StratVantage – The News 03/27/02

Wireless Serendipity

 Sometimes you can get lost in the Web when you’re seeking specific information. And sometimes getting lost is actually productive, turning up information you’re much more interested in.

This happened to me the other day, while doing research for the next CTOMentor white paper, on wireless. The paper will be based on one I did for a client in October 2000, and I’m starting to go through it and update the information. What follows is a description of the path I took to answer a simple question: What happened to Ericsson’s cell phone manufacturing business? Along the way I tripped over a few very interesting infonuggets I might not have found had I been looking for them.

It all started when my intern, Jeremy, sent me a link to a ZDNet story on Palm’s integration of Bluetooth capabilities into an add-on card for its PDAs. The story mentions a company called Sony Ericsson. I couldn’t remember what the deal was with this company, although I knew Ericsson had pretty much gotten out of the business of making their own phones. This is a testament to the competitive nature of the cell phone business – Ericsson was the number one cell phone manufacturer not all that long ago, until Nokia ate their lunch.

So to figure out if Sony bought all of Ericsson’s manufacturing business, I go and scan the press releases. Sure enough, there’s a mention of Sony Ericsson and Ericsson banding together on a project: Ericsson’s Instant Messaging and Presence Server (IMPS). Cool. I vaguely remember reading something about this, and Instant Messaging is something I wrote quite a lot about in the CTOMentor P2P white paper.

The IMPS is built upon the Wireless Village version 1.0 specification and the companies claim it “will provide network operators with an advanced personal communication tool for users that can deploy to 2G, 2.5G and 3G networks worldwide. The new instant messaging solution, which also works with legacy handsets, is to be announced by Ericsson in the upcoming months.”

I’ve never heard of Wireless Village, but the press release describes it: “Founded by Ericsson, Motorola, and Nokia, Wireless Village, the Mobile Instant Messaging and Presence Services (IMPS) Initiative, was formed in April 2001 to define and promote a set of universal specifications for mobile instant messaging and presence services.”

This sounds like an important initiative, so I check out the Wireless Village Web site.Turns out they just recently launched their 1.0 specification. Also on the site is a white paper, which quotes “Research reports instant messaging is the Number Two requested application after voice. With the monumental growth patterns of SMS, where 10 billion messages are sent every month globally according to the GSM Association, and the adoption rate of desktop instant messaging (IM), with over 100 million registered users and over 50 million regular users as reported by Jupiter Media Metrix, we foresee that wireless IMPS will capitalize on both these trends.”

Hey! That’s the same ResearchPortal survey I quote in my earlier white paper: “Surprisingly, instant messaging (which we imagine includes paging functions) was the most desired feature by mobile professionals. Equally surprising was the fact that consumers rated both messaging and email more highly than did the professionals. Understandably, professionals ranked the ability to manage Personal Information Manager (PIM) data higher than did consumers.” The study thus has to be about two years old, then. There’s no stat like an old stat.

Nokia 3390 Gold with AOLNonetheless, the Ericsson/Sony Ericsson/Wireless Village initiative combined with the fact that VoiceStream is offering access to AOL Instant Messenger on its phones means I’d better talk a lot more about wireless IM in the next white paper.

Getting back to the original questions (What happened to Ericsson’s manufacturing and who is Sony Ericsson?) I dump “Sony Ericsson” into Google, and come up with their Web site. In the “About us” section, it says: “Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications was established in 2001 by telecommunications leader Ericsson and consumer electronics powerhouse Sony Corporation. The company is equally owned by Ericsson and Sony, whose combined mobile phone businesses on a pro-forma basis achieved annual unit sales of approximately 50 million units and sales of USD 7.2 billion in 2000.”

Plugging “Sony Ericsson” into ZDNet’s search yields an interesting article: Old Atari games will run on cell phones. In case you have never heard of Atari, they were the king of video games in the ’70s, originating the classics Asteroids and the world’s first video game, Pong, both of which will be available to play on Sony Ericsson cell phones.

I still want to know if Sony got all of Ericsson’s manufacturing business, so I plug “cell phone manufacturer” into ZDNet’s search. And finally, I get the payoff: Ericsson is licensing its technology to other cell phone makers, including LG Electronics and Samsung, and “Ericsson Mobile Platforms, based in Sweden, will stay within the Ericsson group when the company merges its handset operations with the mobile-phone unit of Japan’s consumer-electronics group Sony on Oct. 1 [2001].”

Arguably I could have answered my question by finding Sony Ericsson’s site in the first place, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, I found several other interesting pieces of information along the way, including the fact that folks are still relying on a survey of cell phone users that must be at least two years old.

So, two important points for those doing research on the Web: serendipity, within reason, can provide surprisingly pertinent results; and don’t believe stats asserted without citations – things have a way of taking on a life of their own on the Web.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: Take our survey on corporate policies on home use of network resources.

    StratVantage has launched a new service, CTOMentor™, designed to allow Chief Technology Officers and other technical leaders to get rid of the Guilt Stack, that pile of magazines you’ll get around to reading someday.

    CTOMentor is a subscription advisory service tailored to customers’ industry and personal information needs. Four times a year CTOMentor provides a four-hour briefing for subscribers and their staffs on the most important emerging technology trends that could affect their businesses. As part of the service, subscribers also get a weekly email newsletter, Just the Right Stuff™, containing links to the Top 10 Must Read articles needed to stay current. These and other CTOMentor services will let you Your Inbox™.

    As part of its launch, CTOMentor is offering a two-part white paper on peer-to-peer technology: Peer-to-Peer Computing and Business Networks: More Than Meets the Ear. Part 1, What is P2P?, is available for free on the CTOMentor Web site. Part 2, How Are Businesses Using P2P?, is available for $50.

  • What’s the Deal with Number Searches? I use Atomz’ free site indexing service to provide search facilities on both the StratVantage and theCTOMentor Web sites. A nice feature of the service is the summary email they send each week detailing what users were searching for.I get the usual off-topic search keywords, for the most part – searches for sex, sluts, Excel password cracks. But this week’s report has me scratching my head. There were three searches for “23569 26519 27494 29579” and one for “35910 35910 40857.” I plugged these phases into Google and came up with nothing, but when I tried them individually, I turned up some pages from Taiwan.It seems that various Taiwanese (Chinese?) characters are represented in HTML by referring to an extended character set thusly: 少, 林, and so on. When these characters are used in the title of a page, they aren’t parsed. For example, a page entitled “¤p¬õ¨§ªº·tÅʦP·ù·|” (or the Taiwanese equivalent) shows in the title bar as “小 紅 豆 的 暗 戀 同 盟 會.” So my best guess is that I had some Chinese visitors. Wonder what they were looking for?
  • Yahoo!/ACNielsen Internet Confidence Index Declines: My old employer, ACNielsen, has partnered with Yahoo! to create this quarterly study of confidence in the Internet. ACNielsen uses CATI Omnibus methodology (I don’t know what that is, either), utilizing a sample size of 1,000 adults, who may or may not be currently utilizing the Internet. For the First Quarter 2002, the Index dropped to 111, four points off the fourth quarter of 2001. The companies claim the slight decline was driven primarily by heavy Internet users who are less confident with online order fulfillment. The Index is still higher than both the second and third quarter levels in 2001 and indicates that more people intend to shop online during the second quarter of 2002. The projected $13.8 billion spend in the second quarter is slightly less than first quarter projections. More than 40 percent of users manage some aspect of their personal finances online, while 26 percent intend to use the Web for tax research this year.
  • Spoofed MP3s Pose Danger: Finjan Software reports that miscreants are embedding URLs in spoofed multimedia files (such as .MP3 and .WAV). Although the files may have the proper extension, they don’t have the proper format, and can be used to “hijack” users to malicious Web sites when users click on MP3 or WAV files. For example, an .MP3 file may really be another file type, such as a .AFX file, which may contain a URL. Worse yet, Internet applications such as Internet Explorer or Outlook may even open such files without asking the user what to do. Since the spoofed file extension is considered “safe,” some multimedia applications open the files despite the difference between the file type (for example, AFX) and the spoofed file extension (for example, WAV). According to Finjan, some pornographic Web sites are already using this technique.
  • Microsoft Readying Converged Phones: Alert SNS Reader Larry Kuhn notes that even cooler phones are on the way. Microsoft’s SmartPhone effort will produce phones that feature Pocket Outlook, Pocket Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger and Windows Media Player. Microsoft and VoiceStream recently announced plans to bring Microsoft® Windows® Powered Pocket PC 2002 Phone Edition-based devices to customers later this year for use over VoiceStream’s high-speed GSM/GPRS (Global System for Mobile/General Packet Radio Service) wireless voice and data network. The announcement seemed to indicate that the phones would also have built-in 802.11b (WiFi)  connectivity, for use with VoiceStream’s 650 public WiFi locations.The software giant also recently inked a deal with FedEx, which will use the Pocket PC operating system for a new mobile scanner and package-tracking device called the PowerPad. FedEx selected AT&T Wireless’ GPRS data network to support new, high-bandwidth applications on the device, which will be used by its 40,000 couriers.

StratVantage – The News 03/22/02

Cleaning Out the Old Links, part 2

 I’ve got such a collection of interesting and important material that hasn’t found its way into SNS yet that I have to clean house. I cleaned out a bunch in the lastSNS. Here’s some more of the best of what I’ve got.
  • Facial Recognition and Other Threats to Privacy: Virage Inc. has developed software that can automate video security, eliminating the need to pay low wages to bored personnel just to stare at monitors all day. You can program the system to recognize suspicious faces, locations, words or phrases. Great. Now surveillance can be in the hands of machines. Doesn’t that make you feel better? To top it off, Visionics, a maker of face recognition software, is enthusiastic about the possibility of creating “national shield” (Mom & apple pie alert!) linking every camera in the country.Thankfully, not everyone thinks this is a great idea. “We’re collecting data on everyone on the assumption that anyone may be the next terrorist,” said Deirdre Mulligan, director of the Law and Technology Clinic at UC Berkeley. “This subverts our traditional notion of the ability of the government to survey its citizens” only if there is probable cause to suspect criminal conduct. Security expert Bruce Schneier agrees: “You end up with a society in which the database is more important than reality.”
    LA Times
  • UK ISP Closes After DoS Attack: For those who are still wondering if the danger posed by Internet miscreants is mostly hype, check out this story. UK Internet Service Provider (ISP) Cloud-Nine was forced to close after being hit with a massive denial of service (DoS) attack.
    ISP Review (UK)
  • Walk-up Printing for PDAs: Startup Flexiworld wants to make it easy for your to walk up to any printer and print emails or other documents wirelessly. I don’t even want to think about the security implications of this idea.
    The Portland Business Journal
  • The eBay Scam: Miscreants have been attempting to steal unwary users’ credit card numbers through a fake email that purports to be a purchase confirmation from eBay. My Dad received the email in mid-January, along with thousands of others. Recipients received the following email:

Your order has been completed and will be mailed within 24-48 hours.

Your credit card has been charged $460.50 for the following purchase…

– Microsoft X Box ( $399.00 )

– NFL Fever ( $50.00 )

Plus shipping and handling.  If you feel that your credit card has been billed wrongly, please visit and fill out all the needed information to cancel the following order.

Again that site is <a href=””>eBay Services:  Cancel Order</a>,

Thank you,

eBay Services. is an URL redirection service that sent users to a page hosted at AOL. The page asked the user to enter credit card number and other personal information so that eBay could cancel the order. Obviously, eBay was not involved in this scam, but, oddly, Harry Caray’s Chicago-area restaurants were, albeit unknowingly. For some reason, after users submitted the information, they were sent to a page on Harry Caray’s restaurants site that simply said, “Your order has been canceled.”
  • Unbreakable” Oracle 9i Broken: It had to happen. The good marketing people at Oracle thought an ad campaign calling Oracle 9i unbreakable was a good idea. If they’d asked the Oracle techies, they probably would have been told that nothing’s unbreakable, given enough time and motivation. Sure enough, the software has been cracked, easily, using the ever-popular buffer overflow exploit. Make sure your marketing department has a better clue than Oracle’s!
  • More from the FBI Survey: A recent SNS quoted results from a recent survey by the Computer Security Institute (CSI), in conjunction with the FBI Computer Intrusion Squad. In addition to finding that that 81 percent of corporate respondents said the most likely source of attack was from inside the company, the survey also revealed:
    • 85 percent of respondents (Large corporations and government agencies) detected security breaches within the last twelve months
    • 35 percent of respondents quantified their financial losses at $377,828,700
    • 91 percent of respondents detected employee abuse of Internet privileges
    • 94 percent detected computer viruses within their network
    • 78 percent of respondents stated they had detected Denial Of Service Attacks
    • 58 percent reported their network had been attacked 10 or more times


  • Domain Sellers Busted: Alert SNS Reader Roger Hamm sent along this article about domain scammers who were selling bogus .usa domain names. The UK company,, traded on Amercians’ patriotic sentiment to sell more than $1 million in names at $59 apiece before being busted by the FTC. Buyers of the .usa domains found they couldn’t be used on the Internet. Oops.
  • Genomics Predictions: The Centre for Research on Innovation and the Institute for Alternative Futures recently released predictions from the ESRC Genomics Scenario Project. One of the most intriguing: “By 2005 biomarkers indicate the likely presence of several cancers, classify their defining molecular characteristics, and indicate which therapies should be beneficial to the particular type of tumour.”
    Institute for Alternative Futures
  • Verticalnet Gets Serious: Last month, Kevin McKay, former SAP CEO, was appointed Verticalnet’s new president and CEO. McKay appears to be a heavyweight, having held key positions at SAP, Sony Electronics and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Erstwhile B2B exchange Verticalnet appears to be trying to remake itself as a vendor of Collaborative Supply Chain solutions. Such solutions provide supply chain visibility, comprehension, and rapid response that leads to lower costs and inventory, higher revenue, and growth opportunities. Modernizing the supply chain by improving communication and planning processes will be corporations’ big To Do for this decade. Strategic Sourcing, Collaborative Planning, and Multi-tier Order Management look to shave dollars off supply chain costs. It remains to be seen, however, how successful Verticalnet will be in a marketplace dominated by i2 and, to a lesser extent, Manugistics.
    Philadelphia Business Journal
  • Automated Security Testers: I’ve recommended the Microsoft Personal Security Advisor, and the enterprise tools offered by its creator, Twin Cities-based Shavlik Technologies, in the past. They’re great tools, and a must for any Microsoft-based user. A new player in the area of security vulnerability assessment and automated fixes is, which offers customers a free online service that finds security holes, software bugs, outdated drivers, and viruses on a PC, then automatically retrieves and installs the patch or update. It’s unclear if BigFix makes use of the Microsoft database of security vulnerabilities that the Shavlik tools access. To use BigFix, the user must subscribe to Fixlet sites maintained by experts around the world, who provide Fixlets in their area of expertise. I’m a little wary of allowing “experts” to determine how to fix my software, however. And while automatic updating might be OK for desktop computers, I don’t think it would fly for production servers. A free consumer version of the software is available
  • Wireless Email Easily Hacked: If you use a BlackBerry™or SMS (Short Message Service) or any other kind of messaging on your wireless phone, be aware that your messages can be intercepted. While you may not be sending information on your company’s latest secret project from your portable device, if you route all your messages to your BlackBerry, you could be receiving sensitive information. The latest demonstration of the insecure nature of wireless communications is courtesy of @Stake Inc., a security consulting company in Cambridge, Mass. mentioned in a previous SNS. @Stake was able to intercept BlackBerry Internet Edition traffic using a scanner with a digital output, an antenna and freely downloadable software. Since the email is sent over the wireless network in the clear, much like the email you send over the Internet every day, once the message is intercepted, it’s easily readable.

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: Take our survey on corporate policies on home use of network resources.StratVantage has launched a new service, CTOMentor™, designed to allow Chief Technology Officers and other technical leaders to get rid of the Guilt Stack, that pile of magazines you’ll get around to reading someday.

    CTOMentor is a subscription advisory service tailored to customers’ industry and personal information needs. Four times a year CTOMentor provides a four-hour briefing for subscribers and their staffs on the most important emerging technology trends that could affect their businesses. As part of the service, subscribers also get a weekly email newsletter, Just the Right Stuff™, containing links to the Top 10 Must Read articles needed to stay current. These and other CTOMentor services will let you Your Inbox™.

    As part of its launch, CTOMentor is offering a two-part white paper on peer-to-peer technology: Peer-to-Peer Computing and Business Networks: More Than Meets the Ear. Part 1, What is P2P?, is available for free on the CTOMentor Web site. Part 2, How Are Businesses Using P2P?, is available for $50.

Home Networking Survey

Take our survey on corporate policies on home use of network resources.

This issue can be found at:

Return to Mike’s Take

Copyright © 2000-2008, StratVantage Consulting, LLC. All rights reserved.
Please send all comments to

Home Networking Survey

Take our survey on corporate policies on home use of network resources.

Announcing Linked InSolutions, a New Social Media Consulting and Training Service from StratVantage

Our first workshop:

Linked In or Left Out –
Using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to Find a Job

Heard the buzz about online social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook?

Did you know many people are using them to get jobs? Yes, even Facebook!

Online Social Networking was ranked by recent hires as the #1 job-getting strategy, beating in-person networking by a wide margin!

Attend this Power Workshop and learn how you can use Web-based social networks to build professional relationships – even if you don’t know the first thing about them – and learn how to use these relationships to find your next job.

  • Each Power Workshop session is limited to 25 attendees to enable personal attention
  • Not in the Twin Cities? Attend the simultaneous Virtual Power Session over the Web – unlimited number can attend

Classroom rate: $125
Webinar rate: $65

We have two upcoming sessions at 2 pm and 5:30 pm on Thursday, May 28th. Sessions are held at:

The Commerce Building, 2nd Floor Conference Room
8200 Humboldt Avenue So.
Bloomington, MN 55431

Located near the junction of 494 and 35W

Sign up at!

House for Sale

Beautiful 3812 sq. ft. 5 BR, 4.5 BA Yankee Barn on large 1.54 ac. in exclusiveEastman Community in Grantham, NH.

Offers 3 levels of living! Central air & vacuum, light and bright kitchen & canning kitchen! 1st floor laundry, master suite opens to heated solarium and to large 40+ ft deck, skylights, fireplace, storage cedar closet, etc. Walkout from the large 24 x 24 family room! This home has so much to offer!!

The detached 28 x 36 Garage has lots of storage and will accommodate parking your RV inside! $1863 ECA dues, $3000 member fee @ closing.


Contact for more information, to request a 360° virtual tour, or to arrange a showing.

Looking to light up your office, your business, or your city?

The WiMAX Guys can help you easily provide secure wireless Internet to your customers.

The WiMAX Guys specialize in designing and running wireless networks. We’re experienced, we’re quick, and we won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Give us a call today provide your users a wireless Internet experience tomorrow.

Call Mike Ellsworth
Head Guy

Please Support SNS

For more than five years, SNS has been free, but, sadly, it is no longer, ad-free.

I know I said I’d rather do almost anything other than charge a subscription or pelt you with banner ads, but the time has come to derive some monetary benefit. I now host ads.

If you select the button below, you’ll go to PayPal’s site via a secure, encrypted connection. Once there, you can donate any amount — 1 dollar to hundreds — to the cause of keeping SNS coming.

Since the connection is secure, you don’t need to worry about anyone stealing your personal information or credit card number.

Note: The PayPal account you will be sending money to is If the form you see says any other name (and that’sextremely unlikely!), please cancel and email me.

So please think about it. A dollar here, a dollar there could allow me to ditch the ads. Please be assured, however, that even if you don’t give (till it hurts), I’ll keep sending you SNS till they pry my keyboard from my cold, dead fingers!

Thanks for your support.

StratVantage – The News – 03/15/02

 Cleaning Out the Old Links

I’ve got such a collection of interesting and important material that hasn’t found its way into SNS yet that I have to clean house. Here’s the best of what I’ve got.

  • Face Recognition Not There Yet: OK, I’ll probably get in trouble again for linking to The Register, but I can’t help it. It’s one of the places on the Net I find unvarnished opinions about technology. This time, they’re on about the “dismal” failure of current face recognition technology. It seems the ACLU has gotten access to system logs created by the face recognition program in use in Tampa, FL (see previous SNS discussions here and here), and what they’ve found is that it doesn’t work all that well. “The earliest logs provided by the department show activity for July 12, 13, 14, and 20, 2001. On those dates, the system operators logged fourteen instances in which the system indicated a possible match. Of the fourteen matches on those four days, all were false alarms,” the ACLU notes. This bodes ill for Minneapolis-basedVisionics, the maker of the Tampa system, and other firms like Viisage. And it brings up the question of whether airports should be scrambling to install face recognition systems.
    The Register
  • Space Nukes Back in Vogue: NASA has requested funding for development of a space nuclear reactor in the 2003 budget for the first time in a decade. This doesn’t make me happy, considering that the first US space reactor, launched in 1965, operated for 43 days and remains in orbit, just waiting to rain nuclear material down on us upon its inevitable re-entry.  We spent half a billion dollars on the last space nuke project, a joint NASA-Defense Department effort called SP-100, and have launched around two dozen spacecraft utilizing plutonium-powered electrical generators for missions such as the Cassini probe to Saturn in 1995.NASA says they need nukes whenever moderate levels of electrical power (tens of kilowatts or more) are required in space over an extended period of time. For background see “Thermionics Quo Vadis?” a new National Research Council report on the status of thermionics, which is an energy conversion technology used in some space reactor designs.  The report provides some general information on space nuclear power.
    Department of Energy
  • Pringles Cans a Security Threat? Oh, good grief! What next? Apparently you can find recipes on the Internet that teach you to make a wireless antenna out of a Pringles can or a cardboard tube. (Big whup!) You can then use it to tap into wireless networks. E-fense Inc. (no it’s not a shady pawnbroker firm!) found 60 wide open access points that allowed them see every computer on the entire network in just the 10 miles between an employee’s house to their office. At the recent CyberCrime Fighter Forum 2002, Arnold Kwong of Extratelligence predicted that, despite a coming improvement over the pitiful Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) standard, wireless networks like 802.11b will not be secured without the use of Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology.
    Denver Post
  • .Net Compiler Security Flaw: OK, first, the way this vulnerability was announced was wrong (even a monopoly can be a victim): Software risk management firm Cigital told The Wall Street Journal of a flaw in Microsoft’s latest tools for creating Windows and .Net programs after giving the software giant a little more than 12 hours to respond. Such behavior is self-serving grandstanding, in my opinion.However, the security vulnerability was apparently pretty serious. The just-released Visual C++.Net and Visual C++ version 7 had a flaw that turned off checking for buffer overflows, one of Net miscreants’ most popular attack strategies. Cigital said that because the compilers were just released, they wanted to warn developers before any code could get released. However, it’s unlikely that any code would have made it into production in less than a day.
  • The Worm Turns in Napster Case: I guess the beleaguered P2P file-sharing service was due to get a break. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel is allowing Napster to investigate whether the record labels sought to create a monopoly of the digital music market with their MusicNet and Pressplay digital music joint ventures. In a forcefully worded ruling in which she called both sides “dirty”, Patel wrote: “These ventures look bad, smell bad and sound bad. If Napster is correct, these plaintiffs are attempting the near monopolization of the digital distribution market.” That sounds about right to me.
    New York Times (registration required)
  • Fiddling with Napster While CDs Burn: This is the type of thing that just had to happen: People are trading Zip files containing entire albums, or even the entire output of an artist, on online trading services such as Audiogalaxy. Searching for “zip” on the service turns up more than 3,000 compressed albums.
    New York Times (registration required)
  • Domain Name Auction: As the result of a suit against Neulevel, the registrar of the new .biz generic Top Level Domain (gTLD), 40,000 coveted domain names such as SHOW.BIZ, INTERNET.BIZ, TICKETS.BIZ and AMERICA.BIZ were auctioned last month. Interestingly, the names of the winners of these four domains are not listed in the registration records yet. (Check out the registration of was found to be operating an illegal lottery in using their method of allocating domains, and thus had to auction off all domains with at least two applicants. Oddly, I could find no press coverage of this event and only became aware of it through direct mail spam from an outfit called .bizauction. Curious.
  • Is the Web Ready for 3D? Back when I first got on the Net in 1993, I was excited about its potential for three dimensional, immersive, virtual collaborative environments. At 3CyberConf in Austin, TX in the summer of 1994, Amy Bruckman of MIT reported on MediaMOO, a text-based, networked, virtual reality environment, and I met Mark Pesce, co-creator of Virtual Reality Markup Language. VR seemed almost close enough to touch.Unfortunately, VR has remained a technology ahead of its time, always just out of reach. Only recently has connectivity and processor power caught up with the demands of this technology. Non-immersive 3D gaming has been a success (Doom, Quake), but using VR to do real work has been elusive.

    In what could be a breakthrough for the VR effort, Linden Lab is readying a product called Linden World, an online 3D environment enabled by a technology that the company claims yields a 100-fold improvement in graphics streaming techniques. “With the ability to collaboratively build and modify a 3D environment in real time, users will not simply consume content—they will create it,” the company said at the recent DEMO 2002 conference. Yeah, I’ve heard that before. Nonetheless, immersive environments may finally take off, making telecommuting an even more attractive and feasible alternative to congregating in 100-story towers.
    New York Times (really, I do read other sources!)

  • Bruce Schneier’s Recommendations: OK, I promised myself I’d lay off Microsoft on the security issue, and here’s the second item in this newsletter about it. Well, it’s only to report the sage advice of renowned security expert Bruce Schneier of Counterpane. Here’s what Bruce thinks the monopoly should do:

Office: Macros should not be stored in Office documents. Macros should be stored separately, as templates, which should not be openable as documents. The programs should provide a visual interface that walks the user through what the macros do, and should provide limitations of what macros not signed by a corporate IT department can do.

Internet Explorer: IE should support a complete separation of data and control. Java and JavaScript should be modified so they cannot use external programs in arbitrary ways. ActiveX should eliminate all controls that are marked “safe for scripting.”

E-mail: E-mail applications should not support scripting. (At the very least, they should stop supporting it by default.) E-mail scripts should be attached as a separate MIME attachment. There should be limitations on what macros not signed by a corporate IT department can do.

.NET: .NET should have a clear delineation of what can act and what cannot. The security community has learned a lot about mobile code security from Java. Mobile code is very dangerous, but it’s here to stay. For mobile code to survive, it should be redesigned with security as a primary feature.

Implementation of Microsoft SOAP, a protocol running over HTTP precisely so it could bypass firewalls, should be withdrawn.

There. That was constructive, wasn’t it? Microsoft says they’re serious about security, so I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t seriously consider Schneier’s advice.

  • EU Plans to Tax Internet Sales: Well, it had to happen: Some jurisdiction was bound to tax Net sales sooner or later. Looks like it’s sooner. Last month, the European Union Council of economic and finance ministers approved a European Commission proposal that levies a value-added tax (VAT) on digital products delivered online, including computer games and software, as well as radio or television broadcasting.What’s worse, non-EU companies will have to calculate and collect the tax, making eCommerce suddenly a lot more complicated. US Treasury officials hate the tax and are threatening to take up the matter with the World Trade Organization.