Saturday, February 12, 2000
2/12/00 10:09:21 PM
AOL dropping the fight for open access.
Now that America Online is about to become a cable company through
its acquisition of Time-Warner, it is backing
away from its earlier efforts to force government action mandating open
access to cable lines for all ISPs. This
Post article (from today's front page) tells the all-too-predictable tale.
This week, the Dulles-based company took no action as two bills
mandating open access died in the Virginia General Assembly. It
has told its lobbyists in other states, including Maryland, not
to advocate similar legislation. And the company has quieted its
demands that federal authorities condition approval of the
merger of AT&T Corp. and cable giant MediaOne Group Inc. on
promises of open access.
AOL still contends that cable systems must offer their customers
a choice of Internet providers -- and it still wants to make
deals to get itself on other systems. But now the company
asserts that the market should sort out the details.
Friday, February 11, 2000
2/11/00 4:05:05 PM
This photo won first place in the World Press Photo 2000 contest's
Science and Technology Singles category. The image was captured last
summer by US Navy Ensign John Gay. It shows an F/A-18C Hornet
breaking the sound barrier. More details at the
Thursday, February 10, 2000
2/10/00 4:36:17 PM
How not to run a road show.
An anonymous informant sent me this amusing account of how, down in
the trenches and out on the road, Microsoft has changed remarkably little
despite all of the antitrust attention focused on the company's practices.
The Microsoft Direct Access briefing held at (Novell's) Silicon
Valley Conference Center on Thursday, 2/3/00, was terrific... for
Novell. Setting aside the fact that Microsoft managed to book
their Direct Access roadshow into a Novell-owned facility, here's
I got there late (3:35 PM for a 3:00 PM briefing), and found a large
room set up for 200 people, with... maybe 16 people total in
attendance, including the speaker and a room monitor in the back of
the hall. None of them appeared to be serious corporate buyers.
Most of them looked like "front of the food line" people, frankly.
Outside, in the reception area, at least 100 boxed lunches still
sat, unopened. I saw nobody I knew or had met from the Microsoft
local sales team in attendance. This was definitely a professional
A couple of things weren't terrific. [Name Omitted], a Microsoft
Consulting analyst, had a heavy accent which made his presentation
nearly impenetrable. Despite the communication problems, some of the
things he was saying about NetWare 5 were blatantly untrue.
I held my tongue until he said that NetWare 5 didn't have NAT
(network address translation). I spoke up and said actually, NAT is
part of both NetWare 4.11 and NetWare 5. He said uh, it's an add-on
package. I said uh, no, it's built-in. An added-value program called
BorderManager that has an enhanced version is available, but NetWare
out of the box does basic routing and NAT.
He apologized, saying his data came from Marketing. I said well
then, Marketing has a great deal of misinformation. (That got a
laugh from the other 13 people in the audience.)
Other things he claimed (all of them untrue):
- NetWare 5 doesn't support IPX clients from NetWare 4
- NetWare 5 doesn't support Appletalk protocol
- NetWare 5 doesn't support TCP/IP "aliasing" (which he eventually
explained as multihoming)
Someone else in the audience corrected him about the multihoming
thing. I went up to him privately, and corrected him about the other
issues. He was in complete denial on every count.
Rather than losing my patience at someone who was obviously
determined to be ignorant, I allowed myself only to suggest to him
sweetly that since Microsoft Corporate had recently seen fit to
remove untrue statements such as these from their website in
response to Novell Legal, perhaps he should consider amending his
presentation to remove such statements until Microsoft Legal had a
chance to look at it first.
After all, as a Microsoft Solution Provider, I wouldn't want to see
them get into any trouble. :)
That, at least, seemed to shake him up.
2/10/00 4:00:58 PM
Personal home computers searched in labor dispute.
Last week Northwest Airlines began court-authorized searches of
the home computers of 10 or more flight attendants, looking for
private e-mail and other evidence that the employees helped to
organize a sickout at the airline over the New Year's holiday.
The airline sued the flight attendants' union over the work slowdown.
(I've been sent two entirely different URLs for the story at the
Minneapolis Star Tribune. For now they
The move would seem to break new ground in threatening the
privacy of citizens participating in discussion and debate about
their employer, at home and on their own time. However, the
article quotes a Minneapolis cyberlaw specialist who says,
"Business speech is not subject to the same protections as
political speech. You can't say whatever you want about a
Now the requisite quote from the privacy watchdog (Jerry Berman,
executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology).
This kind of precedent could have a very chilling effect on the
exercise of speech rights, and could set a very bad precedent
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Ernesto Gluecksmann for the first forward.
2/10/00 3:07:35 PM
Sniffing whois requests and registering before you do.
Speculation is circulating on several mailing lists about a
practice that, if it is indeed happening, sets a new lower
boundary for the term "underhanded." Has this ever happened to
you (or your ISP, or your company)? You decide to register a
domain name. You use Network Solutions's whois service to see if
it is available, and it is. When you go to register it, either
immediately or after an hour or a day, you find that someone
else has beaten you to it.
Once is a coincidence. Twice makes you wonder. How many until
you get really suspicious? Today I've read accounts of exactly
this scenario playing out on six separate occasions. Mix such
accounts with the knowledge that tens of thousands of names are
registered daily, add a dash of cynicism, stir and bake.
Is someone sniffing whois-bound packets to find out what domain
names people are interested in? It's definitely a technique that
would boost the hit rate for cybersquatters. And with
of domain names selling for 7 figures, who wouldn't engage in a
little creative sniffing?
You wouldn't even need to get as creative as sniffing the line. All you
need to do is put up your own whois service and offer it to your
As TBTF Irregular Gary Stock remarked
in this context,
We are reminded again of the distinction between "creative" as used
by those who create, and "creative" as used by those who exploit them.
Thanks to TBTF Irregular Bill Innanen for the first peep on this story.
Tuesday, February 08, 2000
2/8/00 4:53:36 PM
Please no Valentines Day jokes.
Science News today notes that on 14 February the space probe
NEAR will achieve assignation... er, I mean, will rendezvous... er,
that is, will arrive at the asteroid 433 Eros. (They titled their
email "Eros or Bust" and I'm not even going near that one.) A
few days ago, 3000 miles from 433 Eros, the spacecraft braked to a
relative 18 mph. NEAR will orbit the peanut-shaped, 21-mile-long
space rock for a year, sending back data that will probably turn
upside down most of what we thought we knew about planetesimals.
Monday, February 07, 2000
2/7/00 4:21:45 PM
Unsealed files from the Microsoft - Caldera trial are suggestive.
I've only seen this story in the Salt Lake Tribune, the local paper
of Caldera and Novell. The unfair trade practices
against Microsoft that Caldera filed in 1996 was
out of court last month after Microsoft agreed to pay Caldera an unreported
sum. But many of the case documents had remained under seal. The SL
Tribune and two other newspapers sued to have the records opened.
Last week the court released dozens of documents and excerpts but
kept 30 sealed because Microsoft said their release would hurt its
The original SL Tribune story has expired from its site's open
area but is still accessible via an archive search. Their server has
been showing up overloaded all day; I'll post a URL when I can get
through. Meanwhile, here are some highlights from the story.
[According to a deposition in the Caldera case,] Former Microsoft
employee Stefanie Reichel says she "lived on e-mail"... But at
the urging of supervisor Juergen Huels, Reichel later deleted
"questionable" e-mail files, which she defined as "things that could
be problematic in an investigation."
"I remember making sure that I didn't have any e-mails that met his
description," she testified in an August 1998 deposition, adding she
also may have destroyed paper copies of documents...
Reichel also said Huels upgraded the office computers, discarding
the previously used hard drives. Caldera attorneys noted [Huels] had
also referred to "graveyards in East Germany that no one knows
about," and argued Reichel's testimony intimated he had destroyed
the hard drives to prevent forensic experts from recovering data
Caldera attorneys argued Reichel's testimony showed Huels, Reichel,
and possibly other Microsoft employees in Germany destroyed
documents and e-mail containing damaging information about the
company's sales practices while those tactics were under
investigation by the U.S. government for antitrust violations.