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TBTF for 2000-04-19: Dot-communist

Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Wed, 19 Apr 2000 14:45:26 -0400


Quote Of The Week

As for stability, we have three Windows 98 boxes that crash so often that my 3-year-old son now says "It crashed" when I switch a TV program off.

-- Nicholas Petreley, "The Open Source" - InfoWorld 2000-03-03

Domain naming as speech

The syntax of domain names forms a rather limited and stilted basis for communicative language. Yet in the five years of the commercial Net's boom, a number of segments of society have become adept at employing domain names to make a point. Political speech came first (see TBTF for 9/3/95 [2]), and has by now been honed to a sharp edge, as the first and second items below demonstrate. The third item shows how, over the last couple of years, the worlds of advertising and of humor have begun to pepper their discourse with (often bogus) domain names.

[2] http://tbtf.com/archive/1995-09-03.html

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...

bul Dot Republicans

The US Republican party, currently in the majority in both houses of Congress, has annexed a piece of domain-name space to which it has a dubious claim. Longtime activist Jim Warren sent a note to several mailing lists with word that the House Republican leadership has put up a beta site at gop.gov [3]. (For international readers not steeped in US political terminology: GOP, or Grand Old Party, is a synonom for the Republicans.)

Note that the site [3] is unusable unless you bite the GOP's cookies.

I read Warren's note and a followup on Matthew Gaylor's Freemat list; since both seem to be missing from Gaylor's archive, I have posted them on the TBTF site [4], [5].

I agree with Warren that a political party has no business whatsoever holding a second-level .gov name. These names are intended for official government functions, not for partisan organizations.

In a followup [5] to the Freemat list, Richard Diamond from the House Office of the Majority Leader offered a rationale for the partisan use of the domain name.

So, yes, whether you like it or not "Republican" and "Democrat" are part of the institution that is the U.S. Congress. This top level domain reflects the institution. If the flat earth society can get a majority in Congress, they can have their own .gov -- but not until then.

I'm not buying it. It's disingenuous to imply that the Republican party is a part of the government in the same way that, for example, the FTC is. And it's cynical in the extreme to grab desirable real estate in domain-name space just because you're the majority party and have the power to do so.

[3] http://www.gop.gov/
[4] http://tbtf.com/resource/gop-dot-gov.html
[5] http://tbtf.com/resource/gop-dot-gov.html#followup

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...

bul Exploiting Elian

Since late last year, the media have been transfixed by the sorry spectacle of the clashing political passions heaped upon the innocent head of a six-year-old accident survivor [6]. Within two weeks of the rescue at sea of Elian Gonzalez, netrepreneurs began registering domain names to capitalize on the boy's plight. Of the 39 such domains registered since that time, two are being put to use in the way the Web intended: they mark actual Web sites advocating on one side or another of the furor over Elian's fate. One name is being used to shill for a get-paid-to-surf racket. Four domains are actively for sale -- if this exploitation doesn't technically sink to the level of cybersquatting, then it surely qualifies as shameful. The other 32 domain names are either parked or empty. Some of these may represent an actual intention to erect a site on the Elian affair, but I'd wager most would turn out to be for sale if you inquired.

This table [7] names the names of those who are exploiting Elian by means of domain names.

For the final word on this whole sordid business, read the Pigdog Journal's short take [8]. Skip this link if strong language offends you.

[6] http://www.msnbc.com/local/WTVJ/146533.asp
[7] http://tbtf.com/resource/exploiting-elian.html
[8] http://www.pigdog.org/auto/crazy_but_true/link/1151.html

bul Advertising and humor

A couple of years back I put up a Web site [9] to celebrate and document the spread of the meme of using bogus Web addresses to humorous effect. The eponymous first sighting occurred in a pottery shop in Port Clyde, Maine, whose owners proudly sport a sign above their door: www.nowedonthaveawebsite.com. I've been astonished at the growth and spread of this meme. Here is a selection from the recent sightings.

[9] http://nowedonthaveawebsite.com/

The following four sightings come from Bennett Haselton, who seems to be enjoying this pastime.


Adbots and spyware

Software that serves cookieless ads from hiding

Recently TBTF reader Harold Jarvie wrote to me:

I just found a program being loaded via a Win98 registry key every time I turn my machine on. It is ad retrieval application from Conducent that enables ads to be imbeded in any application. Nothing wrong with that I guess. But I had no idea it was there (in memory all the time) or what program installed it there. It is using 1.5MB of my disk so far (the actual program, the .EXE file, is less than 100KB) tracking who knows what.

Jarvie had stumbled upon an example of a stealthy and much-misunderstood channel for advertising: software that funnels ads to users through a locally installed program with no current Net connection required.

Last February, with the memory of the RealMedia and DoubleClick imbroglios still fresh, a company called Aureate Media was subjected to the refining fire of Internet users' concerns over privacy [18]. (In March Auriate changed its name to Radiate, perhaps to distance itself from that firestorm.) While the rumors [19] sweeping the Net were mostly overblown, Aureate/Radiate was assuredly going about its business in a suspiciously stealthy way. Why? This CNet story [18] on the affair cites one plausible reason: Radiate was afraid of how Net users would react if they knew what the software was really doing.

Although consumers may not be fully aware of how [advertising] tracking and targeting programs work, a mere hint of the practice is enough to trigger an Orwellian suspicion that their every move is being watched.

Radiate [20] and Conducent [21] make software that has been called adbots or spyware. These terms aren't perfect, but they'll serve our needs. Other examples of adbots are Qualcomm's free Eudora mail agent, Apple's Sherlock 2 search consolidator, and Comet Cursor. Most adbots are written for the Windows operating system.

Spyware gets installed along with software you download. Its purpose is to serve ads in a dedicated window of that software. The ad revenue subsidizes the software so that you get it for free or at a discount. Advertisers get an audience of demographically targeted users. Sounds like a good deal all around, doesn't it?

Radiate has assembled an impressive network of software developers who supply "400 of the Internet's hottest software titles" [22] (this page actually lists 279 titles), mostly for free, to a claimed user base of 17 million. Among Radiate's more popular titles are CuteFTP, GO!Zilla, and GetRight.

Here are some things Radiate's spyware does -- independent of its host software, which you installed -- that they didn't mention on their Web site until the February controversy forced them to let in a little more sunlight.

There's nothing inherently evil in any of this behavior, no smoking-gun violation of your privacy. Radiate insists they do not know your identity and do not want to know it. Aside from your IP address, which all Net services need, Radiate stores only a unique ID assigned when you install the host software. Nonetheless, reading the above list makes me queasy. I suspect that most Netizens would voice similar reservations. It's not OK with me that my software uses my Net connection for communications I did not authorize.

Security guru Steve Gibson offers the best way to deal with adbots and spyware. His utility OptOut [23] detects and optionally removes all traces of Aureate/Radiate software from your machine. (Gibson writes all of his code in assembly language. OptOut is just over 30K in size and the download finishes before you can take your finger off the mouse button.) Later versions will deal with the other spyware vendors' adbots.

Note that if you remove Radiate's spyware using OptOut, the host program(s) you downloaded from Radiate development partners will stop working. You should deinstall all such programs if you plan to rid your machine of spyware.

Gibson's OptOut page is also the best and most balanced account I have read of the Aureate affair and of spyware in general. In the month since OptOut first appeared, Gibson has recorded more than half a million downloads.

[18] http://news.cnet.com/news/0-1005-200-1558696.html
[19] http://www.federalcourts.com/federalcourt/News/lostincyberspace_feb242000.html
[20] http://www.radiate.com/
[21] http://www.conducent.com/
[22] http://www.radiate.com/consumers/products.html
[23] http://grc.com/optout.htm


Dow Jones to launch a bandwidth index

Monthly rates for NY-London T-3 bandwidth

Soon: futures and options in the raw material of the Internet age

TBTF for 1998-12-15 [24] introduced two companies making a market in bandwidth, Band-X and RateXchange [25]. The latter has now teamed with Dow Jones to publish its price index, which will go live on May 1. As the graph shows, when the online markets opened their doors the rates for bandwidth dropped precipitously. Further drops can be expected as bandwidth continues down the path toward commoditization as the raw material of the Internet age.

Here are RateXchange's press release [26] and coverage in news.com [27].

RateXchange began as a subsidiary of NetAmerica (NASDAQ: NAMI), but now the parent entity is renaming itself after the sub. Other companies making markets in bandwidth include Arbinet and Enron Communications.

Thanks to TBTF sometime-columnist Lloyd Wood for the tip.

[24] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-12-15.html#s07
[25] http://www.ratexchange.com/
[26] http://www.ratexchange.com/press/pr20000411.html
[27] http://home.cnet.com/category/0-1004-200-1677726.html


WebWirelessNow and infolinks

Stay up-to-date with TBTF from your text-messaging cell phone

WebWirelessNow WebWirelessNow [29] offers a free service you can use if your cell phone is capable of receiving text messages. Sign up for any number of infolinks offered by Web service providers -- such as TBTF [30] -- and get a short text update from that site delivered to your phone. After one call to set up the infolink, the service doesn't even cost you air time: you hang up after one ring and WebWirelessNow captures your phone number to send the text message to your phone.

I consider WebWirelessNow a clever and potentially useful service. Once I'd heard about it, my inner geek wouldn't rest until TBTF content was available over this channel. I've set up infolinks for a number of services (sign up for any or all at [30]):

The WebWirelessNow site features a directory of selected infolinks. TBTF's aren't listed, perhaps because the content doesn't fit into any of the convenient categories: stock quotes, flight times, weather, ski reports, sports, traffic, etc.

Unfortunately my own cell phone isn't text-messagable. So while this service has been up for a while and some folks have used it, I have not seen it in action. If you sign up [30], please let me know how it works. Better yet -- send me a snapshot from your e-camera. I'll post the most imaginative pictures on the site.

Thanks to TBTF Irregular Dan Kohn for the tip.

[29] http://www.webwirelessnow.com/
[30] http://tbtf.com/pull-wwn/


Jargon Scout

Jargon Scout [31] is an irregular TBTF feature that aims to give you advance warning -- preferably before Wired Magazine picks it up -- of jargon that is just about ready to hatch into the Net's language. Here are three recently harvested terms.

[31] http://tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html

bul dot-communist

Faisal Jawdat sends in this neat coinage. A dot-communist is an employee of a dot-com, particularly one with stock options (the workers owning the means of production, don't you know) -- an employee who is steeped in the dogma of the new economy. Jawdat claims to have invented the term and says he has "bludgeoned it into active use" within his company.

The day after Jawdat's missive, Sumner Redstone cemented dot-communist's place in the lexicon in a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters [32], which was widely covered. Here's the soundbyte that everyone quoted:

Technology paves the way, but make no mistake, content is the fuel that drives this industry forward. Broadcasting makes money! When did business stop being about making money? Have we been taken over by dot-communists?
Note added 2000-04-21: Matt Peterson writes;
I'm sure many have "invented" this phrase on several occasions previous to either of these accounts. When I worked for XOOM.com, one of my colleagues, John Tucker, used the term dot-communist to mean someone who thinks the Internet should have no commercial uses at all. Specifically, he was speaking of folks who signed up for free XOOM.com services (like page hosting) and then complained when we sent them product offers (which is clearly stated in the terms of service.) I first heard him use this term around April 1999 but he could have started using it earlier.

[32] http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,14022,00.html

bul bugwards-compatible

TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid proposed this intuitive adjective, descriptive of software deliberately written to behave in a fashion similar to earlier buggy or non-standard versions.

A Google search [33] turns up six instances of bugwards-compatible, and Alta Vista lists five [34], the earliest a 1996 posting [35] by Brian Behlendorf.

The term may be primed for wider use thanks to the doctype switching feature in Internet Explorer 5 for the Macintosh. An article by Eric A. Meyer explains it [36]:

Authors can use the DOCTYPE element to pick the rendering mode they prefer for their document(s): standards-compliant or bugwards-compatible.
Note added 2000-04-21: Several readers pointed out that variations on this term have existed, and been documented, considerably before 1996. Since at least 1993 the Hacker's Dictionary [36a] has listed both bug-compatible and bug-for-bug compatible.

Several TBTF Irregulars have recalled usage of "bug-compatible" at TGV in the 90s and before; in regard to DOS clones and Lotus 1-2-3 in the 80s; and at DEC in the 70s. Anyone who can pin down one of these earlier citations, please write.

[33] http://www.google.com/search?q=bugwards-compatible&btnG=Google+Search
[34] http://www.altavista.com/cgi-bin/query?sc=on&hl=on&kl=XX&pg=q&text=yes&q=bugwards-compatible&search=Search
[35] http://www.ics.uci.edu/pub/ietf/http/hypermail/1996q1/0126.html
[36] http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/network/2000/04/14/doctype/index.html
[36a] http://www.tuxedo.org/~esr/jargon/html/entry/bug-compatible.html

bul emailingering

Another submission from Faisal Jawdat, who credits a co-worker for coining the term. Emailingering describes a particular and common style of avoiding getting anything done at work, using your computer and the Internet as both cause and justification. See [37] for Jawdat's more fully elaborated definition.

[37] http://tbtf.com/jargon-scout.html#emailingering


Process monitor as lava lamp

Calm technology for Linux system management

John Heidemann has written an eye-opening little app called LavaPS [38], claiming inspiration from Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown's calm technology meme [39]. LavaPS offers a restful, nonintrusive way to monitor what's happening on your Linux or FreeBSD system. Important attributes of system processes are mapped to the size, speed, color, and luminence of dynamic blobs in a window: bigger blobs are using more memory; faster blobs are consuming more CPU cycles, etc. Who needs a virtual aquarium?

[38] http://www.isi.edu/~johnh/SOFTWARE/LAVAPS/index.html
[39] http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/acmfuture2endnote.htm


Vigor That darn paperclip

And now they want to port it to Windows

It all began with an online comic beloved of the Slashdot community. J.D. "Illiad" Frazer's User Friendly birthed the meme of implementing Microsoft's widely loathed paperclip buddy to offer valueless advice from deep within Unix's VI text editor [40]. A twisted gent named Joel Ray "Piquan" Holveck took it upon himself actually to implement this anathema [41], whose name is Vigor. (It rhymes with Igor.)

It could be that when naming his damnable progeny, Illiad had in mind an open-source, improved VI offshoot called VIM. (Vim and vigor, get it?) But in fact Holveck implemented Vigor on a different variant, Keith Bostic's NVI. Bostic's reaction upon learning about Vigor is memorably captured on Holveck's site [41].

This Linux Ticker interview [42] gives Holveck a chance to explain himself. (Note: [42] downloads 618K of images along with 33K of text, including all five User Friendly strips in the Vigor sequence. You might want to begin with image loading turned off.) Of most interest is Holveck's careful application of Sun Tzu's warfighting advice to the Microsoft / open source "conflict."

And a tip of the TBTF topper to Irregular [43] Anton Sherwood.

[40] http://www.userfriendly.org/cartoons/archives/00jan/20000107.html
[41] http://www.red-bean.com/~joelh/vigor/
[42] http://linuxticker.com/print/677.html
[43] http://tbtf.com/the-irregulars.html

Offlist Discussions

bul Here are the spaces I've set up at Take It Offline [44], [45] for those who wish to comment on and discuss this issue's articles. I'll be monitoring and actively posting to these forums.

[44] http://www.quicktopic.com/
[45] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-10-05.html#06


bul For a complete list of TBTF's email and Web sources, see http://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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Most recently updated 2000-07-20