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March 29, 2002

Red Hat Advanced Server Looks Attractive to Financial Services Companies' IT Departments

Earlier this week, we reported on the Forbes article that said Merrill Lynch and CSFB are replacing UNIX with Linux. We are beginning to believe that the spin on this article and our interpretation was not quite right. We did not sufficiently factor in enterprise IT's interest in Red Hat Linux Advanced Server and how it differs from Red Hat Linux 7.2 Professional.

This became more obvious with the publication of Red Hat Advanced Server: The real enterprise deal? by Steven J. Vaughn on NewsForge. Apparently, it was easy to miss the differences between Advanced Server and Red Hat 7.2 Professional because the announcement of Advanced Server featured representatives from large enterprise IT, stating their interest and commitment to the platform.

Read on for more about the article and our interpretation of it....

According to the article:

It's not just the Red Hat customers and their wallet size that was impressive, though; Red Hat people claim RHLAS is a different take on Linux. Mark de Visser, Red Hat's v.p. of marketing, says that before RHLAS, almost all major Linux distributions were general purpose and meant for everyone from "college students to the enterprise. But RHLAS is for the enterprise only."

Bill Claybrook, research director for Linux and Unix at the Aberdeen Group, sees RHLAS as Red Hat's way of "telling the computing business that they're serious about getting Red Hat into the enterprise. Prior to this, they've been all over the place."

One way de Visser says that Red Hat is stabilizing RHLAS is putting it on an 18-month life cycle. The RHLAS that will be out next month, with a year of support and a starting price of $800, will use the same code base until well into 2004.

In our experience, the key to the increased value of Advanced Server over other flavors of Red Hat is the 18-month life cycle. If Red Hat succeeds in executing on this promise, they will attract a lot of IT managers from Financial Services companies that use other versions of UNIX. An 18-month lifecycle for OS code bases seems to be a sweet spot for these people. It's long enough to be the basis for long-term IT planning.

A lot of people we know with software development experience are certain that IT costs can be reduced through migration from Solaris, AIX, and HP-UX to Windows or Linux. The differences between Windows and Linux that truly matter to IT people are:

  • application software porting costs
  • platform stability
  • availability of technical staff
  • vendor lock-in
  • license costs

Others may order the list differently than we have, but we are fairly confident that pros in the field would list license costs near the bottom.

With the change in philosophy that underlies Red Hat Linux Advanced Server comes a dramatic increase in perceived platform stability, which is likely to be realized if they execute on their business plan. If any Linux OS Distribution achieves both volume shipment and increased platform stability, it will be a serious alternative to the other UNIXes. It is much easier to port from an Enterprise UNIX to Linux than to Windows. This is why we now see the announcement of Red Hat Linux Advanced Server as a major development in the IT market, with particular impact on Financial Services businesses.

Infernos Caused WTC Towers to Fall

In one of the most detailed analyses made public since September 11, The New York Times has published a summary of a forthcoming report from FEMA and the American Society of Civil Engineers about the likely cause of the collapse of the World Trade Center.

The report says that both towers could probably have withstood the impact of the planes, if fires had not subsequently broken out. But, the extreme heat generated by these fires, estimated at three to five gigawatts was sufficient to melt the structural steel, the alumnium bodies of the planes and metal fixtures and office furniture in the impact area.

Detailed descriptions of the impacts on the South and North Towers are provided, but the article indicates that the analysis of the North Tower may not be sufficient to fully explain the chain of events the culminated in its collapse.

March 28, 2002

NY Times: Maturity of Internet Makes Web Less "Fun"

Today's New York Times has an article about the the web is not holding the attention of people looking for entertainment. Creators of formerly-popular web sites like Glenn Davis of Cool Site of the Day are quoted. Examples of sites that people remember as "fun" include: Coffee Cam, Fish Tank Cam at Netscape, The Spot (an ill-fated online soap opera), and Telegarden.

All of the sites that the article mentions are shallow, single-purpose sites with truly limited entertainment value. Yet, the article acts as if sites like these are the life-blood of the Internet, playing a critical role in growing the percentage of the U.S. population that uses the web. This is clearly one of the least relevant articles that The New York Times has published recently.

Merrill Lynch, CSFB Replacing Other UNIX Systems with Linux

Yesterday, Forbes reported that Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse First Boston are deploying Linux to replace "proprietary" UNIX systems. This is not surprising, considering how stable Linux has become in recent releases.

The most interesting part of this article is the fact that it says that Merrill Lynch apparently has chosen to run its Linux applications on Red Hat's distribution. This makes sense because Red Hat has the largest sales of any Linux distribution. The weird part is that many technical people believe that Red Hat rolls out new technologies in its core distribution before they are proven, so customers have to cut the distribution down or stay with an older version longer than the vendor does.

March 25, 2002

Eulogy for Regina Baird Lynch

This is the eulogy for Regina Baird Lynch who died in Williamsville, NY, on March 22, 2002, at age 86. It was delivered by Dave Aiello on March 25 at St Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church, Williamsville, NY.

On behalf of my family, thanks to all of the friends and neighbors who came to visit, called, or sent a card. Your support means a great deal to us in this time of sadness.

Regina Baird Lynch was born on December 13, 1915 in Paterson, NJ. She died in Williamsville on March 22, 2002, at age 86. Jean Lynch was great grandmother of one, grandmother of five of us, mother of three, sibling of three sisters and two brothers, and wife to one great man, my grandfather, James M. Lynch, Jr.

It's hard for me to reflect upon my grandmother's life because I was part of it for a little less than half its span. A lot of ideas went through my head at a million miles an hour, few of them stuck with me. One thought I had after my uncle asked me to consider saying a few words was that it was hard to understand my grandmother without also
knowing my grandfather.

My grandmother and grandfather got married in 1938. They spent a lot of their early married life in the Morristown, NJ area where my grandfather was a schoolteacher and later a principal. He earned his doctorate in education during that time, which ultimately
allowed him to become a professor at Glassboro State College in Southern New Jersey. They moved to Glassboro in the late 1950s with their children, Sharon and Dennis. This was my grandparent's home until around the time my grandfather died in 1982.

During this period, my grandmother managed to have a 20-year career as an elementary school teacher and a remedial reading teacher at the elementary and middle school levels. I think the reason that she taught at that time was because she was committed to helping the community, and we would continue to see this trait in her when
she volunteered at hospitals in North Jersey and in this area, later in life.

My grandfather was the kind of man who loved my grandmother and supported her in every way, including her career. He was well known in New Jersey and probably throughout the country as a leader of the New Jersey Education Association and the New Jersey Retired Educators' Association. He wrote several books on educational
practice and educational law in the State of New Jersey.

My grandparents had a great life together. They traveled extensively, particularly after they retired. They visited their children and grandchildren often, and were very involved in our lives and what mattered to us.

It was a tremendous shock to all of us when my grandfather passed away in 1982. My grandmother took this loss very hard, and she had a tremendous adjustment to make to life without her husband. This involved selling the house in Glassboro and moving to
North Jersey, where she could be near her daughter, my mother, and her family. By this time, I was in high school.

Looking back, this was the first time I realized the depth of her faith in God. My sister told me yesterday that she thinks of Grandma as "a strong woman with great faith
who endured the death of two children and her husband."

I have no idea how difficult it must have been to see my uncle, James III, die in infancy. But, I know what my grandmother went through with my grandfather's death in 1982 and my mother's death in 1991. I don't think she could have survived either of those sudden losses without special help from the Holy Spirit.

My grandmother moved to Buffalo shortly after my mother's death in late 1991. After she settled in, she volunteered at one of the local hospitals. This was a continuation of her practice from when she lived near my family in New Jersey. She continued to
volunteer at the hospital for several years, while she participated in many family activities with my aunt and uncle's family on a day-to-day basis.

Until relatively recently, my grandmother was in very good health. Her biggest difficulty most of the time was insomnia. She turned this into something fairly positive by developing a voracious appetite for reading. Christie told me that when she first arrived in Williamsville, Grandma went to the library on Friday or Saturday, checked out 13 books, and had them read by Wednesday. Julie says that she could read a 400-page book in under 48 hours. At this point in her life, Grandma also loved crossword puzzles and baking cookies.

These were just the latest manifestations of my grandmother's late night habits. Probably only a few people outside our immediate family remember her incredible cake decorating and crocheting skills. Those activities fell by the wayside in later years due to her arthritis, but my brother Scott still sleeps with an afghan my grandmother made for him. I have nice one with a racecar on it myself.

In the last year of her life, my grandmother said to me more than once, "Don't ever get old." I thought about this for quite some time, watching her struggle with physical difficulties from which she would never quite recover. I decided that this was one piece
of advice she gave me that I'm going to try to ignore. I don't know about you, but I'd be so much less complete as a person if she followed her own advice.

If she hadn't gotten old, I wouldn't have seen such a great example of finding new interests and developing new skills. She showed us how we can continue to make a contribution to our families and our communities.

If she hadn't gotten old, I probably wouldn't have realized the power of prayer or the way God can intervene in your life and change your outlook, the way He so obviously did for her.

If she hadn't gotten old, she wouldn't have been around to talk to me and encourage me all those times I called her from the car on my mobile phone.

I think all of these qualities were present in my grandmother for years. But, if she hadn't gotten old, I wouldn't have had time to mature enough to see them for what they really were.

And so, I'm going to disobey my grandmother this one time, because I want to try to have the same kind of impact that she had on members of her family and on her community. I urge the members of my family and our friends assembled here today to join me in the effort to eventually get old.

Thank you very much, and God bless us all.

March 22, 2002

We Had a Nice Celebration Until We Learned....

Dave Aiello wrote, "I'm sure that the last 24 hours have been the most emotionally draining period since September 11 for me and my wife, Kathleen. On Thursday morning, we learned that Kathleen had matched for residency at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's pediatrics program in New Brunswick, NJ. This was her first choice for a number of reasons, including strength of its program, quality facilities, and proximity to our friends and family. It is considered an achievement to win a job at the program of your first choice-- it means they wanted you as much as you wanted to be there."

"We had a nice celebration with her friends from Jefferson Medical College and our families. But, bad news began to reach us when we arrived home from dinner and connected to the Internet."

Dave Aiello continued:

I received an email from Dick Trimble telling me that Mike Condon died of a heart attack Thursday at age 43, at his home in Philadelphia. I knew Mike through my association with the Atlantic District Officiating Program of USA Hockey. He was known to more people as a veteran official in the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League. He was also one of the video replay officials at Philadelphia Flyers home games. When we went to bed, I told Kathleen that I planned to go to Mike's funeral, but we tried to focus on the happiness we felt over her successful match.

We were awakened by a telephone call from my sister early this morning. She told us that our grandmother Regina B. Lynch passed away in Buffalo a little more than 90 minutes before my sister called. My grandmother had been in declining health for about a year, but her death was not something I had been expecting to occur at any moment. This is quite sad for us because she has been a source of strength for our family for decades.

It is difficult to say much more at the moment because of the shock of hearing about the death of two people that matter to me in such rapid succession. But, I know that some friends read this web site every business day and will notice if we don't post anything for a few days. Now you know why.

March 20, 2002

Carriers Thinking of Uniting Cellular Data Networks with Public Wireless LANs

CommsDesign reports that several mobile phone carriers are talking about integrating wireless LAN technology with their cellular data networks. One example of this is VoiceStream who recently acquired MobileStar, primarily for its contracts and its hardware assets. But, other firms including Telenor and Telia are experimenting with the same concept in Scandinavia.

Knight Ridder Homogenizes Its Local News Web Sites

The Online Journalism Review reports that Knight Ridder has rolled out a new, standard look and feel for many of its newspapers' web sites, generating criticism on a number of fronts. Knight Ridder operates sites like SiliconValley.com and Philly.com, which now look more alike than different.

Doc Searls made some extremely critical comments, calling the change Death by Content Management. KR took some well designed web sites with unique architectures and distinct audiences, broke every link to other web sites, and rolled out something new which looks like the lowest common denominator of what they had previously.

This criticism makes us wonder why we haven't heard much about Advance Internet's properties like NJ.com, Syracuse.com, and Cleveland.com? All of these sites have a common look and feel. All of them definitely leave something to be desired. Maybe this is what we have to look forward to from all of the "old time media companies".

NY Post Reporter Fired, Possibly for Reporting on Lawsuit Against Disney

This week's Village Voice reports on the firing of NY Post entertainment reporter Nikki Finke. She was shown the door shortly after writing an article about the 1991 breach-of-contract suit against Disney by Stephen Slesinger Inc.. The suit alleged that Disney did not pay the correct amount of royalties to Slesinger, the company that holds the copyrights on Winnie the Pooh and related characters. The Village Voice article says, in part, "The news hook was the January 18 disclosure of court documents revealing that a judge fined Disney $90,000 last year for destroying documents that might or might not have been relevant to the case. The disclosure resulted in a spate of bad publicity in the days following."

The article asks whether the journalist was fired for factual errors in her stories, as the Post and Disney both allege, or because News Corporation, owner of the Post, caved into pressure Disney, an important business partner? Our question is, was the disclosure of the mere existence of the Winnie the Pooh case so damaging to Disney's public image that it would feel the need to pressure a major U.S. newspaper to fire a reporter?

FWIW, we started following this situation because some of our readers are intrigued by Disney's business and were not aware of the fact that they did not own some of their major characters outright. This was why we originally posted a story about the NY Post articles that started this controversy.

March 19, 2002

Palm Advocates Use of Bluetooth Through Partnership with Sony Ericsson

CNET News.com also reported on the announcement of a strategic alliance between Palm and Sony Ericsson to advance the use of Bluetooth personal networking technology as a means of making stand-alone mobile phones and PDAs work together.

Bluetooth is a wireless networking technology meant to provide seemless connectivity between a small number of devices operating within 30 feet of each other. Sony Ericsson is a joint venture between Sony and Ericsson to produce mobile phones that provide multimedia capabilities.

This announcement is interesting because it shows a radically different approach to how PDAs should connect to the Internet. If you have never seen a Bluetooth-enabled phone providing Internet connectivity to a PDA or laptop, you probably cannot imagine the possibilities that widespread Bluetooth deployment would provide to people on-the-go. This would not satisfy people who are interested in carrying a single device, but Bluetooth is probably something people would nevertheless want in their mobile devices if they knew of its capabilities.

Handspring and Sprint Announce Pact to Bring CDMA Treos to Market

CNET News.com reports that Handspring and Sprint have announced an agreement to produce and market a CDMA-based Treo handheld communicator. According to the article, Handspring President Ed Colligan said, "There is some exclusivity for a period of time...and there was some compensation from Sprint, but this is a strategic announcement."

To us, this is a surprising development, because a relationship with Verizon arguably could have been more productive to bring the CDMA-based version to market. Verizon Wireless also uses CDMA technology, and seems to have a stronger network infrastructure in the Northeastern United States. On the other hand, Sprint has demonstrated its ability to connect with customers in its recent advertising campaigns, and strong promotion of the Handspring devices might change the demand for the product substantially.

Substitute the Word "Customer" for "Consumer"

Doc Searls just posted his reaction to Walter Mossberg's Personal Technology column that appeared in last Thursday's edition of The Wall Street Journal. Searls says, "I like DigitalConsumer, but I'd like them a lot more if they called themselves DigitalCustomer. Same goes for Walter's last word as well."

Good point. Educated Americans are more than just passive consumers of media content. Many of us think about what we want to watch/listen to/experience and make informed choices. If mass marketers thought about the people they sold to as customers, rather than "consumers" of their product or service, attention to the customer's needs and desires would be quite different.

What if the recording industry thought of people who download music as their customers (instead of as thieves)? How would this change the way they communicate with them? How would the offers they make to the public be different from what they are today?

March 18, 2002

Handspring Announces Beta Program for Treo Mail

CNET News.com reports that Handspring has announced a service called Treo Mail and is beginning a beta test program immediately. According to the Handspring Web Site, "Treo Mail delivers email from your existing email account to your Treo communicator so you can access your important messages from wherever you are. Treo Mail comes in two editions: Corporate Edition for use with email accounts located behind a corporate firewall or Internet Edition for use with POP3 email accounts...."

This service apparently does not enable GPRS. At this stage, Treo Mail is simply a way to integrate a Treo more tightly with traditional email services provided on corporate Intranets or via ISPs. An ISP account and a data call using the device's wireless modem is still required to make connection with the Treo Mail service.

Microcontent Publishes Interview with Authors of "Running Weblogs with Slash"

Dave Aiello wrote, "Microcontent News published a three part interview {here is Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3} with Brian Aker, chromatic, and David Krieger, the authors of the book Running Weblogs with Slash. After Slashcode linked to the interview, I contributed a series of comments about it to Slashcode. As I said at the conclusion of my comments:"

The Microcontent interview was well done. It's great to see some members of our community recognized for their expertise. This is a positive side-effect of getting a book published about our platform. These happy events will keep occurring if the book sells well, if we keep our development pace high, and if we keep producing high quality web content with the Slash engine. We all have a part to play in making that happen.

What is the Zlib Double-Free Vulnerability and Why Should I Care?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Last week, a story made the rounds of a bug in a component of Linux called Zlib. This is a library upon which gzip (GNU zip), a compression utility, is based. Gzip turned out to be much more widely implemented than originally thought, in part because it is implemented without use of any patented compression algorithms."

"It turns out that a number of widely-used Perl modules also use the zlib library. I had no idea what the scope of the effort involved in patching the affected Perl modules would be. So, I posted a question about it on PerlMonks and got some interesting responses. I recommend that developers with Perl code in production read this PerlMonks thread and consider the implications."

Industrial Estates in India Make Programmers Think Twice About Coming to the USA

Monday's New York Times suggests that newly constructed industrial estates in India give qualified programmers a high quality-of-life without the effort and difficulty of getting a job in the United States. This article is interesting, but it leaves out a few dimensions of the decision Indians typically make when they come to the United States or Europe to work in IT. One obvious irreplaceable element of a job in the United States is the opportunity to have the complete cultural experience of living here, as opposed to the creature comforts of living and working in a modern environment.

Indians who come to the United States on H1-B visas seem to get a lot out of living and working here, in spite of the fact that many of them return to India on extended vacations periodically, or to take managerial jobs with the companies for which they work. Either way, it's hard to believe that the Indians who return to their country don't tell their friends that life in the United States is a great opportunity.

Another issue the article doesn't address is the job placement process in the United States. Many Indians come to the United States as employees of Indian technical services firms, and have pre-negotiated contract positions at Fortune 500 companies. So, the risk of coming to the United States and finding a job is not as great as it might seem.

NY Times Says Quest for Job in IT is Now "Long" and "Humbling"

Sunday's New York Times contained an article called The Long, Humbling Quest for a Job in Technology. This recounts the stories of a few people who had jobs in the Information Technology sector of the economy in the New York area, who lost their jobs in the economic downturn, and can't find jobs new jobs.

Some of the information provided the article is truly useful, like not applying for a job unless your resume has all of the stated requirements listed on it. But, that advice flies in the face of advice that experienced IT people often give job seekers in the field: make your resume concise because no one wants to read a 24 page resume.

People who are seeking jobs in the field may take some comfort in the fact that this article has run in The New York Times in the first place. Often it seems that by the time a newspaper like the Times runs a story like this, the economic sector they are talking about is at or past the bottom.

March 15, 2002

Entertainment and IT Leaders Appear at Senate Hearing on Protection of Creative Works

Yesterday, the United States Senate held a hearing entitled Competition, Innovation, and Public Policy in the Digital Age: Is the Marketplace Working to Protect Digital Creative Works?. Some of the statements made by the witnesses, such as Joe Kraus' statement are quite interesting, and worth reading. Joe Kraus was the founder of Excite and, recently, founder of DigitalConsumer.org Among other things, Kraus said:

This past Christmas I bought my dad a DVD player. Within two weeks I got a phone call. "Itís broken" he insisted. When I asked why, he said that he put a DVD in and as he had become accustomed to doing with his video tapes, when the movie previews came up, he went to skip through them. But now, the DVD player wouldnít let him. I told him that his DVD player wasnít broken but that existing law made it illegal to create a DVD player that would skip through content that the media companies flagged as "must watch". Needless to say he didnít know what I was talking about.

Read on for more information about the hearing, and our view of the government's role in the protection of creative works....

One of the most powerful points made by the witnesses representing the consumer viewpoint was that Congress has already made laws that conflict with previous legislation that it did not repeal. The entertainment industry is also attempting to use technological means to prevent the copying of Audio CDs for use on other devices, despite the fact that the Audio Home Recording Act makes such copies legal for personal use.

The founders of this country clearly intended copyright law to balance the rights of the author with the rights of the citizen to make "fair use" of a copyrighted work. We should not permit industries to change the bargain simply because a small percentage of the public is involved in piracy, and they have found a way to use the Internet to facilitate their activities.

Up to now, it appears that the Senate has focused on entertainment industry estimates of the economic losses attributable to piracy. The Senate also needs to consider the substantial infringement on consumer rights that proposed "solutions" to the industry's piracy problem would inflict upon people who have no intention of violating existing law.

Organization Formed to Promote Consumer Technology Bill of Rights

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal Personal Technology Column, Walter Mossberg pointed out the formation of DigitalConsumer.org, a consumer rights organization that advocates a six-point Consumer Technology Bill of Rights. According to Mossberg, "This bill of rights wouldn't condone theft of media content or bar the industry from protecting itself. It would merely mean that in doing so, industries couldn't trample on the rights of honest consumers who buy content legally."

The rights that Digital Consumer.org are promoting are meant to ensure that doctrines like Fair Use are not eviscerated by the Federal legislation promoted by lobbying efforts of the entertainment industries.

Walter Mossberg deserves credit for writing this column. It takes some courage for someone who works for a member of the "media establishment" to speak strongly on behalf of consumer rights at this moment in history. His position on the balance between consumer and author/publisher rights is reasonable.

March 14, 2002

Arthur Andersen Indicted for Obstructing Justice in Enron Case

The Associated Press reports that the accounting firm Arthur Andersen was indicted for allegedly obstructing justice in the Enron bankruptcy case. The report says:

For a one-month span in October and early November, "Andersen ... did knowingly, intentionally and corruptly persuade" employees to "alter, destroy, mutilate and conceal" documents, the indictment said.

The article further states that a representative of Andersen said that the charges "were tantamount to a 'death penalty' against the firm, and it accused the Justice Department of 'a gross abuse of governmental power.'"

Downloading of Music Can't Be Stopped by Recording Industry

Martin O'Donnell pointed out the latest "Tech Investor" column in Business 2.0. In it, Eric Hellweg points out that downloading of popular music can't be stopped by the record companies, their industry association, or Congress. Hellweg points to high prices and mediocrity of highly promoted CDs as the major reasons for a 10 percent decrease in overall record sales in 2001. As long as the industry produces "mediocre $18 CDs that typically feature one decent track, maybe two", consumers will look for alternatives that allow them to acquire the few new songs that they like without paying for nine or ten unpopular ones.

Hellweg makes another excellent point when he asks, "With feature-length DVDs retailing for a little more than half {the price of major CD releases}, who can blame consumers for wanting to opt out of the CD purchase?"

UNIX Under the Desktop: Review of OS X in Linux Journal

Earlier today, LinuxJournal posted their review of OS X, the operating system that Apple Computer is shipping on all of its new Macintosh computers. It's an interesting review, particularly considering the source. The review reads, in part:

OS X gives us the first popular desktop OS that fits into a prevailing Linux environment and also into the prevailing marketplace. On the bottom, it's UNIX. On the top, it runs Microsoft Office and the whole Adobe suite. This has its appeals.

March 13, 2002

Drudge Report a Major Player in Oscar Debate Over "A Beautiful Mind"

The Toronto Star reports that The Drudge Report is now considered a major player in a debate about the completeness of the screen play of "A Beautiful Mind". At issue is whether the movie left out key incidents in the life of mathematician John Nash, and whether the movie would have been as well received if the incidents had been included. The debate is coming to a head at precisely the time when members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are submitting their ballots for The Academy Awards. "A Beautiful Mind" has been nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor and Director.

Student Visas for Atta and Another 9/11 Hijacker Delivered to Florida Flight School

The Washington Post and a number of other media outlets are reporting that Huffman Aviation International has received student visa paperwork for Mohammed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Atta and Alshehhi are two of the hijackers of planes that were crashed into The World Trade Center on September 11. Huffman Aviation received the paperwork by mail from The Immigration and Nationalization Service on March 11, the six month anniversary of the terrorist attack. According to the article:

The two suicide hijackers had applied for the visas through their flight school, Huffman Aviation International, in August 2000. But because of backlogs and an antiquated processing system at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, notification of the approval did not arrive at the Venice, Fla., flight school until Monday.

We urge everyone interested in the internal security of the United States and the integrity of its borders to read this article and consider the implications. This is the most obvious indication yet that our government has no effective means of controlling foreigners' access to the United States.

March 12, 2002

Drought Forces New Jersey to Impose Water Use Restrictions

Today's Star-Legder says that New Jersey issued "mandatory" water use restrictions to cope with a severe drought that has been developing across the state for the past several months. However, the article goes on to say that "The regulations are rife with exemptions, most notably for residents of Central Jersey and the northern coastal regions, where the drought conditions are less severe."

Loopholes in water use restrictions will make it more difficult to get people to comply with them. Either New Jersey should have regional water restrictions, or statewide restrictions that apply to all residential water users equally.

McGreevey Seeks to Unite UMDNJ Campuses, Possible Unification with Rutgers

Last week, The Star-Ledger reported that Governor James McGreevey has named a commission to examine the programs of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and to "turn an uneven network of disparate medical and health science schools in New Jersey into a top-ranked institution". This article provides an good summary of the history of UMDNJ and an overview of the institution's programs.

It is fairly clear from this article and from other articles that have appeared recently that some officials believe that the future of UMDNJ involves a merger with Rutgers University. At the present time, the universities are fairly separate, although they both have major facilities and programs in New Brunswick.

March 11, 2002

US Navy Pilot from Gulf War May Be a POW in Iraq

Investigative journalist Bill Gertz reports in The Washington Times that Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher may be a Prisoner of War in Iraq, in captivity since The Gulf War. Speicher was declared dead in 1991 when his F-18 was shot down over Iraq. According to the article, The Department of Defense reclassified him as missing in action last year. The article went on to say:

A U.S. intelligence report from March 2001 stated: "We assess that Iraq can account for Cmdr. Speicher but that Baghdad is concealing information about his fate."

The report, ordered by the Senate Intelligence Committee, stated that Cmdr. Speicher "probably survived the loss of his aircraft, and if he survived, he almost certainly was captured by the Iraqis."

AOL Reportedly Moving Away from Internet Explorer-based Client, Toward Linux for Its Servers

Newsforge reports that sources inside America On-Line said that the company plans to drop Microsoft Explorer as the browser component for the AOL 8.0 client software. The same sources also reported that the company is migrating as many of its servers to RedHat Linux, and away from Microsoft operating systems and "propertary UNIX" operating systems as possible.

"9/11" Documentary: One of the Great Moments in Television History

Sunday night's broadcast of the 9|11 documentary on CBS was one of the great moments in television history. As The New York Times reported this morning, many relatives of victims watched the documentary in spite of the emotional pain it must have caused them. The Associated Press said that firefighters who watched the documentary consider it a tasteful tribute to their fallen comrades and other victims.

It took great courage to produce and air a documentary like this on broadcast television, even in 2002. In a way, it was surprising how many stomach churning scenes of casualties and how much profanity spoken by the surviving firemen were left in this film. But, if they had edited it, even to contemporary network broadcast standards, what would have been left?

Anyone who sees this documentary will have to reassess their understanding of the attack and its aftermath. We urge the producers of this program to subtitle it in as many language as possible, and to make it available for broadcast elsewhere in the world.

March 8, 2002

Small UI Shortcomings in Treo 180 Already Addressed by Third Party Palm Apps

Dave Aiello wrote, "In the first week of using a Treo 180, I identified a couple of user interface problems that I found annoying or potentially embarassing. To my surprise, I also found that these problems are already addressed by software available at PalmGear. Read on for more details...."

Dave Aiello continued:

  • Problem: Treo always opens to speed dial screen
  • Why It's a Problem: Causes problems when demoing Treo to friends

  • Detailed Explanation: If you hand the closed Treo to someone so they can play with it, they flip it open. Many people then say, "What's this?" and press the speed dial button on my screen marked "Home". This calls results in a call to my home, not to displaying the home page of my Treo's web browser, or any other function someone might imagine.

  • Reasonable Solution: TreoButton, a program that lets you set the "Lid Open" function to whatever you want. I chose "---None---", which has the effect of opening the Palm to whatever you were using last. The application also has a function that lets you set the secondary function of the four application buttons, the functions accessible by holding the blue option key and pressing the phone, calendar, browser, or messaging button.

  • Problem: Typical Palm application has on-screen buttons without keyboard equivalents
  • Why It's a Problem: Causes user to have to take fingers off keyboard to use stylus or finger

  • Detailed Explanation: Lots of applications are unaware of the Treo at this time. Good examples are One-Touch Mail from JPMobile (ships with the Treo), and ToDoPlus from Hands High Software (something I licensed a couple of years ago).

  • Reasonable Solution: PowerJog, a program that lets you use the jog dial to iterate through menus and buttons that appear on the Treo screen.

These applications may not be the ultimate solutions to these small Treo user interface problems, but they have made me more satisfied with the total experience of using the Treo. I recommend these programs for the time being, and I will update the recommendation here, if necessary.

CTDATA Secure Web Services Restored to Operation

Due to a problem updating an expiring server certificate, some of CTDATA's secure web services were interrupted today from approximately 3:30 to 5:00pm, Eastern Time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused our customers.

March 7, 2002

Google's Advertising Policy Speaks Volumes about Its Business Philosophy

We recently noticed a statement Google posted on its web site about the difference between advertising on their web site and the search results that are displayed there. The title of the document, "Why we sell advertising, not search results," is not only an advertising-quality slogan, but it's also a powerful way to differentiate Google from its competitors.

Google has clearly never "sold out". This was important to old school Internet, who once rallied behind hyperbole like "information wants to be free." But, in the post-Dot-Com-crash environment, more and more sites are giving in to anything advertisers want, so long as the cash flow doesn't stop. Compare the Google policy to the advertising policy at Overture and see for yourself.

A very small percentage of Internet users would willingly use an Overture-based search engine, if they knew that search results were being sold like product placements in the movies. We think, however, that the vast majority of Internet users are unaware of the mercenary business practices that so many Internet search companies use today. Caveat emptor.

Developer Shed Publishes Article on "Web Mining" with Perl

Developer Shed has published an article on constructing a special-purpose web client in Perl that does things like automatic link or data extraction. The article refers to this type of programming as web mining. It's not a bad way to describe it because more people will probably understand the concept by calling it web mining than by referring to it as web client building.

The article focuses on describing the Perl modules that can be used to build this type of program quickly. It is light on describing the unethical uses of the technology, like email address harvesters used by spammers.

This is the first mention of Developer Shed on CTDATA.com, although they've been around almost as long as has this web site. The site looks like a good reference for server side and client side programming. We will be taking more of a look at it in the near future. You can visit Developer Shed at http://www.devshed.com/.

March 6, 2002

Thinking about Building a Personal Mail Archive Management Tool in Perl

Dave Aiello wrote, "In my spare time today, I contributed a writeup to PerlMonks called Managing a Personal Email Archive. I ask the Perl developers that congregate there to provide some advice on ways I can better manage my email archive. Messages in the archive go all the way back to 1996."

"There are a couple of really good ideas posted in the comment thread-- something I've come to expect when I post questions on the PerlMonks site. Check it out, if you are interested."

"One of these days, I'll have to actually count the messages that I've saved over the years. How much spam must I have gotten? Hmm...."

March 5, 2002

CBS Documentary "9/11" Will Reportedly Air Sunday at 9 PM

The New York Post reports that CBS will air a documentary on September 11 on Sunday, March 10, at 9:00pm Eastern Time. According to the article, the documentary "features never-before-seen footage from inside the lobby of {The World Trade Center}- the first {tower} to be hit by a hijacked airliner." This footage is likely part of the video shot by Gedeon and Jules Naudet that CTDATA has been reporting on for the last few months.

The documentary reportedly will be hosted by Robert DeNiro and be narrated by James Hanlon, a New York City firefighter.

Now Using a Treo 180

Dave Aiello wrote, "Believe it or not, I received my Treo 180 yesterday, got it registered on VoiceStream, got the Internet access configured with my ISP, and wrote this story using the Handspring Blazer browser. Setting up the Treo was time-consuming but straight forward. The hardest part of the process was figuring out how to key the less than and greater than signs to compose the HTML tags in this story. More on my experience with the Treo later."

March 4, 2002

Grammys Underscore What's Wrong with the Entertainment Industry

Newsweek published an article (via MSNBC) called Looking Grim at the Grammys. It's a great summary of what happened at last week's Grammy Awards, and why so many of the events have such ominous implications for the recording industry.

In case you haven't heard-- sales of recorded music are down, and the industry wants you to believe that the reason is that everyone with an MP3 player is a thief. Newsweek, however, has shown that it recognizes that this is not the entire explanation for the decline in sales. A bigger reason is the fact that so much so-called popular music is formulaic and un-popular.

RIM Announces Integrated Mobile Phone, Email, Organizer

Reuters is reporting that Research in Motion has announced a voice-enabled version of its BlackBerry e-mail device, placing it in competition with the Handspring Treo 180 and a number of other forthcoming integrated phone/messaging devices. The new device, called the BlackBerry 5810, looks exactly like the BlackBerry 957 which has the Personal Information Manager form factor. The major difference is that the new device adds an earbud-sized headset and a GSM SIM card.

The article suggests that Handspring is positioning the Treo 180 as a consumer device, while the Blackberry is aimed squarely at business. It's hard to justify statements like this, in our view, unless they are trying to say that Blackberry infrastructure (for email filtering and forwarding) may already exist in large North American corporations, while corresponding software will not exist for the Handspring device at the moment. On the other hand, the Handspring device is more of a pure GSM/GPRS device than the Blackberry, so the infrastructure to support it may already be deployed in Europe and Asia.

Companies Building Networks to Maintain Contact with Laid Off Employees

In Sunday's New York Times, an article appeared about companies establishing alumni networks on the Internet for people who have recently left due to layoffs. These networks are aimed at workers with technical skills who would be difficult to replace if/when business conditions improve.

This article is interesting because it points out a trend in personal networking mediated by the Internet that is in the mutual interest of ex-employees and businesses. There is no reason why these networks cannot be used to obtain jobs at other employers, instead of the employer who maintains the alumni network. Also, if the alumni network turns out to be a vital on-line community, the employer may be able to tap ex-employees' networks of business associates, so that they find new employees that had not previously worked for them.

Comcast Completes Migration of Customers to New Backbone

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that Comcast completed the migration of its customers off of the @Home Network. The new Comcast backbone was under construction prior to the Excite@Home bankruptcy, but had to be greatly accelerated in order to avoid substantial outages to its customers.

In the article, Comcast customers reported problems with using Comcast-provided email service. Every Comcast customer who had been using an email address in the "home.com" domain had to change email addresses to either comcast.net or another provider. This was bound to cause confusion and technical problems.

TiVo to Raise Service Prices by 30 Percent

On Friday, Reuters reported that TiVo plans to raise its monthly subscription fee by 30 percent. This is the fee that TiVo charges to provide an on-line programming schedule for each TiVo unit. Without this directory, the functionality of the TiVo device would be substantially reduced.

Even at a cost of $12.95 per month, we consider the TiVo service a valuable addition to a consumer's technology arsenal. TiVo is the first device that allows a consumer to maximize the value of their cable and satellite television subscriptions.

March 1, 2002

Slashdot to Offer Subscriptions for Ad-Free Page Viewing

In a long anticipated development, Slashdot announced a subscription plan for readers who want to view the site without advertisements. The most surprising thing about the plan is that there is no flat fee option. According to the article:

The rates are currently set at $5 per 1000 pages. To put this into perspective, $20 (typical magazine subscription) will be enough pages for 82% of our readers to view Slashdot without ads for a year. Another 15% will need to spend $5 a month to accomplish the same thing. 3% of our readers would need to spend more than $5 a month- but they could choose to see ads on comments and in almost every case, still pay around $5 a month. (As an aside, it's also worth noting that more than half of all comment posters fall into this 3%)

Dell Screws Up in Effort to Comply with Export Regulations

WiredNews is reporting that Dell did not ship a laptop ordered by a Mountaintop, PA handgun manufacturer because it was concerned that the company might export the computer illegally. However, rather than following up with Weigand Combat Handguns to determine the intended use of the computer, Dell cancelled the order. This situation developed as part of a screening process Dell developed to check its orders for suspicious activity that might indicate diversion of equipment to terrorists.

This foul up caused the customer to conclude that Dell treats firearms users as second-class citizens, and to encourage hunters and Second Amendment advocates to email Dell, express their outrage, and potentially, cancel or withold new orders.

If the WiredNews article is correct -- that companies whose names contain certain aggressive-sounding words were automatically flagged as potential law-breakers-- someone introduced a screening step that most people would consider Orwellian. It also set itself up for embarassment in that they would probably hold shipments bound for companies such as Clorox, if the order indicated it was intended for the Combat pest control products group.

Federal Government Disaster Contingency Site Operating at Secret Location

The Washington Post is reporting that a shadow government is at work in a secret location away from Washington, DC, in case a catastrophic attack against the capital takes place. This article actually indicates that the government has implemented a contingency plan to ensure that critical government services remain in operation, but the headline and the first few sentences seem designed to either frighten or enrage readers.

In light of the fact that a series of unthinkable attacks occured on September 11, it only seems reasonable to ready the contingency facilities. It seems, however, that people who have never participated in disaster recovery planning or testing may be shocked that this kind of thing goes on every day in industrialized countries.