[Wired] Kaczynski's cell; D-10K woes; CIA Y2K woes; cable modems.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Sun, 10 May 1998 03:17:32 -0700

A bunch of interesting little stories off the Wired news service.


> 3:33pm 5.May.98.PDT -- FLORENCE, Colorado -- Theodore Kaczynski began
> serving his life sentences today in a high-tech prison that was designed
> to be escape-proof and houses some of America's most notorious
> criminals.
> One day after he was officially sentenced for an 18-year bombing
> campaign that killed three people and injured more than two dozen
> others, Kaczynski was taken from his Sacramento, California, jail cell,
> flown to Pueblo, Colorado, and transferred 30 miles to the federal
> penitentiary in this sleepy town in the foothills of the Rockies. He was
> sentenced to four consecutive life terms, plus 30 years.
> At Florence he passed through steel doors and was officially entered as
> an inmate at America's new Alcatraz, the "Administrative Maximum
> Facility" nicknamed "the Big One."
> Kaczynski entered a grim world populated by the most violent and
> unrepentant criminals in the country.
> Among his fellow inmates are Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, Mafia
> boss John Gotti, Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and Charles Harrelson,
> actor Woody Harrelson's father, who is serving a life term for murdering
> a judge.
> Opened in 1994, Florence has been hailed as being almost escape-proof, a
> high-tech stronghold that embodies the darkest nightmares of a
> technophobe like Kaczynski.
> While the nation has other "supermax" jails designed for dangerous
> inmates, Florence goes further.
> "It will take Einstein's genius and more than a little luck to get out
> of this baby," said architect John Quest.

I smell Hollywood action movie for the summer of 1999!

> Designed with the help of computers, which were fed various escape
> scenarios, the facility combines the tightest external security with
> strict prisoner management -- a combination that has led some civil
> rights groups to protest that it is inhumane.
> Situated on 37 acres, the jail is ringed by watchtowers and can hold 490
> inmates. Silent pressure pads, laser beams, and dogs that attack without
> barking are all located in the no-man's land between razor-wire fencing
> and the prison walls.
> Convicts spend 23 hours a day in lock-up, and are only allowed outside
> of cells with leg irons and handcuffs. Exercise time is extremely
> curtailed, and contacts with the outside world are kept to an absolute
> minimum.
> More than 10,000 computer-controlled electronic prison gates all close
> automatically if any escape attempt is detected. The cells are
> soundproofed to prevent prisoners from communicating with each other by
> Morse code, and prison librarians examine every page of every book
> touched by an inmate to make sure no messages are inserted.
> In their cells, prisoners face a bleak world. The cells have no movable
> furniture, nothing that could possibly be used to attack a guard. The
> windows are all angled so that there are no views of the world outside.

Sounds lovely. I wonder if THEY'LL have any Y2K problems.
Speaking of which...


> 3:33pm 5.May.98.PDT -- Chicken Little forecasters who say the world's
> buzzing digital information flow will grind to a halt at the stroke of
> midnight 2000 have something more immediate to worry about: "D-10K."
> The problem is nowhere near the size and scope of the Year 2000
> glitch, of course. But some analysts are worrying that if the Dow Jones
> industrial average topped the 10,000-point mark, it could trigger some
> wild computer-generated stock trading.
> With the Dow currently above 9100, only four digits are required to
> calculate the index. But if it moved above 10,000, a rise of just 10
> percent, it would need a five-digit field.
> "Trading organizations face potential massive exposure if the Dow
> passes 10,000 and systems interpret that as 1000 or zero," Andy Kyte, a
> research analyst at the Gartner Group, wrote in a recent report.
> "Computer-based trading could interpret this as a catastrophic crash."
> He said there is little evidence that firms are prepared to deal with
> the problem. Wall Street is one of the most computer-intensive business
> locales on the planet, and virtually everything from dividend payouts to
> stock market updates are delivered digitally.
> "They better crank those machines up -- this could happen before the
> end of June," said Ralph Acampora, self-proclaimed bull and Prudential's
> chief technical strategist.
> Still, some analysts say the fears may be overdone, pointing out that
> the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index easily rolled over the 1000
> mark on 2 February.
> The New York Stock Exchange has said all the technological systems it
> directly operates would be able to handle the change.
> The bug fear comes amid a barrage of technological challenges for the
> securities industry, which is also grappling with the European economic
> and monetary union, Automated Customer Account Transfer System
> enhancements, decimalization at US stock markets, changes in derivatives
> reporting, and other issues.

Bleah. As if we didn't have enough Y2K scares as it is. The latest:


> 6:02pm 5.May.98.PDT -- WASHINGTON -- Many countries appear to be
> ill-prepared for the disruption to basic services that the Year 2000
> computer glitch may cause, the Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday.
> "We're concerned about the potential disruption of power grids,
> telecommunications, and banking services" among other possible fallout,
> especially in countries already torn by political tensions, said Sherry
> Burns, who is heading the agency's study of the problem.
> She said CIA systems engineers and intelligence analysts were focusing
> beyond the technical problem of reprogramming computers to recognize
> dates beyond 1 January 2000. Instead, the spy agency has begun
> collecting and analyzing information on preparations for the "social,
> political, and economic tumult" that could flow from interruptions of
> essential services in some fragile societies.
> According to the CIA assessment, the threat of turmoil is greatest
> among those unaware of the key role that bits and bytes play in
> providing essential services and bringing goods to markets, even in
> less-developed countries.
> "As you start getting out into the population, I think most people are
> again assuming that things are going to operate the way they always
> have," Burns said. "That is not going to be the case."
> Many governments are "unprepared for what could potentially be some
> fairly tough circumstances," she added.
> In an initial effort to gauge preparations, the CIA received a wide
> range of feedback during the past year, not all of it very encouraging,
> Burns said.
> One overseas contact said his country would be safe because it used a
> "different calendar." Others acknowledged the issue was not on their
> radar scope. Someone from a Middle Eastern country told the CIA not to
> worry about any bug.
> "When we see it, we'll spray for it," Burns quoted that source as
> saying.
> She said Canada, Britain, and Australia were about six months behind
> the United States in preparing their systems for the switch, and that
> this was the group in the best shape.
> The rest of Western Europe, led by the Scandinavians, came next, six
> to nine months behind the United States.
> Europe's job is compounded by the need to reprogram millions of
> computers for next January's introduction of the euro, the new unified
> currency already adopted by 11 nations.
> The CIA feels that Europe will probably be unable to complete both
> reprogramming jobs in an effective and timely manner, Burns said.
> Japan, China, Hong Kong, and most other Pacific Rim countries were
> "maybe nine months to a year behind in terms of where the work should
> be," Burns said. She put Russia in the same category. Latin America was
> "way behind the power curve."
> As part of the agency's increased interest in the Y2K program, some
> CIA employees have been briefed on preparing themselves individually for
> potential fallout.
> They were being advised to pay their bills early in December 1999 to
> avoid possible processing problems, keep cash on hand in case automatic
> teller machines failed, and lay in extra blankets in case of a blackout
> on a cold New Year's Eve.

The Europeans can't put off adopting the Euro for one more year?
Geez, the world is gonna be in so much trouble in 18 months...

I wonder what the rapture index currently says...


Oh geez, we're at 153. We're in the alert zone, people. Time to pack
the kids and move to the Arizona desert...

Well, after Thursday night, that is. Until then, I am staying put in
anticipation of Seinfeld's final episode on May 14. (Also on May 14:
Rohit goes to night court to argue a 95-in-a-65 speeding ticket, and the
Tim Allen vs. Jerry Seinfeld celebrity deathmatch on MTV).

When I move out to the desert maybe I'll buy a cable modem. They
already have 200,000 customers nationwide. I wonder how many of them
overlap with the 250,000 nationwide customers of WebTV.


> 4:00am 4.May.98.PDT -- The US cable television industry announced at an
> industry conference today a new partnership with the nation's technology
> powerhouses to accelerate the drive to deliver Internet access.
> The initiative announced at the National Cable Television Association
> meeting in Atlanta, the latest in a series of moves that have seen the
> tech, TV, and telecom industries get together to promise consumers that
> faster Net access and data delivery is -- really -- just over the
> horizon, will involve technology heavies such as Microsoft, Intel,
> Lucent Technologies, and Scientific Atlanta as well as cable concerns
> like Tele-Communications Inc., Cox Communications, Time-Warner, and
> MediaOne. The initiative will be incorporated as a nonprofit group
> called the Cable Broadband Forum.
> "With more pictures, video stream and audio stream being offered,
> there's a need for a high-speed access," Tom Cullen, vice president of
> Internet Services for MediaOne and chairman of the board of the new
> group, said Sunday.
> Some 200,000 customers nationwide have signed up for high-speed cable
> and about 1,000 join each day. That's the bright part of the picture.
> The less lustrous part: The most ambitious cable-modem projects -- TCI's
> venture with @Home, Time-Warner's RoadRunner effort, and MediaOne --
> have been very slow to reach home users and have consistently run far
> behind projections.
> In 1996, @Home was predicting it would have 1 million subscribers by
> 1997. And almost precisely a year ago, with @Home lagging, TCI issued a
> new bunch of projections. Among them, a vow to have most or all of its
> projected 23 million subscriber homes on cable modems in 2000.
> With the cable industry struggling to keep up with its own promises,
> phone companies Ameritech, Bell Atlantic, SBC Communications, Sprint and
> others announced in January a push to make asynchronous digital
> subscriber lines (ADSL) widely available by the end of this year. The
> campaign, which includes usual suspects Microsoft and Intel as well as
> Compaq, has the same goal as the new cable-modem initiative: to win
> consumer hearts and minds with promises of easy access to high-speed Net
> connections.
> The ADSL effort clearly spurred the cable industry's announcement today.
> "It's a battle for mindshare," said Robert Davenport, senior vice
> president and chief operating officer of Tele-Communications' TCI.NET.
> "The focus is to raise the level of awareness," Davenport said of the
> new organization, whose diverse membership includes cable operators TCI,
> MediaOne, Cox and Time Warner Cable.
> Business customers are also a target, and the group wants to persuade
> businesses that cable is the superior delivery for enterprise-wide
> business applications such as telecommuting and electronic commerce.

And a bonus for those of you who read this far: more in the


> 7:45am 4.May.98.PDT -- Microsoft continued its propaganda offensive
> against government regulators, warning Wall Street that any action by
> the Justice Department to delay the arrival of its Windows 98 operating
> system could have "broad, negative consequences" for the entire personal
> computer industry.
> The company's chief financial officer, Greg Maffei, made the
> prediction in a letter mailed over the weekend to Wall Street analysts,
> software companies, and other business partners, The Wall Street Journal
> reported today. Microsoft expects to ship Windows 98 to PC makers this
> month and to retailers in June.
> Government action to delay the system's delivery would not only hurt
> Microsoft, Maffei wrote, but would also damage companies that "have
> already geared up major Windows 98-based marketing and advertising
> campaigns.... These expenditures will be lost if Windows 98 is delayed
> or blocked, and they will also be wasted if the Justice Department
> attempts to remove Internet features from the operating system."
> This missive comes on the heels of a letter from 26 high-tech
> executives to the government which Microsoft released last week. That
> one, too, warned of economic calamity if Windows 98 were to be delayed
> -- but it also brought Microsoft some negative PR when it was reported
> that some executives felt strong-armed into signing on.

Personally, I can't wait for the Win98 UI change where the double click
becomes the single click and the single click becomes no click. Woo hoo!


How did she find the time to misunderstand our work so thoroughly?
-- Rohit Khare