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TBTF for 1998-04-20: Internet's end

Keith Dawson ( dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com )
Sun, 19 Apr 23:36:44 -0400


  • Digital bearer settlement -- A new organization, a new mailing list, a new conference

  • 2-meter resolution photos from space -- Use them for all your mapping, topographic, and cadastral needs

  • Year 2000 corner -- Many Microsoft products have Year 2000 problems; California bill would limit Y2K lawsuits; IRS to spend $1 billion on Y2K; Dangerous dates

  • Quick bits -- Saudi prince invests in Teledesic; Power and modems and phones, oh my; Who sucks, who rules?; PDP-1 Spacewar; The end

Judge rules Intel an "essential facility"

Guilty in Intergraph lawsuit of abusing its dominant position

In a ruling [1] sure to have wide repercussions, on 4/10 a federal judge ruled in favor of Intergraph in its lawsuit accusing Intel of using its dominant market position to force Intergraph to give up key patent rights. The judge ruled that Intel's CPU platform is an "essential facility" -- like air, like water -- and identified specific remedies to address Intel's abuse of its dominant position. One eventual beneficiary of the ruling may be the open software movement -- see Intel's Merced locking out free OSs in TBTF for 1998-03-23 [2].

[1] http://www.intergraph.com/press98/aprilorder.stm
[2] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-03-23.html#s03


GSM digital phone security breached

Crypto algorithms were developed in the dark

The Smartcard Developer Organization and two Berkeley researchers announced on 4/14 that they had cloned the smartcard that gives a GSM phone its identity. GSM phones are in wide use around the world; more than 80 million are deployed. They had been thought to be immune to the sort of cloning possible with older technology cell phones. The researchers stressed that the crack was possible because the crypto imbedded into GSM phones was developed in secret and held in secret. Marc Briceno, Director of the SDO, said, "Here we have yet another example of how security by obscurity is no security at all."

The attack required physical access to the GSM phone. No attack that would work over the airwaves is known at this time.

The SDO's press release is here [3]. One of the Berkeley researchers, David Wagner, has put up this page [4] with details of the crack.

In response, the digital phone company Omnipoint was the first to announce [5] that it will change the mathematical formulas used in its phones. Others are likely to follow suit.

A recent Center for Democracy and Technology newsletter [6] recounts this story and other recent developments in the crypto policy debate.

[3] http://www.scard.org/press/19980413-01/
[4] http://www.isaac.cs.berkeley.edu/isaac/gsm.html
[5] http://www.latimes.com/HOME/NEWS/BUSINESS/t000035457.1.html
[6] http://www.cdt.org/publications/pp_4.8.html


Netherlands moves toward requiring ISPs to wiretap

Other EU countries may follow

A law making its way through the Dutch legislative system could force ISPs to tap their customers' traffic, at their own expense [7]. The legislation was instigated by a dispute last fall between authorities and local ISP XS4all, who refused to comply with a request from the Dutch Ministry of Justice's Forensic Science Laboratory to monitor one of its subscriber's Net surfing activities as well as all communication via email, newsgroups, and chat rooms. Dutch law enforcement already relies far more heavily on wiretaps than do their American counterparts; in 1996 three times as many Dutch phones were tapped, in absolute numbers. Adjusted for population this represents a rate of wiretapping 50 times higher.

[7] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,21084,00.html?pfv


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...

New sources of domain names: .AM and .AS

Armenia sells to the world, and NetNames sells American Samoa to the Scandanavians

Armenia is selling its domain namespace and has been added to the TBTF roster of non-US domain-name vendors [8]. This NIC charges $200 to non-native applicants for a .AM domain name, and does not impose any recurring fees. The process involves emailing an application template and snail-mailing a banker's draft to Armenia. Thanks to Michael K. Sanders <msanders at aros dot net> for pointing it out.

TechWeb reports [9], and NetNames [10] confirms, that the company will soon begin marketing .AS domain names -- allocated to American Samoa -- from a new branch based in Copenhagen. In the Scandanavian countries "As" is equivalent to "Inc." This tactic represents a clever broadening of the business of selling domain names: choosing a name of little intrinsic value in its native land to offer to a carefully targeted region in which it will be desirable.

I will add .AS to the TBTF roster [8] when NetNames officially launches the service.

[8] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/nics-non-us.html
[9] http://www.techweb.com/news/story/domnam/TWB19980415S0007
[10] http://www.netnames.dk/


Digital bearer settlement

A new organization, a new mailing list, a new conference

Robert Hettinga <rah at philodox dot com>, indefatigable crusader for the coming age of friction-free microtransactions on a geodesic Net, has rebranded his operation "Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism" [11]. Philodox is sponsoring a new email list on digital bearer settlement -- email requests@philodox.com with subject: subscribe dbs . Philodox will host a 4-day conference this summer, in or near Boston, on the topic. Hettinga often meets with quizical looks or outright incomprehension when holding forth on the subjects dearest to his heart, because he is thinking miles ahead of most of us down a particular possible future path. I've excerpted the following from one of his characteristic rants as a pithy summary of the implications for state power of widespread digital bearer settlement.

Using cryptographic techniques, we are now able to create digital bearer versions of every conceivable financial instrument, so we don't need the state to enforce non-repudiation of our transactions.

Using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create limited-liability entities with anonymous voting control which don't need state-enforced corporate charters to exist.

Finally, using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create cash-settled instantaneous auctions for all goods and services, not just those which can be shoved down a wire like information and financial assets.

[11] http://www.philodox.com/


2-meter resolution photos from space

Use them for all your mapping, topographic, and cadastral needs

TBTF for 1998-01-12 [12] introduced EarthWatch, a company that has launched a satellite to provide photos from space with a resolution of 3 meters. Now a consortium is selling 2-meter photos based on Russian spy-satellite technology. At 2 meters you can tell a car from a truck. SPIN-2 -- the name means Space Information, 2-meter -- is a collaboration of SOVINFORMSPUTNIK, Aerial Images (North Carolina), and Central Trading Systems (New York) [13]. Unlike EarthWatch, which has satellites in permanent orbit, SPIN-2 launches temporary satellites that return to earth with exposed film. The images will be for sale over the Net from a variety of sources including, once it gets into full operation, TerraServer [14].

[12] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-01-12.html#s05
[13] http://www.spin-2.com/
[14] http://www.terraserver.com/


Threads Year 2000 straws in the wind
See also TBTF for
2000-02-06, 1999-12-16, 08-23, 01-26, 01-13, 1998-11-11, 10-12, 07-27, 05-25, 05-11, 04-20

Year 2000 corner

Where will you be when the lights go out?

What's going to happen to the world's computers -- and to the world -- after December 31, 1999? No one knows. In the 21st century we will all conveniently forget this fact, and will assume that the consequences should have been obvious, whatever they turn out to be.

If you keep current on the news, and not alone news of the computer industry, you're probably knee deep in scare stories already. Awareness that there might be a problem is spreading widely. Last week I heard an ad on the local classical music station for an outfit that wants to come in and identify the extent of your buiness's Y2K vulnerability. An innkeeper of my acquaintence received a polite letter from his bank explaining that some folks might experience problems -- not them, of course -- and that the bank stood ready to loan him money to upgrade systems as necessary. I've heard reports of lawyers' conferences devoted to education about the Year 2000 bug. This can't be good.

I don't intend to promote TBTF as a fount of truth on this issue. No one has final answers. But I will pass along Year 2000 bellwethers as I see them.

bul Many Microsoft products have Year 2000 problems

According to an ABC News story [15], Microsoft's newly unveiled Year 2000 site [16] reveals that 1/3 of Microsoft's products have some, usually minor, problems with Year 2000 compliance.

I couldn't check out the facts completely because the Microsoft Year 2000 site is not friendly to Netscape browsers and not friendly to Macintoshes. A number of the pages I visited in the site were blank beyond the top banner; drop-down lists were filled with strange characters; etc.

From [16] you can query product by product or you can download a list of applications that are "compliant with minor issues" [17] (RTF format). The non-compliant list contains 3 items: Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS v. 5.0, and Office Professional v. 4.3 (Access 2.0 only). All versions of Internet Explorer have Y2K problems, as do Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups 3.11, NT Server 4.0, NT Workstation 4.0, Office 95, Visual Basic 5.0, and Visual Studio Enterprise 5.0. The problems seem genuinely to be minor.

I commend Microsoft for spotlighting this information openly and early, and hope that their example encourages other companies to say what's true about Y2K issues in their products. However, I urge Microsoft to improve the accessibility of this information to those with non-Microsoft browsers and platforms.

Note added 1998-04-22: Manfred Kuechler <mkuechle at shiva dot hunter dot cuny dot edu> writes:
I downloaded the "fix" file for Win95 (named win952yk.exe, 254KB) which supposedly would install a new command.com file. However, clicking on the downloaded file in Explorer as instructed I got an error message: "This product is not designed for Win98. Please click OK to exit." I swear, I do not have Win98 installed. Seems to be a bug with the update file.
Note added 1998-04-22: Several readers have reported no problems using a Netscape browser on Windows platforms; the problem seems to be limited to Macintosh.
Note added 1998-04-21: Mark Whitaker <Mark.Whitaker at ncl dot ac dot uk> writes:
It's also worth mentioning that their so-called "comprehensive" UK mirror site bails out when you hit the link to the Y2K site. You have to haul your browser back over the pond to get anywhere with it. Can't they get anything right?

[15] http://www.abcnews.com/sections/tech/DailyNews/y2k980415.html
[16] http://www.microsoft.com/year2000/
[17] http://www.microsoft.com/ithome/topics/year2k/product/compliant.rtf

bul California bill would limit Y2K lawsuits

AB 1710 [18] begins its legislative journey this week. The bill would limit damages to actual monetary losses incurred. It is being promoted as a pro-business bill in this highly tech-dependent state. Its critics claim it will not improve predictability in litigation. An aide in the office of the bill's chief sponsor said, "We just want do something that doesn't let lawyers file suits for everyone who has ever touched software."

[18] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,21217,00.html?pfv

bul IRS to spend $1 billion on Y2K

On 4/15 the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles Rossotti, used his agency's biggest day to proclaim Year 2000 the "most unfortunate but most essential problem" and said that fixing it will cost $1 billion [19]. Two weeks ago the estimate was $850 million and six months ago it was $250 million. This is the agency that had spent $3 billion over more than a decade to upgrade its computer infrastructure, then abandoned the entire project and declared it sunk cost. "We simply, absolutely must devote all of our resources to fixing the year 2000 problem," Rossotti told a luncheon press gathering. He said if the problem is not solved the result will be "very dire indeed."

Can you say "flat tax?"

[19] http://cgi.pathfinder.com/netly/opinion/0,1042,1909,00.html

bul Dangerous dates

Here is a long piece [20] from a widely respected computing expert that puts the strictly Y2K problems in a broader context. Capers Jones highlights other date-related computing issues ahead of us, including:

Did you ever use "9999" in a program to mean "the record that can never happen?" I know I did, in Fortran. The technique used to be recommended in Cobol textbooks. So what happens on September 9, 1999?

Jones claims that over the next 50 years we will need to modify at least 60 million software applications because of date-related problems, at a total cost above $5 trillion.

[20] http://www.year2000.com/archive/NFdangers.html


Quick Bits

A twisty maze of items, all a little different

bul Saudi prince invests in Teledesic

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king, has made good on his intention [21] to buy into Teledesic [22]. The prince invested $200M in the privately held satellite communications company founded by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates. The prince also holds investments in EuroDisney and Michael Jackson [23]. Last fall his 5% stake in Apple [24] fueled rumors of a takeover attempt by a group of investors led by Oracle's Larry Ellison.

[21] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,17683,00.html?pfv
[22] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,21063,00.html?pfv
[23] http://www2.canoe.com/JamMusicMichaelJackson/feb5_jacko.html
[24] http://usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/cta162.htm

bul Power and modems and phones, oh my

Going travelling? TeleAdapt [25] lists power requirements, power plug adapters, and phone adapters for countries everywhere [26], as well as local Internet access numbers for major worldwide providers. However, the site's organization makes it a challenge to find gems such this diagram [27] of international power plugs.

[25] http://www.teleadapt.com/
[26] http://www.teleadapt.com/web/Destinations/destination
[27] http://www.teleadapt.com/web/Catalogue/Power/pwrplug

bul Who sucks, who rules?

TBTF for 1998-03-02 [28] introduced the operating system popularity meter [29]. Now the good folks at Electric Lichen have packed up the Sucks-Rules-o-Meter to go. Here it is. It will update every day. (The longest Rules line, in green, belongs to Linux. Which OS sucks the most will be left as an exercise for the reader.)


[28] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-03-02.html#s10
[29] http://srom.zgp.org/

bul PDP-1 Spacewar

Turn on Java and visit this site [30] to play the first computer game. Two spaceships, one star, missiles, gravity: heaven. Spacewar, as developed at MIT in 1962 for the PDP-1, lives again. The code was typed in from an original assembly-language listing and run through a PDP-1 assembler written in perl. The resulting program runs atop a PDP-1 emulator implemented in Java.

[30] http://spacewar.oversigma.com/

bul The end

This lone page [31], unindexed inside a nearly content-free FrontPage template of a customer support site, marks the end of the Internet as we know it. It's in Newfoundland. Thanks to glen mccready <glen at qnx dot com> for the pointer.

YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF THE INTERNET. You will have to turn around. You can find out all kinds of neat stuff about Newfoundland on the internet. But not here, because you've reached the end. Sorry.
[31] http://opaldata.com/the_end/index.html


bul The Siliconia page [32] was cited in a Washington Post story [33] last week. I don't know how long the piece will remain on the Post site, probably less than two weeks.

[32] http://www.tbtf.com/siliconia.html
[33] http://washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/frompost/april98/silicon17.htm

bul A cadastral survey is, loosely, a survey on a scale sufficiently large to show accurately the extent and measurement of every field and other plot of land, as a basis for taxation. The word comes into English by way of French and Italian, from the Greek katastikhon, notebook, or "line by line," from kata = down from and stikhos = line or verse. Here is its definition according to the OED [34].

[34] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/oed-defs.html#cadastral


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

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Keith Dawson    dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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