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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.
RULE #6 - SHARE EXPERT KNOWLEDGE
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.
MINE WITH MILK
A U.S. government agency has advised Internet users that
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?
the day: "Experience is something you don't get
until just after you need it."
WATCH THOSE OBJECT TAGS
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.
RULE #7 - KEEP FLAME WARS UNDER CONTROL
"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.
the day: "If a trainstation is where the train
stops, what's a workstation...?"
SMOKE THOSE BUNNY PEOPLE
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
RULE #8 - RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE'S PRIVACY
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.
WORLD WIDE WEB TOO
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.
the day: "A computer lets you make more mistakes
faster than any invention in human history - with the
possible exceptions of handguns and tequila." -
COMPUTER FIRMS DRIVING U.S. ECONOMY
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
RULE #9 - DON'T ABUSE YOUR POWER
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.
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+
NO INFLATION FOR WINDOWS
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
RULE #10 - BE FORGIVING OF MISTAKES
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.
ALL YOU CAN
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.
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."
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.
NOT THIS TIME
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.
the day: "Experience
is often what you get when you were expecting something
ARE YOU READY?
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.
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