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Rocky Mountain Forest

1998 on the Web
Daily Technology Diary

Rocky Mountain Forest
  February 1998  

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Monday, February 2  
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Watch out Microsoft. Watch out Netscape. There's a new browser out there, and this one is less than 600K. Neoplanet from Bigfoot Partners L.P. is in beta release right now and expected in full offering within a matter of weeks. Unlike the recent trend towards "bloatware," NeoPlanet is a small file that can be downloaded on a 28.8 modem in under 5 minutes. The installation process does not replace any programs or modify the operating system in any way. Currently available for Windows 95 & NT, the program calls on Microsoft's HTML rendering engines to display Web pages, providing full compatibility with Java, Active-X, plug-ins and other Web browser enhancements. If you have Internet Explorer 3 on your system Neoplanet uses those objects. If you have Internet Explorer 4, Neoplanet can render the most current Dynamic HTML and scripted Web pages.

To launch NeoPlanet, the user clicks on the NeoPlanet icon from the Windows "Start" menu and instead of the standard browser layout, a column of preset channels appears on the right-hand side of the screen next to the Web view. Each channel represents a content category such as "Sports." These channels correspond with a row of sub-channel tabs, such as "Football" and "Baseball," which appears above the Web view. NeoPlanet's 500+ default settings, which fall under 20 channel categories, include the most popular and useful Web sites on the Internet. The pre-set channels include general interest categories like "Money," "Government," "TV/Movies," "Computing," etc. With NeoPlanet's intuitive "Channel Designer," users can rename, reorder, add and remove channels in a matter of seconds through simple drag-and-drop steps. For example, if a music fan discovered that their favorite band had posted a site on the Web with concert information, they could create a "Concerts" channel that includes that and other sites. And as they continue to discover similar resources, they can add new sites to the channel through simple point and click steps.

NeoPlanet's revenue model is based primarily upon advertising. A small news box appears in the bottom right corner of the NeoPlanet screen featuring late-breaking news and information interspersed with advertisements. The space supports advanced multimedia campaigns and is particularly desirable to advertisers for its guaranteed visibily. So at least at launch, Neoplanet will be free to users.

Now that things have quieted down for awhile for Microsoft in it's battles with the U.S. Department of Justice, the MS lawyers have turned their attention to preparation for the Java suit/countersuit with Sun Microsystems. In building its case for the countersuit against Sun on Java, Microsoft's lawyers have hit Sun with requests for 40 sets of documents and calls for depositions from eight people -- including some senior Sun executives. According to documents filed with the court, Microsoft is seeking information on a wide range of topics, including all of Sun's negotiations on Java license agreements, how Microsoft's agreement differed from other licensees', how other licensees had fared on Sun's Java compatibility tests, changes made to the test suites, and so on. Microsoft is also seeking to show that Sun allowed other Java licensees to use the logo without being compliant and that Sun altered its own products to enhance their performance on Java benchmarks. Although Microsoft did not mention Netscape Communications Corp. by name, Netscape has removed Sun's Java logo from its Web site and subsequently cut back on Java development.

Thought for the day: "Matter will be damaged in direct proportion to it's value."

 

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Tuesday, February 3  
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While faster processor speeds are always welcomed by users, the increase in the system bus speed in many ways is a larger event. The system bus controls the flow of data between the processor core and the rest of the computer. Processor speeds have been moving up on a quarterly basis, but the system bus has been running at 66 MHz since the Pentium chip first came out years ago. The 100-MHz system bus will first appear on 350-MHz Deschutes processors from Intel released during the middle of this year. Increasing the bus speed is expected to improve overall system performance. As an added bonus, a faster system bus also opens up the ceiling on processor core speeds. Moving bits between processor and memory 50% faster will be a very noticable improvement on your PC.

Expanding on announcements made last month by the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education, Vice-President Al Gore unveiled $770 million in technology training initiatives in President Clinton's fiscal year 1999 budget. According to Gore the President's budget will place special emphasis on technology training for teachers. The program will include competitively awarded grants to states, teachers colleges, and school districts which could be used to support summer institutes, faculty development and curriculum reform at education colleges. Already facing a 350,000 head computer technician shortfall, American business should support this initiative or be faced with an even larger human resource deficit in Information Technologies in the next 5 years.

RSA Data Security and Cable Television Laboratories announced today an agreement to build RSA encryption into a new generation of cable modems. Cable vendors are relying on the deal to help boost the prominence of cable Internet access, which has suffered from criticisms that it is not secure enough for electronic commerce transactions. RSA encryption algorithms will be included in cable modems by the end of this year. About 30 vendors are currently working on a new generation of cable modems based on a single compatible standard that will include the RSA component. At least some of these companies will be mass producing by the end of 1998.

An appeals court in Washington, D. C. today temporarily granted Microsoft Corporation's request to have special consultant Lawrence Lessig suspended from the staff of Judge Thomas Jackson in the U. S. Department of Justice's consent decree lawsuit against the software giant. Another small victory for Microsoft. But there's more bad news coming down the pike for Microsoft. I'll talk about that as the week progresses.

Thought for the day: "Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence."

 

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Wednesday, February 4  
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Welcome to BelgiumWelcome to Belgium, Bill. As if the hounding by the Software Publisher's Association and attack on Windows 98 by eleven state Justice Departments weren't enough, Microsoft Corporation chaiman Bill Gates received some unexpected dessert upon his arrival in Brussels today. The pie cremeing took place as Gates, fresh from a visit with world and business leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, was about to attend a reception given by the Belgian Flemish community. Organizers said five people, equipped with stocks of pies, appeared to be involved in what was believed to have been a prank with commercial intent. Shortly after the incident, a caller offered to sell Reuters Television some film of the attack, from which Gates emerged spattered but seemingly unscathed. A Microsoft spokeswoman said Gates was ''surprised and disappointed'' but unhurt by the attack. Think the next Microsoft project might be code-named Custard?

The Software Publishers Association (SPA) hasn't officially responded to the U. S. Justice Department's accusations that Microsoft violated a 1995 consent decree by requiring computer makers to bundle its Internet Explorer browser as a condition of licensing its Windows 95 operating system. But the new competition guidelines SPA released echo some of its smaller members' and the government's complaints regarding Microsoft. The SPA's guidelines come one day after New York State's attorney general said he and ten other state prosecutors subpoenaed Microsoft for evidence of potentially illegal bundling of Windows and Internet software. In addition, the Senate Judiciary Committee and regulatory agencies from Japan and the European Union also are looking into Microsoft's business practices.

Netscape Communications stock jumped a robust 13% today following continued speculation they may be involved in negotiations for Sun Microsystems to take control of the company. Netscape is ripe for picking because of disappointing fourth quarter financial results. They have previously been rumored to be a takeover target for Oracle and IBM.

Thought for the day: "Non-Reciprocal Law of Expectations: Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield negative results."

 

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Thursday, February 5  
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If you came into 1998 on the Web today through the entry page, you noticed I am working on a new look for the site. Aside from the obvious change in graphics, you will see a news ticker Java applet provided by 7am News. There is a new Navigation Bar at the top of the page that utilizes JavaScripting and the onmouseover effect. If you are browsing with Netscape Navigator 3+ or Microsoft Internet Explorer 4+ the effect changes the color of the hyperlinks. Sometime in the near future I will describe on the Tips and Tools page how you can easily construct this type of navbar for your Web pages. I have moved the award graphics from the home page to a page of their own to more properly present them and to reduce clutter on entry. As time permits the next few days, I will continue to update each of the sections of 1998 on the Web with the new look. Let me know if I broke anything, and tell me what you think.

Netscape Communications stock jumped another 8% today following yesterday's 13% gain as buyout speculation continued to gain steam. Potential suitors include IBM, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Novell, EDS, Yahoo, and Mecklermedia. For an excellent compendium of the issues involved in this matter, visit the c|net Web site. As I indicated in my turn of the year prediction for Netscape, 1998 is a make or break year for the company. It's looking more and more like the company may not survive intact. While I have demonstrated my pro-Microsoft opinions in previous diary entries, I am a huge fan of the Internet and in particular Web browsers, and Netscape was the first of the commercial browsers. I personally would not like to see Netscape swallowed by Sun Microsystems, the current front-runner.

Scott McNealy, the CEO of Sun, has shown a propensity for holding his properties very close to the vest. For example, look at his relationship with one of his customers, Microsoft, over Java licensing purity. He's suing them. Netscape just weeks ago announced that they will provide source code with release 5 of their Communicator product suite. I fear if Sun becomes the owner of Communicator we will see the end of this open system. For Microsoft's Internet Explorer to continue to get better, we the users and developers need Netscape around to spur the competition. Just what the Justice Department is saying, how ironic.

Thought for the day: "Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance."

 

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Friday, February 6  
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A very special award arrived today for 1998 on the Web. From Hart Enterprises, the Fly with Eagles award has special meaning to me because of it's background. Here are the comments received from Hart. "This award was implemented as the result of an accident in 1984, while on active duty as an officer with the US Army, I became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down. After a medevac flight (during which I had to be resuscitated by the on board medic), I spent 6 weeks in "Shock Trauma" (where I had to be resuscitated for a second time). Then, I spent another 10 months in a veteran's hospital among many other young men struggling to put a sense of worth back into our lives. I had always admired our national symbol, the bald eagle, for its strength, courage, beauty, and its ability to soar on the slightest of winds.  It was what those of us in the hospital were trying to do - muster up the strength and courage to live our lives with the least amount of help. Now I am in a position spiritually, physically, and financially to recognize others for their efforts. Thus, the "FLY WITH EAGLES" award was born." You can view the Fly With Eagles award on my awards page. Thanks Bruce.

Work on re-design of these pages continued today. You will notice the new look here on the Diary page as well as on the Tips and Tools page and the Predictions page. Since 1998 on the Web is a two way communication, please send me your comments about the new design, and especially any errors you may find.

The XVIII Olympic Winter Games begin today in Nagano, Japan with the Opening Ceremonies. As you might expect, there are a myriad of wonderful Web sites available for fans of any Olympic sport to follow results and personal profiles. Begin with the official site of the Nagano Olympic Organizing Commitee. This site was developed and is powered by IBM. You may recall a dearth of problems with the Atlanta Summer Olympics Web site in 1996. Hopefully IBM has learned from that experience. You can also visit full-featured Olympic sites presented by Cable News Network/Sports Illustrated, CBS Sportsline, and the ESPN Sportszone. For the Usenet newsgroup fans out there, you can share your opinions on rec.sport.olympics.

Thought for the day: "Do not let yourself be bound by reality."

 

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Saturday, February 7  
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CBS Sports has had a tough start with their television coverage of the Nagano Winter Olympics. On Friday audio difficulties frustrated their every attempt to report on the men's downhill skiing practice session. The Opening Ceremonies, while nice, were understated compared to recent Olympic events that the public has come to expect. Perhaps it is a culture difference, but I found the Opening Ceremonies to be rather dull. Today one of the fortnight's premier events, the men's downhill ski race, that CBS planned to televise live in American prime-time for the first time in history, was postponed because of excessive snow and fog in the Hakuba area.

The upgrade to release 1.2 of 1998 on the Web is complete now. All pages now display the new colors so to speak. In case you were wondering, the photography displayed in the title boxes on each of the pages is from my brother Dave who makes his home amidst the Rocky Mountains in central Colorado. As always, please share your comments about any of the work that occurs on this Web site.

Traffic to this Web site continues to be disappointing. On average, 1998 on the Web is only receiving 5-10 unique visitors per day. This leads me to ponder the potential reasons. (1) the content is not compelling or original enough to bring people back, (2) I have done a lousy job of listing the site with search engines and indexes, (3) the competition is far superior. Please share your honest constructive criticism so I can do whatever necessary to improve 1998 on the Web.

Thought for the day: "All that is not eternal is eternally out of date." - C.S. Lewis

 

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Sunday, February 8  
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The 56 kilobytes per second modem standard is finally here. On Friday the International Telecommunications Union approved a determination that will allow 56K technologies to communicate with each other. All the fuss over standards is rooted in one basic problem for consumers: incompatibility between products from leading 56-kbps modem manufacturers. To date, users in many cases have been forced to choose between one of two main modem technologies when trying to connect to an Internet service provider (ISP). Modem vendors are relieved that the standard has been approved, having seen their financial results diminished because of slower-than-anticipated sales of modems and associated chipsets. The standard, named V.90, sets the stage for vendors to release compatible modems as soon as March, with software upgrades available for current 56K modem owners in a matter of weeks.

A new kind of digital camera will be available in the second half of this year. Manufactured by Polaroid, the package includes Intel's camera chips, software, and imaging technologies including the Intel Flash Miniature Card, which works as film. Intel is bringing its formidable chipmaking prowess to the digital camera market, heralding a new business model of designing and licensing the core technology that digital products are based on. The Polaroid-Intel digital camera will feature dual-mode operation, which means that when the camera is connected to the PC through the PC's Universal Serial Bus connection scheme it can also capture video and video-still pictures. This is a significant departure from current digital cameras, which are tethered to PCs.

Thought for the day: "Ability is what you're capable of doing; motivation determines what you do; attitude determines how well you do it."

 

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