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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  March 1998  

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Monday, March 16  

Does Java really matter? If you've been asking yourself this question, welcome to the club. Propelled by incessant streams of hype, the technology has attracted far more attention than its few successes would warrant. But PC Magazine's recent survey of Java tools, environments, applets and builders shows Java momentum on the upswing -- and in places that might not be apparent. It's emerging as an evolutionary technology that will subtly but significantly change the course of computing. In the business world, for example, Java makes sense for deployment in extranets so that you can create apps to use with your customers and suppliers and not have to worry about controlling the environments they're running. You shouldn't ignore Java's prowess as a good back-end development environment, either. JavaBeans offer a promising mechanism for building general-purpose business components that you can reuse with minimal modifications.

The strength of cyberspace is in its numbers. The reason asking questions online works is that a lot of knowledgeable people are reading the questions. And if even a few of them offer intelligent answers, the sum total of world knowledge increases. The Internet itself was founded and grew because scientists wanted to share information. Gradually, the rest of us got in on the act. Don't be afraid to share what you know. It's especially polite to share the results of your investigations with others. If you're an expert yourself, there's even more you can do. Many people freely post all kinds of resource lists and bibliographies, from lists of online legal resources to lists of popular books. If you're a leading participant in a discussion group that lacks a FAQ, consider writing one. If you've researched a topic that you think would be of interest to others, write it up and post it. Sharing your knowledge is fun. It's a long-time net tradition. This series comes from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea from Albion Books.

A U.S. government agency has advised Internet users that the use of cookies -- the popular technique for tracking website visitors -- does not compromise the privacy of users or the security of their computers. Claims made by privacy activists over recent months that cookies have the potential to be used by website operators to spy on Internet users or to deliver harmful code to their computers are incorrect, the U.S. Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability said in an information bulletin issued Friday. Cookies are lines of data sent to an Internet user's computer by some Web servers when the user's Web browser visits the server. These cookies remain in the user's computer and can thereafter be read and updated when the browser requests pages from the same server. Web cookies are popularly seen as programs that can scan a hard drive and gather information about the computer's user, the bulletin said. Such information allegedly includes "passwords, credit card numbers, and a list of the software on your computer." But "none of this is close to the truth," it said. Information gathered using cookies -- chiefly being a user's numerical Internet address, browser type, and OS type -- can also be recorded in Web servers' log files, the bulletin said. "Cookies just make it easier," it said. A server "cannot find out your name or e-mail address, or anything about your computer using cookies," the bulletin added. I personally agree totally with the Dept. of Energy's bulletin that cookies are harmless. What's
your opinion?

Thought for the day: "Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it."



Tuesday, March 17  

A new bug that crashes Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.01 browser is an annoyance but does not seem to pose a security threat. Because of the flaw, a Web page designer can exploit the HTML "object" tag to make a user's browser crash and most likely force him to restart the system. The bug has been tested and found on IE 4.01 for Windows 95 and NT 4.0 systems. Microsoft acknowledged the bug but stressed that a mischievous programmer must add a specific block of HTML to his Web site to affect users. The worst-case risk apparently is loss of any unsaved data and settings when the browser crashes. Neither Microsoft nor Abe Getchell, a system administrator who posted news of the bug to the Bugtraq mailing list, have found more serious security implications. Microsoft isn't in a hurry to fix the problem.

"Flaming" is what people do when they express a strongly held opinion without holding back any emotion. It's the kind of message that makes people respond, "Oh come on, tell us how you really feel." Tact is not its objective. Does Netiquette forbid flaming? Not at all. Flaming is a long-standing network tradition (and Netiquette never messes with tradition). Flames can be lots of fun, both to write and to read. And the recipients of flames sometimes deserve the heat. But Netiquette does forbid the perpetuation of flame wars -- series of angry letters, most of them from two or three people directed toward each other, that can dominate the tone and destroy the camaraderie of a discussion group. It's unfair to the other members of the group. And while flame wars can initially be amusing, they get boring very quickly to people who aren't involved in them. They're an unfair monopolization of bandwidth. This series comes from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea from Albion Books.

Ever wonder what an Autobot is? How about a broken pipe? Well, wonder no longer. Thanks to Vincent James and Erin Jansen, we now have
NetLingo, an online dictionary containing definitions of hundreds of words that are emerging as a new vocabulary surrounding the technology and community of the Internet and the World Wide Web. This kewl zone was acknowledged as one of PC Magazine's 1997 Top 100 Web Sites. So steer clear of cornea gumbo, clean up your crapplet, and hyperlink right over to these cybrarians.

Thought for the day: "If a trainstation is where the train stops, what's a workstation...?"



Wednesday, March 18  

Apple Computer demonstrated the first central processing unit (CPU) built in copper-metalization technology. At the Seybold Seminars this week in New York, Apple's interim CEO, Steve Jobs, showed a Macintosh computer running at 400 MHz with a prototype PowerPC chip from IBM Microelectronics. The demonstration not only represents a step forward in Mac performance, but also the emergence of a delicate political problem for Apple. The Cupertino, Calif., company has struggled to maintain good relationships with both IBM and Motorola, the suppliers of PowerPC processors. But a gap is opening between the process capabilities as IBM's copper-metalization process comes online. Such a gap could make it difficult -- if not impossible -- for Motorola to continue as an alternate source of high-end PowerPC CPUs. The "copper" PowerPC chip that debuted Monday probably won't begin to make an impact until next year, but IBM is already aggressively lobbying for market acceptance of its copper-based technology. Chips made with copper conduct electricity better than aluminum, the metal traditionally used for microprocessors, and allow the chip size to be reduced. Eventually, IBM will be able to make processors with speeds of up to 1,000 MHz (1 GHz) using the copper process.

Of course, you'd never dream of going through your colleagues' desk drawers. So naturally you wouldn't read their email either. In 1993, a highly regarded foreign correspondent in the Moscow bureau of the Los Angeles Times was caught reading his coworkers' email. His colleagues became suspicious when system records showed that someone had logged in to check their email at times when they knew they hadn't been near the computer. So they set up a sting operation. They planted false information in messages from another one of the paper's foreign bureaus. The reporter read the notes and later asked colleagues about the false information. Bingo! As a disciplinary measure, he was immediately reassigned to another position at the paper's Los Angeles bureau. Failing to respect other people's privacy is not just bad Netiquette. It could also cost you your job. This series comes from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea from Albion Books.

Federal investigators today revealed for the first time the real name of - and the scope of the investigation against - an Israeli teenager implicated in widespread and systemic attacks against US military servers. In a statement released today, the Department of Justice said that Ehud Tenebaum had been arrested by Israeli National Police for "illegally accessing computers belonging to the Israeli and United States governments, as well as hundreds of other commercial and educational institutions in the United States and elsewhere." The news also served notice to malicious computer crackers that the US is now a self-declared global cybercrime policeman.

Thought for the day: "A computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention in human history - with the possible exceptions of handguns and tequila." - Mitch Ratliffe


Thursday, March 19  

Microsoft today zipped past Intel to become the "best performing company" financially, according to a ranking by Business Week, while American icons Nike and Coca-Cola slipped down the list. High-technology firms Dell, Cisco Systems, Intel, and Compaq Computer rounded out the top five on Business Week's list, a reminder of the industry's growing clout in the U.S. economy. Oracle tumbled from No. 11 to No. 102 in the annual ranking, however. The Business Week ranking concludes that "for every dollar in sales, Microsoft pulls out 29.7 cents in profits--a spectacular margin that grew by 13 percent over the year before. That's almost four times the average for its industry, and better than all but four other companies in the entire S&P 500."

Some people in cyberspace have more power than others. There are wizards in MUDs (multi-user dungeons), experts in every office, and system administrators in every system. Knowing more than others, or having more power than they do, does not give you the right to take advantage of them. For example, sysadmins should never read private email. This series comes from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea from Albion Books.

At the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover, Germany,
Intel demonstrated a PC with Pentium II processor running at 700 MHz--more than twice the rate of today's speed king, which runs at 333 MHz. At that speed, a Pentium II-based PC will have the performance of what was the world's fastest supercomputer only a few years ago. 700-MHz chips should hit the market in the next few years, according to Intel. "This is still a technology demonstration, but that is where we are going," spokesman Michael Sullivan said. Intel has even faster chips in the works. In a news conference, senior vice president Albert Yu showed a simulation of the 64-bit Merced processor that is due next year and should run at even higher speeds. Sullivan would not say how fast Merced chips would run, but noted they will be made on a more advanced process than Pentium II. "Past history is that a new process gets you more speed," Sullivan said.

Thought for the day: "C makes it easy to shoot yourself in the foot. C++ makes it harder, but when you do, it blows away your whole leg."- Bjarne Stroustrup, creator of C+



Friday, March 20  

Microsoft's Windows 98 operating system will probably follow the same pricing structure as Windows 95, as Microsoft prepares to launch the next version of its ubiquitous software. The full installation of Windows 98 will cost around $209, the same as the full installation of Windows 95, Microsoft sources say. An upgrade from Windows 95 will cost around $109, the cost of upgrading from a previous version of Windows to Windows 95. Selling Windows 98 at the same price as Windows 95 is a bargain, Microsoft believes, given the advanced set of features the new version of the operating system offers. Windows 98 will offer an integrated Web browser, a television tuner and program guide, faster application loading, and built-in support for multiple monitors, DVD (digital versatile disc) technology, and USB (universal serial bus) connections.

Everyone was a network newbie once. So when someone makes a mistake -- whether it's a spelling error or a spelling flame, a stupid question or an unnecessarily long answer -- be kind about it. If it's a minor error, you may not need to say anything. Even if you feel strongly about it, think twice before reacting. Having good manners yourself doesn't give you license to correct everyone else. If you do decide to inform someone of a mistake, point it out politely, and preferably by private email rather than in public. Give people the benefit of the doubt; assume they just don't know any better. And never be arrogant or self-righteous about it. Just as it's a law of nature that spelling flames always contain spelling errors, notes pointing out Netiquette violations are often examples of poor Netiquette. This series comes from the book Netiquette by Virginia Shea from Albion Books.

Be announced it is shipping a revised version of the Be operating system (BeOS) that's the first to be available for Intel-based systems, marking a transition away from the company's roots in the Macintosh platform.
Be is positioning its software as a "specialty OS" for multimedia production that will run on systems alongside a "general purpose" OS such as Windows 95 or the Mac OS. The BeOS was originally designed for use on PowerPC-based, Be-manufactured hardware, but it was ported to run on other PowerPC systems, primarily Macintosh-compatible computers. With only one major Mac clone maker remaining, however, the company's ability to distribute the software to a wide enough audience has been severely curtailed. In order to remain a viable "alternative" OS, the company started developing a version of the OS for computers using Intel processors.

Thought for the day: "Just as the human eye sees only a small part of the light spectrum and the human ear can detect only a fraction of nature's sounds so that which is comprehensible to the human mind is only a small fraction of our reality."



Saturday, March 21  

If you have been following the computer industry since at least the early 80s you will remember the name Steve Wozniak. Woz, as he is known, has a top spot in the temple of computer gods. After all, Woz co-founded Apple with his high school pal Steve Jobs and was the technical genius behind the first successful desktop computer, the Apple II. In 1985, tired of his role as manager, Wozniak walked away from Apple with more than $100 million. So what's up with the bearded wonder these days? The Woz now lives in Los Gatos, Calif. with his wife Suzanne and six kids, and teaches fifth grade. He still tracks the company he co-founded and is bummed about the current state of Apple. Not only did it miss the boat by not licensing its operating system, he says, it's now spending too much time on Rhapsody, a new operating system. Does he ever miss working at Apple? "Never," says Wozniak. "It is the hardest thing in the world, being a superb engineer where every project has to be as good as any human can do." You can visit Steve Wozniak on the Web.

Information monopoly protesters armed with cream pies waited outside Bill Gates' hotel as the Microsoft chairman arrived in the Philippines today for invite-only business meetings with the nation's top politicians and technology conglomerates. But their target managed to avoid the demonstration, and the pickets had to be content with pummeling a man wearing a Gates mask. About 20 members of the Philippines Greens group amassed outside a hotel in Makati City to denounce the Ramos government's moves to protect intellectual property and to blast Microsoft's dominance of the global software industry. The group, a local movement involved in environmental, political, and social issues, accused Gates of being "the top representative of these information monopolies." Philippine Greens said police have raided at least one school suspected of using pirated Microsoft software and tightened rules on reproduction of books and other software, putting them out of reach of many in this poor nation.

Most of us have always wondered what sites on the net have established links to us. Where are we getting some of our traffic from? There are many web sites that will link to you without even letting you know. I know you might find this hard to believe, but many site owners who find your site interesting may link to it from their site under the "resources" or "other related links" webpage. What about those people that you have exchanged links with? Are those links still active, or have they been removed? There is a way to find out who has linked to you:

Alta Vista has a feature that will show you every page they have on file that has a link to your website. Go to the main page and type in your URL (in the form http://www.abc.com/xyz or just www.acb.com/xyz). Alta Vista has the most extensive monitoring of hyperlinks in HTML pages. Within moments it will bring up the results of the sites that are linked to you.

Thought for the day: "Experience is often what you get when you were expecting something else."



Sunday, March 22  

I spent the weekend upgrading the operating system on an IBM AS/400 computer to a release level ready for all mathematical date processing required when the year 2000 rolls around. Unless you have been living in a cabin in the woods of Montana until recently, you are aware that all major computer systems will have difficulty with date processing on January 1, 2000 unless upgraded prior to that time. Most computer operating systems were programmed in the 1960s to use 2 digit year processing to conserve storage. Computer storage was really at a premium in those days and every byte helped. So when the year becomes 00, arithmetic such as subtracting 99 from 00, will return erroneous results. There are many expensive solutions to this problem, none easy, and none desirable to big-business and government. This project is costing the world economy billions of dollars. My employer has been working on solutions since 1994. You can learn more about the Y2K issues and progress at Peter de Jager's Year2000 Web site.

Industry insiders are suggesting the later Microsoft releases Windows NT 5.0 -- now pegged at early to mid '99 -- the more uncertain will be its reception. That's because IT departments will spend vast resources in '99 dealing with Year 2000 conversions. The NT upgrade will include major new features; one estimate has the NT Server 5.0 at 30 million lines of code -- up from 8M that comprised the core of NT Server 4.0. For all those reasons, the respected Gartner Group is recommending caution in deploying NT 5.0 -- even putting it off until mid-2000. "Given the contingencies required for 2000, we advise users to avoid adoption of Windows NT version 5.0 until mid-2000," said a late February Gartner research note. "We advise caution in implementing NT Server v.5.0 due to the number of new functions and the lack of available skills for NT Server v.5.0, but mainly because of the conflict of staff resources with those needed to prepare for 2000."

With the advent of the new season, it's time to do a little sprucing up here at 1998 on the Web. You will notice some new spring photography highlighting the page banners. The wildflowers displayed on the
entry page are found in the Shenandoah National Park in western Virginia, and those on the diary page bloom in the Canadian Rockies. There were daffodils here at my home in Nitro, WV, USA in February, but two cold snaps since then took care of them.

Thought for the day: "The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech." - Justice Anthony Kennedy


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