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September 27, 2002

Google News Sports Coverage Seems Skewed Toward Sports Popular in USA

Dave Aiello wrote, "I've been looking at Google News rather closely since the announcement of its production release earlier this week. One thing I've noticed is that Google News' Sports section is not as internationally diverse as its regular news coverage."

"Right now, professional road cycling is focused on the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain), that is ending in Madrid this weekend. The stage race has been on for three weeks, it's very close at the moment, and there is a large niche audience for this event. Yet, coverage of it can't be found on Google News Sports."

"The omission could be due to the fact that their software isn't looking at sites like CyclingNews and VeloNews. I also wonder if they're looking at mainstream European sports news sites like Eurosport."

Six New Teams of Architects Chosen to Submit WTC Redevelopment Plans

The BBC is one of the news agencies to report that The Port Authority has chosen six international teams of architects to submit plans for the redevelopment of Ground Zero. The agency held a new competition because the first set of plans it received were almost universally criticized as being either unimaginative or insufficiently respectful of the lost.

We think that the previous design contest was hampered by the requirement that the plans replace all of the 11 million square feet of office space as well as the retail space lost in the attack. But, we do not agree with some bereaved relatives that have suggested that the entire site should be given over to a memorial. Turning the entire 16 acre site into a memorial would send a terrible message to people who would consider future terrorist attacks on the United States.

September 26, 2002

Two Ways We Know Al Gore's Speech in San Francisco Was a Mistake

You have to hand it to Al Gore. He made a speech on Monday in San Francisco that managed to outrage both the American right wing and the left wing at the same time. You would expect columnists like Michael Kelly to find fault with Gore's speech:

Gore uttered his first big lie in the second paragraph of the speech when he informed the audience that his main concern was with "those who attacked us on Sept. 11, and who have thus far gotten away with it." ...The government of Gore's country has led a coalition of nations in war against al Qaeda, "those who attacked us on Sept. 11"; has destroyed al Qaeda's central organization and much of its physical assets; has destroyed the Taliban, ... has bombed the forces of al Qaeda from one end of Afghanistan to the other; has killed at least hundreds of terrorists and their allies....

But, the strong disapproval of Gore's speech by The New Republic is the uncharacteristic element indicating that Gore made a mistake, even from the perspective of his traditional supporters:

In the 1980s and 1990s, Al Gore consistently battled the irresponsibility and incoherence on foreign affairs that plagued the Democratic Party. And it was partly out of admiration for that difficult and principled work that this magazine twice endorsed him for president. Unfortunately, that Al Gore didn't show up at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on Monday. Instead, the former vice president's speech almost perfectly encapsulated the evasions that have characterized the Democratic Party's response to President Bush's proposed war in Iraq. In typical Democratic style, Gore didn't say he opposed the war. In fact, he endorsed the goal of regime change--before presenting a series of qualifications that would likely make that goal impossible.

American Industry In Danger of Creating an Intellectual Property Double Standard

An interesting dichotomy is developing inside large American corporations. Some companies, including the content producers within the Entertainment industry, are hellbent on rolling back the rights that consumers have to enjoy television, movies, and music wherever and whenever they want. Meanwhile, software companies seem to be reducing their anti-piracy efforts, but only in developing countries where there was no understanding of intellectual property law in the first place.

In a piece on CNET News.com, Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, says that the content community has gone on a scorched earth campaign to destroy each successive new recording and distribution technology because the technologies may undermine established means of entertainment distribution. But, rather than working with the software and hardware industries to make marginal changes to digital technology that would reduce the most egregious abuses, the entertainment industry is trying to convince lawmakers that some aspects of Fair Use ought to be criminal offenses.

Meanwhile, Sam Williams writes in Salon that companies such as Microsoft have taken a lassiez faire approach to piracy in countries like China because it expects to profit more from the network effects of having millions of undocumented users of its software than it otherwise would if Linux got a big foothold in the market. Nevertheless, prices for the same software are increasing for customers in America and Western Europe.

It's impossible to reconcile these two approaches, and it's hard to imagine how Congress could aid companies pursuing both approaches simultaneously. Neither one of the strategies seems fair to Americans who are attempting to play by the current intellectual property rules.

September 25, 2002

Will Apple Abandon the PowerPC CPU?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Whenever Apple Computer develops a set of strong products, the press begins to speculate about the business implications of moving the Macintosh product line over to the Intel Pentium family of CPUs. This is happening again now. Charles Haddad is the latest person to speculate about a CPU migration in BusinessWeek magazine."

"One of the rationales for a CPU switch, according to Haddad, is the possibility of seamless switching between OS X and one or more flavors of Windows. But he goes on to make this incredible comment: 'Some users, however, would welcome a PC version of OS X. That would enable Windows emulation software, such as VirtualPC by Connectix, to run much faster.' Charles, have you ever heard of VMware?"

"If Apple came out with a Pentium-based PowerBook that could run VMware, I would ditch my Dell Inspiron that runs Red Hat 7.2. No offense to Red Hat, but OS X has DVD support, user-friendly applications, and good power management. I'd keep Linux for my servers, of course, but OS X is the uber-geek client OS of choice at the moment."

September 23, 2002

Google News Goes Golden

Lots of websites are pointing to the fact that Google has announced that the beta test phase of its Google News project has officially ended, and it is now considered production-quality. Google News can be found at http://news.google.com/.

As Rob Malda said on Slashdot, the most interesting aspect of the Google News site is that it is built in an entirely automated fashion using technology derived from its PageRank research. The site is definitely worth scanning on a periodic basis.

September 22, 2002

Albany, NY Newspaper Says Former Area Resident Devised First WTC Attack Plan in 1992

The Albany Times Union reported on Sunday that Abdul Hakim Murad lived in an Albany suburb in the early 1990s and concocted the original plan to destroy The World Trade Center using hijacked airliners. He subsequently worked with Ramzi Yousef to attempt the simultaneous bombing of 12 airliners over the Pacific, but was arrested by Philippine police in January 1995. Murad was extradited to the United States, tried, and sentenced to life plus 60 years.

Yousef planned and executed the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, but escaped to Pakistan before he could be arrested. Yousef remained at large until 1996 when he was arrested in Pakistan. He has subsequently been extradited to the United States, tried, and sentenced for his part in the original WTC attack.

This is one of the more interesting articles published in a smaller-city American newspaper about the inter-relationships between the various attempted attacks against U.S. interests by al Qaeda operatives.

September 19, 2002

Toby Keith's CD "Unleashed" is Worth the Money for One Song

Dave Aiello wrote, "Yesterday, I bought a copy of Unleashed, a CD recorded by Toby Keith on Dreamworks Records. I bought it to get a licensed copy of the song Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American), calling for a just response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. In my opinion, this song alone is worth the street price of the album (currently around $13.50 in most places)."

"I need to sit down and listen to the other songs on the album. But, I thought I'd mention it here and encourage people to listen to 'Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue', if they haven't had the opportunity yet."

September 18, 2002

The NY Times Supports Linux(?)

Dave Aiello wrote, "What's this? The New York Times ran an editorial advocating the use of Linux? I know people are going to think I'm crazy, but, I think they made a mistake: they should also have encouraged people to buy MacOS X-based computers."

"From a programming perspective, Linux and OS X are very similar. The user experience on the Macintosh, however, is arguably better with such niceties as DVD support. It could be a while before you can play a DVD or reliably read any Microsoft Office document on a Linux machine. Yet, you can do this today on a Mac."

Sun to Push Linux on Desktop in Some Corporate Environments

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that Sun Microsystems intends to push Linux as a desktop operating system in certain cost-sensitive vertical markets. The article suggests that markets like corporate call centers, retail banking organizations, government, and educational institutions may be looking for an alternative to Microsoft and their Windows and Office product families.

September 14, 2002

GAIM: A Cross-Platform, Multi-Protocol Instant Messaging Client

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier this week, I decided I had enough of the AOL Instant Messenger Client for Linux because it seems to have developed font problems since I upgraded my laptop to Red Hat Linux 7.2. So, I started looking around at other instant messaging clients that could allow me to stay on AIM, and perhaps also provide support for other instant messaging protocols as well."

"I decided to look first at GAIM, an application written for the Gnome desktop on Linux that supports 'AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, MSN, IRC, Jabber, Napster, Zephyr, and Gadu-Gadu, all at once.' This program is truly excellent, and its IRC (Internet Relay Chat) support is an added bonus for those of us who work with OpenSource software. (A lot of OpenSource projects have on-going IRC discussions during the day for technical support.)"

"I was so satisfied with GAIM that I honestly never bothered to look at the other Linux IM clients."

"In an interesting coincidence, Slashdot is reporting that GAIM has just been released for Windows. (Note: It's an alpha release.) This is a great opportunity to get off the ad-driven IM clients of the Windows platform, and get on a stable OpenSource alternative that's bound to be well-supported."

September 12, 2002

OpenOffice Can Help You Get Along If You Don't Have Microsoft Office

Dave Aiello wrote, "I'm one of the Linux fans who must deal with Windows, and particularly Microsoft Office documents, on a daily basis. This has been a serious drain on my personal productivity because I have had to stop working and transfer any MS Office file that I receive to another machine in my office, whenever anyone decided to send me such a document."

"I've gotten around this problem by installing OpenOffice. This is an Open Source version of StarOffice, a software product that was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999."

"OpenOffice runs on a number of platforms: Linux, Windows, and Solaris, with MacOS apparently on the way. It looks like a great product if your primary goal is to display and print a reasonable facsimile of the MS Office documents sent to you by friends who live inside that software suite."

"I will probably get an opportunity to use OpenOffice more extensively, now that I have downloaded and installed it. But, I wanted to report right away on the initial successes I have had."

September 11, 2002

Washington Times: First Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Was Different

Jennifer Harper wrote an excellent piece for The Washington Times that compares the commemoration of Pearl Harbor to that of the attack on the World Trade Center from the perspective of the media reports on the events' first anniversaries. Harper begins:

Nobody was ready for "healing" on December 7, 1942, and "closure" was the last thing anybody wanted.

America, on the first anniversary of that other date that lives in infamy often the benchmark by which September 11 is judged wanted blood and vengeance, without apology.

No flowers, no teddy bears, and no exploration of the national angst. No presidential admonitions to think of Shinto as a religion of peace, no appeals to understand the frustrations that drove the misunderstood Nazis to rape Poland and bomb London.

There are a number of difficulties with comparing these two sneak attacks: they occured at different times in our history, in vastly different places, and they killed different types of people. Yet, the article makes a number of good points, and much of the research that Harper did has not been published elsewhere.

In Memory of the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001

On September 11, 2001, over 3,000 people died in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Today, we remember all of the victims, and particularly the friends of CTDATA who were killed in the attacks:

  • World Trade Center

    • Vito DeLeo, mechanic at World Trade Center, USA Hockey official
    • John Eichler, retired executive at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, brother of Joan Aiello
    • John Pocher, bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, alumnus of Essex County Chiefs youth hockey program
    • Kalyan Sarkar, Port Authority seismic engineer, father of Kishan Sarkar-- a Rensselaer alumnus

  • American Airlines Flight 11

In addition, we remember the 343 members of the FDNY, the 23 members of the NYPD, and the 37 member of the PAPD who made the ultimate sacrifice on that day.

September 10, 2002

CBS To Air "9|11" on First Anniversary of Attack

Tomorrow, CBS will broadcast the documentary 9|11 at 9:00 pm, Eastern Time. It is only the second time that this fantastic film will be aired on American television.

Last month, we reported that a commemorative edition of the Naudet Brothers' film would be released on DVD and VHS on September 10. Our report on the original airing of the documentary said:

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

Watching 9|11 will remind us why we call our effort to respond to this terrorist attack a war on terror.

What We Saw: CBS News Book About 9/11 Has a DVD of Live TV Coverage

CBS News has produced an interesting book called What We Saw: The Events of September 11-- in Words, Pictures, and Video. It is both a 144 page hardcover book and a DVD. The DVD contains nearly 2 hours of as-it-happened video that was broadcast on CBS on September 11 and in the days that followed, interspersed with brief comments by CBS anchorman Dan Rather.

Much of the book is transcripts of what appears on the DVD. Additional text is included from articles that appeared in The New York Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and many other publications.

We feel that the street price of this book, about $18 at this writing, is a reasonable price for the DVD by itself. If you want to have a video copy of a large amount of reportage as it appeared on U.S. television that day, this is one book you should buy.

Author of Many Linux RAID Drivers Died in Alaska Helicopter Crash

Last week, Slashdot reported that Leonard Zubkoff died in a helicopter crash near Ketchikan, Alaska. Zubkoff was the author of the Linux drivers for Mylex RAID controllers, key components in high performance hard disk subsystems. CTDATA has two of these RAID controllers, and one of our servers uses one of Zubkoff's drivers.

Since news reports of his death became available, many people in the Linux community have praised Zubkoff's work, and noted its breadth. It seems insensitive to say this, but, the community reaction to Zubkoff's death and the support that others provide for his contributions to the Linux kernel will have to be watched carefully. That response will be a measure of the resiliency of the Linux development process.

Who is the Audience for "Essential Blogging"?

Slashdot has published a suprisingly bad review of "Essential Blogging", a new book from O'Reilly written by no less than six co-authors. The reviewer, Alexander Moskalyuk, asks some fundimentally useful questions:

The only thought that never left my mind while reading this book was "Who would buy it?" Why would you need 264 pages to explain... how to set up your own journal and run it?

At CTDATA, we've made a career of reading O'Reilly books and implementing many of their technical recommendations. Most O'Reilly books are worth the purchase price, but this one may not be. It's refreshing to read a book review that "gives it to us straight".

Who's That Guy in the Striped Shirt?

Dave Aiello wrote, "On Labor Day, I officiated three youth hockey games in a pre-season hockey tournament at ProSkate USA in Monmouth Junction, NJ. In a way, this is not surprising because I have been a USA Hockey official since I was in high school, and I am an administrator for the Atlantic District Officiating Program."

"The new development in my officiating career is that I am working a significant number of games early in the season. I can't remember the last time I officiated a game in the month of September. It might be as far back as 1995. I haven't had the time, between my work with the AAHA and my family commitments."

"Now that my wife is a medical resident, I have a large block of unstructured time every fourth day. I'm not saying that I'm glad that she is on-call every few nights, but the predictability of our schedules allows me to plan to officiate games, to act as an instructor at officiating seminars, or to evaluate less experienced officials."

"The nights that I am home by myself are not fun, but they are opportunities to do volunteer work and to develop new business prospects for CTDATA. Hopefully, I will spend this time wisely, and the organizations that I support will profit from my efforts."

September 6, 2002

You Know It's a Bad Day When....

Dave Aiello wrote, "Some of our readers might be wondering why CTDATA.com hasn't had many updates this week. Wednesday was a pretty bad day in comparison to other days this summer. Early in the morning, we had one of our main servers go down and stay down for six hours. Thanks to Martin O'Donnell, our man in Seattle, who went out to the co-lo and cleaned things up."

"After that bit of excitement I tried to return to my routine daily tasks, only to find that my 1996 Jeep Grand Cherokee wouldn't start. Fuel pump failure. $700 including labor and tax."

"At times when business has been better, the Jeep problem would have merely been a serious inconvenience. But these days, problems like this are a minor crisis. I'd figure that two unrelated events of this nature couldn't happen in the same day. I guess I was a loser to the Law of Averages."

Broadband and the Small Technology Business

Dave Aiello wrote, "I showed up in the office this morning, and began some very bandwidth-intensive tasks: I copied the backups of our production SQL databases from our co-located servers in Seattle, and I began a full update of Red Hat Linux 7.2 on a new server I am building, using the Red Hat Update Agent. Both of these tasks required encrypted communication sessions."

"I couldn't have completed them at all without a network-style, broadband connection. We happen to use Verizon Online DSL, but, a lot of services of this sort would be equally good for our purposes."

"In the last four years, CTDATA has utilized broadband services from Covad, Comcast, and Verizon. Of the three, our worst experience was with Comcast. The other services that both happen to use DSL technology have performed well, and customer service and support has been good. We are still evaluating Verizon Online DSL, but we are pleased with the service so far."

Dave Aiello continued:

It's hard for me to imagine how anyone who develops software for a living or provides IT consulting services could get by without having a broadband connection in their office. Yet, there are indications that some people I know in these businesses are still doing it. I realize that these are bad times for many of them, but the productivity gains that can come from broadband use are incalculable.

If you are still in the dial-up camp, run, don't walk to sign up for DSL or a cable modem. Most of the major providers have solved their most persistant deployment issues. Take the advice of friends who adopted the technology earlier than you, and opt for the provider with a better service and support record when you have a choice.

September 5, 2002

CTDATA Web and Email Services Restored to Operation

Due to a disk-related problem, email and web services for a number of CTDATA customers were interrupted yesterday from 7:30am to 1:00pm, Eastern Time. All services have been restored and appear to be functioning properly.

Any customers experiencing continuing problems should contact Dave Aiello at 609-918-9650 x 101.

September 2, 2002

U.S. Mobile Phone Users Are Laggards in Text Messaging

Dave Aiello wrote, "The New York Times ran an article in its Labor Day edition that said American mobile phone users are still not adopting text messaging services for their mobile phones. These services often go by the acronym SMS. SMS messages are short text messgaes of 160 or fewer characters, generally sent from one mobile phone to another, in lieu of a voice call."

"Text messaging has been the rage of Europe and Asia for several years. There are a lot of reasons cited for this. Chief among them is the fact that text messaging was and is far cheaper than making voice calls in those areas. Another factor is that mobile phone services in those areas all supported SMS from the outset, while SMS was not an integral part of many of the mobile phone technologies deployed in the United States. The article glosses over some of these historical facts."

"The article also talks about data-centric phones that are in the market or about to ship, and consumer-oriented services that I would characterize as trivial. Neither of these developments is likely to catapult text messaging into the mainstream." Read on for more....

Dave Aiello continued:

I think that applications for text messaging will become available that will drive its adoption in certain vertical business markets. However, it will never become mainstream in the U.S. because most people will never buy a phone with a keyboard or another rapid text entry device. The maximum length of text messages is also so limited, that only people with a creative streak will find it useful.

The accepted wisdom in the mobile communications industry says that young people in the U.S. will adopt text messaging because that is the demographic that drove its adoption in Europe. However, in Europe there were many fewer home computers connected to the Internet than there were in the United States at the time SMS started to become hot. In the United States, Instant Messaging became the preferred technological outlet for spur-of-the-moment message sending among young people.

No amount of advertising by wireless service providers is going to be able to generate similar levels of interest in text messaging here. You just don't create a market for text messaging by saying how cool you are if you use the service. The service has to fulfill an unmet need.

Cyber cafes are widely used in the developing world, why not here? Ever heard of ISPs? Ever heard of broadband to the home? Nobody went to cyber cafes in America because they had Internet access without leaving the house. Nearly everyone who wants email-like messaging already has it in the United States. Why should the mainstream embrace text messaging services now?