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TBTF for 1996-02-10: Netscape's new features; indecency on hold

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Sat, 10 Feb 1996 20:49:43 -0500



Netscape Navigator 2.0 is out

Version 2.0 of Netscape Navigator was released last week on all platforms. As reported in TBTF for 1995-01-31, Java support is missing from the Macintosh version. Here are two features that appear in version 2.0 that were not present in the betas, to the best of my knowledge.

Colored text: A new option on the <FONT> directive lets you set a color for any text. (Previously you could specify color only for body text, links, followed links, and active links, as well as a background color.) Example: <FONT COLOR=#FFDD99>peach</FONT> gives peach-colored text. Can you say "garish?" The first page to use both font color and <BLINK> should get a free pass to Mirsky's Worst of the Web.

Multiple images and GIF animation: Netscape 2.0 can "play" multiple images from a GIF89a file. The GIF89a standard includes a provision for storing several images; Netscape exploits this little-known ability to provide animation on the cheap without Java. And Netscape has added an optional extension to the standard to allow an animation to loop indefinitely. For Mac users, a new tool called GifBuilder lets you build multi-image GIF89a files from a collection of PICT, GIF, and/or TIFF images. GifBuilder was written by Yves Piguet <piguet at ia dot epfl dot ch>, author of clip2gif. Get version 0.2 from <http://iawww.epfl.ch/Staff/Yves.Piguet/clip2gif-home/GifBuilder.html>. Note however that I found it disturbingly easy to freeze my Mac by trying different combinations of GifBuilder options and feeding the resulting GIF files to Netscape 2.0; and it's certain death to exit Netscape while a looping animation runs. I don't know how stable the feature is on other platforms.

[Note added 1996-02-16: Scot Hacker <Scot_Hacker at zd dot com> sent these corrections and comments.]
NS 2.0 has supported colored fonts from the first beta. You're right about the potential for garish abuse of the priviledge, but many thousands of people are using the option tastefully. As in art, as in writing, garishness is in the pen of the html author, not the tools at his/her disposal. I welcome every advance that brings the page-layout and design features to html that one might have in Quark.

GIF89a animations have been supported since beta 4 or 5 (almost a whole month!). The current Windows creation tool for this is called GIF Construction Set <http://www.north.net/alchemy/gifcon.html>. Netscape didn't add the ability to loop animations -- 89a has been able to do this for a long time. NS just started supporting the feature. For more info, see my article on the subject at <http://www.zdnet.com/~zdi/articles/gif89a.html>.

You're absolutely correct about NS crashing if you try to quit when one is running. In addition, if you leave a loop running for a couple of hours, your system resources will deplete down to zero. Ouch.


1995 on the Net

A succinct and pithy summary of 1995's Internet events came my way on two different mailing lists last week; its origin is shrouded in mystery. It reads more like a newspaper piece than a Usenet posting, and its author is clearly quite knowledgeable about Net happenings and culture. I tried to trace the author through all the intermediate forwarders from both mailing lists, but in vain. Alta Vista does not show it anywhere on the Web or in current Usenet postings. If anybody can identify the origin of this article, please let me know. If it was indeed copied or scanned from a newspaper I'll take it down.


Followup: censorship provisions in the telecomm reform bill

At 11:00 AM on Thursday 2/8, President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Reform bill into law with a digital pen. Minutes later the Justice Department conceded in Federal court (Philadelphia, ACLU v. Reno) that language in the bill extending the ban on "indecent" material to include discussion of abortion is unconstitutional (but refused to put the concession in writing). In a separate court hearing (Brooklyn, Sanger v. Reno) the U.S. Attorney also agreed that the Justice Department would not prosecute abortion-related information on the Net. The ACLU suit requested a temporary restraining order against the enforcement of any of the indecency provisions; the judge required the government to file a reply within 7 days, by 2/14, and to refrain from enforcing the provisions during that time. Within hours of the signing President Clinton told the press that the abortion restrictions would not be enforced.

A reader from outside the U.S. wrote to me in confusion, finding "The Wild West becomes the Bible Belt overnight" full of too-intricate detail about the American political process and landscape, and colloquial to boot. (Probably others in the 25 countries to which TBTF is delivered were confused too.) I knowingly invited confusion by favoring timeliness over background detail. Anyone interested in my reply to this reader can find it on the archive.

Here is an opinion from a Washington lawyer at the firm of Pepper & Corazzini, Neal J. Friedman <njf at commlaw dot com>, laying out what the Communications Decency Act of 1996 means to U.S. citizens. He covers some aspects that TBTF didn't touch on: the role of the Federal Communications Commission and the restrictions placed on states. This material is posted on the TBTF archive by permission.

I received one expertly written and charming blast from the far right wing, in fact from the very Bible Belt of the title. The author is Leon Blocker <iinet at muscanet dot com>, self-described "publisher, right-wing idealouge, neanderlithic knuckle dragger, racist, homophobe, and bigot." It was only TBTF's second flame. Perhaps I'm being insufficiently opinionated. Mr. Blocker's letter is posted on the TBTF archive by permission.


Metaphor crash

See <http://www.abcland.com/~jwiedman/humor/suphwy.htm> for an efficient dismembering of the "information superhighway" metaphor. This rant has been around the Net for some time, but I have never seen an attribution for it. A bit of research using Alta Vista reveals six Web sites that host the article; the evidence points to Jim Wiedman <jwiedman at esri dot com> as the possible author (he's at least the earliest extant poster). Jim says on his home page that he enjoys forwarding humorous pieces on the Net but that he doesn't write them. In any event Jim posted the piece to alt.religion.subgenius on 1995-05-24 from <jimvdw at aol dot com>.


>>Sources:

> The Alta Vista search engine is at <http://www.altavista.digital.com/>.


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______________________________________________________
Keith Dawson dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com dawson@atria.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.