TBTF for 1997-05-08: Touché
Keith Dawson (dawson dot tbtf at gmail dot com)
Thu, 08 May 1997 23:59:44 -0400
Domain name policy
See also TBTF for
IAHC Memorandum of Understanding signed; opposition swells apace
Last week 57 organizations signed
the IAHC's Memorandum of
Understanding, an act which should have started the clock for
implementing the IAHC's plan to reform the assigning of top-level domain
names. But 21 groups and companies that had been expected to sign
did not, among them two organizations represented on the IAHC
itself. The ITU and the WIPO responded to pressure from the US and
the EU and refrained from signing until their member states could
consider the issues
. The main player behind the IAHC plan, the
Internet Society, said on 5/6 that a rules committee is looking
into alternatives to two features of the plan that the White House
criticized last week. The rules committee will consider ways
eliminate a lottery as the means of choosing registrars and will lift
the maximum number of registrars, which was set at 28 in the MoU.
Critics seized upon these after-the-fact concessions
as a sign
that the IAHC plan is in retreat.
Cryptography export policy
See also TBTF for
Administration feints a relaxation of bank crypto export
The Clinton administration, in a move apparently intended to slow
the momentum of the pro-crypto bills now making their way through
both houses of Congress
, announced a policy that will
allow banks to obtain a one-time approval to export software that is
limited to encrypting financial data
. This announcement doesn't
actually change anything. Previous policy in theory required a
case-by-case review, but in fact it's long been straightforward to obtain
a crypto export license if the overseas customer was a financial
institution. Today's announcement merely plugs a conspicuous hole in
the January Export Administration Regulations -- the lack of any
explicit exception for the financial industry. One poster to the
Cryptography list called today's announcement "simply a public
acknowledgment that [the administration] will look favorably on export
requests to banks and that someday they'll try to draft specific
regulations on the subject." An EPIC policy analyst called the move
a "small step forward," as it does not address broader crypto needs
such as email privacy.
Windows Magazine de-lists MS Office 97 and MS Outlook
Windows Magazine has removed Microsoft's Office 97 and Outlook from
its "WinList" of recommended products -- the first time in the
publication's history that any product has been de-listed due to
late-surfacing bugs and design flaws. (WinMag praises Excel 97,
however, and it remains on the list.) Fred Langa, editorial director
of CMP Media's PC group, writes in his "The Explorer" column in the
that WinMag subjected Office 97 to real-world use,
not just laboratory testing. Serious flaws emerged in Word 97 and
Outlook, Microsoft's email/calender/PIM application. Word 97 is not
backward compatibile with earlier versions of Word -- when asked to
save a document in Word 95 format it writes a Rich Text Format file
but names it ".doc." Anyone who has relied on RTF to move documents
among different versions of Word (or worse, across platforms) knows
that RTF does not preserve all formatting information, although that
is its purpose. And Outlook, when used in conjunction with MS
Exchange for email transport, causes major instability problems. A
WinMag reviewer writes, "When I chose Word 97 as my e-mail editor,
I encountered dozens of productivity-stopping, out-of-memory errors
and system lockups I'd never had before." Langa summarizes the
situation: "Top tier products don't break each other. We recommend you
stay with Office 95."
Microsoft security bugs and exploits
See also TBTF for
Microsoft IE security hole #9 exploits PowerPoint
Downloading Adobe PDF files considered hazardous
The German magazine c't
has pointed out
a potential security
hazard from downloading files in the Adobe Acrobat Portable
Document Format. The new version (1.2) of the PDF spec widens a hole
that was already present, especially for Windows machines, c't
asserts. A hotlink in the text of a PDF file can execute an
arbitrary program on the receiving machine; it's even possible for a
downloading document to cause a program to run without user action.
Adobe has informed c't
that the breach will be fixed in a new
version of Acrobat Reader and Exchange, 3.0.1; users will be
required to assent before any local program is run.
When crypto patents expire
The key discoveries underlying public-key cryptography date to the
mid-1970s, and the U.S. patents protecting the technology are due
to expire soon. When, exactly, takes a bit of figuring out: the U.S.
entry into the GATT treaty modified some of the patent rules. Tim
Dierks <tim at dierks dot org> cleared up the confusion in an article
posted earlier this year to sci.crypt. Here's a summary:
# oops, millenium bug
The practice of freely exchanging traffic among ISPs -- called
"peering" -- is beginning to creak and boom like the ice on a river
in springtime. For some while now the largest ISPs, such as MCI and UUnet,
have charged the smallest ones for carrying their traffic. Now it
looks as if the midsized ISPs will have to start paying as well.
UUNet Technologies recently informed a dozen midsized ISPs,
including The Well, that it will begin charging them for access to its
An update on censorware
TBTF for 1997-04-04
Declan McCullagh's fight-censorship list recently carried a sampling
of 11 email letters addressed to CyberSitter protesting the blockage
of the authors' sites, which do indeed seem to be innocent of any
objectionable material. If you'd like to judge for yourself the
appropriateness of the sites that CyberSitter blocks, see this recently
of the entire blacklist. The American Library
Association has issued interim guidelines for its members on the
subject of blocking software
-- it recommends against implementing
such software at this time. The ALA will revisit the issue once the
Supreme Court rules on the Communications Decency Act this summer.
Applets and animations, alive-alive-o
Next, positronic brains
From Edupage (1997-04-20):
Protonic chips never forget: Researchers at the University of
New Mexico and Sandia National Laboratories are investigating
the use of protonic memory for making cheap forget-me-not
computer chips. In 1995, they noticed during experiments on
silicon wafers that protons deep within the wafers were re-
sponding to electrical signals on the surface. Research
showed the protons can be precisely controlled with standard
microcircuits -- and are thus able to store data. Protonic
chips won't need the fancy processing used in "flash" non-
volatile memory chips, and can operate at low power levels,
thus prolonging battery life in laptops. Protonic chips
currently are being tested at Texas Instruments. (Business
Week 21 Apr 97)
Open source software and the Linux OS
See also TBTF for
Bill Gates invited 100 CEOs from leading companies worldwide to
Seattle to discuss the future of technology
. As I write this
I'm listening to the Vice President's keynote
; afterwards the
executives will retire to Gates's 20,000-square-foot mansion
still under construction, for dinner. (One account I read claimed
that the visitors will be required to cross a stone masons' picket
Sun's CEO Scott McNealy wasn't invited, though it's not an arduous
plane trip, and he can't figure out why. I offer as consolation this
anecdote to demonstrate that Sun doesn't lose every battle with the
Redmond giant. It was penned by Don Pardo <pardo at cs dot washington dot edu>.
I was at a barbeque/etc. party recently. This really happened:
Ruben: "So, I hear your company hired the guy who wrote Linux."
Me: "It's true."
Ron: "Hm, well my company [Microsoft] hired the guy who wrote Tetris."
Ruben (turning to Ron): "So when are you guys gonna start
hiring people who know about operating systems?"
Note added 1996-05-09:
Some background: Linus Tovalds, the creator of Linux, whose move from
Finland to Silicon Valley was noted in TBTF 
recently went to work for Sun -- at least he did according to an April Fools
crafted by Liem Bahneman <roland at starfleet dot com> to resemble
a Reuters news release. A number of people were taken in including your
humble unpaid net.journalist, who duly reported the move as fact when this
issue of TBTF was distributed in email form. Thanks to Greg Roelofs
<roelofs at prpa dot philips dot com> for pointing out the egg on my face.
You can find the story of Sun abandoning Solaris development to embrace
in a number of places on the Web, most of them, such as these
omitting Bahneman's "April Fools" note at the bottom.
is an unofficial American holiday observed on the
first day of April each year. On this day it is accepted, indeed
expected, that people in all parts of society will play
elaborate practical jokes on one another and on the world at large.
April Fools is the second most popular holiday among American
computer professionals, after Halloween.
For a complete list
of TBTF's (mostly email) sources, see
E.Commerce Today -- this commercial publication provided background
information for some of the pieces in this issue of TBTF. For complete subscription
details see <../resource/E.CT.txt>.
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