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...
It's deja vu all over again
Two years ago the most privacy-friendly attempt to relax US crypto export controls, Bob Goodlatte's SAFE bill, was savaged  in two House committees and was eventually withdrawn. I wrote at the time:
On Wednesday 21 July the House Armed Services Committee voted 47 to 6 to replace the text of the SAFE bill with one drafted by the law-enforcement community , and manifesting exactly the opposite effect. Here is the text of the new unSAFE bill  (PDF format, 47K). Eventually the House Rules Committee will need to decide which version of SAFE, if any, reaches the floor for a vote.
Let's do an exercise in political accountability. 17 SAFE co-sponsors sit on the Armed Services Committee, and 13 of them voted to gut the bill. (Note that even if all SAFE co-sponsors had voted to preserve the original bill, the outcome would have been the same, by a vote of 34 to 19.)
I have updated the Congressional Hypocrites page , which first spotlighted the 285 politicians who voted cockeyed on matters of Internet pornography, to cast a cold light on the 13 members who both sponsored the SAFE bill and voted last Wednesday to ream it out. They are:
Andrews, Robert E. (D-NJ) 
Brady, Robert (D-PA)
Chambliss, Saxby (R-GA) 
Gibbons, Jim (R-NV)
Hansen, James V. (R-UT) 
Hayes, Robin (D-NC)
Hilleary, Van (R-TN) 
Kasich, John R. (R-OH) 
Kennedy, Patrick J. (D-RI)
Maloney, James H. (D-CT)
Riley, Bob (R-AL)
Ryun, Jim (R-KS)
Scarborough, Joe (R-FL)
The five members shown above in bold are two-time losers -- they voted hypocritically on both Internet pornography and crypto export. I have caused their listings on  to stand out from the others in such a way as to obscure their party affiliations. On the subject of the Internet, these Congressmen have earned their denomination as charter members of the Hypocrites Party. Why not visit their Web sites  -  and express your opinion about their votes?
It's a pity that we need to single out for special accolades that minority of Congress members who do what they say they are going to do; but such is our system. The four SAFE co-sponsors who voted against gutting the bill are:
Bono, Mary (R-CA) 
Meehan, Martin T. (D-MA) 
Sanchez, Loretta (D-CA) 
Smith, Adam (D-WA) 
Andrews has a page anyone can use to generate a message.
Kasich, Sanchez and Saxby provided e-mail addresses right on their web sites.
The other four pointed me to [13a], where you have to have a ZIP code in their district in order to generate e-mail. Apparently most of these folks don't want to hear from anyone they're not representing. I obtained appropriate ZIP codes (and, in Bono's case, the information that she doesn't use e-mail) from [13b] (the best source of information on candidates and elected officials that I've found, including state representatives). I also found an e-mail address there for Van Hilleary.
Very shortly after e-mailing her, I got an auto-response from Sanchez, asking for my snail-mail address, which I had included in the original e-mail. It also noted out that she would only respond to constituents.
Very shortly after e-mailing him, I got an auto-response from Van Hilleary, saying he had changed e-mail addresses and asking me to use [13a] as well, which I then did.
In the half a day since I finished generating all these e-mails, I've received no other responses.
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...
To its surprise NSI gets roughed up, too
On Thursday 22 July a highly charged House subcommittee hearing convened to scrutinize ICANN. The politicians ended up taking the dominant registrar to task as well . The House Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations addressed allegations that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers had overstepped its authority. This news.com report  opines that ICANN's Esther Dyson emerged relatively intact, while the new CEO of NSI, the monopolist that had prompted the hearings, was battered and shaken.
David Post "attended" the hearing by RealAudio. He notes in an email distributed on Declan McCullagh's Politech mailing list that the one "smoking gun" to emerge came from ICANN's lawyer, Joe Sims. At the hearing an email from Sims to the Department of Justice was made public. Sims had "suggested" to DOJ that it intervene in ICANN's negotiations with NSI and Commerce:
Is this any way for the Beacon of Democracy to act?
The time is fast approaching when the US government will, unless a 1996 law is amended, instruct all states to replace your driver's license with one featuring your social security number in visible and machine-readable form, and possibly your fingerprints as well .
Here are some of the problems that widespread, mandated exposure of your social security number could cause .
The law that spawned these regulations from the Department of Transportation is the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibilities Act , passed in 1996. Transportation was poised to announce and enforce a national driver's-license standard last year, but civil liberties groups managed -- just barely -- to enact a 1-year stay of execution for the national ID card . It expires in October. Opposition groups failed last month to insert into a Transportation funding bill a provision overturning section 656(b) of the 1996 law.
The chairman of the Immigration and Claims subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith (R-TX), says that creating a national ID card was never the intent of the 1996 law; he now sports a Web page  declaring his opposition to the very idea. But Smith has acknowledged that the regulations drafted by the Transportation Department do, in fact, establish just such a national ID.
Smith's subcommittee will hold a hearing  on the repeal of section 656(b) on Thursday 29 July, at 9:30 a.m., in room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington. It would be an excellent time to let your representative know where you stand on issues of privacy and a national ID card, especially if your representative is a member of this subcommittee:
Berman, Howard (CA, 26th district)
Cannon, Chris (UT, 3rd)
Canady, Charles (FL, 12th)
Frank, Barney (MA, 4th)
Gallegly, Elton (CA, 23rd)
Goodlatte, Bob (VA, 6th)
Jackson Lee, Sheila (TX, 18th)
Lofgren, Zoe (CA, 16th district)
McCollum, Bill (FL, 8th)
Meehan, Marty (MA, 5th)
Pease, Ed (IN, 7th)
Scarborough, Joe (FL, 1st)
Smith, Lamar (TX, 21st) -- Chairman
Unifying a patchwork of state regulation
In late June the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved legislation giving electronic signatures the same legal validity as those written by hand . The bill doesn't specify what technology should be used for electronic signatures. It could be a boon to companies such as VeriSign that provide enabling tech for digital signatures. The bill's sponsor notes that the states have been developing their own guidelines for electronic signatures, but no two state plans are alike. Here's a summary  of the Millenium Digital Commerce Act.
Some years back TBTF Irregular Gary Stock <gstock at ingetech dot com> worked in the world of pharmaceuticals. He sends this note  on the history of acceptance of electronic signatures by that industry and the Food and Drug Administration.
Business development on Internet time
Once an engineering team had put themselves out for bid on eBay , it was only a matter of (Internet) time before someone wrote a business plan based on this idea and set up shop on the Web. In fact it was less than a month before Bid4geeks.com  had opened its virtual doors.
Thanks to TBTF Benefactor  Richard Thomas <rmt at winterfold dot com> for word on this fast-moving space. Thomas rhetorically asks:
Find out how visitors are finding your site
Searchspy , a Perl script written by Nelson Minar, analyzes web server logs to tell you what search terms people are using to find your Web pages. Using searchspy is a bit like watching a search voyeur , but one that shows you queries for your own pages. It works by looking at the referrer URL information and parsing out the query term from the search engine. Results look like this:
Minar recently discovered that a commercial product with a similar purpose is open for business at searchspy.com; they acquired the domain name seven months after he first posted his script.
Doing good one click at a time
This feel-good site  sounds like it ought to be an email-borne urban legend, but it is strictly for real. Visit The Hunger Site and click the button; view a banner from the day's sponsor and they will donate three cents to the UN World Food Program. This buys a day's worth (1-1/2 cups) of a staple food such as maize or rice. More than seventy thousand people clicked last Friday. The site asks each user to visit at most once per day. Thanks for the tip to Eric Rachner <erachner at aventail dot com>.
Researchers say computers 1011 times more powerful than today's may be on the horizon
On 16 July an HP physicist and a UCLA chemist published a paper in Science that looks like a good first step towards computer components one molecule thick. This NY Times story from that date  details the research, and this piece from a later date  describes a number of other computing initiatives not necessarily based on silicon. You will need to bite cookies and register (free) to follow these links. The HP/UCLA work demonstrated that individual molecules of the synthetic substance rotazane can act like binary switches: their resistivity in the "on" position is 80 to 100 times less than in the "off" state.
All the press coverage of this research stresses two caveats, which I assume the researchers pounded home in their interviews. The first is that practical computers resulting from the research are more than a decade away. The second is that the next big challenge will be to fashion molecular-scale wires. I will place a modest wager that the wires, when developed, will be carbon nanotubes, originally called "buckytubes." For some examples of the versatility shown by these rolled carbon structures, consider this summary taken from the AIP Physics Review Update :
Visit  and search for carbon nanotube for more on the mind-stretching properties of these structures.
Some games are less addictive than these Java applets
The JTrack3D applet  (54K) downloads data (112K) on 500 satellites, out of about 9000 in orbit, and lets you soar through their data space. Zoom in on earth and rotate the picture to appreciate a fraction of the jewelled adornment we carry with us through space. You can browse satellites by category from a menu and get more detailed information on each. Other options available from  let you track the international space station, Mir, and the US space shuttle, which is now in orbit. You probably shouldn't bother downloading this applet on less than a 166-MHz machine. TBTF Irregular Jon Callas <jon at callas dot org> alerted me to JTrack3D.
While you're there, visit Jpath . This Java applet (Netscape users need 4.02 or later) finds upcoming crossings of visible satellites over your location. You can give latitude/longitude, zip code (US), or pick from a long list of cities worldwide. The applet constructs for each crossing an interactive sky chart with times, stars, planets, and satellite path and brightness.
Finally, the original 2D version of JTrack  provides, almost as an afterthought, the most informative display of current worldwide weather that I have seen. (Click on "Config.") The extreme frustration of a JTrack Java programmer shines through on this page , which concludes:
Impacting the moon's south pole at 3800 mph
This workhorse satellite, which has mapped the moon from orbit for a year and a half, may provide compelling data as its operational life ends. On 31 July at 5:52 am EDT, mission planners will crash the satellite into a permanently shadowed crater at the moon's south pole in the hope of throwing up visible traces of the water that scientists theorize, and fervently hope, is there. This NASA page  tells the story; get more details from this UTexas site . The impact will be closely watched by ground-based and satellite-borne instruments, including the Hubble telescope. Amateur astronomers worldwide are encouraged to record what they see, although most probably the plume resulting from Prospector's collision will be invisible without specialized instruments. Prospector will hit with the force of a 2-ton car going 1100 miles per hour; the impact should provide the moon's south pole with a temporary atmosphere.
Oddly, both the NASA and UTexas pages fail to mention the touching but mildly bizarre human-interest angle of the Prospector's final plunge. The spacecraft is carrying  a two-inch capsule bearing one ounce of the ashes of legendary geologist Eugene M. Shoemaker, who died in an auto accident in 1997. Shoemaker studied the impact origin of lunar craters -- and also co-discovered comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which crashed spectacularly into Jupiter in 1994 . Shoemaker had hoped to go to the moon himself during the Apollo program, but health problems forbade, to his lasting disappointment. Shoemaker instead trained the lunar astronauts in geology. After his death a former student suggested sending his ashes to orbit the moon aboard Prospector. Now a tiny part of Eugene Shoemaker may help to find water on the moon.
I wondered whether Carolyn Porco, Shoemaker's former student, had been aware of Heinlein's fiction when she proposed the tribute in 1997. I spoke to her just now at her office at the University of Arizona. She was unaware of the Heinlein stories. She did know when proposing the tribute that Prospector would end its life by crashing onto the moon's surface, thus effecting the first extraterrestrial burial. Porco's tribute page [42a] shows the image, laser-instribed on brass foil, that wraps the polycarbonate vessel of Shoemaker's earthly remains.
Awaiting a call from the New Yorker's lawyers
The New Yorker, in its pre-barbarian days, used to run a column filler called Block that Metaphor. It held up to public ridicule some over-the-top mixed metaphor culled from an over-the-counter publication. Let's bring back this amusing feature in a new medium. Here's Rebecca Bace, president of the security-penetration testing firm Infidel Inc., quoted in ZDNet :
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Most recently updated 1999-10-15