsed as the Linux Compatibility Standards Project [4]. At the same time Perens resigned from Software in the Public Interest, the Debian legal front-end which he himself had founded in 1996; two other SPI officers also departed.

As usual, Slashdot is the place to turn for informed commentary on Open Source culture [5]. The consensus in this community as I read it is that Perens's LSB was too rigid. The LCS approach is given a better chance of reducing unnecessary divergence among Linux distributions. There is little disagreement that diversity is a benefit.

Erik Troan (Red Hat) and Dale Scheetz (Debian) will jointly manage an LCS working group coordinated via an open mailing list -- to subscribe, email lcs-eng-request@lists.debian.org with subject: subscribe.

[3] http://editorials.freshmeat.net/jim980815/
[4] http://www.debian.org/news#19980811


Tracking users by the tens of millions

Would you like another cookie, my dear?

A report by Saul Hansell in the 8/16 NY Times (front page, below the fold) documents a trend guaranteed to disturb those concerned about online privacy [6]. Some very large commercial sites have agreed to feed information about their customers' reading, shopping, and entertainment habits into a system called Engage that is already tracking the movements of 30 million Internet users by means of cookies. This program is a perfect exemplar of the kind of application for cookies that Net privacy advocates have long warned of (and cookie-loving Webmasters have long disparaged). CMG Information Services's Engage system in theory guarantees anonymity, but it would be trivial to abuse. GeoCities (rhymes with "atrocities") and Lycos-Tripod between them will bring over 29 million additional Net users under the guns of the target marketers. Note that the NY Times site itself requires free registration and makes you bite the cookie to get to content.

Note added 1998-08-20: John Carter <ece at dwaf-hri dot pwv dot gov dot za> sent this little perl script for Linux users troubled by cookies. Carter writes:
If builders built like programmers wrote, then the first woodpecker to come along would destroy all civilization. I forget who wrote that, but here is my cookiepecker. It gently scrambles your cookie file, and then you can listen for the distant sound of crashing web servers. Works on netscape on linux using perl 5.

[6] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/08/biztech/articles/16data.html


Backbone provider Priori going down

Last one out, please turn off the routers

A source at Global Communications says that Priori is about to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. For those not steeped in US backruptcy law, this means: lights out, doors locked, assets sold to pay creditors. Their Web site was down as of 8/14 but their network was still operating. ZDNet carried the only mainstream reporting [7] I saw on these events.

Patrick Gilmore, former director of operations for Priori, posted these points to the NANOG mailing list on Friday 8/14:

And Gilmore thanked the NANOG members who had worked above and beyond the call to make sure Priori's customers wouldn't be stranded when the plug exits the wall:
Thank you all for the tremendous response. With your help I have gotten all of my customers moved so that not one Priori customer should suffer any significant downtime. (Just long enough to move the line.) I do appreciate everyone's offer of help. Kinda restores my faith in the industry.

I would like to single out Above.Net, specifically Dave Rand and Steve Rubin. Above.Net is helping our customers in ways I would not expect any profit-minded company to do. They are bending over backwards to help people who will probably never pay them a dime, and doing it quickly and cheerfully. These are really good guys and I think they deserve a lot of credit for helping me and my downstreams out of a VERY tight spot. Thanx guys.

Of course, there are lots of other upstreams who are making extraordinary efforts to keep one or more of my downstreams on Net in the near future. Please do not think that I do not appreciate it. Thank you all.

Many thanks to my evil twin Jeff Schult <jeff at tftb dot com> for first word on this story.

[7] http://www.zdnet.com/zdnn/stories/zdnn_smgraph_display/0,3441,2127660,00.html


Two acquisitions

Lycos bids for the portal big leagues

Logitech has acquired the QuickCam business from Connectix for $25M [8]. And Lycos has purchased WhoWhere for $133M [9], along with its community subsidiary Angelfire, which ranked number one in a recent survey of the 50 fastest-growing Web sites [10]. Angelfire's 1.3M members catapult Lycos near the front of the pack in the portal wars now raging unchecked on a Web near you.

[8] http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980811S0003
[9] http://www.zdii.com/industry_list.asp?mode=news&doc_id=ZE202443&pic=Y
[10] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,25126,00.html?tbtf


Too late to start on Y2K?

One consulting firm thinks so

According to a Computerworld story [11], within the last three days Andersen Consulting has adopted a global policy of accepting no new year 2000 consulting work. The fear is that clients whose systems fail when the century turns might sue the consultancy. Spokesmen for Andersen would not confirm that such a policy exists.

[11] http://www.idg.net/go.cgi?id=24517


bul It's the silly season for politics and for reporting. Cities empty out and email dries up. The news this week isn't particularly silly, but it is thin.

bul TBTF's Siliconia feature [12] inspired and was linked from an excellent piece of reportage in Wired titled Silicon Envy (pp. 136-137 in the September issue). The magazine plotted various Silicon Valley wannabes on a world map, including some not yet tracked on the Siliconia page, and assigned each a 1-to-10 ranking based on infrastructure, business density, schools, and ethos. Who's on top? North Texas, New York, and Kempele, Finland.

[12] http://www.tbtf.com/siliconia.html


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

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