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April 30, 2002

ZDNet Says SuSE is Trying to "Stabilize" Linux, What About Red Hat?

Earlier today, ZDNet came out with a report that said SuSE is looking to "stabilize" Linux by "fine-tuning it for enterprise applications like SAP" and making it run on multiple platforms, such as IBM mainframes. When we saw this article, we wondered if the author had read any of the analysis of RedHat Advanced Server?

As we said in an article we published last month, Red Hat has put its Advanced Server on an 18 month product life cycle which is palatable to the IT departments of Fortune 500 companies. Is this an indication of lack of market knowledge by the ZDNet columnist or poor marketing by Red Hat? You decide.

NOVA to Broadcast Episode Explaining WTC Collapse on April 30

Tonight, April 30, the Public Broadcasting System series NOVA will air a program called Why the Towers Fell, about the destruction of The World Trade Center. The program will air at 8:00am EDT on most PBS stations on the East Coast. Check the PBS TV schedule for more information.

There is a large amount of supporting information on-line for this program. Included on the program website are:

  • explanation of the structural innovations that allowed the World Trade Center to be built;
  • analysis from Thomas Eagar, an MIT materials engineering professor, of the probably reasons why the World Trade Center survived the initial impact, but ultimately collapsed;
  • account of the survival story of Brian Clark from EuroBrokers who descended from the 84th Floor of 2 World Trade Center, rescuing a trapped Fuji Bank employee on the way down;
  • description of the rescue and survival equipment that firefighters carried into the World Trade Center; and
  • discussion of the physical properties of metal.

April 29, 2002

Matthew Thomas on Why Free Software Generally Has Poor Usability

Matthew Thomas neatly summarized the reasons why free software products often have poorly designed user interfaces. He really nails the design issues that stem from the organic nature of Open Source development. He says:

I've been having a discussion with someone from IBM about whether it's ever possible for for Free Software to have a nice human interface.

In theory, I think it is possible. But in practice, the vast majority of open-source projects are also volunteer projects; and it seems that the use of volunteers to drive development inevitably leads the interface design to suck. The reasons are many and varied, and maybe one day I'll turn this into a long and heavily-referenced essay....

TreoMail Beta 2 Makes Application Usable for VoiceStream Users

Earlier today, Handspring announced the availability of TreoMail 1.0 Beta 2. We have downloaded the new version, updated a Treo, and compared the functionality of Beta 2 to Beta 1. We agree that the functionality and stability of this application has improved significantly.

Chief among the improvements is the addition of SMS notification for newly-received email messages. In Beta 1, SMS alerts were only available to TreoMail users who used Cingular as their mobile phone carrier. Now, this feature is available to users of the VoiceStream system. The SMS message alert feature is critical as long as the Treo 180 does not support GPRS.

There are five other major improvements to the TreoMail service. They are enumerated in an email sent to all TreoMail beta testers. Read on for the complete text of the email.

The email message sent to all TreoMail beta testers said:

Treo Mail Beta Testers!

Handspring has released a new and improved version of the Treo Mail beta software! In order to continue your free beta trial without interuption, you MUST update your software before May 2nd. After May 2nd, the current version will no longer be supported, and you will be unable to send and receive email using the the current version.

To download this update:

For Corporate Edition--double-click on your Treo Mail Desktop Assistant, then go to Software Updates.

For Internet Edition--visit Treo Mail Account Management at https://treomail.handspring.com/manageaccount/v_login.jsp. Log in, then go to Software Updates.

In addition to the download, these pages provide a list of what we have improved in this release and what known issues remain. Here are some highlights of things we have fixed:

* SMS notification of new email will now work for VoiceStream Wireless customers as well as Cingular Wireless customers.

* You will no longer receive fatal errors after deleting messages. The specific message was "DataMgr.c, Line:8589, Index out of range"

* You will no longer receive multiple copies of a single email on your Treo.

* POP3 customers will no longer receive multiple copies of the warning email about inability to contact the POP3 server.

* Editing email filters has been improved and stabilized.

* Treo Mail Corporate Desktop Edition Setup will no longer show the message saying "Deliver email for to my Treo"

These changes are a direct result of the feedback and bug reports we have received from you. Thank you for helping to make Treo Mail a better product!


Research In Motion Faces Big Name, Well Funded Competitors

Martin O'Donnell pointed out that today's New York Times contains an article about Research in Motion and how it continues to lose money in spite of owning the wireless email franchise in North America with its Blackberry devices. The article says that revenue has fallen recently as companies explore alternative devices and wireless data networks.

RIM is no different from any other technology company in that they paid dearly for the excess inventories built up by their customers from 1998 to 2001. Now they face a technology transition (Mobitex to GPRS) at the same time as their sales begin to climb out of a hole. The advantage that RIM has is that they already have middleware in place in many large companies' messaging infrastructures that works with their mobile devices. As such, all they will have to do is an upgrade cycle to stay in place as a network service.

Companies like Palm and Handspring on the other hand, face the gauntlet of initial acceptance testing. This can be quite a harrowing experience for field engineers who are working with corporate IT people to test a completely new product or service. Perhaps this is why they have chosen to partner with companies like Visto to enable enterprise email mobility as a service, rather than as the function of a piece of middleware.

April 26, 2002

NTT Deploying WLAN in Tokyo

NetworkWorld Fusion reports that NTT Communicatiions will deploy a public WLAN in Tokyo beginning in May. The initial deployment is expected to include about 200 sites. This decision is the result of a successful trial in 20 locations spread throughout the city.

According to the article, monthly service will cost about $12.30 including ISP charges. If a U.S. carrier deployed a WLAN service at a similar price, it would probably do well in places like Manhattan and Chicago.

Dave's Updated Resume

Dave Aiello wrote, "I am starting the process of looking for a major software development project that needs my talents. So, I updated my resume and biographical sketch. Most of the additions have to do with the recently-completed project at Bear Stearns in Whippany, NJ, and the articles I wrote that have recently been published on Slashdot."

What Do You Mean You Don't Know Java Well Enough?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier this week my friend Sesh Rengaswamy wrote to ask me why I haven't been posting as many stories on ctdata.com in the past few days? The reason is that I am working on the Java Programming Language Library courses from Sun Educational Services. I'm doing this to prepare to take the Sun Certified Programmer for the Java 2 Platform exam."

"Some people who know me are going to ask why I'm doing this when I've worked on a couple of major Java-based projects before, and my resume reflects this? The reason is that much of what I've learned about Java has come from reading other people's code and from debugging. As a result, it's very difficult for me to talk about Java programming in the abstract. It's also difficult for me to do well on the technical aspect of job interviews when the job requires Java programming experience."

"I want to take this certification exam to force myself to learn the correct terminology for the language elements I know and use. I am also very curious about the process of taking a certification exam at a technology testing center like Prometric."

"I'm hoping to take the Java exam some time during the week of May 6. I will post on ctdata.com some of the thoughts I have about courses I'm taking. I also plan to relate some sense of the experience of taking the Java certification exam without violating the integrity of it by disclosing the specific nature of the questions."

Ramstein Blonde Wheat Beer Favorably Mentioned in T&L Golf

Dave Aiello wrote, "I just received a complimentary copy of the May/June issue of T&L Golf a publication of American Express Publishing Company. This issue's '19th Hole' column is entitled 'Drink York Wheaties' and reviews imported and domestic wheat beers."

"The article praises Ramstein Blonde, a product of High Point Wheat Beer Company in Butler, NJ. This is a brewery operated by my cousin, Greg Zaccardi, who enjoyed brewing beer so much that he went to work in Germany, then came back and started his own brewery."

"I was happy to find that Circle Liquors in Pennington, NJ stocks Ramstein, and I buy it there regularly. If you live or work in the New York Metropolitan Area and you enjoy drinking different kinds of beer, you ought to give one of the Ramstein beers a try."

April 25, 2002

Glaser Says that MPEG-4 License Fees Could Make It "Irrelevant in the PC Industry"

CNET News.com reports that Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser decried the proposed royalty structure for the MPEG-4 video compression standard. Glaser said, "The licensing structure is putting the technology on a path to become irrelevant in the PC industry." He made his comments at the Streaming Media West Conference in Los Angeles.

We agree. We pointed out the practical flaws in the royalty proposal in an article we posted on the subject in February.

Cumberland, Maryland Builds City-Owned High Speed Wireless Data Network

The New York Times reports that the City of Cumberland, Maryland has deployed a high speed wireless network because neither Verizon nor the cable companies in the city and the surrounding area were making inexpensive broadband Internet access widely available. The article implies that the government officials in that area considered the unavailability of broadband an economic stumbling block.

This broadband network is reminiscent of the city power companies that electrified the major cities of the Western United States. Such power companies still exist in Seattle and Los Angeles.

April 24, 2002

President Bush to Screen "The Rookie" at White House

Reuters reports that the recent Disney theatrical release called "The Rookie" will be screened at the White House tonight. President Bush has reportedly invited several people involved in the production to attend, including Dennis Quaid who played the role of Jim Morris in the film, and Michael Eisner, Chairman of The Walt Disney Company.

A number of people who work for CTDATA recently saw this movie at a theater in the Cherry Hill, NJ area. Everyone felt that it was a superb production, suitable for all ages. It's proof that the entertainment industry can produce "G-rated" films adults will find enjoyable.

If you haven't seen this true story of the improbable rise of a Texas high school science teacher and baseball coach to relief pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of Major League Baseball, you are really missing something special.

Nokia and IBM to Collaborate on Public Wireless LANs

Infoworld reports that IBM and Nokia announced a plan to collaborate on product offerings for the Public Wireless LAN market. Public WLANs are envisioned for meeting and waiting areas in public places where people currently use laptops. Examples are restaurants, conference centers, airport terminals, and hotels.

It is important to note that IBM and Nokia have not actually announced any product or service offerings. They announced their intent to collaborate on such offerings in the future. But, these two companies have the resources and global reach to make it easy for existing mobile communications companies to work with them to implement a turnkey WLAN network. This might be a good option for some wireless carriers, most of which have not yet deployed a WLAN infrastructure.

April 23, 2002

Howard Kurtz Reports on the Weblog Phenomenon

Dave Aiello wrote, "My sister, Julie, pointed out Howard Kurtz's article on column that appeared in Monday's Washington Post called Who Cares What You Think? Blog, and Find Out. My first reaction upon reading the article is summarized in my reply to my sister:"

Thanks for pointing this out. It's a pretty good article, but Kurtz is sort of late to the party with this, and isn't adding that much {to} the Blogging as a Phenomenon story line. --Dave

"But then, I started reading the comments made by other webloggers about Kurtz's column that I found on the MIT Media Lab Web Site called Blogdex. These comments made me think that I might have been too dismissive of the piece. I subsequently reread it and came to the conculsion that it is worth our readers' time after all."

"Kurtz has a number of good quotes from lesser known webloggers-- people who don't get that much media attention. These seemed like nuances to me at first, while the mentions he makes of Andrew Sullivan and Virginia Postrel made more of an impact and caused me to reject it. I think a second reading helped me to put all of his examples in their proper perspective."

"Finally, in one of my circumspect moments, I realized that the act of reconsidering Kurtz's piece goes to the very heart of what makes weblogs interesting. So, I submit this story for your consideration."

Congressional Opposition to CARP Royalty Proposal Doesn't Go Far Enough

Yesterday, Newsbytes reported that a bipartisan group of 20 members of Congress has voiced opposition to a music royalty proposal from the U.S. Copyright Office. The Copyright Office's Copyright Arbitration Panel (CARP) has proposed a royalty of $0.0014 for every song streamed over the Internet by Internet-only webcasters. Terrestrial radio stations who also stream their programming over the Internet would pay only half that rate.

This doesn't sound like much money, but the final figure must be multiplied by the total number of users connected when the song is played. So, if 1,000 users are connected, the royalty is actually 1000 x $0.0014 or $1.40 per song. If you extrapolate to a full year at 10 songs per hour, 24 hours per day, that's over $120,000 in royalties. It's hard to imagine how anyone other than an Internet giant or a large radio station will be able to afford to operate an Internet-based music webcasting business with those sort of royalty requirements.

Furthermore, as Doc Searls pointed out, the congressional representatives have not objected to the reporting requirements which will drive many broadcast stations off the Internet. Examples include a host of college radio stations, most notably in our view, WRPI. We reported on the problems that WRPI anticipates if the CARP proposal is adopted over on RCNJ.org.

Morristown Green to Get a Century 21 Department Store as Anchor

Sunday's Star-Ledger contained an article that was worthy of note: a Century 21 Department Store will be opened on the Morristown Green on April 30. It will occupy the old Macy's / Bamberger's store which had been vacant since 1993. The article quotes a prominent retail consultant as follows:

Century 21 (stores) are a destination location.... They are so exciting and so compelling that they draw people from 20 miles away. People will go a long way to get to Century 21 because there is no store like it. Other stores will feed off the foot traffic, and they are going to bring a lot of foot traffic to town.

Many of our readers have visited the most famous Century 21 Department Store location-- across the street from Ground Zero at 22 Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan. However, you may not be aware of the fact that there are also Century 21 stores in Brooklyn and in Westbury, NY.

April 22, 2002

Audible Provides a Real World Alternative to E-books

Dave Aiello wrote, "In his Anchordesk column today, David Coursey talks about Audible, the audiobook service that delivers content via a fairly liberal digital rights management scheme. Coursey says that he likes Audible and finds it a much more to his liking than so-called e-books."

"I am a major audiobook fan and I was an Audible listener before they figured out how to deliver their content to MP3 players that are purchased independently. This is a great service if you like audiobooks. You can buy many of the audiobook titles that are typically found at Borders or Barnes & Noble for less via Audible. You can also do it from your desktop and take delivery immediately."

Cost of Lower Manhattan Transit Reconstruction Could Reach $7 Billion

Saturday's New York Times contained a story that says a consortium of New York City, New York State and New Jersey government entities estimate the cost of rebuilding the mass transit systems in Lower Manhattan at $7 billion. The article said that this estimate does not merely rebuild facilities that existed prior to September 11, it improves and rationalizes the confusingly twisted arrangement of subway lines that pass through the area between Canal Street and the Battery. The article says:

...At the top of the new project list is $2 billion to build what officials call a downtown Grand Central near Church Street, adjacent to the former World Trade Center site. The station would connect PATH trains with three subway lines and would include a $500 million underground concourse, stretching from near the ferry docks on the Hudson River beneath the World Financial Center and through the PATH terminal.

The passageway, which would include moving walkways, would also extend east to a new Fulton Street transit center, a newly designed, $750 million hub. The transit center would straighten out the dispiriting array of pedestrian tunnels that now connect the major subway lines in the area of Broadway, Nassau and Fulton streets; together with the PATH terminal, commuters would have a single complex linking the A, C, E, J, M, Z, N, R, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 9 lines....

AT&T to Close Cambridge Research Center

John Naughton reported in Sunday's Guardian that AT&T is planning to shutdown its laboratory in Cambridge, England rather than sell it to Intel, who was ready to buy it. According to the article, "Although nobody in AT&T will talk openly about it, the word on the street is that negotiations foundered because the lawyers on both sides couldn't agree about intellectual property issues."

The article goes on to point out the achievements that AT&T Laboratories Cambridge made in its relatively short life. The author considers the Broadband Phone the lab's greatest achievement. But, the most widely used product of the lab by far is VNC (Virtual Network Computing), a remote display system that works with UNIX and Windows.

Bills Get Bledsoe for First Round Draft Choice in 2003

The Buffalo News reports that the Buffalo Bills traded a first round draft choice in 2003 to the New England Patriots for Drew Bledsoe.

According to reporter Mark Gaughan, "The deal represents the Bills' biggest trade in at least 15 years, since they acquired linebacker Cornelius Bennett in 1987." Gaughan goes on to say that the Bills "...added nine new veterans in free agency. Then they got one of the most prized college players in the nation Saturday when they drafted 375-pound University of Texas offensive tackle Mike Williams. Now they have a proven quarterback."

April 19, 2002

CTDATA Successfully Sells Its First Surplus Computer Book via Amazon

Following up on our article from last week, we followed Fred Bernstein's advice published in the New York Times and listed 11 surplus computer books from our library on Amazon.com. Ten of the books were listed for sale yesterday. Today, we received an e-mail from Amazon saying the following:

Dear {email address removed},

Your Amazon Marketplace sale is official! We've deposited your
earnings from the sale of this item into your Amazon Payments

Please ship items immediately via media mail.

1 of Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience by Fleming, Jennifer; Koman...

You have agreed to ship no later than two business days after the
buyer's purchase on 19-Apr-2002.

Important--Prepare Your Packages With Care. See our guidelines:

Read on for more of the contents of the email as well as a brief reaction to the process....

The email from Amazon.com continued:

Here are the details of your completed Amazon Marketplace sale:

Order #: 058-9538147-6066823
Item: Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience by Fleming, Jennifer; Koman...

{URL for transaction removed}
Listing ID: {Listing ID removed}
Quantity: 1
Buyer's Price: $15.95

Buyer e-mail: {email address removed}
Time of sale: 19-Apr-2002 09:30:40
Shipping method: media mail

Amazon commission: ($3.38)
Additional shipping credit: $2.23
Your earnings (in your Payments account): $14.80


It may not seem like a lot to be happy about, but, we got paid $14.80 to get rid of a book we would otherwise have thrown away. Not bad.

Cable Companies Establishing Tiers of Broadband Service

Martin O'Donnell pointed out an article on CNET News.com which says that many cable companies are carving out two or more tiers of broadband service, which they hope will allow them to charge more money to the most active broadband users. Throughput on the AT&T Broadband and Comcast networks has been throttled back to 1.5 megabits per second, from 3 mbps during the @Home period.

April 18, 2002

Kmart Implements Self Service Checkout, In Spite of Bankruptcy

Dave Aiello wrote, "Kathleen and I went to the soon-to-be-closed Kmart at the Mercer Mall in West Windsor, NJ, earlier today to see if we could find any bargains. We found several good deals amid the piles of unsold merchandise. (Anyone need a Martha Stewart Laundry Trolley? They have dozens in West Windsor.)"

"The most interesting part of the trip, however, was our encounter with a self-service cash register. We were the only people in the store using one, despite there were at least four other stations available to the other bargain shoppers standing in line at the time."

"I was intrigued by the automated system, which seems like a hybrid of a regular cashier's station, an ATM, and a train station ticket machine. A quick Google search revealed that Kmart has implemented this NCR system in over 1,000 stores throughout the United States. Isn't it amazing that Kmart spent all of the money necessary to deploy this state-of-the-art technology to so many dying stores, prior to their bankruptcy announcement?"

Supreme Court Justice White: a Legend on the Field and the Bench

Earlier this week, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White passed away at age 84. He was a unique figure in American history, having reached the pinnacle of achievement in the law and professional athletics.

In the past few days, several articles reflecting on Justice White's place in American history have been written. Former NFL kicker and Kennedy School of Government graduate Nick Lowerey said White "had a remarkable balance of brains and athleticism". Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press interviewed Alan Page, a former defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who is now a Minnesota Supreme Court judge. Page and White met each other when White presided over Page's induction to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Memorial at WTC Site May Include a Tomb of Unknown Victims

The New York Daily News reports that a tomb for unknown victims is being considered as the centerpiece of a memorial at Ground Zero. According to the article, "The proposal... has been steadily gaining favor at meetings among victims' relatives, Mayor Bloomberg and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. officials, family members said yesterday."

The article goes on to report that only 968 of the 2,815 known victims have been identified. Although 19,132 bone and tissue fragments have been recovered many of them are "damaged" (presumably burned) to the point where they can not be used for any sort of victim identification purposes. Officials involved in the recovery suggest that no more than 1,000 of the victims will be identified by DNA testing.

April 17, 2002

CTDATA Office Air Conditioner Replaced

Earlier today, the central air conditioner at CTDATA's office in Lawrenceville, NJ, was replaced. It had been found to be defective yesterday. It's hard to identify these problems and plan ahead when the year's first wave of hot weather brings temperatures in excess of 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

April 16, 2002

South Jersey Comcast Customers Temporarily Blocked Out of Google

Martin O'Donnell pointed out a story on CNET News.com that says Google recently blocked a small IP-address range belonging to Comcast customers from using its popular search engine. The reason that Google took this action is that someone was violating its terms of service by running automated queries. We have to assume that the automated queries were being run through the main (HTML) search interface.

The article points out that responding to automated queries is resource intensive for the search engine companies. How much less resource intensive is it if people use the new Google Web API to do essentially the same thing?

IP Address Range blocking is fairly common in abuse situations, and we think that Google was within their rights to do what they did. But, what would the Comcast customers do if Comcast could not stop the activity to which Google objected?

Heat in the Northeast Breaking 25 Year Old Records

Weather.com reported that many cities in the Northeastern U.S. will break record high temperatures, dating from 1976 as a result of the heat wave that settled in over this area in the past few days. By 10:51am, the temperature at Newark Airport broke the all-time high for this date, and the temperature is likely to top out between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. (That's about 32 degrees Celsius for our readers outside the United States.)

AOL Growth Stalls, Problem May be How Company Treats Customers

On his weblog, Doc Searls gives four good reasons why AOL is not growing as fast as Wall Street would like. He goes on to quote H.L. Menken and to suggest that AOL is perceived as a down-market brand. He says, "If Mencken's point still held today, there would be no Target, no Costco, no Trader Joe's and no Starbucks. We'd still be shopping at A&P and K-mart, and drinking Maxwell House." Not sure if he's right about AOL, but he's right about Menken.

eWeek Says "Apache 2.0 Beats IIS at its Own Game"

Jim Raposa of eWeek compared Apache 2.0 for Windows to Microsoft Internet Information Server 5.0 and found IIS wanting. The review says, in part:

eWEEK Labs compared the performance of Apache 2.0 and Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Information Services 5.0, both running on Windows 2000 Advanced Server. Apache kept pace with IIS during the entire test, which means that sites that move from IIS to Apache 2.0 on Windows won't have to worry about taking a performance hit.

When it comes to security, IIS doesn't come close to Apache. Apache's security track record is excellent, while IIS has taken hit after security hit. Just last week, Microsoft announced that 10 new security holes (several of which were serious buffer overruns) had been discovered in IIS.

April 15, 2002

UseIt.com Publishes Results of Web Usability Study of Children

On UseIt.com, Jakob Nielsen published the results of a web usability study that used children as the subjects. The test included "55 children who varied in age from 6 to 12 (first through fifth graders).... 39 kids in the United States and 16 in Israel, to broaden the international applicability of our recommendations."

Surprisingly, Nielsen found that children used grownup-oriented sites like Amazon.com and Yahoo! more productively than many children's sites. Children seemed to have difficulty with children's web sites because many of them "had complex and convoluted interaction designs that stumped our test users."

The study also suggests that the notion that children can easily comprehend the complexity of any computer systems is a myth. Children apparently get just as frustrated with confusing user interfaces as adults do. But, their perception of the meaning of user interface elements is sometimes different than that of adults.

April 13, 2002

Brazilians Implementing Linux in All Parts of the Economy

Martin O'Donnell poined out an article in Open Magazine that describes the initiatives underway throughout Brazil to implement computer systems based on Linux.

The article points out that one of the driving forces behind the migration from Windows and other closed-source operating systems is relentless pressure from Microsoft and the United States Department of Commerce. As a result, the Brazilian government became aggressive in its efforts to root out software piracy, and this has created the perception that systems based on Linux are the best way to avoid harassment.

News Sites Repeat Mistakes of the Past

In this week's Stop the Presses! column, Steve Outing reports that many web sites operated by mainstream media companies still fail to implement proven design techniques that would help them build a community of regular readers:

In recent months I attended two events focusing on online journalism. At both, speakers, panelists, and attendees often seemed to be of a common mind. Their message: too few people in the news industry recognize the value in true online interactivity and in creating services and content that are unique to the online medium.

Steve ought to know about these issues. He's been covering the online news industry since 1994.

Verisign Still Botching Basic Domain Registration Operations

A fairly long time ago in Internet time, Verisign bought a company called Network Solutions. At the time, Network Solutions was the only company authorized to issue domain names with the coveted ".com" suffix. Ed Foster of Infoworld reports that little has changed from the days when Network Solutions used to regularly mess up basic domain registration tasks.

Back in the days when Network Solutions' monopoly on domain registration was absolute, the main gripe about the company was that it didn't know what it was doing. One wag once suggested Network Solutions got its name from trying every possible solution to fix its back-office problems: inadvertent cancellations, double billings, mythical invoices, hacker break-ins, service outages, spam attacks, etc. You would think all that would have disappeared as soon as security-minded VeriSign, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., took over and the domain registration business was opened up to other registrars. But readers have again raised each of those issues.

Cynthia McKinney Suggests Bush Administration September 11th Conspiracy

The Washington Post reports that Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney has called for an investigation of the Bush Administration in order to determine if they "had advance notice of terrorist attacks on September 11 but did nothing to prevent them...." McKinney is quoted as saying "persons close to this administration are poised to make huge profits off America's new war." McKinney's comments were reportedly made during an interview on a Berkeley, California radio station.

Congresswoman McKinney's comments are only the most recent anti-American statements she has made. Back in October, we reported that McKinney tried to interject herself in a dispute between then-New York Mayor Giuliani and Prince Alwaleed of Saudi Arabia. McKinney has repeatedly questioned the integrity of elected officials in the United States who have far larger constituencies than she does. Her outlandish statements only serve to embarass the people of her Congressional district. Given the fact that McKinney has served five terms in the House of Representatives, we think it is appropriate to ask: What kind of people live in the 4th Congressional Distict of Georgia?

April 12, 2002

NY Times Publishes Essay on Reselling Books

Martin O'Donnell pointed out an essay published in yesterday's New York Times about reselling books on Amazon.com. Fred Bernstein, the author, says that he first took his books to Strand in New York City, got a rather low offer, then went home and put them up for sale on Amazon.

In a way, it seemed surprising that he chose Amazon.com and not Ebay to resell his product. But, if you look at the placement that the used book inventory receives from Amazon, it might be better to sell used books via Amazon than Ebay.

In any event, CTDATA has multiple copies of a few of our favorite technical books, and we have been planning to try reselling them, if only to learn more about the experience. We will follow-up when we have something substative to report.

April 11, 2002

Microsoft Chooses Different Rewritable DVD Format than Apple and Compaq

Martin O'Donnell pointed out this CNET News.com article which reports on Microsoft's selection of the DVD+RW recording format for future support within Windows operating systems. This is a format favored by Dell and Hewlett-Packard. A competing format, confusingly called DVD-RW, is supported by Compaq, Apple Computer, and several Asian manufacturers.

Supposedly, the reason Apple chose to support DVD-RW and DVD-R in the first place was that disks created in these formats are compatible with more existing DVD players connected to televisions than are disks created with the DVD+RW and DVD+R format. But, these are formats that are still lining up support, they have different advantages depending on whether they are to be used for video or for data storage, and we think the jury is still out on both of them.

Microsoft to Offer Hailstorm as an Enterprise Software Package

The New York Times reports that Microsoft has "quietly shelved" Hailstorm, its centralized personal identity system that was meant to be a key piece of Internet infrastructure. According to the article, "Microsoft is now considering selling {the Hailstorm technology, now called 'My Services'} to corporations in a traditional package form, rather than as a service. The companies would maintain the data for their own users."

This is a much more acceptable development to Microsoft competitors in the software, internet, and banking industries. Many people in these industries felt that consumer acceptance of a centralized implementation of Hailstorm would have created an insurmountable advantage for Microsoft, both in terms of customer relationship knowledge and the selling of infrastructure software and services for integration purposes.

If Microsoft markets Hailstorm as a traditional Enterprise software package, then companies like Oracle, Sybase, and IBM can offer competing products and services.

Tim O'Reilly Identifies Emerging IT Technologies

Tim O'Reilly wrote an article called "Inventing the Future" where he identifies emerging Internet and computing technologies. His article focuses on the following trends: 802.11b networks, next generation search engines, weblogs, instant messaging, file sharing, grid computing, and web spidering.

It's interesting to note that O'Reilly still lists file sharing as one of the emerging technologies-- particularly since the RIAA and other representatives of publishing companies have repeatedly tried to use the legal system to quash public file sharing networks.

The web spidering trend describes the construction of customized web clients (i.e. robots) to traverse web sites and gather data which is assembled and displayed differently from the original presentation. Good examples are search engines like Google, software survey sites like Netcraft, and price comparison sites like ISBN.nu. O'Reilly suggests that many of these spiders could be eliminated if major database-driven web sites built SOAP or XML-RPC interfaces and published APIs to them. But, we would argue that this is unlikely because there is no revenue model for many such interfaces, and unless one emerges, it's hard to imagine large sites willing giving up the ability to display ads directly to the site visitor.

April 10, 2002

Mossberg Solution Compares Treo with Kyocera, Samsung, and RIM Competitors

In the first edition of The Mossberg Solution, Walt Mossberg compares the Handspring Treo 180 with its closest integrated PDA / mobile phone competitors. The competitors he names are the Kyocera Smartphone, the Samsung I300, and the Research in Motion Blackberry 5810. This is a good overview article, although it has less details about hands-on experience with each one than might be expected in a head-to-head comparison in a computer magazine.

April 9, 2002

NY Times Wins Seven Pulitzer Prizes for September 11 Coverage

The New York Times has won seven Pulitzer Prizes for their coverage of the September 11th attack as well as rescue and recovery efforts.

Among the prizes was the Public Service Award for A Nation Challenged, a recurring section which included Portraits of Grief which provided biographical sketches of each victim of the attack. CTDATA reported on the Portraits of Grief section several times. The Times is certainly deserving of the awards they received. They did a lot to hold the city and the region together.

Sony VAIO Software Doesn't Compare Well to Apple's iMac Software

Stephen Maines has written an article about the Sony VAIO MX in Forbes. The VAIO MX is a new PC that theoretically competes with the new Apple iMac. But, the article says, "There's just one problem: It doesn't work particularly well. Instead of elegantly integrated hardware and software, you get a boxful of disparate programs so poorly designed that you end up being the one who has to knit them together."

This matches with our experience with a previous version of the Sony VAIO: other than playing DVDs on the LCD display, a lot of the video and photo editing tools don't play well together. We might still think the VAIO was pretty good, were it not for the fact that we know about the iMac and its great bundled software iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and iTunes.

April 8, 2002

Slashdot Runs Dave Aiello's Review of Handspring Treo 180

Earlier today Slashdot published a review of the Handspring Treo 180 written by Dave Aiello. This is the second review written by Dave that Slashdot has published. The first was a review of the book "Running Weblogs with Slash".

Apple Shipped Nearly Half a Million Computers with DVD Recording Capability

CNET News.com reports that Apple Computer announced that it has shipped over 400,000 Macintosh computers with DVD recording capabilities. Apparently, many early-adopters are buying Macintosh computers to create high quality home video, and the new iMac is the first computer to make DVD creation easy. Did we mention that 400,000 iMacs with DVD SuperDrives have a retail value of $720 million?

OnJava Documents Six Common Mistakes in Enterprise Java Development

Brett McLaughlin, wrote an excellent article called Six Common Enterprise Programming Mistakes. We have experienced several of the problems he illustrates in this article while on consulting projects at financial services firms in the New York area.

Brett is the author of Building Java Enterprise Applications Volume I: Architecture. If this is an indication of the overall quality of the book, it is a must read for developers on J2EE projects.

Shatel Breaks New Jersey HS Baseball Victory Record

The Daily Record reported on Sunday that Harry Shatel won his 642nd game in 34 seasons as a high school varsity baseball coach to break the all time career record for the State of New Jersey. Shatel is the head coach of Morristown High School. He began coaching the Colonials in 1969. Congratulations, Harry.

How the Introduction of DVD Changed Home Entertainment

Sunday's Los Angeles Times ran a good article that described the impact of DVD on home entertainment. Much of the article focuses on second-generation movie enhancements including interactivity, alternate scenes, and out-takes that allow viewers to substantially change the movie-watching experience:

...as a result of the DVD's booming popularity since its introduction in 1997, the audience's relationship to movies has changed. The home video was merely a small-screen version of a movie. The DVD is interactive--so much so that to the studios' alarm, technically sophisticated film buffs with a little determination and access to the Internet can relate to a movie in ways that were impossible only a few years ago, including moving and removing scenes and characters from a movie.

Media Hopes Financial Problems in New Jersey Spur Change

The New York Times is reporting that the financial difficulties experienced by the State of New Jersey are causing the Legislature to re-evaluate the way taxes are assessed and collected. The article suggests that this may mean a reduction or redistribution of property taxes, and consolidation of local government services.

Although changes like these are sought by many New Jerseyans across the political spectrum, we don't see the necessary political courage in Trenton at the moment. Both parties are notorious for maintaining the status quo. As we suggested in an article last November, New Jersey's best hope for meaningful government reform would be for continued political stalemate resulting in a substantial change in the composition of the Legislature in the next election. Another possible solution would be the election of a third party governor who would force the Legislature out of its tendency to vote along party lines at every opportunity.

April 5, 2002

In Memory of Regina B. Lynch

Regina B. Lynch died on March 22, 2002 in Williamsville, NY. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 6, 2002, at 10:00am at:

Gate of Heaven Catholic Cemetery

225 Ridgedale Avenue

East Hanover, NJ 07936

Please note the time change for the memorial service. The service will take place at graveside, in Section 31 of the cemetary. Arrive 15 to 30 minutes early in order to locate the grave.

Location of Gate of Heaven on Mapquest.com (driving directions available).

Brunch will follow for family and friends at the Hanover Marriott, 1401 Route 10 East, Whippany, NJ 07981. See a member of the family at the memorial service for more details.

Additional information: [ Obituary | Death Notice | Eulogy by Dave Aiello ]

Death Notice from The Buffalo News

Lynch, Regina B. (nee Baird)

March 22, 2002, beloved wife of the late James M. Lynch, Jr; dearest mother of Dennis (Diane) Lynch and the late J. Sharon Aiello and James M. Lynch, III; mother-in-law of Ernest Aiello; dearest grandmother of David, Julie, Scott Aiello and Brian (Colleen) and Christie Lynch; great-grandmother of Tara Shaye Lynch; sister of Ann Kinney of Wayne, NJ and the late Mary McHale, Loretta Mainardi, John Baird and Joseph Baird. The family will be present to receive friends Sunday {March 24} 2-4 and 7-9 PM at the (Amherst Chapel) AMIGONE FUNERAL HOME, INC., 5200 Sheridan Dr., (at Hopkins) where funeral services will be held Monday {March 25} at 10 AM and from St. Gregory the Great Church at 10:45 AM. Friends invited. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Food Bank of Western New York.

April 4, 2002

NYC Apartments Featured in Prime-Time TV Often Beyond Means of Characters

CBS Marketwatch published an analysis of the estimated cost of the apartments that some television characters inhabit in shows such as Friends and Sex in the City. According to the article: "Monica and Chandler come the closest to reality, living in her grandmother's rent-controlled, two-bedroom walk-up. But struggling actor Joey is way out his element in his two-bedroom Greenwich Village unit across the hall, where real-life rent payments would be about $4,000 a month."

Yahoo! Policy Changes Expose Registered Users to Spam, Privacy Violations

Last week, Slashdot and many other on-line news resources reported that Yahoo! reset the marketing preferences on all registered users' accounts. This means that registered Yahoo! users who had previously indicated that they did not want to receive spam (promotional emails) from Yahoo! or its customers (marketing partners) would begin receiving it anyway.

We reviewed the information that Yahoo! is storing about subscribers, and came to the conclusion that registered users may receive the following invasions of privacy, unless they take action:

  • spam
  • junk mail (via the U.S. Postal Service)
  • telemarketing calls

We urge CTDATA customers who are also registered users of Yahoo! to review their Yahoo! account information (for each Yahoo! ID, if you have more than one), and reset marketing preferences to protect your privacy. Read on for more detailed instructions....

Instructions for Changing Yahoo! Marketing Preferences

  1. Go to your Account Information screen on Yahoo!. There are several ways to get here. One way is to go to http://edit.my.yahoo.com/config/eval_profile.
  2. You will be asked to login, or confirm the password for the Yahoo! account underwhich you are currently logged in.
  3. Click on the "Edit Your Marketing Preferences" link, which is about half way down the page.
  4. Under "Edit Marketing Preferences", review the list of categories which Yahoo! has created. Note that unless you choose "No" under the "Enroll Me" choice, you will be sent email about that marketing category.
  5. Set the "Enroll Me" choices as you wish. If you leave any one of these choices as "Yes", you should expect to receive lots of email from Yahoo! and/or its advertisers.
  6. Pay careful attention to the choices at the very bottom of the page. We strongly recommend choosing "No" for the choices "via U.S. mail" and "via phone" under the category "Other Delivery".

April 2, 2002

Senate Anti-Piracy Bill Written to Match Microsoft OS Patent

An insightful article posted on Linux and Main suggests that an anti-piracy bill proposed by Senator Ernest Hollings seems to require the use of operating system technology patented by Microsoft. According to the article, the bill called The Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA) "requires that government-approved anti-piracy features be included in a range of electronic devices, including but not limited to computers." Microsoft filed a patent for a "digital rights management operating system" in 1999 and was granted that patent in December 2001.

April 1, 2002

Microsoft Anti-UNIX Web Site Runs on UNIX

Lee Gomes in today's Wall Street Journal reported that a Microsoft and Unisys-sponsored web site suggesting that businesses switch from UNIX to Windows is being run on FreeBSD. We are not making this up. The actual site, ironically named WeHaveTheWayOut.com may be found on Netcraft and the "What is this site running?" results clearly indicated that it is an Apache-based site on FreeBSD.

All of this is part of an ad campaign which claims that UNIX "makes you feel boxed in. It ties you to an inflexible system. It requires you to pay for expensive experts." Unisys claims they outsourced the site to a third party (which appears to be Verio from the Netcraft results). This is our first nominee for "Colossal Marketing Blunders of the Month".

In Memory of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother

The BBC reported that Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother passed away over the weekend. The Queen Mother earned a reputation for personal courage and rallied the British people by staying in London through the bombings during World War II. She had an unbroken record of service to her country that spanned nearly 80 years, and arguably held the British royal family together through recent difficulties.

Newsweek Features Bill Clinton on Cover

Newsweek has pre-empted its coverage of the War on Terrorism, Enron, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and global warming, so that Bill Clinton can appear on its cover. Does anyone think that it is a co-incidence that this article was published just in time for April Fool's Day? Hmmm....