" /> CTDATA: August 2002 Archives

« July 2002 | Main | September 2002 »

August 30, 2002

What is a Software Platform?

Dave Aiello wrote, "In the latest Joel on Software article, Joel Spolsky writes about software platforms. Software platforms are generally products that are used by Independent Software Vendors to product value-added products and services. Many of the software platforms have freely distributed runtime versions that allow users who have not purchased the deluxe version to enjoy some of the benefits of it, and more importantly, to interact with documents created by users of the full version. Examples include Adobe Acrobat and its Reader, and Java and the Java runtime." Spolsky says:

If you want a platform to be successful, you need massive adoption, and that means you need developers to develop for it. The best way to kill a platform is to make it hard for developers to build on it. Most of the time, this happens because platform companies either don't know that they have a platform (they think it's an application) or they get greedy (they want all the revenue for themselves.)

"Joel doesn't really get into this in his article, but, the whole idea of web services is to make data available from companies via their websites into software platforms."

"Some questions I have been mulling over have to do with whether businesses that have released web service interfaces to their websites are really going to allow third parties to treat these interfaces as platforms for moneymaking ventures. For instance, will I be able to do something with Google's web service interface that they didn't envision when they published the interface? Will I be allowed to make money from using their web services without being cannibalized by them down the road?"

Apple Will Open Source Its Rendezvous Network Service

CNET News.com reports that Apple Computer will "open source" its Rendezvous network device discovery technology. This software allows Macintosh computers to find each other on a local area network without the owners fiddling with network-related control panels.

This is definitely an enabling technology that must be seen to be appreciated. But, the real interesting aspect of the announcement is the attitude of the Apple spokesman quoted in the article. He is reported to have said, "If you don't have it proliferate, it's the sound of one hand clapping." When companies do this, they are thinking that their technology is a platform for additional services, and not just a discrete software product.

August 29, 2002

Significant Rain Falls in New Jersey

Dave Aiello wrote, "This morning, we woke to the first significant rainfall in Central New Jersey in at least a month. I have written a bit about the drought that has beset the New York Metropolitan area recently. But, you know it really has to have gotten bad if the State of New Jersey decided to totally ban lawn watering."

"Radio reports on WABC indicate that over 2 inches of rain have fallen in Central Park, New York City, within the last 24 hours. The National Weather Service said that 1 inch of rain had fallen at Washington's Crossing (PA / NJ border on the Delaware River) by 9:30am."

August 28, 2002

Amazon.com Says You Can't Spider Them, But Companies Do It Anyway

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over the past few days, I've been looking at Amazon.com Web Services, with the idea of using them to quickly answer some questions about books that come up at my office on a daily basis. The Amazon.com web service interface provides a lot of useful information about the books that Amazon sells, but not everything that I need to find out. So, I began to wonder if I could write a program to get that information from Amazon as well."

"This type of program is a special-purpose web client. It connects to a web site in much the same way that Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, or Mozilla does, but it retrieves the information programmatically, rather than interactively. Search engines use web clients that digest entire web pages and follow HTML links-- they're called spiders."

"Amazon's Conditions of Use say that you are not supposed to run spiders against its website. But, I believe I've found a number of situations where spiders are being permitted, either because they help promote Amazon, or they are of great value to a company affiliated with Amazon. Read on for more details...."

Dave Aiello continued:

Amazon.com 's Conditions of Use says:

This license does not include any resale or commercial use of this site or its contents; any collection and use of any product listings, descriptions, or prices; any derivative use of this site or its contents; any downloading or copying of account information for the benefit of another merchant; or any use of data mining, robots, or similar data gathering and extraction tools.

But, an article written by Tim O'Reilly in April talked about the fact that his company developed and uses a data-mining tool on Amazon's website:

There are now dozens of Amazon rank spiders that will help authors keep track of their book's Amazon rank. We have a very powerful one at O'Reilly that provides many insights valuable to our business that are not available in the standard Amazon interface. It allows us to summarize and study things like pricing by publisher and topic, rank trends by publisher and topic over a two-year period, correlation between pricing and popularity, relative market share of publishers in each technology area, and so on. We combine this data with other data gleaned from Google link counts on technology sites, traffic trends on newsgroups, and other Internet data, to provide insights into tech trends that far outstrip what's available from traditional market research firms.

CTDATA.com pointed to O'Reilly's article when it was published. In our article, we said:

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.

So you see why I make the conclusion that I do. It appears that Amazon permits spiders that are run by its friends. It may even permit spiders that are written by people it has no contractual relationship with, provided the traffic generated does not reach a level where its webmasters would start paying attention.

August 27, 2002

Verizon Lawyer Says Telecoms Siding with Consumer Rights Groups On Copyrights

Today, CNET News.com published an interview with Sarah Deutsch, VP and Associate General Counsel of Verizon. In it, she suggests that many telecom companies are leaning toward consumer rights groups' positions on proposed changes in Copyright Law and away from the positions taken by the Entertainment Industry. This is interesting because it has not been clear where companies like Verizon stood on some of these issues, up to now.

If Deutsch is correct in her assesment of other telecom companies' positions on this issue, than the currently proposed legislation to strengthen Copyright holder's legal rights will be opposed by many more paid lobbyists than many consumer rights groups had expected.

Myelin Produces an Improved Version of the Weblog Ecosystem

Earlier this month, CTDATA.com pointed to two metadirectory of weblogs that attempt to relate the major weblogs to each other. In our original article we said, "Another take on this concept is myelin: blogging ecosystem. Not sure how Myelin differs from The Truth Laid Bear, actually."

It turns out that The Truth Laid Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem is the static output of a program last run in July, while Myelin's Blogging Ecosystem is actually the product of a daemon written in Python that is rerun periodically. On that basis alone, we recommend that weblog fans use the Blogging Ecosystem as a tool to better understand the interrelationships between weblogs.

One question remains, however: why aren't CTDATA.com or any of the other weblogs we run part of the Blogging Ecosystem dataset?

NY Times Columnist Criticizes President Bush for Exercising

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a column today criticizing President Bush for devoting some of his time to fitness. Her view is that The President should spend more time trying to track down Osama bin Laden and less on maintaining his health:

I don't know enough about what the president is up to on Iraq. But I know too much about what the president is up to on a run.... So the bad news is: we haven't caught Osama. The good news is: W.'s times have improved.

Dowd is the kind of ultra-partisan who probably mentioned President Clinton's fondness for jogging favorably in one of her columns early in his presidency. But, Bush's greater devotion to the same sport is an opportunity to take cheap rhetorical shots at him.

The only non-critical reason to mention this column is that it points out that President Bush has given an exclusive interview to RunnersWorld Magazine, and that issue will be on the newsstands on September 9.

August 26, 2002

Cameron Barrett Finds Reason for His Weightloss Problems

Dave Aiello wrote, "I don't think I mentioned this on CTDATA.com earlier in August, but I have been following comments that Cameron Barrett has made on Camworld.com about his effort to lose weight by increasing his level of exercise and modify his diet. He asked for and received a lot of feedback, including a suggestion from me that he consider getting a heart rate monitor."

"Now, Cam reports that a doctor has determined that he has hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. This has the effect of slowing one's metabolism down and counteracting the impact that exercise ought to have on one's weight. It's been interesting to follow this discovery process, if only because it indicates that sometimes exercise and diet isn't enough, and there are legitimate reasons to see a doctor if you are working hard and not seeing the fitness results that you can reasonably expect."

Lincoln Stein Calls for More Internet Encryption Due to Increased Wireless Use

Lincoln Stein wrote an article in New Architect Magazine that discusses the information he was able to intercept while connected to a WiFi network at LaGuardia Airport in New York. He discussed this to illustrate the fact that wireless networks are often easy to tap into and yield a wealth of unencrypted information to anyone:

...I decided to do a little security research. I popped up my favorite network sniffing tool, the tcpdump application that's found on all Unix systems. A few seconds later, I was listening in on all of the wireless traffic in the Admiral's Club network....One {user} was actively reading his email using POP. I intercepted his incoming and outgoing messages, and because POP sends passwords in the clear, I also captured his login username and password. The second user wasn't using the Web actively, but his laptop was checking his office every five minutes for new mail. I soon had his login information as well.

The third user was browsing the Web. I could see the address and content of each of the Web pages he accessed, along with all of his cookies and the contents of the online forms he submitted. Occasionally, he connected to a secure site using SSL, and then all I saw was encrypted gibberish. Well, at least someone was doing their job.

It's hard to imagine a better illustration of why more encrypted internet services need to be deployed. If the people who were accessing their email in this situation happen to work at companies where single sign on security systems exist, their unencrypted passwords might be the gateway to dozens and dozens of web-accessible applications. This is just what people involved in corporate espionage are looking for.

August 25, 2002

Frauds and Scams Among Internet's Biggest Moneymakers

Dave Aiello wrote, "Monday's New York Times reports that scams like penile enlargement pills are among the most profitable internet businesses to run at this time."

"I don't mean to sensationalize this, but, I'll bet that a lot of out-of-work web developers occasionally fantasize about making big bucks developing pornographic websites. The truth of the matter, as this article clearly explains, is that pornography on the internet is not nearly as lucrative as it probably was five years ago. The real profit in the seamy part of cyberspace is in selling bogus potions."

"This type of commerce is easier for the Federal Government to interdict. After all, making false product claims is a serious offense. However, peddling pornography is often made easier by hiding behind The First Amendment."

Huge Insurance Increases Cause Cutbacks in Hospital Services

Martin O'Donnell pointed out that The New York Times reported that hospitals in certain parts of the United States are cutting back on the availability of services due to dramatic increases in malpractice insurance. Among the details that are included about the New York and Philadelphia areas (all essentially quotes from the article):

  • Mercy Hospital in West Philadelphia closed its maternity ward on Friday,
  • the biggest hospitals {in NYC} have kept their insurance prices down by creating their own nonprofit insurance companies,
  • the New Jersey Hospital Association says insurance costs in the state have nearly doubled in the last year,
  • the cost of malpractice insurance at {the Jefferson Health System}... doubled this year, to $32 million, and
  • Brandywine Hospital closed its trauma center and Paoli Hospital closed its paramedic unit {in June}.

Many people who live in this area still haven't realized the impact that malpractice insurance increases are having on the delivery of healthcare. And, they probably won't realize it until they need care that's more complicated than a checkup.

Wired News Suggests that Many Weblogs have Short Lifecycles

Wired News reports many new weblogs are created by the former authors of older weblogs, and that the lifecycle of weblogs is shorter than many recent mainstream media articles have implied.

The article points to F***ed Weblog, an offshoot of Davezilla that is a weblog following the demise of other weblogs. This is modeled after F***ed Company, a very successful sited that has tracked the demise of many Dot Coms.

Another idea for a website is a content syndication site in reverse. It would monitor the RSS feeds of weblogs, looking for a long gap in publishing. It would somehow sort the weblogs by length of outage, or a ratio of total stories published in the 90 day period prior to the last update and the length of the outage. It could be done programmatically, but no one has done it, as far as we know.

August 23, 2002

CTDATA's Surprise Anniversary Celebration

Dave Aiello wrote, "There was a small get together of friends last night in East Windsor to celebrate the 13th anniversary of CTDATA's incorporation. Thanks to everyone who stopped by-- you know who you are."

CTDATA's Office Back on a Broadband Connection

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, I was able to get our office network connected to a 384k SDSL connection provided by Verizon Online. The hard work on this end was figuring out how to make our firewall speak PPoE to a Westell DSL Modem. Other than that, it was easy."

"This brings a definitive end to the Comcast Business Communications saga. I wonder about the viability of this business because they seem to be unable to complete simple customer move orders for a number of reasons. They also seem to be at the mercy of Comcast's residential cable business for installation services. Even after they 'accepted' our move order (over six weeks after we first tried to place it), they were unable to give us an install date."

"Verizon, on the other hand, seems to be geared up to sell DSL. From the time I placed the order with them a week ago, they provided order status messages via email. The technicians and order processing people that I have spoken with have had a clue what they were doing. Given some of the anecdotes I've read in the media and on-line about RBOC DSL sales and installation problems, I had set my expectations fairly low."

Dave Aiello continued:

I have too much experience with broadband service to assume that an hour of trouble free network access will be indicative of the entire relationship. So, I will pay close attention to the reliability of the service, and report any problems here on CTDATA.com. In the meantime, back to our normal work activities for the first time since June.

August 22, 2002

Happy 13th Birthday, CTDATA

Dave Aiello wrote, "On August 22, 1989, Chatham Township Data Corporation was officially incorporated. When I look back at what I wrote at this time last year, the depths of the decline in the information technology business are brought home to me."

"How can I talk about this year in our company's history without mentioning September 11? I was in my office in Lawrenceville, NJ that morning, participating in a conference call. Most of my friends and family thought I was in New York City, or on the way there, when the attack occurred."

"I spent most of the day trying to contact friends that I knew were in Manhattan that day to make sure they were OK. It was only after I had gotten through to everyone I was trying to reach, or to their answering machines, that I had time to think. I can't remember ever asking myself what was going to happen to our business. That's probably a good thing."

Dave Aiello continued:

For several weeks after that, our business was totally disrupted. We received no payments from customers whatsoever. We couldn't get in touch with most of the people with whom we did business prior to 9/11. Many of them moved to offices elsewhere in New York City as a result of their company's disaster recover plans. Only a few thought to call me, and let me know how to get in touch with them.

I was fortunate to find a project to work on in Northern New Jersey that began on October 15. By that time, I had accumulated six weeks of non-billable time. I thought that this new project would only last for a month or so, and then I'd be looking for something new. It turned out that it lasted until the beginning of April 2002.

But, since then, project work has been extremely hard to come by. I think the economic conditions in the IT market are worse now than they were in October. It doesn't seem to matter if you have skills and experience, businesses are making do with who they have on staff and what they have in terms of equipment and software. This is a bad development for many businesses, including ours.

This year has not been without its successes, however. The project at Bear Stearns from October to April was very successful in the sense that we helped them deploy their second-generation client portal. We also succeeded in rolling out version 2.0 of the seminar registration system for the Atlantic Amateur Hockey Association. This system has allowed the AAHA to register 1,800 officials for hockey officiating seminars throughout New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

During the period after September 11, I started a section of CTDATA.com called War On Terror. This is now one of the largest sections of our site, with over 225 stories. Journalists later coined the term "warblogs" to describe this type of web site. It could stand by itself, if we wanted it to.

CTDATA now operates three popular websites with significant amounts of weblog content: CTDATA, the Rensselaer Club of New Jersey, and AAHArefs.org. Combined, these sites offer about 1,500 pages of content. These sites are all based on the Slash Engine, to one extent or another.

The 13th year of CTDATA's history has been the most challenging by far. I am confident that we can survive this downturn in our business, and that we will emerge stronger from it, one day.

It's hard to know how different our business will be when we turn the corner, but we will remain focused on client satisfaction. Ask the customers that remain with us how well we look out for them, and you'll see why you should be doing business with us as well.

Liberty International Airport?

The Star-Ledger reports that Governors Pataki and McGreevey yesterday announced their intention to change the name of Newark International Airport to "Liberty International Airport at Newark". Governor Pataki said:

Governor McGreevey and I both believe that it's appropriate that we change the name of Newark Airport to Liberty International Airport to pay tribute to the heroes we lost on Sept. 11, and recognize that the metropolitan region has been the gateway to liberty and the gateway to America for millions for centuries.


  • Did anyone have any idea that this plan was even being discussed before the announcement?
  • How does the name "Liberty International Airport" specifically evoke memories of the victims of September 11?

The main reason we might object to the name "Liberty International Airport" is the ambiguity of it. But, the announcement came as such a surprise that it's probably too early to take a definitive position on the issue.

Fair-Use Advoates Searching for Vulnerable Legislators in November Election

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over on Instapundit, Glenn Reynolds summarizes the comments webloggers made about Lawrence Lessig's idea to target two pro-RIAA Congresspeople for defeat in November. If you follow the links and read the big bloggers thoughts, then read the comments on the Instapundit story, you have to conclude that this idea is doomed."

"Honestly, the Copyright issues still don't resonate with non-technical people. This is obvious when you compare the wishful thinking of people like Dave Winer on this issue to the multi-front effort that unseated Cynthia McKinney in Georgia. No offense intended to Dave Winer, but, corporate attempts to eviscerate Fair Use don't provoke the broad-based public reaction that bigotry and anti-Americanism does."

John Patrick on Why WiFi Will Be Ubiquitous

John Patrick, a recently retired Vice President at IBM, wrote an article for CNET News.com about the inevitability of ubiquitous WiFi connectivity in the United States. His article, called Wi-Fi and free lunches says, "The advent of Wi-Fi is about to change all of our lives in a major--and positive--way. I'll go further: Wi-Fi is one of those grassroots phenomena that will soon become as ubiquitous as the PC itself."

Patrick apparently got the idea for writing this article when he stopped in a sandwich shop somewhere in New England and found that there was an open WiFi network there, running at 1.2 megabits per second.

August 21, 2002

New Jersey Imposes Additional Water Use Restrictions

The Star-Ledger reports that the New Jersey DEP imposed new water use restrictions yesterday in response to "a drought that has reached historic proportions." New Jersey residents are now banned from watering their lawns and washing cars in the driveway. The Department of Environmental Protection claims that eight of the last 12 months have been the driest on record. By this, we assume that they mean that July was the dryest July on record, for instance.

The article also points out that these water use restrictions are useless if they are not enforced: "A key aspect of the restrictions, Campbell said, will be getting local officials and police to enforce them. Campbell sent a letter Friday urging municipalities to renew their enforcement efforts. Under the drought restrictions, first issued in March, violators can be imprisoned for up to six months and/or fined up to $1,000."

The State of New Jersey has also produced a web site www.njdrought.org. It has some interesting information, including one stark picture of the Oak Ridge Reservoir, part of the Newark, NJ's water system.

August 20, 2002

Steven Levy Writes about Weblogs in Newsweek: Does it Matter?

Dave Aiello wrote, "In reading a number of the major weblogs, I've seen links to an article by Steven Levy in Newsweek called Living in the Blog-osphere. Levy is a famous technology columnist and author, but I'm wondering what new information he's bringing to the table. Let's look at a few comments from somewhat famous bloggers to find out:"

Glenn Fleishman, Levy on Blogging: "I like this Newsweek story by Steven Levy . It captures the encompassing blobbiness of blogging, and he doesn't fall into any of the old monolithic warblogging/techblogging/navelgazingblogging traps. Way to go! I'm mentioned only vaguely...he mentions a variety of kinds of blogs including those on 802.11 wireless networking."

JD Lasica, Newsweek's Levy on life in the blogosphere: "Levy's written about blogs before, and the column is accompanied by video clips he did several months ago."

Nick Denton, Steven Levy does blogs: "Levy's months behind his competitors in covering weblogs, but he's on the savvy side."

Dave Aiello continued, "The encompassing blobbiness of blogging? Let's face it, some of these big time bloggers fall asleep sometimes. I'd rather leave CTDATA without an update than write something that looks completely stupid when taken out of context. And, it wouldn't matter if they mentioned me or not."

Why Does Amazon.com Offer Movie Infomation?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Does anyone have any idea why Amazon.com offers its Movie Showtimes service? Generally, I am big supporters of Amazon: I sell books through the Amazon.com Marketplace; I also participate in the Amazon Associates program. But, rationale behind the Movie Showtimes service (like- how to make money with it) has always escaped me."

"Regardless, I was looking for information about the recent film Road to Perdition. Amazon has a lot of information about it: showtimes at thousands of theaters, the trailer, a cast list, and reviews from professional and amateur reviewers alike."

"One glaring omission: running time. How can they publish so much information about movies in theatrical release and leave out that critical piece of information? Or, am I just missing something obvious?"

August 18, 2002

Bloomberg: MySQL and PostgreSQL May Give Enterprise RDBMS Vendors Fits

Bloomberg.com published a story yesterday that said Yahoo! is considering replacing some Oracle database servers with MySQL. The article goes on to talk about MySQL and PostgreSQL, and how they are being used in an increasing number of enterprise applications as their performance and reliability improve. MySQL AB's CEO Marten Mikos compared databases in the market to naval ships: "Some navies need aircraft carriers, but you don't need many aircraft carriers in the world....The rest of the world can manage with frigates."

We are impressed with MySQL and we are working with it now. We hope to deploy some web-based applications based on it within the next few weeks.

August 17, 2002

Ricochet Relaunches in Denver as a Wireless Broadband Provider to Homes and Businesses

Yesterday, Unstrung reported that Ricochet Networks has relaunched in Denver as a provider of broadband access to homes and businesses that are neither served by DSL nor cable modem services. This is a major change in the business model. Metricom, the company that offered the Ricochet wireless internet service prior to its spectacular bankruptcy, targeted mobile professionals at airports and in densely built downtown areas of major cities.

Mort Aaronson, Ricochet's CEO said, "The users weren't mobile… you could own 1,000 percent of the mobile business market and still go bankrupt." So, we assume that we should not expect much Ricochet re-deployment in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas any time soon.

August 16, 2002

Judge Orders Cases Involving ReplayTV Video Recorder Combined

CNET News.com reports that U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper granted a motion to allow a suit filed by the Electronic Freedom Foundation with one filed by SonicBlue against several TV networks and movie studios. These suits were apparently filed in response to a lawsuit that had been filed by the TV networks and movie studios, alleging that ReplayTV devices allow their users to violate copyright law by skipping commercials present in most television programming.

This is an interesting development because the judge was expected to deny the request to combine these lawsuits. In the ruling, the judge said that the question of whether the plaintiff's use of ReplayTV's features constitutes fair use will "figure prominently in both" actions. We suggest that these cases are worth following, because they may provide insight into whether television viewers' traditional rights to watch programming as they wish are being rolled back.

Why We're Giving Up on Comcast Business Communications

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, I wrote a letter to Comcast Business Communications cancelling our request for business cable modem service at CTDATA's office in East Windsor, NJ. We have been here for seven weeks, and Comcast still has not given us a date when they will provide us with service."

Read on if you are interested in seeing the letter...

August 16, 2002

{Name of Comcast Employee}

Comcast Business Communications

500 South Gravers Road

Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462

Dear {Comcast Employee}:


On June 24, we relocated our Lawrenceville, NJ office to East Windsor, NJ....

We notified Comcast Business Communications Sales Operations on a number of occasions, but we were unable to get a new Master Service Agreement accepted until August 1. Since our employees in East Windsor have now been without a broadband connection for seven weeks, we have decided to cancel our relocation request and seek service from another service provider.

We would like to continue using your service in East Windsor, but your company's apparent inability to track our relocation request, and failure to provide us with an installation date once our MSA was accepted, gave us the impression that you did not care about our business.

Please cancel our relocation request in your order processing system. If anyone from your organization wants to discuss this, I can be reached by telephone at....


/s/ Dave Aiello

Dave Aiello


Chatham Township Data Corporation

9/11 Victims' Families Group Files $116 Trillion Lawsuit Against al Qaeda Supporters

Yesterday, CNN reported that a group of relatives of September 11 attack victims filed a $116 trillion dollar lawsuit against a number of individuals, charities, and businesses that allegedly support al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and The Taliban. The defendants named in the lawsuit include "seven international banks; eight Islamic foundations, charities and their subsidiaries; individual terrorist financiers; the Saudi bin Laden Group; three Saudi princes; and the government of Sudan." The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

This is not the first time that international groups have been sued in the United States for terrorist activity. However, this may be the first time that the terrorist activity actually occured within the territory of the United States. The legal counsel for this suit includes at least one lawyer who participated in the settlement negotiation for the victims' families' suit over the PanAm Flight 103 attack. This is one type of class action lawsuit that we fully support.

Amazon Now Running Linux on 92 Percent of Its Computers

Yesterday's Seattle Times reported that Amazon.com successfully completed a migration to Linux in September and now estimates that 92 percent of its servers run Linux. This is probably one the most complete Linux migrations ever done by a large company. The article says that Red Hat has data that indicates Amazon realized $17 million in technology savings in the third quarter of 2001 alone.

Apparently, there were also unanticipated expenses: "Midway through the transition, Linux creator Linus Torvalds... abruptly changed the software's underlying code, forcing Red Hat and Amazon to change course on the fly." Amazon did report that the operating system upgrade "contributed to $182 million in extraordinary charges" in 2001.

Dell to Ship Some PCs for Corporate Market Without Windows

Earlier this week, CNET News.com reported that Dell plans to ship a new line of PCs without Microsoft Windows. Dell plans to exploit an apparent loophole in its contract with Microsoft by shipping a copy of FreeDOS inside the PC's shipping box. This allows them to stay in compliance with a contract provision that reportedly requires Dell to ship PCs with an operating system.

Camworld suggests that this is what Microsoft gets for charging so much for its operating systems. Of course, Cam is both right and wrong in this conclusion. With desktop PC prices as low as they are today, Windows has become the largest single component of a PC's price. But, the biggest issue for corporate buyers is that the operating system configuration of the PC when it is delivered (known in many IT departments as "the standard build") is inappropriate. Dell knows this and has been shipping PCs with bare hard drives to its very largest corporate customers for a few years.

We suspect that the Dell N-Series announcement is an attempt to take this successful corporate delivery program to another level. It is not the audacious swipe at Microsoft that it appears to be from the headline. The PCs without Windows will cost exactly the same amount as the PCs with Windows. This is ridiculous if you think about it, and is a true indication of Microsoft's power over its OEMs.

August 15, 2002

Rediff.com Says Indian and Pakistani Leaders Will Both Attend NYC Memorials on 9/11

Sesh Rengaswamy pointed out that Rediff.com reported that Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee and Pakistani President Musharraf both plan to attend memorial services in New York on September 11. This information has not been widely reported in the mainstream U.S. media.

India and Pakistan were very close to war over a disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this year. Given the fact that both government leaders will attend the same ceremonies, it is possible that informal talks might take place.

Is it Time for Small Businesses to Start Weblogs?

Dan Bricklin, the entrepreneur behind Trellix, wrote an article for his web site on Monday that advocates the addition of weblogs to web sites operated by small businesses. Bricklin says that a major reason that weblogs haven't appeared on many small business web sites yet is that the tools used for weblogging are different from other small business web site management tools. He goes on to say that consultants who help small businesses manage their web sites are also generally not webloggers.

But, Bricklin believes that a well written weblog would help a lot of small businesses build their clientele and stay in touch with repeat customers. Consultants, bed and breakfasts, and specialty retailers would especially benefit. Bricklin says:

It is important to understand that the purpose of a blog is not always to get the largest and widest readership possible. The purpose is usually to communicate with interested individuals. Even in business, the number of those individuals may be very few, but the impact of the communications can have economic impact far beyond its cost. For example, for a business selling high-ticket items or services, one sale can make up for the time cost of a whole year of frequent blogging.

We agree particularly with his last sentence, because that is the rationale for CTDATA.com.

August 14, 2002

Prominent Weblog Writer Argues that Weblogs Should be Added to Some Corporate Sites

Meg Hourihan has written an interesting article for The O'Reilly Network where she argues that there are many opportunities for profitable businesses to hire people to produce weblogs aimed at their customers. Meg says:

If we can demonstrate that these blogs are worth the cost it takes to maintain them, we will enable the creation of many more compelling, useful blogs. The key to success lies in the creation of great blogs for these sites--blogs that will contain practical and engaging content and drive traffic to their respective hosts. One sure-fire way to do this is to hire bloggers.

She suggests that companies like Google, State Farm, and FoodTV ought to consider adding weblogs to their sites to cater to specific customer niches.

Sun Articulates a LAMP Strategy for the Low End

Computerworld reported yesterday that Sun Microsystems will attempt to leverage the LAMP tools in its effort to enter the low-end Internet server market. LAMP refers to Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP. This term is widely used in the OpenSource community (example: O'Reilly's OnLAMP), and can also refer to the Perl and Python programming languages.

This is an interesting development because Sun is endorsing a major OpenSource development methodology for the market below that which it is serving with J2EE services. In the past, major companies have been reluctant to develop client-facing applications based on these technologies because none of their vendors have been willing to support all of these components.

A lot of corporate web applications do not require the scalability that comes with traditional application servers. So, Sun's strategy is a very practical / economical one. It will be interesting to see if the UNIX-based financial services companies change their development philosophies now.

Boston Marathon Runner's Death Linked to Sodium Imbalance

Julie Aiello pointed out a front page article from yesterday's Boston Globe that says the Massachusetts state medical examiner ruled that a runner in the Boston Marathon died as a result of hyponatremic encephalopathy, a condition where the brain swells due to a cellualr sodium imbalance. The runner, Cynthia Lucero, is only the second participant to die in the 106-year history of the Boston Marathon. According to the article:

Although people seldom die from hyponatremic encephalopathy, health-threatening sodium deficiencies are more common among athletes than doctors once believed. {A researcher in the field} cites one study, for example, that tracked 18,000 marathoners and found that among those seeking medical care after the race, 9 percent suffered from the condition. Deaths are sufficiently rare that specialists can recount them individually.

This is an amazing article, particularly for people who like to participate in difficult sports activities such as long distance running, triathlons, and long distance cycling. Most people who do this are worried about bonking, becoming dehydrated, or developing an electrolyte imbalance. According to this article, athletes should also be worried about taking on too much liquid volume, and possibly the wrong kinds of fluid replacement drinks as well.

What is the Sports and Exercise Section of CTDATA.com?

CTDATA believes that regular exercise is vital to the well being of everyone. We also feel that the average knowledge worker sits at his or her desk too much, thereby increasing the risk of the diseases of sedentary life.

The Sports and Exercise section of ctdata.com is the place where we plan to discuss the sporting events and physical training. Based on the interests of our current employees, articles will be focused on sports like:

  • Running
  • Cycling and mountain biking
  • Biathlon and triathlon
  • Ice hockey

August 12, 2002

Scott, George, and Dave Complete "Bridgeton Zoo Ride"

Dave Aiello wrote, "On Saturday, Scott Kuykendall, George Kuykendall, and I participated in the Bridgeton Zoo Ride, a 50 mile tour of parts of Salem County, NJ. The ride was organized by The South Jersey Wheelmen, a cycling club. For George and me, this is the first time that we have completed an organized ride of 50 miles."

"I want to give you the impression that we do this sort of thing all the time, and 3 or 4 hours in the saddle is no big deal. But, the fact is that we don't often have time to ride 50 miles or more unless we plan it way in advance. We are not professional cyclists, we aren't about to ride in next year's Tour de France, so this is a milestone for us."

Maryland Internet Entrepreneur Claims to Have Hijacked Major Al Qaeda Web Site

Wired News reported that a Maryland internet entrepreneur took over alneda.com, a major al Qaeda web site, and operated it for five days before the original operator alerted the users of the site. Jon Messner, the entrepreneur who took over al Neda, has met with the FBI, but the FBI reportedly "asked him not to disclose what they had discussed".

Danger Hiptop to Be Released by T-Mobile / VoiceStream

In last week's Personal Technology column in The Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg reviews the T-Mobile Sidekick, a new mobile Internet / mobile phone device designed by Danger, Inc.. This is a mobile device that emphasizes Internet connectivity over telephony. As such, it's focus is different that The Handspring Treo.

The T-Mobile Sidekick is also aimed at consumers. Mossberg says, "With consumers in mind, the monthly fee for the Sidekick will be just $39.99 for unlimited data usage over a high-speed, always-on GPRS network. That's all the Web surfing, e-mail, and instant messaging you want."

The product is expected to be available in October. It will be interesting to see how it is promoted and what the market reaction will be. T-Mobile may be the smallest nationwide mobile telephone carrier, but it's nothing if not aggressive in bringing new devices on to its network.

NY Times Covers Microsoft Attendance at LinuxWorld

On Friday, The New York Times published a preview of the LinuxWorld trade show focused on Microsoft's attendance at the show. The article says that this is Microsoft's first time at LinuxWorld as an exhibitor-- true enough. However, it goes on to state that "Linux has failed as a desktop alternative to either Microsoft's Windows or Apple's Macintosh operating system", citing as proof a report from International Data Corporation that Linux sales fell in 2001.

It's hard to know where to begin to rebut this. Many of our readers know that Linux can be legally installed without paying a license fee. Furthermore, the same copy of Linux can be installed on multiple personal computers regardless of how the operating system was obtained. Finally, Linux is bundled into certain server-based application products, and the licensee has the option of installing Linux or another UNIX-based operating system during server deployment.

Any attempt to quantify the number of Linux machines in service based on the reported sales of shrinkwrapped copies of Linux is bound to be an understatement. The New York Times loses credibility when it falls into this trap. This article would be much more relevant if it did not being with a questionable pretense. For what it's worth, Doc Searls and Dave Winer have both weighed in on this article with similar conclusions.

August 11, 2002

The Truth Laid Bear Develops "Blogosphere Ecosystem"

We have seen a number of webloggers point to a site called The Truth Laid Bear and a page on that site called Blogosphere Ecosystem, which attempts to measure how weblogs link to each other. This is an attempt to capture the number of links from one weblog to another within the subset of weblogs that the The Truth Laid Bear tracks.

This sort of automated weblog crawling has been popular for a while. Blogdex has a similar service called Social Network Explorer, but it only works from the perspective of a single weblog that is specified in the page request. Another take on this concept is myelin: blogging ecosystem. Not sure how Myelin differs from The Truth Laid Bear, actually.

August 10, 2002

T-Mobile / VoiceStream to Ship Pocket PC Phone Edition

In an August 1 article in The Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg wrote about the latest wireless internet device to be released for the T-Mobile Network in the United States. The T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition is a $549 device designed by Microsoft and built by a contract manufacturer for T-Mobile. This is an unusual arrangement in that most other mobile phone devices that operate on T-Mobile are manufactured by third party companies.

Mossberg does not like this device as much as he says he likes The Handspring Treo, however:

I've been testing this gadget for several weeks and it does work, but it has serious flaws as both a phone and an e-mail device. I regard it as an interesting first step in creating a communicator based on Microsoft's Pocket PC platform, but a more radical redesign will be needed before it can accomplish all its tasks well.

This is another in a seemingly endless series of frank assessments of mobile technology devices from Walter Mossberg, and we salute him for having the integrity to call them as he sees them.

August 9, 2002

SonicBlue CEO Ousted After Demanding Repayment of Corporate Loans Made to Directors

In a really interesting article, The San Jose Mercury News reports that SonicBlue CEO Kenneth Potashner was ousted yesterday after he demanded that members of the company's board of directors repay $500 thousand in loans that are due in 2003. According to the article:

Potashner said he began to scrutinize about $177,000 in loans that ... board members... received in June 2000 to purchase stock in RioPort, a digital music services company that is 32 percent owned by SonicBlue.

Potashner, who also received a $261,232 loan in December 1999 to purchase RioPort stock, said the board members voted last December to make their loans "non-recourse," an accounting term that meant the directors would not be personally liable if they failed to pay.... Potashner, in contrast, is personally liable for his loan.

There's probably a lot more to this story than has been written in this article, but, Potashner is certainly trying to appear to take the high road by invoking the rights of the shareholder.

Charlton Heston Announces That He May Have Alzheimer's Disease

The Associated Press reports that Charlton Heston has announced that he may have Alzheimer's Disease. According to the story, Heston recorded a video statement on August 7 where he said, "My dear friends, colleagues and fans, my physicians have recently told me I may have a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer's disease." The video was played earlier today at a press conference in Beverley Hills, California.

Webmonkey Argues for Adherence to Web Standards to Keep Costs Down

Over on Webmonkey, Paul Boutin makes a novel argument for designing web pages to Web Standards Project standards: it's a lot cheaper to design sites this way.

Instead of trying to support multiple versions of the same pages, it's much more cost-effective to piggyback on the millions of dollars Microsoft, Netscape, Opera, and others have spent building standards-compliant browsers and just stick to using standards-compliant markup on your site.

Now we've heard everything. It's not that we are against using standardized design. But, these admonitions are mainly aimed at artsy sites who felt the need to use browser-specific features to try to impose almost typographic control over the appearance of a web page. Most web sites like CTDATA.com never had separate web pages for Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer, so this article doesn't really apply to us.

Our question is: why did so many site managers wait so long to follow this advice? So much of the excesses of 1999, 2000, and 2001 were about redoing the same work. Sites that had two or three versions of the same content employed a lot of people, but were obviously wasting money. Many of them are now gone from the scene. Meanwhile, sites that were designed by sane people are still around, in many cases.

Economic Collapse in Argentina Grinds On

Over the past few days, a number of stories have appeared that confirm that the economic decline in Argentina has not yet ended. WNET, the Public Broadcasting System affiliate in New York, ran an episode of its Wide Angle series last night called The Empty ATM. It's about the plight of middle class people in the urban parts of Argentina, and it brings home the fact that this South American country is experiencing an economic crisis that is reminiscent of the Great Depression. The show will be run on many PBS stations across the country in the next few days.

Another piece of information on Argentina appeared in The Washington Post on Tuesday. Despair in Once Proud Argentina talks more about life outside the area surrounding Buenos Aires. In many places like Rosario, there are huge shantytowns "boiling over with refugees from the financial collapse". The situation becomes worse in rural areas. According to the article, "In the province of Tucuman, an agricultural zone of 1.3 million people, health workers say cases of malnutrition have risen 20 percent to 30 percent over the previous year." (Credit for pointing out this story goes to Camworld.)

The difficulty that we had in watching The Empty ATM is that it does not even attempt to explain two critical elements of the financial crisis in Argentina:

  • the original rationale behind the 1:1 peg between the Argentine Peso and the US Dollar, and
  • the escalating deficit spending that was taking place at all levels of government leading up to the initial Argentine Peso devaluation.

The documentary does talk about the futility of attempting to maintain the peg after the Brazilian Real devaluation that occurred in 1999, but this cannot be placed in proper context without discussing either of the aforementioned events. As a result, it is easy to conclude that the International Monetary Fund and the United States Government played a larger role in destroying the Argentine economy than they actually did.

We feel that the program could not do justice to these topics and cover the present situation in the 50 minutes it alloted to the documentary itself.

In our view, the flawed presentation of the Real devaluation is a significant mistake in an otherwise promising program. The documentary provides good insight into the plight of middle class Argentines. One could argue that documenting the Argentine reality TV show in such detail is over the top, but it certainly helps Americans new to the situation understand the depth of the plight for most in the Argentine middle class.

On a visceral level, The Empty ATM is likely to be riveting to people who visited Argentina within the last 10 years. Buenos Aires looks the same in some film clips, but in others, it looks like scenes from a science fiction movie.

August 8, 2002

Cablevision Swooning Because of Subscriber Shinkage

This morning, there are reports of store closings, asset sales, and subscriber shinkage at Cablevision. The reports began with a warning that basic cable subscribership in the New York area fell by 1 to 1.5 percent. Regarding the subscriber loss:

The company did not specify a reason. But earlier this year, it said it lost subscribers in the first four months of the year as a result of a dispute over broadcasts of New York Yankees baseball games... Cablevision is the only New York area cable operator not carrying the YES Network on its systems. The company balked at the fee charged by YES for the broadcast rights.

The relentless advertisements by DirecTV and The YES Network that have taken Cablevision to task over not airing Yankee games must really be costing Cablevision money. Cablevision will also sell its Clearview Cinema chain and close about half of its The Wiz electronics stores.

Wired News Pounding Clear Channel's Radio Programming Practices

Over the past week, Wired News has run a series of articles about Clear Channel Communications and their attempt to monopolize FM radio broadcasting in many cities throughout the United States. In the article Clear Cutting the Radio Forest, reporter Randy Dotinga says, "After a blizzard of purchases, sales and mergers, Clear Channel owns or operates 1,165 radio stations in the United States. It controls about 80 more through other means that occasionally raise eyebrows."

Wired News followed up today with Good Mornin' (Your Town Here), an article about the "epidemic of digital fakery {that} has struck the radio industry". The article goes on to say "Only the listeners are live and local at many radio stations, and Clear Channel is gambling that nobody will notice. Or care."

The story also relates the fact that Clear Channel stations in Harrisonburg, VA did not switch to news for four hours after the terrorist attack on September 11. This was due to the fact that the employees who were present at the station did not know how to stop the automated programming.

This continuing series of articles is great because it exposes the biggest reasons that people are tuning away from FM and tuning in talk radio. Say what you want about programs like Rush Limbaugh and The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly, but these programs are produced with creativity, and they don't try to fool their audiences into thinking they are local productions.

August 7, 2002

Frankston Refutes Some Arguments Made in The Economist "Telecoms Crash" Cover Story

Bob Frankston has published a very thought-provoking opinion piece on his web site called The Economist, the Internet, Telecom, and the Dow. It's intended to identify some aspects of a recent cover story in The Economist that Frankston considers fallacious.

It is a tragic misunderstanding since the woes of the Telecom industry are seen as representing the state of the economy rather than the collapsing of a facade of a Potemkin industry. In 1900's there was a real telecommunications industry just like in the 1800's when there was a thriving business in transporting ice from frozen lakes to warmer climes. Just as refrigeration put an end to the need for buying ice, the Internet has put an end to the need to buy telecommunications services from others. We just need commodity connectivity.

Frankston's argument, that long distance telephone service as we know it is an artificial creation of government regulators, is completely different from the points made in The Economist article "Too many debts; too few calls". We pointed to the Economist article in a recent story on CTDATA.com, so we thought we ought to point out a strong counter-argument.

Hollywood Attempting to Prohibit Recording of Some TV Programs After 2006

WiredNews is reporting that the motion picture industry is negotiating for the right to block the recording of some televised programming once broadcasters begin delivering digital television signals to American homes in 2006. This would have the effect of making next-generation digital video recorders, like today's TiVo and ReplayTV, incapable of recording certain broadcast programming at the discretion of the broadcaster.

According to the article, SonicBlue's Chief Technology Officer said, "Ultimately, we think it would be damaging to the customers if they couldn't time-shift their shows." We agree.

Nielsen Now Collecting Data from Some TiVo Users

CNET News.com reports that Nielsen Media Research and TiVo have developed software to collect usage information that may be used to assess the impact of digital video recorders (DVRs) on commercial television in the United States. According to the article:

For now, Nielsen is excluding data from households with DVRs from its industry reports, but it is trying to piece together a sample that will reveal "the impact of TiVo...upon established viewing patterns."

With the proliferation of DVR devices and the impending rollout of true video-on-demand by major cable systems, Nielsen must develop ways to measure consumer use of these services, otherwise the value of their market research will be reduced. The work they have done with TiVo over the past two years is just the beginning of the attempt to adapt to the explosion of digital technology.

Naudet Documentary "9|11" to be Released on DVD and VHS on September 10

To commemorate the first anniversary of the terrorist attack that destroyed The World Trade Center, Paramount Home Video will release 9/11 - The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition on both DVD and VHS. The official release date is September 10, 2002. Advance orders are being taken for the program by Amazon.com.

This film, which we have previously described as one of the great moments in television history, has only been aired once on American broadcast television. The first airing occured on March 10, 2002 on CBS. It was made by brothers Gedeon and Jules Naudet. As CTDATA reported back in February, the Naudet brothers were shooting the final scenes of a documentary on the New York City Fire Department when the terrorist attack occurred. They rode along with the subjects of their documentary to the site of the attack, while keeping their cameras rolling. The result was some of the most priceless historic film footage ever captured.

According to the information provided about the DVD, the version to be released will run 130 minutes, and will include "additional interviews with the heroic firefighters, rescue workers and filmakers, giving exclusive insight to their firsthand experience of the day's events." The DVD version on sale at Amazon is Region 1 encoded (for the U.S. and Canada). It is not clear if other regional encodings are available. As was the case with the original broadcast, the videos will be released in widescreen letterbox format.

August 6, 2002

Manhattan DA Investigating ATM Thefts Enabled by 9/11 Disaster

The Associated Press reports that thousands of people are accused of using ATMs to steal $15 million from a credit union whose computer security system was damaged on September 11. According to the article, "{Manhattan} District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the suspects found a way to repeatedly withdraw up to $500 a day from ATMs — even if their accounts at the Municipal Credit Union couldn't cover it."

Apparently, the credit union's data center was located in a building that adjoined the World Trade Center complex. That building was damaged in the terrorist attack, and it resulted in computer network problems that enabled withdrawals in excess of account balances.

Reports indicate that over 4,000 people overdrew their accounts by at least $1,000. This is shocking in light of the fact that so many people are known to have adopted a spirit of helpfulness and co-operation.

August 5, 2002

Thousands Turn Out to See Lance Armstrong Race in New York

Dave Aiello wrote, "The Associated Press estimates that 100,000 people turned out to watch Lance Armstrong race in Lower Manhattan yesterday in the New York City Cycling Championships. Kathleen and I attended the race, and it was certainly an impressive turnout."

"Ivan Dominguez of Team Saturn won the race. He was part of a seven man break-away that got away in the first 30 km of the race. The members of the break really worked hard, because they lead the race for almost 50 miles on one of the hottest and stillest days in Lower Manhattan this summer."

"The most interesting aspect of the race was the diverse group of spectators. There were clearly thousands of knowledgeable road cyclists and pro cycling fans. These are the core constituency of OLN. There were also thousands who turned out because of radio and TV promotions of the race. Most of those people recognized the U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team jerseys, but had difficulty figuring out which rider Lance Armstrong was, if he wasn't standing still."

August 2, 2002

Senator Torricelli Apologizes for Being Caught Taking Gifts

Today's Newark Star-Legder reports that Senator Robert Torricelli's re-election campaign began a $1 million ad campaign yesterday where the Senator apologized for accepting gifts from a contributor. According to the article:

The {bi-partisan Senate Ethics Committee} found he had accepted a big-screen TV, a stereo, earrings and two bronze statues from Bergen County businessman David Chang, who wanted the senator's help lobbying Korean government officials. Chang is in prison for illegal campaign contributions.

U.S. Senate rules ban gifts worth more than $50.

According to the campaign manager for Douglas Forrester, Senator Torricelli's opponent in the November election, "Mr. Torricelli will now unleash his propaganda machine to try to convince New Jersey voters he really didn't mean it when he said, 'I have never, ever, done anything at any time to betray the trust of the people of New Jersey. Never.'"

SEC Fines Six Wall Street Firms for Not Retaining Emails

AtNewYork.com reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission fined six Wall Street firms for deleting employee email messages in violation of regulations. According to the article, "SEC regulations require securities firms to keep all business records, including e-mails, for three years. However, Wall Street and the SEC have sparred over what exactly is required in e-mail retention policies."

In our business dealings with financial services firms, we have noticed that email is often deleted after only 90 days. The stated justification for this is the amount of disk storage required to archive all employee email. However, many employees at these companies feel that email deletion is a priority only because email archives make legal departments nervous. It's interesting to hear that the SEC requirement may actually be considerably longer than current email retention policies would otherwise indicate.

August 1, 2002

Hollywood Intensifies Attack on Internet

In an article recently posted on LinuxJournal.com, Doc Searls brings his readers up to date on the fusillade that the RIAA has used against the webcasting industry. Music radio stations that simulcast themselves on the Internet have been shutting down across America in the wake of the final royalty determinations made by the Librarian of Congress in consultation with the Copyright Arbitration and Royalty Panel.

The article points out many of the developments that have been taking place within groups that oppose the webcasting royalty decisions and (in a broader context) the Digital Millenium Copyright Act.

IBM Buys PwC Consulting, Pays Less than 25 Percent of Price H-P Had Negotiated

Yesterday, IBM announced that it would acquire PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting, leaving PwC with a core business that revolves around accounting and audit practices. Forbes reported that the price IBM agreed to pay was less than 25 percent of the price Hewlett-Packard had offered about two years ago for the same business.

Bugs Bunny Tops TV Guide List of All-time Favorite Cartoon Characters

On Tuesday, CNN reported that Bugs Bunny is the most popular cartoon character of all time according to a recently-released TV Guide poll. According to the article, "Bugs is... the only character from the pre-television animated-short golden age to make the magazine's top 10." The character first appeared in "Porky's Hare Hunt," a cartoon that was released in theaters in 1938.