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TBTF for 1999-07-08: Intercession

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Thu, 8 Jul 16:07:37 -0400


Contents


Threads Domain name policy
See also TBTF for
2000-04-19, 03-31, 1999-12-16, 10-05, 08-30, 08-16, 07-26, 07-19, 07-08, 06-14, 05-22, more...

Anything ICANN do

The long strange trip gets longer and stranger

The Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers was expecting its work, opening up to competition the process of assigning domain names, to be a minefield. They weren't expecting, perhaps, the snake-infested swamp or the barbed wire or the snipers or the high invisible planes dropping bombs on them. ICANN accuses the domain naming incumbent, Network Solutions, with fomenting trouble, in the form of an open letter from Ralph Nader [1] and a Congressional investigation (see below). NSI too has its problems, with an EU antitrust investigation in the works (see below). Amid the acrimony and the duelling press releases, a source of information and open discussion has emerged. David Post, Michael Froomkin, and Dave Farber have established ICANNWatch [2] to serve as a forum for informed debate about ICANN's role in managing the Domain Name System. Post authored the essay cited in the previous issue of TBTF [1] calling for a Net-era incarnation of the Federalist Papers. ICANNWatch bids to fill this role.

Here are some of the recent developments in the domain-naming saga that began with the International Ad Hoc Committee nearly three years ago. This resource [3] includes every story on domain-naming policy that has appeared in TBTF since before the IAHC was formed.

bul Test phase extended. As the shared registration system test neared its end date last month, only one of the initial five alternate registrars (register.com) had managed to register any domain names for the public. The others, after long wrangling with Network Solutions over terms of the agreement NSI required before it would grant access to its registry, finally were ready to begin as the test ended. The Commerce Department brokered a last-minute deal extending the test by three weeks [4]. So far, so typical of a beta test in this industry. (Note this effect of the test: NSI's whois server no longer contains all of the .com names. GeekTools provides an alternate interface to whois [5] that works no matter who registered the name. It also works for country-code domains as well as TLDs.)

bul Stalemate looms. NSI and ICANN have each signed a cooperative agreement with the US government, but not yet with each other [6]. NSI threatens not to recognize ICANN's authority to manage the process of granting domain names, though its obligation to do so appears to be fully spelled out in "Amendment 11" [7] to the contract with the US government signed by NSI last fall. If NSI does not sign ICANN's accreditation agreement by the time the test phase ends, on 1999-07-16, ICANN may decide [8] that the company cannot participate further in the granting of domain names. NSI shareholders would not be best pleased.

bul Congress probes ICANN. On 22 June Rep. Thomas Bliley, the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, issued a blistering attack against ICANN [9] and opened an investigation into its actions. The crux of his complaint is that ICANN may have exceeded its authority when it decided to fund its operations by assessing a fee of $1 per domain name granted. ICANN says it will cooperate with any investigation, and blames NSI for setting Bliley upon them.

bul EU probes NSI. The European Union is investigating whether a Network Solutions contract for new registrars violates Continental antitrust laws [10]. NSI might be forgiven for wondering whether CORE whispered in the ear of EU staffers. The Council of Registrars is based Europe (emended though in Switzerland, not in an EU country). Besides being one of the five designated testers of open registration, CORE was the end-point of the IAHC process [11]. As such it had gained broad international credibility -- bluntly, Europeans believed that CORE was not totally captive to US interests. In this light ICANN is viewed from Europe with considerably more suspicion.

bul Moving the root. ICANN is working on a plan to move the A root server -- the base of the domain name system -- from NSI's premises to California [12]. NSI is obliged under its contract to give over responsibility for the A server when so instructed by the Commerce Department.

bul New accreditations. On 1999-07-07 ICANN blessed 15 new organizations [13] to act as registrars when the process is opened up beyond the initial testers. In all 57 organizations have received accreditation to date. NSI is not among them.

bul NSI is cracked. On 2 July crackers redirected traffic intended for Network Solutions to the sites of CORE and ICANN ([14] requires cookies and free login; [15] doesn't). Early reports claimed that the unexpected traffic brought down ICANN's servers as well. The FBI was investigating an ISP, SoftAware, that happens to be housed in the same building as ICANN. SoftAware said in a press release [16] that it is cooperating fully.

bul ICANN is going broke. Because NSI has not agreed to pay the $1-per-name fee that ICANN's accreditation agreement requires, the nonprofit organization is on the verge of bankruptcy [17]. The president of an ISP trade group said, "To fail because of politics would be one thing, but to fail because of money would be a catastrophe."

[1] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-06-14.html#s04
[2] http://www.icannwatch.org/
[3] http://tbtf.com/resource/domain-name-hist.html
[4] http://www.thestandard.net/articles/article_print/0,1454,5343,00.html
[5] http://www.geektools.com/cgi-bin/whois.cgi
[6] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38412,00.html
[7] http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/proposals/docnsi100698.htm
[8] http://cyber.harvard.edu/icann/berlin/archive/open2.html
[9] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38200,00.html
[10] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38546,00.html
[11] http://tbtf.com/resource/domain-name-hist.html#1997-11-10
[12] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38613,00.html
[13] http://www.icann.org/icann-pr06july99.htm
[14] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/07/cyber/articles/03icann.html
[15] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38721,00.html
[16] http://www.softaware.com/about/pr990703.html
[17] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,0-38847,00.html

___

Threads Echelon and the UKUSA signals intelligence franchise
See also TBTF for
2000-07-20, 1999-09-11, 07-08, 06-14, 1998-12-23, 03-09

US admits crypto export controls are about signals intelligence

Fighting a losing battle to keep Echelon relevant

In its petition for a re-hearing of the Bernstein case [18], the Justice Department admits, for the first time, that the true goal of US export controls on cryptography is to preserve the country's ability to gather SIGINT. The petition is refreshingly free of the incendiary cant about stopping pedophiles and drug dealers that federal authorities customarily emit as rationale for the ever-more-dubious controls.

The government's foreign intelligence-gathering activities include signals intelligence (SIGINT), the collection and analysis of information from foreign electromagnetic signals. The SIGINT capabilities of the United States can be significantly compromised by the use of encryption.
[18] http://jya.com/bernstein-pet.htm

___

Baby steps toward privacy marketing

Just because they have a policy doesn't mean they respect your privacy

In an early issue of TBTF [19] Nick Szabo predicted [20] that we would see companies competing for customers by touting their respect for privacy. Under the implied threat of government privacy regulation, this trend seems finally to be emerging. In April IBM, the second largest Web advertiser, announced they would no longer advertise on sites lacking a clear privacy policy [21], [22]. Earlier this month Microsoft, the number one advertiser, followed suit [23]. Now Disney has upped the ante in the privacy marketing game [24]: as of 1 October Disney.com will neither place ads with nor accept ads from companies that lack a privacy policy. The new rule also applies to Disney's other media properties, Excite, GO network, ESPN.com, ABC.com, ABCNews.com, and Family.com.

Personally I consider these actions to be baby steps. The existence of a privacy policy does not demonstrate a company's commitment to protect consumer privacy -- merely a pledge not to violate it in secret. I would be more impressed if Microsoft announced that as of a given date they would no longer use cookies to track users and would not sell or transfer any identifiable consumer data to any other organization; nor would they accept or place advertising with any company that did.

[19] http://tbtf.com/archive/1995-11-03.html
[20] http://tbtf.com/resource/priv-marketing.html
[21] http://www.internetworld.com/print/1999/04/12/ecomm/19990412-ibm.html
[22] http://www.adage.com/interactive/articles/19990405/article1.html
[23] http://www.foxmarketwire.com/wires/0622/f_ap_0622_74.sml
[24] http://www.lycos.com/cgi-bin/pursuit?query=3224&fs=docid&cat=zdnet&mtemp=zdnet

space ______

Google turbocharges Netscape's search page

Netcenter becomes the preferred search destination overnight

Google [25] is currently among the most accurate and useful search engines on the Web. TBTF profiled Google on 1998-05-11 [26] -- the first press coverage for the site in English. (This was before its founders had left Stanford.) Now Google emerges on the Netcenter portal [27], replacing Excite. The deal makes perfect sense after Google's recent influx of $25M in venture money [28] from (among others) Kleiner Perkins, a first-round investor in Netscape. The company was also motivated to drop Excite after the latter was purchased by @Home, a rival of Netscape's parent AOL.

Search.netscape.com is now my first stop for any Net search. Netcenter combines Google's highly relevant results with its "open directory" listing, to which thousands of amateur catalogers contribute.

First word on this story came from TBTF Irregular Gary Stock <gstock at ingetech dot com>, whose company [29] watches the Web with a nanoscope. Gary noticed google.netscape.com in his logs at 2:01 am (EDT -0400) on 1999-06-24.

[25] http://www.google.com/
[26] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-05-11.html#s08
[27] http://search.netscape.com/
[28] http://www.internetnews.com/fina-news/article/0,1087,5_131721,00.html
[29] http://www.ingetech.com/

space ______

@Home to limit upstream bandwidth

The free lunch is running out for the early cable adopters

The cable Internet provider is fighting a PR backlash [30] after news leaked of a planned nationwide bandwidth cap, for upstream data, of 128K. An internal @Home memo [31] intended for cable system operators was posted to Usenet. It details the company's strategy for handling the anticipated customer firestorm once the policy (which the memo calls the ONadvantage Upstream Enhancement) is announced nationwide.

@Home first instituted such a cap in Fremont, CA, one of the first communities to see widespread adoption of the cable service. The initial high upstream bandwidth (1 Mbit/sec.) and the "always-on" nature of the service tempted an abnormally high proportion of Fremont customers to commit what @Home calls subscriber abuse -- operating Web servers, Shoutcast servers, and FTP warez depots out of their homes. (That's a funny term, "subscriber abuse"; from a subscriber's point of view the label could as easily fit @Home's policy.)

For a clear-headed look at some of the real issues of bandwidth and average subscriber behavior, read Restil's posting in this Slashdot discussion [32].

[30] http://www.internetnews.com/isp-news/article/0,1087,8_144121,00.html
[31] http://x24.deja.com/[ST_rn=ps]/getdoc.xp?AN=487238496&CONTEXT=...
[32] http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=99%2F06%2F27%2F1342220&cid=...

___

Hazards of the young and mobile

bul Is your cell phone damaging your brain?

The research arm of the cell-phone industry, Wireless Technology Research, was asked to get to the bottom of persistent rumors that cell-phone use may endanger human brains. Their results [33] suggest a correlation between cell-phone emissions and brain tumors and DNA breakage in rats. While far from conclusive, this research demands in-depth follow-up studies.

[33] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/technology/story/20321.html?wnpg=all

bul Neural confusion engendered by PDAs

A medical specialist says she is seeing an upswing in cases of loss of muscular coordination, apparently caused by use of Palm Pilots and similar handheld devices [34]. (Grafittitis?) Seems the act of writing characters each on top of the last can induce long-term confusion in some susceptible individuals. Such people find it nearly impossible to write on paper, producing instead a baffling doodle.

Note added 1999-07-08: emended Oops. This story is almost certainly made-up. I overlooked the fine print at the bottom of [34]:
The South to the Future World Wide Wire Service is a weekly feed of technology and media news commentary and satire published by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Quotations attributed to public figures who are satirized are often true, but sometimes invented. Some fictional statements may, in fact, be true. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental.

The "Monitor Company" in Cambridge does exist, but no George Willard works there. The "Johns Hopkins Medical Center" does not exist; the actual institutions are named JH Medical Institution, JH Medical Services Corp., JH Bayview Medical Center, and JH Hospital. No Dr. Katia Miezkowsky is employed in any Johns Hopkins-related medical facility.

Thanks to Bob Treitman (as usual!) for first setting me straight, and to the TBTF Irregulars -- Bill Innanen in particular -- for excellent follow-up research. Here is background on South to the Future from TBTF Irregular (and NTK [34a] perpetrator) Danny O'Brien:

Everybody knows this is a joke piece, right? The authors specialise in science / tech pieces that sound convincing, but are actually made-up, fictional, and filthy, filthy lies. They also did the one about the Californian geneticist who bred oranges that express THC, the principle active component of marijuana. Usually I enjoy this kind of media hoaxage, but I reckon SttF breed their memes for virulence at the expense of funnitude.

[34] http://www.sfbg.com/wire/45.html
[34a] http://www.ntk.net/

___

SETI at home

Find little green men in your spare cycles

When last we visited the SETI @ Home project [35], developing software to harness the spare cycles of myriads of Internet-connected computers to look for a needle of signal in a haystack the size of the galaxy, the Berkeley group expected to offer software in the spring of 1998. More than a year late, SETI @ Home [36] is offering data-reduction software in the form of screensavers for Windows, Macintosh, and Unix systems. The founders were hoping to convince 150,000 users to dedicate their computers' spare cycles to the analysis of Aricibo radio-telescope data. They were overwhelmed [37] by more than 500,000 signups in the first weeks. Unfortunately an early victim of this Net flash crowd was the SETI @ Home server that distributes chunks of raw data for processing: for a number of weeks it repeatedly assigned volunteer machines the same two days' worth of Aricibo data. (It's fixed now.) If you have not signed up for SETI @ Home, and if your spare cycles aren't already dedicated to some other good cause such as finding Mersenne primes [38], I invite you to join [39] the TBTF Extraterrestrials group set up by TBTF Irregular Chuck Bury. This is how long you can expect your machine to run as it chews over a single "work unit" [40]:

   46 hours   Pentium / Windows
   26         PowerPC / MacOS
   21         386 / Linux
   14         Pentium / BeOS
    7         MIPS / IRIX 6.2
Note added 1999-07-13: emended Several readers have pointed out how misleading the above numbers can be. For example the "386 / Linux" time actually represents all SETI @ Home participants running a 386 Linux kernel on any Intel architecture. One reader pointed out the following note from the SETI FAQ [40a]:
Unix versions don't have any graphics (yet) and therefore run much faster. You can speed up the Mac and Windows processing by selecting your screensaver to "blank" after a few minutes, thereby reducing the graphics overhead. In addition, there was a bug in the early Windows version (before 1.05) that caused it to report incorrect CPU times.

[35] http://tbtf.com/archive/1997-09-01.html#Tipc
[36] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/
[37] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/technology/story/20088.html?wnpg-all
[38] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-03-02.html#Tipc
[39] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/cgi?cmd=team_join_form&id=5962
[40] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/stats/platforms.html
[40a] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/faq.html#q2.2

___

Maybe this year a storm

OK, so the 1998 Leonids fizzled. Just wait

Last November's Leonid meteor storm [41] didn't happen. The Leonids are like that. To paraphrase Fred Whipple on predicting the brightness of comets, "If you must bet, bet on a horse, not on the Leonids!" Three times a century when earth passes near comet Tempel-Tuttle, the source of the Leonids, conditions are ripe for the ordinary November 17th shower to blossom into a full-blown gale. 1998's display featured a larger-than normal proportion of big, spectacular bolides [42], but the peak rate of meteoroids was around 250/hr.; in 1966 the peak had been 144,000/hr. Scientists are cautiously advancing the possibility that 1999 may be a big Leonid year [43]. Satellite operators will probably, once again, idle down their birds and turn their backs on the constellation Leo.

[41] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-10-12.html#s08
[42] http://www.leonidslive.com/
[43] http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast22jun99_1.htm

___

Best of the Web logs

Herewith a few diverting items culled from the Web logs [44] I read several times a week. They are now listed among the TBTF Sources [45].

[44] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-05-08.html#s09
[45] http://tbtf.com/sources.html

bul Two, two, two sites in one

From Internet Alchemy [46], 1999-06-24 the Magex twins

Here is a novel solution to the dilemma of overlapping trademarks for the same domain name. The Magex site [47] contains two side-by-side frames. On the left, from the UK, is NatWest bank's site for their new Magex product, a technology for secure digital envelopes. On the right is the Italian company Magex, which sells production and planning equipment.

Note added 1999-07-16: The two parties have arrived at a more conventional solution. [47] now belongs solely to NatWest; the top page links the Italian company. See [47a] for a screen capture of the double site, preserved here for historical interest.

[46] http://alchemy.openjava.org/index.html
[47] http://www.magex.com/
[47a] http://tbtf.com/pics/magex.gif

Threads Businesses based on domain names
See also TBTF for
2000-07-20, 04-19, 1999-12-16, 08-30, 07-08, 02-01, 1998-08-10, 04-20, 02-23, 02-09, 1997-12-08, more...

bul An online auction for domain-name speculators

From Infosift [48], 1999-06-23

Dotbroker [49] applies the eBay model to domain name speculation. When I visited there were only a few hundred names for sale, and none of them had seen a bid yet.

[48] http://www.jjg.net/infosift/
[49] http://www.dotbroker.com/

bul A line around the world

From peterme [50], 1999-06-19

Remember the conceptual art of the 60s and 70s? Let's say the artist wants to connect the world with a phone call. He'll locate people on each continent, station each one near a pair of phone booths, and have each in turn call the next continent's left-hand phone from his/her right-hand phone. When all the calls have been placed, each agent holds a receiver to each ear, and speaks. Voila. Well, visual artist John Maeda [51] has updated the project for the Net. Using a Java applet, he asks users to help draw a line around the world [52]. You'll find my contribution at line number 4380, 1999-06-25. Dai Nippon Printing sponsors One Line.

[50] http://www.peterme.com/
[51] http://www.maedastudio.com/
[52] http://210.140.12.36/index_e.html

bul Odd bits

From Reuters Oddly Enough [53]

This page features five or ten strange news items daily. Recent ones include the story of four drownings in a pond in Disney's made-up town of Celebration [54] (aka Stepford-Upon-the-Swamp), and news of turmoil in the Miss France contest [55] as citizens alleging a rigged contest convince a court to decide who is fairest in all the land. Thanks to TBTF Irregular Lewis A. Shadoff, PhD for pointing me toward the island of strangeness in Reuters's calm sea of news.

[53] http://news.excite.com/odd/
[54] http://news.excite.com/news/r/990622/15/odd-disney-deaths
[55] http://news.excite.com/news/r/990624/10/odd-france-beauty

___

The patron saint of the Internet

St. Isador, intercede for us in times of packet loss

A group of Spanish Catholics called Observation Service of Internet [56] (Spanish only) declared on 14 January in Seville that they had located the saint most appropriate to intercede for suffering computer users and weary Web surfers. The group proposes to add computer technicians, computer users, computers, and the Internet to the ambit of St. Isador [57], officially patron saint of school children and students. Isador was born in Seville in 560. He wrote a dictionary, Etymologies, that the Spanish group compares to a database. "He began a system of thought [that] is very modern, notwithstanding the fact it was discovered in the sixth century. Saint Isador accomplished his work with great coherence: it is complete and its features are complementary in themselves" [sic] [58]. This BBC coverage [59] quotes a spokesman for the Catholic Media Office thus: "There are patron saints of many things, so why not let the Internet have one? It is a good idea and might be able to help us all when we are about to crash." The Vatican has not commented publicly on the proposal.

Theological conundrum: if the Pope officially adds to the workload of a particular saint, can that saint decline the honor? Serious discussion is invited.

Note added 1999-07-15: Alan Braggins <armb at ncipher dot com> writes: "Is this a case where papal infallibility holds? Otherwise, presumably a saint could ask for an angel to be sent. [59a] says":
Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17-19; John 21:15-17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope "enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.

[56] http://www.ua-ambit.org/soi/soi.htm
[57] http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainti04.htm
[58] http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/9901/ze990114.html#item7
[59] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_368000/368891.stm
[59a] http://www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/p-infall.htm


Notes

bul After the previous issue's spotlight on the 10,000th TBTF subscriber, and the article on new units denoting powers of two [60], several readers asked whether we would be celebrating the 10-kibi-th subscriber. Oh all right. Welcome Curt Newton <cjnewton at crescentnets dot com>. Curt is architecture director at Crescent Networks. His appeal to you:
Please read quickly. I'm trying to preserve most of my 15 minutes of fame for after I strike it rich in this networking startup game, and return to the strictly non-commercial world of drumming, jazz, and improvised music [61].
[60] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-06-14.html#s11
[61] http://curtnewton.home.mindspring.com

bul Since TBTF began open publication I've mused on how to produce income from the service without contravening the principles that inform it. Quoting from the FAQ [62]:

It's not really about money. TBTF creates more value in the world by circulating for free. Also, many of the obvious ways one can make money from a newsletter and Web site -- advertising, micropayments -- are unappealing to me and I won't impose them on you. Subscriptions are less objectionable but the surveys I've done indicate that any mandatory charge would slash the readership to a small fraction of what it is now. Sponsorship is a possibility, but I place a high value on my independence, and email from readers indicates that they do, too.
Meanwhile, the newsletter has grown to the point where Net access, telephony, Web space, bandwidth charges, and domain-name fees comprise a fair fraction of my monthly outgo.

The solution: TBTF is and will remain free. And I've set up a TBTF Benefactors program [63] for those of you who get value from the publication and are in a position to contribute to its upkeep. If you want to become a TBTF Benefactor, please visit this secure Kagi account [64]; contributions are accepted by credit card in any amount from $5 US. If you have an E-gold [65] account you can transfer e-metal to account # 105298. (Set up an e-gold account here [66].) TBTF Benefactors' names are listed on the site [63], if they so choose.

[62] http://tbtf.com/faq.html
[63] http://tbtf.com/the-benefactors.html
[64] https://order.kagi.com/?UM2
[65] http://www.e-gold.com/
[66] http://www.e-gold.com/e-gold.asp?cid=105298


Sources

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

TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To subscribe send the
the message "subscribe" to tbtf-request@tbtf.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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