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.....technobabble .....for the week of February 26, 2001

.....technobabble.....I had an email exchange this past week with my friend John Navas (an industry expert and author of the excellent Navas Modem FAQ and Navas Cable/DSL Tuning Guide) that led to a discussion of issues of Internet privacy. I have to admit that I haven't been giving this topic as much attention as it probably deserves. I certainly respect my readers' privacy; I would never try to "accumulate" information on you who visit this site, much less accumulate it to sell it to others. However, it seems that perhaps I have been a bit naive about others' attitudes towards this subject. Some other people and companies don't see things the way I do, apparently. The incidence of privacy abuse is on the increase, and it's something I plan to devote more attention to in this column in the future. Speaking of which......

.....while people often disagree about where to draw the line between what is reasonable and unreasonable regarding privacy and control issues on the Internet, there are some new tactics that are receiving justifiable criticism from almost every quarter. The latest is so-called "home page hijacking", where installing software or visiting a web page causes a script to be run that changes the user's default home page. Installing a new browser has often caused this to happen, but now it is occurring in a wider variety of situations. Even a big company like UPS received criticism for its software changing default home pages after installing their software. This CNet article talks about the practice. As an aside, right in the middle of this controversy is none other than Sanford "Spamford" Wallace. If that name rings a bell, then would you not agree that it's not really much of a shock that he'd be involved? :^) If you have no idea who he is, type "spamford" into any decent search engine for some amusing reading.....

.....there's a company that plays a pretty important role in the operation of the Internet, which most people have never even heard of before: it's called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN. One of the many functions played by this company is to select new top-level domains (TLDs) for use by Internet domains. TLDs are the trailers at the ends of web site URLs, such as ".com", ".edu" and ".org". Apparently, there has been quite the controversy over the process that ICANN used in approving seven new TLDs, or more importantly, not approving several others that were rejected. The group also raised eyebrows by charging a $50,000 fee for new TLD applications! The whole mess ended up in front of the U.S. Congress, with a lot of pointed questions being thrown around. The Standard has the full story.

.....Samantha, a regular on The PC Guide Discussion Forums, provided us with an interesting link to a story in the Electronic News that represents the next chapter in the Rambus lawsuit saga. Rambus has been at the center of controversy for years. They created a new RAM technology, Direct Rambus DRAM (DRDRAM) that promised high performance, but has led to mostly a lot of headaches. More than the technical issues, the company has been lambasted for its business practices, which include suing companies into licensing their technology (which they claim underlies a host of other RAM products). The story above, however, seems to bolster claims by Rambus's opponents that Rambus set out to use the JEDEC engineering committee as a way to manipulate the market. Is this the proverbial "smoking gun"? It's too early to say, but the story is definitely worth a read.....

.....I mentioned in a previous column that extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography was the newest technology being proposed to take computer processors and other chips to the "next level". This past week, industry giant IBM signed on to the new technology, virtually assuring that EUV will have at least some place in the manufacturing processes of the future. See here for the full story.....

.....I've written in this column a couple of times about the proposed encryption plan for consumer hardware called Content Protection for Removable Media (CPRM). This program would have included the possibility of digital encryption tags being placed directly into the controllers of various storage devices, and it has been met with considerable (and justifiable) criticism. Apparently, IBM has decided to withdrawn its support for the CPRM project. You can find a bit more about the story here, though there isn't much explanation for IBM's decision. Regardless of this move, don't be lulled into complacency; these sorts of initiatives will continue in the future.....

.....that's all this edition. Folks, I've been doing this column for about two months now, but readership continues to be quite poor. It takes several hours every week to do; I enjoy writing the column, but it's also a fair bit of work; should I continue? Do you, the few who read it, at least think it is worthwhile? :^) Give me your feedback, please!


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