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Contents

Thursday, 1999-10-28

Wednesday

Tuesday

Monday

Monday (cont.)

Sunday

Thursday, October 28, 1999

10/28/99 9:58:28 AM
  • No deposit, less return. I'm shamelessly picking up the title Declan McCullagh used in an email alert about a chilling proposal: that US currency should include tracking devices that let the government tax private possession of dollar bills. If this proposal comes to pass, the longer you keep a dollar in your mattress the less it will be worth.

    A Federal Reserve official, Marvin Goodfriend (he's no good friend of mine), wrote in a recent presentation to a Federal Reserve System conference in Woodstock, Vermont:

    The magnetic strip could visibly record when a bill was last withdrawn from the banking system. A carry tax could be deducted from each bill upon deposit according to how long the bill was in circulation.

    Goodfriend's 34-page paper argues that a "carry tax" would discourage hoarding currency and deter black markets and criminal activities.

    McCullagh said on his mailing list (see TBTF Sources) that this topic has generated more feedback than anything he's written about in months -- 95% of it negative.


    Note added 1999-11-19: On Tuesday 1999-11-16, Rep. Ron Paul introduced legislation to thwart the carry tax proposal.

    H.R. 3399, the "Currency 'Carry Tax' Prohibition Act of 1999," would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from including any information storage capability on the currency of the United States or imposing any fee or penalty on any person for the holding by such person of currency of the United States, including Federal reserve notes, for any period of time.


Wednesday, October 27, 1999

10/27/99 7:49:39 PM

10/27/99 2:03:44 PM
  • 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...
    ICANN under heavy fire. (ICANN is the nascent Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) TBTF Irregular t byfield submtted this item; I have edited it mainly for style. See also this earlier TBTF Log item.

    1. On 19 October the Domain Name Supporting Organization elected its three reps to ICANN's board; there are some interesting notes on Jessica Litman's Law in Cyberspace: New Developments page, including URLS for an NYTimes writeup (free registration and cookies required) that dwells on the fact that none of them are Americans. Evidently, some Congressmen are peeved about that.

    2. On 15 October ICANN's public comment period on its Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy ended; comments are here. Michael Froomkin's comments are notably harsh: ICANN, he says, failed to live up to even its own dubious procedures.

    3. Jamie Love reports that Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) is forcing the General Accounting Office to review all aspects of the Commerce Department's dealings with ICANN. It looks a lot like he wants to kick the legal legs out from under ICANN.

    [t byfield opines:] I can't imagine that ICANN's upcoming LA meeting will do much to assuage its enemies.

10/27/99 1:50:37 PM
  • 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...
    OpenSRS blows open wholesale domain-name competition. TBTF Irregular t byfield sends word that TUCOWS, which started out life as a Winsock shareware site, has announced OpenSRS. This open-source project will allow any ISP or Web site operator to offer domain-name registration services to customers at $13 per name per year.

    This is revolutionary. Now registering domain names will not be limited to the small number of registrars approved by ICANN. And all of those registrars, including NSI, will have to address the sudden arrival of open-source price competition in their midst.

    From the announcement:

    The net result of the process of transactions between OpenSRS and NSI is that a customer can now register a domain name with their local Internet Service Provider or web-hosting company in real-time, with prices that are finally competitive. In order to provide quality customer support service, TUCOWS has established a 24 hour customer service center for OpenSRS.com, enhanced with email, pager and a emergency toll-free number.

    Finally, someone who will answer the phone on domain-naming questions.

10/27/99 1:28:14 PM


Tuesday, October 26, 1999

10/26/99 7:27:33 PM
  • Sneaky customer tracking by email. Scot E. Wilcoxon notes that he got an email from TurboTax -- so far so innocent, he uses their software. It was titled "Priority Announcement for TurboTax Customers." At the bottom of the email was a link to an image:

    src="http://info.turbotax.com/images/blankpixel.gif/Key=8910.Uhy.C87jIw"

    If your email client is set to display HTML, then TurboTax knows that you've read their email -- your browser displays a one-pixel invisible graphic and the "Key=" records your identity in their Web log. No cookies involved.

    Moral: if you care who knows what you read, then stop your email client from interpreting HTML.

10/26/99 11:08:07 AM

10/26/99 10:25:03 AM
  • webACE webACE -- the world's smallest Web server, for now. 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 have hit it so far.


Monday, October 25, 1999

10/25/99 6:01:16 PM
  • Ray Kurzweil's Cybernetic Poet. RKCP is now available for downloading. This long-awaited package claims to be

    a comprehensive collection of "intelligent" poetry-authoring tools designed to make writing poetry (and song lyrics) easy and fun. It also includes an entertaining and ever-changing screen saver. RKCP is a full-featured program and does not time out.

    I'm downloading my copy of RKCP now so can't evaluate it at first hand. Will report here after a bit of experience with the package.

    Many thanks to TBTF Irregular doesn't-quite-wannabe Dave Newbold for the tip.

10/25/99 5:35:12 PM
  • Zeppelin NT. This month's Scientific American runs an article on the design of a new generation of rigid airships, written by the managing director of Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik. The company of Graf Ferdinand von Zeppelin is still very much alive; for the last 50 years it's been in all sorts of businesses except the design and manufacture of Zeppelins. In the late 80s the company sponsored a Lockheed-style skunkworks to come up with a design for a modern rigid airship. The result is the Zeppelin NT. Yes, they really call it that and it stands for New Technology, just like your favorite operating system. The LZ N07 (7,000 cubic meters of helium) first flew in 1997. It requires a ground crew of three -- the giants of the earlier era of rigid airships needed dozens.

10/25/99 4:57:09 PM

10/25/99 3:23:16 PM
  • Threads Cryptography export policy
    See also TBTF for
    2000-02-06, 1999-10-05, 08-30, 08-23, 08-16, 07-26, 05-22, 05-08, 04-21, 03-01, 01-26, more...
    New Crypto Law Survey. Bert-Jaap Koops has released a new version (16.1) of his Crypto Law Survey. This is an indispensible resource for anyone working on either side of the crypto-policy debate. Here's what's new:

    International
    * Wassenaar (asymmetric limits)

    Europe
    * European Union (free internal mass-market crypto)
    * Germany (mass-market liberalization; government crypto policy)
    * Ireland (consultation paper)
    * Luxembourg (draft e-commerce law)
    * Netherlands (TTP document, draft Computer Crime II bill)
    * Switzerland (telecom crypto, export)
    * United Kingdom (draft E-Communications Bill)

    Middle East / Africa
    * Egypt (free use, import controls)
    * South Africa (import & export)

    Americas
    * Canada (URL of policy summary)
    * United States (SAFE votes in House Committees; Gramm/Enzi Bill; Goss Tax Review, National Interests Bills; EAA emergency again extended; export liberalization announced; Bernstein rehearing; CESA act)

    Asia / Oceania
    * Australia (Wassenaars export; e-export)
    * New Zealand (Wassenaars export)

10/25/99 2:21:12 PM
  • Cat's eye. This item is old news, on Net time: almost two weeks ago. Stop me if you've heard it. Neuroscientists have seen, and videotaped, through the eyes of a cat. Using electrodes implanted in the animal's brain, they intercepted neural signals and decoded them algorithmically. 177 neurons were monitored; the output of the artificial signal processing was mapped to a 32 x 32-pixel array. The reconstructed scenes are startlingly similar to what the cat was looking at. Here's the summary page. Turn off graphics before visiting -- the authors use full-size images for their thumbnails, coerced with the width= and height= paramaters of the <img> tag. (If they can reconstruct cat vision why can't they figure out HTML?)

10/25/99 12:12:36 PM

10/25/99 11:50:09 AM
  • 503 Fled. After the military takeover of Pakistan's government, the official Web site was down. (Duh.) The error page simply stated "The site is temporarily down." The Apache Software Foundation's Ken Coar speculated on what error code ought to be returned in the event of a coup.

    Either 500 Internal Government Error, 501 Government Not Yet Implemented, 410 Gone, or maybe 503 Fled.

    For a less violent overturn, say from a vote of [no] confidence, 417 Expectations Unfulfilled or 406 Not Acceptable would probably be appropriate.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Dan Kohn for the forward.

10/25/99 11:14:41 AM
  • Threads Cryptography export policy
    See also TBTF for
    2000-02-06, 1999-10-05, 08-30, 08-23, 08-16, 07-26, 05-22, 05-08, 04-21, 03-01, 01-26, more...
    Rules may change for crypto source export. TBTF for 1999-10-05 noted the relaxation the Clinton administration plans to implement in December for US export of strong crypto. The proposed changes do not apply to the source code of cryptographic algorithms, the issue in the Bernstein case (among others).

    Greg Broiles posted a note to the Cryptography mailing list (see TBTF Sources) pointing out this government filing in its request to delay the Bernstein appeal. The filing states:

    It is possible that the [December] revised regulations will not materially change the treatment of source code. But it is also possible that the revised regulations will alter the treatment of source code in ways that could have a bearing on the constitutional issues before this Court.[1]
    Footnote 1 says that the Bureau of Export Administration's Q&A document "does not reflect the review that is taking place." In other words, the the Clinton administration is debating whether finally to get into compliance with the First Amendment.

10/25/99 10:52:24 AM
  • Hollywood objections threaten content-protection scheme. TBTF Irregular Mark Kraml notes this article on Hollywood's likely derailing of a two-year effort to form concensus on copy protection in IEEE 1394 devices. PC and consumer-electronics manufacturers are ready to incorporate the hard-won Digital Transmission Content Protection scheme in next-generation TVs, set-top boxes, DVD players, and other recording devices that use the IEEE 1394 interface. Hollywood studios are again insisting on last-minute changes. Here is a sample of the studios' thinking, which Kraml calls "crazy."

    The link that concerns Hollywood more... is the one currently used to hook an analog SVGA monitor with a PC subsystem. Unless copy protection can be provided for this analog interface, some studios are insisting that PCs should not be allowed to display, for example, the full resolution of movies broadcast in high-definition format. "Perhaps it should be constrained to standard-definition format," said a movie industry source, so that pristine copies of high-definition movies would not flood the counterfeit market.

10/25/99 9:56:37 AM
  • Copycenter. Also from Bostic's Nev Dull list -- an interview with BSD old-timer Kirk McKusick:

    The big debate [was] over Richard Stallman's emphasis on the "free" in "free software." The way it was characterized politically, you had copyright, which is what the big companies use to lock everything up; you had copyleft, which is free software's way of making sure they can't lock it up; and then Berkeley had what we called copycenter, which is take it down to the copy center and make as many copies as you want.

10/25/99 9:30:53 AM

10/25/99 9:16:11 AM
  • More popular than sex. TBTF for 1999-10-05 passed along a search Easter egg originally promulgated by Memepool. Now TBTF Irregular Joshua Eli "Don't Call It A Blog" Schachter, who runs Memepool, passes on the word (at second hand) that on Google the search more evil than Satan himself briefly exceeded in popularity the search for sex.


Sunday, October 24, 1999

10/24/99 7:56:33 PM
  • Doubleplusungood Astroturf. Microsoft's Freedom to Innovate site, constructed for the purpose of mobilizing their developers to lobby antitrust-sensitized government functionaries, contains the following appalling example of marketspeak [emphasis added].

    We formed the Freedom to Innovate Network (FIN)... The FIN is a non-partisan, grassroots network...

10/24/99 6:23:36 PM
  • Threads Open source software and the Linux OS
    See also TBTF for
    1999-08-16, 05-22, 03-26, 02-15, 02-01, 1998-11-17, 11-11, 11-03, 10-27, 10-12, 08-31, more...
    France may mandate Open Source. The Register carries this story of ongoing French opposition to globalisme: "French senators Pierre Laffitte and René Trégouët are proposing that national and local government and administrative systems should only use open source software... Private companies dealing with the state, in bidding for contracts, will tend to switch to open source to make it easier to do so electronically, while those who supply the state with computer systems will have to redouble their open source efforts." The senators have set up a discussion forum for proposed law, which is designated "495." TBTF Irregular t byfield writes:

    Coming from any other country this would sound like utter madness, but coming from France -- where aggressive opposition to globalisme plays really well (cf. McDonalds) -- this isn't a joke. And it's not just wacky politicians hopping on the Linux bandwagon: the French are peeved in a manière grandiose about US espionage.

10/24/99 4:41:42 PM

10/24/99 4:36:01 PM
  • Panel at Stanford on government computer surveillance. The ACM will host a free panel on this subject, moderated by the NY Times's John Markoff, on November 9 at Stanford. Panelists will discuss the implications of the proposed Federal Intrusion Detection Network (FIDNet) and the general issue of the government's role in computer surveillance.

    Details:

    Tuesday, November 9, from 5:45 to 8 PM PST
    Stanford Law School Kresge Auditorium
    Stanford University
    595 Nathan Abbott Lane

    Panelists:

    Scott Charney -- Department of Justice
    Whitfield Diffie -- co-inventor of public -key crypto
    Marc Rotenberg -- Director, EPIC
    John Markoff -- Moderator, Technology Reporter, The New York Times

10/24/99 4:25:51 PM
  • 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...
    Domain names -- has the little guy already lost? Judith Oppenheimer is a telecomms consultant who runs a newsletter site. She recently posted this rabble-rousing screed pointing in alarm at ICANN's dispute-resolution policy, which she calls a corporate takeover of the cyber realm. Excerpt:

    Under new guidelines recently imposed, the user (no longer "owner") of a domain name may find the name has been reassigned to another company without their knowledge or permission (even if there is no trademark infringement claimed), and without any rights of adjudication.

    Meanwhile, Dave Farber posted to his Interesting People mailing list this rather anonymous call to action against a proposed law, HR 3028, which the unnamed organizers claim would "grant sweeping new powers for trademark holders and undermine the rights of domain name holders, Internet users, and small businesses." Their exemplar of the proper way do resolve domain-name disputes is -- get this -- ICANN's.


About this Web log

This venue represents an experiment in more timely and less "cooked" TBTF news coverage. You'll read here things that came through my desktop machine mere minutes before. The TBTF Log replaces the Tasty Bit of the Day feature.

The week's TBTF Log entries will be mailed to TBTF subscribers on Sunday evenings.

The email and Web editions of Tasty Bits from the Technology Front represent my best effort to present engaging, cogent news and analysis on what matters to the life of the Net. TBTF will continue as before, but on a schedule closer to twice-monthly than to weekly.





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