December 24, 2003

Tim O'Reilly on Business Week's Coverage of Amazon Web Services

Last week, Tim O'Reilly wrote about Business Week's article on the importance of Amazon Web Services to's growth in 2003 and beyond. This API is something that CTDATA has used extensively, beginning with our foray into used books, and continuing through our recent launch of Operation Gadget.

Tim believes that and Ebay are vast network operating systems that enable e-commerce. Therefore, he thinks that companies who get into developing Internet applications that leverage data from these sites will increase their own revenues as well as Amazon's or Ebay's.

We believe that Amazon Web Services represents a major growth area for e-commerce, that's why we are investing in it. We expect our plans in this area to become clearer to the public in 2004. In the meantime, we recommend that people interested in e-commerce growth areas read Tim O'Reilly's article, and the original BusinessWeek article as well.

November 2, 2003 to Enlist Celebrities in Holiday Promotions

CNET is reporting that will enlist celebrities like Michael J. Fox and Bruce Springstein to promote exclusive content available on Amazon's web site during the holiday season. Undoubtedly, a campaign like this will give a boost to sales taking place through Most analysts expect their sales to be very strong this season, resulting in the first annual profit for the company.

August 19, 2003

Long-Awaited "Amazon Hacks" Book Now Shipping at Amazon

Dave Aiello wrote, "One of the hottest book concepts that O'Reilly and Associates has developed recently is their so-called Hacks Series. Far and away the most interesting of these books, in my opinion, is
Amazon Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips and Tools
which is now shipping at"

"Anil Dash pointed out that the Amazon Hacks web site has also gone live over at This site is useful because it outlines the hacks that are published in the book and gives the reader community an opportunity to talk about each of them. Some of the hacks are published on that site, as sample chapters of the book."

"It's great to see that more than half of the book is devoted to money making opportunities in conjunction with using This is one of CTDATA's favorite recent pastimes. Hacks 49-58 are about Selling Through Amazon. The Amazon Associates Program is explored in Hacks 59-75. And, Hacks 76-100 are practical uses of Amazon Web Services in PHP, Perl, Python, VBscript, and VB.NET."

"The Amazon Web Services hacks look like they will change the game for AWS developers. At some point, a few of these hacks are going to take money out of low-level practitioners hands. Look for services like ScoutPal to have to upgrade their feature sets in order to continue to charge used book sellers meaningful fees."

May 28, 2003

Fear Spreading that Challenge-Response Email Filtering May Wreak Havoc

Recently, large internet service providers have been working on challenge-response systems that ask the sender of an email message to answer some sort of question or interact with a web application before email will be delivered to a protected email address. Many journalists expect that a huge number of disparate systems, all performing the same basic task, will be deployed in the near future.

On CNET, Declan McCollough predicts that challenge-response systems will wreak havoc on list servers and other legitimate forms of communication. According to the article:

Challenge-response systems, ironically, share some characteristics with spam: In small quantities, both are only mildly annoying to the recipient. But as quantities increase, they make it more difficult to use e-mail at all. is a good example: It prevents its users from signing up to mailing lists unless the list operator manually intervenes to answer the challenge, a process that is exactly backward.

We agree. As soon as we can, CTDATA will notify subscribers to our websites' headline services that we will unsubscribe anyone whose mailbox automatically challenges email from our sites.

Our users opted into receiving these emails, and it makes no sense for challenge-response systems to invalidate all of the decisions that email users previously made on well designed and well behaved Internet communications systems.

May 22, 2003

Literal Compliance with Federal Employment Laws Costly for Larger Companies

Earlier today, Slashdot pointed out a Baltimore Sun article that says some employers are fighting to keep track of every resume they receive because U.S. federal law can be construed as requiring this approach at companies with 15 or more employees.

This would be a serious concern for companies who use to search for employees with technical skills; It's generally assumed that each company that posts a job requirement on a service like Monster receives hundreds or even thousands of resumes from all over the world.

But, a lot of people we know in the Information Technology industries receive SPAM from companies trying to place H1-B visa candidates. If resumes of this sort are received by people at mid-sized businesses or even larger companies, does anyone really think that they have to be passed on to a Human Resources person and kept on file?

Why do newspapers like The Baltimore Sun wait until the depths of a recession before publishing articles like this? Had we known that laws like these existed, we might have wanted to develop database applications to track job candidates.

May 20, 2003

NY Times Documents Consumer and Small Business Role in SPAM

The New York Times reports that many consumers and small businesses with insecure computers on broadband connections unwittingly serve as relays for SPAMmers. It is somewhat surprising that the Times laid so much of the blame for Internet insecurity on so many users in the North America and Europe, when it's so easy to cite poorly-configured servers in some Asian countries known for lax computer security procedures.

Yet, the Times says that a major part of the open relay problem is caused by the insecure configuration of client-level proxy servers such as AnalogX Proxy. According to the aricle:

AnalogX Proxy, a free proxy-server program that has been downloaded by more than a million people, is automatically in the open state when it is first installed. Mark Thompson, the author of AnalogX, said he had rebuffed the requests of many antispam activists to distribute the software with the security features already activated because doing so would make it harder to set up.

"The biggest plug for the proxy is it is really easy to get it running," he explained. Mr. Thompson said he did try to achieve a compromise by revising the program to give people a warning about security problems every time it starts.

Even so, Wirehub, a Dutch Internet service provider, says that 45,000 of the 150,000 open proxy servers it has identified as sending spam appear to be using AnalogX.

The idea that a Dutch ISP has 150,000 open proxy servers ought to scare people to death. Then again, how many open wireless LANs are there in densely populated areas of the Netherlands?

Open wireless LANs, in the hands of the right people, are just as dangerous as open proxy servers. The big difference is that the abuser needs to be physically near the WLAN access point.

May 15, 2003

Google as a Nationwide Phone Directory

Ever notice that you can find a lot of people's phone number simply by going to Google and typing:

first_name last_name, city, st

Replace "first_name", "last_name", "city", and "st" with the name of the person and their home city and state. I don't know how they do it, but I can find many listed residential phone numbers this way, and some business phone numbers as well. Addresses are generally included with links to MapQuest and Yahoo! Maps.

May 13, 2003

Fortune Magazine Points Out Value of Amazon Marketplace

Fortune had published a feature article on in its May 26 edition called Mighty Amazon. In it, Fred Vogelstein discusses the Amazon Marketplace, part of Amazon where third parties can sell new and used goods, side-by-side with Amazon's own offering. Vogelstein suggests that in spite of fear that it would cannibalize's own sales and hurt future chances for profitablity, Amazon Marketplace has been wildly successful:

Selling partners' used and new goods next to Amazon's own has become a cornerstone of its offerings... Amazon earns about the same profit margins selling on commission as it does selling retail. In addition, the company doesn't have to advertise that its prices are lower, because consumers themselves can now compare prices from Amazon and other vendors....

The other benefit of Amazon's so-called marketplace strategy is that the revenue is almost pure profit. Amazon earns a commission instead of a markup for third-party transactions and incurs no inventory or warehousing costs. Almost 20% of Amazon's unit volume is now sold through others. Another dividend that Bezos counted on: Indirectly sold goods slow the need to add warehouse capacity.

The Amazon Marketplace is clearly a win-win for buyers, sellers, and Amazon. CTDATA participates in the Amazon Marketplace as a buyer and a seller. We have made thousands of dollars selling used books in the Amazon Marketplace.

We have also made purchases that ended up saving us 20 to 50 percent on books and DVDs that we would have purchased in the new market previously. As Jeff Bezos suggested to Fortune, the existence of the Amazon Marketplace has resulted in us buying more products from than we otherwise would.

May 9, 2003

Dave Winer Illustrates Problem of Referer Log Spamming

Over on Scripting News, Dave Winer addressed the issue of referer log spamming, a technique that pornographic web sites have started using to advertise themselves. Referer logs are automatically generated reports of where visitors to web sites are coming from. When referer logs are not abused, they are an indication of where links to a given web site can be found.

Many weblogs now publicize their referer logs, mainly because they can. It helps give third parties an idea of the so-called flow that a web site gets. However, referer logs can be abused because the browser being used volunteers the referer data to the web server, and this is something that can be forged. This is how the pornography sites are manipulating the referer log on

Winer says, "A couple of weeks ago we finally figured out why porn sites add themselves to referer pages on high page-rank sites: to improve their placement in search engines. Last night at dinner Andrew Grumet came up with the solution. In robots.txt specifically tell Googlebot and its relatives to not index the Referers page. Then the spammers won't get the page-rank they seek."

For an illustration of the sort of referer log spam Winer is talking about, check out the middle third of the Scripting News referer's page. But, don't go there if you are offended by slang terms for human genitalia.

Porn sites operators may be evil, but they often leverage web technology in the most subtle and sophisticated ways. They really have analyzed popular web services, such as search engine spiders and SMTP, and figured out how to use them to marginally increase traffic to their sites.

April 17, 2003

What Happens to Linux Users When ISPs Block DSL-Hosted Mail Servers?

Dave Aiello wrote, "A number of news sites (including Slashdot) have started reporting that various major ISPs are blocking mail that appears to originate from mail servers running on DSL subnets. I didn't think of this initially, but, what are you supposed to do if you have more than one Linux machine in your house and you forward the mail for the root user to a single email address for review?"

"At my place, I have two Linux machines running on a DHCP subnet that have .forward files in the root user directory. Now, these mails forward to a address, which is our own server and it's colo-ed. So, this isn't a big problem for me at the moment. But, other people who spend less money on their infrastructure than we do might be running into problems already."

April 16, 2003

Survey: Over 40 Percent of Americans Don't Use the Internet

Dave Aiello wrote, "The Washington Post reports in Thursday's edition that 42 percent of Americans do not use the Internet according to a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project."

"They don't call lack of Internet access The Digital Divide for nothing. I don't want to embarass anyone, but, will the members of my family who shall remain nameless consider joining us out here, at least for a few moments a day? It would be a lot easier for us to communicate if everyone truly used email."

April 11, 2003

Apple Computer Reportedly Offers $5 to 6 Billion for Universal Music Group

A number of web sites are reporting that Apple Computer is in talks with Vivendi Universal to buy the Universal Music Group. Apple is reportedly offering between $5 and 6 billion for the company that markets the music of 50 Cent, U2, Shania Twain, and Luciano Pavarotti. According to the article:

Defying conventional wisdom, {Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs} apparently is betting that music is finally on the verge of becoming a profitable presence on the Internet. Apple has been quietly testing a service that some music business insiders believe could pave the way for widespread online distribution of songs.

People who have tried the service, expected to debut by the end of April, say it makes downloading and purchasing music as simple and non-technical as buying a book from It allows users to buy and download songs to their computers with a single click and to transfer the music automatically to their portable MP3 players.

If a transaction like this were to take place, imagine the huge changes that it would cause in the entertainment industry. Think also of the implications for the personal computer industry.

A deal between technology and entertainment companies may be what is necessary to pull the music industry out of its steep decline. But, the changes that would have to be made to the music industry would go beyond the way music is distributed. The entire recording company management, record production, and musician promotion processes would have to be re-engineered. After all, Sony hasn't solved the problems with its record business, and it's a technology company.

April 1, 2003 Makes a New Case for Intranet Portals

Yesterday, Jakob Nielsen published an article in his Alertbox series that makes the case for building intranet portals, and offers the unique argument that portals can actually reduce intranet costs. This is interesting because previous corporate portal construction efforts involved tying together departmental web sites. This article suggests that the portal itself could be a standardized publishing environment instead of just an integration platform.

This is really worth considering, in light of recent corporate IT cost rationalization efforts. Many departmental web sites were expensive and poorly executed. Perhaps a new centralization effort gives departments of medium to large corporations another chance to build usable web-based information systems.

March 25, 2003

al Jazeera English Language Site Doesn't Contain Very Much Content

Earlier today, The Wall Street Journal reported on the launch of an English language web site by al Jazeera, the Qatar-based cable news network.

We looked at the web site, at 6:00am Eastern time today, and found that the site was overloaded with traffic and did not offer very much more than news headlines and a one or two sentence summary of major war news stories. It is not really offering the alternative view of the news that we were led to believe it would. At this time, we do not recommend expending the effort to try to read it.

March 6, 2003

South Korean News Web Site Impacting Public Opinion, Politics

Dave Winer pointed out an article in The New York Times about a South Korean on-line news site that has gotten as many as 20 million page views per day by touting itself as an alternative to establishment journalism. Apparently, OhmyNews is the place that Koreans turn to for information about breaking news and on-going controversies. Examples of major stories that have been covered recently include the Taegu subway bombing and the accidental death of two Korean school girls hit by a U.S. Army patrol vehicle.

One of the most interesting parts of this article is the extent to which OhmyNews incorporates reports from its user community:

Although the staff has grown to 41, from the beginning the electronic newspaper's unusual concept has been to rely mostly on contributions from ordinary readers all over the country, who send dispatches about everything from local happenings and personal musings to national politics.

Only 20 percent of the paper each day is written by staff journalists. So far, a computer check shows, there have been more than 10,000 other bylines.

The article also talks about a grading concept that OhmyNews has developed to help readers understand the degree of editorial review that each story on the site has received. This may be similar to the score applied to comments on sites like Slashdot, except that this scoring applies to the stories themselves and it is applied by the site editors, not the readers.

The number of page views recorded by OhmyNews is staggering when the size of the South Korean population is taken into account. In a country of 40 million people, this web site gets as many as 20 million page views per day. It appears to be written entirely in Korean, so relatively few people outside South Korea are regular readers.

March 3, 2003

Are Bugs in BGP Implementation a National Security Issue?

Slashdot pointed out an article on ZDnet that related the main points of a talk by Stephen Dugan about problems in the current implementation of Border Gateway Protocol. The talk took place at a Black Hat Security Briefing on Thursday in Seattle.

The key points in the article were that:

  • BGP has a number of security holes that stem from the implicit trust that routers running BGP have for each other, and
  • architects proposing BGP changes to the Internet Engineering Task Force are not funded sufficiently when the magnitude of the technical problems they are dealing with is taken into account.

We do not need to look back very far to see the potential impact of BGP-related problems on the Internet infrastructure. In January, we reported on the widespread routing failures that took place during the SQL Slammer worldwide network attack. These were attributed by some analysts to widespread BGP session loss and problems with the Cisco Express Forwarding algorithm in low memory or extremely high traffic conditions.

The other obvious issue underlying any possible flaws in BGP is the homogeneity of routing on the Internet. How many practical high-performance routing alternatives really exist to BGP for Internet Service Providers and large corporations?

Earlier last week, an astute Slashdot reader pointed out the fact that one of the 13 root DNS servers changed from BIND to NSD. This was done " increase the diversity of software in the root name server system, the lack of which is widely considered to be a potential vulnerability. The nsd software... has no design commonalities with bind, the currently prevalent DNS implementation." If administrators of core DNS servers are acting proactively, shouldn't other administrators of critical infrastructure also evaluate their options?

You have to wonder if all of the core services and protocols on the Internet, except for basic transport, should have widely deployed alternatives. And, if such alternatives don't exist, isn't the entire U.S. telecom infrastructure at risk of a well-crafted attack?

February 28, 2003

Kottke: Google is Not a Search Company

Jason Kottke has written an insightful deconstruction of Google from a business perspective. His piece begins:

With their acquisition of Pyra and new Content-Targeted Advertising offering, it should be apparent that Google is not a search company. What they are exactly is unclear, but their biggest asset is: a highly annotated map of the web.

This timely and well-written article could easily form the basis for a larger article in a major business publication. It's highly recommended.

February 24, 2003

Media Metrix Restates Visitor Counts for Major Sites for 4Q2002

Another interesting article in The New York Times says that ComScore Media Metrix released revised visitor statistics for major web sites in the fourth quarter of 2002. The reason stated for doing this was a flaw that the statisticians detected in their new methodology, initially released in October.

The article goes on to explain how Media Metrix was sold last year as a result of financial problems at Jupiter Media Metrix. In the course of selling the Media Metrix operation to ComScore, the companies had to deal with the settlement of a patent dispute with Nielsen/NetRatings. This resulted in the need to develop a new methodology.

February 21, 2003

Algorithms Developed to Use "Word Bursts" to Identify Trends

Earlier this week New Scientist reported that a researcher at Cornell had developed algorithms to detect word bursts in text documents and that these bursts may help to identify trends or new ideas. The article suggests that the new finding in this research has to do with the rate of increase in mentions of a term.

Although this represents the results of new research, some work has already been done in this area. Google produces a report on search trends that they call Google Zeitgeist. This is a weekly or monthly snapshot of recent search queries, not a time series analysis.

Some webloggers cited the New Scientist article as another justification for Google's acquisition of Pyra, but that seems unlikely for a number of reasons that have been discussed here previously.

February 20, 2003

Why Doesn't Google's PageRank Allow Negative Votes?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Google has provided a great service to the Internet community by implementing its PageRank technology to help identify the most relevant information on the web. Google describes PageRank as follows:"

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."

Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search.

Dave Aiello continued, "The only issue I have with PageRank is that it doesn't provide a way for me to indicate that I do not agree with a link that I place on my website. If I am criticizing something in an article on my site, I would like to be able to link to it. But, under the PageRank algorithm, that counts as a sort of endorsement of the information pointed to by the link."

"I think that PageRank could deal with criticism fairly easily, if it could be expressed in the markup of pages. I would say that links coded normally could be considered positive references to the object page, but links coded with some sort of additional meta data could count as negative references."

"I'd be interested to know if other webloggers think that a system like this would work, and if it would be helpful in identifying information appearing on the Internet that is technically flawed, factually incorrect, or in some way reprehensible."

January 28, 2003 Publishes Good Description of SQL Slammer Impact on Some Cisco Routers

An article by Iljitsch van Beijnum on called Network Impact of the MS SQL Worm does a great job of explaining the impact of the SQL Slammer worm on three networks with different Cisco routers.

In van Beijnum's experience, some Cisco routers lost their Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) sessions. When that occurred "the router was unable to advertise the network's IP address ranges to the rest of the world, with the result that these addresses became unreachable." This was compounded by problems with the Cisco Express Forwarding (CEF) algorithm on routers that did not have enough memory. Consequently, the author recommends that packet forwarding algorithms be studied from a worst-case perspective.

Van Beijnum also gives documents some of the steps he took to log and, later, filter the network traffic generated by the worm. So, the article gives insight into how an experienced network manager researches and solves network problems as they occur.

January 26, 2003

Yesterday's Internet Server Attack Exposes Less Obvious Infrastructure Weaknesses

Dave Aiello wrote, "Yesterday's massive denial of service attack, while aimed at Microsoft SQL Server 2000 servers, exposed a lot of other holes in infrastructure, and lacks of redundancy or robustness. I want to cite a few examples from CTDATA's infrastructure because I think they will be illustrative:"

  1. Lack of meaningful DNS diversity: At the time of the outage, CTDATA's servers had primary and secondary DNS servers located in the same colocation facility. This is a bad idea because yesterday showed that all of the routes from any one facility to the Internet may be overwhelmed with traffic simultaneously, even if they go through different ISPs.

  2. Lack of local mail relays for critical network services: The network monitoring service that we run does not have an SMTP server on the same subnet. This means that we depend upon one of the SMTP servers that we are attempting to monitor to email our outage alerts to us.

    This also became an issue for our firewalls, because they mail their logs to administrators as they fill up. When huge amounts of traffic hit the firewalls, many events were logged, filling up the memory quickly. Those logs could not be emailed because of the network failure. So, we probably lost a good amount of information about the attack as it was occuring.

Dave Aiello continued, "We knew about these infrastructure issues, but haven't been able to deal with them expeditiously because they require more server resources than we have available and can afford at the moment."

"Although our firewalls prevented the attack from reaching our servers, we still experienced total loss of connectivity for about 10 hours. The connectivity loss is attributable to routers at ISPs upstream from our servers. Those routers simply went down when massive amounts of traffic hit them. When CTDATA's servers came back on-line, I received over 700 email messages within an hour, mostly from servers that had the ability to queue their error and alert message in memory until the email servers came back on-line."

"I object to articles like Massive Internet Outage was Preventable from the UPI because it gives people the impression that attacks like these are predictable, easy-to-understand, have straightforward solutions, and only have obvious side effects. Nothing could be further from truth."

January 23, 2003

Signs of Life at LinuxWorld Expo in New York

Dave Aiello wrote, "Derek Vadala notes that business appears to be up at LinuxWorld Expo in New York, taking place this week at The Javits Center. This is very good news."

"In talking to Tony Iams, a scheduled speaker at LinuxWorld, I wondered aloud if it would be worth attending. It turns out that I am too busy to go because one of my clients inserted a project deadline that I am trying to honor. But, based on the lack of pre-show buzz from friends in the industry, and the terrible website that was put together for the show, I concluded that the show was going to be depressing."

"Now it appears I may have come to the wrong conclusion. I'll be looking for more information on attendance and vendor support, and if I see anything else that appears significant, you'll see it here."

January 9, 2003

Symantec Develops Tomorrow's Security Monitoring System Today

In one of the more interesting recent articles published in a mainstream U.S. newspaper about the IT industry, The Washington Post has profiled Symantec's managed-security service headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia. According to the article:

The four-year-old operation, which includes special monitoring and "data mining" technology, was created by a local start-up called Riptech. Last year, California-based Symantec paid about $350 million to buy Riptech and three other electronic-security firms (Recourse Technologies, SecurityFocus and Mountain Wave) that had developed proprietary anti-hacker technology. Symantec merged Riptech's operations with its own and now has four similar centers -- in Britain, Japan, Germany and San Antonio.

January 7, 2003

Norwegian Court Acquits DeCSS Developer of Piracy Charges

The New York Times reports that a three-member panel in Oslo City Court ruled that Jon Johansen had not broken any laws by using or distributing DeCSS and that he is free to view any DVDs he purchased leagally in any way he chooses. This is a major setback for the Entertainment Industry, which argued that the mere existance of software to decrypt DVDs was an open invitation to digital piracy.

However, the court found that Norwegian law treats a DVD purchased at retail as the purchaser's property, and not merely a license to view the content of the DVD on a player certified by the Motion Picture Association of America and similar industry trade groups. As a result, according to Aftenposten, "Johansen and his defense attorney Halvor Manshaus won on all counts, with the Oslo court ruling that Johansen did nothing wrong when he helped cracked the code on a DVD that was his own personal property."

January 6, 2003

NY Times Points Out Little-Known Value of On-Line Booksellers

There's a great article in The New York Times today called Online Retailers Try to Flourish Year-Round. Deep in the article is some great information about research that Erik Brynjolfsson from the Sloan School of Management at MIT did, comparing with local bookstores and superstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders:

Judging by what consumers spent in 2000 online for books they could not buy offline, Professor Brynjolfsson said the value of the Internet's product selection in this category alone was between $731 million and $1 billion. While consumers often enjoy lower prices online, he said, "the big benefit is getting access to goods you wouldn't otherwise have."

Professor Brynjolfsson takes his point one step further, arguing that the value of greater product selection over the past decade or so — which the Internet has hastened with its nearly endless product offerings — has gone unnoticed by statisticians.

This point is particularly salient regarding venues like Amazon Marketplace. This is the area of where third party sellers offer both new and used versions of books, CDs, DVDs, and other things consumers want. Quite often, this is the place to find an out-of-print book that came out five years ago. Many of these books are more valuable now than they were when they were in print, due to their scarcity. This is exactly what Dr. Brynjolfsson is getting at.

Karlgaard: Can Software Startups Succeed?

Dave Aiello wrote, "My subscription to Forbes resumed Saturday. I found out that the reason I had not received a magazine in about two months was that my address had never been updated since I moved in June."

"One of the more interesting articles I saw in that first issue was a column by Rich Karlgaard, Forbes' publisher, called Can Software Startups Succeed? This is really interesting because I have been discussing the same thing with some of my friends. Some of his suggestions to the leadership of small software companies also seems quite valuable at this point in the market:"

  • Forget trying to be mission critical. No CIO in America is going to bet his company on a little-known startup.
  • Avoid like the plague the phrase "total solutions" when describing your product.
  • Don't compete on price; compete on speed.

Business Software Alliance to Challenge Hollywood on Digital Rights Management

The San Jose Mercury-News reported on Friday that The Business Software Alliance and the Computer Systems Policy Project intend to take on lobbying groups representing the Entertainment industry over the issue of Digital Rights Management. The recording and motion picture industries have relentlessly pursued the introduction of very strong copy protection at the hardware and operating system levels of all sorts of digital devices, including PCs aimed at consumers.

According to the article, the lobbying groups for the computer and electronics industries, "hope to convince Congress that strict copy-protection legislation that sets technological mandates would stifle innovation, harm consumers and threaten an already suffering tech industry."

It will be interesting to see how much influence the Hollywood Establishment loses in Washington, now that both houses of Congress are under Republican control.

December 30, 2002

Internet Peering Dispute Dogs Some Maryland School Districts

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that Internet access at schools in Prince George's County, Maryland, was slowed by a peering dispute between America On-line and Cogent Communications Group, a smaller Internet Service Provider. Cogent provides Internet access to several educational organizations including school districts and George Washington University.

Peering is the term used by Internet Service Providers for providing reciprocal network access to customers of affiliated ISPs. These peering arrangements allow small ISPs to provide their customers with nationwide and international network access.

Many peering agreements have come under pressure recently as a result of the economic downturn in the USA. This is what happened in the case discussed in the Washington Post article. A similar thing happened to CTDATA in November as a result of a dispute between our colocation provider and the company that provided bandwidth to them.

It is virtually impossible for conscientious Internet access buyers to perform a comprehensive due diligence analysis of their providers. Peering agreements can change without notice to the end customers and they can be broken just as easily. This is one situation where the Internet would benefit from more governmental oversight.

December 9, 2002

Comcast CEO is Latest Cable Industry Bigwig to Slam TiVo

Earier today Slashdot pointed out that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts gave a speech that focused on the threat Personal Video Recorders represent to the cable industry. Roberts reportedly said that downloading TV programming to a hard drive in the consumer's home threatens the life blood of the of TV entertainment.

The cable industry is pushing hard to roll out video on demand to check the spread of satellite television services and recording devices like TiVo. But, the free timeshifting of televised entertainment is the biggest development in broadcasting in the last 10 years. It will be very difficult to get users who have already adopted TiVo or ReplayTV to surrender their new-found freedom.

November 27, 2002

Mercury News Columnist Revisits His Technology Predictions from 10 Years Ago

On Monday, Mike Landberg of The San Jose Mercury News revisited some technology predictions he made in October 1992 that were published in the same newspaper. It's an interesting article because he was uncannily accurate with some of his predictions (DVD, Direct Broadcast Satellite, and three-bedroom homes in Los Gatos that cost $900,000).

Probably his worst prediction was the notion that consumers would pay for the information they retrieved using their computers. But, looking back on the stock market debacle of the past two years, and ahead to the possibility of AOL Time Warner shifting magazine content to AOL's proprietary service, you have to ask if his prediction might turn out to be more accurate than it appears to be today.

October 28, 2002

Interchange Not Supported by Red Hat Anymore

Dave Aiello wrote, "For the past few business days, I have been investigating E-commerce Platforms for a client. My bias, particularly in this economy, is toward low cost, feature-ladened solutions. So, I am doing a lot of research into Open Source products."

"Red Hat acquired a small company in 2001 that had led the development of an Open Source E-commerce Platform now known as Interchange. Red Hat began offering Interchange as a product called Red Hat E-commerce Suite, and it was reviewed quite favorably in early 2002 by a number of magazines and websites, including ZDNet. So, I was surprised when I could not find much information about the product on"

"Using Google, I located the key maintainers of the Interchange project at There, I learned that Red Hat stopped offering Interchange as a product in June, although that has not affected the availability of the software."

"I wanted to point this out for a number of reasons. But, the main reason is that I want it to be easier for people who are researching Interchange to determine its status as a commercially-supported Open Source solution. It is not clear to me at the moment that any company is offering enterprise-level technical support for Interchange, but the community support that it has had for years is still there. As I do my first implementation of Interchange, I will try to report on the helpfulness of the Interchange support community."

Update, 12/05/2002: The Interchange Developer Group discussed the issue of Red Hat support for the project on their website on October 26. When this article was initially published, this was not apparent.

October 24, 2002

Root DNS Servers Survive DDOS Attack

The Washington Post called Monday's Distributed Denial of Service Attack on the 13 root DNS servers "the largest ever attack on the Internet." You could have fooled us, because the story never got close to the front pages of the mainstream media, given all the attention devoted to the sniper who is besieging the Washington, DC area.

Many of us in this country, including the police and newsmedia, are now fairly dependent upon wireless email devices like Blackberry pagers and Handspring Treos. These wireless devices are endpoints that depend upon data being routed to two or three different proxying servers between the time an email reaches your mailbox, and its successful delivery to the client device. If the attack that took place on Monday had been successful, communication to these devices would have been delayed or disrupted.

The media would still have their mobile phones and satellite uplinks. The police would still have their mobile phones and two-way radios. But, we suspect that a wireless email disruption would have had a profound effect on an intense criminal investigation like this one. This is a reason to take the concept behind the National Infrastructure Protection Center more seriously.

October 14, 2002

Microsoft Switch Scam Uncovered

Microsoft has been caught red-handed in an attempt to manufacture a person who switched from using a Macintosh to using a Windows PC. The scam was exposed and documented in a little over three hours by the collective observational skills of readers of several prominent weblogs.

2:49 pm: The investigation began on Slashdot where the story Microsoft Tries a "Switch" Campaign documented an alleged first person account of a freelance writer who switched to Windows. Authenticity of the article was immediately questioned, because the freelance writer was shown in a photo, but not named.

3:02 pm: A Slashdot reader posts a comment pointing out that photograph that Microsoft used on its web page also appears on a Getty Images web site. Getty Images is a well known provider of stock photography.

4:56 pm: Dave Winer of Scripting News points to the controversy, lamenting the fact that Microsoft removed the web page from their site.

5:30 pm: Dave Winer reports that several of his readers provided links to screen shots of the Microsoft web page or cached copies of the web page.

Update: Now, the Associated Press has jumped into the fray. But, instead of confirming the entire ad is a hoax, they have run a story claiming that the AP identified the actual person who gave the testimonial.

October 13, 2002

NY Times: Could Slashdot be the 21st Century Model for Internet Publishing?

Monday's New York Times contains an article called Site for the Truly Geeky Makes a Few Bucks that is entirely about Slashdot, one of our favorite websites. There are a few tongue-in-cheek quotes from Rob Malda, as if he would ever say anything out of character for publication. Jeff Bates plays the straight man in the article, acting as if he is the only member of the Slashdot management team who gets the nuances of the business.

There are also a few gratuitous comments from industry experts who are there to give the article gravitas. What makes their presence in the article funnier is that they seem to have gotten their experience at defunct web sites. This must make them qualified to put Slashdot's success in perspective.

October 5, 2002

Forbes ASAP is Latest New Economy Magazine to Close

Dave Aiello wrote, "I guess I shouldn't be surprised that The New York Times reported yesterday that Forbes ASAP has ceased publication. This was one of the first magazines dedicated to the so-called 'new economy' that is now so out of favor. The most interesting comment I've read about this story is on Werblog by Kevin Werbach."

"Commenting on the notion that there will be another boom in the business cycle, and new magazines will be born to cover it, Werbach said:"

That's absolutely the wrong way to think about things. It's true that business is cyclical, but it's not a perfect sine wave. You could have said during the 1972-74 bear market that stocks would come back, and you would have been right. They came back... starting in 1982. The period between 1994 and early 2000 was extraordinary, the likes of which we may never see again in a lifetime. I'm an optimist about the future, both in terms of technology and business opportunities, but we have to put out of our minds the notion that the current doldrums are but a temporary pause.

October 2, 2002

We're Number One on Google! Whoops. What a Minute....

Dave Aiello wrote, "I noticed that Dave Winer has been speculating that Google has tweaked their PageRank algorithm because his site isn't number one when you search for Dave anymore. He then went on to point out a whole discussion thread where people who refer to themselves as search engine optimizers are complaining that Google is monkeying with their livelyhoods. I agree with Dave Winer when he says:"

When people {who do search engine optimization for a living} say they're taking food out of their family's mouth, I think they should get a real job. Depending on the vagaries of an algorithm programmed by engineers at a VC-backed Silicon Valley dotcom-vestigial company is not a good idea. A bit of friendly advice.. Don't tell the loan officer at the bank that's how you're making your mortgage payments.

Dave Aiello continued, "Search engine optimization makes selling used books on look like a straight-forward way to make money."

Microsoft Rolls Up Another Set of DRM Patents

The Register reported that Microsoft has purchased the Patent library of Liquid Audio. This provides the company with another suite of Digital Rights Management (DRM) patents that may make it easier for them to control the distribution of copyrighted entertainment in the future.

The scary part of this story is the price reportedly paid for the patents: $7 million for 20 or more U.S. and foreign patents. Seven million dollars is a very low price, considering what Microsoft will probably be able to charge in the future when it uses its formidable library of patents in conjunction with the newly acquired ones.

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

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.

August 28, 2002 Says You Can't Spider Them, But Companies Do It Anyway

Dave Aiello wrote, "Over the past few days, I've been looking at 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 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...."

Continue reading " Says You Can't Spider Them, But Companies Do It Anyway" »

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."

August 20, 2002

Why Does Offer Movie Infomation?

Dave Aiello wrote, "Does anyone have any idea why offers its Movie Showtimes service? Generally, I am big supporters of Amazon: I sell books through the 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 15, 2002

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

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.

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 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, so we thought we ought to point out a strong counter-argument.

August 2, 2002

SEC Fines Six Wall Street Firms for Not Retaining Emails 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, 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.

July 26, 2002

Happy System Administrator Appreciation Day!

Today is System Administrator Appreciation Day. This is, "A special day, once a year, to acknowledge the worthiness and appreciation of the person... who really keeps the wheels of your company turning." The idea of a system administrator's day has received a surprising amount of press, including likely sources such as Computerworld and Infoworld, and unlikely sources like BBC News.

The System Administrator Appreciation Day Web Site includes system administrator job descriptions (in case you didn't know that the people who run your network or your web server are system administrators) and gift ideas. We like the idea of taking your system administrator to lunch, but, we're biased....

July 25, 2002

NY Times Article Tries to Associate Google with Loss of Privacy

A truly bizarre article was published in today's New York Times called Net Users Try to Elude Google Grasp. The reporter who wrote it found several people who consider themselves victims of some loss of privacy because Google indexed and archived material that they had published on their own web sites. The author also found a person who was concerned that petitions that he had signed in college had shown up on the Internet with his name attached. Another person was concerned about the fact that he was mistaken for someone with the same name.

Most people we know are glad to see that the information they post on the Internet shows up through search engines. A lot of people have found jobs by posting their resumes to a web site and getting lucky because their future employer searched for a part of their skill set.

This article won't change how the Internet works, but it helps explain some of the weird expectations people have of how it should work.

July 19, 2002

Fair Use Advocates Can't Get a Word in at Commerce Department Meeting

On Wednesday, Newsforge reported on the difficulties Fair Use and Open Source advocates had in getting an opportunity to speak at a U.S. Commerce Department public hearing on Digital Rights Management.

The workshop did have its moments of controversy within the invited ranks, with representatives from Phillips Electronics and IBM saying the average consumer was under-represented in the discussion. When Bond was asking panelists what government can do at this point,'s Spencer said: "The role of government is to make sure there's consumer representation. I think we need to have more consumer groups at the table."

It wasn't that they didn't try. According to the article, "Fair use advocate Seth Johnson... stood in the back of the 100-seat room with his hand up for two hours, but Bond never acknowledged him."

Economist: The Great Telecom Crash

The cover story of the July 20 edition of The Economist is The Great Telecom Crash. It calls the bankruptcy of Worldcom, Global Crossing, 360networks, etc., "ten times bigger than the better-known dotcom crash" and says that "the rise and fall of telecoms may indeed qualify as the largest bubble in history".

We will probably find that the deployment of multiple independent fiberoptic networks by competing companies across North America, Europe, and Asia, will be similar to the initial overbuilding of railroads in the 19th century:

  • many early investors will lose/have lost their shirts,
  • consolidation will render the competitive marketplace unrecognizable compared to what it has been, and
  • it will take a long time for the world to soak up all of the excess network capacity.

Unsurprisingly, The Economist concludes that "The likely winners, it is already clear, are the former 'Baby Bells' in America and the former monopoly incumbents in Europe. Because they own the 'last mile' of the network that runs into homes and offices, these operators have a firm grip on their customers and solid revenues."

July 12, 2002

Hackers Substitute Bogus Stories for Real Ones on USA Today Web Site

The San Jose Mercury-News reports that hackers replaced some stories on the USA Today Web Site on Thursday night, forcing the company to shut down its web site for about three hours. reportedly has 9 million unique readers per month, making it one of the most visited web sites on the Internet.

The false articles that were inserted on the web site included reports that Israel was under missile attack, that the Bush Administration had appointed a propaganda minister, and that the Holy See had denounced the Bible as an April Fools Joke. All of the bogus stories were attributed to the Associated Press.

June 21, 2002 is the Latest Community Web Site to Ask for Donations

Earlier this week ran an article entitled We're Broke: The Economics of a Web Community. Kuro5hin is a site that was started by a group that left the Slashdot community because it was interested in having the site's readers vote on the worthyness of submitted stories, instead of relying upon the editorial judgement of the editors.

Kuro5hin has always had a small fraction of the traffic that Slashdot has, although the stories that are run on Kuro5hin are often quite interesting. So, it's not surprising that the advertising placements that Slashdot has undertaken wouldn't generate the same revenue for Kuro5hin. This is not to say that Kuro5hin has actually tried all of the ad placements that Slashdot has. The manager of the Kuro5hin site spends most of his time in this article apologizing for the fact that the site needs to carry advertising in the first place:

I don't like this. I personally hate being a product, and I never got into this in order to lure all of you here and sell you to advertisers. I feel very strongly that one of the things one doesn't do is sell one's friends.

The idea of {Kuro5hin} is that it's a place, a community, for people to come and talk and listen to each other and be people , not products. I don't want to produce media and "package" it and ship it out to passive hordes. The world has about a million channels too much of that already. I want K5 to fulfill the promise of the internet, as a place where everyone gets a fair shot at an equal voice, and everyone gets the information they want, not what some company wants to sell you.

Most people who run news-oriented sites without carrying advertising do it because they enjoy it and are willing to finance it using proceeds from other activities. Other motivations are to demonstrate a product they make, or a service that they offer. Maybe Rusty ought to hire himself out as an Internet site architect.

Update: Looks like the Kuro5hin user community has voted with their wallets. It's nice to see that an web site community can mobilize in this fashion. We didn't appreciate the strength of the Kuro5hin community.

National Public Radio is the Latest Organization to Try to Ban Linking to Its Site

WiredNews is among the hundreds of sites that have reported that National Public Radio is asserting that it has the right to demand that other websites not link to without permission. Everyone else in the world is trying to build traffic to their websites, but sites like NPR, Runner's World, and The Dallas Morning News are concerned about the subject matter of the web sites that link to them, and perhaps the context of the links.

WiredNews is probably OK with us linking to them. So, we'll link to them talking about NPR.

June 17, 2002

Dave Winer Reportedly to be in the Hospital for a Week

Dave Aiello wrote, "Earlier today, I learned that weblog pioneer Dave Winer is in the hospital and is expected to remain hospitalized throughout the week. Dave writes Scripting News and is the founder of Userland Software, a company that has written a number of widely-used, inexpensive content management tools."

"I want to wish Dave a full and speedy recovery. He's one of the web publishing industry's most interesting people. I have learned a lot from him in terms of how to write for the web and how to develop an audience for a small website. Hopefully, he'll be back on Scripting News soon."

June 10, 2002

NY Times Magazine: Internet Used Book Sales "An Actual Internet Success Story"

The New York Times seems to love used book sales on the Internet, as do we. Yesterday's New York Times Magazine published a story providing numerous examples of different Internet used book success stories. One of the most staggering revelations: "Used books now account for more than 15 percent of Amazon's sales."

We agree. CTDATA buys and sells used books on all the time. If you need a specific book, but you can wait five or six days, you'd be crazy not to go to Amazon and look at the prices for used copies of that book.

June 5, 2002

Hopes of Entertainment Industry Dimmed by Lack of Agreement on Digital TV

The New York Times reports that the Entertainment Industry failed to reach an agreement with the Electronics and Software Industries on Digital TV standards. The report that was issued by the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group revealed substantial disagreements between the participants. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also participated, representing the interests of individuals who want to experience digital entertainment. The article says, in part:

The dissenters in the consumer electronics industry were also joined by Microsoft in objecting to the degree of control that the studios wanted to exert over which technologies would be deemed to meet their copy-protection standards.

"They were proposing criteria that were largely subjective," said Andy Moss, director of technical policy for Microsoft.

Of course, the real problem is that the Entertainment Industry wants to eviscerate the concept of Fair Use as defined in the Copyright Act and legal opinions issued over the years by courts in the United States.

CTDATA's Phone is Ringing with Potential Projects

More people have contacted CTDATA about doing new business this week than in any other week since the beginning of April. We're hoping that this is an indication of an upturn in the IT market in the Metropolitan New York Area.

One thing we've noticed over the years is that the worst times to be looking for new IT business are between July 4 and Labor Day, or between Thanksgiving and Martin Luther King's Birthday. With this in mind, we think that the number of calls we've received this week may be an indication that businesses waited until around Memorial Day to decide which projects to start in the third quarter of the year.

May 29, 2002

Electronic Freedom Foundation Uses Innovative Means of Combating CBDTPA

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) has produced a short animated cartoon called Tinsel-Town Club that attempts to educate non-technical people about the changes that the entertainment industry is trying to make to limit its own cusomers' legal rights. The focus of this cartoon is the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA), a bill which would make the following activities illegal:

  • playing your CDs on a desktop computer,
  • creating legal copies or mp3s of the music that you own to play in your car, or listen to while you exercise, and
  • creating mix CDs of music you've paid for.

What do these activities have to do with either broadband Internet access or digital television? Lobbyists for the entertainment industry have convinced some members of Congress that the Internet is not suitable for entertainment as we know it today. And, in order for the entertainment industry to expand its use of the Internet, individuals must not be able to copy digital entertainment from one computer or one media to another. In the lobbyists opinion, many Americans will violate existing copyright law if given the chance.

The EFF believes that the CBDTPA amounts to a substantial reduction in citizens' property rights. Their web site says, "This is not the way copyright law is supposed to work." The site goes on to suggest that the people contact their representatives in Congress and indicate opposition to the CBDTPA.

May 22, 2002

Anti-DMCA Group Splits Off from Linux User Group in NYC

Linux Journal reports that free software advocates broke away from the Linux user group community in New York City to lobby for the repeal of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Representatives of the new organization, NY Fair Use, reportedly go door-to-door in certain Congressional districts within New York City explaining the threat posed to individuals and public libraries by the planned use of Digital Rights Management Systems.

The most interesting aspect of the entire NY Fair Use organization is their legislative agenda that says, among other things:

...we need a law which explicitly makes clear that a normal
retail transaction for a physical copy of any media gives possession
as property of that disk to the purchaser of the disk, just like it
does with a pair of shoes.

If you thought that buying a VCR tape or a DVD at Wal-Mart meant that you "own" a copy of the movie, you probably should. But, the producers of the movie are fighting hard in Washington DC to change copyright law to take away most of your ownership rights.

May 21, 2002

Morgan Stanley Research Says U.S. Companies Wasted Billions on Technology in Last 2 Years

USA Today reported that economic researchers have concluded that major companies in the U.S. have spent billions of dollars on technology that is later determined to be wasted. The article emphasizes rather spectacular estimates made by a brokerage house and an IT consulting firm:

Morgan Stanley estimates that U.S. companies threw away $130 billion in the past two years on unneeded software and other technology, according to its study of 25 years of tech spending. Worldwide, companies waste as much as 20% of the $2.7 trillion spent annually on tech, estimates research firm Gartner, which is based in Stamford, Conn.

This is probably the passage that will be quoted most frequently, but it's not the articles most salient point. The article goes on to say: "{The companies waste the money because} they stampede into the wrong technology, experts say. They buy too much and don't implement new tech properly. They also underestimate the time needed to make it work. And CEOs, especially during the go-go years, often spent too quickly without clear goals."

These have been the key problems since the dawn of the PC era, and they will not really be solved by cutting corporate IT budgets to the bone. The answer is not dramatically less buying, it's dramatically smarter buying. It's not banning consultants, it's using consultants where performance savings or increased profits can be predicted and successfully measured.

Not Every Used Book Sale Goes Smoothly

We are continuing our experiment in selling surplus books via the Marketplace, an idea we got from reading an article by Fred Bernstein that appeared in the New York Times on April 11. Today, we experienced the most unusual situation yet. Apparently, a book that we had shipped to a buyer in Quebec had cleared Canadian customs in Montreal, and was subsequently stolen out of the Canada Post Corporation mail stream.

Read on for more details....

Continue reading "Not Every Used Book Sale Goes Smoothly" »

May 20, 2002

PR Agency Exec Sees No Problem with Spam

On Friday, CNET published an opinion piece by Barry Dennis entitled Why I Love Spam. In it he suggests that "Spam is the 'junk mail' of a few years ago. There is still 'junk' mail, although I prefer to think of it as marketing mail--searching for new customers and reinvigorating established clients."

It's important to read opinion pieces like these, because they demonstrate the profound lack of understanding of the Internet that still exists among some senior business executives in America. Barry Dennis obviously does not understand that the problems with Spam have nothing to do with legitimate businesses marketing their products by using the company's own mail servers to send email to willing recipients.

Most Spam is sent using email servers that have security flaws that
are being exploited. This means that the senders of Spam are, in effect, breaking and entering. CTDATA had its main mail server exploited by spammers for a period of three or four days several years ago. To those of us who had to clean up the problems that resulted from this unauthorized use of our server, our disk space, and our bandwidth, it felt like our business had been vandalized.

Of course, we have not mentioned the effect that Spam has on individual Internet users throughout the world. To many of them, Spam is like a tax on the time they allocate to electronic communication. Many email users now get more unsolicited email than they get from family, friends, and co-workers. Although we doubt that most individual Internet users incur the kind of costs that server operators do as a result of Spam, the rights of the individual Internet user are probably the ones that will receive the greatest protection in the future.

May 7, 2002

ITAA Says There's Still an IT Worker Shortage

Our friend Art Iger from JPMorgan Chase pointed out a brief article in InformationWeek called Hear the One About the Lack of IT Workers? The report says that the Information Technology Association of America believes that there is still a shortage of IT workers, in spite of the fact that "unemployment is up and the workforce is down by a half-million since last year".

A column appears nearby in the same publication called Welcome To The Age Of Absurdity. In it, Lou Bertin touches briefly on his relationship with Harry Arouh, who once worked for CBS News and later became his college journalism professor. After pointing out a number of recent business news stories that could only be called improbable, he says: "With facts like these, who needs fiction? Harry Arouh likely wouldn't have believed a single word of any of this, but he surely would have been saddened at the utter demise of common sense in this Age of Absurdity."

AOL Merger Assets Now Valued at $0

Today, we find retrospective criticism of the AOL Time Warner merger in The Globe and Mail. Mathew Ingram says that the assets that AOL brought to the merger are now discounted to the point where they are worth nothing because the AOL Time Warner stock price has fallen to the book value of the Time Warner media assets alone. Ingram says:

If anything, AOL has made it even more obvious in recent weeks that most of the reasons for the merger have vanished with the same dot-com breeze that blew them in. For example, one of the main strengths of the combined company was supposed to be the marriage of AOL's on-line content and branding with the high-speed cable network run by Time Warner, a win-win situation that would take AOL's traditional dial-up customers to a whole new level, producing plenty of growth and hefty profit margins.

Instead of this magical world full of rainbows and sunshine, however, AOL Time Warner has wound up with the exact opposite. Not only has AOL failed to sign up new cable partners who can deliver its service through their broadband pipes, but the company can't even get that many users of its own Time Warner cable network to sign up for AOL. So what does chief operating officer Bob Pittman do? He tries the old 'sour grapes' argument: we don't really want those high-speed cable and DSL users anyway.

May 1, 2002

Dallas Morning News Prohibiting Direct Links to Stories on Its Web Site

Wired News is reporting that Belo Media Corporation, the company that owns The Dallas Morning News, is trying to enforce a provision in The Terms of Service that prohibits direct links to web pages that contain individual stories on its web site. The paragraph receiving new emphasis is:

4. Links to, and frames of, the Site. If you operate a Web site and wish to link to this Site, you may link only to the home page of the Site and not to any other page or subdomain of us. You may not frame or utilize framing techniques that involve any Marks, copyrighted material or other proprietary information (including images, text, page layout, or form) of any portion of the Site or suggest any relationship between our Site and you without our express written consent. In addition, you agree not to decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble any software or other products or processes accessible through the Site, not to insert any code or product or manipulate the content of the Site in any way that affects the user's experience, and not to use any data mining, robots, cancelbots, spiders, Trojan horse, or any data gathering or extraction method in connection with your use of the Site.

Makes us wonder whether pointing this fact out is, in their lawyers' minds, a violation of their intellectual property rights? It doesn't really matter because we haven't linked to them in a long time, and we're glad to comply with their wishes by never linking to them again.

Venture Capital Investments Fall Substantially Across the Country

Martin O'Donnell pointed out that The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that venture capital investments in Washington State have fallen to 1997 levels. That's about a 78 percent drop from the same period last year. The article says, in part, "The Pacific Northwest {region as a whole}... also was hit hard as venture investments tumbled 71 percent. Only the New York metropolitan area, which reported a 72 percent drop, and the Alaska/Hawaii/Puerto Rico region, a minor venture capital market with no deals in the first quarter, fared worse. Just five states posted bigger quarterly declines than Washington."

In our view, this is exactly the kind of purge that was necessary in order to cause a fundimental re-evaluation of the businesses that get funded. This will be good for the technology industries over the intermediate term, but try telling that to the entrepreneurs looking for capital today.

April 25, 2002

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

CNET 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.

April 23, 2002

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

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."

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 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....

Continue reading "CTDATA Successfully Sells Its First Surplus Computer Book via Amazon" »

April 16, 2002

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.

April 13, 2002

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.

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 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 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 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.

April 8, 2002

Apple Shipped Nearly Half a Million Computers with DVD Recording Capability

CNET 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?

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 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".

March 28, 2002

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

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

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

Merrill Lynch, CSFB Replacing Other UNIX Systems with Linux

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

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

March 20, 2002

Knight Ridder Homogenizes Its Local News Web Sites

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

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

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

March 19, 2002

Substitute the Word "Customer" for "Consumer"

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

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

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

March 14, 2002

Downloading of Music Can't Be Stopped by Recording Industry

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

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

March 11, 2002

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

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

March 7, 2002

Google's Advertising Policy Speaks Volumes about Its Business Philosophy

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

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

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

March 4, 2002

Companies Building Networks to Maintain Contact with Laid Off Employees

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

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

March 1, 2002

Slashdot to Offer Subscriptions for Ad-Free Page Viewing

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

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

February 28, 2002

Weblogs Influence Results of 1 Billion Google Searches Per Week

Corante published an article by John Hiler called Google Loves Blogs. This article explains two important but little understood aspects of Google's PageRank technology that is the primary determinant of which web pages show up first on a Google search result page:

  • Google treats links that point to a web site an indication of the target site's relevance.
  • Google crawls sites that are updated daily much more often than other web sites.
  • Google values links on recently updated pages more than similar links on older web pages.

As a result of these policies, weblogs and news-oriented web sites have a greater influence on Google search results than many users realize. This makes sense because any search engine with access to such huge volumes of information must use some time factors in its page relevancy calculations.

The article also points out the emergence of sites like blogdex and Daypop, which provide a sort of "daily greatest hits" of the most popular weblogs. These sites are interesting to look at because they demonstrate the breadth of topics covered by weblogs and the degree to which some weblogs cover the same stories as others.

These meta weblogs also have slightly different audiences and weblogs that they cover. Blogdex, hosted by MIT Media Lab appears to pickup more technology-oriented weblogs than Daypop does.

February 25, 2002

MIT Technology Review Groks Blogging

MIT Technology Review published an article by Henry Jenkins of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT that discusses the growing importance of weblogs and attempts to put weblogs in context with other sources of news and opinion. According to the article:

At a time when many dot coms have failed, blogging is on the rise. We’re in a lull between waves of commercialization in digital media, and bloggers are seizing the moment, potentially increasing cultural diversity and lowering barriers to cultural participation....

In practice, the evolution of most media has been shaped through the interactions between the distributed power of grass-roots participatory media and the concentrated power of corporate/governmental media.... {Now} grass-roots intermediaries may have a moment to redefine the public perception of new media and to expand their influence.

There have been many similar articles in mainstream publications that have attempted to define weblogging and its place in society. But, Henry Jenkins seems to have done a better job than most writers of capturing the spirit of the weblogging community and explaining the role that some webloggers hope to occupy in society.

How to Write a Better Weblog

A List Apart published Dennis A. Mahoney's piece called How to Write a Better Weblog. This article discusses how a unique writing style can differentiate a weblog from more staid, professional writing. It also suggests that the best ways to build audience are to "offer something new" and "amuse your readers" while avoiding repetition of subjects covered by others.

February 20, 2002

Are They Serious About MPEG-4 License Fees?

Technology news sites have reported on the debate around proposed fees for the use of the MPEG-4 patent collection. The best article we have found summarizing the fees was published on on February 8.

One of the proposed fees is a sort of an exhibition fee that amounts to approximately two cents per hour, each time a work encoded in MPEG-4 is viewed. Many people in the technology industry (example: Doc Searls) find this proposal unworkable.

We could understand an exhibition fee if the only place MPEG-4 were going to be used was at theaters or amusement parks. But these patents will almost certainly be required for future consumer electronic devices. Consumers will never fork over a fee each time their son or daughter watches The Lion King on the TV in the living room. They're used to buying DVDs and VHS tapes for a low, one-time fee and being able to play it as often as they wish. This genie can't be put back in the bottle.

Questions Persist about Microsoft's .NET Architecture, Business Model

Yesterday, published an article providing an overview of Microsoft's progress toward deploying .NET My Services. According to the article, these services are "for hosting and delivering personal information while providing an array of services ranging from commerce to communication in partnership with Web retailers such as eBay."

The problem, as the article points out, is that Microsoft has invested more time and effort in the underlying technology than it has in developing a viable business model that is saleable to companies with which it can partner. The article says, "The almost universal response from potential partners was: 'We don't understand the business model; we don't know how we or Microsoft will make money on the plan; and we don't necessarily trust Microsoft to be the single repository or host for this model....'"

Now, Microsoft is considering integrating the Kerberos distributed security system into .NET. This would allow companies to maintain greater control over their customer information than they would have if Microsoft had been the sole provider of authentication-related services. Will this make companies more likely to partner with Microsoft?

February 8, 2002

ArsDigita Liquidated, Assets Sold to Red Hat

Slashdot pointed out this Mass High Tech article that says that ArsDigita has shut down and sold its assets to RedHat. Most of the valuable assets were apparently related to ArsDigita's professional services business.

ArsDigita was the consulting vehicle that implemented many of Philip Greenspun's ideas about web publishing systems. Over the past few years, ArsDigita developed some high profile web sites for large companies and non-profit organizations. However, its roster of large corporate customers was never as large as their PR material indicated.

It's too bad that this company failed, because its strategy of leveraging OpenSource tools to build large Content Management Systems is one that we also support in some instances. However, they tried to become a big company, and this strategy probably had more to do with their downfall than their choice of web tools.

February 5, 2002

AOL's Vision of an Integrated Digital Future May Not Mesh with Customer Wants

Heather Green wrote an excellent article in BusinessWeek relating her mother's reaction to a vision of the future presented by AOL's CEO at a meeting of a Virginia county chamber of commerce meeting. According to the article:

Barry Schuler, CEO of America Online... laid out AOL's grand vision of being the digital heartbeat of a household. A magic combination of wireless, broadband, and networking technology would control and link every device in the home -- and deliver AOL Time Warner's music, movie, and online content.

My mom had a couple of questions after being presented with this glimpse of the digital future.... She knows why AOL Time Warner wants to keep pushing itself into her life -- and pocketbook. But why would she buy everything the media giant wants to sell her{?} Provides Complete Set of Superbowl Ads in Windows Media and Real Formats

We noticed that is providing a handy archive of all of the Superbowl advertisements broadcast on Fox in the United States. The ads are available in two major Internet video formats (Windows Media and Real Player), so most people will find a copy that they can easily play over a broadband connection.

It would be nice if kept these ads around until next year, so that these ads can be compared to the ones on SuperBowl XXXVII. Can you imagine what the comparison between this year's ads and last year's would be like?

January 30, 2002

Some Big Firms Taking Sites Back from Web Hosting Companies

In a somewhat surprising report, eWeek says that Royal Philips Electronics NV has brought the hosting of 350 corporate web sites back in-house. These sites used to be co-located at Exodus Communications in Weehawken, NJ. Now, they have been moved to a Philips facility in South Plainfield, NJ, which has been converted into a web hosting data center.

According to the article, Philips made this move because it was no longer comfortable with the business risk associated with doing business with Exodus, currently in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It will be interesting to see if other large corporations follow this approach in order to ensure that access to the web sites that support their brands is not interrupted.

January 25, 2002

Washington Post Covers Resume Spamming, part of The Washington Post, has published an article on resume spamming. This adverstising technique is most frequently used by some disreputable employment services seeking to place job candidates under the H1B visa program. However, over the last few months, some individual unemployed technology workers and legitimate employment agencies have strayed into this unpopular territory. As the article explains, this has resulted in a backlash:

When Neil Schwartzman, a Canadian anti-spam activist, checked his e-mail account and found two copies of a resume, he retaliated by putting up a Web site denouncing the person who sent them. The site, called Bernard Shifman Is a Moron Spammer, is one of several reachable through Schwartzman's Spam Flames page.

It has been visited more than 1 million times in its first three days alone, Schwartzman said, by people eager to chime in with their own heated opinions.

January 22, 2002

Microsoft Reorganizes TV Units, Division Supporting UltimateTV Eliminated reports that Microsoft is restructuring its TV-related units in order to shift more of its resources to Xbox development. These changes will most impact the UltimateTV set-top box which competes with certain personal video recorder models from TiVo and ReplayTV.

It seems to us that one likely outcome of this restructuring is that personal video recording features will appear in the Xbox fairly quickly. Also, Microsoft TV-related offerings may consolidate on Xbox hardware, rather than on traditional PCs.

O'Reilly Network Discusses "Internet Wayback Machine"

The O'Reilly Network is carrying an article that explains the "Internet Wayback Machine", a web site with 100 terabytes of web archival information. Included in this article is an interview with Brewster Kahle, president of Alexa Internet the designer of the Wayback Machine, and a subsidiary of

Looking at the Internet Wayback Machine itself, located at, we were able to find content that appeared on back to December 1996! Similarly, content from goes back to November 1998.

The Internet Wayback Machine is not just a fun web site, it's a great research resource. We can only imagine the uses people will find for this site.

January 20, 2002

Huge Doubts About a Merger Between AOL and RedHat

Doc Searls has some serious doubts about a humorous potential merger between AOL-TimeWarner and RedHat. Regarding the Washington Post's assertion that acquiring RedHat could make AOL a threat to Microsoft, Searls said, "Right. That's like saying we could attract billions of people to Mars if AOL would buy it and supply it with enough oxygen."

We agree. AOL is a content company, not a software company, per se. Can anyone see a strategic fit considering the fact that when AOL acquired Netscape, it divested the server software to Sun Microsystems?

January 11, 2002

John Udell Visits Dartmouth Security Think Tank

Following up on the article where Brett Tofel tipped us to an Open Source JSP editor, we started looking for more information about the Institute for Security Technology Studies. A few days ago, John Udell from Byte published an account of his visit to ISTS. Udell provides a good overview of the Institute's areas of expertise as well as current research focuses.

The article includes an explanation of Brett's current work (developing software that improves the efficiency of forensic server log analysis) and a good quote from him. We always like to point to articles where friends of CTDATA get some press.

January 10, 2002

Doc Searls: NY Times Doesn't Know How to Maximize Value of Its Archives

On Sunday, Doc Searls took The New York Times to task for launching "Topics of the Times", another attempt to monetize its article archive. Doc is right that as long as the current Times stories are free, portions of their archives that can only be accessed for a fee are of dramatically less value. Doc said, "{Times columnist Tom} Friedman's authority only goes up as more and more people can link to him. It is not increased one bit when a few suckers shell out $4.95 for stuff nobody else can see."

Some people who work for CTDATA subscribe to, the web site for the Wall Street Journal where most of the content is reserved for paying customers. We do not feel the same way about as we do about the New York Times. is one of the few truly profitable pay-for-content media sites. We think this is because they began service under that model and they have been fairly consistent in their approach.

The New York Times should be as consistent as the Wall Street Journal has been in implementing their web publishing model. The best way for the Times to charge for archives would be to provide value-added archive research tools for a fee, but make the stories themselves free. Then, web publishers could link to Times content without any second thoughts, and the value of Times content would be that much greater.

Google Zeitgeist Provides Insight into How Google is Used

Dave Aiello wrote, "A number of other Weblogs have pointed to Google Zeitgeist, a statistical summary of user activity on the Google web site. I have mentioned Zeitgeist to a few of friends and many had never heard of it."

"The current Zeitgeist is a sort of year end retrospective for 2001. It's interesting, because many of the illustrated search queries correlate to current events, such as searches done on September 11, or related to television shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Zeitgeist is only one example of the kind of useful feedback information that Google is providing about how Internet users throughout the world are behaving. I will try to illustrate some other information available from Google in future stories on"

"FWIW, someone asked me what the word zeitgeist means. Although Google defines it in its marketing information, I've provided a link to for your convenience."

January 9, 2002

The Web Runs on Love, Not Greed

Last week, Kevin Kelly got an article published in the Wall Street Journal called The Web Runs on Love, Not Greed. Somehow, Dave Winer of Scripting News got permission to republish it electronically.

This article is a good summation of the Internet experience of the past year. A lot of people have become jaded, saying that the implosion of many Dot Com businesses indicates that the Internet has somehow failed to live up the expectations of the general public. Kevin Kelly refutes this by pointing out the numerous unbelievable successes that exist right under our noses:

In our disappointment of grand riches, we have failed to see the miracle on our desks. Ten years ago, it was easy to dismiss visions of a wondrous screen in our homes that would provide the whole world in its magical window. The idea of a universal information port was considered uneconomical, and too futuristic to be real in our lifetimes. Yet at any hour of today, most readers of this paper have access to the full text of the Encyclopedia Britannica, precise map directions to anywhere in the country, stock quotes in real time, local weather forecasts with radar pictures, immediate sports scores from your hometown, any kind of music you could desire, answers to medical questions, hobbyists who know more than you do, tickets to just about anything, 24/7 e-mail, news from a hundred newspapers, and so on. Much of this is for free. This abundance simply overwhelms what was promised by the most optimistic guru.

December 28, 2001

OJR Reviews Internet News Site Performance in 3 Week Survey

The Online Journalism Review has produced a three week study of the 15 most popular news-oriented web sites. The author added several other news-oriented web sites from the United States and the UK which have somewhat less traffic, but are often looked at for breaking news.

This is a well written guide to the strengths and weaknesses of many of the sites. However, the article is not as comprehensive as it could have been, because it does not characterize all of the sites that were covered by the survey and no statistical information was provided.

December 27, 2001

Mossberg: Microsoft Had a Good Year... at Customer Expense

In his latest Personal Technology column in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Mossberg criticizes Microsoft for continuing to tie new features in its products to its own services in an exclusive manner. Many examples of this exist in Microsoft's new operating system, Windows XP. About this tying, Mossberg writes:

So what, some might ask? Isn't it common in a free market for companies to use one of their products to cross-promote another? Doesn't AOL use its online service to boost the movies made by its Warner Brothers studios? Doesn't The Wall Street Journal run ads and plugs for its sister publications and Web sites? The difference is that these other companies aren't court-certified monopolies, and when you're a monopoly, you have to follow different rules, as the appeals court said.

We agree, and would like to add that some Microsoft design decisions in Windows XP have already had profound, negative effects on the internal security of their customers' networks the eluded detection because some features of XP remain cloaked in secrecy. Read on for an example and a call for more transparency in Microsoft's business practices....

Continue reading "Mossberg: Microsoft Had a Good Year... at Customer Expense" » Picks Up Portal for a Song

The New York Times reports that Irvington, NY-based has purchased the remaining portions of web portal for less than $10 million. The Times article essentially defines the story as an example of a sort of "last-mover advantage," in that did not begin operations until 1999 and has never had more than 230 employees.

Oh how far the mighty have fallen! In the documentary Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet, produced in 1998, the founders of Excite are briefly seen writing code for their portal. The code, visible on the computer screen, was Perl. How successful could those original developers have been if they had grown their site organically, focused on performance improvements, and not gone hog wild with acquisitions?

December 26, 2001

O'Reilly Network Picks Its Best Articles for 2001

The O'Reilly Network, a service of the technical book publishing company, has chosen its best technical articles for 2001. A number of these articles, including Performance Test: 802.11b Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin' and the meta-article Using Tomcat, look useful despite the fact that they were published several months ago.

December 20, 2001

AT&T Accepts Comcast's Revised Offer for its Broadband Unit

CBS Marketwatch is reporting that AT&T has accepted Comcast's revised offer for AT&T Broadband. The complex deal is valued at $72 billion. The new company resulting from the combination of Comcast and AT&T Broadband will be called AT&T Comcast Corporation.

This appears to be an excellent deal for shareholders of both companies. AT&T reduces its corporate debt substantially. Its shareholders gain financial and voting control over the biggest cable company in the United States. Comcast shareholders gain a substantial interest in the largest cable company in the United States. They also gain a true voting interest in the future of that company, which they did not have in Comcast if they were Class "A" shareholders.

The announcement indicates that AT&T paid approximately $4,100 per cable subscriber in assembling the AT&T Broadband unit. The agreement with Comcast apparently values each AT&T Broadband cable subscriber at $4,500.

In a way, this brings a close to the Excite@Home bankruptcy saga. AT&T Broadband and Comcast will undoubtedly merge the backbone infrastructures that they are building to replace the @Home Network.

December 19, 2001

Gillmor: Scrap New Telecom Bill and Fix Old One

In the San Jose Mercury-News, columnist Dan Gillmor asks Congress to scrap the Tauzin-Dingell Telecommunications Bill. Tauzin-Dingell is an attempt to modify the terms of the telecommunications laws written in 1996 to allow Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) to offer high speed Internet access without allowing competing companies to offer the same service using their lines. Gillmor argues, quite convincingly, that the RBOCs have not earned the right to close off their networks to competition.

December 18, 2001

Camworld Doesn't Like the Scripting News Awards Either

Yesterday, Cameron Barrett, operator of the Camworld web site and nominee for Blogger of the Year in the Scripting News Awards, called the awards The Dave Winer Big Ego Awards. This is more strongly worded than our critique, which we published yesterday. But, it finds fault with many of the same issues that we did.

Update: Camworld publishes reader comment on the article, including a comment submitted by Dave Aiello.

December 17, 2001 is Back

Dave Aiello wrote, "After a hiatus of over two weeks, has made (what I hope will be) a triumphant return. I liked this site from the outset, regardless of the fact that I know the people who built it. Apparently, it went on hiatus because Carl Steadman took it off Automatic Media's hands and it took a while to move it and get the kinks out. Probably this is Carl's avocation."

"One question that this raises is, did any of the Plastic staff make the jump with the acquisition? I haven't seen a post from Joey Anuff yet. Hope to see one soon...."

Legal System Starts to Punish Firms for Lack of Security

Over the weekend, Tomalak's Realm pointed out a Crypto-Gram article which reported that two judges separately punished a U.S. Government agency and three corporations for lax Internet security. A Federal judge ordered the U.S. Department of the Interior to disconnect some of its computers from the Internet because an Indian tribe proved records could be altered and funds diverted. In a separate case, a Texas state judge issued an injunction against three customers of Exodus Communications for permitting a denial of service attack (DOS) to take place.

Bruce Schneier, the author of the article says, "I like this kind of stuff. It forces responsibility. It tells companies that if they can't make their networks secure, they have no business being on the Internet. It may be Draconian, but it gets the message across."

December 14, 2001

Comcast and Cox Continue to Deny Residential Customers VPN Access

Computerworld reported yesterday that Comcast and Cox deny virtual private network use to customers paying residential rates. According to the article, AT&T Broadband, AOL Time Warner, and Cablevision do not prevent residential customers from using VPNs.

We covered this issue in an article published over a year ago. At the time, we were very critical of the development, but we had also not yet become Comcast Business Communications customers at our Lawrenceville office. Read on for our views on this issue...

Continue reading "Comcast and Cox Continue to Deny Residential Customers VPN Access" »

December 10, 2001

Customers Experiencing Problems with New Backbone at AT&T Broadband

CNET reports that customers of AT&T Broadband report wide-ranging problems with the new backbone that AT&T is activating to replace the @Home Network. Although AT&T reports that it has migrated 850,000 customers to the new network, users are reporting apparently throttled downstream connections, intermittent service outages, limited access to peer networks, and complete lack of service.

This is no surprise, given the fact that a partially constructed backbone was rushed into service. The chaos that has followed AT&T Broadband's break with Excite@Home is certainly bad PR for AT&T. Their willingness to allow such a prolonged network disruption gives the impression that they take their residential customers for granted. The less than flawless restoration gives their customers little to smile about.

December 5, 2001

Users Begin to Defect from AT&T Broadband

Over the weekend, Patrick Logan, a customer of AT&T Broadband's version of the @Home service wrote, "I called AT&T yesterday and cancelled my AtHome cable service. I will not tolerate the way my family was treated as pawns in their little game. Now I can only hope Verizon does a little better with their DSL service.... What's really behind this bankruptcy and shenanigans? I never used At Home's web pages or multimedia features, etc. I only wanted a fast connection from my home to the Internet."

This is the kind of defection that AT&T is facing as a result of negotiating in bad faith with Excite@Home. It's amazing that one large cable company can come out looking like such a loser in this situation, while other companies appear more reasonable. All AT&T had to do was preserve enough good faith with the existing leadership of Excite@Home so that they could also be a party to an interim agreement, when it was finally negotiated.

Say anything else that you want about the management of Comcast, Cox, and Rogers, but they knew what was in their customers interests when it mattered. They were the companies with the biggest customer relationships with @Home, other than AT&T Broadband, and they didn't get greedy.

Patrick Logan is a technical user who obviously knows what his options are. But, he is undoubtedly not alone in his unwillingness to just sit there while AT&T Broadband takes his business for granted. This is exactly the kind of thing that Locke, Levine, Searles, and Weinberger were talking about in The Cluetrain Manifesto.

December 4, 2001

Details of Excite@Home Deal with Comcast, Cox, Rogers reports the details of the agreement we discussed yesterday. Comcast and Cox have agreed to pay Excite@Home $160 million for three months use of the existing backbone. Toronto-based Rogers Cable, the largest cable system operator in Canada, also struck a three month "transitional deal". In the article, several cable business analysts refer to the deal as the end of Excite@Home because the major cable systems have decided to build out their own backbones.

In a followup article published later, reports that AT&T is expected to drop its bid for the @Home Network assets. AT&T has been the only bidder for the assets since the company declared bankruptcy on October 1.

Continue reading "Details of Excite@Home Deal with Comcast, Cox, Rogers" »

December 3, 2001

Excite@Home and Cable Companies Strike Three Month Deal (the Washington Post's section that covers the technology industry) reports in today's edition that Excite@Home has reached a tentative three month agreement with a dozen cable companies including Comcast and Cox. This is important because the two companies are major customers of the @Home Network and neither of them are ready to switch over to their own alternative backbones.

Apparently AT&T Broadband has been left out of this deal. It's surprising that a company with such a large ownership stake in Excite@Home can be excluded from an agreement of this nature. There must be even more animosity between AT&T and the other parties to the bankruptcy negotiations than we had imagined.

This agreement is exactly what we called for last week. We congratulate the parties involved for doing the right thing for the customers so far, and encourage them to finalize the deal ASAP.

Continue reading "Excite@Home and Cable Companies Strike Three Month Deal" »

December 2, 2001

AT&T Broadband First to be Cut Off by Excite reports that over 750,000 AT&T broadband customers have lost cable modem service as talks between AT&T and Excite@Home have been broken off. AT&T apparently didn't bother to update its own web site with the status of negotiations, waiting until midday Saturday to make a public statement. also indicated that service to some Comcast and Cox subscribers was interrupted at times on Saturday. We did not notice any disruption at our office, but then again, we weren't paying attention most of the day.

November 30, 2001

Judge Rules that Excite Can Terminate Contracts with Cable Companies

In the latest development in a confusing week, Judge Thomas Carlson ruled that Excite@Home can end partner contracts for access to their backbone. The company can refuse to carry Internet traffic on the current terms beginning at 3:00am Eastern Time, tomorrow. That's midnight Pacific Time, or about 9 hours from the publication of this article.

Where it once seemed like Excite@Home could end up playing Scrooge, it now appears that continuation of the service is really up to the cable companies. The judge is quoted as saying, "flipping the switch and shutting off service" was unlikely, and "It's clear that the continued operations have substantial interests to the cable companies."

For our part, we will be upset if Comcast does not come to an interim agreement with Excite@Home before Excite@Home decides to stop carrying Comcast's customers' Internet traffic.

Continue reading "Judge Rules that Excite Can Terminate Contracts with Cable Companies" »

New York Times Looks at Issues from All Sides in Excite Case

Today's New York Times has an article on the current situation in the Excite@Home bankruptcy case. This is one of the more comprehensive stories we've seen in terms of laying out the positions of all of the parties in the case.

Of course, they don't say much about how any of the possible settlements would actually affect the paying customers. But, talking about downstream impact on customers is probably beyond what can be expected in a news article. That would be crossing the line into making predictions based on expected outcomes. Who really knows what Judge Thomas E. Carlson is inclined to do at this point?

November 29, 2001

Comcast Notifies Business Customers of Policies Regarding Potential Outage

We learned that Comcast Business Communications has started preparing for a potential disruption of its high-speed Internet service as a result of the Excite@Home bankrupcy. Comcast has made the following information available:

  • On its Web Site, Comcast warns customers of the potential outage. It also says that Comcast is building out a new backbone for business customers that will not involve any of the @Home infrastructure.
  • Over the telephone, Comcast has created a recorded message at its Business Communications customer service number, 888-205-5000. This recorded message basically reiterates the information posted on-line.
  • Comcast has also created a new customer hotline number to help business customers deal with the potential disruption: 888-447-6060.

Residential customers are directed to call 888-433-6963. There they are instructed to back up their personal web space and check their @Home email daily. This information appears on the consumer-oriented web site.

After having spoken to several customer service representatives, listened to recorded announcements, and read information posted to their web sites, we have concluded that Comcast expects Excite@Home to prevail in its bankruptcy court petition. We urge readers who might be effected to contact their cable carriers, read the documentation available, make their own conclusions, and prepare accordingly.

Continue reading "Comcast Notifies Business Customers of Policies Regarding Potential Outage" »

Comcast Told Some Customers to Backup Email and Personal Web Pages

Continuing the coverage of the Excite@Home bankruptcy wrangling... Martin O'Donnell pointed out an article in today's Seattle Times which discusses the steps cable companies are taking to limit the damage from service interruptions by @Home. The article reads, in part:

Comcast advised its customers to back up their e-mail files and personal Web pages in case the @Home service is shut down. Comcast also set up a Web link to provide its @Home customers with a dial-up Internet connection through NetZero, too. NetZero offers 10 hours of free Internet access per month.

Martin's question to Dave Aiello was "Did you get this notice from Comcast?" The answer is no, but this is because Comcast's consumer cable modem service gets its email and web hosting capabilities from Excite@Home's infrastructure. This does not affect CTDATA, which is a customer of Comcast's business service.

Continue reading "Comcast Told Some Customers to Backup Email and Personal Web Pages" »

November 28, 2001

Impact of Potential Disruption of Excite@Home Services on Comcast is Unclear

Dave Aiello wrote, "Hoping to find answers to the questions raised in the previous article about a potential disruption in Excite@Home's network services due to its bankruptcy, I called Comcast Business Communications a few minutes ago. The customer service representative I spoke with indicated that she had been told about the possibility of a disruption, but she could not tell me how many Comcast customers would be affected if it took place. She also did not know whether customers could determine their exposure to @Home Network facilities by running a traceroute or using some other network discovery technique. As far as I know, Comcast has not published a statement about the potential network disruption to any of their Web Sites."

Now that you know what we know, read on for what Dave thinks Comcast should do about it....

Continue reading "Impact of Potential Disruption of Excite@Home Services on Comcast is Unclear" »

Excite@Home Could Interrupt Internet Services On Friday

CNET reports that Excite@Home may disrupt service to 4.1 million cable modem subscribers as early as Friday, November 30. This disclosure was made in connection with the bankruptcy case currently underway in federal bankruptcy court in San Francisco.

CTDATA is a customer of Comcast Business Communications. We will be in touch with Comcast today in order to determine whether service to our office in Lawrenceville will be affected if the bankruptcy judge rules in favor of Excite in their dispute with their customers.

Continue reading "Excite@Home Could Interrupt Internet Services On Friday" »

November 26, 2001

Study of Ebay Auction Techniques Documented in New York Times

Sunday's New York Times contained an article about a study of eBay coin pricing by Charles Wood and Robert Kauffman. This article summarizes the results of a two year study of auctions of 19th century coins, and best practices for sellers that will result in maximized sale prices.

Art Iger from J.P. Morgan Chase pointed this study out in his Technology Industry Daily newsletter at least a month ago, but it looks like CTDATA never published a link to it. Belated credit to him.

Onslaught of Commercial Email Continues

In the latest article from Lighthouse on the Web, David Walker writes that the Email system as a whole is under deepening assault from spammers the world over. Walker says, "If you have 20 pieces of spam to throw out every time you log on, you may think twice about using email for important messages of any sort. Every new spam wave trains users that email is a junk medium."

We wonder whether this is really the case. Certainly, we hear complaints from customers occasionally about the amount of spam they receive. Yet, we haven't heard anyone say that they would stop using email. The only people we know who aren't using email are people who have found an excuse to avoid it up to this point.

November 15, 2001 Dies Quietly

Kathleen Aiello pointed out that quietly went out of business on September 15. They claim that they are a victim of "...the economic downturn, the ever-increasing economic pressures of the travel industry, and ultimately the further-reduced demand for travel resulting from the tragedy of September 11, 2001."

CTDATA used Biztravel regularly. We also used it to book personal travel. As far as we know, it was a subsidiary of Rosenbluth International, so the parent company is still in business. As we found in a Google search, this news was reported in the press, we just missed it. Guess we didn't have any travel needs that we couldn't solve with our own cars since September 11.

Poster Boy for Dotcom Bubble Takes Package at Merrill Lynch

The New York Times reports that Internet stock analyst Henry Blodget has accepted a buy out package from Merrill Lynch and will leave the company soon. Blodget became a poster boy for Internet stock mania when he predicted that the stock of would rise to $400 per share.

Blodget's resignation from Merrill will ultimately appear as a point on the timeline representing the lifecycle of the Dotcom bubble. No one should cry for him, he made more money in the last three years than most families will see in two generations.

November 14, 2001

Consumers Not Seeking Broadband Access in Expected Numbers

Monday's Chicago Tribune reported that telecommunications executives have become frustrated that a many consumers are unwilling to pay a premium for high speed Internet access. This article is interesting as far as it goes. But, the real issue is the lack of compelling, consumer-oriented applications that are not in imminent danger of being taken away.

One of the applications that has driven consumer broadband installations is acquisition of MP3 music files. If the entertainment industry developed a service model for delivering MP3 and other media content over the Internet that did not try to curtail "Fair Use", many more consumers would eventually have broadband installed. But, the entertainment industry has been cynical in its attempt to impose restrictions on digitally perfect recordings. In the process, they have nearly killed the only compelling reason for most consumers to have broadband.

November 2, 2001

Microsoft and Justice Department Agree to Settlement

Completing one of the highest profile negotiations between the Federal government and a corporation in history, Microsoft and the Justice Department have finally proposed a settlement in the Anti-Trust Case to District Courty Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

Regardless of what you think of the proposal, the war has rendered this litigation a minor issue for the Government. They are right to end the case as quickly as they can, and focus their resources elsewhere.

October 11, 2001

Excite@Home Stops Accepting New Customers

CNET reports that Excite@Home has stopped accepting new broadband customers in order to conserve cash. It is not clear exactly how this impacts @Home partners such as Comcast and Cox Communications, although Cox released an explicit statement last week reiterating its commitment to uninterrupted high speed internet service.

CTDATA does business with Comcast for broadband access at our Lawrenceville, NJ office. Our service is, however, provided by their business communications unit. We have not noticed any affect on our service since Excite@Home declared bankruptcy, although the routing of our Internet traffic goes over @Home facilities quite often. We will keep an eye on the situation and provide updates as the situation warrants.

Continue reading "Excite@Home Stops Accepting New Customers" »

September 27, 2001

Sun Announces Authentication System To Rival Passport

Yesterday, Infoworld reported that Sun Microsystems announced the Liberty Alliance Project, a decentralized authentication system for on-line services. This system is supposed to compete with similar services planned by Microsoft and America On-Line.

We wonder why Sun felt the need to start an effort under its own banner, rather than working with AOL, its partner in iPlanet? We know that iPlanet was merely a vehicle to separate the Netscape brand name from the server software products developed by Netscape Communications prior to its aquisition by AOL. However, we expected AOL and Sun to work together more closely than they have, in light of their interest in maximizing the value of their mutual investments.

This is yet another indication that AOL and Sun are marching to the beat of different drummers.

September 25, 2001

USENIX Announces Distance Learning Pilot Program for Its Seminars

USENIX announced that it would begin a pilot program to present its technical training tutorials via Webcast. The first two tutorials to be presented in this fashion are Twenty Key High Availability Design Principles and Why Intruders Are More Successful Than We Would Like Them To Be: What They Can Learn About Your Site Remotely.

This trial is aimed at members of USENIX and SAGE, or past attendees at USENIX conferences. But, in our experience, these tutorials provide valuable technical insights. If you were considering joining USENIX, now would be a good time to do so.

Standard Media Auction Raises $1.4 Million

In another first for the industry, The Industry Standard is reporting on its own liquidation. A bankruptcy auction was held yesterday to dispose of the assets of Standard Media, the holding company for The Industry Standard print magazine and Web Site. AOL Time Warner paid $500 thousand and assumed liabilities to obtain the magazine's paid subscriber list. IDG, the main investor in Standard Media, paid $900 thousand to retain control of the Web Site, technology and intellectual property, trademarks, as well as the newsletter and conference operations businesses.

IDG did not comment on whether it intended to continue to operate the Web Site, restart the print magazine, or resurrect the conference business.

NetworkWorld: NASDAQ Survived Disaster Due to Good Planning

NetworkWorld has published an excellent article about the NASDAQ and its success in surviving the terrorist incidents in Manhattan. The article talks about the crisis handling procedure that was in place, which included a crisis management hotline that was printed on wallet cards carried by all employees.

The article also includes a description of the network infrastructure that NASDAQ has in place. It includes a Unisys mainframe capable of producing 2,000 quotes per second. The mainframe is connected to a network of 60 Tandem servers containing a total of 800 processors. The Tandems provide auto-execution, negotiation, and trade reporting. There is also a data warehouse for regulatory and investigative purposes consisting of a Sequent server running a derivative of BSD and a 20 to 50 terabyte Oracle database.

September 24, 2001

Gartner Recommends Companies Investigates Alternatives to IIS

As we have been saying for some time, Microsoft's Internet Information Server has an extremely high Total Cost of Ownership. This is because it is the favorite Web Server of "script kiddies" everywhere. It really takes attention to detail in order to patch IIS security vulnerabilities as they are discovered.

Last week, the Gartner Group released a commentary on CNet saying essentially the same thing. The article says, in part, "Gartner believes it's time for businesses with Web applications to start investigating less vulnerable Web server products." They recommend the Apache HTTP Server, or Web Server products from iPlanet.

August 31, 2001

Influential Web Publication Touts Database-Backed Web Sites

Steven Garrity writing in A List Apart makes a compelling argument for equiping businesses with content management systems. CTDATA has been building database-driven Web Sites, like the ones he describes, since 1998. Unfortunately, we are still having some difficulty getting all of our customers (particularly small and medium-sized businesses) to come to this conclusion themselves.

One of the reasons that content management has not become mass market is that the tools available are either extremely complex and expensive (like Vignette and Interwoven) or quite simple and free (like Blogger). There are very few content management tools that are good for general purpose Web Site design, inexpensive, and well known.

We feel that the value of content management systems is so great that clients ought to seek ways to adapt their Web Sites to user interfaces that are easily produced in low-end content management systems. In the case of tools like Blogger, Userland Manila, and Slashcode, that means producing a site that has the look and feel of a Weblog. This is possible, but it takes a mindset change from most people in small companies tasked with maintaining the corporate Web Site.

Continue reading "Influential Web Publication Touts Database-Backed Web Sites" »

August 21, 2001

What Does Possible Excite@Home Bankruptcy Mean to Comcast Users?

The New York Times is the latest media outlet to report on the warning that Excite@Home may not be able to continue as a "going concern". This disclosure was made in a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. (Of course, a free registration is required for access to stories on

We are concerned about this because CTDATA is in the process of getting a broadband connection in Lawrenceville from Comcast Business Communications. Comcast is a member of the @Home Consortium, and uses its facilities extensively in providing Internet services.

Update on August 22: Just to confuse things a bit more, reports indicate that Excite@Home has fired the audit firm responsible for the filing in question (Ernst & Young).

Update on November 28: We have now done several stories on the impact of various aspects of Excite's bankruptcy on Comcast. To see other stories, search CTDATA for Comcast Excite.

August 17, 2001

Industry Standard to Cease Print Publication

Everyone is reporting that The Industry Standard is shutting itself down. For the moment, only the on-line version will remain, and it will only have a skeleton staff. Little can be added to what has already been written elsewhere. Probably the most interesting take on the situation came from, which pointed out that the magazine remained true to the industry it covered and went out of business along with it.

August 14, 2001

SportBrain Dies, Unrelated WSJ Article Explains Why

Dave Aiello wrote, "Last week Nancy Many from California called me to point out that SportBrain declared bankruptcy. Sportbrain was a company that made an electronic pedometer with an interface for other wearable biometric devices."

"I was given one of these devices as a Christmas gift by my brother and sister. It turned out to be an interesting device. I liked it enough to write several articles about it on this Web Site."

"Although the Wall Street Journal's does not mention SportBrain, they did publish an article last Friday that discusses the market for biometric devices. The article makes an excellent point which is well worth repeating here:"

As Internet health-information companies have discovered, as many as 100 million people may be surfing the Web for information about illnesses and fitness. But it's hard to find people to pay for "wellness."

"In the last article I posted about SportBrain, I pointed out the limitations of the device when it used in connection with sports that do not involve running or walking. Now that SportBrain is no more, finding alternative devices that deliver similar functionality is more important than ever before. If you are a stranded SportBrain user, read on for my suggestions regarding alternative exercise measurement devices...."

Continue reading "SportBrain Dies, Unrelated WSJ Article Explains Why" »

August 9, 2001

AT&T Broadband Shuts Down Consumer Web Servers

CNET is reporting that AT&T Broadband is filtering incoming Web traffic so that its subscribers who pay only for its consumer-level cable modem service can no longer operate Web Servers. The reason AT&T gave for this action is that it wants to stop the spread of the Code Red viruses. But, it is probably safe to say that many people running Web Servers on their home cable modem were not using Windows and IIS in the first place.

We realize that the Terms of Service on the AT&T Broadband consumer cable modem service does not permit the operation of Web Servers. But, we wonder why CNET did not look at this story more critically? Is it really appropriate to filter all inbound Web traffic, if only one type of Web Server has been targeted by the virus? Isn't it possible that the virus is the justification that AT&T has been waiting for to enforce a policy that they know will be really unpopular?

Of course the simple answer is that those who wish to operate Web Servers should switch to a commerical service offering. We encourage those people who think that to investigate the actual costs, service limitations, contract complexity, and lead time associated with these services. The conclusion we came to when analyzing commercial cable modem services is that they are only desireable where there are few broadband alternatives.

June 27, 2001

VA Linux to Exit Hardware Business

In another humbling setback for the Linux community, is reporting that VA Linux plans to leave the server hardware business, layoff 35 percent of its staff, and take a $10 million cash charge. If what analysts say is true, the burn rate that has resulted from being in the hardware business is substantial, relative to VA's revenue. But, their business will now be known to the general public almost entirely for the OSDN Network Web Sites, like Slashdot.

They hope to make money through consulting and system integration with their enterprise software products, such as SourceForge OnSite. But, this will be hard to sell against things like ClearCase. VA Linux management looks pretty dumb for not cutting the hardware business in the last restructuring they did, which took place last quarter. We shall see if this change really does reduce the bleeding.

Continue reading "VA Linux to Exit Hardware Business" »

Article on Slashdot Provides Insight Into OSDN Outage

This is a follow up on our piece about the weekend outage of Slashdot and several other OSDN sites. Robin Miller of OSDN wrote an article on Slashdot explaining the entire series of events leading up to the resolution of the outage. This is really impressive, because he showed that OSDN is willing to explain their situation to the technical community.

Many people are more than willing to accept an explanation like this, as long as it isn't obviously BS. It seems that OSDN over-delivered this time, providing lots of insight into their equipment inventory, their relationship with Exodus, the situation that their support staff faced, and the excellent support that OSDN received from Cisco.

We are glad to see some similarities between OSDN's support procedures and our own, although our network infrastructure is much smaller in scale than theirs. As one of the industry's smaller firms, we often wonder if our efforts to keep our infrastructure running are less professional than those of a larger firm. This article proves that our practices are similar to those of other companies in the industry. We thought so, but it is nonetheless reassuring.

June 25, 2001

Outage at Slashdot and Other OSDN Sites Gets Little Media Coverage

Apparently, Slashdot and a number of related sites have been down for much of the weekend due to a series of router-related problems. The most interesting aspect of the story is the lack of coverage it's gotten. The best article on the subject is on NewsForge, although it is dated Sunday and says that Slashdot is back on-line.

The article contradicts the current situation. Slashdot is currently displaying a notice that says it is down. Update: Slashdot says that it has been up all the time since Sunday and the problem is other people's DNS caching.

June 22, 2001

Microsoft License for Mobile Internet Toolkit Prohibits Interoperation with Open Source Products

CNET joins the parade of news sites reporting on Microsoft's attempt to prohibit use of Open Source Software in connection with the latest beta version of its Mobile Internet Toolkit.

In the agreement, they refer to software licensed under the GPL, the Artistic Licenses, and several other license types as "viral" software (as opposed to merely "open"). This is an amazing development because it shows the extent to which Microsoft will attempt to impose its world view on independent developers and their own customers. This sort of tactic sounds like the kind of thing that would have been tried by IBM or Digital Equipment prior to the widespread adoption of the PC-- sort of a "let's try to suffocate the baby in the cradle" approach.

Does Microsoft really think that it can act with impugnity, now that the Clinton administration has left office?

June 20, 2001

Lawrence Lee to Join Userland Software and Continue Tomalak's Realm

Dave Aiello wrote, "A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article here documenting the fact that Lawrence Lee was planning to stop producing the Tomalak's Realm Web Site. This was met with surprise by his readers. A Yahoo! Groups mailing list was started in an effort to come up with creative ways to make that Weblog worth continuing to Lawrence. Over the weekend, Lawrence announced that he had accepted a job offer from UserLand Software (Dave Winer's company), and that he would continue Tomalak's Realm indefinitely."

"Whether this was his plan from the outset or not, Lawrence's should be saluted for getting people excited about his skills and his work. We should all be so aggressive in looking for employment and personal satisfaction. I am also glad to hear that the useful Web resource that Lawrence produces will continue to be available."

SBC Trying to Eliminate Competition in California DSL Market

Martin O'Donnell sent an interesting article from The San Francisco Business Times which discusses contractual changes that SBC Communications has proposed to its DSL resellers in California. Anyone who reads this article would logically conclude that SBC is trying to remove any semblance of competition from the DSL market.

This is amazing because Northern California ought to be big enough for Pacific Bell and for alternative ISPs to all make money delivering services via DSL. Is it really in anyone's interest for companies to become greedy?

Why Did All the Fixed Wireless CLECs Fail?

Doug Mohney has written an article about the bankruptcy of the Fixed Wireless CLECs that is currently appearing on These companies, like Teligent and Winstar originally intended to by-pass the local telephone companies infrastructures and provide voice and high speed networking services using wireless technologies.

From the perspective of one who has not followed this aspect of the industry too closely, it appeared that most of carriers failed because they each tried to build a wireless infrastructure simultaneously in all major cities throughout the country. However, the article appears to be saying that this is not the case. For example:

WinStar was... {originally} focused on being a wireless CLEC.... {But, then} the company shifted priorities on a regular basis, putting its fingers into buying and operating ISPs, buying and operating the Office.Com e-commerce storefront and running a multimedia development center.

So, is it really possible that all of these well-capitalized startups failed due to lack of focus on the key aspects of their respective business plans?

June 18, 2001

MSNBC Modifying Syndicated Stories from the Wall Street Journal

The Register, a British Web Site about Information Technology, is reporting that MSNBC has been modifying stories it receives from the Wall Street Journal under a long-standing syndication agreement. Although we do not think that it is unusual for recipients of syndicated stories in the print world to make slight changes for space or context reasons, the article cites one example where references to Sun Microsystems were deleted that changes the meaning of the article.

Update: Many of us who carried this story yesterday are a little red-faced to learn that the MSNBC has a rational explanation for the wording differences between the version of the story that they posted and the one that appeared in the final print version of the Wall Street Journal. Despite The Register's protestations to the contrary, we're willing to cut Microsoft some slack on this. Then again, they certainly know that the grassy knoll crowd is paying close attention now.

June 14, 2001

Intuit Founder Says Biggest Paradigm Shifts Are Not Technologically-Based

Dave Aiello wrote, "I stumbled across an article on that I find really interesting. It is the summary of a speech that Intuit founder Scott Cook gave at the Harvard Business School Global Alumni Conference. In his talk, Cook referred to eBay as one of the biggest business innovations in history. However, he argued that its success was not based on new technology, but on the new market paradigm that it created. Cook said:"

There was no inventory, no guarantee that merchandise was authentic, and no easy way to pay for or receive goods; it might take a customer one week to buy a $10 item and another two to three weeks to receive it. Needless to say, retailers and venture capitalists ignored {eBay founder Pierre Omidyar}, thinking he was either irrelevant or crazy.

Dave Aiello continued, "There are a number of other interesting aspects to this article that I'd like to share with you. Read on for more...."

Continue reading "Intuit Founder Says Biggest Paradigm Shifts Are Not Technologically-Based" »

June 13, 2001

Whither Goest Suck?

Julie Aiello sent a link to the Washington Post story documenting the demise of We seem to be receiving links to several stories like this, since almost all of the readers of this site seem to know that Dave Aiello knows Joey Anuff, one of the founders of Suck. Here are a few general comments:

  1. This article takes a while to get going, but it's worth reading. At first, it sounded like the other trite grave dancing that the dead trees media has been churning out-- a variation on the "see, I told you so" theme, that has been popular for the last year. However, about midway through the article, the reporter throws in some really insightful commentary from industry people who wish they'd thought of Suck, but didn't. That stuff is worth reading.

  2. We're trying to run a Weblog here. Note to readers of If you see something that looks like it fits our site, don't click "Mail this story to a friend", type Dave Aiello's email address, and click "Submit". Use our Submit Story page and save us some work.

  3. Not writing a Suck piece may be the greatest missed opportunity of the Dot Com Era. Dave Aiello stated it well when he said, "I will always feel like a wannabe in the Dot Com Era because I never wrote that one great piece for Suck that I had in me." Now, the question: is the opportunity gone forever?

In the meantime, we are left with the cynically self-referential FAQ that Suck posted on June 8. Let's hope it's not really the end.

June 11, 2001

Automatic Media Winds Down

Unfortunately, is reporting that our friends at Automatic Media have laid off the bulk of their staff and are suspending operation of their flagship web sites, Feed and Suck. The most recently-launched site in their portfolio, Plastic, will continue operation with some of the staff members working as volunteers. Joey Anuff posted a story on Plastic explaining the situation.

Dave Aiello wrote, "The shutdown of Automatic Media is a blow to the entire culture of the Internet. I hope that Steven Johnson and Stephanie Syman are able to find a home for these web sites within a large media company. Regarding Plastic, its loss would be very bad for the Slashcode community, even if some members of the community don't realize it."

"Another article on Salon, written by Scott Rosenberg, asks the kind of question that can only be asked near the bottom of a market in panic:"

The Slashdot/Plastic model makes eminent sense as a use of the Web, though not
necessarily as a business (advertisers have always been reluctant to hand over their dollars
to community sites). But in the present climate of epidemic site-shutterings, it does lead
skeptics to ask: What will they do when there's no one left to link to?

June 7, 2001

FCC Chairman Powell Makes Enlightened Comments at Supercomm is carrying an article summarizing FCC Chairman Michael Powell's comments at Supercomm, an industry trade show. Chairman Powell's remarks point to a keen understanding of the issues facing the industry, both from the RBOC and the ILEC perspective.

It's fairly obvious to us that a more transparent regulatory process would be a good first step toward solving the Internet industry's problems. We need bandwidth all the way to the home and the small business everywhere in America. The best way to achieve that, in our view, is to reduce the bureaucratic impediments to full utilization of facilities that have already been installed. Chairman Powell's comments imply that he is looking at the situation in a similar way.

June 6, 2001

Will the De-Peering of PSInet Create Chaos?

A new wrinkle in the on-going PSInet bankruptcy saga has been developing over the past week. Cable and Wireless, a major player in the so-called backbone of the Internet, decided to de-peer PSInet. This means that C&W was no longer willing to pick up traffic coming off of PSInet and deliver it through via the C&W network at no charge to PSInet. Since both companies have very large customer bases, this created noticeable outages and routing problems almost immediately.

Today, CNET is running an article that attempts to explain the possible implications of this action. It contains a good summary of the dispute, an explanation of why the de-peering was reversed yesterday, and some analysts' comments on the potential risks to the health of the backbone in the event that Cable and Wireless later decides to follow through on the de-peering.

June 4, 2001

Lawrence Lee to Stop Writing Tomalak's Realm

Tomalak's Realm is one of the sites that CTDATA has linked to from its home page since we implemented our Slashcode-based site about a year ago. Tomalak's Realm is generally considered one of the best-edited Weblogs about content management and web design. So, we were surprised to learn that the author of the site, Lawrence Lee, has announced that he will retire it on June 8.

We have no idea whether this is the right decision for Lawrence to make either personally or from a business perspective. But, we do know that his Weblog will be missed. We wish him the best in his future endeavors and hope that he will find another outlet for his insights.

May 31, 2001

Danny Yee Experiments With Micro-Ads

Dave Aiello wrote, "Another thing Slashdot pointed to today was a brief analysis of two forms of micro-advertising recently developed for popular Web Sites. Although both examples cited, Google AdWords and a short-lived program recently run on the Weblog Robot Wisdom, are unique implementations, the results that the author got from this small study were quite interesting."

"When I was reading this report, I kept asking myself, 'Why haven't we done a study like this at CTDATA?' The reason I keep coming back to is that I was afraid of the cost of the ads, if they turned out to be very popular. That's a lame reason for holding back, and we may have to revisit this topic, because the surface has barely been scratched."

"The author of this study, Danny Yee is building a network of Web Sites that contain a mix of useful and interesting information. His work so far reminds me of the kind of work that Philip Greenspun has assembled over the years. I hope Danny (whom I've never met) doesn't mind the comparison. I mean it as a compliment."

Steve Gibson Discovers Roots of Denial of Service Attacks

Slashdot pointed out an article that Steve Gibson wrote, documenting his efforts to defend against a series of Distributed Denial of Service Attacks against his company's Web Site, This is one of the most outstanding investigations into "the community" that launches DDoS attacks that has ever been put together.

There are so many useful pieces of information to take away from this, that we consider it required reading for:

  • Internet Service Providers,
  • companies with mission-critical Web Sites on the Internet,
  • consumers and small businesses who have PCs on broadband connections, but have not educated themselves about network security.

Even if you have installed a "personal firewall" software product on your PC, you should read this article. The article provides documented proof of the performance of ZoneAlarm and BlackICE Defender against Sub7 Trojan attacks. We were surprised at the results.

May 30, 2001

Jakob Nielsen Reviews Honor System

InternetWorld has published an article by Jakob Nielsen that attempts to predict the types of Web Sites that will successfully raise a non-trivial amount of money from the Honor System. Not surprisingly, Nielsen suggests that this program will primarily benefit sites with which a user establishes an emotional connection.

Another interesting aspect of the article is that he discloses the amount of money he collected from visitors to his Web Site,, through this program. Although this somewhat contradicts his main argument, it indicates the amount of traffic that his site gets and the value his site's visitors place on its content.

May 29, 2001

Forrester Sticks Its Neck Out, Predicting Trend Beyond the Web

Dave Aiello wrote, "Yesterday, The Industry Standard reported that the IT research firm Forrester Research came out with a report that predicts the death of the Web as we know it. The next trend they expect to see develop (and hope to capitalize on) is something they refer to as the X Internet. This appears to call for the Internet to be a delivery vehicle for small executable programs that are thrown away after use."

"Forgive me, but didn't we have an attempt at this about three years ago? This strikes me as the prediction of a reconstituted audience for things like Java applets. Ugh."

"The rationale for this is weak. The article says that this is part of the classic IT forecast model of picking a bright spot on the horizon and laying out a path for the industry to get there. But, they will have a very hard time getting North American consumers there without some significant changes in the apparent evolutionary path of Internet access devices."

"Internet-enabled mobile devices in the telephone form factor are not a hit in this country or Canada. Practically no one has an Internet appliance. What device do they expect to base the first generation of executable content on, the set-top or the game console?"

Continue reading "Forrester Sticks Its Neck Out, Predicting Trend Beyond the Web" »

May 15, 2001

Is Slashdot's Instability an Indication of a Slashcode Upgrade?

Looks like Slashdot is having some intermittent performance issues this evening. We saw an error displayed on the home page in Heading 2 sized print, but didn't take a screen shot. Ads are also missing from the home page at the moment.

Is this an indication that the engineers are trying a Slashcode 2.0 upgrade?

Eazel Shutting Down

Unfortunately, Eazel has announced that it is ceasing operations. Eazel is the developer of Nautilus, a graphical user interface enhancement that sits on top of Gnome. Read on to see a copy of the email that registered users of Nautilus received this evening....

Continue reading "Eazel Shutting Down" »

RFC Published Covering Responsible E-mail Advertising

Slashdot pointed out RFC 3098, How to Advertise Responsibly Using E-Mail and Newsgroups, subtitled "or - how NOT to $$$$$ MAKE ENEMIES FAST! $$$$$". This is the kind of document that is going to fall on many deaf ears. Obviously, the worst offenders will look at this only for the ironic humor of it in relation to their business.

However, one immediate use that this RFC could be put to is the education of clueless management people who confuse mailing lists and newsgroups with broadcast media. It is in the hope that wide distribution of the RFC encourages its use that we publish a link to it here.

Why CTDATA Supports Verisign's Continued Control of .Com Registry

Dave Aiello wrote, "If the last two years have taught us anything, it should be that what looks like a competitive marketplace on paper can be a cruel joke in practice. This is why I support the extension of Verisign's ultimate control over the '.com' domain registry. The reason I am talking about this today is that the U.S. Commerce Department and Versign are reported to be close to an agreement on extension of the current arrangement."

"Why do I feel this way? Well, I don't want a repeat of the antics that gave us charades like the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) marketplace. While I feel that management of the federal agencies like the Commerce Department and the FCC is likely to be more effective under the current administration, I think many people will agree that tinkering with a service that is so vital to the Internet is a bad idea."

"In my opinion, root domain name servers must be operated by companies with financial staying power and a history of competent operations. I believe that Verisign has proven that it can manage the most critical domain registry on Earth through tumultuous periods in the market. They have never been the easiest company to deal with, but I prefer their methods to many other monopolies that I also deal with every day."

May 14, 2001

New York Times Found Someone to Blame for the Market Bubble

Dave Aiello wrote, "Here's a shocker. The New York Times is the latest Old Media company to try to put a cap stone on the Dot Com era. And, surprisingly, they point to the New Age Consulting Firms such as Razorfish, Scient, Viant, and MarchFirst as the culprits."

"I find this frustrating because the analysis is so shallow. No matter what we think of people like Razorfish (who never met a Web page that couldn't be improved by the inclusion of a little platform-dependent Javascript) or any of the other firms mentioned, they offer nothing worse than the technology services offered by the Big 6 Consulting Subsidaries. Fortune 500 businesses were told that they needed the methodology of a New Age Consulting Firm in order to define their Web offerings properly. What these firms generally got for their money was the best a bunch of twenty-somethings on their first or second Web project could produce."

"After reading the New York Times article, I asked whether it was fair to blame the consultants more than the clients? CTDATA participated in one project where Razorfish was also engaged. I am convinced that the Razorfish people would have done whatever the client wanted. But in this case, the client wanted a Web Site that had wild graphics that no one with any previous Web development experience liked."

"If you take this anecdote and scale it up, are we left with a situation where the New Age Consulting Firms deserve the lion's share of the blame? Hardly."

Continue reading "New York Times Found Someone to Blame for the Market Bubble" »

May 2, 2001

Kodak to Acquire Ofoto

Dave Aiello wrote, "The other day I saw a news article on Yahoo! that said that Ofoto was being acquired by Kodak. The two companies issued a joint press release confirming the news. This is a smart move by Kodak because Ofoto is the best on-line photo processor I have used."

I tried several on-line photo processors, but none of them has been consistantly better than Ofoto. Also, it has been clear for a while that Ofoto's print process has been improving steadily."

RCNJ Wins Chapter of the Year, Slashcode Web Site a Key to Success

It's not always obvious to us how many of the readers of also look at the other Web Sites we maintain. But, The Rensselaer Club of New Jersey, the regional alumni chapter for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, was recently selected as the winner of the Craig W. Angell '35 Chapter of the Year Award by the Rensselaer Alumni Association.

The importance of this award to CTDATA is two fold. First, Dave Aiello has been the President of the RCNJ for the last five years. More important, however, is the fact that the RCNJ Web Site was converted to a Slashcode base last September.

A lot of the RCNJ committee members feel that they would not have won the Chapter of the Year award without documenting their achievements on line. The productivity improvements provided by the Slash architecture were the keys in getting a lot of new content up on the site quickly. Therefore, this is a big win for the RCNJ, CTDATA, and the Web Publishing methodology to which we subscribe.

March 15, 2001

Web Informant Offers Practical Advice on Outsourcing a Mailing List

Dave Aiello wrote, "David Strom produced an excellent piece about his latest search for a third-party mailing list management service. His newsletter has gone through no fewer than six different distribution methods, enroute to his current solution, Ezmlm and qmail provided by his friends at O'Reilly."

"Although O'Reilly and Associates has not exactly hung out their shingle as a mailing list management company, David Strom's analysis is still quite useful. For instance, he explains why he would and would not use Yahoo! Groups, including a discussion of how the customer service on that site has deteriorated since Yahoo! bought eGroups."

Continue reading "Web Informant Offers Practical Advice on Outsourcing a Mailing List" »

February 22, 2001

How Snow Shoveling Teaches Lessons About TCO

Dave Aiello wrote, "In my last sermon on the topic of home maintenance, I talked about the aerobic benefits of snow shoveling. Today, the New York Metropolitan Area got hit with another snow storm, so I thought I'd revisit the topic."

"Nothing teaches you about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) like manually performing processes that can be automated. Home maintenance tasks are also great metaphors for maintaining an Internet infrastructure. You could pay for a service to come plow your driveway, or mow your lawn, but you choose to do it yourself. And, in the time it takes you to perform the task yourself, you wonder: 'Do I really need the decorative bricks around the garden in the front yard? After all, it's quite difficult to trim the grass around the garden.'"

"Of course the answer is no. If you take the bricks out, you can edge the garden properly. The newfound ease means that you can edge it everytime you mow, not just when you have nothing else planned for the afternoon. And, arguably, the garden looks better."

"Until I started thinking in these terms, I simply could not relate to many of the system administration admonitions I had heard in the past. I used to think, 'CTDATA doesn't have 100 machines, so why do we need a standard OS build? We can just repeat a documented hardening process on each machine after we install the Linux distribution.'"

Continue reading "How Snow Shoveling Teaches Lessons About TCO" »

February 1, 2001

Pyra Lays Off Employees, Keeps Blogger Running

Our friends at are reporting that the company that operates Blogger has laid off all of its employees. This is a surprise to some because many people in the industry know that Blogger has 75,000 registered users, many of whom remain active on the automated site.

Beyond all the other obvious questions about what this means for the industry is a practical question: can Evan Williams keep his servers running by himself?

January 24, 2001

NPR Program Discusses Self-Organizing Web Communities

Dave Aiello wrote, "An article on Slashcode pointed out that a National Public Radio program called The Connection devoted a program to a discussion of self-organizing Web communities. I was impressed with the program, which had Steven Johnson and Jon Katz as guests. The concept of self-organizing Web Sites strikes me as a fairly esoteric topic to discuss on the radio, but they managed to create a coherent hour-long radio program around it."

"I was glad to hear that they devoted the largest percentage of discussion to Slashdot and Plastic, two of the most important community sites that exist today. These are both examples of the communities where self organization has worked extremely well. This is particularly good news for Plastic, considering how brief its history is."

Continue reading "NPR Program Discusses Self-Organizing Web Communities" »

January 19, 2001

NY Times: Microsoft Rehires Former Employees Who Tried Their Hand at Dot Coms

Martin O'Donnell pointed out this New York Times article, in his finest "over the transom" fashion. In Microsoft Proves a Lure After Internet Stints (registration required), the company is depicted as more than willing to rehire its ex-employees who have tried their hand at working for competitors or Dot Com companies.

Martin emphasized the following quotation, attributed to Glenn Pascall, senior fellow at the Institute of Public
Policy at the University of Washington: "The fear and loathing of Microsoft as too big and too dominant is found
almost everywhere but Seattle." This is a recurring theme of all Microsoft media coverage during the second term of the Clinton Administration, to be sure. One has to wonder, however, whether this sort of sentiment is on the verge of becoming a cliché.

You may recall that the original demonstrators of much of the fear and loathing were venture capitalists and entrepreneurs trying to launch new technology ventures. These people have made and lost a great deal of money in the last five years. But in the process, perhaps the lesson most consistantly learned is that the creation of a viable business model is a lot more of a short-term challenge than the implicit threat of Microsoft depriving a new venture of oxygen.

Continue reading "NY Times: Microsoft Rehires Former Employees Who Tried Their Hand at Dot Coms" »

December 21, 2000

NORAD to Track Santa's Christmas Eve Flight

For the 46th consecutive year, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) will provide continuous updates on the progress of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. Children of all ages can stay up to date by visting

The story of how NORAD became the world's leading authority on Santa tracking is quite heartwarming. When we hear stories like this, we are reminded that the greatness of America may be measured in small acts of volunteerism like this one.

December 12, 2000

The Dawn of Slashdot

Dave Aiello wrote, "The other day, I was searching Google for references to Slashdot. I was looking for information that I did not know, whether it was new information or old."

"What I found was an article about Slashdot that appeared in LinuxWorld in 1998. The article, written by Rob Malda, is described as a 'technical history' of Slashdot. I found this article really interesting because it provides insight into the evolutionary changes in Slash engine code base."

Read on for more analysis of the article...

Continue reading "The Dawn of Slashdot" »

November 19, 2000

Web Techniques Column Describes What Users Need to Collaborate with Others

Every once in a while, someone states the obvious in such a way as to make it seem like revelation. This is certainly the case with Amit Arsavala's column in the current issue of WebTechniques. When we read his column and its long list of prescriptions to fully enable collaboration, we are reminded of the fact that some of our most successful client projects succeeded in spite of the management in charge during the period-- not because of actions they took to facilitate or ensure project success.

The idea put forth about allowing all users to pick their own software, extending even to the groupware solution that an individual user chooses, is radical. A heterogeneous groupware environment would force corporations to think about the design of work flow and knowledge management applications a great deal more than they currently do. This would also be the death knell of applications based on Lotus Notes that cannot be rapidly Web enabled.

This column will go over like a lead balloon in many companies because management is often on the trailing edge of use of IT services like Virtual Private Networks, although managers often obtain the latest wireless gadgets to impress their friends. The tendency to support gee-wiz technologies at the expense of projects that have a good chance to fundimentally change the way work is done may ultimately result in unjustified cutbacks in Intranet spending.

The greatest blessing that can happen to many companies is that their managements become preoccupied with external events like corporate mergers so that more junior people can have the freedom to think radically about workgroup productivity. This is clearly one reason that one of our largest client projects has succeeded, and explains why some organizations produce great Web Sites in spite of internal turmoil.

November 7, 2000

GuruNet Can't Make It with Consumers, Changing Name to Atomica

A few weeks ago, Julie Aiello endorsed GuruNet as a on-line useful research tool. Today, Forbes is reporting that GuruNet has decided it cannot make it as an advertising-supported consumer focused research tool. To this end, it is changing it's name to Atomica.

When we first heard about this product, we questioned the revenue model. After all, any Internet-based product that depends solely upon advertising for revenue is unlikely to generate enough cash flow to survive as an independent entity.

Will Atomica make it as a corporate research tool? How does something like the existing GuruNet stack up against things like Bloomberg and Lexis/Nexis? Your guess is as good as ours.

November 6, 2000

Drudge Report to Defy Embargo on Exit-Poll Results

Matt Drudge of The Drudge Report has a weekly radio program on the ABC Radio Network. On this weekend's program, he categorically stated that he would break the embargo imposed on the Voters' News Service exit-polling results from the U.S. General Election on November 7.

We support Drudge in this effort. The major media outlets withhold exit-poll results until after the polls close in each state. The rationale for this is that earlier disclosure will reduce turnout as voters see that their favorite candidate is losing. However, there is little difference between the holding of exit-polling results and the time delaying of Olympic events. Why tell the people in real-time when you can create an artificial moment of suspense? Think of the revenue potential of the advertising slots....

Continue reading "Drudge Report to Defy Embargo on Exit-Poll Results" »

October 29, 2000

Forbes Says Sun Enterprise Servers Have Cache Memory Glitch

Forbes is reporting that Sun Mircrosystems has known about a glitch that has caused a number of its most expensive Enterprise Servers to crash repeatedly. These servers are deployed at large customers like Network Solutions and BellSouth.

According to the article, "A major telecommunications company endured repeated crashes on Sun servers. It
recently committed to buy its next batch of Unix servers from HP. While no one has
reported a consequential data loss from a crash, one Sun customer claims to have spent
$3 million trying to diagnose and fix the problem, according to Gartner Group."

Continue reading "Forbes Says Sun Enterprise Servers Have Cache Memory Glitch" »

October 17, 2000 An Investment-Oriented News Site about Open Source

We stumbled upon a Web Site called that provides news about the OpenSource-based business community from an investment perspective. This site has apparently been in existence since February, and the site credits indicate it is run by a sophomore in high school, Rob Radez, and his friend Todd Ostermeier from the University of Illinois.

Far be it from us to criticize a company started by a couple of kids. That was a good description of CTDATA 10 to 15 years ago. The question is: are they providing a valuable service and are they delivering it on a consistant basis. The answer, appears to be "yes."

Continue reading " An Investment-Oriented News Site about Open Source" »

October 7, 2000 Makes the Case for Privatization

The National Center for Policy Analysis has just launched This Web Site presents itself as a calculator that attempts to show the difference in returns that a user would experience from a nationalized Social Security system and a privatized alternative system.

This site could prove to be an effective counter-argument to Vice President Al Gore's Social Security proposal if it is promoted properly.

Continue reading " Makes the Case for Privatization" »

Wired Explains Impediment to US - Canada Poolings of Interest

Martin O'Donnell pointed out an article on Wired News that identifies a really obvious disadvantage of starting a new business in Canada. According to the article, "The most contentious of the tax laws concerns cross-border
merger restrictions and capital gains. When an American
company purchases a Canadian firm in an all-stock deal,
Revenue Canada taxes the Canadians on the capital gains
even though they have not cashed out their shares."

For some reason, Revenue Canada has decided to single out mergers between Canadian and non-Canadian companies for this tax treatment.

Continue reading "Wired Explains Impediment to US - Canada Poolings of Interest" »

October 5, 2000

Dave Sims' Weblog Reports on Rob Malda's MIT Speech

Dave Sims posted a report from Joe Johnston about a recent speech that Rob Malda gave at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Rob Malda is the founder of the Slashdot Web Site.

This speech was briefly mentioned on Slashdot before it occurred, but this is the first account of Malda's performance that we have seen on the Web.

September 29, 2000

Slashdot Hacked, Test Server Used to Gain Access

Slashdot is reporting that it was hacked last night by people who claimed to have good intentions. According to Rob Malda, the exploit depended upon the existance of a freshly installed copy of the base Slashcode distribution, existing on the same subnet outside their firewall.

There are a lot of things that could be said about the problems that this exposes in the existing and previous Slashcode architectures, the system administration practices of the people running Read on if you are interested in this from a Slash operations perspective.

Continue reading "Slashdot Hacked, Test Server Used to Gain Access" »

September 27, 2000

Arbitron Rates Top Webcasters for July

Arbitron is now providing server-side measurements of listeners to streaming audio programming. The results for July 2000 are reported in an article on the Arbitron Web Site.

The metric they use is something called Aggregate Tuning Hours (ATH). According to the article, ATH is "the sum total of all hours that listeners tune to a given channel during a month." According to Arbitron, the company measures listenership on "over 800 stations and channels, representing over seven million aggregate tuning hours in the month of July."

Most interesting, from our perspective, is the way that over-the-air radio stations' channels fit into the overall Arbitron ratings. WABC 770 AM in New York is the highest ranked traditional broadcast outlet. It appears that the largest number of American radio stations represented in the ratings are located in the Metropolitan New York and San Francisco Bay areas.

Continue reading "Arbitron Rates Top Webcasters for July" »

September 1, 2000 Revises its Customer Privacy Policy

Computerworld is reporting that has revised its customer privacy policy. Reportedly, the policy change is intended to clarify which data is collected from customers and what it does with that data. In a relatively unique development, also attempts to give customers an idea of what it would do with their information in the event of various major changes in its corporate structure or governance.

Reaction to the privacy policy changes was mixed. For instance, on Slashdot, the story questions a company's right to transfer its customer database to an acquirer. This was an issue in the Toysmart case, but that was a bankruptcy auction.

Continue reading " Revises its Customer Privacy Policy" »

August 29, 2000

RSA Digital Certificate Patents to Expire September 26

ZDnet is reporting that several key patents in the RSA Security, Inc. portfolio will expire on September 26. The expiration of these patents, which have effectively limited the number of people offering on-the-wire encryption products for use in the USA, is expected to set off a large number of product announcements from competing vendors as well as current RSA licensees who will have the freedom to use similar, equally secure security tool kits.

Continue reading "RSA Digital Certificate Patents to Expire September 26" »

August 26, 2000

Dutch Court Rules Weblogging is Legal

The Financial Times is reporting that a court in The Netherlands has found in favor of a Web Site called in a case bought against it by the leading Dutch media company, PCM. PCM had claimed that should not be allowed to place links on its site that bypass the PCM Web Sites' home pages, such as

Essentially, this ruling appears to find that Weblogging is not a copyright violation in The Netherlands.

Continue reading "Dutch Court Rules Weblogging is Legal" »

August 22, 2000

Democratic Convention Web Site Supposedly Outperforms Republicans'

Earlier this month, we pointed out that the Republican National Convention was running its Web Site on Apache in spite of the fact that it received $1 million in donations from Microsoft.

Now, Computerworld is reporting that the Democratic Convention Web Site outperformed the Republican Web Site. This could be one of the more subtle examples of spin to be foisted on the IT community in recent history.

Continue reading "Democratic Convention Web Site Supposedly Outperforms Republicans'" »

August 16, 2000

Comcast Tells Telecommuters to Find Another ISP

Forbes has an article on its Web Site that discusses Comcast's recent change in its Terms of Service that attempts to take away their customers' right to use the @Home service for telecommuting. Forbes does not come out and say that Comcast wants to ban the use of its network for Virtual Private Networking, but that's what Comcast is trying to do. The specifics of the new restrictions were discussed on Slashdot earlier this week.

We have a number of Fortune 100 companies as customers, and they are all moving toward VPNs in order to expose their Intranet applications to employees working at home. Attempting to impose these restrictions at this point is laughable.

Continue reading "Comcast Tells Telecommuters to Find Another ISP" »

August 11, 2000

Visa Publishes 10 Commandments for On-Line Merchants

Computerworld is reporting that Visa U.S.A. announced their Cardholder Information Security Program, a program designed to increase the security of all credit card transactions where the cardholder and his credit card are not physically present.

The Visa announcement included a list of best practices, dubbed "ten commandments" by Computerword. Many of these sound like common sense, but, we are constantly surprised by the number of installations that we visit or hear about where all of these best practices are not implemented.

Continue reading "Visa Publishes 10 Commandments for On-Line Merchants" »

WSJ Exposes Its Op-Ed Content on

The Wall Street Journal continues to expose more of its content on the Internet. The latest Web Site to debut is Opinion Journal, a collection of the articles that normally appear on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal.

We had one basic question when we first looked at this site: is this intended to be a free site? It's unusual to have to ask this question since so many content Web Sites are not based on a subscription model. But since the Wall Street Journal is among the few subscription-based sites, we believe it is a fair question.

Continue reading "WSJ Exposes Its Op-Ed Content on" »

Rush Limbaugh Rolls Out Enhancements to His Web Site

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, Rush Limbaugh has enhanced his Web Site to provide supplimentary information for his daily radio program.

The idea behind this Web Site is interesting. A lot of Web Sites for broadcast stations and programs provide little more than a means to tap into the broadcast using RealPlayer or Windows Media Player. Rush Limbaugh's site provides access to the streamed program, but it also provides stories associated with highlights of the program. Even more interesting is that the Site is providing access to audio streams containing song parodies. These parodies are often closely guarded so that they are not rebroadcast without permission.

From an architecture standpoint, seems to be running without a Content Management System. This is an expensive proposition for a Site that will have to maintain high production values in order to stay on people's radar screens. Is the lack of CMS a risky scheme?

Continue reading "Rush Limbaugh Rolls Out Enhancements to His Web Site" »

August 3, 2000

GOP Gets $1M from Microsoft, Runs Web Site on Solaris Anyway

The Register is a British IT magazine known for its irreverent streak, and no better example can be found than this. According to a story on their Web Site, the Republican National Convention Web Site is running on Apache and the Solaris operating system. This is apparently true despite the fact that Microsoft has donated $1 million to the Republican National Committee.

August 2, 2000

NBC to Air Olympics in USA on 16 Hour Delay

In another excellent article, the Wall Street Journal reports that the International Olympic Committee will not authorize the streaming of video or audio from the Olympics in Sydney. This should not come as a surprise, since the IOC generates so much of its operating revenue from selling the exclusive right to broadcast the Olympics on a country by country basis.

The more surprising and upseting aspect of this story is the reason that NBC will not air any live coverage of the events at all: "Even when it could show snippets of events around
5 a.m. on the East Coast — prime time in Sydney — NBC
and its cable arms, MSNBC and CNBC, will hold off.

The reason: Once
NBC’s video enters the
public domain, newscasts
and talk shows can replay
it, which would undermine
the uniqueness of NBC’s
coverage during U.S.
prime time."

While the intent of this is to deprive other networks of an opportunity to provide supplimentary news about the event, what it actually does is deprive enthusiasts with advanced recording equipment like TiVo and ReplayTV of the ability to timeshift their viewing as they can with nearly any other sporting event.

Continue reading "NBC to Air Olympics in USA on 16 Hour Delay" »

August 1, 2000

WSJ: PayPal Steps Up Security to Reduce Fraud

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that PayPal will offer its customers reimbursement if they are defrauded by vendors that PayPal has verified.

If you haven't heard of PayPal before, perhaps that's because you do not participate in on-line auctions very much. PayPal is referred to as a "person-to-person payment system" that allows a buyer to easily pay an individual seller of goods or services for an on-line transaction.

Continue reading "WSJ: PayPal Steps Up Security to Reduce Fraud" »