-- Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
in his findings of fact in the Microsoft antitrust case  (402 K)
The volume of commentary on this document by now surely outweighs the original by orders of magnitude. Here is an analysis  of the trial's likely impact on the worlds of Linux and Open Source development; at the end are 17 further links.
Linux is not to blame, and you cannot protect intellectual property that is software
On 25 October someone posted source code for the Content Scrambling System (CSS) encryption algorithm, which is intended to protect DVD movies from unauthorized copying or viewing. Within two days a cryptographer had released code  for a CSS cracker capable of finding a DVD's key within a fraction of a second on an ordinary PC. Soon a Norwegian hacker group had released DeCSS, a tiny (60K) freeware Windows utility that can unencrypt a DVD and store its contents in a multi-gigabyte disk file in about an hour.
Note that these developments do not presage imminent widespread piracy of DVD movies. The files are just too big. They can't practically be passed around the Net, and they're far too large for the current generation of writable DVDs.
Wired broke the story  of the DVD crack on 1 November. The motion picture industry went fruit-city bananas. Within a week lawyers were threatening sites that posted, not the DeCSS utility itself, but simply links to sites where it could be found . A lawyer sent a warning letter to the site host for LinuxDVD  -- a group working on a fully licensed DVD player for Linux systems, and totally uninvolved in the crack.
The press couldn't seem to get the details right. Dana J. Parker published the first accurate account  on 4 November but it got little play. Two weeks later you could still read media stories claiming that the crack had happened because some kid stumbled onto a weakly encrypted Xing key. Felix von Leitner nailed the details in this piece  (in German); his summary in English translation  is posted on the TBTF archive by permission.
Finally, Bruce Schneier's Crypto-Gram newsletter  dissected the myriad weaknesses engineered into CSC encryption. Surprise: industry consortia, operating in secret, aren't very good at developing protection schemes for their intellectual property. Schneier goes on to tell why it will never be possible to outlaw reverse engineering, which is the entertainment industry's current path of choice to securing their intellectual property.
A new TBTF featured columnist covers technology with an eye to cultural context
This summer TBTF began offering customized, unedited forums to selected writers with compelling things to say and idiosyncratic ways of saying them. First came Glenn Fleishman's Unsolicited Pundit , then Lloyd Wood's Jaundiced Eye .
Now TBTF Irregular t byfield joins the fold with the roving_reporter. Byfield has been using this nom-de-Net for several years on the nettime mailing list. Expect his reports to range over much of the territory you expect to see covered in TBTF. Compared to my focus on individual rights, Byfield may stress more the cultural dimensions of technology developments.
Roving_reporter number one is a dispatch  from ICANN's recently concluded Los Angeles meeting. Byfield turns a spotlight on two powers behind the scenes at ICANN -- a pair of eminances grises from the Washington, DC law firm of Jones Day Reavis and Pogue. See if you don't finish this article entertaining more doubts about the ICANN exercise than you had before.
A new advertising trend: fleeing the dot-com
MSNBC mirrors an insightful Wall Street Journal article  on wired companies doing their darndest to look as if they're made of bricks and mortar. The driving force behind the waning attractiveness of the dot-com moniker is the absolute blizzard of dot-com advertising on radio and TV. The ads are, often as not, directed more at Wall Street than at home consumers. Focus groups are beginning to show that average folks don't remember the companies, don't like the ads, and resent the omnipresent image of the snarky twenty-something zillionaire.
The Journal story profiles Lucy.com, online vendor of women's exercise clothing, which is busy spending its ad budget on paper catalogs delivered by snail mail. Lucy.com's CEO is convinced she can make a strong impression on holiday shoppers by using dead trees instead of radio spots.
BigStar Entertainment, which sells DVDs online, is going even farther in its quest for faux bricks. BigStar paid a New York company in some entirely different line of endeavor to plaster its trucks with BigStar signs. The other company's drivers are trained to answer questions about BigStar and to hand out coupons. They may actually be delivering pizzas or office supplies (the story doesn't say); in fact BigStar does its own delivering by UPS. The get-in-their-faces-in-traffic ploy has proven so successful at boosting BigStar's name recognition that the company plans to expand its faux fleet to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Dallas.
This New York Observer piece  reinforces the picture of thundering herds of dot-coms "frantic to rise above the white noise created by their own frantic attempts to rise above the white noise":
The CEO of dot-com Gist Communications, who appears to be more media-savvy than most, is quoted thus: "When radio sales people hear dot-com attached to a company's name, they double the price."
Thanks to Dave Fitch for pointing out the Observer story.
Psst: hey mister, wanna buy a domain name?
Quick, do a Google search for any dot-com domain name. Here's one to try if you're momentarily stumped . Notice the small text-only ad at the top of the results page. Google tells you that "com" is a very common word and was ignored. Well, it may have been ignored in generating search results, but it was very much honored for Network Solutions' purpose of trying to sell you a domain name. The Google / NetSol arrangement works equally well for dot-com names that were established using some other registrar; for example try joker.com .
T byfield <tbyfield at panix dot com> caught this subtle commercial arrangement and brought it forth.
TBTF book reviews
See also TBTF for 2000-03-31, 02-06, 1999-11-21, 1998-12-15, 05-25
Read the jacket copy of most any tell-all business book and you'll see the publisher claim that the author pulls no punches. Charles Ferguson is the real deal. You've probably never read a book that so plainly lays out the author's opinions, feelings, failures, and triumphs while recounting a company's history.
Ferguson founded Vermeer Technologies, which developed the FrontPage Web authoring / editing environment in 1994 and 1995 and was acquired by Microsoft early in 1996. Microsoft FrontPage is now used by 3 million people around the world. (TBTF picked FrontPage as the standout at Internet World 1995 , where it launched.)
The eight chapters in which Ferguson describes the 22 months of Vermeer's independent existence are riveting reading for anyone who lived through the birth of the commercial Internet. Ferguson gives his startlingly frank opinions on everyone involved: Vermeer's venture capitalists, the near-disaster of a CEO they hired, the Netscape and Microsoft players with whom Ferguson negotiated for Vermeer's purchase. He's a hard grader and as tough on himself as on others. I think that none of the things he says quite rises to the level of the libelous; but some of them will make you wonder.
Everyone with an Internet business plan should read this first-time entrepreneur's look back, especially for its eye-opening account of his dealings with venture capitalists. Read it before you get your money. The book will probably depress you; but Ferguson's hard-won lessons might just possibly save your bacon.
I found the early part of the book somewhat confusing because Ferguson talks about the business and venture-capital climate in Silicon Valley. Vermeer was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts and its first investors were easterners. I assume the publisher chose to downplay this geographical undesirability in order to bask in the magic glow of the words "Silicon Valley." And of course by the time Vermeer went seeking a second round of VC funding, many of the players involved were in the west. (I'll also give the author the benefit of the doubt and assume it was the publisher's choice to replace an "a" on the cover with an "@" -- lest the reader fail to apprehend that this is an Internet book.)
Ferguson, in concert with his early employees, saw very clearly the way the Internet and the competitive environment would grow. Of course he could be padding with hindsight the nature of his early strategic insight; but he ended up convincing me otherwise. For this reason I plowed through the book's final three chapters, in which he imparts his views the self-immolation of Netscape, the Microsoft problem, and the (in his opinion) vastly more worrisome problem of the incumbent telecomm companies. In my mind he had earned the right to have his opinions attended to.
I asked a former colleague who was close to the events at Vermeer to comment on the accuracy of the historical picture Ferguson paints. The reply:
The western suburbs of Philadelphia reach for recognition
Siliconia are appropriations of names beginning with "Silicon" by areas outside Silicon Valley. A Siliconium can be promoted by local boosters or it can be assigned to an area in a press account. An ideal Siliconium will capture something unique about the regional character and when first encountered will bring a fleeting smile. TBTF has maintained the definitive collection of Siliconia online since 1995.
The western suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, centered around Valley Forge and Wayne, are positioning to become a recognized tech center in order attract businesses and capital. Greg Aaron <grega at crosscommerce dot com> writes:
The article quotes the claim of a regional technology council's CEO: "There is a higher return on investment on money invested in the Eastern corridor than in Silicon Valley." Note that this executive prefers to call the region E-Valley Forge -- unanimity is hard to come by. And according to Forbes, the alternate Siliconium Philicon Valley is also in use locally.
Both Silicon Valley Forge and Philicon Valley are exceedingly clever names (and E-Valley Forge is a non-starter). Whichever one the region settles on, the Philadelphia suburbs appear to have many of the ingredients in place for successful regional branding. But the region has not mounted a PR campaign the likes of those put on by, for example, the Dot Commonwealth  and the Silicon Sandbar .
Businessman drops $23 million on a mouse click
The president of an aircraft leasing company spent nearly $23 million on a used aircraft with a single mouse click . He had only seen the plane virtually, via a 3-D Web page tour  on Gulfstream Aerospace's Web site. Gulfstream claims this as the largest single e-commerce transaction to date.
The buyer, Richard Hodkinson, said there is less mystery in buying a plane online than in purchasing groceries or flowers:
Hodkinson inspected the plane and signed a letter of intent to purchase it over the Net, but the sale is contingent on a physical inspection before closing. Gulfstream's asking price was $22,950,000. Hodkinson won't disclose the price he agreed to pay.
A thousand bytes of code and data on a $2.12 chip
Here's a credible entrant for the world's smallest Web server . It's made from a single Fairchild ACE1101MT8 chip, which is considerably smaller than the head of a wooden match; it would fit comfortably between George Washington's nose and ear on a US quarter dollar . It looks to be about 3mm in its longest dimension. Fredric White programmed a mini-TCP/IP stack and Web server that serves two pages -- whose data is also stored on the ACE chip -- a total of 1010 (decimal) bytes of code and data. White paid $2.12 for the chip. Here is the server's URL . Go visit and toggle its LED. Fewer than 400 people had hit it when I first published this note as a Tasty Bit of the Day; at this moment the tally is 10,361.
Maybe 140-GB disks, as big as CD-ROMs, before 2001
The Israeli company C3D  is demonstrating applications of a technology they call Fluorescent Multilayer, or FM. In the form factor of a CD-ROM, a prototype FMD-ROM disk can store 140 GB -- nearly 30 times as much as a DVD and over 200 times a CD-ROM. A ClearCard, in the shape of a credit card, can store 10 GB, or 2500 times as much as a standard smartcard. One key to achieving these storage densities is storing data in multiple layers. The FMD-ROM uses 6 layers and the ClearCard 10. The company says they are working with 20-layer technology in the lab and see no practical upper limit. C3D has filed for over 70 patents for the FM technology. The company is seeking manufacturing partners, principally in Japan; they hope to have FM storage devices and media on the market within a year. This Wired story  has more details. Thanks to TBTF Irregular Dan Kalikow for the nod.
They claim they can get 1 gigabyte per second read speeds! (Home page quote: "unmatched as to speed, allowing the data retrieval rate to exceed 1 gigabyte per second")
That's about 100x over average hard disk speeds, not to mention CD-ROMs which are even slower (1x=150 KB/sec, 32x=4.8 MB/s)! CPU-to-main-memory bandwidth barely gets that high on the latest PCs (top models with 133 MHz SDRAM * 64bits get 1064MB/s).
I called them up to grill them about it, and they convinced me it wasn't totally bogus. They could only get those speeds on the card medium (not the rotating disk media), and they claimed to get those by reading many bits in parallel not just via multiple layers (which only gets you a speedup proportional to the number of layers, 6-10x), but by also having a CCD-like array of sensors that could read multiple "pits" at once and optics to direct a single laser appropriately.
Which might be quite significant, except for the fact that write speeds are measured in kilobytes/sec and multiple write capability is still in the research stages.
So the 1 GB/sec speeds won't be fomenting a storage bandwidth revolution. But it does make an interesting footnote and area to keep your eye on. I'll probably take another look once they actually ship product.
All this leaves me pondering an interesting marketing question: What kind of task could really take advantage of 1 GB/sec read-only bandwidth within a smart-card form factor?
Note added 1999-12-11: Dave Walton <dwalton at acm dot org> suggests an application:
Obviously, they'd need to improve storage capacity a bit...
Researchers at Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, UK, have built a prototype nanotriode -- a vacuum-based electronic switch. The transistors deployed in millions on today's silicon chips are basically triode switches. Vacuum triodes beat out transistors in a number of areas: tubes can support higher currents, their electrons travel faster, and their performance isn't much affected by changes in temperature.
Nature's Science Update ran a summary  of the accomplishment, which was published in Applied Physics Letters . The nanotriode consists of layers of insulating and conducting materials enclosing a vacuum chamber 100 nm across; at one end a collection of 1-nm "nanopillars" ( the cathode) emits electrons into the vacuum. In theory as many as ten billion such devices could be fabricated onto a chip one centimeter square.
Why is there rain?
You'd think scientists would know by now why it rains. As it turns out, theories of cloud formation can't adequately explain the speed with which water droplets grow in size until they fall as rain. Now researchers at Delft University of Technology have done supercomputer simulations  indicating that tiny areas of turbulence, vortices on a scale of centimeters, may be an important factor in the growth of water droplets.
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid for this item. He must inhabit even more peculiar mailing lists than I do.
An odd day
Friday, 1999-11-19, was an odd day. Not only are the year, the month, and the day odd, but so is each digit in each one of them. We won't see another such completely odd day until 3111-11-11. If we weren't using ISO 8601 dates , we could observe an odd day ten months and ten days earlier.
I have traced this most useless numerological / calendrical factoid back three generations before the first mention I saw of it on a mailing list, but must now admit defeat. Please write if you can offer a lead on its inventor.
Note added 1999-11-23: My fell plan worked to perfection! EM Ganin did his usual thorough job of tracking down the likely history of this Net meme:
Deja.com shows around 100 postings of this message, with 13 dated before Nov. 19. In examing the 2 copies sent to me, plus the copies available at Deja.com, I have a few conclusions:
Since the web search engines find no copies of this story, I can only conclude that it originated last week -- too soon to be indexed.
I suspect that some well known radio or TV personality said this on Monday, Nov. 15. It was picked up by other media people and rebroadcast on Wednesday and Thursday. Thousands in the audience transcribed the information as best as they could and emailed to all their friends.
One posting attributed it to "NBC". Another claimed it was from a local paper.
Here is a copy of the oldest posting I found:
>Last Odd Day >Date: 1999/11/18 > >Guess what >Yesterday was an ODD day, 11/15/1999 (all >the digits are ODD) and what more you only have 2 more >Odd days 11/17/1999 and 11/19/1999 in the near future. >After that, we won't see an odd day until 1/1/3111!!! >So after 19th Nov, the odds are that you will not be >around to see the next odd day but you will be around >to see the next even day...The next even day will be >2/2/2000, the first since 8/28/888.
Online newsletter publisher fails to heed the lesson of New Coke
I will now attempt to rectify the error in judgement by which I've sown confusion among TBTF readers over the last few weeks. Then maybe I can get back to the business of bringing you the best news on the Net.
The most recent formal, official, PGP-signed issue of TBTF (let's call it Classic TBTF) went out on 5 October. In the meantime I've distributed to this list two numbers of something called the TBTF Log. A small number of you understood what I was trying to do -- trade off a degree of filtering and polish in favor of timeliness -- but you didn't like it. Many of you didn't notice that the TBTF Log was some new thing; you only noticed that the quality had dropped and you didn't like it. Nearly a hundred readers unsubscribed.
To the 99.2% of you who stuck around: thanks for your patience as I messed around with what has always made TBTF work. I've stopped now.
TBTF will continue to come to you by email on a somewhat erratic schedule whose intention is to be weekly. I'll continue to post several items a day to the Web-based TBTF Log , but won't email the Log to this list. Visit the TBTF Log frequently if you want breaking news on the subjects the newsletter covers; or pick up the TBTF channel either directly  or via syndicators, for example  or .
If you have strong views about the TBTF Log experiment, or about what TBTF's core values are or ought to be, please comment at this Take It Offline forum .
Go on, admit it, you've always wanted a TBTF tee shirt
I've finally gotten around to putting up a cheesy storefront , called Tasty Stuff from the Technology Front, where you can buy TBTF-themed merchandise for yourself and all your kith and kin. (By some odd coincidence the store opens its virtual doors just as the holiday season kicks off.)
Cafe Press sources excellent raw materials at good prices. They handle everything at the back end -- hosting, credit-card transactions, shipping, and returns.
The tee shirts are Hanes, sized to shrink, and the TBTF colors came out vibrant. The coffee mugs (in two sizes) are a bit more muted. There had been a mouse pad on offer but I pulled it; the colors were just too peculiar. I'm working on this with the people at Cafe Press.
The small income stream I expect from the store will augment the TBTF Benefactors program  in supporting TBTF's production and distribution. I'll post data on the store's performance once it gets up and humming.
Visit this forum  at Take It Offline if you want to share experiences with Cafe Press or other sites offering easy construction of online stores.
Please comment here  to register your astonishment that TBTF would undertake anything so crass and tacky as a tee shirt store, or to share your unalloyed delight at the thought of walking through the world displaying the famous Lips logo on your back.
If you think the new Quote Of The Week feature is derivative of Need To Know , you may be right. We pass memes back and forth with regularity. (For example, they stole our ISO 8601 dates , , now we're stealing them back.) NTK is one of only two journals -- the other is Crypto-Gram -- that I always read immediately it arrives.
TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To (un)subscribe send the message "(un)subscribe" to email@example.com. TBTF is Copy- right 1994-1999 by Keith Dawson, <dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com>. Commercial 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.
Most recently updated 1999-12-11