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Home > Weblog w/e 5.8.2000

Saturday 5 August 2000, 23:05 BST
One of those ideas that it's very easy to make fun of. We already have a widely-understood system for allocating domain names to sites on the internet, but now Bango have decided that they want to build a system of numbers on top of that system because users of WAP-enabled phones will find it easier to type in a nice short number. The fact that any sensible user stores URLs in some sort of bookmarking system so they only have to type it once is just a minor detail. Am I missing something here? Is it that WAP phones don't have a bookmarking facility? [Via NTK]
At last, someone hits Big Chocolate where it hurts... [Via Barbelith]
After Bango, here's another instance of someone trying to supplant an open standard for no obvious reason: Greenwich Electronic Time. The really ironic aspect of this BBC News Online story is that it's an incompatibility in Microsoft's web browsers that's holding up the project.
Bruce Cringely discusses the FBI's Carnivore email monitoring system, but the real eye-opener is what he reports about the email kiosks to be installed at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The FBI is requiring that the system not only be capable of supplying them with copies of email, but be able to divert email from the intended recipient to an address of the FBI's choice. He makes the excellent point that because these systems will be built and operated by a private contractor there's absolutely nothing illegal about the FBI engaging in mass email diversion if they so desire.
It looks as if unmetered internet access is proving a good deal trickier to implement than all those optimists thought back in the Spring, when every week seemed to bring a new announcement. I think one contributory factor is that the deals were initially underpriced: it was clear that bandwidth usage and the number of users connecting at any one time would go through the roof for any ISP offering unmetered access, so any ISP which wasn't prepared to make a huge investment before it opened the flood gates would face serious problems (not least because if it's really hard for a user to get logged in, that increases the user's tendency to remain connected once they do get a good login). I'm with Demon Internet, and I actually see their relatively high proposed charges for their SurfTime package as a good thing: it gives them some prospect of actually managing to keeping up with demand.

All in all, this reminds me of the days four or five years ago when ISPs like Demon were really struggling to upgrade their systems to keep up as the internet started to impinge upon public consciousness and engaged tones became commonplace. One day the ISPs will get there, but I'll be amazed if they're there by the end of this year, or even midway through next year. [Via Guardian Online]
BBC News Online reports that there's a chance that astronomers might just be able to get an image of an extrasolar planet thought to be orbiting Epsilon Eradini, rather than merely inferring its presence from wobbles in a star's light curve or orbit.
Michael Moore's latest column contains an astounding fact:
$95 million of the $100 million George W. Bush has raised has come from just 739 people in a nation of 275 million citizens!
Ain't democracy wonderful? [Via Metafilter]
Does this ad look a bit familiar to you too? I suppose Apple can argue that, once again, the PC industry is belatedly following the trail they blazed years before (in 1984, to be precise). [Via Metafilter]
These people must be stopped. Now. [Via NTK]
Glenn McDonald not only writes insightful reviews of popular music, but he has a sensible, balanced view of the pros and cons of the Napster controversy too.
Friday 4 August 2000, 22:20 BST
Cyberspace is a useful metaphor, but it's important to remember that it is just a metaphor. Jonathan Koppell discusses the implications in The Atlantic.
Even to a mere British fan, watching Superbowls on Channel 4 in the channel's early days, it was clear that Joe Montana was something very special. If your life depended upon someone marshaling his team for a winning touchdown drive in the last five minutes of a game, Joe was the man you'd want to be calling the plays. He's rightly lauded as one of the modern-day greats of American Football, the leader of a team which conquered all for years, but Allen Barra thinks he blew it when leadership was required off the field of play. [Via Salon]
Thursday 3 August 2000, 22:00 BST
Well, who'd have thought it? Sada from Big Brother wants to be a TV presenter. [Via BBC News Online]
Cheer up, Britney. [Via Feed]
Wednesday 2 August 2000, 21:55 BST
Microsoft takes over all .net domains. I mean, who has a better claim to them, what with Bill Gates inventing the internet and everything? [Via BBspot]
The Plant is thriving. Stephen King's latest experiment in e-publishing isn't much of a proof of concept, considering that damn few authors have such a large following that they could make a living this way. Still, it'll be interesting to see whether the ratio of purchases to downloads stays at the current level as further chapters appear. I've downloaded the first instalment and paid my US$1, though at the moment it's still sitting on my Palm Pilot waiting to be read.

If it doesn't, how will we know whether this is because people have lost interest in the story, rather than that they've decided to get hold of pirated copies of the later chapters? [Via Sci-Fi Wire]
You can see the Microsoft lawsuit coming from a mile away... [Via The Register]
Tuesday 1 August 2000, 22:10 BST
Evil Cascading Style Sheet tricks. Your web browsing experience will never be the same again. Bwahahahahaha... [Via Metafilter]
Finally, someone notices that Napster have had an incredibly friendly ride in the media, on- and off-line. I know the major labels are hardly charitable institutions, but that doesn't make it OK to simply assume that everything they say must be wrong even when it's patently obvious that (for example) there's a vital distinction to be made between artists who voluntarily put their music into the public domain and those who don't want their material distributed freely. [Via Salon]
I have a premonition that Hotmail will be suffering another extended outage Real Soon Now. [Via The Register]
Wired News reports on the Deja.com ad-linking scandal. My favourite idiotic comment from the article (made by Richard Gorelick, Deja.com's Chief Strategy Officer:
A small minority of its 5 million user-base have complained, Gorelick acknowledged, but "by and large they're using this feature and they're enjoying this feature."
How, exactly, do they know that people are "enjoying" this "feature?" For that matter, what does that have to do with the rights and wrongs of the argument that by inserting links to adverts (sorry, "product information") in Usenet postings that weren't put there by the authors they're guilty of copyright infringement? What about Usenet posters who never use Deja.com, but whose messages are being turned (rather ineptly, to judge by earlier reports from rec.arts.sf.written) into adverts for products they aren't necessarily endorsing?
Monday 31 July 2000, 22:20 BST
Last week the Web Standards Project took the Mozilla developers to task for dragging their heels in producing a workable alternative to Internet Explorer. Today, Suck joins the fray in its own, inimitable, style. [Via Kottke.org]
A pretty good interview with/profile of Google's founders, and an article which goes a long way towards explaining why Google is still the best general-purpose search engine. [Via Laurent's Weblog]
Sunday 30 July 2000, 23:40 BST
Next season Buffy and the gang may have to face a monster much, much scarier than a mere vampire or demon or shape shifter, according to Sci-Fi Wire.
Childless or child-free? Today's Observer had an excellent article about the growth of the child-free movement in the UK. As someone who neither has nor wants kids I found the article enlightening, but I'm not at all sure that I wish to be associated with people who say things like:
"I consider life to be grievously burdensome, often painful and not generally a thing to be desired. Not that I'm unhappy. But only the most ignorant and base consider life to be a good and pleasant thing."
Choice is basically a good thing. But can we have too many choices? Writing for the New Statesman, Frances Cairncross thinks not. [Via Honeyguide]
Big Brother has been a big ratings success for Channel 4 (and quite rightly: it's getting truly gripping now that the process of voting people out has begun). However, it looks as if they've managed to screw up the internet voting pretty badly. Shouldn't they have had all this sorted out well before the show aired?

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