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1998 Technology Diary

  April 1998  

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Monday, April 20  

AT&T Corp. said today its recent frame relay network failure was due to a software-based problem. Last week AT&T's massive frame relay network failed, disrupting service for thousands of business customers nationally for about a day. AT&T previously said the problem was related to the interaction between two frame relay switches that affected the rest of the network. AT&T Chairman C. Michael Armstrong said today the company is working closely with Cisco Systems Inc. , which provided the switches, on ways to fix the problem. The frame relay network is a high-speed packet data networking technology used by businesses that need to exchange large amounts of computer information in short and frequent bursts.

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates touted the features of the upcoming Windows 98 and offered a sneak peek at future Windows' abilities during his speech today at Comdex Spring 98 in Chicago. But he also poked fun at some glitches the company is trying to fix before the June 25 launch date for the product. Among the problems: the product's complexity, and a penchant for giving cryptic error messages.

Gates showed off new features of Windows 98, including quick turn-on, support for multiple monitors, the ability to self-update, and an integrated experience that allows the user to navigate the hard drive in an Internet-like fashion. Gates also said Windows 98 would support as many as 127 peripheral devices -- such as cameras and scanners -- through a machine's USB port. However, support for a scanner crashed a machine during a demonstration, prompting Gates to quip, "That must be why we're not shipping Windows 98 yet." To which his demo helper replied, "We still have a lot of work to do."

Gates said he envisions a future where people will use much more than a mouse and keyboard to interact with their computer. "I think people are underestimating how quickly that will come," he said. Gates said his team of developers is working on features including natural language support, speech and handwriting recognition, and automatic learning -- where the program understands a user's favorite features and categorizes them accordingly.

I have been working feverishly to complete the interface design changes for this site before I go on vacation later this week. If you aren't a first time visitor, you will notice I have begun the transformation of this technology diary with the arrival of the new week. The 1998 Predictions page is now available in the new format in all six supported languages. Because I have been rushing, please be sure to let me know if you encounter any errors in hyperlinks, or spelling, or scripting, etc.

Thought for the day: "Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending."


Tuesday, April 21  

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has issued a working draft of short- and long-term goals for the next incarnation of Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP). The W3C Protocol Design Group, which wrote the draft, said the next generation of HTTP, called HTTP-NG, should be based on a distributed object system. The consortium defined a number of factors the Web protocol revision should incorporate, including improved networking performance and scalability, as well as modularity, which the W3C said HTTP 1.1 lacks. The working group said adding modularity to HTTP should make it easier to update the protocol.

The next version of HTTP should also support multiple transport protocols (the current version supports only TCP) and resource migration, which the W3C defined as the capability to redirect requests and clean up unreferenced resources such as outdated links. The W3C said support for smaller clients and servers as well as better management of intellectual property rights should also be built into the next version.

Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department squared off in a federal appeals court today over the high-profile antitrust action surrounding Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser. At issue is a preliminary injunction, imposed by Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, requiring Microsoft to offer Windows 95 to its licensees without Internet Explorer. The company is also challenging the appointment of a "special master" assigned to the case.

Microsoft attorney Richard Urowsky told a three-judge panel that Jackson's decision was riddled with procedural errors, such as a lack of notice that he was considering issuing such an order and a lack of support. "These errors are fundamental," he said. DOJ attorney Doug Melamed argued Jackson had "inherent authority" to make his ruling. The 90-minute hearing this morning was dominated by arcane discussions of statutes and legal case law relating to circumstances in which judges can issue preliminary injunctions and appoint specially trained court officers to help guide cases.

1998 on the Web received another award last night. The Syop Award for Excellence is a nice one to have. While I didn't quite make the grade for their "Topnotch Award", I am very pleased to have received the next level. Go visit them when you have a chance. You can view the award graphic on my Awards page.

Thought for the day: "The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives." - Albert Einstein

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