TBTF for 5/25/98: Nuthouse
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/05-25-98.html >
C o n t e n t s
The Microsoft case
Manufacturers breaking ranks with Microsoft?
Sun joins Linux International
Sage is buying up hosting companies
Go, go, said the bird
A style-sheet service
TBTF bookshelf: "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates"
Year 2000 corner
Java in a nuthouse
..The Microsoft case
Where do you want to get sued today?
On Monday the federal and state lawsuits had barely been filed
before Microsoft foes began clamoring for more . Gary Reback,
a Silicon Valley attorney with a long ABM (anybody but Microsoft)
pedigree, mused that breaking up Microsoft AT&T-style would be a
good idea. Sen. Orrin Hatch, Republican from the state of Novell,
predicted at a press conference that the lawsuit would become even
broader. Netscape called the filings welcome but only a first step.
Writing in Slate , William Saletan points out that Joel Klein,
the lead Justice Department investigator, may have made a crucial
blunder in the federal filing. The DoJ suit (unlike the states')
singles out Netscape Navigator for inclusion with Windows 98, open-
ing Klein to the charge that he's serving a particular company
rather than the public interest. Saletan says Microsoft "foolishly
frames this as an assault on its own freedom, welfare, and dignity";
he doubts whether the company can rise above its own wounded pride
sufficiently to exploit this weakness in the DoJ case.
On Friday Microsoft met the Department of Justice and 20 states in
the federal court of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, the same judge
who heard last year's case  . The company requested that the
two lawsuits be consolidated, and this Jackson granted , with the
priviso that they may be separated again at a later date. The com-
pany asked for seven months to prepare its case and to interview
witnesses; Jackson instead scheduled the start of the proceedings
for September 8.
This article  from the Economist gives a comprehensive and bal-
anced background to the dispute. For a timeline of Microsoft's legal
wrangles see this BBC page .
The (now consolidated) cases filed by the Justice Department and the
states drew heavily on internal Microsoft strategy and planning doc-
uments and email messages. All the online news organizations feature
pull-quotes from this rich trove    . Microsoft's head
lawyer William H. ("Don't Call Me 'Duke'") Neukom refers to this
practice as "trial by excerpt" and promises to explain all when the
company makes its case in September. Statements such as these will
take a mort of explaining.
> Screw Sun. Cross-platform will never work. Let's move on and
> steal the Java language.
> Strategic Objective: Kill cross-platform Java by growing the
> polluted Java market.
..Manufacturers breaking ranks with Microsoft?
NEC and Gateway offer Wintel computers without Internet Explorer
Exactly what NEC and Gateway are offering is a bit hard to construe
from the news stories. Infoworld says  that NEC is planning to
ship computers with no browser installed at all -- with both IE and
Netscape Communicator available on a separate CD-ROM -- and that
Gateway is interested in doing likewise. C|net claims  that both
NEC and Gateway are already configuring systems pre-installed with
whichever browser the customer wants, at least for large customers.
Most PC makers ship a number of models with IE only, including
Acer, AST, Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Micron, and Toshiba.
..Sun joins Linux International
Java was once the rallying point of the companies opposing
Microsoft; now increasingly it's Linux
The Linux movement towards world domination got a huge boost last
week after Sun joined the board of Linux International . Sun
doesn't plan to bundle Linux with its workstations -- the old
Solinux  April Fool's gag isn't being realized -- but the com-
pany will support commercial Linux vendors such as Red Hat and
Caldera. Sun will also provide assistance to the people porting
Linux to its UltraSparc processors.
..Sage is buying up hosting companies
A venture-backed consolidator swings into action
Sage Networks  of Cambridge, MA was formed late in 1997 with the
goal of consolidating Web hosting worldwide. It is the first would-
be consolidator operating in the field of 10,000 Web-hosting com-
panies. The business of Web development began consolidating more
than a year ago with the advent of US Web. On the ISP side of the
business, consolidators include MindSpring and Verio, Inc., which
went public last week. Verio in particular is said to be mostly
responsible for the price inflation now settling over ISP deals
Bradley Feld, Sage co-chairman, previously built a consolidator of
system integrators called AmeriData Technologies, which was sold to
GE Capital in 1996. Sage plans to acquire on average three to six
Web-hosting providers per month. So far Sage has bought:
5/22 IBM hosting, Maryland 
5/12 TriStar Web, New York 
4/20 Clever Internet Services, Atlanta 
4/20 DirectNet, Los Angeles 
TriStar had been listed on The Ultimate Web Host List . Clever
Internet, for its part, hosts over 15,000 domains.
..Go, go, said the bird
The odds just went up that Teledesic will cast its broadband
net around the world
Last week Teledesic  acquired a couple of partners with global
reach and lost a significant competitor . The news increases
the likelihood that broadband Internet access from low-earth-orbit
satellites will become a reality early in the next century. Moto-
rola's Celestri  project will fold its efforts into Teledesic's
competing scheme. Motorola will become the global team leader for
the effort -- replacing Boeing in that capacity. Motorola brings
into the project its erstwhile partner Matra Marconi Space, Europe's
largest satellite manufacturer. Some cash will change hands but
Motorola's main contribution is the value of design and development
work redirected from Celestri. Motorola's total investment is valued
at $750M, which buys them 26% of Teledesic. Wired's coverage 
stresses the tie-in with Iridium, a 66-satellite LEO cellular-phone
system that Motorola conceived and launched -- all birds now flying,
lights on this fall -- and notes that Motorola's Arizona production
facility may be the only place in the world with a prayer of manu-
facturing satellites fast enough to satisfy Teledesic's prodigious
..A style-sheet service
A painless way to try out style sheets on your site
Modern browsers (v4.0+) support Cascading Style Sheets in some form,
CSS1  or CSS2 . Most browser users rarely if ever encounter
style sheets, as they are not yet in widespread use. (One reason is
that Netscape's and Microsoft's implementations are divergent and
still somewhat unpredictable.) The World Wide Web Consortium has
put up eight sample style sheets  -- the Core Styles -- that you
can invoke remotely from your Web pages to get an idea how they work
and how your users react to them. Any visitor without a CSS-capable
browser will see your pages as normally. Just add this line inside
the <head></head> markup:
<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css"
where you replace "...." by one of the words
..TBTF bookshelf: "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates"
First of a series of reviews of works on dead trees
From time to time TBTF will review current books of interest to
its readers. Please write me if you have a review to propose or
if you're willing to entertain a reviewing assignment. (I can't
offer any remuneration besides net.fame, and this offer is strict-
ly BYOB -- buy your own books.)
Barbarians Led by Bill Gates
Microsoft from the Inside:
How the World's Richest Corporation Wields its Power
by Jennifer Edstrom and Marlin Eller
"Barbarians"  arrived Friday from amazon.com -- fortunately I
had ordered it a month ago. It's a fascinating read. The book is a
little wooden in spots and is laced with grammatical errors (and a
few technical bloopers) of a kind you don't expect to see under a
Henry Holt imprint. The authors clearly have some old axes to grind.
Oh, and the Windows 95 screen shot on the dust jacket is flipped
left-to-right. All that said, "Barbarians" rings plausible to the
ears of one who has spent years doing software development in com-
panies large and small. The portrait of Microsoft that emerges is
one more appropriate to the pen of a Scott Adams -- or a Joseph
Heller -- than of a Machievelli.
The book is causing quite a stir. The timing of its publication
could hardly be more felicitous; one might almost believe its launch
campaign had been orchestrated by a particularly devious PR agency.
Such as Microsoft's own Waggener Edstrom, co-founded by Pam Edstrom,
mother of one of the authors. (In the book she's called "Gates's
Keeper.") But I guarantee you Pam had nothing to do with this book.
Press reports say that mother and daughter are not at the moment on
speaking terms. In her forward Jennifer Edstrom thanks her mother,
"who always encouraged me to write -- even if this wasn't partic-
ularly what she had in mind."
The other author is a Microsoft insider of a different sort. Marlin
Eller was a lead developer at The Soft from 1982 to 1995 (no, I
don't know if they really call it "The Soft," the way MIT denizens
refer to "The 'Tute," but Eller implies that they do) where he
worked on Windows, Pen Windows, home automation, and advanced graph-
The book paints an unflattering portrait of Bill Gates that is jar-
ringly at odds with the public persona carefully crafted over the
years by Pam Edstrom. While this look from the inside alludes to
sharp dealing and anti-competitive practices, it will give little
comfort to those who picture Gates as an evil genius of business
strategy. For example Eller and Edstrom describe Microsoft's de-
cision to go it alone with Windows and NT -- abandoning long-time
partner IBM's OS/2, on which the two companies had worked together
for years -- as almost a spur-of-the-moment call, primed by the un-
sanctioned and after-hours efforts of one lonely engineer to make
Windows run in protected mode. If you credit this book, then it's
hard to argue that Microsoft had planned from the beginning to dump
Here are some areas in which "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates" illum-
inates the current antitrust case.
- Microsoft has said that Internet Explorer had been intended as
part of Windows as early as 1993 and 1994. Eller loudly pro-
claims that no-one in Microsoft was paying attention to the
Internet in any form until May 1995, when Gates wrote the memo
that (eventually) turned the company in the direction of the
Net. When Windows 95 was released, in August of 1995, IE 1.0
(Spyglass) shipped on the Plus Pack CD, an extra-cost option.
The only Internet functions available in Windows 95 were telnet
- Eller's view reinforces the Microsoft claim of a "Chinese wall"
between the OS and applications groups, but according to Eller
and Edstrom it may be more a matter of mismanagement than design.
A suspicion that Microsoft application programmers get an auto-
matic 6-month lead on ousiders, from the proximity of the Win-
dows group, has been a feature of investigators starting with the
FTC in the late 80s. The way the book describes it, development
was so chaotic and poorly managed that the last thing a harried,
stressed-out Windows OS developer on a late project wanted was to
see an application developer looming in his doorway, demanding
Finally, some quotes with light to shed on Microsoft's attitudes
toward competition and the legal process.
> [Eller, who was lead on the Pen Windows development effort,
> paraphrases his statement to a manager after that product
> shipped to a disinterested market:] From my view, Pen Windows
> was a winner. We shut down GO [Corp.]. They spent $75 million
> pumping up this market, we spent four million shooting them
> down. They're toast. That company is dead. They won't sell
> their [expletive] anymore. We did our job. [p.144]
> It became clear that legal actions were like forest fires,
> random and raging; they burn out, and win or lose, they cost
> many years and dollars. The developers were getting the
> message: you build a tall steeple, it attracts lightning.
> Hire a few more lawyers, nail on a few more lightning rods,
> and keep on trucking. [p.220]
> The issue of bundling applications into the operating system
> was just getting going, and it would not easily go away, the
> technical equivalent of Bill Clinton's "bimbo eruptions."
..Year 2000 corner
Time to head for the hills? Opinions vary
A topic you will begin seeing more of shortly is the "safe haven"
debate: is it ethical for Y2K workers who fear the worst to remove
themselves from the problem by moving their families out of cities?
Long-time systems and methodology guru Ed Yourden, author with his
daughter Jennifer of a non-technical Y2K preparedness book aimed at
families , has been interviewed recently for articles in prep-
aration by Wired magazine (August issue), TechWeek, and Forbes.
Yourden has talked publicly about his upcoming move to New Mexico.
An "empty nester," Yourden had been planning a move away from New
York City for several years; he is frank about the degree to which
Y2K concerns influenced the destination and the timing. (He plans
to stay involved with Y2K remediation work.) This discussion will
become shrill. Here is the first article I've seen on the subject
in the online media ; it notes that cross-posts between Y2K
discussions and the misc.survival newsgroup have been on the rise.
For a higher-level discussion of the possible effects of Y2K on the
economy, see this roundtable  convened by CIO magazine among
economists Garth Saloner, Stephen S. Roach, and Edward Yardeni. The
magazine carefully explains the methodology behind the virtual
roundtable and posts transcripts  of interviews with the par-
..Java in a nuthouse
A modest book proposal, or at least its cover
Kevin McCurley, "Thief Scientist" at the DigiCrime  site pro-
filed in TBTF for 12/31/95 , brings us a new bit of inspired
lunacy: a parody of an O'Reilly "Nutshell" book on Java, as written
by Microsoft. Here's the cover  of this "O'Really" book --
which, as far as I know, is all that exists of it). This "desktop
quick irreverence to Microsoft Java," 2nd edition, "ignores Java
1.1." After the success of Mr. Bunny's Guide to ActiveX , I
advise McCurley to actually write this book. He'd make out like a
N o t e s
> A "mort" is a great quantity or number. Its origin is obscure but the
OED  claims that the existence of the northern English dialect
word "murth," used in much the same sense, may have assisted in its
S o u r c e s
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Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.
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