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The News – 07/30/02

In this Issue:

Recommended Reading

I realize this is the only newsletter you’ll ever need, but if you want more in-depth detail, check out:

Stan Hustad’s
The Coaching Connection

Management Signature's
The Express Read

Gathering Cruft

The second part of the Why You Need to Get Hip to HIPAA series will appear in a future SNS

Dr. Dobb’s Journal recently ran a hilarious column on the phenomenon of cruft, the various eccentricities and mal operations that accumulate the longer you have your computer. Actually, here’s the full definition of cruft so that you can add it to your daily vocabulary:

cruft /kruhft/ [back-formation from {crufty}]

1. n. An unpleasant substance. The dust that gathers under your bed is cruft; the TMRC Dictionary [the Tech Model Railroad Club, an ancient jargon dictionary started at MIT] correctly noted that attacking it with a broom only produces more. 2. n. The results of shoddy construction. 3. vt. [from `hand cruft', pun on `hand craft'] To write assembler code for something normally (and better) done by a compiler (see {hand-hacking}). 4. n. Excess; superfluous junk; used esp. of redundant or superseded code. 5. [University of Wisconsin] n. Cruft is to hackers as gaggle is to geese; that is, at UW one properly says "a cruft of hackers".

This term is one of the oldest in the jargon and no one is sure of its etymology, but it is suggestive that there is a Cruft Hall at Harvard University which is part of the old physics building; it's said to have been the physics department's radar lab during WWII. To this day (early 1993) the windows appear to be full of random techno-junk. MIT or Lincoln Labs people may well have coined the term as a knock on the competition.

Dr. Dobb’s Journal columnist Verity Stob, asserting that to control a problem your must first measure it, has established 11 cruft levels for Windows PCs. Here are some excerpts:

Cruft Force 0. Virgin.
Description: The "Connect to the Internet" shortcut is still on the desktop, and the "How to use Windows" dialog appears at logon. Menu animations and the various event-based sound effects — even the dreaded Microsoft Sound — seem cheerful and amusing.

Cruft Force 1. New.
Description: User has taken time to rename cutesy desktop icons incorporating the first person singular possessive pronoun [Ed. Note: for example, My Computer, My Documents, My Network Places].

Cruft Force 2. Comfortable.
Description: User has now got around to resetting Explorer so that "web content in folders" is suppressed. Something has made a C:\TEMP directory in the proper place unasked, for which mercy the user guiltily feels grateful.

Cruft Force 3. Lived-in.
Description: One time in seven when the user starts Word or other Office 2000 app, instead of running, it pretends it is installing itself for the first time and starts a setup program.

Cruft Force 4. Middle-aged.
Description: Amount of time from screen showing "real" Windows background to the logon box appearing is >30 seconds. Sometimes cannot "browse" other machines on LAN. Get first real BSOD [Blue Screen Of Death]. An extra disk of huge capacity has been installed. CD-ROM moves from drive F: to drive [:

Cruft Force 5. Worn out.
Description: Some time after bootup, always get a dialog "A service has failed to start - BLT300." What is BLT300? Nobody knows. Although one can manually remove/disable this service, it always reappears two or three reboots later. If one double-clicks a document icon, Word takes 4 minutes 30 seconds to start up. But it still works fine if started as a program.

Cruft Force 6. Limping.
Description: "Web content in folders" Explorer setting switches itself back on unbidden. "Setup" programs start crashing while unpacking their own decompression DLLs.

Cruft Force 7. Wounded.
Description: No longer able to logon using original account as the system freezes, so must logon as "Verity2" or similar.

Cruft Force 8. Decrepit.
Description: A virus checker is installed at the insistence of IT. This actually improves performance, apparently violating Newton's laws. Blue Screens Of Death are served daily. The SETI screen saver, like ET himself, encounters difficulty calling home and despairing during an overnight run creates 312 copies of its icon in an (impressively expanded) system tray that fills half the screen. Successful connections to the LAN are very rare.

Cruft Force 9. Putrefaction.
Description: Can only see the 32-GB D:\ partition — the one which has all the source code on it — at every third boot. Starting Control Panel shows rolling torch animation. The applet icons never appear.

Cruft Force 10. Expiry.
Description: Machine only runs in Safe mode at 16-color 800×600, and even then for about a minute and a half before BSODing. Attempts to start an app are rewarded with a dialog "No font list found." Ordinary dodges, such as reformatting the hard disk(s) and starting again, are ineffective. Cruft has soaked into the very fabric of the machine, and it should be disposed of safely at a government-approved facility. There it will be encased in cruft-resistant glass and buried in a residential district.

Stob plans on providing Cruft levels for computers with other operating systems in the future, but I think we can all relate to the idea that the longer you use your Windows computer, the more annoying little eccentricities show up.

I’m fighting cruft now in our home computer, which, although it is an HP 700MHz, insists on running like an old 486 most of the time. Even using the HP rescue disk to return it to its pristine state has been no help. Office still wants to run setup, Zone Alarm can’t save your decisions regarding whether a program can access the Internet, and McAfee antivirus takes forever to decompress and install new updates. I fear we’re at Cruft Force 9 and rapidly heading for 10.

Dr. Dobb's Journal

Briefly Noted

  • Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: I’ve put up the Nanotechnology Resources directory I promised last November.

    Also, check out the article I wrote for the Taylor Harkins newsletter entitled, Do you hate your customers? It continues the theme from my earlier article, analyzing the media industry’s response to file sharing.

    Finally, and at long last, the CTOMentor wireless white paper, You Can Take It with You: Business Applications of Personal Wireless Devices, is available at ITPapers.

  • Gartner On Wireless Readiness (Update): The recent Webinar sponsored by Astea International and Intermec Technologies mentioned in the previous SNS is now available online. Gartner Group analyst Ken Dulaney gave a really insightful presentation and I recommend it to all who are interested in wireless.

  • Funniest User Support Stories: UK site is sponsoring a contest to find the funniest, or dumbest, IT gaffes. Here’s the story I submitted:

    Back in 1995, when modems where somewhat new for many business users, I got a support call escalated to me from a very angry user. Two other people were unable to help this lady, who couldn’t get connected to the Internet to use our software. I ran through all the obvious questions: Is your browser installed? Is the TCP/IP dialer installed? Did you try rebooting? During the course of these questions, I routinely asked her, “Is the phone line plugged in?” She replied yes, but I asked her to check the back of her computer to be sure. “Yes, I told you it was plugged in!” she snapped, indignant that I doubted her. Finally, after many other questions, I asked her if the phone line was plugged into the wall. After a short silence, she asked, “What do you mean?” It seems she thought that the phone line was acting as some sort of antenna, magically connecting her to the Internet. She plugged it in, and everything began to work. But she still somehow thought this was our fault, and was still mad as she hung up.

  • JPEG Patented: First it was CompuServe’s graphics format known as GIF (which, by the way, is pronounced jif, like the peanut butter; all of you who pronounce it with a hard ‘g’ please stop; see this or this for more info from the guys who designed it). Following claims by Unisys, which held the patent for the LZW compression algorithm used in GIF, in 1995 CompuServe had to inform anyone using the file format that a royalty was due to Unisys. Naturally, this announcement was met with outrage by Internet users, since GIF was the dominant image format used on Web pages (and still probably is). At the time many users converted over to the JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) format, which, although it is a more efficient method of compression, it is “lossy,” meaning some data is discarded during compression.

    Well, the free JPEG ride is over. Forgent (stupid name alert) recently announced that the patent of their subsidiary Compression Labs covered the JPEG image compression method, and they would be asserting their rights. It seems that soon we’ll all have to convert over to PNG (standing for, depending on your degree of geekiness either Portable Network Graphics or “PNG’s Not GIF”), a format started by a lot of very mad people after the GIF fiasco.

  • Update on the Update: In the Wayback Machine last SNS, I wrote about’s 1 million Euro suit against EasyScopes claimed damages from InternetHoroscopes’ practice of copying Web site text and reproducing it, white-on-white, on InternetHoroscopes’ Web pages.

    I received a response to my query to EasyScopes’ Belgian parent company,, from Hubert Savelberg: “The case was not settled: claims compensation for the damage caused by the copyright infringement, while contests that any damages are due. Both parties have filed their written submissions with the court and are now awaiting the decision of the court to schedule the case for oral arguments. It may take six months or more before the court will hear the oral arguments.”

The Wayback Machine – A Year Ago in SNS

The lead article in the July 30, 2001 SNS was B2B Pace Car, about Covisint, the B2B exchange sponsored by several large automakers. At the time Covisint was on track to do $36 billion in transactions via auctions but was having troubles signing up European suppliers. Well, the company ended up booking $51 billion in auctions for its first full year of service, and auctions represented 85 percent of its revenue. In May, Covisint opened an office in Germany a “major new initiative” to better pursue European suppliers. Covisint Europe accounted for 25 percent of Covisint's global revenue in 2001, and is expected to contribute approximately 30 percent of Covisint's increased 2002 revenue.

In the article, Doug VanDagens, Covisint’s senior vice president of strategy and business development, said “At the end of the day, private and public exchanges want the same thing: they all want to be profitable and save money for their customers at the same time. Ownership is the only real difference.”  I took exception to this, and still do. Ownership affects the mission of the exchange, and that affects the value proposition for exchange members. COBAMs (Collaborative Online Bricks And Mortar exchanges) exist mainly to get a better deal for their owners, and that means more price pressure on suppliers.

The article Do Online Ads Work? considered the famous saying, “I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half.” It quoted a DoubleClick study that found larger banner ads work better. Also more effective were those incredibly annoying “interstitial” or “pop under” ads. Those are the irritating windows that pop up when you enter or leave a site. A year later, the pop under and pop over ads have become an epidemic. Do they work? Well, between January and May, the famous X10 pop under ads reached 32.8 percent of all Web surfers. But according to Jupiter Media Metrix, 73 percent of the visitors who arrived via pop-unders left after just 20 seconds.

There are even newer ad techniques, like adPointer, developed by AdReady. When you pause while browsing the Web, a matchbox-size window appears onscreen near your pointer. The ad disappears if you ignore it but if you click it, the ad stays with you. You can move it aside for later viewing or expand the window.

The larger online ad formats are regaining lost ground, according to the now-renamed Comscore Media Metrix: “The large ad formats – consisting of skyscrapers, squares and rectangles – have slowly but steadily carved out a niche for themselves, growing from four percent share of all online ad impressions in April 2001 to nine percent in January 2002. The number of large- format ad impressions grew 185 percent over that same period, from 2.0 billion to 5.7 billion. The actual number of banner ad impressions grew 39 percent, from 23.6 billion impressions in April 2001 to 32.9 billion in January 2002.”

European Online Grocers took a look at the success overseas retailers have had with the online grocery phenomenon. It reported the purchase of Peapod by retailing giant Ahold. In a recent financial statement, Ahold said Peapod increased sales by 25 percent, but still had an operating loss of $11.6 million, compared with a loss of $14.4 million last year. GroceryWorks, which had a busy year in 2001 – suing its parent, Safeway and having 35 percent of its equity sold to UK retailer Tesco – named a new president. Tesco, meanwhile, withstood a challenge from Safeway about truth in advertising. Unfortunately, Tesco was unable to prove that it was more committed to cutting prices than any other chain.

In Demise of a Newsletter I bemoaned the ending of one of my favorite online newsletters, the Rapidly Changing Face of Computing, published by Compaq. Things turned out all right, though, as RCFOC writer Jeffrey Harrow, now an independent consultant, started the Harrow Report. I also groused about a Web site outage on the StratVantage site. I’m happy to report there have been only a few outages over the last year, although a client of mine, whom I had recommended my hosting company to, had his whole site wiped out by a water main breakage in the server room. Now why was there a water main anywhere near the server room, I wonder?

Content-Free Websites concerned Web site tag lines that say very little. It quoted what is still very good advice by usability expert Jakob Nielsen. Nielsen noted that the taglines for Angara, Calico, CSG Systems, and E.piphany were, respectively:

  • Creating customers online
  • eBusiness for leaders: Enabling corporations to control the key elements of eBusiness selling
  • Harness the power of convergence with (company's name)
  • Software for the customer economy: next-generation CRM software

Angara now appears to be out of business. PeopleSoft acquired Calico and has no tagline on its site. CSG Systems’ tagline is now, “We know more than billing. We understand business.” And E.piphany’s tagline is now “Software for the customer economy,” which you have to agree is at least a little shorter.

In Gimme a Cold (Bud) Light, I pondered the awesome achievement of scientists who were able to stop light. Not stop at a stop light, but actually slow the speed of light to zero. In January, the principal investigator, Lene Hau, received a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“genius grant”). I found a better explanation of the stopped light phenomenon: “Hau's apparatus does something quite different: when the coupling laser is turned off, the energy and quantum state of the signal photons are stored as a ‘spin’ in the gaseous sodium atoms. Later, when the coupling laser is turned back on, the reconstructed signal beam emerges from the cloud, unchanged from its previous state. This isn't a trick or gimmick; the light actually slows down, and actually stops. The implications for optical computing are huge.” Not to mention the implications for information storage.

And finally, Wireless LANs Unsafe took an early look at what has now become a pretty commonplace observation: Wireless LANs can be cracked, even when Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) is enabled, which it is not on most. Little has changed in a year, other than the impending release of a new standard, 802.11i, that promises to solve the problem. Wavelink recently announced a new security solution for existing WLANs (Wireless LANs) that involves automatically rotating the WEP encryption key and tattling on rogue WLANs a client finds. The good news is these solutions don't require a complete infrastructure change to implement.

Just the Right Stuff™

If you subscribed to CTOMentor’s Just the Right Stuff™ newsletter, over the past few months, you’d have received news nuggets like the following, along with expanded analysis. Your personalized Information Needs Profile would determine which of these items you’d receive. For more information, check out CTOMentor.

  • Vodafone U.K. to Distribute BlackBerrys
    Canada's Research In Motion added Vodafone U.K. to its growing list of European distributors for its BlackBerry e-mail device. Vodafone U.K., with 13.1 million customers, was to start selling the device, which operates on its GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) network, to its corporate customers in June. MMO2, a former unit of British Telecommunications is also a distributor in Britain and certain European markets.

  • AT&T Wireless Launches i-mode Service
    In April, AT&T Wireless rolled out a suite of wireless consumer services based on i-mode technology developed by Japan's NTT DoCoMo, which owns a significant portion of the US company. The service, called mMode, was initially available in 12 markets.

  • Send Handwritten Messages via Mobile Phone
    Vodafone, Sony Ericsson, 3M and Esselte rolled out the new Anoto technology that makes it possible to digitally transmit handwritten notes via e-mail, SMS (Short Messaging System), or fax. Users write on paper with a special Bluetooth-enabled digital pen such as the Sony Ericsson Chatpen, which combines a camera and an image processor.

Still news to you? Get this Stuff as it happens, not months later. Subscribe to CTOMentor today. Charter subscription discounts still available.

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In Memoriam

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March 14, 1928 - July 5, 2003

In Memoriam

Jane C. Ellsworth

July 20, 1928 - July 20, 2003