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   TBTF Log, week of 2000-03-19

This is the TBTF Log, week of 2000-03-19, an experiment in reporting important breaking news in a very timely way. The TBTF newsletter continues unchanged. The most recent issue is TBTF for 2000-02-06: Privacy at the boil.

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[Sun. 2000-03-19, 11:58 pm EST:] Looking for the article on Distributing DeCSS via DNS? Try here.

Friday, March 24, 2000

3/24/00 5:41:03 PM

  • Jargon Scout: spampoena. A spampoena is an overbroad subpoena of dubious validity "served" by email to unnamed recipients throughout cyberspace. The first spampoena was deployed last January in the DeCSS / MPAA case; the second was just sent out in the matter of CPhack / Cyber Patrol. We may dearly desire that, quashed forthrightly, it will be the last ever served. A judge in Boston -- in a hearing at which no defense attorney was present -- granted a subpoena requiring that a Canadian and a Swede remove certain content from their Web sites. The lawyer for Cyber Patrol's parent company requested and reportedly received permission to "serve" copies of the subpoena by email to hundreds of unknown others in all parts of the world. Several hundred of the spampoenas have been mailed (and fewer received). Here is an example. The ACLU's motion to quash the subpoena concludes:

    The subpoenas must be quashed because they were not properly served, because they violate the geographic limitations of Rule 45, and because they impose an undue burden... that raises significant constitutional questions. More fundamentally, they must be dismissed because they are in aid of an underlying case that itself must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and mootness. It is improper to impose on a third party the burden of any subpoena -- particularly one that raises a host of thorny privacy issues -- in aid of a case that does not belong in this Court in the first place.

3/24/00 10:41:06 AM

  • NSA holds patent on holographic storage device. On Feb. 15 the NSA was awarded patent no. 6,026,053 for a photorefractive read-only optical memory apparatus using phase, frequency, and angular modulation -- in other words, a holographic computer storage device. This article in a Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet, while a little over-the-top, describes some of the uses to which such a device could be put. For example, Shamir's hypothetical TWINKLE device requires a massive amount of working memory in certain stages of the process of breaking cryptographic codes.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Justin Mason, who says, removing his pipe thoughtfully from his mouth and with a TWINKLE in his eye, "I'm no laser physicist, but this looks like the plans for some kind of massive storage device." Ayuh.

Thursday, March 23, 2000

3/23/00 4:37:38 PM

  • updated Free domain names, sometimes with a catch. The cost of registering domain names is falling, as expected under vigorous competition. When OpenSRS is fully operational -- perhaps beginning next Monday -- the cost should rapidly drop towards the $6 that Network Solutions charges all registrars to register a name.

    The natural price for this service, of course, is zero. Six dollars for a potentially lifelong customer? Companies routinely and happily spend hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars each for customer acquisition.

    A few services already offer cost-free registration, but so far you have to be on the lookout for the gotchas.

    • RegisterFree will grant one free domain name to everyone who registers this evening, Thursday 2000-03-23, between 9:00 and 10:00 eastern time. Good luck getting through to the site; it's now 4 hours and 40 minutes to the opening bell and their server just refused my HTTP request. After tonight the cost from RegisterFree goes back to $19.95.

      [Note added 2000-03-23, 10:15 pm:] It was just as I feared. Tried RegisterFree.com for a solid hour and only once got anything but a timeout and "Connection refused." One time I got one step further, a redirect to tucows.com -- so they're using OpenSRS, I didn't know that -- and timed out there.

      [Note added 2000-03-24, 10:39 am:] Now you can get to the site. Pretty cheesy: they blame the bottleneck on NSI's registry servers. Now why do I doubt that was the problem?

      [Note added 2000-03-28, 3:58 pm:] Stuart Clark set the record straight on a few items. First of all, the OpenSRS wholesale registry is already fully operational; the note I had taken for a launch notice was just a note on availability of a new version. Second, Clark said that NSI's database was indeed the bottleneck. It was down for a brief period just before RegisterFree.com's site went live, and the resulting backlog slowed everybody.

      Craig McAllister sent word of a make-up offer from RegisterFree. If you got through to their site during the hour-long signup and got as far as submitting your email address, but couldn't get your registration completed, fill out this form before March 31 and you can still get a free domain-name registration. McAllister did so and reports satisfaction with the process.

    • NameZero offers free registration, but only if you host with them and make use of their "personal portal" environment. I have a feeling this is going to involve giving up a lot of personally identifiable information and putting up with a lot of targeted advertising. (NameZero is publicly supporting a bill introduced in the California legislature to establish a special class of .com vanity license plates.)

      [Note added 2000-03-28, 3:58 pm:] Another Stuart Clark correction: what NameZero offers for free is third-level names, such as mysite.example.com. Where's the fun in that?

    • Yesterday I went to the opening-day party for Intuit's new east coast R&D center outside of Boston. Intuit will soon be offering truly free, truly simple name registration from inside the QuickBooks 2000 application. The former Boston Light, a startup Intuit acquired 9 months ago, has developed amazing platform technology for automating small business' exploitation of the Web. Among other big dislocations, I expect Intuit to turn upside down the market for merchant credit-card accounts. Watch these guys, big things are coming.

3/23/00 12:03:30 PM

  • updated Scoop ACLU to defend the Peacefire Three. An ACLU spokeswoman has confirmed to TBTF that the American Civil Liberties Union will back three activists, associated with the Peacefire site, whom Mattel subpoenaed in the Breaking of Cyber Patrol case. Waldo Jaquith, Lindsay Haisley, and Bennett Haselton all posted mirrors of the CPHack site in defiance of an injunction Mattel subsidiary Microsystems Software won against the authors of CPHack. Here is Waldo Jaquith's journal, which gives some human perspective on these legal wranglings.

    [Note added 2000-03-24, 4:55 pm:] Here's the ACLU's press release. This is the spampoena emailed to the Peacefire Three and a number of others, including the journalist Declan McCullach (whose site hosts this document). The ACLU's Chris Hansen today filed this motion to quash the subpoenas against the Peacefire Three. Despite its being in legalese, you're unlikely to read anything more sensible today.

3/23/00 11:32:00 AM

    Simulation of the sky in gamma rays
  • Unknown objects emitting gamma rays. This article talks about the growing understanding of the sky in gamma rays (simulation at right). Gamma rays are 100 million times as energetic as visible light. So far 271 gamma-ray emitting objects are listed in the catalog compiled by the Energetic Gamma Ray Telescope Experiment aboard NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Of these, 170 have not been identified. Researchers believe that about half of the unidentified objects, not correlated with any source in visible or radio frequencies, may represent well-known types of objects in the galactic plane whose lower-energy radiation is blocked by dust or gas.

    The other half of the unidentified galactic sources are closer to Earth and comprise a new class of objects. NASA researchers now say that these objects lie just off the Milky Way plane and follow the Gould Belt, a ribbon of nearby massive stars and gas clouds that winds through the Milky Way plane. They might be massive stars, black holes acting as particle accelerators, or clusters of peculiar pulsars.

Wednesday, March 22, 2000

3/22/00 9:47:14 PM

  • updated IANA approves .ps for Palestine. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority approved a request for a country-code top level domain for Palestine. This report discusses the request's history and disposition.

    In early 1997, the IANA received a request for delegation of a top-level domain for Palestine. That request was initially declined, but was renewed in October 1999. This report gives the findings and conclusions of the IANA on its investigation of these requests.

    Again thanks to Ant Brooks; the man is plugged into the ccTLD beat. And TBTF Irregular Eric Scheid send along this Merc article about the new ccTLD.

3/22/00 9:36:12 PM

  • updated (Not the) first country-code domain name dispute. The World Intellectual Property Organization will administer the first domain-name dispute involving a ccTLD to be arbitrated under ICANN's new Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. (Steven Malikoff points out that last year the American company DoubleClick tried to wrest the name double-click.com.au from Australian entrepreneurs.) The Swedish company Domain Network registered the name expedia.nu with .NU Domains Ltd., and now Microsoft has challanged the registration. This Business Wire article notes that Microsoft owns the trademark for the word expedia, but does not say whether the registration applies to the US only or to a larger fraction of the world.

    Thanks to TBTF Irregular Ant Brooks for the tip.

3/22/00 9:35:09 PM

  • updated 3.28 terabits over fiber. Bell Labs is claiming a record: the first triple-terabit fiber data transmission over a real-world distance, 300 km. The lab director, Alastair Glass -- who says there's no such thing as fate? -- said the team used three 100-km spans, with repeaters, of their TrueWave fiber and that the demonstration proves they could have gone any desired distance. The experimenters used dense wavelength division multiplexing to carry 82 separate channels, each running at 40 Gb/sec.

    Wired got a couple of Bell Labs folks blue-skying (thanks to Fredrick Ochsenhirt for this link). They said that at 3 Tb/sec. one could send 24 hours of the world's current Internet traffic in less than a second, or the contents of the Library of Congress in 6 seconds. The theoretical maximum capacity of the fiber now being laid is in the thousands of terabits -- i.e., petabits -- per second. (See this article in TBTF for 1998-07-27 for some perspective on these speeds and sizes.)

Monday, March 20, 2000

3/20/00 7:34:10 PM

  • Coding as spectator sport. This is so cool, and I don't even know m. The Mathworks is running their quasi-quarterly online programming contest. Take a look at this worldwide demonstration of competitive yet collaborative coding and incremental improvement. Here are the current top 20 scorers. Notice how they learn from each other in realtime, and then refine and resubmit their own and each others' work. As my informant Ned Gulley <gulley at mathworks dot com> says:

    It's an interesting mix of coding as a spectator sport and online realtime open source code development. The result is surprisingly entertaining, and the winning entry sports code that has been optimized by hundreds of people. I believe it's a glimpse of the future of how code will be developed.

    The previous two years' contests results are archived; see The Record Company Contest (1455 entries) and The Mars Surveyor Contest (1647 entries). The current contest runs through next Friday.

3/20/00 12:02:41 AM

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