"If somebody took a gun and pointed at me and said write proprietary
software or I'll shoot, I think under those circumstances, I'd
be justified in writing some proprietary software, although I
think that it would be very buggy and would never get to work
- RICHARD M. STALLMAN
- /* pppllease exxcuse inconsistent indenttattion */
>> HARD NEWS <<
dictats and coups
FREESERVE's attempts to pass itself off as the non-techie,
family ISP took a dent last week. E-mailing subscribers to
tell them about its new anti-spamming policy, they announced
that users would have to turn their CLID on to access the
full service. "I don't even know where my CLID is!", wrote
one correspondent, underestimating how low we'd sink for a
joke. To prevent fly-by-night spammers, the ISP now prevents
outgoing mail from any phone which withholds its number.
Paranoid freeloaders with particularly sensitive CLIDs
instantly kicked up their conspiracy template wizards and
"revealed" how Freeserve was going to sell the phone numbers
to marketeers (without, perhaps, picking up on ENERGIS being
a Telco: who could get the telephone numbers at the switch
anyway. And why would they draw attention to it, anyway?).
Few, however, noted on one of the nastier clash-of-interests
in the mess. Non-BT users moaned that their cable phone
provider didn't have Caller-ID, making Freeserve useless to
them. We note that it's those same cable phone providers who
are peeved that Freeserve has skimmed off interconnect money
from their meager local call profits, and would love to keep
their customers offline. No caller-ID, no Freeserve -
and more room for their own freebie ISP services. Now,
*that's* denial of service...
http://www.freeserve.net/ - dunno about free
- freeload got c. 200UKP from my last phone bill
The .com artists, NETWORK SOLUTIONS, got hit with more nasty
hacks by domain name speculators. People are now reserving
.com addresses, sitting out the thirty days before you have
to pay up, and then - just before NSI's automated system
releases the domain again - bludgeoning the Internic servers
with thousands of new reservation requests. That lets the
speculators hold domain names indefinitely without paying a
penny. It also crashes NSI's servers, as the more worthy (or
less sneaky) domain masters have discovered. Network
Solution's answer has been intriguing: instead of devising a
more sophisticated reservation system (genuine name &
address authentication? PGP registration? actually holding
people to the requirement that they have valid DNS
servers?), they've simply deleted the "Status" and "Last
changed" fields from the whois database without telling
anyone. You'll note that this a) potentially busts other
programs, b) doesn't solve the problem, since the domain
name speculators already *know* when they reserved the
domain. Network Solutions - placing the emphasis on neither.
- we're just asking to be put on hold, aren't we?
And now to the heart of information economy. France. As more
cheerful publications are celebrating that country's
decision to liberalise their crypto laws, we've been hanging
out at the Paris UNESCO conference on the Net and
pedophilia. Fun, fun, fun. There, INTERPOL's Agnes
Fournier-Saint Maur revealed that the problem demanded
immediate action, as "studies in the United States in 1995
documented one million online pornographic images involving
children." One million images? 1995? Porn scare? We're not
100% sure, but it *looks* like Ms Maur is citing as evidence
that famously reputable Net porn expose, the infamous RIMM
REPORT. Old timers will remember that this was the
Carnegie-Mellon survey that TIME magazine ran as its cover
story, only to discover that the principal conclusions
(among others, that 83.5% of all Internet imagery was
pornographic) were the entirely spurious inventions of a
publicity-seeking undergraduate. But even the Rimm report
claimed only to have found a million *descriptions* of
*adult* images - not a million *child porn* images. It's
good to know that officers in charge of catching child
pornographers are incapable of spotting misleading evidence
when it's a four years old mishearing of one of the most
widely documented cases of Internet fraud ever committed.
Truly, these Interpol folk are the *elite*.
- Inspector Clouseau will be heading the investigation
- we don't think she's online much, do you?
>> ANTI-NEWS <<
berating the obvious
BARCLAYS online banking - as easy as unplugging your
computer from the phone:
http://www.ntk.net/doh/barclays990122.gif ... "We're in
desperate need of new writers," chortles .NET MAGAZINE
(p.87)... WIREPLAY aims to find best strategy gamer in
England, Scotland, Wales - using SETTLERS III...
http://www.sonymusiceurope.com/ tech news last updated Sep
1998... FRAUD SITES may use "security encryptions (sic).
Once you try to find out where the Internet site is located
the whole thing destroys itself", reveals "Dan Morrison,
fraud expert" in THE OBSERVER... EDGE persistently refers to
Interactive Digital Software Association as ISDA, despite
screenshot showing "IDSA" (which, in turn, is captioned
"ISDA")... COREL sell off Netwinder... Dreamcast heatsink
pipes contain "purified water", posits NEXT GENERATION
MAGAZINE (US Edge), unaware that water needs to circulate in
order to cool things, may explode if turns to steam... ...at
OPEN SOURCE CONFERENCE, old Unix hands couldn't pronounce
Linux properly, new Linux weenies couldn't say "troff"
right, and the suits couldn't spell either... and this
week's KATZISM, courtesy of slashdot: "The Internet is the
first organic technological revolution, the first one that
and self-replicates." How very true... INTEL to put random
number generator in new chips, relaunches thousands of
floating point jokes... BLOOMBERG e-mail bounces any message
with "fucker" in it as a virus (including this one)..
>> EVENT QUEUE <<
goto's considered non-harmful
We're kind of hoping that the "INSTITUTION OF ELECTRICAL
ENGINEERS, YOUNGER MEMBERS" is a zany youth spin-off
movement in the spirit of Young Einstein or Young Sherlock
Holmes. We can just see them screaming "IEE!" in their
unbroken squeaky voices, as they punch some Faraday-hating
luddite to the ground. More somberly, they also hold regular
events most Mondays at the IEE building, Savoy Place,
London: this week's lecture - Human-Computer Interaction:
Brain Interfaces To Pen Computer - is open to the public
(apparently) and hosted by Dr Richard Reilly (age 12).
Alternatively, there's Feb's "Short Papers Evening", with a
UKP100 prize for the best 10 minute presentation on a
project or technical subject of your choice - ideal if you
happen to know a photogenic Irish schoolgirl cryptography
genius (or perhaps you are one!). You do have to email them
about this event in advance, though. Use the subject line "I
know a photogenic Irish schoolgirl cryptography genius (or
perhaps I am one!)".
- "Starting and Running a Software Company" - Postponed
>> TRACKING <<
making good use of the things that we find
Linux 2.2.0 is out, and the only people who know what *that*
means are working on Linux 2.4 and mustn't be disturbed.
ALAN COX did his best to explain the benefits to last week's
Open Source conference, but recalling the list of changes -
even for him - had the quality of a high-IQ Generation Game
conveyor belt quiz. "Errm... more filesystems, improved
symmetric multi-processors support, [AUDIENCE MEMBER: EURO!
EURO!] yes, yes, euro character set... ermm... ARM
processor, cuddly penguin..." And in laymen's terms? Well,
exhaustive tests have shown - it's faster. That's right, a
OS upgrade that encourages people to buy older machines. No
wonder it's hard to explain.
- laymen who can re-edit their lilo settings, natch
>> MEMEPOOL <<
hasta la altavista
SUCK tires of knocking Canada, turns to UK
http://www.suck.com/daily/99/01/22/ ... meanwhile, Americans
pass law banning "gullibility" from dictionary:
http://www.dumblaws.com/england.htm ... all new CAMBRIDGE
COFFEE-POT: http://www.orl.co.uk/cgi-bin/coffee ...
bookmarklets... Brian Eno meets MAGIC: THE GATHERING at
http://hcs.harvard.edu/~slking/cards/ ... HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE
feeling guilty about this whole Y2K thing:
ROMERO caught sneaking out the easy way:
socially-contracted IP diseases... overts... SUN asks its
programmers to explain why their code *shouldn't* be open
sourced... Interesting choice of top listing when you search
for "blue screen of death" on YAHOO... no-one's bought
receivers to listen to DAB broadcasts; expect to see
spectrum rented for commercial apps... DETROIT's finest gather at:
>> GEEK MEDIA <<
may contain strongly-typed language
TV>> as if the trailer for BBC2's Friday Comedy Zone (Gimme
Gimme Gimme, The Young Ones) wasn't horrific enough, BBC1
has "built its schedule on a graveyard", with Spielberg's
last great movie, POLTERGEIST (10.25pm, Fri, BBC1) - sure,
Tobe Hooper's credited as director, but Steven's spirit is
strong in this one. And the little girl who talks to the TV
people? She died in 1998, after making Poltergeist III...
Simon Mayo and Paul "Sunday Show" Tonkinson keep the tension
simmering until Cthulu gorefest THE UNNAMABLE RETURNS
(1.10am, Fri, BBC1) - wouldn't "HP Lovecraft" be a great
name for a goth sex shop?... while 4Later's EXPLOITICA (from
1.15am, Fri, C4) pores over now-tame burlesque strippers
like inexplicably popular pin-up Betty Page... Saturday is
morally complex Western day starting just after HIGH NOON
(12.35pm, Sat, BBC2) then moseying on over to dreamy-looking
Eastwood-inspiring SHANE (2pm, Sat, BBC2)... Carol
Vorderman's tarty alter-ego Davina McCall takes the public
on death-defying stunts in DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME (6.10pm,
Sat, ITV) - too much emphasis on the "defying", we reckon...
while C4 rakes over the coals of previous conflicts with
Cold War espionage gadgetry in THE SPYING GAME (7.25pm, Sat,
C4), a repeat of slow but interesting Enigma crypto docu
STATION X (7.55pm, Sat, C4), one of those '60s WW2 airwar
epics BATTLE OF BRITAIN (8.55pm, Sat, C4), and post-war jet
bomber porn CLASSIC AIRCRAFT (8.30pm, Tue, C4)... watch for
the Wes Craven/ Evil Dead in-jokes in low-tech cybergirl
RoboCop rip-off THE DEMOLITIONIST (10.50pm, Sat, C5)...
tragically, all-action costume romp THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
(8pm, Sun, BBC1) seems specifically designed to pander to
Richard E Grant's bizarre notions of grandeur... and it's
clueless metamorphic soon-to-be-superseded night on C5, with
Michael Jackson's MOONWALKER (5.50pm, Sun, C5) followed by
original movie version of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (9pm,
Sun, C5)... STAR TREK: DS9 (8pm, Mon, Sky1) flaunts its
scientific ignorance by *shrinking* the cast to a point
where their metabolisms couldn't possibly function (btw,
Disney Paris really are opening a "Honey I Shrunk The
Audience" show)... HORIZON (9.30pm, Thu, BBC2) shows its
relevance to everyday life with something to do with
universe expansion... and last week's was a bit tame, but
VIDZ (1.40am, Thu, C4) could be 1999's most promising
programme, largely for its pioneering use of the phrase
"wanking with envy"...
FILM>> "Pretty fly for a Warren Beatty movie" is the
remarkable verdict on wildly confused passionate
anti-politics rant BULWORTH (imdb: hitwoman / insurance /
interracial-love / liberals / los-angeles / love /
may-december-romance / political-campaign /
political-corruption / political-satire /
politically-incorrect / political / politicians / rap /
satire / senator / socialism / south-central / suicide /
vulgarity / afro-american / assassination-attempt /
assassination / black / california / controversial /
drug-dealer / election / gangs / hip-hop / hitman) - but
then again, remember how critics rave over any lame
Hollywood output that's got even a hint of subversive satire
(Wag The Dog, The Truman Show)... sticking with the
Presidential theme, the ghost of a former First Lady
comiserating with the current one over their errant menfolk
isn't the plot of moving cello-playing mad genius unofficial
Shine-sequel HILARY AND JACKIE (imdb: biographical) - shows
the sexy side of those uptight classical musicians, and
anything that winds up Julian Lloyd-Webber can't be all
bad... as anyone who saw his "What's New Pussycat?"
performance over Christmas will attest, "not enough Mike
Myers" is the lethal failing of Boogie Nights-wannabe Neve
Campbell disco expose 54 (imdb: clap / drug-abuse / erotica
/ gay / tax-evasion / drugs / hollywood / nightclub / sex /
studio-54 / studio / 1970s / 1980s / bartending / disco /
the-clap)... and despite Dianne "Scissorhands" Wiest,
Stockard "Rizzo" Channing, Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman and
that bloke who looks like Sledge Hammer, wicca-friendly
chick flick PRACTICAL MAGIC (imdb: drama / romance) is the
latest in a long-cursed line - Eastwick, Hocus Pocus, The
Craft - of not particularly wicked witch movies...
CHEAP PRINT>> we're pleased to report that after the searing
disappointment of his "Net Force", Tom Clancy's eminently
put-downable RUTHLESS.COM (pay no more than Tesco's UKP3.99)
may be *the worst tech-thriller of all time*. Not only is it
turgidly written, appallingly paced, and peopled with
characters who wonder in and out of chapters seemingly at
will - the hero is a software CEO who opposes crypto export
relaxation and supports key escrow, and doesn't change his
mind when the bad guys break into a key escrow bank to steal
the codes that open the doors to the Presidential submarine.
A shameful addition to the already patchy roster of
video-game spin-off books (Rise Of The Robots, the Doom
novelisations) - no wonder amazon.co.uk isn't mirroring the
reader comments at amazon.com... a much easier read flops
out of Alex "The Beach" Garland's THE TESSERACT (retail
UKP9.99, still on 30 per cent reduction at Borders); he says
it's a 3D representation of a hypercube, we say it's 3 well
observed interlinking short stories, each viewed from 2
different perspectives - like the early, good Iain Banks...
we don't know much about Ray Kurzweil's blue-sky AI future
history THE AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES (Amazon import:
UKP13.88) but the excerpt in last Saturday's Guardian wasn't
encouraging: "1999: A $1000 desk-top personal computer can
perform about 450 calculations per second." Although, as
contrib Gareth Bellamy points out, "Perhaps this explains
why the hyped 'New' Guardian websites were uncontactable for
most of the week"... and, finally, thanks to everyone who
wrote in with their descriptions of Jim Flint's sinister
synchronistic Pi movie tie-in HABITUS (UKP10.99), but the
prize - our remaining unconsumed CRUNCHIE EXPLOSION bar -
goes to Adrian Moulder, for "The best episode of Grange Hill
that Umberto Eco never wrote". NTK regrets that this
correspondence is now closed...
>> SMALL PRINT <<
Need to Know is a useful and interesting UK digest of things that
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