1998 on the Web
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Monday, March 2
MICROSOFT, FRONT AND CENTER
Microsoft has agreed to drop some of the requirements it imposes on U.S. Internet Service Providers in its cross-promotional licensing deals, the company said Friday. This move is seen as an effort to cool the momentum of the U.S. Department of Justice in its actions against Microsoft related to unfair competitive practices. Microsoft's deals with ISPs have been the focus of regulatory inquiries both in Europe and the United States. The company's latest move comes amid continuing antitrust investigations, which include this week's congressional hearings on industry competition. U.S. lawmakers have questioned provisions of deals that allegedly forbid some ISPs from telling some of their new customers about the existence of Web browsers that compete with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, such as Netscape Communications' Navigator. The decision affects about ten to 15 ISPs in the United States--including EarthLink, my ISP--and 30 ISPs in Europe.
Gates, meanwhile, said he welcomed the chance to speak about competition in the computer industry, a topic that has dogged his company in recent months. "This is an amazing business that has thrived as a deregulated business", said Gates. Speaking to reporters, Gates made his remarks in anticipation of tomorrow's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, called "Market Power and Structural Change in the Software Industry." In addition to Gates, top executives from some of the industry's other software titans also will attend, including Barksdale, McNealy, Michael Dell of Dell Computer, and Doug Burgum of Great Plains Software. Gates also said that Windows 98, the successor to the Windows 95 operating system, is slated to ship by midyear despite a flurry of investigations by the Justice Department and at least 2 dozen state attorneys general.
Should be an exciting week, are you ready?
Thought for the day: "A computer program will always do what you tell it to do, but rarely what you want to do."
NO WINNERS IN WASHINGTON
My favorite quote came from Senator Slade Gorton of Washington, Microsoft's home state: "It is truly a strange day when business speaks out against free enterprise and promotes big government." Referring to comments by Sun's McNealy regarding Microsoft's alleged anti-competitive practices, Gorton echoed my sentiments that if the government jumps into the software fray full-time with regulation, the days of the free-spirited, independent software industry as an innovative economic force will be short lived. And we the consumers will suffer even more than we may now with Microsoft having a 90% corner on the personal computing operating system market. What's your opinion?
I've got to ask, why wasn't Steve Jobs, interim chairman of Apple Computer, invited to this proceeding? If there is any one company that has truly suffered the anguish of Microsoft's monopoly in the PC OS arena over the years, it is Apple.
Thought for the day: "Life is what happens while you are making other plans." - John Lennon
NO NEW YEAR'S EVE PARTY
The two primary approaches to remedying the problem are to expand the date fields to four digits or to add code that looks at those two existing digits and appends the proper century. To do this, code writers must first find all the dates, which could get tricky because of unconventional date coding by programmers. The code folks must then identify all instances in which an organization or corporation exchanges data electronically. Unless both exchanging parties are 2000-compliant, either could become easily contaminated by the noncompliant system. These changes don't come cheap. The consulting firm Gartner Group estimates up to $600 billion will be spent worldwide to rewrite 250 billion lines of code. Even more daunting is the testing of these changes, which could be the most time-consuming part of the process. If those affected by the Millennium Bug can't correct all the problems by Dec. 31, 1999, they must establish priorities and contingency plans to tackle the most important issues first.
While Y2K issues for PCs have been pretty well documented, Mac users look like they'll be able to squeak by relatively unscathed. Perhaps it's because of its 1984 introduction, four years after the first IBM PC went on sale. Or maybe it was just plain old common sense. But the Mac OS has always been Year 2000-savvy, even on that first 128k machine (before it was called the Mac OS). Here's the reason: The original Mac's date and time utilities store the date as one long number, counting up the seconds from January 1, 1904, 'til whatever the current time is. This plan is not foolproof, however, for while it handles 2000 with nary a shudder, it has a 6:28:16 a.m., February 6, 2040, problem. That's because the original scheme alotted only enough space to count the seconds until that moment in time. Current versions of the Mac OS have moved on to a more forward-thinking time-storage system (a 64-bit signed value, if you must know), which should allow it to keep on ticking until the year 29,940 -- and count back to 30,081 B.C. (handy for archeologists).
Thought for the day: "The saddest moment in a person's life comes but once."
BETTER NEVER, THAN LATE
Thought for the day: "Everyone thinks about changing the world, but no one thinks about changing himself." - Leo Tolstoy
ICE ON THE MOON
The presence of water ice at both lunar poles is strongly indicated by data from the spacecraft's neutron spectrometer instrument, according to mission scientists. Graphs of data ratios from the neutron spectrometer "reveal distinctive 3.4 percent and 2.2 percent dips in the relevant curves over the northern and southern polar regions, respectively," Binder said. "This is the kind of data 'signature' one would expect to find if water ice is present." However, the Moon's water ice is not concentrated in polar ice sheets, mission scientists cautioned. "While the evidence of water ice is quite strong, the water 'signal' itself is relatively weak," said Dr. William Feldman, co-investigator and spectrometer specialist at the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM. "Our data are consistent with the presence of water ice in very low concentrations across a significant number of craters." Using models based on other Lunar Prospector data, Binder and Feldman predict that water ice is confined to the polar regions and exists at only a 0.3 percent to 1 percent mixing ratio in combination with the Moon's rocky soil.
How much lunar water ice has been detected? Assuming a water ice depth of about a foot and a half (.5 meters) -- the depth to which the neutron spectrometer's signal can penetrate -- Binder and Feldman estimate that the data are equivalent to an overall range of 11 million to 330 million tons (10-300 million metric tons) of lunar water ice, depending upon the assumptions of the model used. This quantity is dispersed over 3,600 to 18,000 square miles (10,000-50,000 square kilometers) of water ice-bearing deposits across the northern pole, and an additional 1,800 to 7,200 square miles (5,000-20,000 square kilometers) across the southern polar region. Furthermore, twice as much of the water ice mixture was detected by Lunar Prospector at the Moon's north pole as at the south.
There are various ways to estimate the economic potential of the detected lunar water ice as a supporting resource for future human exploration of the Moon. One way is to estimate the cost of transporting that same volume of water ice from Earth to orbit. Currently, it costs about $10,000 to put one pound of material into orbit. NASA is conducting technology research with the goal of reducing that figure by a factor of 10, to only $1,000 per pound. Using an estimate of 33 million tons from the lower range detected by Lunar Prospector, it would cost $60 trillion to transport this volume of water to space at that rate, with unknown additional cost of transport to the Moon's surface. The third launch in NASA's Discovery Program of lower cost, highly focused planetary science missions, Lunar Prospector is being implemented for NASA by Lockheed Martin, Sunnyvale, CA, with mission management by NASA Ames. The total cost to NASA of the mission is $63 million.
Thought for the day: "When I was young, I could remember anything, whether it happened or not." - Mark Twain
1998 ON THE WEB GOES MULTI-LINGUAL
To choose the language you prefer, simply go to 1998 on the Web's home page with the navigation bar at the top of each page, and select the country flag for the language you wish to display. Navigation from then on will remain in your language of choice. I do not speak any of the languages on the menu besides English, so I can't vouch for things like grammar and context. Hopefully none of the software generated translations will be offensive to anyone. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts about this new feature of 1998 on the Web.
For now, this diary will remain English only, it is difficult enough to work a full-time job during the day, and then provide daily commentary on the goings-on in the world of the Internet and the computer industry. Rest assured, though, I am working diligently at creating an automated method of translation for each daily diary entry. Look for the translation feature to be included for the diary in the coming weeks. In the mean time, enjoy the rest of the site in 6 languages, and keep coming back for more.
Thought for the day: "If you love what you do, you'll never work another day in your life."
IMPROVE YOUR SURFING
COURT ONCE AGAIN
TO FIGHT BACK
Thought for the day: "Imagine if every Thursday your shoes exploded if you tied them the usual way. This happens to us all the time with computers, and nobody thinks of complaining." - Jeff Raskin
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