TBTF for 4/20/98: Internet's end
T a s t y B i t s f r o m t h e T e c h n o l o g y F r o n t
Timely news of the bellwethers in computer and communications
technology that will affect electronic commerce -- since 1994
Your Host: Keith Dawson
This issue: < http://www.tbtf.com/archive/04-20-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
Judge rules Intel an "essential facility"
GSM digital phone security breached
Netherlands moves toward requiring ISPs to wiretap
New sources of domain names: .AM and .AS
Digital bearer settlement
2-meter resolution photos from space
Year 2000 corner
Many Microsoft products have Year 2000 problems
California bill would limit Y2K lawsuits
IRS to spend $1 billion on Y2K
Saudi prince invests in Teledesic
Power and modems and phones, oh my
Who sucks, who rules?
..Judge rules Intel an "essential facility"
Guilty in Intergraph lawsuit of abusing its dominant position
In a ruling  sure to have wide repercussions, on 4/10 a federal
judge ruled in favor of Intergraph in its lawsuit accusing Intel of
using its dominant market position to force Intergraph to give up
key patent rights. The judge ruled that Intel's CPU platform is an
"essential facility" -- like air, like water -- and identified
specific remedies to address Intel's abuse of its dominant position.
One eventual beneficiary of the ruling may be the open software
movement -- see "Intel's Merced locking out free OSs" in TBTF for
..GSM digital phone security breached
Crypto algorithms were developed in the dark
The Smartcard Developer Organization and two Berkeley researchers
announced on 4/14 that they had cloned the smartcard that gives a
GSM phone its identity. GSM phones are in wide use around the world;
more than 80 million are deployed. They had been thought to be
immune to the sort of cloning possible with older technology cell
phones. The researchers stressed that the crack was possible because
the crypto imbedded into GSM phones was developed in secret and held
in secret. Marc Briceno, Director of the SDA, said, "Here we have
yet another example of how security by obscurity is no security at
The attack required physical access to the GSM phone. No attack that
would work over the airwaves is known at this time.
The SDA's press release is here . One of the Berkeley research-
ers, David Wagner, has put up this page  with details of the
In response, the digital phone company Omnipoint was the first to
announce  that it will change the mathematical formulas used in
its phones. Others are likely to follow suit.
A recent Center for Democracy and Technology newsletter  recounts
this story and recent developments in the crypto policy debate.
..Netherlands moves toward requiring ISPs to wiretap
Other EU countries may follow
A law making its way through the Dutch legislative system could
force ISPs to tap their customers' traffic, at their own expense
. The legislation was instigated by a dispute last fall between
authorities and local ISP XS4all. The ISP refused to comply with a
request from the Dutch Ministry of Justice's Forensic Science Lab-
oratory to monitor one of its subscriber's Net surfing activities as
well as all communication via email, newsgroups, and chat rooms.
Dutch law enforcement already relies far more heavily on wiretaps
than do their American counterparts; in 1996 three times as many
Dutch phones were tapped, in absolute numbers. Adjusted for pop-
ulation this represents a rate of wiretapping 50 times higher.
..New sources of domain names: .AM and .AS
Armenia sells to the world, and NetNames sells American Samoa to
Armenia is selling its domain namespace and has been added to the
TBTF roster of non-US domain-name vendors . This NIC charges $200
to non-native applicants for a .AM domain name, and does not impose
any recurring fees. The process involves emailing an application
template and snail-mailing a banker's draft to Armenia. Thanks to
Michael K. Sanders <firstname.lastname@example.org> for pointing it out.
TechWeb reports , and NetNames  confirms, that the company
will soon begin marketing .AS domain names -- allocated to American
Samoa -- from a new branch based in Copenhagen. In the Scandanavian
countries "As" is equivalent to "Inc." This tactic represents a
clever broadening of the business of selling domain names: choosing
a name of little intrinsic value in its native land to offer to a
carefully targeted region in which it will be desirable.
I will add .AS to the TBTF roster  when NetNames officially
launches the service.
..Digital bearer settlement
A new organization, a new mailing list, a new conference
Robert Hettinga <email@example.com>, indefatigable crusader for the
coming age of friction-free microtransactions on a geodesic Net, has
rebranded his operation "Philodox Financial Technology Evangelism"
. Philodox is sponsoring a new email list on digital bearer
settlement -- email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject: subscribe
dbs , and will host a 4-day conference this summer, in or near Bos-
ton, on the topic. Hettinga often meets with quizical looks or out-
right incomprehension when holding forth on the subjects dearest to
his heart, because he is thinking miles ahead of most of us down a
particular possible future path. I've excerpted the following from
one of his characteristic rants as a pithy summary of the implica-
tions for state power of widespread digital bearer settlement.
Using cryptographic techniques, we are now able to create
digital bearer versions of every conceivable financial
instrument, so we don't need the state to enforce non-
repudiation of our transactions.
Using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create limi-
ted-liability entities with anonymous voting control which
don't need state-enforced corporate charters to exist.
Finally, using cryptographic techniques, we are able to create
cash-settled instantaneous auctions for all goods and ser-
vices, not just those which can be shoved down a wire like
information and financial assets.
..2-meter resolution photos from space
Use them for all your mapping, topographic, and cadastral needs
TBTF for 1/12/98  introduced EarthWatch, a company that has
launched a satellite to provide photos from space with a resolu-
tion of 3 meters. Now a consortium is selling 2-meter photos based
on Russian spy-satellite technology. At 2 meters you can tell a car
from a truck. SPIN-2 -- the name means Space Information, 2-meter
-- is a collaboration of SOVINFORMSPUTNIK, Aerial Images (North Car-
olina), and Central Trading Systems (New York) . Unlike Earth-
Watch, which has satellites in permanent orbit, SPIN-2 launches
temporary satellites that return to earth with exposed film. The
images will be for sale over the Net from a variety of sources
including, once it gets into full operation, TerraServer .
..Year 2000 corner
Where will you be when the lights go out?
What's going to happen to the world's computers -- and to the world
-- after December 31, 1999? No one knows. In the 21st century we
will all conveniently forget this fact, and will assume that the
consequences should have been obvious, whatever they turn out to be.
If you keep current on the news, and not alone news of the computer
industry, you're probably knee deep in scare stories already. Aware-
ness that there might be a problem is spreading widely. Last week I
heard an ad on the local classical music station for an outfit that
wants to come in and identify the extent of your buiness's Y2K vul-
nerability. An innkeeper of my acquaintence received a polite letter
from his bank explaining that some folks might experience problems
-- not them, of course -- and that the bank stood ready to loan him
money to upgrade systems as necessary. I've heard reports of law-
yers' conferences devoted to education about the Year 2000 bug. This
can't be good.
I don't intend to promote TBTF as a fount of truth on this issue. No
one has final answers. But I will pass along Year 2000 bellwethers as
I see them.
..Many Microsoft products have Year 2000 problems
According to an ABC News story , Microsoft's newly unveiled Year
2000 site  reveals that 1/3 of Microsoft's products have some,
usually minor, problems with Year 2000 compliance.
I couldn't check out the facts completely because the Microsoft Year
2000 site is not friendly to Netscape browsers and not friendly to
Macintoshes. A number of the pages I visited in the site were blank
beyond the top banner; drop-down lists were filled with strange
From  you can query product by product or you can download a list
of "compliant with minor issues"  (RTF format). The non-compliant
list contains 3 items: Access 2.0, Word for MS-DOS v. 5.0, and Office
Professional v. 4.3 (Access 2.0 only). All versions of Internet Ex-
plorer have Y2K problems, as do Windows 95, Windows for Workgroups
3.11, NT Server 4.0, NT Workstation 4.0, Office 95, Visual Basic 5.0,
and Visual Studio Enterprise 5.0. The problems seem genuinely to be
I commend Microsoft for spotlighting this information openly and
early, and hope that their example encourages other companies to say
what's true about Y2K issues in their products. However, I urge Mi-
crosoft to improve the accessibility of this information to those
with non-Microsoft browsers and platforms.
..California bill would limit Y2K lawsuits
AB 1710  begins its legislative journey this week. The bill would
limit damages to actual monetary losses incurred. It is being pro-
moted as a pro-business bill in this highly tech-dependent state.
Its critics claim it will not improve predictability in litigation.
An aide in the office of the bill's chief sponsor said, "We just
want do something that doesn't let lawyers file suits for everyone
who has ever touched software."
..IRS to spend $1 billion on Y2K
On 4/15 the head of the Internal Revenue Service, Charles Rossotti,
used his agency's biggest day to proclaim Year 2000 the "most unfor-
tunate but most essential problem" and said that fixing it will cost
$1 billion . Two weeks ago the estimate was $850 million and six
months ago it was $250 million. This is the agency that had spent $3
billion over more than a decade to upgrade its computer infrastruc-
ture, then abandoned the entire project and declared it sunk cost.
"We simply, absolutely must devote all of our resources to fixing
the year 2000 problem," Rossotti told a luncheon press gathering. He
said if the problem is not solved the result will be "very dire in-
Can you say "flat tax?"
Here is a long piece  from a widely respected computing expert
that puts the strictly Y2K problems in a broader context. Capers
Jones highlights other date-related computing issues ahead of us,
- the date at which global positioning satellites roll over
- the dates at which commodities switch to the Euro
- the dates at which the UNIX and C libraries roll over
- some hazardous date patterns used for non-date purposes in
Did you ever use "9999" in a program to mean "the record that can
never happen?" I know I did, in Fortran. The technique used to be
recommended in Cobol textbooks. So what happens on September 9,
Jones claims that over the next 50 years we will need to modify at
least 60 million software applications because of date-related prob-
lems, at a total cost above $5 trillion.
A twisty maze of items, all a little different
..Saudi prince invests in Teledesic
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a nephew of the Saudi king, has made good
on his intention  to buy into Teledesic . The prince invested
$200M in the privately held satellite communications company founded
by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates. The prince also holds investments in
EuroDisney and Michael Jackson . Last fall his 5% stake in Apple
 fueled rumors of a takeover attempt by a group of investors led
by Oracle's Larry Ellison.
..Power and modems and phones, oh my
Going travelling? TeleAdapt  lists power requirements, power plug
adapters, and phone adapters for countries everywhere , as well
as local Internet access numbers for major worldwide providers. How-
ever, the site's organization makes it a challenge to find gems such
this diagram  of international power plugs.
..Who sucks, who rules?
TBTF for 3/2/98  introduced the operating system popularity meter
. Now the good folks at Electric Lichen have packed up the Sucks-
Rules-o-Meter to go  -- you can see it in this issue on the TBTF
site . It will update every day. (The longest Rules line, in
green, belongs to Linux. Which OS sucks the most will be left as an
exercise for the reader.)
Turn on Java and visit this site  to play the first computer
game. Two spaceships, one star, missiles, gravity: heaven. Space-
war, as developed at MIT in 1962 for the PDP-1, lives again. The
code was typed in from an original assembly-code listing and run
through a PDP-1 assembler written in perl. The resulting program
runs atop a PDP-1 emulator implemented in Java.
This lone page , unindexed inside a nearly content-free Front-
Page template of a customer support site, marks the end of the In-
ternet as we know it. It's in Newfoundland. Thanks to glen mccready
<email@example.com> for the pointer.
> YOU HAVE REACHED THE END OF THE INTERNET. You will have to
> turn around. You can find out all kinds of neat stuff about
> Newfoundland on the internet. But not here, because you've
> reached the end. Sorry.
N o t e s
> The Siliconia page  was cited in a Washington Post story  last
week. I don't know how long the piece will remain on the Post site,
probably less than two weeks.
> A cadastral survey is, loosely, a survey on a scale sufficiently
large to show accurately the extent and measurement of every field
and other plot of land, as a basis for taxation. The word comes into
English by way of French and Italian from the Greek katastikhon,
notebook, or "line by line," from kata = down from and stikhos =
line or verse. Here is its definition according to the OED .
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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