Proposed law would set up a Controller to monitor all Net traffic and Web sites
This note  was sent to me from India yesterday by Abhay Kushwaha. He forwards a newspaper story describing a draft bill that covers many facets of Internet policy, including provisions to monitor all Net traffic whether plain-text or encrypted passing through any Indian ISP. The sender of an encrypted communication would be required to decode it. This bill portends nothing good for the future of the Internet in India.
Kushwaha adds that he wants to hear what other Indians on the TBTF list have to say about this proposal. Please write to him directly at <email@example.com>.
South Carolina drops out of the antitrust case
On 7 December the attorney general of South Carolina, Charles Condon, announced  that the state is withdrawing from the Microsoft antitrust case. Condon said that AOL's proposed acquisition of Netscape proves there is plenty of competition in the Internet space. Microsoft's legal team took advantage of the PR opportunity to hold an hour-long press conference from Washington, which featured a patched-in Bill Gates declaiming via satellite, "It's hard to believe the government is still pushing its case with a straight face." According to ABC News, Microsoft officials acknowledged  that the company had contributed $20,000 to the South Carolina Republican Party before last month's election, a sum a state party official described as one of the largest he had ever seen.
Politically aware online advocacy the US could learn from
A new organization called STAND offers a Web site  where UK voters can "adopt" and "feed" their local politicians. Prompted by widely disparaged British government moves to limit the use of strong cryptography in that country, members of the UK new-media community including Danny O'Brien of Need To Know  have cranked up what looks to be a fairly savvy attempt to educate Members of Parliament to the damage they are about to do to nascent e-commerce. The STAND FAQ  gives a good backgrounder on the organizers and its aims. (Example: What does STAND stand for? A: It stands for itself). Readers outside of Britain can visit the links page  to bone up on developments in the local crypto debate. I'll thank Malcolm Hutty <malcolm at liberty dot org dot uk> for the tip, even though he is one of the organization's founders.
Closely watched case may provide broader basis for patent appeal
Mary Ellen Zurko <mary_ellen_zurko at iris dot com> is the lead submitter on a software patent that will be reviewed by the Supreme Court in the 1999 session. At issue is not whether the patent is valid or invalid on the basis of prior art or any other such legal grounds. What the Supremes will decide is if it's OK to tell the Patent Office that they're just plain wrong. Large institutions that endure for a sufficiently long time breed a belief in their own infallibility. It seems that while you can tell the Patent Office that they acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner," you can't base an appeal on a contention that they simply blew it. Here is Zurko's description of the situation.
The Supreme Court case has nothing to do with the technology in the patent (a method for reducing the amount of trusted code in a secure user interface). It's about whether the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the next step after the PTO's internal Board of Appeals) can find that the factual basis for a denial is "clearly in error." The Patent and Trademark software Office wants the appeals court to tell them to reconsider a patent rejection only if it finds the PTO acted in an "arbitrary and capricious" manner. The case is notable for its effect on patent law several law schools were teaching it when it went to the Federal Court. The Science magazine article has more detail on the case, and I expect NPR commentary to be the best source of insight when the case is heard at the Supreme Court.
Current case law on downloading or linking copyrighted material
This National Law Journal article  runs through existing case law relating to fair use, linking, framing, and copying Net content, for example for use on an intranet. Of particular interest is the discussion of "deep links": links directly to content buried within a site, bypassing its top page (which presumably carries advertising). TBTF is strongly biased to use such "rifle-shot" links. The author cites the case of TicketMaster Corp. v. Microsoft Corp.-- and maddeningly does not report the actual outcome in concluding
Advice to newbies in the post-dead-trees age
Jargon Scout  is an irregular TBTF feature that aims to give you advance warning preferably before Wired Magazine picks it up of jargon that is just about ready to hatch into the Net's language. Anton Sherwood <antons at jps dot net> forwards the ringing phrase STFW, which he says he's seen several times on the newsgroup alt.fan.cecil-adams in response to trivial questions, meaning Search the flinking Web. The term is a cyberspace variant on the paper-based RTFM , though a more precisely analogous reading might be Surf the fine Website.
Julian Harris <jharris at clear dot co dot nz> claims to have originated the alternate form STFN. Usage:
CDA II injunction extended
The initial 10-day injunction  forbidding enforcement of the Child Online Protection Act (called CDA II by its critics) has been extended by several months. With the agreement of both parties, a judge extended the temporary restraining order until mid-February  to give the government time to prepare its case.
More consolidation of Net security firms
Continuing an agglomeration trend noted recently in TBTF , , over the last two weeks six security firms announced merger plans . CyberSafe announced it has acquired Canadian encryption firm Sagus Security. Alladin Knowledge Systems purchased eSafe Technologies, an Israeli firm that makes software to block hostile Java applets. British encryption firm Zergo Holdings Plc said it's in merger talks with Baltimore Technologies, an Irish digital certificate company.
Making a market in bandwidth
John Kristoff <jkristof at interaccess dot com> forwards news of two organizations matching buyers and sellers of bandwidth. Band-X , based in London, calls itself an "independent virtual market for trading international wholesale telecom capacity, minutes, or bandwidth." The original market may have been mediated by humans, but Band-X now offers buyers and sellers direct connection to its switch . San Francisco-based RateXchange  says it's an "efficient marketplace for sellers and buyers of wholesale telecommunications capacity." Both sites require membership. RateXchange provides more visibility into its market for non-registered guests, listing weekly indicators for minutes and bandwidth  and spot prices by country .
A dip into the meme pool
One of the regular sections of Need To Know  is titled Memepool. Perpetrator Danny O'Brien informs me that NTK invented the word before this site  came onto the scene, but says he isn't going to fight over it, because
The Net is the polar opposite of broadcasting: we can each burble on about our favorite obsession and like-minded people will find us out, collect around our watering hole, and start to gossip. Got a Nokia phone? Bored with its built-in selection of ring tones? Here's one of several pages devoted to downloadable ring-tone resources  for the Nokia 8110i. This page is part of Simon Whitaker's Netcetera site , which also features a small collection  of his favorite .sig's, of which one happens to be mine . Netcetera funnels me two or three visitors a day.
This page  claims to let you search for any given string of numbers in the first 50 million digits of Pi. Perhaps you need to be a particular flavor of math wonk to find this service fascinating, but if so then I'm that kind. Experimentation indicates that a randomly selected 7-digit number is likely to occur several times in the first 50M digits, while an 8-digit number has long odds against being found at all. (The script accepts up to 120 digits.) When a string is found you're presented with 20 digits of Pi's context on each side of it.
Subversive thought: of course the page could be a hoax and it would be difficult to tell. Perhaps the script behind it simply waits a variable amount of time depending on how far into the 50M digits it claims to have found a match and then prints your input string embedded in 40 digits of randomness. Since many people know a few digits at the beginning of Pi, the script might correctly store the first 120 digits so a simple test couldn't catch it out. It could remember the last few dozen generated answers so you couldn't easily spot it acting randomly. And so on.
David G Andersen <danderse at cs dot utah dot edu>, creator of Searching Pi , writes:
Bwahaha. I wish I'd thought of that it probably would have been easier than actually writing the search engine (discovering, in the process, a few bugs in the way FreeBSD handles MMAPing 50-megabyte files. Fortunately, they've all been fixed). I'm fairly sure that my script is honest, but then again, I could just be saying that.
Reviewed by Alice D. Phalen <adp at world dot std.com>
TBTF readers' prognostications for 1999
You connect the dots; you pick up the pieces
In this season when many news outlets are advancing projections for the Net in 1999, TBTF offers you the chance to show off your own predictive acumen. This quantitative test, scored like the Economist's recent science quiz , is included inline below to encourage maximum participation by email. I'll accept emailed answers until midnight EST on 31 December 1998. Early next year I'll publish a "survey says" consensus of your predictions: The Sense of TBTF for 1999. And in December 1999 I'll publish the names and (if they wish) email addresses of the top ten scorers as rated by history.
Please copy the questions below into an email message and send them, with your answers, to dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com. For my sanity please begin your email's subject line with [QUIZ].
Thanks to Bob Treitman for suggesting such a contest and to Jon Waldron for significant help with its form and content.
1. Predict the closing stock price in $US of Amazon.com on 1 December 1999. 2. Predict the profit (loss) for Apple Computer in $US in the July - September quarter of 1999. 3. How many Linux systems will be in use worldwide on 1 December 1999? (Hint: the consensus range for early 1998 was 5-7 million.) 4. Name five independent software companies that will be bought out by competitors other than Microsoft between 1 January and 1 December 1999. 5. Name five independent software companies that will be bought out by Microsoft between 1 January and 1 December 1999. 6. Name the top five Web sites, as ranked by number of hits per day, for the month of November 1999. 7. Predict the percentage of US households having Internet access on 1 December 1999. 8. Of the US households having Net access, what percentage of them will cover the last mile via: - analog modem? - cable? - xDSL? - satellite? - wireless? 9. What is the strongest cryptography (key length in bits) that will be exportable without a license from the U.S. on 1 December 1999? From Britain? Israel? Australia? Finland? Essay question: 10. What will be the status of the Microsoft antitrust trial on 1 December 1999? Who will win? If the DoJ wins, what remedy will be ordered? Will the case be appealed? Will it have reached the Supreme Court? Will they have ruled? How, and by what split? Which Justices will vote each way? Extra credit / tie breaker: 11. Predict the title of Bill Gates's new book.
For questions that turn on market statistics, I will develop a consensus best estimate or range from available sources (and cite the sources). Opinions of the judge that's me will be final.
TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the the message "subscribe" to firstname.lastname@example.org. TBTF is Copy- right 1994-1998 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Commercial 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.
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