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the devil is in the details

In one of those random occurrences that are bound to happen everyday I notice there's a strange referer in my long. It looked something like this (And yes, it's not my typo):

http://ww.google.de/...
So I think about it for a second and I realize that this is something eminently reasonable for google to do, namely, make sure that common mispellings are taken care of so that users can get to what they want instead of seeing an unnecessary error. But then I got curious.

As we all know (?), DNS resolution depends on the dots of the names to separate host name from domain from master domain (e.g., .com or .org). If the machine name isn't configured in the DNS server then it will fail. So it requires a conscious act to support multiple (apparenlty invalid) domains, such as ww or w or whatever. But how where different systems dealing with this? How pervasive was the practice?

Google, for example, supports w.google.com, ww.google.com, but strangely, not wwww.google.com (which seems to me to be another possible common misspelling). Microsoft, in what would have to be characterized as their (perceived) usual disregard for end-users, supports none of the variants, either for their main site or for msn.com. So if you make a typing error, even a common one, such as leaving one "w", MS doesn't help you at all, you just get a browser error telling you the site doesn't exist (just like Google failing with four "w"s). Teoma supports all w, ww, www, and wwww (+1 for Teoma!).

Both Google and Teoma, however, leave you at the "wrong" address, which in my mind seems, well, wrong. Yahoo! goes one step further and redirects you to www.yahoo.com no matter what (Yahoo!, however, only supports ww, www and wwww, while sending you to an error page for only one w used). Overall, Yahoo wins in my book.

However, I wonder, is it really wrong when a user types it with one or two or four "w"s? Yahoo!'s behavior is to gently "correct you", but if you got to where you wanted, does it really matter? Hm.

Nevertheless, interesting stuff. The details, always the details...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on May 1, 2004 at 11:31 PM

EU++

eu-logo.jpg
Today the EU is admitting ten new member countries (Here's a guide from the Guardian with more information on EU enlargement). It is both a day of celebration and of pause. It is also a day of protests (almost predictable as well, I must say) from people that, sometimes, strike me as hypocritical in denouncing something from which they benefit greatly. "Something" in this case equals globalization, more porous borders, and a more integrated and (hopefully) peaceful Europe. The hypocrisy comes from a collusion between ideas and actions. The protesters, to organize, use the Internet, cellphones, and so on, and some of them are quite good at using the media as well. The same Internet that was originally created by the US DoD. The same cellphones that are built using rare minerals from Africa, exported from war-torn regions. Many of them shop at stores that sell the products they claim to abhor. They move from place to place to protest using mostly air travel, based on freedom of movement that, it appears, should only be restricted to certain things (such as protesting). They are middle class, sometimes upper-middle class, a middle class that exists because of the economic results of policies and political decisions and markets that they deride. And, in fact, many times you have people standing together protesting against the same thing and organizing for exactly the opposite reason, such as the protests in Seattle a few years back when you had anti-globalization protesters that wanted better treatment for workers in third-world countries together with Union representatives from the US that wanted third-world countries to be taken off the table completely so that their own workers would have a better chance at getting a job. Right now, here, you have people that oppose globalization on the grounds that it's unfair to poor countries in the same camp as those that think that the poor should stay home in their poor countries and not be admitted entrance at all.

The same hypocrisy, of course, is present on the other side, for example when rich countries proclaim free trade all the while they maintain outrageous farm subsidies that do nothing except sustain industries that should be better served by poorer countries that haven't developed high-tech industry yet. (Did you know that the subsidies that the US and Europe give to their farm industries basically equals the amount of aid they send to countries that can't sell their product because of high-prices that are sustained in those countries precisely because of those subsidies? Isn't that a bit, um, iffy?)

Now, this is not to say that the EU or the WTO or globalization are perfect, far from it. But they have happened without a master plan, these organizations have been created and evolved in response to very specific problems (to which I'll get in a minute), and pretending that someone can pull the strings in a world as chaotic and unpredictable as ours, with so many opposing forces, all with their own agenda, is just to engage in a ludricous paranoid conspiracy.

Governments deal with practical (and political) needs, but idealism can't. Otherwise it's not idealism.

I am all for trying to improve what we have, and for not forgetting the many, many, many people that don't have freedom, or food, or even water to drink. I would dearly like to know how we can move to sustainable farming and industry, and to know how we can have a world that gives real meaning to the word "equality." But I will not say that everything we have now is a disaster. What we have is the best that people, most of them with good intentions, many of them brilliant, have attempted as a solutions to the problems they've faced.

Nobody, least of all me, knows if an experiment like the EU can work, if we can see past our petty differences and to the greater things that unite us. If we can stop with the senseless cycles of destruction that we, humans, sadly seem to be so fond of. But shouldn't we try? Shouldn't we try, in spite of all the problems we see? Idealism is great, but the world has become too complicated to simply extol Marxism or Capitalism or whatever. We know that these linear theories don't work. We know we need better answers. And that's what we should be striving to find. The soundbite solutions proposed by some governments are as useful as the soundbite complaints of some protesters.

About those "specific problems" I just mentioned. At the beginning I said "a time for celebration and pause." Celebration, because the conditions for EU membership contain a number of items that have more to do with acknowledgement of basic human rights, and the fact that these countries have passed it under whatever arbitrary yardstick the EU has set can be nothing but good news.

But then there's pause, because we also forget. We forget that the EU was created on the ashes of a Europe utterly destroyed by the worst war this planet has ever known, one that even saw the use of Nuclear Weapons and mass extermination on a scale never seen before or since. We forget that one of the central aims of the EU was to drive Europe closer together economically and politically so that something like that could never happen again, ever, and that a united Europe could be, if possible, an example, and its troubled past a cautionary tale. We forget that many "solutions" have been tried before, with disastrous consequences.

Will it work? Maybe not. But we have to try.

Because we forget.

Let's try not to do that, shall we?

ps: since Ireland is holding the 6-month rotating presidency of the EU many ceremonies are happening here today, which also means many protests happening here today. Many streets and shops were closed in anticipation of them, and in the end I can say that nothing happened. At the beginning it looked as if I wouldn't even be able to get out of my apartment (thanks to some less-than-enlightened property management) but then that was eased--probably someone that used their brain. I wandered off into the street this afternoon and mostly it looked like a rally of policemen (Gardai here). There was no one else. In fact, most of the police presence was located in a pub across the street, maybe on a mission to verify that no one unsavory was consuming beer. Anyway, nothing happened. Media hype works both ways...

Categories: geopolitics
Posted by diego on May 1, 2004 at 11:21 PM

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