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This is the TBTF Log, an experiment in reporting important breaking news in a very timely way. The TBTF newsletter continues unchanged. The most recent issue is TBTF for 2000-04-19: Dot-communist.

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Saturday, June 17, 2000

6/17/2000 9:41:18 PM

    Key Ghost
  • Key Ghost: a paranoid's nightmare. This nifty little device comes to you from New Zealand for $99 plus $30 shipping to the US. It records 97K keystrokes from any PC on which it is installed inline with the keyboard cable. It requires no external power and no software installation. Type its password into a text editor and request playback of the recorded keystrokes. More expensive models store 500K keystrokes and/or come built-in to standard PS/2 or Microsoft Natural keyboards. Here's an independent review.

Friday, June 16, 2000

6/16/2000 4:22:42 PM

  • updated Cash for Microsoft's trash. Old Washington hands could detect echoes of Watergate in the news of a breakin at a Microsoft office on Dupont Circle, days after a shady figure twice offered cash to janitors cleaning the offices of a Microsoft ally, the Association for Competitive Technology. Both Wired and the Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required here) run original reporting of the bizarre goings-on in the week before Judge Jackson issued his decision in the Microsoft case. I especially enjoyed the WSJ's Ted Bridis's dry accumulation of suspicious details about the apparently non-existent company that rented office space beside ACT and sent an agent, twice, to wave cash in front of a pair of janitors.

    This later Reuters report says that Microsoft's Washintgon office was not broken into. The report quotes a police spokesman:

    Other offices in the building were entered but Microsoft's had a mark on the door that may have been an effort to enter.

    Note added 2000-06-19: The WSJ's Ted Bridis advanced the story significantly today, tying in the ACT cash-for-trash offer with laptop thefts, breakins, and major media leaks suffered by three other Microsoft allies. See my piece today for the Industry Standard's Media Grok, titled Gates Watergated?.

6/16/2000 11:58:17 AM

  • Sense on domain naming. TBTF has been following the twists and swerves of domain-name policy since 1996. Finally, almost four years after Jon Postel first proposed adding new top-level domains, ICANN has posted a suggested policy for actually deciding to do so. One poster to the Slashdot discussion on the ICANN proposal spelled out exactly what we can expect once new TLDs come into play:

    Let's face it: all so-called corporate names will be immediately obtained and/or sued-for by their so-called owners; and all remaining sensible names will be immediately obtained and camped-on by the domain name resellers. You and I, who may have need for a website six months from now, are always going to be screwed.

    Here is a radically more sensible proposal for managing domain-name space (and it's 1/23 the size of ICANN's). Colin Smith suggests that ICANN begin actually to manage the name space.

    The DNS is not being used appropriately. It's a heirarchical system that has been abused by the registrars to the point where it's effectively a flat naming system; *.com. End users should not have access to domains above 3rd or 4th level. First, second, and maybe even the third level domains should be reserved exclusively for domain administration purposes.

Thursday, June 15, 2000

6/15/2000 4:18:24 PM

  • Takin' names ('n' sellin' 'em). Just had an interesting phone conversation with one Gina Rizzi of World Data, a marketing agency. She was contacting me on behalf of Ziff Davis -- an organization that Ms. Rizzi says is famous in direct marketing circles for never sharing, selling, or renting their database of subscribers. Well, ZD is about to move on from that old-fashioned policy. If Ms. Rizzi is to be believed, I was among the first to be offered an exchange of names with Ziff Davis.

    Relax: I declined.

    Here's how it would have worked. We exchange name-for-name, so that ZD sends my message to 14,000 people on their list. In turn I send a message for them to TBTF subscribers. Theirs would offer a subscription to one or more ZD magazines with a free trial preceding. Mine would, presumably, troll for new subscribers to TBTF. The ZD program is designed to squeeze by other lists' privacy policies that promise never to sell or rent the names, because technically the names would never leave he list-owner's hands. However, TBTF's privacy policy promises never to "share" the list with an outside party. A grey area bordering on black, this.

    ZD would charge me a "transmittal fee" of $75 per 1000 names -- let's see, $1036 to reach their subscribers. This is, Ms. Rizzi says, a great bargain. Such fees usually run $200-300 per 1000 names, in addition to a transmittal fee of $100 or more per thousand. But when I suggested I might want to charge ZD a corresponding transmittal fee for access to my names, Ms. Rizzi would have none of it. Go figure.

    So let's see if I have this straight. I pay ZD over $1000 to add, possibly, 50 names to my free newsletter's subscriber list. Meanwhile, as soon as I send their message to the TBTF list, 7,000 subscribers resign in disgust, 1,200 flame me publically and mercilessly, and 74 attempt to break into and trash my server. Four succeed.

    Sounds like a fine deal to me.

Sunday, June 11, 2000

6/11/2000 7:02:05 PM

  • Intel strong-arms Harvard to hide iMacs. According to this story from ZDNet, Intel threatened economic reprisal against Harvard University unless the school covered up all signs of Macintosh equipment for the duration of a conference at which Intel exhibited.

    ZDNet picked up the story from Harvard's Crimson Online. Here is the original article in printer-friendly format. The Crimson's reporter did not suggest that Intel applied monetary pressure, merely that the university went to extra lengths to accommodate Intel after a last-minute change in conference arrangements. ZDNet's reporter dug a bit deeper and turned up this account on a Mac-oriented message board.

    My wife works at the Harvard Science Center in the media-services department (which is 90 percent Mac-based). She was witness to the harassment and rude attitude of the Intel representatives. They were childishly demanding that the iMacs be removed from the premises or they would have to be covered up. Harvard argued that they were in use and wouldn't be removed. This escalated into a threat of Intel not sponsoring Harvard's graduation week (and therby removing their [monetary] contribution). Harvard finally agreed, and Intel also covered up the signs and windows to the nearby Mac multimedia lab. Absolutely pitiful.

Monday, June 5, 2000

6/5/2000 4:24:41 PM

  • updated Free speech 1, privacy 0. Today the Supreme Court acted (by inaction) in a case pitting personal privacy against the free-speech rights of large corporations. Privacy lost. A 1998 FCC regulation required telephone companies to obtain customer approval before disclosing information about their customers' accounts for marketing purposes. A Denver-based US appeals court had struck down this regulation on the grounds it violated the rights of telephone companies to free speech. The Supreme Court justices declined to rule on the case, letting the phone companies' victory stand.

    I have a proposal. Let Congress pass a law, by a veto-proof majority, that declares unambiguously that a corporation is not a person for any purposes whatsoever. All Constitutional rights that have devolved onto corporations would be rescinded; all federal and state laws that conflict with the new order of business would have to be brought into compliance within, say, 5 years. During this interim, no action could be brought under the old laws.

    Yeh, right.

    Note added 2000-06-06: Jacob Galley writes to point out this opinion piece on the subject of denying to corporations the rights intended to apply to humans. A good read.

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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.

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