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Home > Weblog w/e 25.11.2000

Saturday 25 November 2000, 22:30 GMT
It's fun to watch ICANN's internal politicking and speculate over what issue they'll choose to capitulate to big business over next, but it's also very easy to forget that ICANN's authority over the domain name system depends upon people around the world who run the ISPs which we all use to get online thinking that ICANN's system is worth the trouble. After the latest ICANN meeting, The Register reports that the operators of the various Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs, eg like .uk or .nz) are seriously looking at alternative methods of running a domain name system.

On the face of it this looks like a recipe for anarchy, but the leverage it gives the operators of the ccTLDs could just as easily provide ICANN with the incentive it needs to seriously reform itself. [Via Metafilter]
Friday 24 November 2000, 23:25 GMT
If architects had to work like web programmers [Via Metafilter]
The International Herald Tribune web site looks stunning and is surprisingly usable for such a sophisticated site. The designer has used all sorts of clever DHTML and CSS to provide way more functionality and ease of use than the average newspaper web site, at any rate if you're using a browser that can take advantage of all that cleverness: you really don't want to see what Lynx makes of it, and even Opera doesn't do brilliantly.

I first saw a mention of the site at plasticbag.org, where Tom enthused about the site at length, suggesting that the bar had been raised for newspaper sites. When I was browsing the web at work, using IE5 in conjunction with a nice fast connection on a moderately fast PC, I agreed. When I came home and tried to access the site using my P-166MMX via a v.90 modem I decided that I don't really need all that graphical gubbins badly enough to wait for the site to load. It's nice to be able to click on an icon on the IHT's index page to get an article added to a menu of "clippings" for me to refer back to later, but I can right-click and copy a URL for later reference pretty easily, and using a simple extended clipboard program lets me store a whole batch of URLs to peruse later. The Guardian site may not be as graphically impressive, but it's way easier to use on my humble home PC. One day all newspaper web sites may look like the IHT site, but not yet, please. [Via tom@plasticbag.org]
The shocking truth about the real authors of The Princess Bride. [Via Pigs & Fishes Weblog]
Beware the naked PC, says Microsoft. It's FUD time again, folks. The Register reads between the lines. [Via the null device]
Wednesday 22 November 2000, 23:25 GMT
Intel's Top 10 Sneakiest Moves Screwups. The worrying thing is that despite all this they're still the world's No 1 in PC CPUs. [Via Metafilter]
Jon Rubin, a struggling comic and PBS programmer, is neither wealthy, famous, powerful nor handsome. Yet he seeks to transcend his station every day, chasing the holy grail of what he calls "women in the 99th percentile of looks." Virginia Vitzthum writes about him, and the half-hour documentary he's made about his efforts, in Salon. I can't help but think this is all a PR stunt to get attention for the documentary, but it's still a fascinating read.
Tuesday 21 November 2000, 23:15 GMT
USA Today has an article about the appliance of high tech to hotel minibars, of all things. Apparently some hotels are now equipped with minibars which can sense when you take an item, and will automatically add the appropriate sum to your bill. The downside would seem to be that if you merely move an item for too long (i.e. more than 20 seconds, in some cases) and replace it unopened you may still be charged for it unless you contest the bill on checking out. This strikes me as fixing one problem only to create another: rather than employ fallible high-tech solutions, why not just charge reasonable prices for the contents of the minibar so that people don't feel that they're being ripped off? [Via Techdirt]
Monday 20 November 2000, 23:00 GMT
ICANN's decision about the next set of Top Level Domains is generating almost as much amusing satire as the US elections did (albeit playing to a much smaller crowd). SatireWire thinks it knows why we ended up with ".name", and at Ironminds Stephany Aulenback says we should scrap the system and start naming TLDs from scratch, only this time we can make 'em rhyme too. [Ironminds reference via Techdirt]
John Dvorak wrote at Forbes.com last week about the problems that firms (and eventually individuals, if we all end up storing our data online so we can access it anywhere) can face when our Application Service Providers go belly-up and take our data with them.

Dvorak went on to discuss the steps businesses need to take to ensure they can get their data back, and that's where he touched on the real crux of the matter: getting a CD from your ASP with your firm's last year's sales records on it is one thing, but you'd better hope that someone else's systems can read that data file format and work with it seamlessly or you're not much further forward. Of course one solution to this problem is for us all to rent the same applications software (I can hear Bill Gates chuckling with glee already...) but once you get beyond simple desktop applications that becomes increasingly impractical. The crux of the matter is that any proprietary data format for which a full specification isn't freely available is effectively holding your data hostage. That's what firms should really be worried about. [Via Tomalak's Realm]
I Wish It Could Be A Wombling Merry Christmas Everyday! Words fail me...
A worldwide network of librarians making time to answer questions from people all around the world sounds like a brilliant idea. Google is a pretty effective search engine, but it'll be a while yet before any search engine can rival a professional librarian for search skills, particularly when it comes to the sort of arcane topics which don't have much of a presence on the web.

I can't help but wonder how they'll cope when the public web page opens for business next June and half the schoolchildren in the Western world start emailing in their homework questions, but assuming they can get past that problem this could be a seriously valuable resource. [Via Techdirt]

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