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Previous weeks' logs table of contents.


Friday, 1999-11-05

Thursday, 1999-11-04

Wednesday, 1999-11-03

Tuesday, 1999-11-02

Monday, 1999-11-01

Friday, November 05, 1999

11/5/99 9:15:29 am
  • Threads Domain name policy
    See also TBTF for
    2000-04-19, 03-31, 1999-12-16, 10-05, 08-30, 08-16, 07-26, 07-19, 07-08, 06-14, 05-22, more...
    ICANN committee proposes nationalizing country codes. While ICANN meetings are now open to the public, some operations of its advisory committees still transpire in closed rooms. On 1 November, the most controversial such ICANN panel, the Government Advisory Committee, drafted a proposal to completely overturn the way country codes are assigned and managed under RFC 1591. GAC discussed the proposal behind closed doors on 2 November. (GAC's bland official notes give no indication of any controversy.) A copy of Principles for the Delegation and Management of Country Code Top Level Domains leaked outside the meeting room. The GAC chair, when asked, would not discuss it, saying it was still preliminary.

    GAC proposes seizing the ownership of country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) -- the ISO-3166 codes -- from their current owners and managers and granting them unilaterally to governments. IANA would be stripped of any role and the local Internet communities would have no standing in the process.

    TBTF has been told that on 2 November ICANN president Mike Roberts and the Commerce Department's Becky Burr spoke against the proposal in the closed GAC meeting; Burr said it would have no chance of US government support.

    The International Association of Top-Level Domains drafted an analysis of the GAC proposal that spells out the radically destabilizing impact such a policy would have in the Internet as a whole. IATLD's president, Antony Van Couvering, raised concerns over the GAC proposal at the 3 November open ICANN meeting. Here are excerpts from Ellen Roney's notes of that discussion.

    van Couvering: Representing some ccTLDs, very concerned about activities of GAC. A circulating document that is extremely troubling, gets rid of IANA, bypasses DNSO, openness and transparency requirement deleted from bylaws. [Sims objects to this statement, saying the bylaws did not change the board's principal obligation to openness and transparency, just removed references to initial board, which is not longer operative.]

    Roberts [ICANN prsident]: I've spoken to ccTLDs, to write down what IANA does, and I made it clear in the Spring that there would be no change in RFC 1591 without full comment in accordance with Article III.

    Burr [Commerce]: Unpublished document doesn't represent view of GAC but has sparked lots of discussion but I assure you that USG would not support that document.

    Sims [ICANN councel]: ICANN is a great debating society. There are going to be many views. This document, as I read it, is nonsensical. This is not an indictment of the process or the organization because that is inevitably going to happen.

    Burr: GAC has no authority, no nothing. It certainly wouldn't be sensible to produce a document which doesn't have formal support.

Thursday, November 04, 1999

11/4/99 7:28:16 am
  • Cheek of the week (supermarket division). Richard Leahy writes from Ireland:

    If you go to www.asda.co.uk, click thru to jobs, then graduate scheme -- there's a little questionnaire. If you don't give wow answers it sends you to one of their competitor Web sites (Sainsbury's, Tesco. M&S), implying "Ha ha you're not good enough for ASDA but try these crappy retailers."

    Hardly the sort of behaviour you would expect considering ASDA is one of the top five retailers in the UK with an annual turnover of $13.6bn. However given that they have been recently acquired by Wal-Mart this sort of thing may reflect a newly injected Net savvy (or cynicism) from their US parent.

Wednesday, November 03, 1999

11/3/99 5:23:18 pm
  • updated Egg on the engine. From Mike Moxcey:

    Go to Lycos.com (a search engine) and do a search for Excite or Yahoo or some other search engine. You won't get any hits, just a page about how good Lycos is at finding stuff for you!?!

    Evidently Lycos lacks self-confidence. Search at Yahoo for Lycos and the premiere directory/portal cheerfully returns dozens of links to Lycos, Inc.

    Note added 1999-11-16: Lycos has now removed this hack; searching there for another search engine or portal now yields the expected results. Thanks to several readers who told me so.

11/3/99 5:23:04 pm
  • A bad week at RealNetworks. Michael A. Olson, who describes himself as a long-time TBTF lurker, makes his bid for Irregular status. Here is his dispatch:

    On the heels of the announcement that RealNetworks collects private data on its users and transmits it secretly to company headquarters, Wired is reporting that the recently-cracked DVD encryption fell because a Real subsidiary, Xing, failed to properly encrypt its decryption key.

    The cracked encryption algorithm is significant because the established stakeholders, notably the MPAA and the big studios, were betting on a technical fix to preserve their royalty structure. This is, in my opinion, short-sighted: there is no unbreakable encryption scheme, and a business model that relies on one is foolish.

    The movie industry and the DVD consortium are still reeling over the crack announcement, and no one at Real is answering the phone. That's hardly a surprise. In a week, we've learned that Real steals your private data and can't keep a secret.

    Good one, Michael, linking the RealJukebox and DVD crack stories. Dave Farber just pushed Seth David Schoen's "let 100 DVD players bloom" perspective to his Interesting People mailing list. Anyone else have useful insights on the DVD crack and its implications? Let's take it offline here.

11/3/99 10:40:26 am
  • A nation of spammers and pornographers. A large US ISP, New Jersey-based IDT, for one day in October shut off all email to its subscribers from any commercial domain in Britain (.co.uk). It seems some of IDT's customers had complained about a massive wave of pornographic spam emanating from the British Isles, and some network operator applied an over-zealous remedy. The British magazine New Scientist noticed the block when its Washington DC office, which is an IDT customer, didn't receive mail sent by headquarters. NS quotes head Junkbuster Jason Catlett:

    To block all commercial traffic from a major industrialised nation sounds clueless to me.

    Milo Medin did that once -- to Scandinavia -- but it was on purpose.

Tuesday, November 02, 1999

11/2/99 11:19:10 am
  • Australia drafts rules to implement Net censorship. TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid forwards this article laying out details of how the Australian Broadcasting Authority plans to carry out the broad censorship of Net content recently mandated there.

    Net users will have to supply Web site operators with sensitive personal data if they wish to access R-rated material online. According to a consultation paper by the ABA, an age verification "restricted access system" must be in place on sites which are likely to be classified R by the Classification Board... Under the ABA proposal, persons seeking access to R-classified material must provide a number of details including their name, address, date of birth, email address, and credit card details or digital signature.

Monday, November 01, 1999

11/1/99 1:59:10 pm

  • E-nough E-nough already. A San Mateo company has launched a campaign that's bound to take off. Persistence Software is calling for an end to the tyranny of the letter E. Their press release announces the formation of the Society for the Preservation of the Other 25 Letters of the Alphabet. Persistence is looking for e-gregious e-xamples of e-buse and will reward those who report them with T shirts. (No E shirts here.) The company has enlisted the posthumous assistence of literary lipogrammist Georges Perec, who once wrote an entire novel without using the letter E. It's called La Disparition' it has been translated into Nglish as A Void. (Neither book is in print as far a I can see, but Advanced Book Exchange lists two copies of the French volume for sale.)

    Thanks to Avi Rappoport for the tip.

    Jay Lepreau writes with an example at an angle to a lipogram:

    In our own domain of computer science there is a recent and rather stunning example analogous to Perec's book. Guy Steele's 14-page keynote address/paper at OOPSLA'98, entitled Growing a Language, uses a syntactic device to make a point about programming language design. I was fortunate to hear him deliver it (later) and most of us did not catch on for some time.

    Steele's paper is available only in Postscript form (there's also a video). I won't put you through what I had to go through to find out the trick Steele was playing. He delivered the entire highly technical talk in words of one syllable; except that he allowed himself the use of two-syllable words if he first defined them. He ends with a tip of the hat to Will Strunk:

    I have found that this mode of speech makes it hard to hedge. It takes work, and great care, and some skill, to find just the right way to say what you want to say, but in the end you seem to have no choice but to talk straight. If you do not veer wide of the truth, you are forced to hit it dead on.

11/1/99 10:33:09 am
  • molecular wires Molecular wires. TBTF for 1999-07-26 surveyed recent progress in nanoelectronics. Researchers from Hewlett Packard and UCLA had prototyped a rudimentary switch based on the rotazane molecule. The researchers stressed that the next challenge would be developing molecular-scale wires -- perhaps they did so because they were close to publishing research on that very subject. This NY Times article outlines this and other advances in a field whose pace has become dizzying. Last July researchers were cautioning not to look for practical devices for 10 years; now they are saying 2 to 5 years.

11/1/99 8:16:54 am
  • RealJukebox spies on you. Richard M. Smith, a bug sleuth now looking at privacy issues, has discovered that the Real Networks program RealJukebox, which plays CDs on a user's PC, sends data about the user to Real each time it is used. And the data is tagged with a unique ID assigned when the software is registered. 13.5 million people have registered RealJukebox. Nothing in Real's privacy statement even alludes to this practice; nor is it mentioned when the user installs the software.

    From the NY Times coverage of this privacy fiasco (free registration and cookies required):

    Each time the program is started on a computer connected to the Internet, it sends in the following information to the company: the number of songs stored on the user's hard drive; the kind of file formats -- RealAudio or MP3 -- the songs are stored in; the quality level of the recordings; the user's preferred music genre; and the type of portable music player, if any, that the user has connected to the computer. All this information is combined with a personal serial number... which is assigned to each user when he or she registers the software.

    In the glare of this publicity RealNetworks was issuing contradictory statements and trying to cast blame on someone else, anyone (including CDDB, an online registry of CD title and track information). The Times story even held up Microsoft's Windows Media Player as an exemplar of proper privacy behavior in comparison with Real.

About this Web log

This venue represents an experiment in more timely and less "cooked" TBTF news coverage. You'll read here things that came through my desktop machine mere minutes before. The TBTF Log replaces the Tasty Bit of the Day feature.

The week's TBTF Log entries will be mailed to TBTF subscribers on Sunday evenings.

The email and Web editions of Tasty Bits from the Technology Front represent my best effort to present engaging, cogent news and analysis on what matters to the life of the Net. TBTF will continue as before, but on a schedule closer to twice-monthly than to weekly.


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