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AOL, four others to participate in competitive testbed
On 21 April ICANN announced  the first five companies selected to provide domain-name registration services in competition with Network Solutions, Inc. The initial five registrars will be:
These five new registrars will open up for business on 26 April, and after a 2-month test registration will be opened up to any organization that meets ICANN's criteria (so far 29 additional organizations have qualified). Here's Dan Goodin's look  at whether, when registration is opened to new players, some animals will be more equal than others.
A domain-name bandit, challenged in court by Paine Webber, has been stripped of the domain name wwwpainewebber.com ; he was using it to funnel traffic to his porno site. The ruling marks the first time a court has found that typo pirates dilute the trademarks they rip off. Hundreds of other wwwx domain names will now be challenged by trademark holders. Visit Domain Surfer  to explore this mined-out corner of domain namespace. I picked up this story from jjg's admirable Infosift site .
Domain names are property
This one will go to the Supreme Court before it's finally settled. Here's a summary  of the case; see here  for more legal detail. In a dispute between Umbro International, which manufactures soccer equipment, and a Canadian name squatter, a Virginia court has ruled that domain-name holders have property rights in the names. When Umbro won its initial challenge the court ordered the Canadian company to pay $25,000 in legal fees. Umbro found that the company, which owned 27 other domain names, had no assets in the US; so it won a judgement requiring Network Solutions to confer ownership of those domains to the court for auction.
NSI has appealed the ruling. If they lose they might find themselves barraged with name-holder lawsuits. While name holders possess only licenses to their names -- not a property right in them -- NSI enjoys wide latitude in its dispute resolution policy. Under the new ruling a name holder who loses a dispute could turn around and sue NSI for property damage.
If this judgement stands, it might very well put domain-name speculators out of business in this country, no matter where they are located.
John Gilmore's "opportunistic encryption" is on the way
Three years ago John Gilmore pushed  to kick-start the adoption of IPSEC, the security protocol being developed by the IETF, by implementing it for Linux. His idea was to enlist network effects to speed the spread of robust encryption on the Internet: more point-to-point secure channels mean more value for each additional IPSEC node. Gilmore may have been over-optimistic in his timetable, but his opportunistic encryption effort [10a] has now borne its first fruit. A team of Canadian programmers has released Linux FreeS/WAN , , an open-source version of the Linux 2.0.36 kernel that implements major portions of the IPSEC spec -- in particular it supports 1024-bit Diffie-Hellman key exchange and triple-DES encryption for IP packets. A Linux box running FreeS/WAN can be set up as a secure virtual prvate network with any other similarly configured box. Over time, FreeS/WAN should interoperate with other free and commercial implementations of IPSEC [10b]. FreeS/WAN was developed and is distributed from outside the US, so local export restrictions do not apply.
Puzzled by the appearance of favicon.ico in your Web log?
News emerged this week to clear up a mystery I had been wondering about for some time. Beginning last year my Web log showed several attempts per day to download a file named favicon.ico. My site has no such file nor any links to one. This Wired story  reveals that the call for favicon.ico is yet another Internet Explorer "feature" that opens up yet more privacy holes. IE5 offers site builders a way to brand their site in users' browsers -- simply place a Windows icon file with the proper name at the site's top level, and Windows users who bookmark the site will see that icon in their Favorites list. IE5 is requesting the file favicon.ico without the knowledge of the user. Microsoft doesn't exactly trumpet this feature, which has been present in IE5 betas as far back as June 1998 ; they bury documentation about favicon.ico deep within their developers' site .
The feature raises two privacy concerns. First, Web site owners can now see when an IE5 user bookmarks their site. This expression of interest could be misused by avid marketers. Second, since almost nobody knows about the feature, most attempts to download favicon.ico will fail. A simple HotBot or Alta Vista search leads to hundreds of Web log files with "favicon.ico -- 404" errors. Web logs should not be visible to the search spiders, but nonetheless many are. The logs may contain expressive URLs that display usernames and passwords for databases or other secure parts of the sites.
Wired  sums up the concerns in a quote from a privacy advocate:
Chilling move reflects a European trend
The decision could chill online speech in Europe by making ISPs liable for the content carried on their servers . A 1996 law explicitly allowed British ISPs to invoke an "innocent dissemination" defense in cases of libel, but the recent ruling struck down this provision.
The case at issue is bizarre; one commentator quoted by Wired calls it "almost frivolous." One man in England, Laurence Godfrey, has filed 10 lawsuits in a personal crusade to try to force the Internet to submit to national libel laws. In this suit, he objected to a forged posting on the newsgroup soc.culture.thai that he claimed was libelous; the poster has no relationship whatsoever with Demon Internet, the defendant.
The decision may point to a broader trend across Europe. A draft European Commission directive on electronic commerce suggests that ISPs should be liable for similar kinds of content if they are aware of its presence.
Here is Demon Internet's spin on the story . Thanks to Jarrod Poynton <jpoynton at email dot com> for pointing out this development.
A tale of slow-motion legal disaster averted
This is the title given by Judith L. Sammel, of Baltimore, to the saga  of her near-escape from legal jeopardy caused by the inability of her cable provider and its cable Internet subsidiary to communicate. Cable leads xDSL in the race to wire the US for broadband Internet access; but the common wisdom says that cable companies are ill-suited in their culture and infrastructure to manage the demands of a role as a nationwide ISP, especially in the area of customer support. Ms. Sammel's tale is a sobering illustration of what this means on the ground. I picked up the story from NetSurfer Digest.
Contenders for DRAM's successor
A number of contending technologies that use magnetism, not charge, to store date on chips are nearing commercial trial . Pseudo-spin valves, tunnel junctions, and Hall effect devices are bidding to replace semiconductor DRAM with memory that stores data for extended periods with no applied power. Magnetic memory in theory might prove both faster and cheaper than existing DRAM, and many of the technologies being developed can be manufactured in modern chip fabs with minimal disruption to existing processes.
Upsilon Andromedae, 44 light-years distant, is accompanied by at least 3 planets with masses between 0.7 and 4 times that of Jupiter . While astronomers are glad of the company -- all of the extrasolar systems previously discovered  feature a lone planet -- current theory can't explain how such a system could form. The closest planet to its sun, at 0.7 Jupiter masses, orbits not far above the solar corona. How can a gas-giant world in this orbit survive?
The most distant galaxy
Researchers have found the most distant body to date, a galaxy 14.25 billion light years from earth. Kenneth Lanzetta of SUNY Stony Brook and his colleagues describe the find in the April 15 Nature (not on the Web). Its red shift is 6.68, which means that the light we see today left this galaxy when the universe was 5% of its current age. The galaxy seems to be producing stars at a prodigious rate, a finding that runs counter to current theories of the behavior of early galaxies. The same researchers have catalogued two other galaxies that may prove to be more distant still.
The thinnest conductor
A group of researchers at Harvard has created what may be the thinnest conductor that can be constructed. Chun Ning Lau and colleagues deposited molybdenum and germanium onto carbon nanotubes to create wires only 20 atoms thick. When cooled near enough to absolute zero the nanowires become superconductors -- almost. Superconductors normally require 2-dimensional wiggle room, and the nanowire is near enough to 1-dimensional to pose problems in this regard.
The Economist ran this story in last week's issue; it's not openly available, but subscribers can find it by searching for nanoelectronics .
The largest bacterium
It's the size of a fruit fly's head; you could see it with your unaided eye. If an ordinary bacterium were the size of a mouse, the previous record-holder would be as big as a lion, and this fellow would be a blue whale. It's the microbe Thiomargarita namibiensis , and Heide Schulz discovered it in sulfur-rich sediments off the coast of Namibia. T. namibiensis oxidizes sulfur for energy using a large supply of nitrate that it carries around. Hey, whatever floats your boat. Confirming that the new find is indeed a bacterium was no easy feat: T. namibiensis is so large that numerous other bacteria colonize its outer covering, complicating DNA analysis.
Laya' of ash separates mo'nin' and evenin' milk. Ya' know?
Dis page  tells de sto'y. Slap mah fro!
I went to the web site, and I read about why the poster thinks his site isn't racist, and how he is against racism, and isn't it important to be open, etc. But making a web page of a piece of software which creates a linguistically inaccurate version of Black English, and then lumping it together with things like Moron and Elmer Fudd, does nothing to help either cultural understanding or race relations. None of the other "dialects" generated by the site have this treatment.
It's not even interesting technologically, performing very simple (and, as mentioned before, incorrect) phonological and grammatical substitutions.
I'm sorry I had not written earlier to compliment you on all the wonderful segments I've read in TBTF; this is really the first time I found something not tasty and not very technological.
Making HTML misbehave
Andrew C. Bulhak's HTML Terrorist's Handbook  shows its age -- looks like he stopped updating it in 1996 -- but many of its subversive suggestions still work a treat. For example, Bulhak outlines how to create a Web page that can't be viewed with any frames-supporting browser. There are suggestions for rendering parts of a page invisible to one or another browser by misusing comments and tables. And Bulhak promotes a variant of the trick I suggested in TBTF for 1996-04-14 that causes Internet Explorer users to see only Greek . I got the pointer to the HTML Terrorist's Handbook from Ian Davis's excellent news site, Internet Alchemy .
The ad graveyard
On this hilarious site  advertising veteran Jeffrey Zeldman honors a number of creative and funny ad campaigns which, for one reason or another, never saw the light of TV or billboard. This site has been up since May 1995 and has been honored by near everybody in any medium you can name, but I just heard about it last week, from Jon Callas <jon at callas dot org>. Go figure. Zeldman's About page  is a model of design, understated wit, and brevity.
It's been a long time since the last issue of TBTF -- I'll try not to make this a habit. Some of the items published as Tasty Bits of the Day during April didn't make it into this issue, because they were no longer timely or for other reasons. These orphaned bits are archived here .
TBTF was recommended in Tipworld's  E-Mail Mailing List Review for 1999-03-30. Haven't seen such a flood of subscriptions since the Netsurfer Digest review in October 1996 . To the more than 500 of you who signed up as a result of that review, welcome.
The TBTF Irregulars have been mustered. Here is a list  of 68 generous souls who send me story ideas, make me think, and keep me honest. Many thanks and salutations to them all. The Irregulars will have use of a private mailing list and a private area on the TBTF site, once I get them set up.
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 1999-04-25