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...
The company loses another round; may be biding its time for the appelate court
In an order handed down on 1/14 , Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson refused Microsoft's request to remove Lawrence Lessig, the Special Master assigned to the case. The judge called Microsoft's allegations against Lessig "both trivial and altogether non-probative" and slapped the company for besmirching Lessig in public. "[The accusations] are, therefore, defamatory, and the court finds that they were not made in good faith," Jackson wrote. "Had they been made in a more formal manner they might well have incurred sanctions." Microsoft has appealed the ruling  (as it has the judge's main ruling in the Justice Department's favor).
Infoworld speculates  that Microsoft has simply given up on Judge Jackson and is placing its bets on the appeals panel, scheduled to hear the case in April. Infoworld quotes a Washington law professor: "Jackson is showing all the signs of a man who is ready to side with the government on this one. His response to Microsoft's arguments reveals a real irritation with Microsoft's advocates and their position." Another Washington lawyer notes that the three judges who will hear the Microsoft appeal are known for their conservative, anti-regulatory stances. "When Microsoft saw that list [of judges], they thought, 'this is the first bit of light we've seen.'"
Japan's Fair Trade Commission raided Microsoft's offices  in Tokyo on 1/13 and searched for more than six hours for evidence that Microsoft may be violating Japanese antitrust laws. The FTC also visited several Japanese computer manufacturers, including NEC. The Japanese FTC later said it would launch an investigation into Microsoft's bundling practices. The Japanese authorities' concerns are broader than the issues in the Justice Department case, involving Excel and Word as well as Internet Explorer. (In the US Microsoft won the battle for desktop office supremacy a long time ago.) Wired reports  that Japanese and US antitrust officials have conferred on the Microsoft question.
Simson Garfinkel's article "The firm we love to hate"  accentuates the frustrating side of dealing with Microsoft software, in particular its operating systems. Garfinkle proposes that a huge reservoir of pent-up frustration and rage against the Redmond giant simmers inside everyone who has been obliged to install and reinstall Windows NT on half a dozen occasions. Well, duh.
Here is another view of Microsoft's march to dominance -- that the company, at least in some markets, has earned its market share by paying careful attention to local requirements. This article is copyright 1998 by EM Ganin <eganin at ici dot net> and is published here with permission.
I was initially surprised at how effectively Microsoft translated every single English-language text item into Hebrew. The menus, icons, and dialog boxes all look the same as the US version, yet the text is correctly translated into Hebrew and formatted for right-to-left display.
I also saw a Russian version of Windows 95 that seemed as comprehensively translated as the Hebrew version (I don't read Russian, so this is just an impression).
All of the common Microsoft applications were similarly translated -- in particular, the components of MS-Office and Internet Explorer. When working on the Internet, URLs still appear in English (even for Israeli sites with all-Hebrew content). The only time I saw English text appear from the OS was when the system crashed.
Microsoft Office is not automatically bundled in with the OS, yet it is very widely used. I heard (but did not verify) that MS-Word is the #1 word processor used in the country. Even if MS-IE were unbundled from the OS, I suspect that it would still remain as the dominant Web browser in this market.
At least for the Israeli market, I think that Microsoft earned its monopoly position by spending the time and resources to offer fully localized applications that easily integrate into the OS.
Microsoft is paying huge attention to the Russian market. As an example, the December issue of Internet magazine [6a] (circulation 20,000) was distributed with the Russian version of MSIE 4.0 on CD-ROM. The newsstand price for that issue was unchanged at $2; the CD-ROM was paid for by Microsoft Russia [6b] and two local ISPs, Cityline [6c] and Glasnet [6d]. This issue also included 5 free hours of connectivity from Cityline, which is one of the newest and most progressive Moscow providers, with a flat-rate price of $36.60.
In Russia MS Office is not just number one, it's the only one. It includes not only a Russian interface, but also dictionaries, hyphenation, thesaurus, syntax checking -- all the language-dependant features in the original version.
The piracy rate here is something like 95% -- anybody can freely buy a CD-ROM filled with stolen software (including MS products) at any shop on the street; the price is about $5.80. For this reason Microsoft has a harder time fighting Netscape: the MSIE "free" argument doesn't mean anything, since people usually don't think about price at all. But the high-quality Russification of MSIE is a very strong argument. Also, MS has made agreements for information channels with major Russian content providers.
Netscape is represented here by two or three persons. One of them, Pavel Krasyuk, told our magazine (for publication in the next issue) that they don't really pay a lot of attention to browser competitition with Microsoft. Both companies sell server products and office software. The "browser war" is just an advertisement for both.
A professor questions the ITAA's cry of "wolf"
The US administration announced plans to spend $28M  on a program of technical training and public education -- monitor tans are attractive, really -- to ease what it called a critical shortage of programmers, citing industry figures that 1 in 10 programming jobs (a total of 346,000) are going unfilled. A UC Davis professor has published a paper  called "Debunking the Myth of a Labor Shortage." He claims the hidden agenda of the Information Technology Association of America's campaign is to "develop an image of a software labor shortage in the public consciousness" and thereby increase the number of cheap college graduates available to employers. Thanks to Walter Lamia <lamia at hpfcla dot fc dot hp.com> for the tip.
Microsoft security bugs and exploits
See also TBTF for 1999-08-30, 1998-02-02, 01-26, 01-19, 1997-11-17, 11-10, 10-20, 08-11, 06-23, 05-22, 05-08, more...
Renewed vulnerability in code that integrates browser and desktop
A security problem Microsoft thought it had laid to rest last October , #15 on the TBTF list of Microsoft security exploits , is back in slightly modified form. Dildog -- who discovered the original weakness -- found that the bug in Internet Explorer's processing of the res:// scheme is also present in mk://. The mk:// scheme is a proprietary Microsoft method used internally by programs to extract information from compressed files, such as InfoViewer Topics. Here is dildog's complete description of the exploit , including code for IE 4.01. Finally, Lloyd Wood <L.Wood at surrey dot ac dot uk> offers this exploit page , which will crash your Pentium by invoking the f00f bug. (Remember f00f ?)
Thousands of webmasters are asked to patch Excite's free search engine
Excite for Web Servers is a free (and unsupported) package that webmasters can download to provide flexible search functions across a Web site. On 1/15 Excite sent a notice to everyone who has ever downloaded EWS that it contains a security vulnerability that could be used to compromise Unix or NT systems on which it is installed. Excite has submitted a patch to CERT for verification and pointed EWS users to a patch page . The company stresses that the bug does not affect the Excite home or partner pages, only sites that have installed EWS.
Cracks are appearing in RSA's dominance of commercial cryptography
3Com, makers of the popular minature organizer, announced  that future versions of the Palm Pilot will use ECC crypto technology from Certicom. The Palm Pilot should provide an ideal test-bed for ECC's claims to robust security with small key sizes and a minimal computational footprint.
In other Certicom news, on 1/12 Robery Harley <Robert.Harley at inria dot fr> announced  the fall of the third in Certicom's series of crypto challenges. Harley's ever-growing team, now numbering 56, has been first to overcome each of the Certicom challenges broken to date. (I wonder if any other teams are even competing.)
An escalation of bad feeling in the TBTF Exclusionary Sites Hall of Shame
The practice of building exculsionary Web sites has taken a turn for the nasty. The Official Lost & Found site  will begin charging visitors who reconnect with lost property -- but only those who come in using IE4. Users of all other browsers, including older versions of IE, will continue to get free service. The site owners say they are taking this step to protest Microsoft's increasing tendency to produce and to encourage IE-only content. C|net covered this story  as a followup on their recent interest in exclusionary sites . (But you read it here first.)
These folks will pay you to mess with the mind of the consumer society
The rTMark site  is the public face of a shadowy organization that sponsors and pays for acts of culture hacking. Their aim is to "encourage the intelligent sabotage of mass-produced items." (The name is intended to suggest "® TM ark," and is pronounced "art mark.") This is the organization that solicited and then paid money to a programmer at Maxis who added kissing boys action figures to the game of SimCopter just before it shipped , . The programmer, Jacques Servin, was fired for his trouble but has bounced right back with the Whistlesmiths Web site , from which he offers career counselling for those dismissed for acts of product sabotage. In 1993 rTMark orchestrated the notorious Barbie Liberation Organization's GI Joe / Barbie voicebox switcheroo . Read the rTMark manifesto here . Wired covered the emergence of rTMark from its veil of secrecy last April .
Incidentally, the Web host for the rTMark pages is paranoia.com in Austin, Texas, whose owner, as Zero Micro Software, registered the domain name micros0ft.com. After Redmond lawyers convinced the InterNIC to suspend the name, he preserved the joke page at .
Another prolific and lifelong culture hacker is Joey Skaggs, self-described "socio-political satirist, media activist, culture jammer, hoaxer, and dedicated proponent of independent thinking and media literacy" .
Finally, a tip of the Tasty Hat to the Boston Globe, which on 1/11 ran an article (not online) profiling two software evangelists. The article describes a game they play called "reality hacking": They invent a meaningless jargon term, brainstorm a plausible meaning for it, then drop it into business conversations. The point is to get the term into play. Sort of like Jargon Scout  does, but less aboveboard.
We invite you to take part in a large-scale language experiment. It concerns the word "cogno-intellectual." This noble word can be used as an adjective or as a noun. We just invented it. The fact that "cogno-intellectual" has no meaning makes it a useful word. Meaning nothing, it can be used for anything.
Here is the experiment. Use the word "cogno-intellectual" in written and oral communications with colleagues, especially with colleagues whom you do not know well. If you are a student, use it with your most impressable teachers. If you are a teacher, use it with your most impressable administrators. Use it at meetings. Use it with significant strangers. Use it with abandon. Use it with panache. The main thing is: use it.
The most interesting, and the most useful, stage of the experiment will be to then gather evidence that the word is seeing into general use. When you see such evidence, please send a copy to us at:
Institute of Cogno-Intellectual Research
c/o AIR, PO Box 380853, Cambridge MA 02238 USA
The ossifragian speculation on how many layoffs the company will announce along with its final earnings figures on 1/27 -- estimates center on 400  -- must be freighting the atmosphere in Mountain View. But the boys can still enjoy a laugh at Microsoft's expense. Steve Kremer has just the thing on his Joke Wallpaper site  -- a 640 x 480 picture  captioned "Bill Gates' daughter Jennifer visits Santa Claus." The girl is saying, "It's homemade cookies Santa. You can have them only if you agree to use Internet Explorer 4.0 on all your computers at the North Pole." Kremer's logs show that between 1/4 and 1/10 this file was downloaded 568 times from 113 different addresses inside Netscape. Whether any of them was Marc, Bark, or Clark is not known.
A collection of notes on e-commerce, domain naming, and the farther reaches of scientific research
1997 e-commerce totalled $7B
A new survey by Simba Information  says that the largest category was business-to-business, with Cisco doing $3B and Dell $1B. Online sales at a number of organizations (for example amazon.com and Digital) grew year-to-year by triple-digit percentages.
Office Depot opens its virtual doors
The office-supply superstore  joins the growing ranks of "category killer" retailers, such as Walmart , selling merchandise on the Web . The category should have strong appeal in the small-office, home-office market, but the trick for Office Depot, as for the others, will be to grow the online business without cannibalizing its bricks-and-mortar sales.
Sun sells on the Web
Sun has adopted two key concepts from the PC world: online sales and offshore manufacturing . The company's new, low-cost Ultra 5 and Ultra 10 Solaris servers are available at the company's online store  at prices starting below $4000.
NSI opens up for Web-based registration
Long noted for its arcane and consumer-hostile email-based registration procedures, the current monopoly registrar of .com and .net names may be responding to impending competition  as it offers simplified, 90-second registration  from your browser. The WorldNic service  costs $10 more than the bad old way: $110 for two years. US customers can also call 1-888-642-9675 for speedy registration.
You want to shine what behind my knees?
New research  by scientists at Cornell University suggests that jet lag and insomnia can be relieved by a beam of light being shone behind the knees. Three hours of blue light applied before a certain point in the circadian rhythm retards the body's clock; light stimulus after this point advances it. The treatment is most effective when applied during the time in which the subject would normally be asleep.
With a whimper
At last month's AAS meeting in Washington three separate groups presented research  on the ultimate fate of the universe. Different lines of evidence all underscore the liklihood that the universe contains insufficient matter ever to reverse the expansive impulse imparted by the Big Bang . Tens of billions of years after the sun expands to engulf the earth and then contracts to a fading white dwarf, the universe will be sliding towards the state dreaded by the protagonist of Pamela Zoline's 1972 story : The Heat Death of the Universe.
The Tasty Bit of the Day is back. Since 1/12/98 I've been posting one or a few bits of intelligence daily on TBTF's top page . Visit each day after 10:00 eastern US time if you can't wait for the weekly retro-push.
TBTF home and archive at http://www.tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the message "subscribe" to email@example.com. TBTF is Copyright 1994-1999 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.