TEK THOTS


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TEK THOTS
Volume 3, Number 1
January 25, 1998
Published irregularly by Scott C. Holstad

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Copyright Notice
Copyright (C) 1998  Scott C. Holstad
All enclosed material may be used for non-commercial purposes.
=============================================================

************************************************************************
DISCLAIMER The views and analysis expressed in Tek Thots are the author's own,
and do not in any way reflect the views of EarthLink Network, Inc., the
author's employer.
************************************************************************

CONTENTS

-- News/Editorial
-- PC Thots
-- Programming Thots
-- Web Development Thots
-- This Issue's Plug-in
-- This Issue's ActiveX Control
-- Stock Thots
-- Game Thots
-- Newbie Thot
-- Privacy/Security Thots


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News/Editorial
------------------

*	Hello, and welcome to another issue of Tek Thots.  Thanks for the massive
patience shown by you, the readers.  I know it's been a long time since the
last issue.  Suffice it to say, that every issue it seems like I state that
I've been busy, but I seem to keep getting busier.  Recently, I've worked a
couple of big projects and I've been out of state several times.... 

Did the preceding paragraph seem familiar? If so, it's the exact same one from
the last issue.  I feel bad and quite guilty, but I just don't have the time I
want/need to devote to this.  I'm truly sorry.  However, I'm just now winding
down working on my 11th book - an Internet/networking reference guide.  That's
cool.  Am thinking about the 12th. 

A lot has gone on since I last put out a Tek Thots.  I'd like to comment on a
number of them.  Oh, BTW, I received three impassioned pleas by Mac fans to
keep the Mac section.  Well, how about a compromise?  I'm convinced that the
Mac is no longer a playe r, and never will be again.  Nearly all of the
readers who responded to the poll seemed to feel similarly.  However, if one
of you Mac fanatics wants to write a few paragraphs for each issue, I'd be
happy to run 'em....  Fair enough? 


*	I know this is old news now, but WOW, how 'bout WorldCom???  UUNET, MFS,
Brooks Fiber, CompuServe, ANS, and now MCI?  Estimates vary, but it's clear
that WorldCom is as close as anyone can be to *owning* the Internet.  Some say
that as much as 60% of In ternet traffic will be running over their wires. 
Think about that.  Comes close to making Microsoft look puny.  And, they're
clearly not finished.  Look for them to acquire a true ISP this year; it's the
one thing they're lacking. 


*	It's become very clear that Netscape is bordering on the verge of
obsolescence.  Aside from seeing their browser market share erode to
Microsoft, it's become clear that Netscape has made a number of mistakes over
the past couple of years, from everythi ng to hubris to not successfully
defining a product or a market.  Not too long ago (in the last couple of
weeks), they made the announcement that they would be laying off 500+ people,
a pretty large number for a company their size.  For some time, prognos
ticators have urged the company to A) give away Navigator, and B) make their
code public, lately as the ONLY things they could do to save them.  Well, on
January 22, they announced they would do these very things.  Is this too
little, too late?  My take o n it is, their rapid surge immediately upon going
public was media-created bullshit, and that the ONLY thing they do is
browsers.  They still have not figured about a true way to make cash; they're
clearly not going to beat Microsoft at the desktop game, as they idiotically
suggested at the time.  I think that in the very near future, they'll be a
fond memory - unless they can realistically create true business products, and
provide the kind of business support necessary.  Even then, I think they don't
ha ve much of a prayer - others, like Lotus, etc., have been at the game much
longer, and they're coming from too far back of the pack. 


*	Tek Thots readers know I've been very critical of Apple for awhile.  Well,
credit where credit's due.  Stunningly, Apple, after losing about $1.8 billion
in its last two full fiscal years, actually reported a profit of $47 million
(or 33 cents a share i n diluted earnings and 37 cents a share in basic
earnings) for its fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 26!  I never thought Steve
Jobs could do it; in fact, I think he's a horrible businessman.  He still may
be, and this may be the only profit they'll show fo r the rest of their lives,
but obviously they're doing some things right over there, for the first time
in a decade.  Evidently, it's the G3, which has gone over even more than it
was expected to.  I haven't gotten my hands on one yet, so I can't say anyt
hing from firsthand experience, but if the G3 is everything it's cracked up to
be, who knows?  All I can say is, way to go, and it's about damn time! 


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PC Thots
-----------

*	While Macs may no longer be relevant, PC makers and their cohorts are
hurting too.  Seagate recently announced they're letting go 10,000 people -
that's a lot.  Packard Bell NEC is letting go of 1,000.  (But that's a
different story.  They're business p lan of total non-support combined with
making crappy products have led them to this.) The Asia crisis is hurting a
lot of folks, and I see it only getting worse. 


*	PC Magazine recently printed an interesting article on Intel's Merced chip,
which I'm reprinting here with many thanks. 


Intel's Merced: Backers and Boycotts 

Sun is holding out with its workstations, refusing to back Intel-based systems. 

January 16, 1998 -- As Intel ramps up for next year's release of the IA-64
Merced chip, the company is gaining support from important backers in the
workstation arena, but there is one notable holdout: Sun Microsystems.
Although Sun has made a software co mmitment to the Merced platform with its
Solaris operating system, the company has decided to eschew Merced in its
hardware efforts. 

Recently, Sun did confirm that it will port its Solaris operating system to
Intel's 64-bit Merced platform, which had led many to believe that Sun was
embracing Wintel platforms. The company has offered versions of Solaris for
Intel's x86 platforms for ye ars. In several respects, however, Sun appears to
be thumbing its nose at the Wintel world. The company has confirmed that it
will not produce workstations based on Intel's 64-bit Merced chip but will
instead continue to produce workstations built on its Sparc RISC processors. 
Furthermore, Sun maintains that it will never make Intel chips the basis of
its workstation platforms--which many other workstation players have done. Sun
has also said it will stay tied to Unix operating-system platforms and will
not move toward Microsoft's Windows NT within its workstations. 

Sun's decision not to produce Merced-based systems nor to migrate to Windows
NT in its systems sets it apart from other workstation players. Digital
Equipment, Hewlett-Packard, and Silicon Graphics already either produce or
will soon produce Intel-based w orkstations that run on Windows NT. Sun, which
has a reputation for selling some of the most expensive machines made, has
made an effort to compete in terms of price, though. Sun recently released a
new set of Sparc workstations with lower price tags to c ompete with some of
the inexpensive workstation offerings based on Intel chips. Sun's Ultra 5
workstation, which sells for under-$5,000, for example, has a speedy 270-MHz
UltraSparcIIi processor. 

Intel has positioned the IA-64 Merced chip, due in 1999, as a product for
workstations and servers but not for desktops. Intel has also acknowledged
that it will develop an even more advanced IA-64 processor, due to ship in
2001, that will be significantl y faster than Merced. So far, Unix players
have pledged support for Merced. Digital Equipment and Sequent Computer
Systems have announced that they will port the 64-bit Digital Unix OS to
Intel's IA-64, and they will also collaborate on support for Sequen t's
non-uniform memory architecture (NUMA) for linking multiple processors in a
single system. Digital and Sequent are positioning themselves in direct
competition with Sun to offer the ideal Unix OS on the Merced platform. 

Will Sun's strategy of shunning the Wintel world with its workstations pay
off? Only time will tell, but the company is firmly behind the effort.  At
last year's Sun Strategy Day, CEO Scott McNealy described Sun workstations
running Solaris as "one of the few significant platforms left to compete with
Wintel." 

--Sebastian Rupley

 
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Programming Thots
-------------------------

*	Do you developers ever check out Microsoft Interactive Developer online
(http://www.microsoft.com/mind/)?  If not, you might want to.  They provide
actual source code for a number of interesting different apps.  Currently,
some of the code posted includ es: 

     Code from Internet Client SDK, VCIE4.zip (184KB)
     Code from Cutting Edge, Cutting.zip (92KB)
     Code from RDO Programming with Java, JavaRDO.zip (1KB)
     Code from MTS Components, MTSWeb.zip (323KB)
     Code from Java 911, Java911.zip (69KB)

I don't know that Microsoft could ever come close to mixing it up with Dr. Dobb's
(http://www.ddj.com/ftp/), but who knows?  Hey, more source, who can complain.... 


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Web Development Thots
-------------------------------

*	I continue to be amazed at Scott McNealy and his Java wondervison.  He keeps
talking about the vision, as though it were here, yet the present condition of
Java borders on embarrassing.  It's not backwards compatible, it's not truly
cross platform, it' s slower than molasses - I mean embarrassingly slow - and
he keeps coming up with TOYS!  What the hell do I as a business want with a
Java Decoder ring???  I want functionality.  Sheesh, is that so hard to
understand? 

An example.  I recently tested an application called Netmosphere (actually
Netmosphere's product, ActionPlan), a Web-based, Java-built project management
tool.  How better to share project plans and tracking than via Web browser
across platforms?  Aside f rom sickening security issues (ever hear of
*caching* anyone???), it was SO SO SO painfully slow.  Using Netscape, it took
an average - average, mind you - of 5 minutes to open up to a project plan! 
In some instances, it took over 10 minutes.  When deali ng with the vendor
regarding this issue, I was shown that using Microsoft IE cut the time down
dramatically, and we were all advised to use IE exclusively.  Makes one
wonder.  Of course, I shudder at the thought of using IE exclusively, let
alone at all.  With those early versions of 4.0x, one minute you had an OS,
and the minute your computer's hosed completely.... 

Anyway, the point is, while McNealy and his crew market their butts off, are
they even spending ANY time at all up there trying to smooth over the many
rough edges of Java?  Will we see any true, workable functionality?  I realize
that Java's not that old , and let's be honest, it's C++ Lite.  But, Scott's
going to town like it already IS the greatest thing on earth, and nothing
could be further from the truth.  The hard, cold fact is, Sun is a hardware
company and is out of its element. 


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This Issue's Plug-in
------------------------

*	I'm considering eliminating this segment of Tek Thots as well, as I've
inferred previously.  I mean, when's the last year a truly relevant plug-in
came down the road?  That said, NetJumper (http://www.netjumper.com/) is
putting out a plug-in which looks somewhat interesting. It's a browser
assistant.  It loads lists of URLs from Web sites and pre-created lists
(including bookmark files); it then lets users surf forward to the next site
on the loaded list.  It saves lists, allows sharing of lists, edits lists, and
allows "hands free viewing." It features a drop down window for
viewing/selecting the entire list and a "ListBuilder" utility for creation and
editing of lists. 


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This Issue's ActiveX Control
-----------------------------------

*	Remember ActiveX?  The thing that was going to change the world?  The groovy
*new* (yeah, right) technology that was going to change the Web?  The
challenger to Java?  The technology that we all went out and bought books for? 
Well, with no warning, IT' S HISTORY! See for yourselves: 
http://www.microsoft.com/activex/

Yep, it's been replaced by COM!!!  Are they nuts!  It's apparent Microsoft is
desperately clawing for anything to beat Java, and they're simply (continuing
to) recycling old technologies in their effort to stay ahead of Sun. 

=============================================================

Stock Thots
--------------


*	Well, after seeing the ISP stocks die on the vine this past summer, they've
been enjoying a rebirth.  Mindspring's stock nearly tripled after they
allegedly went profitable - the first ISP to do so.  EarthLink's, too, has
risen from around $10 to around $25.  Concentric's has been somewhat of a
disappointment, but Netcom and IDT stockholders have got to be reasonably
happy.  It'll be interesting to see how '98 treats them.  My bet is Mindspring
and EarthLink continue to be fairly strong stocks.... 


*	Boy, how about those communications companies though.  Cisco, Cabletron, Bay
Networks and the others have really, really been hit hard during the past
couple of months.  I still can't help but feel though, that they'll be strong
stocks to hang onto for a long while.  Frankly, they make the equipment that
makes the Internet run - routers, hubs, etc. - and as the world becomes more
interconnected and we see more online commerce, these companies will be in a
great position. 


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Game Thots
--------------


*	Not too long ago, I bought (http://www.ssionline.com/) SSI's Dark Colony,
hoping it would be more than just a C&C clone, and I wasn't horribly
disappointed.  While it definitely IS a clone, it offers enough unique
features to justify its purchase. 

The gameplay is pretty solid, the graphics are a definite improvement over its
predecessors, and there are dozens of missions.  The game pits Martian-like
Grays and humans duking it out over Mars.  Typically, you harvest (Petra),
build, manage resources, fight it out, etc.  Shocker.... However, some of the
differences between Dark Colony and others of its ilk are fairly cool.  When
the fighting goes on, as units are hit, they explode in a bloody spurtfest. 
As noted, the graphics are damn good.  The weapo ns are cool, although the
weapons for both sides are too similar.  The multi-player support is very
strong (TCP/IP, cable, IPX, and modem).  However, there's not a whole lot here
to differentiate it from the other clones, there's not much difference in th e
two sides (aside from appearance), there aren't levels of difficulty, and the
game can border on too easy for fans of this type.  Nonetheless, a decent
game, one of the better clones, and one which I tend to recommend.... 


=============================================================

Newbie Thot
----------------

*	Newbies always ask me where the heck to get all that software that people
talk about (or write about).  While many of us are used to using search
engines to find these items, or are already familiar with various software
sites, many people are not.  So, I'm going to list a number of sites which
have proven useful for me; maybe they will for you as well. 


Shareware.com (http://www.shareware.com/) and Download.com
(http://www.download.com) are both from C/NET, and they're both pretty good,
for Mac or PC users.  Tucows (http://tucows.tierranet.com/) is a really great
site, again for both Mac and PC users.  T hese are all good places to start. 
If you can't find what you need there, you might move on to other places.  Mac
users can find a lot of good stuff at the INFO-MAC archive
(http://hyperarchive.lcs.mit.edu/HyperArchive.html) and at the Arizona
Macintosh Users Group (ftp://ftp.amug.org/) site.  Windows95.com
(http://www.windows95.com/) is a good place for Win95-specific apps, as is
Stroud's Consummate Winsock Applications (http://cws.internet.com/) page.  You
can find tons of shareware at the Shareware P age
(http://www.foothill.net/mthome/sharware.html).  Lastly, the ZDNet Software
Library (http://www.hotfiles.com/index.html) is also pretty good. 

This isn't the be all, end all of lists, but I've had good luck at these
places, so go grab some software and have fun! 


=============================================================

Privacy/Security Thots
---------------------------

*	I can't tell you how many arguments I get into with Java developers about
Java.  I continue to assert that it's the slowest language on the face of the
earth, it's the most over-hyped piece of crap in history, and that if it EVER
meets developer expecta tion/marketing hype (try about 5 years from now), I'll
be stunned.  Well, I rarely have to resort to security issues, but if and when
I do, the following Web page just kills me:  The Hostile Applets Home Page
(http://www.rstcorp.com/hostile-applets/index. html).  Boy, some of the babies
are works, and there's source code!  So, check it out and enjoy the wonders of
Java code for yourselves. 


*	The New York state attorney general's office has finally filed a civil
lawsuit against the spamming, scamming, harrassing Woodside Literary Agency,
and more power to them.  After the hell they've put individuals (such as Jayne
A. Hitchcock) and the coll ective Internet through with their fraudulent
spamming tactics.  Now, if only *criminal* charges would be filed.... 


*	Tek Thots AV Scanning Results:

PRODUCT			Number Caught (out of 200)		%

Anywhere AV			199				99.5%
Dr. Solomon's FindVirus (7.68)	199				99.5%%
F-PROT (v. 2.24c) 		198 				99%
Sophos Sweep 			196 				98%
ThunderBYTE  			195 				97.5%
   (Tbav for Windows 95 v7.06)
Invircible			195				97.5%
McAfee VirusScan 95 (2.01.218)	195 				97.5%
Norton AntiVirus 		195				97.5%
Leprechaun			195				97.5%
IBM Antivirus 			192 				96%


These irritating Macro viruses have obviously been making the rounds lately,
and it's been interesting see their impact.  Laroux has been one of the more
prevalent, yet the info coming from the AV makers is that it does nothing
harmful.  I don't know abou t you folks, but I've seen it sludge people's PCs
up for quite a long time.  Further, there are 3 different strains of Laroux. 
While the AV makers all claim that their products will, of course, snag all
versions, I have yet to see it.  F-PROT has gotten rid of one for me, Dr.
Solomon's another, and McAfee a third.  Tbav has been useless....  Well,
anyway, there are over 1300 Macro viruses now, and while they remain largely
benign, I think it's only a matter of time before someone figures out a way to
cru nch your MBR through a Macro. 


*	From the CuD Digest (10.02), the text of a California anti-spam bill:


Date: Wed, 07 Jan 1998 18:17:53 -0800
From: Greg Broiles 
Subject: File 3--CA anti-spam bill

Here's the text of AB 1629, introduced in the California State Assembly
yesterday:

----


BILL NUMBER: AB 1629    INTRODUCED
        BILL TEXT


INTRODUCED BY   Assembly Member Miller

                        JANUARY 5, 1998

   An act to add Section 17538.45 to the Business and Professions
Code, relating to advertising.


        LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


   AB 1629, as introduced, Miller.  Advertising: electronic mail.
   Existing law prohibits a person conducting business in this state
from faxing unsolicited advertising material, unless certain
conditions are satisfied.
   This bill would also prohibit a person conducting business in the
state from using a computer or other electronic device to send an
unsolicited advertisement to an electronic mail address within the
state unless (1) that person has a preexisting and ongoing business
or personal relationship with the recipient, or absent that
relationship, the recipient has previously provided express consent
or permission with respect to the advertisement and (2) that person
provides certain identifying information at the beginning of the
advertisement.  It would also authorize any person with legal
standing to bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction to
enjoin any violation of these prohibitions, or to recover civil
damages, as specified, or to seek both of those remedies.  It would
also provide that the prevailing party in any of those actions shall
be entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees.
   Existing law provides for the regulation of advertising and
provides that any violation of those provisions is a crime.  This
bill, by creating additional prohibitions with regard to advertising,
would expand the scope of an existing crime, thereby imposing a
state-mandated local program.
  The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local
agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the
state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that
reimbursement.
   This bill would provide that no reimbursement is required by this
act for a specified reason.
   Vote:  majority.  Appropriation:  no.  Fiscal committee:  yes.
State-mandated local program:  yes.


THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:


  SECTION 1.  Section 17538.45 is added to the Business and
Professions Code, to read:
   17538.45.  (a) No person conducting business in this state shall
use any computer or other electronic device to send an unsolicited
advertisement to an electronic mail address within the state unless
each of the following requirements are satisfied:
   (1) That person has a preexisting and ongoing business or personal
relationship with the recipient, or absent that relationship, the
recipient has previously provided express consent or permission with
respect to the advertisement.
   (2) That person clearly provides, at the beginning of the
unsolicited advertisement, the date and time the message was sent,
the identity of the person sending the message, and the return
electronic mail address of that person.
   (b) (1) Notwithstanding Sections 17535 and 17536, any person who
has legal standing may bring an action in a court of competent
jurisdiction for either or both of the following purposes:
   (A) To enjoin any violation of this section.
   (B) To recover civil damages in an amount equal to the actual
monetary loss suffered by that person by reason of any violation, or
five hundred dollars ($500) for each violation, whichever amount is
greater.  However, if the court finds that a violation of this
section was willful or knowing, the court may, in its discretion,
award up to three times the amount of those civil damages.
   (2) The prevailing party in any action brought under paragraph (1)
shall be entitled to recover reasonable attorney's fees.
  SEC. 2.  No reimbursement is required by this act pursuant to
Section 6 of Article XIIIB of the California Constitution because the
only costs that may be incurred by a local agency or school district
will be incurred because this act creates a new crime or infraction,
eliminates a crime or infraction, or changes the penalty for a crime
or infraction, within the meaning of Section 17556 of the Government
Code, or changes the definition of a crime within the meaning of
Section 6 of Article XIIIB of the California Constitution.
   Notwithstanding Section 17580 of the Government Code, unless
otherwise specified, the provisions of this act shall become
operative on the same date that the act takes effect pursuant to the
California Constitution.


*	From The Journal of Electronic Defense:


DARPA Works on Next-Generation Internet

The DARPA, not ready to rest on laurels earned by its Internet development
efforts of the 1970s, is underway on a program called the Next-Generation
Internet (NGI) initiative. 

David L. Tennenhouse, director of the DARPA's Information Technology Office,
in testimony to senators on the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space,
organized under the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the
DARPA has set several goals for its NGI initiative. 

The first goal is to define an approach to network-based computing to ensure
that network infrastructure is able to adapt and configure itself to a variety
of applications. The DARPA plans to develop engineering tools to automate
large portions of the net work functions as part of the first goal.
Tennenhouse said the DARPA has called for proposals to develop prototype
systems that integrate research results to allow users to negotiate
application-specific tradeoffs among parameters such as bandwidth, preci sion
and reliability. 

The DARPA's second NGI goal is to develop and demonstrate ultra-high-speed
multiplexing, transmission and control technologies that will lay the
groundwork for terabit-per-second networks, according to Tennenhouse. He said
the components of these networks will be largely all-optical, with little or
no electronic conversion within the network itself. 


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Copyright (C) 1998  Scott C. Holstad
ASCII Tek Thots logo courtesy Teri Osato






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