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TBTF for 1998-09-07: Say it ain't so

Keith Dawson ( dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com )
Thu, 10 Sep 10:44:21 -0400


E-mall slamming

A recent excess of Web marketing

Last May Wired wrote [1] about an enterprising Toronto e-mall merchant whose site, Hotflyers [2], incorporates images and other content from many small electronic storefronts without asking first, implying hundreds of relationships and endorsements that don't in fact exist. These were not merchants who had joined his mall, they were victims of misappropriation of intellectual property. The man behind Hotflyers, Tony Comparelli, was unapologetic:

It was just easier for us to build the sites than try to convince the vendors to join us.
One merchant told Wired that a guest book on the HotFlyers site, with the name of her company at the top, offered more information about her products to those who signed up -- but no names and addresses were ever forwarded to her.

Recently complaints have cropped up anew about this dubious technique for building online traffic and credibility. HotFlyers is still at it. A new target of complaints is the Sustainability Store [3], whose practices are colored a lighter shade of grey. Steve Wood <steve at woodsite dot com> complained about Sustainability on a private mailing list:

I put up a site offering items for sale for a client a couple of months ago. This AM I discovered a site which has duplicated elements of my client's site including listing a number of the items for sale and offering them for sale itself.
Wood was the first to refer to this practice as slamming, in analogy with the practice of unscrupulous telecomm operators who switch customers to their (expensive) long-distance services without permission. He has written "a serious letter" to the company, with copies to their ISP and to the director of an ethical national business network they claim as a sponsor. I'll follow up this story as it develops.

Thanks to Julianne Chatelain for putting me in touch with Wood and for the coinage "e-mall slamming." Keep it up, J, and you'll make TBTF Irregular with a Jargon Scout cluster.

[1] http://www.wired.com/news/news/business/story/12499.html
[2] http://www.hotflyers.com/
[3] http://www.sustainabilitystore.com/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/store4/prodpages/...


Microsoft and Sun square off in court over Java

Much depends on Sun's ability to enforce the language's cross-platform nature

Tuesday marked the first day of three in which lawyers for the archenemies trade jabs in a complex, highly technical pre-trial session. (The trial itself is scheduled to begin next June.) Did Microsoft have the right, as it claims, to develop two versions of Java -- one to Sun's standard and another for Windows developers? The best coverage of the coverage is to be found, as it usually has been of late, in the Industry Standard's Media Grok [4], which leads off with Where do you want to go to court today? The coverage they like best for completeness and depth of technical background is from Dan Goodin and Ben Heskett in news.com [5]; I can't disagree.

[4] http://www.thestandard.com/articles/article_print/0,1454,1649,00.html
[5] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,26078,00.html?tbtf


DoJ and Microsoft name their witnesses

Heavy-hitting academics top the lists

The complete witness lists, 12 each, are at the bottom of this link [6]. Microsoft is calling eight of its executives -- not including Bill Gates -- plus two academics and the CEOs of two partner companies. The government roster is four academics, an economist, and seven industry executives. The unexpected entries on this list are officials from America Online and Boeing, presumably to testify about pressure to adopt Microsoft's browser and to drop Netscape's. The government's list includes grand old men of computing and economics: Dave Farber of the University of Pennsylvania and Franklin Fisher, MIT professor of economics.

[6] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,26091,00.html?tbtf


Bottom-fishing the bulletin boards

Digging for dirt inside Netscape

The Wall Street Journal reports [7] (subscription required) that Microsoft has subpoenaed the contents of internal Netscape discussion lists. Microsoft is particularly interested in two complaint bulletin board called "Bad Attitude" and "Really Bad Attitude" founded by early Netscaper Jamie Zawinski, now a driving force in Netscape's Mozilla open-source initiative. Microsoft hopes to bolster their contention that internal bad management, not predatory competition, dragged Netscape down in the browser wars. The WSJ attributes the following quote to Zawinski, but he fingers [7a] Netscaper Sarah Clatterbuck as its source.

And I keep thinking to myself, Microsoft is going to pay some jackass lawyer $200 an hour to find out that we hate our cafeteria food, don't like the security posters, had a sucky newsfeed, and think "Navigator" was a cooler name than "Communicator." And I smile.
[7] http://interactive.wsj.com/articles/SB904517750937473000.htm
[7a] http://www.jwz.org/gruntle/rbarip.html


A digital signature makes e-commerce history

Using smart cards in place of pens

On his visit to Ireland last week, President Clinton and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern made technology history as the first heads of state to sign an intergovernmental document digitally (it was a communique on e-commerce). The signing took place at 4 PM GMT on 1998-09-04 at the Gateway 2000 plant in Dublin, Ireland. The smartcards and software for the event were provided by Baltimore Technologies [8], whose account you can read here [9]. Thanks to Mike Hanafin <mike at baltimore dot ie> for timely word of this milestone.

[8] http://www.baltimore.ie/
[9] http://www.baltimore.ie/news/press/pr980904.html


Crypto policy costs the US a citizen

A financial cryptography practitioner becomes an African-Caribe

Vince Cate gave up his US citizenship last Sunday [10] (registration and cookies required for this site). Cate, who lives in Anguilla, said he wants to be "free from the silly US laws on crypto." His company [11] develops software for financial cryptography. Cate is one of the organizers of the Financial Cryptography conferences on his Caribbean island; he's also the man who brought us the Become an international arms trafficker in one click page [12]. Before renouncing his US citizenship Cate paid about $5,000 for Mozambiquan citizenship. The Times article quotes a lawyer who specializes in export licenses as opining that Cates's gesture was not strictly necessary, because the law has always given more latitude to cryptography used strictly for financial transactions [13].

Note added 1998-09-11: Dr. Stephen Bryen <deltaone@radix.net> writes:
I saw the story about Vince Cate. Excuse me for sounding off, but I just felt I had to, and since I am a keen follower of your e-letter, I decided to pass along my views about Mr. Cate. I don't know him, in fact I never heard of him, but of course the story is being put around by those who favor significantly liberalizing cryptographic export controls. As one who spoke out against the Clipper chip, and also served as a Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Trade Security (both Reagan administrations), I want to say to all: American citizenship is far too precious to give up for anything; and those who favor liberalized encryption export controls should think twice about embracing Mr. Cate or using his example for any purpose.

Like millions of Americans, my grand parents escaped oppression in Europe (they came from Czarist Russia). This country is the great hope for the freedom for all people of the world. Those of us who come from families that experienced persecution understand this very well. Those who long to come here understand that our proud tradition of freedom and democracy is the great hope for a world long in turmoil and travail.

Perhaps the only positive outcome for Mr. Cate's permanent departure is the fact that his place will be taken by a person who appreciates the true glory of this country.

[10] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/yr/mo/cyber/articles/06encrypt.html
[11] http://www.secureaccounts.ai/
[12] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1996-05-05.html#i-a-traf
[13] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-07-20.html#s08


A comparison of virus scanners

Surprised? They're not all equally effective

Shake Communications Pty Ltd. has released the results of an independent study of the top 20 virus-scanning products on the market. Here are the press release [14] from Shake and coverage in an Australian newspaper [15]. The complete results appear in the September issue of the Shake Security Journal [16], a semi-monthly, subscription-based publication (3 issues US$25, 6 issues US$40).

The study tested each product in a "hot zone" of 16,000+ viruses -- including executables, Word and Excel macro viruses, Microsoft Access viruses, Lotus 123 viruses, Trojans, and bait files. (So they say; I don't know what "bait files" means.) Shake says that few of the programs performed consistently across all virus categories. The company cautions that a product's ranking on this list is only one of a number of factors to consider when choosing a scanner. Here is a capsule of the survey's results, in terms of the percentage of viruses detected. Thanks to Simon Johnson <simon.johnson at shake dot net> for forwarding this table, not available in the cited public sources.

    1   Anywhere Anti-Virus       99%
    2   F-Secure                  94%
    3   Norton Anti-Virus         93%
    4   Find Virus (Dr Solomon's) 93%
    5   Inoculan AntiVirus        93%
    6   Avast                     93%
    7   McAfee VirusScan          91%
    8   Thunderbyte               91%
    9   LANDesk Virus Protect     90%
    10  Sophos                    88%
    11  AntiViral Toolkit Pro     87%
    12  House Call                86%
    13  ViruSafe                  79%
    14  Vet                       73%
    15  Virus & Macro Buster       2%
   | 16  Quick Heal               n/a
   | 16  Panda Anti-Virus         n/a
   | 16  Guard Dog                n/a
   | 16  Fiber                    n/a
Note added 1998-09-16: Ulf Möller <ulf at fitug dot de> sent this note: [T]he tests done by the Virus Test Center at the University of Hamburg may be of interest. See [16a] (summaries and full reports are available online).

[14] http://www.shake.net/press/070998.html
[15] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/techno/4001410.htm
[16] http://www.shake.net/products/journal/
[16a] http://agn-www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/vtc/eng1.htm


Say it ain't so, Luke

Watching the watchers watch Transmeta

Transmeta, the Silicon Valley company that employs Linus Torvalds, isn't saying what kind of technology it's working on. (Their Web site says, succinctly if paradoxically, "This web page is not here yet.") The Red Herring tried to find out what they are up to -- or perhaps their account of the attempt, "Stalking Transmeta," [17] is all in good fun. PC Magazine prints a more substantial guess [18]:

[Transmeta] has been working for about two years on a CPU for PCs, which is rumored to have its own internal instruction set but to use a fast software translator to execute x86 instructions. Transmeta has raised a large (undisclosed) amount of venture capital and is well staffed; a product debut is likely in 1999.
In the NY Times for 8/31, John Markoff relays a rumor [19] that he says has some Sili Valley techies quite upset.

Markoff's article is mostly about evidence of increasing strain in the "Wintel" alliance. One factor contributing to the wobble is the rapid growth of technology areas such as telephony and personal digital assistants that do not use Intel hardware or Microsoft software. Microsoft has an entrant at this end of the market -- Windows CE -- but Intel is seen as concentrating increasingly on the shrinking top end. (Its purchase of Digital's StrongArm technology may have been reduced in value by the defection of key technical talent.)

If Transmeta, which was founded by a former Sun Sparc architect, is working on a platform for portable computing -- let's call it a "media chip" [20] -- what OS will it run? Well, with Linus on board, you would assume the answer would be "Linux, duh." Some flavor of Java would certainly be a contender. But Markoff says the word is that Transmeta may run Microsoft software. A hardware designer is quoted thus:

It would be a little like hiring Luke Skywalker and then turning the whole organization over to Darth Vader.
[17] http://www.herring.com/mag/issue58/stalking.html
[18] http://www.zdnet.com/pcmag/features/cpu98/intro10.html
[19] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/98/08/biztech/...
[20] http://www.techweb.com/se/directlink.cgi?EET19980706S0069


bul Today's TBTF title nods to the Black Sox baseball scandal of 1919, when eight Chicago White Sox accepted bettors' bribes to rig the outcome of the World Series. They were blacklisted from the game for life. Shoeless Joe Jackson, called the greatest natural hitter the game has known (this was before Mark McGwire), was among those implicated. During a game a young boy who had idolized Jackson implored from the stands: "Say it ain't so, Joe!" Jackson was acquited in a court of law in 1921, but never appealed his banning to the baseball commission. Fans and supporters today [21] agitate for removing the blot from Jackson's escutcheon and for elevating him to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Eric Asinof and Stephen Jay Gould have written an engaging history of the affair titled Eight Men Out [22]; John Sayles made a movie of it in 1988 [23]. From the blackbetsy.com site [24] (Black Betsy was the name Shoeless Joe bestowed on his Louisville Slugger):
Contrary to popular belief, the name Black Sox was not given to the 1919 White Sox because of the 1919 World Series scandal. The name was given to them because they played in dirty uniforms because their owner... used to charge the players 25 cents for cleaning [them]. The players refused to pay...
[21] http://www.blackbetsy.com/
[22] http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0805003460/tbtf
[23] http://us.imdb.com/Title?Eight+Men+Out+(1988)
[24] http://www.blackbetsy.com/jjfaq.htm


bul For a complete list of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see http://www.tbtf.com/sources.html.

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Keith Dawson    dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com
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