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This is the TBTF Log, an experiment in reporting important breaking news in a more timely way than was possible with the Tasty Bit of the Day. The TBTF newsletter continues unchanged. The current issue is TBTF for 1999-11-21: Shameless.

About this Web log.
Link using this permanent URL.
Previous weeks' logs table of contents.

Friday, 1999-12-03

Thursday, 1999-12-02

Wednesday, 1999-12-01

Friday, December 03, 1999

12/3/99 3:26:51 PM

  • Threads Email spam and antispam tactics
    See also TBTF for
    2000-07-20, 1999-07-19, 1998-11-17, 07-27, 03-30, 02-09, 01-12, 1997-11-24, 10-20, 09-29, 09-22, more...
    An evil new spammer tactic. Alan Wexelblat reports sightings of a new method spammers are using to get their odious product through all the blocks ISPs erect against it. Here's how it works:

    1. Create a million spam emails; for each one forge the From address to be the address of one of your intended victims.
    2. Create a bogus To address at some well-connected mail site.
    3. Deliver your million pieces of effluvium to said mail site.
    4. Wait for site politely to bounce all your emails "back" to their From addresses, thus doing your dirty work for you.
    5. (Optional) Laugh maniacally as the victims and the site engage in rounds of finger-pointing.

    This one's going to be hard to stop. It works because most sites, when bouncing undeliverable mail back to the sender, include the complete message in the bounce. From my vantage point running the TBTF list I would estimate that 70% of hosts do this today. The percentage has been creeping up as the ranks of mail servers come to be dominated by "newbie" software. (I'm guessing that bouncing the entire message is the default behavior in MS Exchange. Anybody know for sure?) So spammers using this new technique will always have a variety of mail hosts to choose from.

    Also, unlike list managers, most Netizens aren't accustomed to getting bounce messages. They'll probably read such a novel item just to see what it's about, thus fulfilling the spammer's desire.

12/3/99 2:00:57 PM

12/3/99 12:52:53 PM

  • Wholesale price list declared copyrightable. TBTF Irregular John Muller notes a ruling yesterday by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers California and other Western states. The court ruled in CDN Inc. v. Kapes that a wholesale price list for collectible coins contains sufficient originality to be copyrightable. The decision is online here.

12/3/99 12:45:20 PM

12/3/99 12:24:45 PM

  • 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...
    GPLTrans: can Open Source supercharge language translation? We could define the Open Source meme this way:

    Enlisting copious volunteer labor to contribute to and improve upon an end product that is freely distributable in source form.
    The term Open Source started out applying to software projects and products, but the meme is lately being tried out in other endeavors. Netscape's Open Directory project was one of the first: before its acquisition by AOL, Netscape enlisted thousands of volunteers to catalog and categorize Web sites, instead of relying on a smaller paid staff, as Yahoo does.

    Recently an engineer named Mooneer Salem wrote a language-translation program, called GPLTrans, using the free PHP3 scripting language and an open-source database. Salem hopes to enlist hoardes of volunteers to flesh out and correct the database entries that represent the translation of a word or phrase from English to another language. So far the project's database contains a fair start on Spanish<-->English and German<-->English -- about 30K words/phrases each -- and a bare beginning on French and Portuguese.

    I'm a little skeptical that applying Open Source methodology to the problem of language translation will eventually result in a new level of translation accuracy, as Salem hopes. But I applaud him and everyone else who invests his own labor to throw the Open Source meme against some new wall in order to see if it sticks.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Justin Mason for the tip.

Thursday, December 02, 1999

12/2/99 12:13:40 PM

  • Threads Software patents
    See also TBTF for
    2000-03-31, 1999-08-30, 06-14, 02-15, 01-26, 01-13, 1998-12-15, 08-31, 05-18, 05-11, 04-27, more...
    Judge enjoins Barnesandnoble.com from using copycat "One-Click" ordering. Last October Amazon.com sued Barnesandnoble.com over what the Seattle company claimed was infringement of its patented order checkout, called "One-Click." The Wall Street Journal is the first to report that a federal judge has granted Amazon.com a preliminary injunction in the case. (You can only access that URL if you are a subscriber to the WSJ.) ZDNet's PC Week has the story as well. Here is Barnesandnoble.com's reaction to the setback, as reported by the WSJ.

    Barnesandnoble.com said it will accelerate the deployment of its new "Express Checkout"... a significant improvement over the one-click Express Lane process [that the judge has enjoined]. The retailer said it had planned to roll out Express Checkout after the holiday season but will launch the process in the next several days in light of the court's decision.

Wednesday, December 01, 1999

12/1/99 11:54:02 PM

  • AM radio degrades ADSL service. This article from Network World raises yet another difficulty in the long litany of rollout problems with Digital Subscriber Line service. It seems that a nearby AM radio station can erode the bandwidth available to ADSL customers who happens to live in the wrong place. One provider of ADSL equipment, Nortel Networks, says that interference from AM stations can cut high-speed bandwidth by 40%, and that the problem arises on about 15% of ADSL installations. Nortel (and presumably other equipment makers) is working on chips for end-user ADSL equipment that are more resistant to AM radio interference.

    Thanks to Keith Bostic for the heads-up on this story.

    Note added 1999-12-04: TBTF Irregular Glenn Fleishman expands on the technologies behind DSL:
    DSL technology relies on one of two major methods: CAP (Carrier Amplitude Phase-Modulation) or DMT (Discrete Multi-Tone Transform). I believe this is still current terminology. CAP uses essentially two channels: one downstream, one upstream. CAP has restrictions on upper limits of speed, and I think it's the basis for G.Lite. The chipsets have been around as a single chip for at least three years, and are cheaper than DMT.

    DMT sets up dozens or more of individual channels, each of which can be rate-adaptive. So interference in certain bands from radio transmissions of DMT (which were mentioned and predicted in some specs I was reading dated back to 1997 and 1998) would impact the overall speed but not as significantly as with CAP. If you're transmitting 8 Mbps downstream over 64 channels and 3 of them drop out, you only knock down to above 7 Mbps. If you're doing 1.5 Mpbs downstream, maybe you take a hit to 768 kpbs.

12/1/99 10:55:49 AM

  • Europeans mull blocking Pentium III. The flap over the Pentium III unique serial number may have died down in the US, but it's just building in Europe. The Register reports that the EU's Scientific and Technological Options Assessment committee will recommend close study to determine if the serial number (PSN) violates European regulations on privacy and security. According to a report presented to STOA,

    There is a prima facie case that the PSN breaches European protocols on security.
    Here is the news report (in German) that prompted the Register's piece.

12/1/99 10:55:22 AM

  • First-generation computer to compute again. Australia's first computer, CSIRAC, last week celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first running program. The 2-ton device, the world's only intact first-generation computer, has been stored in a warehouse for decades. Beginning next year the new Melbourne Museum will exhibit the room-sized computer; two of its original engineers will help with its restoration.

12/1/99 10:55:07 AM

  • The IETF, Open Source, and Isaac Asimov. David Warsh is an economics and business columnist for the Boston Globe, but lately he's been venturing onto technology-and-society turf. His profile of the Internet Engineering Task Force is a good cover of familiar ground -- and an offhand plug for Open Source development models.

    Kids of a certain sort in my generation grew up on Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" novels of the far-off future, in which a struggle unfolds between a galactic empire and a mysterious nonprofit foundation. The foundation, a band of self-effacing wise men, is shielded from the wrath of the emperor by the superiority of their wisdom and the ordinariness of their surroundings. How astonishing to find the plot at the heart of the main developments in industrial organization of our time.

    Oh, and Warsh gets credit for not claiming that the Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear war.

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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Most recently updated 1999-12-16