Friday, November 05, 1999
11/5/99 9:15:29 am
ICANN committee proposes nationalizing country codes.
While ICANN meetings are now open to the public, some operations of its
advisory committees still transpire in closed rooms. On 1 November, the
most controversial such ICANN panel, the Government Advisory
Committee, drafted a proposal to completely overturn the way country
codes are assigned and managed under RFC 1591. GAC discussed the
proposal behind closed doors on 2 November. (GAC's bland official
give no indication of any controversy.) A copy of Principles for
the Delegation and Management of Country Code Top Level Domains leaked
outside the meeting room. The GAC chair, when asked, would not discuss
it, saying it was still preliminary.
GAC proposes seizing the ownership of country-code top-level domains
(ccTLDs) -- the ISO-3166 codes -- from their current owners and
managers and granting them unilaterally to governments. IANA would be
stripped of any role and the local Internet communities would have no
standing in the process.
TBTF has been told that on 2 November ICANN president Mike Roberts and
the Commerce Department's Becky Burr spoke against the proposal in the
closed GAC meeting; Burr said it would have no chance of US government
The International Association of Top-Level Domains drafted an
analysis of the GAC proposal that spells out the radically
destabilizing impact such a policy would have in the Internet as a
whole. IATLD's president, Antony Van Couvering, raised concerns over
the GAC proposal at the 3 November open ICANN meeting. Here are
excerpts from Ellen
Roney's notes of that discussion.
van Couvering: Representing some ccTLDs, very concerned about
activities of GAC. A circulating document that is extremely
troubling, gets rid of IANA, bypasses DNSO, openness and
transparency requirement deleted from bylaws. [Sims objects to this
statement, saying the bylaws did not change the board's principal
obligation to openness and transparency, just removed references to
initial board, which is not longer operative.]
Roberts [ICANN prsident]: I've spoken to ccTLDs, to write down what
IANA does, and I made it clear in the Spring that there would be no
change in RFC 1591 without full comment in accordance with Article III.
Burr [Commerce]: Unpublished document doesn't represent view of GAC
but has sparked lots of discussion but I assure you that USG would not
support that document.
Sims [ICANN councel]: ICANN is a great debating society. There are
going to be many views. This document, as I read it, is nonsensical.
This is not an indictment of the process or the organization because
that is inevitably going to happen.
Burr: GAC has no authority, no nothing. It certainly wouldn't be
sensible to produce a document which doesn't have formal support.
Thursday, November 04, 1999
11/4/99 7:28:16 am
Cheek of the week (supermarket division).
Richard Leahy writes from Ireland:
If you go to www.asda.co.uk,
click thru to jobs, then graduate scheme -- there's a little
questionnaire. If you don't give wow answers it sends you to one
of their competitor Web sites (Sainsbury's, Tesco. M&S),
implying "Ha ha you're not good enough for ASDA but try these
Hardly the sort of behaviour you would expect considering ASDA is
one of the top five retailers in the UK with an annual turnover of
$13.6bn. However given that they have been recently acquired by
Wal-Mart this sort of thing may reflect a newly injected Net savvy
(or cynicism) from their US parent.
Wednesday, November 03, 1999
11/3/99 5:23:18 pm
Egg on the engine.
From Mike Moxcey:
Go to Lycos.com (a search engine) and do a search for Excite or
Yahoo or some other search engine. You won't get any hits, just a
page about how good Lycos is at finding stuff for you!?!
Evidently Lycos lacks self-confidence. Search at Yahoo for Lycos and
the premiere directory/portal cheerfully returns dozens of links to
Note added 1999-11-16:
Lycos has now removed this hack; searching there for another search engine or
portal now yields the expected results. Thanks to several readers who told
11/3/99 5:23:04 pm
A bad week at RealNetworks.
Michael A. Olson, who describes himself as a long-time TBTF
lurker, makes his bid for Irregular
status. Here is his dispatch:
On the heels of the announcement that
RealNetworks collects private data on its users and transmits it
secretly to company headquarters, Wired is reporting that the
recently-cracked DVD encryption fell because a Real subsidiary,
to properly encrypt its decryption key.
The cracked encryption algorithm is significant because the
established stakeholders, notably the MPAA and the big studios,
were betting on a technical fix to preserve their royalty
structure. This is, in my opinion, short-sighted: there is no
unbreakable encryption scheme, and a business model that relies on
one is foolish.
The movie industry and the DVD consortium are still reeling over
the crack announcement, and no one at Real is answering the phone.
That's hardly a surprise. In a week, we've learned that Real
steals your private data and can't keep a secret.
Good one, Michael, linking the RealJukebox and DVD crack stories.
Dave Farber just pushed Seth David Schoen's "let 100 DVD players bloom"
to his Interesting People mailing list. Anyone else have useful insights
on the DVD crack and its implications? Let's
11/3/99 10:40:26 am
Tuesday, November 02, 1999
11/2/99 11:19:10 am
Australia drafts rules to implement Net censorship.
TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid forwards this
article laying out
details of how the Australian Broadcasting Authority plans to carry out
the broad censorship of Net content recently
Net users will have to supply Web site operators with sensitive
personal data if they wish to access R-rated material online.
According to a consultation paper by the ABA, an age verification
"restricted access system" must be in place on sites which are
likely to be classified R by the Classification Board... Under the
ABA proposal, persons seeking access to R-classified material must
provide a number of details including their name, address, date of
birth, email address, and credit card details or digital signature.
Monday, November 01, 1999
11/1/99 1:59:10 pm
A San Mateo company has launched a campaign that's bound to take off. Persistence
Software is calling for an end to the
tyranny of the letter E. Their
release announces the formation of the Society for the
Preservation of the Other 25 Letters of the Alphabet. Persistence
is looking for e-gregious e-xamples of e-buse and will
reward those who report them with T shirts. (No E shirts here.) The company
has enlisted the posthumous assistence of literary
Perec, who once wrote an entire novel without using the letter E. It's
called La Disparition' it has been translated into Nglish as A Void.
(Neither book is in print as far a I can see, but
Advanced Book Exchange
lists two copies of the French volume for sale.)
Thanks to Avi Rappoport for the tip.
Jay Lepreau writes with an example at an angle to a lipogram:
In our own domain of computer science there is a recent and rather
stunning example analogous to Perec's book. Guy Steele's 14-page
keynote address/paper at OOPSLA'98, entitled Growing a Language,
uses a syntactic device to make a point about programming language
design. I was fortunate to hear him deliver it (later) and most of
us did not catch on for some time.
is available only in Postscript form (there's also a
I won't put you through what I had to go through to find out the trick
Steele was playing. He delivered the entire highly technical talk in
words of one syllable; except that he allowed himself the use of two-syllable
words if he first defined them. He ends with a tip of the hat to Will Strunk:
I have found that this mode of speech makes it hard to hedge. It
takes work, and great care, and some skill, to find just the right
way to say what you want to say, but in the end you seem to have no
choice but to talk straight. If you do not veer wide of the truth,
you are forced to hit it dead on.
11/1/99 10:33:09 am
TBTF for 1999-07-26 surveyed
recent progress in nanoelectronics. Researchers from Hewlett Packard and
UCLA had prototyped a rudimentary switch based on the rotazane molecule.
The researchers stressed that the next challenge would be developing
molecular-scale wires -- perhaps they did so because they were close to
publishing research on that very subject. This
Times article outlines this and other advances in a field whose pace has
become dizzying. Last July researchers were cautioning not to look for practical
devices for 10 years; now they are saying 2 to 5 years.
11/1/99 8:16:54 am
RealJukebox spies on you.
Richard M. Smith, a bug sleuth now looking at privacy issues, has
discovered that the Real Networks program RealJukebox, which plays
CDs on a user's PC, sends data about the user to Real each time it
is used. And the data is tagged with a unique ID assigned when the
software is registered. 13.5 million people have registered
RealJukebox. Nothing in Real's privacy statement even alludes to
this practice; nor is it mentioned when the user installs the
Times coverage of this privacy fiasco (free registration and cookies required):
Each time the program is started on a computer connected to the
Internet, it sends in the following information to the company: the
number of songs stored on the user's hard drive; the kind of file
formats -- RealAudio or MP3 -- the songs are stored in; the quality
level of the recordings; the user's preferred music genre; and the
type of portable music player, if any, that the user has connected to
the computer. All this information is combined with a personal serial
number... which is assigned to each user when he or she registers the
In the glare of this publicity RealNetworks was issuing contradictory
statements and trying to cast blame on someone else, anyone (including
CDDB, an online registry of CD title and track information). The Times
story even held up Microsoft's Windows Media Player as an exemplar of
proper privacy behavior in comparison with Real.