Hack the Planet Archives: October 1999

Sunday, October 31, 1999


You find the funniest headers in people's mail:
Organisation: Judean People's Front; Department of Whips, Chains, Thumb-Screws, Six Tons of Whipping Cream, the Entire Soprano Section of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Guest Apperances of Eva Peron aka Eric Conspiracy Secret Laboratories

"After all these years we are still worth something, like fine fine furniture." -- Kacy Crowley

Saturday, October 30, 1999

"AppleScript wound up combining the worst aspects of English with the worst aspects of programming languages." -- Paul Snively

Borislav Deianov is working on an SMP-safe hierarchical fair scheduler for Linux. Good resource management is essential for things like application service providers (ASPs); people like Sun would charge you a bundle for this stuff, but you get it for free in Linux.

Friday, October 29, 1999

Thanks to Gavin McGovern for sending me One Part Lullaby, the new Folk Implosion album. Why live for a future that never arrives on time?

Bruce Schneier: "Regularly I hear from algorithm inventors who want to patent their new cool algorithm and then sell it. This business plan has absolutely zero percent chance of succeeding."

A few months ago I was wondering what happened to the T2K font renderer, and today I see that Bitstream bought it and merged it with TrueDoc to create Font Fusion. I wonder how many more years it will be before X gets out of the "font stone age".

Thursday, October 28, 1999

Ian Davis pointed me to the Notes from the first meeting of ECMA TC41 Java, October 25-26, 1999, which hold several surprises. The VM standardization working group is being led by Rock Howard, president of static compiler vendor Tower Technologies, while the API working group is being led by someone from Microsoft. Somewhat cryptically, the note mentions that "Sun's lawyers prevented the submission of documents to ECMA. We hope this will be corrected shortly." I hope so, too.

That didn't last long: IronDoc is back on hiatus.

Don't tell anyone, but BeOS 4.6 is coming. Honestly I'm disappointed because every new 4.x version just delays 5.0.

Wednesday, October 27, 1999

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks Memory Stick is pointless.

InfoWorld looks at Alchemedia. Would you want to bet your business on software that sort of works most of the time? If any readers out there have VMware, let me know if you can take a screen shot of Alchemedia's home page with it.

How bizarre; federal officials are talking about a tax on cash.

Tuesday, October 26, 1999

Bummer; Desert Books is closing. But that means everything must go...

I read on LinuxToday that EROS is now under the GPL. The homepage update is dated from April, but I don't think it was there last month.

I finally got through to Advogato; it looks like an interesting idea.

Check out OpenSRS for cheap, automated domain name registration. (Middleman? We don't need no stinking middleman!)

I'm disappointed to see Cobalt switching to x86. I guess even Linux can't prevent you from being assimilated.

Monday, October 25, 1999

I haven't bothered to finish reading David Every's voluminous USB 2.0 article, because the graphic in the middle is so misleading. He's got the right basic idea (each device transmits at its own speed) and even comes to the right conclusion (you don't get 480 Mbps), but the numbers and diagram are based on the completely wrong assumption that each device gets an equal "timeslice". This reminds me of a common theme from Visual Explanations about how you can make graphs, charts, and maps say whatever you want.

desktop.com, meet OpenDesk.com. I like the design, though.

IBM's Open Source Bean Scripting Framework 2.0 was released today. It supports a bunch of languages and Sanjiva Weerawarana says that IBM is planning to submit the BSF API as a JSR

I found an interesting article about Alchemedia's new image copy-protection software. Remarkably, they admit that the software isn't totally effective. In exchange for better security, however, you get a Web site that is only viewable on Windows with a proprietary plug-in. <yawn/>

Hey! What happened to AltaVista?

Friday, October 22, 1999

I want to be A Danger to the Established Order(tm) when I grow up.

Wow. I am totally amazed how much Bill Joy and Richard Gabriel do not get it. Joy seems to totally misunderstand the differences between the MPL and SCSL with respect to forking, while Gabriel says that he would prefer democratic software to something run by a "philosopher-king" like Linus. Maybe we should ask him again after the "democratic" Jini community is taken over by a mob of clueless lusers.

In case you didn't read it when I first pointed to it, here is the proposed constitution for the Jini community.

On Slashdot, Mo DeJong brings up a good example of how well Sun is dealing with the Java community.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

MOSR is reporting that Apple has filed for several trademarks recently, including Aqua, which is described as "Computer software for use in the fields of graphics, programming and user interface technologies and user manuals sold therewith." Hmm...

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

Imagine if Pulp Fiction was acted out by The Simpsons.

DVD is cracked. More evidence that copy protection is futile. You can keep up to date on the Livid mailing list.

Forbes has an article on some upcoming micropayment systems. Unfortunately I think it misses a big point: accepting credit cards is very difficult and expensive. I don't care if Visa can clear a one-cent transaction if I can't afford to pay hundreds (thousands?) of dollars in fees, software, and hardware. A well-designed micropayment system like Millicent could cost almost nothing to set up, lowering the barrier to entry. I have always been interested in micropayments because that's the only viable business model I see for a Web site like this one.

In the you-had-to-see-this-coming department, Sun acquired Java IDE developer NetBeans.

Tuesday, October 19, 1999

A beta version of the Speiros Java remote desktop is available. It looks like maybe they're aiming at Sun's iPlanet Webtop software. (I'm testing it now; maybe I'll have a report tomorrow.)

I found some interesting stuff on freshmeat today. Flash is a very fast Web server from Rice. GNU adns is an "advanced, easy to use, asynchronous-capable DNS client library" by Ian Jackson. Sendmail-TLS is "a wrapper for sendmail (and possibly other MTAs) that allows mail clients which support SSL and TLS connections to communicate with a mail server securely." (Where's Postfix-TLS?) DynamicJava is an interpreter for Java source.

Extreme Programming has a new Web site and it is also mentioned in a recent article on Borland's developer portal.

Linux.com: Slam Linux. "Even as the Linux community focuses more on making Linux accessible to new users their criticisms are in danger of being drowned out or considered irrelevant. Linux is still largely perceived as being difficult and arcane to use. Often, anytime ease of use is brought up the poster is ridiculed as being a Microsoft shill."

Monday, October 18, 1999

Double thanks go out to Brent Simmons, who not only hosts this site but sent me a cool CD from The Bicycle Thief called You Come and Go Like a Pop Song.

Kaffe 1.0.5 has finally been released. Where does all this development take place? Certainly not on the mailing list, which looks like a ghost town.

Today must be a day for Java announcements. The LaTTe VM, complete with source, was released today by Seoul National University and IBM T. J. Watson. It claims to be as fast as HotSpot, although it only runs on UltraSPARC/Solaris.

Dan Gillmor: Subversive software at your service. IMO, moderation is not a good direction for annotation services; I wonder if Gillmor remembers when Prodigy got sued for not doing a good enough job moderating their message boards.

Herman Miller has released the new Levity desk. Convenient since I just happen to be in the market for a new computer desk, because this non-adjustable one is bugging me.

Hmm, RMS Linux. I haven't been to Red Hat's site in a long time; the latest version is a lot easier to navigate.

Sunday, October 17, 1999

I never thought I'd hear Cibo Matto doing a cover of "About a Girl", but, well, I just did. The end is near.

A while ago I mentioned the new DTCP copy-protection spec for protecting video as it travels over 1394 within a home theater. DTCP is one of the most agressive copy-protection schemes yet; each device must have a unique key pair which can be revoked remotely. Now that DTCP chips are already available, the Motion Picture Association of America says it doesn't go far enough in preventing copying. The movie studios are asking for an end-to-end protocol that would somehow prevent content originating from DVD players, cable boxes, satellite receivers and HDTV broadcasts from getting into the Internet in the original digital format. But that isn't even enough; it seems that the studios have discovered that the connection between PCs and monitors is unencryped, so they are demanding that it be changed!

Meanwhile Sony is continuing its plan to control every information transmission medium by building "MagicGate" copy-protection into its Memory Stick flash cards. I used to predict that Memory Stick is too little, too late since they only hold marginal amounts of data and were only made by Sony. Unfortuntely 6 companies fell for the bait and licensed the format.

What good is fair use if your hardware has turned against you?

Saturday, October 16, 1999

InfoWorld has a story on a company called RateXchange that is planning to buy and sell bandwidth as a commodity. I'm curious about how this would work on a technical level; usually to switch ISPs wouldn't you have to get a new leased line installed? Unfortunately their site requires registration to get any useful information.

Friday, October 15, 1999

InfoWorld: U.S. bill would validate digital signatures. Maybe we'll get echecks soon.

Ticketmaster has posted a deep linking manifesto. Pretty boring. The Web is chaos; either you work with it or it works against you.

Gale is an instant messaging system developed by Dan Egnor at Caltech to replace MIT's Zephyr. You don't want to mess with that mascot! When I was at Caltech people were always complaining about Zephyr and worshipping Dan, so I guess it all fits together.

Michael Swaine finds that Third Voice is misleading a lot of people.

Wednesday, October 13, 1999

Because of a delay in delivery of the 500 MHz PowerPC 7400, Apple has increased prices on the slower Power Mac G4s. Gee, thanks. (This link will break tomorrow because MOSR isn't smart enough to use content management.)

David McCusker on the motivation for IronDoc: "I want basic disk io, page caching, btree dictionaries, and blob file systems -- all in one flat file mind you -- to become a simple given starting point that is no longer considered interesting. All the really fun stuff is what you do with this. ...It's time to do real work at higher levels so the bar gets raised in what software really does, and this is hard when there is most often insufficient time in projects to even rewrite earlier solutions. ...In other words, how to read and write bytes very efficiently in complex patterns is not interesting in comparison to the actual content graphs that get built on top of this. The design of good graph systems is the fun part, but it's really maddening to see every system go very slowly because it does not start on a basic substrate like the one in IronDoc." I want to drill this into the heads of the Bonobo and OpenParts developers.

Jon Katz takes a look at some frightening medical ethics issues on Slashdot. "The McCaughey family in Iowa was showered with gifts, from diapers to a new home, for their septuplets. But the country didn't seem to want to consider the fact that the fertility drugs they'd used had created a whole new kind of high-tech welfare family, producing children whose parents couldn't possibly support them financially, and perhaps not emotionally, either."

I see Dan is sticking it to The Man with a dual overclocked Celeron. Worse, he's probably running Linux. Imagine how much money Intel and Microsoft are losing! Bwahaha...

Tuesday, October 12, 1999

I found some cool stuff in the latest Wired. Panja looks like they're doing home automation right. The new Canon GL1 camcorder looks like a smaller and less weird-looking version of the XL1.

This was already on /. but it bears repeating. The IETF is considering what its role should be in adding wiretap capabilities to Internet protocols.

Debian GNU/Linux, "the last Linux OS you will ever need to buy", now comes in a box. The box is an interesting contrast to other distributions like Red Hat. Sure you can download or upgrade Red Hat for free, but they don't advertise it on the box.

Sunday, October 10, 1999

If you want to thank me for running Hack the Planet, you can buy me a CD. <grumble>You would know that they don't carry the good Austin artists...</grumble>

GKrellM is impressive just because it can pack so much information in such a small space. And it also looks cool. :-)

Saturday, October 09, 1999

I saw The Matrix for the first time last night and I was very impressed.

This is absolutely hilarious: A Cray C90 at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction literally caught fire and was reduced to a useless pile of junk. Does SGI offer a warranty on those things?

I see some interesting papers coming up at SOSP '99. Now I'm off to Google to look them up... (Update: most of the papers aren't online yet.)

Elephant: The file system that never forgets.

Friday, October 08, 1999

Tim O'Reilly: "[Web] interfaces are not as efficient for tasks that you do over and over as pure software interfaces, but they are far better for tasks you do only rarely, or differently each time." Please, repeat this to yourself a few times.

Michael Swaine says Don't Trust InterTrust. Not only are they attempting to strip us of our fair-use rights, but their software is snake oil anyway.

More IronDoc licensing unpleasantness has popped up on the Mozilla newsgroups. Since the license is probably unenforceable, people keep suggesting that it might get relicensed under the NPL/MPL; in retaliation David McCusker is threatening to put it on hiatus again.

Thursday, October 07, 1999

A few weeks ago I was thinking that it probably won't be too long before something like an HD Trinity is announced. This week at Microprocessor Forum, Sony Computer Entertainment revealed that they will be producing high-powered content creation workstations based on their Playstation 2 technology. The goal is real-time editing of 1080p HD video.

Also at MPF, Sun described the MAJC 5200 processor that will put two MAJC CPUs, a 3D geometry processor, and RDRAM, PCI, and dual UPA interfaces on a single chip running at 500MHz. (UPA is the proprietary Ultra Port Architecture graphics bus used in Sun workstations.)

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