Be on the wave or under it
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-based
Visionics, 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
- 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.
- 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)
- .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.
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.
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 StratVantage.biz.)
Neulevel 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
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.
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
should be modified so they cannot use external programs in arbitrary
ways. ActiveX should eliminate all controls that are marked “safe
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
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.
- 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
Burn 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
Part 2, How Are Businesses Using P2P?, is available for $50.
Return to Mike’s
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14, 1928 - July 5, 2003
Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003