Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

telecom deregulation

Too much "market freedom" when laws are inadequate (think The Telecom Act of '96) and when natural monopolies are easy to defend, can be a very, very bad thing. On that topic Salon's Deregulation's Big Lie talks about how, under Michael Powell, the FCC seems to be ready to go back to the age of huge monopolies with little regulation.

The article makes the point that hasty, case by case "solutions" (like the one seemingly proposed by Powell where a Baby Bell would take over WorldCom) will create only more problems in the long run. From the article:

"[this is] too important to let some huge new zillion-dollar corporation be formed, and then say: "Well, we'll take this up in a few years." By then that lobby will be so strong, they'll be flossing their teeth with politicians' underpants. You've got to do it now, ahead of time."

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 9:05 PM

yahoo mail replaces words

Yahoo Mail, in an incredibly clumsy effort to to avoid so-called "script hacks" has been replacing words inside HTML emails. I have some more information in this posting in my "technical" weblog, here. Here is a ZDNET Article with more information as well.

So if you are sent "medieval" and you receive "medireview" in Yahoo Mail, now you know why...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 5:34 PM

stupidity @ yahoo

Unbelievable. Has anybody at Yahoo ever taken a course on compilers or parsers?

In an incredibly stupid attempt to avoid scripting attacks, Yahoo Mail has been doing some filtering on HTML emails received in their accounts. Apparently, they are replacing words that could potentially be a script with their own idiotic versions that are not in JavaScript. So, for example, I just sent the following HTML email to myself:

blahblah medieval blahblah
blahblah mocha blahblah
blahblah evaluate blahblah
blahblah free expression

and this is what I received in my yahoo account:
blahblah medireview blahblah
blahblah espresso blahblah
blahblah reviewuate blahblah
blahblah free statement

We can see that the super-smart parser at Yahoo has decided that, for example, 'eval' is a really dangerous combination of letters, therefore changing it to the less threatening 'review'. The full list of words that are changed is:
eval => review
mocha => espresso
expression => statement
javascript => java-script
jscript => j-script
vbscript => vb-script
livescript => live-script
link => xlink
script => cursive
object => xobject
embed => xembed
body => xbody
iframe => xframe
layer => xlayer
applet => xapplet
meta => xmeta
form => xform

This has been going on for quite a while apparently (RISKS noted it more than a year ago, and it also appeared in this ZDNet Article). The really interesting thing is that a search in Google for "medireview" turns up hundreds of documents, including Resumes, University course lists, and discussion lists. Some people in the discussion lists ask about the origin of the word, and why it is used as a replacement.

When seeing things like this, one has to wonder how the "bubble" (since it was based on the "unprecedented innovation" that was happening) didn't burst sooner...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 5:26 PM

microsoft and "software cloning"

There is an excellent book on the inside workings of Microsoft titled Breaking Windows, How Bill Gates fumbled the future of Microsoft written by David Banks (reporter for the Wall Street Journal). The book is interesting because Banks draws on Microsoft internal memos and emails (that were made public during the recent antitrust trial) and his own experience reporting on the company for the WSJ to back up his argument that Bill Gates is partially fossilized and quite possibly wrong in his insistence that nothing Microsoft does or supports (including the Internet) should threaten Windows.

On it, there was an interesting discussion regarding cloning, particularly because it affects how Microsoft behaves, regardless of the market power they obtain.

"[Gates] made no apologies for Microsoft's efforts to clone Netscape's features. Cloning was a common industry tactic, he explained. Microsoft had cloned the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet to create Excel. Word had mimicked every feature of Wordperfect. And Microsoft itself had faced clones of MS-DOS.
Gates treated his audience to a remarkably frank lesson in software economics. "There are always businesses that start up to build clones of that software," he said. "If they catch up, then the value of the software becomes zero." Now Microsoft would clone Netscape's browser, and when it did, Netscape's advantage would evaporate."

For recent examples of this behavior, we have recent announcements on future versions of Windows XP (attacking several competitors, including Apple) and other announcements that included details of Windows Media 9 (with Apple and Realnetworks on their sights).

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 4:19 PM

technology and life

I've been trying to define exactly what this weblog will contain, and I usually end up defining it as "my private slashdot" or something of the sort. no comment, my other weblog, seems to satisfy part of my need to document what I think about non-technology issues that affect our lives (or that I find interesting!). Technology is part of our lives, true, and as such some of it will appear in no comment. But there is a lot of technology, and software development in particular, that most people don't care about.

In fact, they shouldn't care about it. Whenever users have to be aware that there is such a thing as JavaScript or VBScript, or a Virtual machine, we, who create this technology, have failed. We're moving in the right direction, for the most part, but it's slow progress. Let's see where we end up...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 4:12 PM

War and Terror

Every time I hear the phrase "war on terror," I cringe. To begin with, war is terror, as far as I'm concerned. A "war on terror" is an oxymoron.

Assuming we ignore the apparent distaste for semantic coherency displayed by the Media and most governments, it is still difficult to accept that this "war" is a war at all.

We could note, for example, that wars end. One of the results of war is that the population of the countries involved feels the pain, and therefore pressures the government to compromise on a solution, and this happens either because of social or economic pressures. If the government is a dictatorship, and thus able to ignore or repress the population, the country might self-destruct, as it was the case with Germany in World War Two. But today, when wars can be fought by remote control and media access is carefully controlled and regulated, can war have its effect in pushing the population to press for change? And if not, doesn't this "war" become less of a conflict than a permanent state of affairs?

There is also the matter of what a war means, or at least what it meant until a few months ago. Take World War Two. In the siege of Leningrad alone, which lasted almost two years, more people died than the casualties for both the US and the UK for the entire war combined. In the winter of 42-43, the famine in Leningrad was so terrible that people ate anything they could find. Soap was a common meal. This was a single episode of the war. Dozens like it existed around the world, and they went on for five years.

Now, how can we say that World War Two and this "War on Terror" are both "Wars"? How can we accept those terms? We can't. By accepting it, we are not only minimizing and trivializing the tragedy of the past into a ten-minute CNN segment and a documentary in the Discovery Channel. We are also setting ourselves up to accept so-called "assymetric conflict" as the state of affairs in the world, ignoring that while military intervention can be, sometimes, necessary, most of these problems can be solved by building schools, factories and hospitals, not tanks and aircraft carriers, in other words, by reducing hunger, and disease and inequality world-wide.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 3:31 PM

THX 1138

A couple of days ago, I watched THX 1138.

God, it was awful.

The first full length feature by George Lucas (and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, no less), THX 1138 is an example of how Lucas' trademarked ability to "lift concepts" from other works and reapply them can have disastrous consequences. THX 1138 has as background a society in the future that feels like a mix of what we see in Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984.

The movie is slow, pretentious, and boring. Similarly the score (good at times) pretends to be oppressive and starts being annoying halfway through the movie.

Its vision of the future is not "explained": we are never told how the world got to be what it is. For whatever reason people refer to each other (and to almost everything else) by alphanumeric combinations ("THX 1138" is the name of the main character). I suppose this passes for symbolism of how the "electronic age" would take away all humanity. People somehow seem to remember these 7- or 8-digit sequences effortlessly, I suppose the better memory displayed by these opressed humans is on account of being drugged all day with tranquilizers and such?

Even though most society has gone (again, for no apparent reason) underground, when THX 1138 (the character) is imprisoned, the prison is a huge, seemingly endless white space with no doors. The character, dressed in white, his head shaven, is almost invisible in the sea of whiteness. Visually, it's very impressive, but it makes little sense that a prison this size (and an underground prison, no less) would be used for a single man. Whatever happened to sensory deprivation? It would certainly be cheaper, and all that empty space could be used as a dance floor or as a big lounge with sofas and coffee tables with water and cookies for all visitors who wander into this fortress of despair.

The movie has aged badly, and its "vision of the future" is simplistic, almost childish, particularly considering that it was released about two years after 2001: A Space Odyssey and they could have drawn some inspiration from that movie on how to look at the future. A small bugdet was almost certainly a factor in the low quality of the costumes, etc.

On a lighter note, there are a series of appearances by groups of "robot-cops" with hilarious metal masks (I think they are supposed to be threatening, but I couldn't help laughing) and long black sticks that, when used to stun people (by contact) they produced a sound very similar to the Star Wars lightsabers....

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 16, 2002 at 10:15 AM

Copyright © Diego Doval 2002-2011.