Hack the Planet Archives: June 1999

Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Uh oh, Alan Baratz, the Sun exec in charge of screwing up Java licensing, is looking at Mozilla.

Meanwhile, Rick Ross takes Baratz to task for delaying the release of the Java Compatibility Kit: "The idea that Java is an open technology platform is a sham without fair and accessible tools to confirm 3rd-party compliance."

Tuesday, June 29, 1999

It seems Jim Roepcke is starting a new Weblog, have browser, will travel. The more the merrier! (I'm looking forward to those QTVR panos, Jim!)

Slashdot has been acquired by Andover.net (who?) so that they can bleed somebody else's money instead of VA Research's. Maybe they can actually afford a staging server now.

Jorn says "Imagine if the Web maintained stats on how many times any given link was clicked, so that your browser could display links in different shades, depending on their popularity...?" That sounds like a good idea; you could already gather such information (although less accurately) from a "what's related" server, but many users seem to have privacy concerns about that. I'm imagining something like CritLink in the Mozilla sidebar powered by a PICS label bureau, but who knows if I'll ever get around to implementing it.

ZDNet quotes Sun's Jim Mitchell on ECMA standardization of Java: "If developers do a cleanroom of ECMA-approved specifications, the brand for that should be their own. There's confusion here and it's honest confusion, because in the past programming languages have had names and not brands. But we're holding on to the brand because compatibility matters more than anything else..."

ESR explains marketing to RMS: "OSI's tactics work. That's the easy part of the lesson. The hard part is that the FSF's tactics don't work, and never did."

ZDNet: Gumming up the (Metro)Werks.

Monday, June 28, 1999

The new AltaVista launches today, but it failed my test of search engine accuracy. I've noticed that search engines do a generally poor job of indexing mailing list archives and discussion groups, because much of the text on those pages is not relevant. Unfortunately, the solution (hiding navigation info from crawlers) is a bit complex.

Who will own your home page? Let's see; you can't run a server at home (see yesterday's edition), and if you get "free" Web hosting from Yahoo/GeoCities, not only do they put ads on your pages (without giving you a cut AFAIK) but they essentially own the content.

The new GNOME developer's site is online. I haven't looked at it carefully, but at least it's well-organized.

I figured it would happen eventually: Myst Masterpiece Edition is coming.

My right hand is hurting quite a bit today, thus fewer updates.

Sunday, June 27, 1999

Internet segregation continues: @Home is instituting an upstream bandwidth cap to prevent over-utilization of their network. Not only that, but they're keeping it secret: "The best ONadvantage explanation is to avoid talking about it to begin with-if possible." It sounds like these guys haven't heard of weighted fair queueing, or maybe their business model is just flawed (not to mention insulting).

Jonathan Gennick: "The frustrating part ... is that there aren't any hospitable alternatives for a home user who wants to run a website from their house."

Velox_SwiftFox: "What would be dishonest would be [@Home] pretending that they are selling a real IP connection. The danger I see is that this and similar policies are becoming the rule, rather than the exception, and real broadband internet connections may become unavailable - strangling in the cradle new inventions and innovations that could otherwise have as much promise as email or the WWW." It happened to me; it will happen to you.

Tomalak points to this article about possibly privacy implications of @Home's network monitoring activities. I tend to disagree; you must assume that your ISP is monitoring all traffic that passes though their network. Does anyone have any mor information about @Home Pro (like pricing)?

Saturday, June 26, 1999

I just found the official page for one of my favorite radio shows, Morning Becomes Eclectic.

On Slashdot I read the real reason to use BeOS: "How much sex does the average Linux user get? I just did a poll of Be developers I know. They get a lot."

Friday, June 25, 1999

Alan Baratz: "It is very difficult, close to if not, in fact, impossible, to build an implementation of the Java platform without at least looking at the documentation or its specifications... That's Sun intellectual property." Meanwhile, ECMA has formed a new technical committe to standardize Java.

According to ICANN, "significant technical problems were encountered early in the testbed period" of the new shared DNS system. That's not too surprising, considering that the software was written by NSI, who has a vested interest in preventing or delaying competition as much as possible.

The WAP Binary XML Content Format "defines a compact binary representation of the Extensible Markup Language. The binary XML content format is designed to reduce the transmission size of XML documents, allowing more effective use of XML data on narrowband communication channels."

Ozone is a GPL'ed Java object database.

Thursday, June 24, 1999

ESR is back with his third paper, The Magic Cauldron.

The LinuxCE project is porting Linux to a variety of PDAs that normally run Windows CE.

At PC Expo Cygnus announced their new Code Fusion IDE.

Big congratulations to AMD for shipping the new Athlon processor.

I've been prepared for the arrival of iMac rip-offs, but I didn't expect anything like this.

Wednesday, June 23, 1999

ESR goes to Microsoft: "On some subjects, their brains just shut down -- the style reminded me a lot of the anonymous cowards on Slashdot." :-)

IBM alphaWorks: "The Java world currently does not have a well-defined scripting architecture that allows Java applications to incorporate scripting easily - [the Bean Scripting Framework] is such an architecture. The BSF architecture allows an application to be scripted from any BSF supported language, without any scripting language dependencies."

Sun has joined the thin server market with their Netra t1 (I liked the "Flapjack" codename better).

FAST has several demos of their new wavelet image codec that looks a lot better than JPEG. However, the zooming effect is distracting.

There's a new version of iCab; does anyone know what's new in it?

The Espial Group has some interesting tiny Java apps.

IBM's Public Key Infrastructure Reference Implementation Project looks interesting, although the code doesn't arrive until August.

Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Jakob Nielsen: "Who owns my home, my office, and my tools? It's time for consumers to say stop and regain ownership of their own home and office." As I've said before, I'd rather pay for something than have lower productivity. Unfortunately, I fear that so many people will take the cheap way out that it won't be profitable to sell stuff without any ads in it.

Lots of BeOS news today. Moho is a drawing and animation app. The GIMP team, now known as EventLoop, is porting GIMP (apparently this is why the GeTK project was cancelled). MetaCreations is bringing Bryce 4 to the Media OS. For more details, check out the BeNews Extra.

Bruce Schneier: "Users can't make good security decisions under ideal conditions; they don't stand a chance against a virus capable of social engineering." The same page has some interesting tips about causing complete havoc using Windows root CA certificates.

Monday, June 21, 1999

Bob Metcalfe: "Let's hope there's something coming soon that's better than both Linux and W2K. What would that be?"

Eric S. Raymond: "What comes after Unix will, I now believe, probably resemble at least in concept an experimental operating system called EROS." (Of course, EROS has been mentioned on this site several times in the last few months.)

BeNews reports that the new Microworkz iToaster does run BeOS.

"The fact is that making free Unix clones easy to use isn't going to be possible without changing some of the lower-level aspects of the system... So, coordination with and standardization across distributions is going to be important." -- Havoc Pennington (this link will break soon; it's out of my hands)

As if the Web wasn't tangled enough as it is, Ralph Levien has a diagram of the complete dependencies of SVG. This would seem to be a pretty powerful argument for component software; without using (and reusing) components, the amount of programming effort needed to create a modern Web browser is essentially out of reach.

Bang is building the Metaverse out of Java3D, Jini, and RTP. Too bad the screen shots are so small.

Apparently InfoWorld is running on DynaBase now, because that's what kind of errors I'm seeing from their site.

Sunday, June 20, 1999

Ouch! InfoWorld shot themselves in both feet at the same time with their new redesign.

"Jaguar is an extension of the Java runtime environment which enables direct Java access to operating system and hardware resources, such as fast network interfaces, memory-mapped and programmed I/O, and specialized machine instruction sets."

Saturday, June 19, 1999

My apologies for the lack of updates; Hack The Planet world headquarters flooded again this afternoon.

The Long Now Foundation has updated their Web site with pictures of the prototype 10,000 year clock. Steampunk is back!

Under the Java Community Process, practically anyone can propose additions to Java. For better or worse, Sun has approved all 18 of the proposals so far.

Michael Slater on appliances: "The display is actually the most precious resource, and it will be years before most people can afford to have multiple large displays."

Friday, June 18, 1999

3Com's new NBX 100 (creative name, huh?) is a complete voice-over-IP system that doesn't require computers.

The PythonWorks site has been updated, and it supports XHTML. So that's where MIOW went!

"dnsjava is an implementation of DNS in Java. It supports all of the common record types and the DNSSEC types."

Java developers are snatching up anything and everything with a Java logo on it. Scary.

Flash plays MP3 and integrates with Java, right? Not so fast.

InfoWorld has a new look. Augh, animation everywhere!

Thursday, June 17, 1999

NewsWire is a news ticker app for Windows, and it supports Hack The Planet. Thanks!

This site it also listed by default in Carmen's Headline Viewer. Cool! You can read Hack The Planet however you like it; that's what XML syndication is all about.

Tomalak pointed out this article about e-book standards. I read the EBX copy-protection spec and it requires all EBX software to be certified by some central organization, effectively precluding Open Source EBX implementations. At least it's documented...

The Java Apache project has been renamed Jakarta. I don't quite understand why Sun needed to donate code to them; I thought they already had servlets working.

WiredX is a 200K Java X server.

Dave has uncovered the real problem with RDF: "Graph theory just isn't going to cut it with most people who do websites."

A group including researchers at UT has announced QLinux, a set of patches to provide quality of service support for CPU, network, and disk scheduling under Linux. I could sure use some disk scheduling on this NT system when it goes into a swapping frenzy every time I start Outlook Express.

The Linux Portal mini-HOWTO is hilarious.

BeOS R4.5 has hit the streets, and it could get ugly. "Doc does not advocate the use of violence to acquire R4.5 nor the stalking of those that already have their CDs."

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Dynamics is a mobile IP package for Linux from the Helsinki University of Technology.

Forbes ASAP: Malone's Musings.

Wow, Linus actually has a plan now.

Ugh, BeOS R4.5 is out, but I have to wait for them to ship it to me. :-(

The Metreon is here, and San Francisco may never be the same.

Tuesday, June 15, 1999

While I was writing today's update, my apartment was slowly filling up with water. The flooding may slow down future updates.

JavaOne starts today, so Hack The Planet will be covering Java, Java, and more Java. Honestly, I'm a bit disappointed; so far almost all of the announcements are stuff for huge "enterprise" servers (boring) or tiny "embedded" devices (boring). Where's something I can use?

Apparently you can order the dead-trees edition of the Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines for free (although shipping is $14) if you move fast.

OK, it is true that MS funded Kaffe development, but what they funded was the addition of the weirdo MS extensions to Kaffe, and the code will be merged into the GPL'ed version. You can read more on the Kaffe mailing list.

Eric S. Raymond is scheduled to speak at Microsoft Research.

AppStream can speed up downloads of Java applets; it looks suspiciously like Bill Pugh's work and significantly more expensive.

I think this Bloomberg report is seriously screwed up: "[IBM] will unveil software to let programs designed for Linux run on other operating systems ... The IBM software is grounded in Java..." Huh?

Linux.com interviews International GNOME Support. "So, we see a big problem in the free software community: I think most free software advocates, when they see a feature in another product that has no free equivalent, tend to say 'We don't need that for reason X', where X is some random justification. What these people lose is the ability to objectivley self-analyze." I'm glad I'm not the only one who sees that.

Monday, June 14, 1999

A beta version of the Open eBook specification is now available. This looks like a good spec; it's based on the XML, HTML, and Dublin Core standards and doesn't attempt any kind of copy protection.

You can tell it's a graphic designer's Web site when even the 404s are cute. :-)

"The source of these viruses is Microsoft. They carry the full burden of responsibility for creating an operating system ... which even a script kiddie can break into." -- Tom Christiansen

Don't get too stirred up about the news.com and Slashdot stories about the Microsoft-Kaffe connection; I have a feeling there's nothing there.

Sunday, June 13, 1999

Today's Alertbox mentions that we may need multiple versions of each Web page to satisfy accessibility needs. "So how can we possibly maintain many different designs for each piece of content? The solution probably lies in template-driven, database-backed publishing with more intelligently-marked-up XML content that is transformed into appropriate hypertext units for each class of users and devices."

I've always liked Tobi Oetiker's MRTG for managing routers, but it wasn't well suited for other types of information. His new and improved RRD Tool provides the graphing, and front ends like Cricket and Orca let you monitor anything under the sun.

Alma Whitten, J.D. Tygar: Usability of Security: A Case Study. "Human factors are perhaps the greatest current barrier to effective computer security. Most security mechanisms are simply too difficult and confusing for the average computer user to manage correctly. Designing security software that is usable enough to be effective is a specialized problem, and user interface design strategies that are appropriate for other types of software will not be sufficient to solve it."

Now that I'm done with the books, it's time to talk music. My latest CD purchase is Fight Songs from the Old 97s. I don't really feel like writing a review now, so I'll just say that if you're looking for some folksy love songs, give it a listen.

Apparently Microsoft's Advanced Streaming Format is actually documented. Somehow I didn't expect that...

While I'm poking at Microsoft, I discovered a new feature in Windows 2000: su. MS even admits that the lack of this feature "makes computers running the Microsoft® Windows NT® operating system susceptible to Trojan horse attacks. The simple act of running Internet Explorer and accessing a nontrusted Web site can be extremely damaging to the system if done from an administrative context."

Saturday, June 12, 1999

Oh yeah! IBM is releasing a Java VM for Linux. No more waiting for Sun/Blackdown, and IBM's x86 JIT is one of the fastest. As usual, IBM has a zillion other cool toys at alphaWorks.

Continuing my micro-book-reviews, I read Danny Hillis's new book, The Pattern on the Stone while I was getting my Saturn's oil changed. This book is remarkable for Hillis's ability to explain the fundamentals of logic, hardware, and software in such a small volume.

Internet Alchemy points to Element Construction Set, a way to create HTML and XML documents in Java code that removes most of the possibility of simple syntax errors. (Although I like RScheme's syntax better.)

Hmm, Stuart Cheshire is now at Apple. This is interesting to me because of his previous work with the MosquitoNet project. All I want for Christmas is MacOS X with IPv6, IPsec, and mobile IP...

I found some tools that let you make your own MacOS themes.

I may not have many updates today while I'm working on Casbah; we're in the home stretch for the DR1 release.

I'm looking for screen shots of the LinuxPPC R5 graphical installer. I know somebody out there must have some.

Friday, June 11, 1999

While on vacation I also read The Inmates are Running the Asylum. Alan Cooper has some great insights about programmers and the problems that they cause, but much like Norman's The Invisible Computer, he gives a solution that you probably can't afford.

Cable customers seek Net bill of rights. Yeah! How about the right to publish information using your computer? It's about time people stood up for that.

Webmonkey: Streaming media update. The fragmenting of the market continues, possibly opening up opportunities for new players...

Obsequeium is an Open Source networked streaming MP3 jukebox.

Johnnie Peters: "Plans are also underway for new versions of the MTX series (motherboards) supporting the MAX (PowerPC G4) processor."

LinuxPPC R5 has shipped, only about 6 months late.

For some reason I'm having a lot of trouble loading my favorite Web sites today. It's odd because I'm seeing the same problem everywhere: I get just the top of most pages.

Thursday, June 10, 1999

I can't wait to see The Pirates of Silicon Valley.

During the inter-semester break I indulged in Neal Stephenson's massive new novel Cryptonomicon. Crypto, sex, money, phreaking, WWII, the south pacific, what more could you want? And according to John Markoff, he wrote it on paper. There's an interview with him at ZDTV which I haven't watched yet.

Jack Bryar: The Charity Case for Red Hat. "The risk is that, in making these improvements the software won't be Linux anymore." While the column is mostly uninteresting, he raises a few good points. Nobody really knows if it is possible to build a truly easy to use OS that keeps all the old Unix APIs and applications. He also apparently agrees that the market does not necessarily produce the best software, only good enough software: "The result might be a better operating system. I'm just not sure who will make money from it when all is said and done..."

Graydon Hoare: The Problem with Bounty. I think some of these objections are unfounded. Not all software needs to be inspired; some software is just plain boring or it is only interesting to a small number of people who (for one reason or another) don't write software for free.

Wednesday, June 09, 1999

Wired News catches on to the Third Voice debate.

IBM's Web Intermediaries make it easy to build transcoding proxy servers.

Granite has some of the first Device Bay hardware that I've seen (although it's hard to trust a Web page that doesn't know the difference between MB/s and Mb/s).

Tuesday, June 08, 1999

DEN is doing narrowcast streaming TV shows over the Net.

I finally found some narrow SCSI drives; they're just the thing for doing Darwin development on older Macs.

Richard Hess has cancelled his GeTK project to bring Gtk+ to BeOS. However, I think it's bad form to cite "potential conflict with another unannounced project" as the reason. I don't mind behind-the-scenes wrangling, as long as it stays behind the scenes.

Scot Hacker: Of Tanks and Batmobiles. "I fear that tech journalists may be starting to cast BeOS in too narrow a spotlight -- typecasting it as a media-only system, when it excels at so much more."

Monday, June 07, 1999

Apparently IBM and Sun are working on new thin servers. Meanwhile Dave likes his Qube. I find it comforting that most of these new servers aren't running NT.

Sunday, June 06, 1999

I'm amazed: the media is finally catching on to the real issues in copy protection. "Sooner or later, any encryption system can be broken. We need watermarking technologies to tell us who did it." (Except that won't work for DVDs since they're all identical.)

Hmm, now you can write X window managers in Java.

Have you ever been curious about the history of GIMP splash screens?

Troll Tech has some screenshots of the Lizard Linux installer they wrote for Caldera.

"Never trust someone with a breast job or a nose job. They've already lied to you before they open their mouth." -- Andy Langer

Saturday, June 05, 1999

Unlike InfoWorld's Bob O'Donnell, I encourage Hack The Planet readers to annotate this site. You can view this site through CritLink using the link in the Services section above.

The Deva multiuser virtual reality system's site has been updated, and I found some really neat VRad images from the same group.

Friday, June 04, 1999

I've been drooling over Texas.net's new DSL service, but now I found the catch: a "personal" account is $19.95/month with static IP addresses ("not for use with servers") available for $10/month. A "tiered DSL" account is $695/month for the same bandwidth. I know that people like to complain about government regulation of the Net, but right about now I'm wishing there was a law against discriminatory bandwidth pricing. A byte is a byte, so why are some bytes more expensive than others?

Forbes ASAP: New technology prints books while you wait. No wonder they don't link to Instabook's site; the design is terrible. Tomalak pointed me to Sprout's site; too bad it's so sparse on information.

Check out the tour of the Zope Portal Toolkit.

Thursday, June 03, 1999

For some reason, every time I go to a fast food place lately they misunderstand my order. I'm not sure if that means I can't talk any more or if people are just getting dumber...

"In any case, the vast majority of programmers don't sell software in the 'mass market,' and thus the effects of changes to the mass market can have but limited effects." -- Christopher Browne

"Free software will hardly ever become a solid way of earning excessive income." -- David Kastrup (But earning excessive income is fun!)

"The Secure Remote Password protocol represents a new mechanism for performing secure password-based authentication and key exchange over any type of network. SRP offers both security and convenience improvements over authentication techniques currently in use."

The new Be Web site is really slick.

Andromeda Labs has cancelled their Java VM for BeOS. This is bad news for Java on BeOS, because BeKaffe doesn't look like it'll be finished any time soon.

Godmar Back's KaffeOS looks similar to WebSprocket (which I pointed to yesterday).

Beta source code for OpenPortal is now available.

There's a new secure Linux distribution in the works.

Wednesday, June 02, 1999

I am back in Austin, although my apartment flooded while I was gone so it's currently a disaster.

BellSouth denies DSL to Linux users.

I just discovered the Jini Community site; after an initial look around it seems that things are moving pretty slowly.

A release candidate of JDK 1.2.2 is available, fixing a bunch of bugs.

ICEsoft is packing some amazing new stuff into their 5.0 Java browser.

Bill Pugh is doing some really interesting Java research, some of which will be presented at the upcoming ACM Java Grande conference.

WebSprocket looks like some kind of combination of an optimizing Java VM with an operating system. Apparently it runs on StrongARMs. (Consider that next year's StrongARMs are supposed to run at 600MHz, consume less than 500 mW, and cost less than $50...)

The StrongARM-based ADS Thin Client board looks like it might make a nice wearable computer.

Do you like your dream machines in purple or bronze?

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