TBTF for 1999-07-08: Intercession

Keith Dawson (dawson@world.std.com)
Thu, 8 Jul 1999 16:58:02 -0400


TBTF for 1999-07-08: Intercession

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

ISSN: 1524-9948

This issue: < http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-07-08.html >

C o n t e n t s

Anything ICANN do
US admits crypto export controls are about signals intelligence
Baby steps toward privacy marketing
Google turbocharges Netscape's search page
@Home to limit upstream bandwidth
Hazards of the young and mobile
Is your cell phone damaging your brain?
Neural confusion engendered by PDAs
SETI at home
Maybe this year a storm
Best of the Web logs
Two, two, two sites in one
An online auction for domain-name speculators
A line around the world
Odd bits
The patron saint of the Internet

..Anything ICANN do

The long strange trip gets longer and stranger

The Internet Committee for Assigned Names and Numbers was expecting
its work, opening up to competition the process of assigning domain
names, to be a minefield. They weren't expecting, perhaps, the snake-
infested swamp or the barbed wire or the snipers or the high invis-
ible planes dropping bombs on them. ICANN accuses the domain naming
incumbent, Network Solutions, with fomenting trouble, in the form of
an open letter from Ralph Nader [1] and a Congressional investiga-
tion (see below). NSI too has its problems, with an EU antitrust
investigation in the works (see below). Amid the acrimony and the
duelling press releases, a source of information and open discussion
has emerged. David Post, Michael Froomkin, and Dave Farber have
established ICANNWatch [2] to serve as a forum for informed debate
about ICANN's role in managing the Domain Name System. Post auth-
ored the essay cited in the previous issue of TBTF [1] calling for
a Net-era incarnation of the Federalist Papers. ICANNWatch bids to
fill this role.

Here are some of the recent developments in the domain-naming saga
that began with the International Ad Hoc Committee nearly three
years ago. This resource [3] includes every story on domain-naming
policy that has appeared in TBTF since before the IAHC was formed.

- Test phase extended. As the shared registration system test
neared its end date last month, only one of the initial five
alternate registrars (register.com) had managed to register any
domain names for the public. The others, after long wrangling
with Network Solutions over terms of the agreement NSI required
before it would grant access to its registry, finally were ready
to begin as the test ended. The Commerce Department brokered a
last-minute deal extending the test by three weeks [4]. So far,
so typical of a beta test in this industry. (Note this effect of
the test: NSI's whois server no longer contains all of the .com
names. GeekTools provides an alternate interface to whois [5]
that works no matter who registered the name. It also works for
country-code domains as well as TLDs.)

- Stalemate looms. NSI and ICANN have each signed a cooperative
agreement with the US government, but not yet with each other
[6]. NSI threatens not to recognize ICANN's authority to manage
the process of granting domain names, though its obligation to do
so appears to be fully spelled out in "Amendment 11" [7] to the
cotract with the US government signed by NSI last fall. If NSI
does not sign ICANN's accreditation agreement by the time the
test phase ends, on 1999-07-16, ICANN may decide [8] that the
company cannot participate further in the granting of domain
names. NSI shareholders would not be best pleased.

- Congress probes ICANN. On 22 June Rep. Thomas Bliley, the chair-
man of the House Commerce Committee, issued a blistering attack
against ICANN [9] and opened an investigation into its actions.
The crux of his complaint is that ICANN may have exceeded its
authority when it decided to fund its operations by assessing a
fee of $1 per domain name granted. ICANN says it will cooperate
with any investigation, and blames NSI for setting Bliley upon

- EU probes NSI. The European Union is investigating whether a
Network Solutions contract for new registrars violates Conti-
nental antitrust laws [10]. NSI might be forgiven for wondering
whether CORE whispered in the ear of EU staffers. The Council of
Registrars is based in Switzerland. Besides being one of the five
designated testers of open registration, CORE was the end-point
of the IAHC process [11]. As such it had gained broad interna-
tional credibility -- bluntly, Europeans believed that CORE was
not totally captive to US interests. In this light ICANN is
viewed from Europe with considerably more suspicion.

- Moving the root. ICANN is working on a plan to move the A root
server -- the base of the domain name system -- from NSI's prem-
ises to California [12]. NSI is obliged under its contract to
give over responsibility for the A server when so instructed by
the Commerce Department.

- New accreditations. On 1999-07-07 ICANN blessed 15 new organi-
zations [13] to act as registrars when the process is opened up
beyond the initial testers. In all 57 organizations have received
accreditation to date. NSI is not among them.

- NSI is cracked. On 2 July crackers redirected traffic intended for
Network Solutions to the sites of CORE and ICANN ([14] requires
cookies and free login; [15] doesn't). Early reports claimed that
the unexpected traffic brought down ICANN's servers as well. The
FBI was investigating an ISP, SoftAware, that happens to be housed
in the same building as ICANN. SoftAware said in a press release
[16] that it is cooperating fully.

- ICANN is going broke. Because NSI has not agreed to pay the $1-
per-name fee that ICANN's accreditation agreement requires, the
nonprofit organization is on the verge of bankruptcy [17]. The
president of an ISP trade group said, "To fail because of politics
would be one thing, but to fail because of money would be a catas-

[1] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-06-14.html#s04
[2] http://www.icannwatch.org/
[3] http://tbtf.com/resource/domain-name-hist.html
[4] http://www.thestandard.net/articles/article_print/0,1454,5343,00.html
[5] http://www.geektools.com/cgi-bin/whois.cgi
[6] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38412,00.html
[7] http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/proposals/docnsi100698.htm
[8] http://cyber.harvard.edu/icann/berlin/archive/open2.html
[9] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38200,00.html
[10] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38546,00.html
[11] http://tbtf.com/resource/domain-name-hist.html#1997-11-10
[12] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38613,00.html
[13] http://www.icann.org/icann-pr06july99.htm
[14] http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/07/cyber/articles/03icann.html
[15] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,38721,00.html
[16] http://www.softaware.com/about/pr990703.html
[17] http://www.news.com/News/Item/Textonly/0,25,0-38847,00.html

..US admits crypto export controls are about signals intelligence

Fighting a losing battle to keep Echelon relevant

In its petition for a re-hearing of the Bernstein case [18], the Jus-
tice Department admits, for the first time, that the true goal of US
export controls on cryptography is to preserve the country's ability
to gather SIGINT. The petition is refreshingly free of the incend-
iary cant about stopping pedophiles and drug dealers that federal
authorities customarily emit as rationale for the ever-more-dubious

> The government's foreign intelligence-gathering activities
> include signals intelligence (SIGINT), the collection and
> analysis of information from foreign electromagnetic signals.
> The SIGINT capabilities of the United States can be signifi-
> cantly compromised by the use of encryption.

[18] http://jya.com/bernstein-pet.htm

..Baby steps toward privacy marketing

Just because they have a policy doesn't mean they respect your privacy

In an early issue of TBTF [19] Nick Szabo predicted [20] that we would
see companies competing for customers by touting their respect for
privacy. Under the implied threat of government privacy regulation,
this trend seems finally to be emerging. In April IBM, the second
largest Web advertiser, announced they would no longer advertise on
sites lacking a clear privacy policy [21], [22]. Earlier this month
Microsoft, the number one advertiser, followed suit [23]. Now Disney
has upped the ante in the privacy marketing game [24]: as of 1 Octo-
ber Disney.com will neither place ads with nor accept ads from com-
panies that lack a privacy policy. The new rule also applies to Dis-
ney's other media properties, Excite, GO network, ESPN.com, ABC.com,
ABCNews.com, and Family.com.

Personally I consider these actions to be baby steps. The existence
of a privacy policy does not demonstrate a company's commitment to
protect consumer privacy -- merely a pledge not to violate it in
secret. I would be more impressed if Microsoft announced that as of
a given date they would no longer use cookies to track users and
would not sell or transfer any identifiable consumer data to any
other organization; nor would they accept or place advertising with
any company that did.

[19] http://tbtf.com/archive/1995-11-03.html
[20] http://tbtf.com/resource/priv-marketing.html
[21] http://www.internetworld.com/print/1999/04/12/ecomm/19990412-ibm.html
[22] http://www.adage.com/interactive/articles/19990405/article1.html
[23] http://www.foxmarketwire.com/wires/0622/f_ap_0622_74.sml
[24] http://www.lycos.com/cgi-bin/pursuit?query=3224&fs=docid&cat=zdnet&mtemp=zdnet

..Google turbocharges Netscape's search page

Netcenter becomes the preferred search destination overnight

Google [25] is currently among the most accurate and useful search
engines on the Web. TBTF profiled Google on 1998-05-11 [26] -- the
first press coverage for the site in English. (This was before its
founders had left Stanford.) Now Google emerges on the Netcenter
portal [27], replacing Excite. The deal makes perfect sense after
Google's recent influx of $25M in venture money [28] from (among
others) Kleiner Perkins, a first-round investor in Netscape. The
company was also motivated to drop Excite after the latter was
purchased by @Home, a rival of Netscape's parent AOL.

Search.netscape.com is now my first stop for any Net search. Net-
center combines Google's highly relevant results with its "open
directory" listing, to which thousands of amateur catalogers con-

First word on this story came from TBTF Irregular Gary Stock <gstock
at ingetech dot com>, whose company [29] watches the Web with a nano-
scope. Gary noticed google.netscape.com in his logs at 2:01 am (EDT
-0400) on 1999-06-24.

[25] http://www.google.com/
[26] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-05-11.html#s08
[27] http://search.netscape.com/
[28] http://www.internetnews.com/fina-news/article/0,1087,5_131721,00.html
[29] http://www.ingetech.com/

..@Home to limit upstream bandwidth

The free lunch is running out for the early cable adopters

The cable Internet provider is fighting a PR backlash [30] after news
leaked of a planned nationwide bandwidth cap, for upstream data, of
128K. An internal @Home memo [31] intended for cable system operators
was posted to Usenet. It details the company's strategy for handling
the anticipated customer firestorm once the policy (which the memo
calls the ONadvantage Upstream Enhancement) is announced nationwide.

@Home first instituted such a cap in Fremont, CA, one of the first
communities to see widespread adoption of the cable service. The
initial high upstream bandwidth (1 Mbit/sec.) and the "always-on"
nature of the service tempted an abnormally high proportion of
Fremont customers to commit what @Home calls "subscriber abuse" --
operating Web servers, Shoutcast servers, and FTP warez depots out
of their homes. (That's a funny term, "subscriber abuse"; from a
subscriber's point of view the label could as easily fit @Home's

For a clear-headed look at some of the real issues of bandwidth and
average subscriber behavior, read Restil's posting in this Slashdot
discussion [32].

[30] http://www.internetnews.com/isp-news/article/0,1087,8_144121,00.html
[31] http://x24.deja.com/[ST_rn=ps]/getdoc.xp?AN=487238496&CONTEXT=930191437.185663528&hitnum=15
[32] http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=99%2F06%2F27%2F1342220&cid=&pid=0&startat=&threshold=2&mode=thread&commentsort=3&op=Change

..Hazards of the young and mobile

..Is your cell phone damaging your brain?

The research arm of the cell-phone industry, Wireless Technology Re-
search, was asked to get to the bottom of persistent rumors that
cell-phone use may endanger human brains. Their results [33] suggest
a correlation between cell-phone emissions and brain tumors and DNA
breakage in rats. While far from conclusive, this research demands
in-depth follow-up studies.

[33] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/technology/story/20321.html?wnpg=all

..Neural confusion engendered by PDAs

A medical specialist says she is seeing an upswing in cases of loss
of muscular coordination, apparently caused by use of Palm Pilots
and similar handheld devices [34]. (Grafittitis?) Seems the act of
writing characters each on top of the last can induce long-term
confusion in some susceptible individuals. Such people find it
nearly impossible to write on paper, producing instead a baffling

[34] http://www.sfbg.com/wire/45.html

..SETI at home

Find little green men in your spare cycles

When last we visited the SETI @ Home project [35], developing soft-
ware to harness the spare cycles of myriads of Internet-connected
computers to look for a needle of signal in a haystack the size of
the galaxy, the Berkeley group expected to offer software in the
spring of 1998. More than a year late, SETI @ Home [36] is offering
data-reduction software in the form of screensavers for Windows,
Macintosh, and Unix systems. The founders were hoping to convince
150,000 users to dedicate their computers' spare cycles to the an-
alysis of Aricibo radio-telescope data. They were overwhelmed [37]
by more than 500,000 signups in the first weeks. Unfortunately an
early victim of this Net flash crowd was the SETI @ Home server
that distributes chunks of raw data for processing: for a number
of weeks it repeatedly assigned volunteer machines the same two
days' worth of Aricibo data. (It's fixed now.) If you have not
signed up for SETI @ Home, and if your spare cycles aren't already
dedicated to some other good cause such as finding Mersenne primes
[38], I invite you to join [39] the TBTF Extraterrestrials group set
up by TBTF Irregular Chuck Bury. This is how long you can expect
your machine to run as it chews over a single "work unit" [40]:

46 hours Pentium / Windows
26 PowerPC / MacOS
21 386 / Linux
14 Pentium / BeOS
7 MIPS / IRIX 6.2

[35] http://tbtf.com/archive/1997-09-01.html#Tipc
[36] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/
[37] http://www.wired.com/news/print_version/technology/story/20088.html?wnpg-all
[38] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-03-02.html#Tipc
[39] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/cgi?cmd=team_join_form&id=5962
[40] http://setiathome.ssl.berkeley.edu/stats/platforms.html

..Maybe this year a storm

OK, so the 1998 Leonids fizzled. Just wait

Last November's Leonid meteor storm [41] didn't happen. The Leonids
are like that. To paraphrase Fred Whipple on predicting the bright-
ness of comets, "If you must bet, bet on a horse, not on the Leo-
nids!" Three times a century when earth passes near comet Tempel-
Tuttle, the source of the Leonids, conditions are ripe for the ord-
inary November 17th shower to blossom into a full-blown gale. 1998's
display featured a larger-than normal proportion of big, spectacular
bolides [42], but the peak rate of meteoroids was around 250/hr.; in
1966 the peak had been 144,000/hr. Scientists are cautiously advan-
cing the possibility that 1999 may be a big Leonid year [43]. Satel-
lite operators will probably, once again, idle down their birds and
turn their backs on the constellation Leo.

[41] http://tbtf.com/archive/1998-10-12.html#s08
[42] http://www.leonidslive.com/
[43] http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/ast22jun99_1.htm

..Best of the Web logs

Herewith a few diverting items culled from the Web logs [44] I read
several times a week. They are now listed among the TBTF Sources

[44] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-05-08.html#s09
[45] http://tbtf.com/sources.html

..Two, two, two sites in one

>>From Internet Alchemy [46], 1999-06-24

Here is a novel solution to the dilemma of overlapping trademarks
for the same domain name. The Magex site [47] contains two side-by-
side frames. On the left, from the UK, is NatWest bank's site for
their new Magex product, a technology for secure digital envelopes.
On the right is the Italian company Magex, which sells production
and planning equipment.

[46] http://alchemy.openjava.org/index.html
[47] http://www.magex.com/

..An online auction for domain-name speculators

>>From Infosift [48], 1999-06-23

Dotbroker [49] applies the eBay model to domain name speculation.
When I visited there were only a few hundred names for sale, and
none of them had seen a bid yet.

[48] http://www.jjg.net/infosift/
[49] http://www.dotbroker.com/

..A line around the world

>>From peterme [50], 1999-06-19

Remember the conceptual art of the 60s and 70s? Let's say the artist
wants to connect the world with a phone call. He'll locate people on
each continent, station each one near a pair of phone booths, and
have each in turn call the next continent's left-hand phone from
his/her right-hand phone. When all the calls have been placed, each
agent holds a receiver to each ear, and speaks. Voila. Well, visual
artist John Maeda [51] has updated the project for the Net. Using a
Java applet, he asks users to help draw a line around the world [52].
You'll find my contribution at line number 4380, 1999-06-25. Dai Nip-
pon Printing sponsors One Line.

[50] http://www.peterme.com/
[51] http://www.maedastudio.com/

..Odd bits

>>From Reuters Oddly Enough [53]

This page features five or ten strange news items daily. Recent
ones include the story of four drownings in a pond in Disney's made-
up town of Celebration [54] (aka Stepford-Upon-the-Swamp), and news
of turmoil in the Miss France contest [55] as citizens alleging a
rigged contest convince a court to decide who is fairest in all the
land. Thanks to TBTF Irregular Lewis A. Shadoff, PhD <lshadoff at
brazosport dot cc dot tx dot us> for pointing me toward the island
of strangeness in Reuters's calm sea of news.

[53] http://news.excite.com/odd/
[54] http://news.excite.com/news/r/990622/15/odd-disney-deaths
[55] http://news.excite.com/news/r/990624/10/odd-france-beauty

..The patron saint of the Internet

St. Isador, intercede for us in times of packet loss

A group of Spanish Catholics called Observation Service of Internet
[56] (Spanish only) declared on 14 January in Seville that they had
located the saint most appropriate to intercede for suffering com-
puter users and weary Web surfers. The group proposes to add com-
puter technicians, computer users, computers, and the Internet to
the ambit of St. Isador [57], officially patron saint of school-
children and students. Isador was born in Seville in 560. He wrote
a dictionary, "Etymologies," that the Spanish group compares to a
database. "He began a system of thought [that] is very modern, not-
withstanding the fact it was discovered in the sixth century. Saint
isidore accomplished his work with great coherence: it is complete
and its features are complementary in themselves" [sic] [58]. This
BBC coverage [59] quotes a spokesman for the Catholic Media Office
thus: "There are patron saints of many things, so why not let the
Internet have one? It is a good idea and might be able to help us
all when we are about to crash." The Vatican has not commented pub-
licly on the proposal.

Theological conundrum: if the Pope officially adds to the workload
of a particular saint, can that saint decline the honor? Serious
discussion is invited.

[56] http://www.ua-ambit.org/soi/soi.htm
[57] http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainti04.htm
[58] http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/9901/ze990114.html#item7
[59] http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_368000/368891.stm

N o t e s

> After the previous issue's spotlight on the 10,000th TBTF subscriber,
and the article on new units denoting powers of two [60], several
readers asked whether I would be celebrating the 10-kibi-th sub-
scriber. Oh all right. Welcome Curt Newton <cjnewton at crescent-
nets dot com>. Curt is architecture director at Crescent Networks.
His appeal to you:

> Please read quickly. I'm trying to preserve most of my 15 min-
> utes of fame for after I strike it rich in this networking
> startup game, and return to the strictly non-commercial world
> of drumming, jazz, and improvised music [61].

[60] http://tbtf.com/archive/1999-06-14.html#s11
[61] http://curtnewton.home.mindspring.com

> Since TBTF began open publication I've mused on how to produce in-
come from the service without contravening the principles that
inform it. Quoting from the FAQ [62]:

> It's not really about money. TBTF creates more value in the
> world by circulating for free. Also, many of the obvious
> ways one can make money from a newsletter and Web site --
> advertising, micropayments -- are unappealing to me and I
> won't impose them on you. Subscriptions are less object-
> ionable but the surveys I've done indicate that any manda-
> tory charge would slash the readership to a small fraction
> of what it is now. Sponsorship is a possibility, but I place
> a high value on my independence, and email from readers in-
> dicates that they do, too.

Meanwhile, the newsletter has grown to the point where Net access,
telephony, Web space, bandwidth charges, and domain-name fees com-
prise a fair fraction of my monthly outgo.

The solution: TBTF is and will remain free. And I've set up a TBTF
Benefactors program [63] for those of you who get value from the
publication and are in a position to contribute to its upkeep. If
you want to become a TBTF Benefactor, please visit this secure Kagi
account [64]. Contributions are accepted by credit card in any
amount from $5 US. TBTF Benefactors' names are listed on the site
[63], if they so choose.

[62] http://tbtf.com/faq.html
[63] http://tbtf.com/the-benefactors.html
[64] https://order.kagi.com/?UM2

S o u r c e s

> For a complete list of TBTF's email and Web sources, see
http://tbtf.com/sources.html .

TBTF home and archive at http://tbtf.com/ . To (un)subscribe send
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Keith Dawson dawson@world.std.com
Layer of ash separates morning and evening milk.

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