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TBTF for 1998-08-24: Bad moon

Keith Dawson ( dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com )
Mon, 24 Aug 21:22:58 -0400


A cautionary tale of Back Orifice

Trojan horses: beware of geeks bearing gifts

After Chris Double <chris at nd dot co dot nz> read in TBTF for 1998-08-10 [1] about Back Orifice, the Cult of the Dead Cow's Trojan horse intrusion program, he stayed alert for signs of infection. Soon he noticed postings on the newsgroup alt.games.creatures about a utility purporting to extend the Creatures game -- but users who downloaded and ran it reported that it didn't do anything. In fact, what it did was to rip a gaping Back Orifice into their Net-connected Windows 95 machines. Read Chris's war story [2] for a glimpse into what life is going to be like for system administrators everywhere, starting now.

[1] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-08-10.html#s01
[2] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/warstory.html


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...

Group bids to hijack Linux

Who are these guys?

A group calling itself the Linux Standards Association has set up shop to cash in on the Linux phenomenon [3]. At first it appeared that no-one known to the Linux community was involved in the effort, but it developed that one Michael McLagna is behind it. McLagna's history and reputation in the Linux community is mixed, to put it charitably -- see this page [4], put together by Piotr F. Mitros, for some particulars.

To become a voting member of LSA you have to pay cash -- not exactly in keeping with Open Source common practice -- and the group's Web site [5] does not reveal how much. LSA's charter awards to its two founding members veto power over anything relating to the term "Standard Linux," which LSA has trademarked.

Community comment on Slashdot [6] is dismissive and/or derisive, and rightly so.

Lawyers for Linux International have sent LSA a cease-and-desist letter [7] over the use of the Linux trademark, because of LSA's stated intention of to charge a fee for branding distributions as Linux Standard Compliant.

We're going to see more of this as Linux continues to build momentum and to garner publicity. (Linus Torvalds was recently photographed for a Forbes Magazine cover.) Let's agree to ignore the LSA and perhaps they'll sink into the obscurity they so richly deserve while the actual Linux community continues to go about the business of building great software.

Thanks to Doug Morris <doug at mhost dot com> for details and links.

[3] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,25453,00.html?tbtf
[4] http://badragaz.ai.mit.edu/lsa/
[5] http://www.linuxstandards.org/
[6] http://slashdot.org/articles/980818/1247245.shtml
[7] http://www.linux-howto.com/linux.trademark


Threads Ganging up on Microsoft
See also TBTF for
1999-08-16, 07-19, 02-15, 02-01, 01-13, 01-04, 1998-12-23, 12-15, 12-07, 11-11, 10-19, more...

Send out the clowns

No circus atmosphere for Microsoft-DoJ depositions

A federal appeals court has issued a stay of Judge Jackson's order opening the hearings [8]. The court ordered that the depositions proceed in private, and will schedule hearings on the matter (which will be moot by the time it is heard).

[8] http://www.thestandard.net/articles/article_print/0,1454,1444,00.html


Microsoft's Java defense at odds with DoJ statements

Can't have it both ways

In a sworn statement [9] dated September 4 1998, for an upcoming hearing in the lawsuit between Sun and Microsoft over Java licensing, Robert Muglia, Microsoft's Senior Vice President of the Applications and Tools Group, states:

  1. During the summer and fall of 1995, the Internet was growing in importance. Microsoft, which had been focusing on the launch and success of Windows 95, had not yet developed a comprehensive Internet Strategy. We heard from our customers that they wanted Microsoft to support new Internet technologies including HTML and Java.

  2. Microsoft announced its Internet strategy on December 7, 1995. At that event, Microsoft outlined an approach where it would embrace existing Internet standards and work with the industry to drive innovation forward.

This, like the MSNBC timeline reported previously [10], appears to contradict Microsoft's assertion in the Department of Justice antitrust suit that they had intended to integrate browser and OS as early as 1993.

This item in its entirety was sent to me by Matthew Brookes <matt at broadcom dot ie>. Matt, I hereby create you the first of the TBTF Irregulars. Arise, go forth, and seek out Tasty Bits from the farthest corners of the Net! Will we ever be as big as Dogbert's New Ruling Class [11] (wonders the Minister for Gratuitously Hyphenating Monospaced Ascii Text Messages)?

[9] http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/java/8-13bob.htm
[10] http://www.msnbc.com/news/118315.asp
[11] http://www.unitedmedia.com/comics/dilbert/dnrc/


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...

President declares national emergency

Exporting strong crypto still deemed a clear and present danger

Got your attention with that one, eh? In fact he merely continued in force a national emergency declared in 1994 [12]. Had he not done so the 1979 authority under which US exports of cryptographic code are regulated would have expired. The executive order [13] cites an

unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.
Judging by the estimated $30B in revenue that US firms will lose as a direct result of these same export regulations, it seems clear that this executive order itself is the "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the economy.

[12] http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1994/11/14/5.text.1
[13] http://www.pub.whitehouse.gov/uri-res/I2R?urn:pdi://oma.eop.gov.us/1998/8/14/3.text.1


Sauce for the gander

Who deserves communications privacy?

When Presidnet Clinton testified before a grand jury last week, his words and image were well encrypted as they travelled the few blocks from the White House to the federal court building. The scrambling setup was handled by the military-run White House communications team. Mercury News columnist Dan Gilmore draws the obvious parallel [14]:

The need to scramble the signal so it was unbreakable was so obvious that everyone took it for granted. Yet this is the same government that places a much lower value on everyday citizens' information.
On the Cryptography list Ron Rivest (the "R" of RSA) wondered, innocently: if there were a legal requirement for key recovery for all encrypted communications, who would act as trusted third party for that particular communication?

[14] http://www.mercurycenter.com/columnists/gillmor/docs/dg081898.htm


Followup: HERF guns are troll bait

Whew, glad I didn't fall for that one

Benjamin Bennett <bbennett at kenan dot com> wrote to point out that the 1996 Forbes article [15] cited in TBTF for 1998-08-10 [16] has been thoroughly debunked [17], [18]. It turns out the three hackers and a security consultant were having a little game of "mock the journalist" -- you can't build a directed-energy radio-frequency cannon for $300. Although, as Greg Roelofs <roelofs at prpa dor philips dot com> pointed out in an emailed BOTEC, the energetics more or less work out.

[15] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-08-10.html#s07
[16] http://www.forbes.com/asap/6396/hack.htm
[17] http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~crypt/other/kooks.htm
[18] http://cgi.pathfinder.com/netly/article/0,2334,12321,00.html


Indian telecomms market finally opening

At long last the monopolist supplier braces for competition

I wrote in TBTF for 1997-11-10 [19] about the imminent deregulation of the Indian market for communications services -- reckoning without the incumbent monopolist, VSNL, which has fought as tenaciously as any US Baby Bell ever did to preserve its traditional freedom from competition. Last month the Delhi High Court spoke and now India's Department of Telecommunications is finally preparing to license private ISPs [20]. Around 120,000 Indians are online now, up from 40,000 last November, and VSNL thinks that's a pretty decent rate of growth. Wait till 1,000 local ISPs, as well as BT, MCI, Compuserve, and Sprint, are nipping at its fiber.

Note added 1998-08-25:
A reader pointed out the india-gii list [20a], which looks to be an excellent source of information about the Indian telecom scene.

[19] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1997-11-10.html#s08
[20] http://www.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB19980818S0002?ls=twb_text
[20a] http://members.tripod.com/~india_gii/


Buzzwords and time

But what's the half-life of sites like this one?

TechNet has a nifty summary [21] of the half-life of the buzzwords that sweep over the Net media in ever-shortening waves: Community begets Push yields to Portal, which may be elbowed aside by Post-Content Transactive Agents.

[21] http://www.techweb.com/internet/news/features/1998/08/buzzwords.html


Pecking cookies to death

Can a little Perl script spell the End of User Tracking As We Know It?

In response to the recent TBTF article Tracking users by the tens of millions [22], John Carter <ece at dwaf-hri dot pwv dot gov dot za> sent this little Perl of a script [23] for Linux users troubled by cookies. Carter writes:

"If builders built like programmers wrote, then the first woodpecker to come along would destroy all civilization." I forget who wrote that [Jerry Weinberg -- ed.], but here is my cookiepecker [23]. It gently scrambles your cookie file, and then you can listen for the distant sound of crashing web servers. Works on netscape on linux using perl 5.
[22] http://www.tbtf.com/archive/1998-08-17.html#s03
[23] http://www.tbtf.com/resource/cookiepecker.pl


Bad moon on the rise

Project Znamya (Banner) will put a second moon in the sky

A Russian-led consortium [24] plans to deploy a space mirror later this year in a proof-of-concept for technology to banish night from the frozen Siberian Arctic. On November 9 people across the northern hemisphere will see a space mirror 5 to 10 times brighter than the full moon tracking across their night skies. Cosmonauts aboard Mir will be able to point the reflected light by remote control at cities of their choosing. Here are maps of Mir-Znamya passes over

Not everyone is wild about the prospect of huge orbiting mirrors brightening night on Earth [28]; among the most vocal opponents are astronomers and environmentalists. Thanks to Keith Bostic <nev at bostic dot com> for the forward, and the title.

[24] http://www.energialtd.com/znamya.htm
[25] http://www.energialtd.com/znam3.htm
[26] http://www.energialtd.com/znam8.htm
[27] http://www.energialtd.com/znam7.htm
[28] http://www.toysatellite.com.au/news/altnews/201/02.html


bul This week's TBTF title comes from a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival (not 3 Dog Night, as the email edition erroneously stated), frequently misheard as "There's a Bathroom on the Right." See the Archive of Misheard Lyrics [29] for thousands more.
Note added 1998-08-25: H.L. Fuller writes:
I'm probably not the first person to point out [in fact he was the third -- now thirty-one and counting -- ed.] that Bad Moon on the Rise is a song by John Fogerty, made popular by his band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, not by 3 Dog Night. Emmylou Harris also does a credible cover of this song. Fogerty said on Terry Gross recently that since he has started singing CCR songs again, he actually sings the line "there's a bathroom on the right" as part of Bad Moon because fans get a kick out of it when he does.

Another reader adds:

Misheard lyrics have been dubbed Mondegreens by SF Chronicle columnist Jon Carroll (jrc@sfgate.com), who described the phenomenon six or seven years ago and publishes readers' submissions of their own Mondegreens whenever he can't think of a suitable topic for a more substantive rant... The name "Mondegreen" comes from Sylvia Wright's early exposure to the Celtic ballad "The Bonny Earl of Murray." She misheard the line "They hae slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green" as "...and Lady Mondegreen".

[29] http://www.kissthisguy.com/


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

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