Guilty in Intergraph lawsuit of abusing its dominant position
In a ruling  sure to have wide repercussions, on 4/10 a federal judge ruled in favor of Intergraph in its lawsuit accusing Intel of using its dominant market position to force Intergraph to give up key patent rights. The judge ruled that Intel's CPU platform is an "essential facility" -- like air, like water -- and identified specific remedies to address Intel's abuse of its dominant position. One eventual beneficiary of the ruling may be the open software movement -- see Intel's Merced locking out free OSs in TBTF for 1998-03-23 .
Crypto algorithms were developed in the dark
The Smartcard Developer Organization and two Berkeley researchers announced on 4/14 that they had cloned the smartcard that gives a GSM phone its identity. GSM phones are in wide use around the world; more than 80 million are deployed. They had been thought to be immune to the sort of cloning possible with older technology cell phones. The researchers stressed that the crack was possible because the crypto imbedded into GSM phones was developed in secret and held in secret. Marc Briceno, Director of the SDO, said, "Here we have yet another example of how security by obscurity is no security at all."
The attack required physical access to the GSM phone. No attack that would work over the airwaves is known at this time.
In response, the digital phone company Omnipoint was the first to announce  that it will change the mathematical formulas used in its phones. Others are likely to follow suit.
A recent Center for Democracy and Technology newsletter  recounts this story and other recent developments in the crypto policy debate.
Other EU countries may follow
A law making its way through the Dutch legislative system could force ISPs to tap their customers' traffic, at their own expense . The legislation was instigated by a dispute last fall between authorities and local ISP XS4all, who refused to comply with a request from the Dutch Ministry of Justice's Forensic Science Laboratory to monitor one of its subscriber's Net surfing activities as well as all communication via email, newsgroups, and chat rooms. Dutch law enforcement already relies far more heavily on wiretaps than do their American counterparts; in 1996 three times as many Dutch phones were tapped, in absolute numbers. Adjusted for population this represents a rate of wiretapping 50 times higher.
Armenia sells to the world, and NetNames sells American Samoa to the Scandanavians
Armenia is selling its domain namespace and has been added to the TBTF roster of non-US domain-name vendors . This NIC charges $200 to non-native applicants for a .AM domain name, and does not impose any recurring fees. The process involves emailing an application template and snail-mailing a banker's draft to Armenia. Thanks to Michael K. Sanders <msanders at aros dot net> for pointing it out.
TechWeb reports , and NetNames  confirms, that the company will soon begin marketing .AS domain names -- allocated to American Samoa -- from a new branch based in Copenhagen. In the Scandanavian countries "As" is equivalent to "Inc." This tactic represents a clever broadening of the business of selling domain names: choosing a name of little intrinsic value in its native land to offer to a carefully targeted region in which it will be desirable.
I will add .AS to the TBTF roster  when NetNames officially launches the service.
A new organization, a new mailing list, a new conference
Robert Hettinga <rah at philodox dot com>, indefatigable crusader for the coming age of friction-free microtransactions on a geodesic Net, has rebranded his operation "Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism" . Philodox is sponsoring a new email list on digital bearer settlement -- email email@example.com with subject: subscribe dbs . Philodox will host a 4-day conference this summer, in or near Boston, on the topic. Hettinga often meets with quizical looks or outright incomprehension when holding forth on the subjects dearest to his heart, because he is thinking miles ahead of most of us down a particular possible future path. I've excerpted the following from one of his characteristic rants as a pithy summary of the implications for state power of widespread digital bearer settlement.
Using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create limited-liability entities with anonymous voting control which don't need state-enforced corporate charters to exist.
Finally, using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create cash-settled instantaneous auctions for all goods and services, not just those which can be shoved down a wire like information and financial assets.
Use them for all your mapping, topographic, and cadastral needs
TBTF for 1998-01-12  introduced EarthWatch, a company that has launched a satellite to provide photos from space with a resolution of 3 meters. Now a consortium is selling 2-meter photos based on Russian spy-satellite technology. At 2 meters you can tell a car from a truck. SPIN-2 -- the name means Space Information, 2-meter -- is a collaboration of SOVINFORMSPUTNIK, Aerial Images (North Carolina), and Central Trading Systems (New York) . Unlike EarthWatch, which has satellites in permanent orbit, SPIN-2 launches temporary satellites that return to earth with exposed film. The images will be for sale over the Net from a variety of sources including, once it gets into full operation, TerraServer .
Where will you be when the lights go out?
What's going to happen to the world's computers -- and to the world -- after December 31, 1999? No one knows. In the 21st century we will all conveniently forget this fact, and will assume that the consequences should have been obvious, whatever they turn out to be.
If you keep current on the news, and not alone news of the computer industry, you're probably knee deep in scare stories already. Awareness that there might be a problem is spreading widely. Last week I heard an ad on the local classical music station for an outfit that wants to come in and identify the extent of your buiness's Y2K vulnerability. An innkeeper of my acquaintence received a polite letter from his bank explaining that some folks might experience problems -- not them, of course -- and that the bank stood ready to loan him money to upgrade systems as necessary. I've heard reports of lawyers' conferences devoted to education about the Year 2000 bug. This can't be good.
I don't intend to promote TBTF as a fount of truth on this issue. No one has final answers. But I will pass along Year 2000 bellwethers as I see them.
Many Microsoft products have Year 2000 problems
I couldn't check out the facts completely because the Microsoft Year 2000 site is not friendly to Netscape browsers and not friendly to Macintoshes. A number of the pages I visited in the site were blank beyond the top banner; drop-down lists were filled with strange characters; etc.
From  you can query product by product or you can download a list of applications that are "compliant with minor issues"  (RTF format). The non-compliant list contains 3 items: Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS v. 5.0, and Office Professional v. 4.3 (Access 2.0 only). All versions of Internet Explorer have Y2K problems, as do Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, NT Server 4.0, NT Workstation 4.0, Office 95, Visual Basic 5.0, and Visual Studio Enterprise 5.0. The problems seem genuinely to be minor.
I commend Microsoft for spotlighting this information openly and early, and hope that their example encourages other companies to say what's true about Y2K issues in their products. However, I urge Microsoft to improve the accessibility of this information to those with non-Microsoft browsers and platforms.
California bill would limit Y2K lawsuits
AB 1710  begins its legislative journey this week. The bill would limit damages to actual monetary losses incurred. It is being promoted as a pro-business bill in this highly tech-dependent state. Its critics claim it will not improve predictability in litigation. An aide in the office of the bill's chief sponsor said, "We just want do something that doesn't let lawyers file suits for everyone who has ever touched software."
IRS to spend $1 billion on Y2K
On 4/15 the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles Rossotti, used his agency's biggest day to proclaim Year 2000 the "most unfortunate but most essential problem" and said that fixing it will cost $1 billion . Two weeks ago the estimate was $850 million and six months ago it was $250 million. This is the agency that had spent $3 billion over more than a decade to upgrade its computer infrastructure, then abandoned the entire project and declared it sunk cost. "We simply, absolutely must devote all of our resources to fixing the year 2000 problem," Rossotti told a luncheon press gathering. He said if the problem is not solved the result will be "very dire indeed."
Can you say "flat tax?"
Here is a long piece  from a widely respected computing expert that puts the strictly Y2K problems in a broader context. Capers Jones highlights other date-related computing issues ahead of us, including:
Did you ever use "9999" in a program to mean "the record that can never happen?" I know I did, in Fortran. The technique used to be recommended in Cobol textbooks. So what happens on September 9, 1999?
Jones claims that over the next 50 years we will need to modify at least 60 million software applications because of date-related problems, at a total cost above $5 trillion.
A twisty maze of items, all a little different
Saudi prince invests in Teledesic
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king, has made good on his intention  to buy into Teledesic . The prince invested $200M in the privately held satellite communications company founded by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates. The prince also holds investments in EuroDisney and Michael Jackson . Last fall his 5% stake in Apple  fueled rumors of a takeover attempt by a group of investors led by Oracle's Larry Ellison.
Power and modems and phones, oh my
Going travelling? TeleAdapt  lists power requirements, power plug adapters, and phone adapters for countries everywhere , as well as local Internet access numbers for major worldwide providers. However, the site's organization makes it a challenge to find gems such this diagram  of international power plugs.
Who sucks, who rules?
TBTF for 1998-03-02  introduced the operating system popularity meter . Now the good folks at Electric Lichen have packed up the Sucks-Rules-o-Meter to go. Here it is. It will update every day. (The longest Rules line, in green, belongs to Linux. Which OS sucks the most will be left as an exercise for the reader.)
Turn on Java and visit this site  to play the first computer game. Two spaceships, one star, missiles, gravity: heaven. Spacewar, as developed at MIT in 1962 for the PDP-1, lives again. The code was typed in from an original assembly-language listing and run through a PDP-1 assembler written in perl. The resulting program runs atop a PDP-1 emulator implemented in Java.
This lone page , unindexed inside a nearly content-free FrontPage template of a customer support site, marks the end of the Internet as we know it. It's in Newfoundland. Thanks to glen mccready <glen at qnx dot com> for the pointer.
A cadastral survey is, loosely, a survey on a scale sufficiently large to show accurately the extent and measurement of every field and other plot of land, as a basis for taxation. The word comes into English by way of French and Italian, from the Greek katastikhon, notebook, or "line by line," from kata = down from and stikhos = line or verse. Here is its definition according to the OED .
TBTF home and archive at http://www.tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the message "subscribe" to firstname.lastname@example.org. TBTF is Copyright 1994-1998 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Com- mercial 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.