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Commerce Department yanks ICANN's chain, backhands NSI
On 9 July the Commerce Department sent a 32-page letter  to the ICANN board and the House Commerce Committee, responding to committee chairman Tom Bliley's questions on ICANN's recent actions . Here's the NY Times's coverage  of this letter (free registration and cookies required). Commerce Department officials said that ICANN should
Commerce did not let NSI entirely off the hook, either. While chastising ICANN for a threat, issued in its Berlin meeting, to cancel NSI's authority to issue domain names, the Commerce letter states baldly that unless NSI signs ICANN's operating agreement, Commerce will in fact terminate that authority. NSI must stop at once claiming the .com, .net. and .org domain-name databases as their intellectual property, Commerce insists.
Congress has now scheduled the investigative hearing promised by Bliley. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will convene "Domain Name System Privatization: Is ICANN Out of Control?" on Thursday, July 22, 1999 at 11:00 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2322.
On 16 July Commerce again extended the deadline  for the end of the open domain registration test. The test had already been extended once  because of protracted wrangling among NSI, ICANN, and the test registrars. The new target date for wider participation in competitive registration is 6 August.
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Back Orifice 2000 menaces NT, Win2000
As promised, the CdC has released Back Orifice 2000, the update to Back Orifice  that runs on Windows NT and the beta releases of Windows 2000. The CdC gave away CD-ROMs containing the tool at the 7th DefCon hackers' convention on 10 July, but it took a few days for the code to appear on its spiffy new Web site . (Much to their embarassment, the CdC CD-ROMs were infected with the Chernobyl virus. At this writing this embarassment is graphically on display here .) This time the hacker group is releasing, under the GNU Public License, source code for their trojan-horse-in- security-tool's-clothing. GPLing BO2K cuts both ways -- it encourages development of variants and new features, but it provides anti-virus writers a better chance to block the trojan. BO2K will be harder to spot than its predecessor because it offers strong encryption (via 3DES) and configurable ports. Here is a bulletin from Internet Security Systems  that details the operation of BO2K and exhaustively lists its features and options. Most anti-virus companies have already posted countermeasures for BO2K. But not all believe  that this trojan, which is likely to evolve rapidly, will be seriously slowed by virus scanners, many of which rely on simple pattern matching to detect a malware signature.
When you've tired of menacing, scary cows, relax at this site  dedicated to the decorated cows of Chicago. That city got the idea from Zurich, which first obtained a herd of full-sized plastic cows, turned them over to its artist community, and displayed the results in public spaces.
US Netizens' free ride may end after 2001
In 1998 the US Congress enacted the Internet Tax Freedom Act (summary ), guaranteeing no federal, state, or local taxation of Internet access or electronic commerce until October 2001. The same law set up a 19-member National Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce  to figure out what to do after that date. This commission held its first meeting in June, 8 months late and mired in controversy and politics . The meeting was told that in 1998 taxing authorities lost $210M in untaxed Internet commerce. But a more recent Ernst & Young study estimated that in 1999 states will lose only $170M, less than one-tenth of 1% of state and local tax revenues. Further meetings are planned for September, December, and March before the commission submits its recommendations in April 2000. One possible outcome could be a national sales tax on Internet transactions. Here former presidential candiate Pete DuPont elaborates some of the reasons he thinks this is a bad idea .
Thanks to John Kristoff <jtk at aharp dot is-net dot depaul dot edu> for the prod on this story.
Plaintiff awarded just $1
On 16 July a Connecticut jury sided with Microsoft in the Bristol Technology antitrust case . Bristol had claimed that Microsoft broke the law by refusing to renew a key contract granting it access to NT technology. The U.S. District Court jury found no violations of antitrust laws in Microsoft's dealings with Bristol. However, the jury did find that Microsoft had used deceptive practices in violation of the state's Unfair Trade Practices Act, but awarded Bristol just $1 in that claim. Bristol had asked for $263M. The case is unlikely to affect the federal antitrust prosecution, but its outcome could discourage other small companies from going after Microsoft in court.
Up north, Netiquette is acquiring the force of law
A judge from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled  that sending unsolicited commercial email violates "Netiquette" -- generally accepted Internet practices -- and that service providers requiring subscribers to follow such practices are justified in shutting off spammers' accounts. The ruling came in a suit brought by a spammer against an ISP who had done just that. Thanks go to Sheehan Carter <sheehan dot carter at crtc dot gc dot ca> of the CTRC for first word on this story.
An Austrian legislative body has passed a spam ban  far stricter than required under EU rules. (Babelfish  will give you only a rough sense of this German article.) The EU guidelines mandate only that spam be appropriately labeled in its subject line and that spammers honor user requests to remove their addresses (opt-out). The Austrian parliament's law committee passed instead a tough law based on the opt-in principle: commercial email would be outlawed unless a commercial relationship with the recipient already exists. The law spells out high fines for offences.
Following weeks of wrangling between consumer advocates, government and industry, a parliamentary justice committee has passed an amendment to the telecommunications law. Commercial e-mail will only be allowed if the recipient has previously agreed to it (opt-in principle). Stiff fines are spelled out for offenses.
The new law goes well beyond the existing EU directive, which bans spam that is not appropriately labelled and protects consumers who have clearly stated they do not wish to receive commercial e-mail, for example by putting their names on a "Robinson list" (opt-out principle).
The latest X out of the W3C offers hope for HTML smudging
Web Review features an excellent summary  of XHTML, a cleaner and stricter version of HTML that will eventually help put an end to HTML smudging . The language will be interpretable by applications that are far smaller than the bloated browsers of today, which must cope with the many idiosyncrasies of HTML and its many implementations. The W3C cites estimates that by 2002 as many as 75% of all HTTP requests may be made by devices other than browsers: telephones, PDAs, toasters, doorknobs, etc.
This summary, quoted from , explains how XHTML fits with the Web acronyms you already know.
Among the differences between XHTML and HTML 4.0:
It may be too late to fix this wasteful bug
A simple bug in Internet Explorer 4 wastes gigabytes of bandwidth per day, according to this BrowserWatch story . Servers that dynamically generate pages -- for example search sites -- can flag them with a do-not-cache directive, <meta http-equiv="pragma" content="nocache">. Most browsers know that it's OK to cache any (presumably static) graphics on such a page; but not IE4. The proprietor of AbsoluteChat.com, writing for BrowserWatch, claims that this bug has caused his site to serve 18 gigabytes of unnecessary data over the past month. He implores Microsoft to patch this wasteful bug. Personally I believe it's blood under the bridge. How many users who have gotten IE4 working stably would take the trouble to download and reinstall this huge and troublesome piece of software, when IE5 is already out? We're stuck with the bug and its attendant waste for many months to come, until IE4 fades into memory.
TechWeb's WebTools site has a fine tutorial on Web caching .
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Chuck Bury <cbury at softhome dot net> for pointing out this story.
Lucent announces gigabit networking through open air
This Lucent press release  describes a 2.5 Gb/s networking technology, called WaveStar OpticAir, carried on a laser beam in the open air. The maximum range is 5 km. The product will be available in the first quarter of next year, with a 10 Gb/s multiplexed version following in the summer. Lucent claims the technology requires no spectrum license to operate and meets environmental safety regulations:
The Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search finds M-38
On July 1, GIMPS announced  discovery of the 38th Mersenne prime: 26,972,593 - 1. This number has over two million decimal digits and won for its discoverer, Nayan Hajratwala, the first of the EFF's Cooperative Computing Awards : $50,000 for the first prime with more than a million digits. (Hajratwala can claim the award when the results are published in a refereed academic journal.)
The next Mersenne prime discovered may qualify for the follow-on EFF prize of $100,000 for a 10-million-digit prime.
Thanks to TBTF Benefactor  Joe Sotham <joe dot sotham at icbc dot com> for prodding me to give this discovery some exposure.
Ignorant can be fixed, but stupid is forever
Lest we imagine that our own century invented clueless politicians mucking about with technology they don't understand, consider these two data points from the last century.
Bill Thornton <x at he dot net> sent this link  to a debate in the 28th Congress of 1845. It was proposed to spend $100,000 on a telegraph line between Baltimore and New York. The question arose as an amendment to a bill to appropriate a smaller sum to maintain an existing line between Washington and Baltimore. Senator George McDuffie raised the following objection:
Let us close with the widely quoted plaint of Charles Babbage as he struggled with Parliamentary funding for the Analytical Engine.
TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the the message "subscribe" to email@example.com. TBTF is Copyright 1994-1999 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Commercial use pro- hibited. 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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Most recently updated 1999-07-21