October 31, 2003

Fun Times at the Postal Service

Greetings. They've been pretty busy down at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) over the last week or so. First, they issued a notice in the Federal Register about plans to require sender identification on some classes of mail, as part of the previously announced "Intelligent Mail" (tm) project. Since this project has previously discussed the goal of tracking the senders of all mail, alarm bells went off in privacy quarters around the country.

Then, a few days later, they announced that they were withdrawing the notice (to be reissued later) from the Federal Register due to "misunderstandings" about what it really meant.

Today, they sent out a new press release assuring us all that the USPS is committed to privacy and that they have no intention of requiring sender identification on all mail, regardless of what the Intelligent Mail proposals had to say.

The USPS also announced today that, in league with Universal Pictures, a "Cat in the Hat" postmark will start appearing on some mail. This seems quite appropriate, since many people have suspected for quite some time that "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" are running things in Washington.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:38 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


Microsoft's Play For Google

Greetings. The fire situation is very much improved, especially in my neck of the woods, though the damage around Southern California is devastating. Nice to have clean air to breath again (no anti-L.A. remarks, please).

With much excitement (probably way too much) brewing over word of Google planning an IPO, a much scarier (Happy Halloween!) prospect has emerged as word has circulated of Microsoft's interest in possibly absorbing Google via a buyout.

While Google has reportedly not been particularly interested in going that route, the handwriting is on the wall. MS wants to dominate searches -- and the related revenue streams -- just as they have the Web browser marketplace. How long will it be before new versions of Microsoft products are tooled not only to steer users to MS search engines by default through hooks deep in the OS, but also are designed so that it's cumbersome for users to reach rival search engines with equal ease?

Google is in Billy's crosshairs, one way or another.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 28, 2003

The Digital "Three-Hour Cruise"

Greetings. A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that all but the smallest televisions, plus other consumer video equipment, must include tuners for digital television by July 2007. Current law hopes to shut off conventional analog TV transmissions in December 2006, meaning that, in theory, all non-digital televisions in the U.S. would become obsolete after that date.

In practice, nobody really believes that the 2006 cutoff date will be met. But why the big push for digital TV by Congress? The answer is simple -- money. Budget projections plan for a windfall to be generated through the auction of the existing analog spectrum that would be vacated by existing TV broadcasters. The longer the analog system stays up, the longer the money is delayed.

Of course, consumers were never asked how they felt about being forced to buy all new televisions to replace the analog sets that mostly worked just fine. But think of the benefits -- quality programming like "Gilligan's Island" reruns via digital over-the-air broadcasting. Ain't technology grand?

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 09:33 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 27, 2003

Heroes and the Car Tax

Greetings. Gov-Elect Arnie's pledge to immediately rescind the California "car tax" increase (an increase that was actually a legally mandated return to pre-boom-time levels) could devastate local fire and police services, as the Los Angeles Times notes in an excellent editorial [link expired].

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:28 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


A Burning View

Greetings. The fires are still burning throughout Southern California, leaving destruction in their wake. This shot, taken an hour or so ago, is looking north at the Simi Valley fire across the San Fernando Valley. The fire has been moving south and has now reached the northern edge of the San Fernando Valley itself. I took this photo from the Topanga Canyon summit, but the fire itself is actually only a few miles away from me right now. The winds have died down considerably -- this may be a significant break.

As you can see, everything in L.A. is a tourist attraction.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:46 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 25, 2003

L.A. Fires

Greetings. The Fire Season is now in full force here in Los Angeles, pretty much right on cue. When the hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow this time of year, the fires often follow. Here are four quick shots taken on the way back to the West San Fernando Valley early this evening. There's not a cloud in the sky -- that's all smoke.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:46 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 22, 2003

"VeriSign's Doomsday Machine"

Greetings. VeriSign's recent actions with their "Site Finder" service and related DNS changes have triggered a continuing firestorm of protests. Hear some of the gory details in the short MP3 audio piece, "VeriSign's Doomsday Machine", from Fact Squad Radio.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 11:28 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 08, 2003

VeriSign says more surprises may be forthcoming!

Greetings. As I note in this message, VeriSign is now suggesting that more unannounced surprises -- like their disruptive Site Finder -- may be forthcoming at any time, and that in fact they may reactivate Site Finder at their pleasure. VeriSign says that competitive pressures and concerns over "proprietary information" prevented them from warning the Internet community in advance about Site Finder.

Clearly, it's time for VeriSign to be removed from their current stewardship of critical Internet registry and DNS infrastructure functions.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 07:13 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 07, 2003

VeriSign Replies to IAB

Greetings. VeriSign has replied to the Internet Architecture Board's commentary on the use of wildcards in the DNS system, as relates to VeriSign's "Site Finder" scheme.

I do not recommend reading the VeriSign response shortly after eating.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 06:16 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 05, 2003

"The VeriSign Song"

"The VeriSign Song"

[Satire]

To the tune of "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini"
(With apologies to Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss)

Lyrics Copyright © 2003 Lauren Weinstein
All rights reserved.

- - - -

We wondered why the Inter-net was failing,
It seemed that everything had gone insane!
Both Dot-COM and Dot-NET were derailing,
Then we realized where laid the true blame.

... Two three four, tell the people what's in store!

(boomp)

It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
That's what dear VeriSign seemed willing to say.
An itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
Then they implied we should just go away.

(Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-DA-ba-ba-ba-ba)

Web surfers worldwide found their trips diverted.
ISP mail queues spilled out on the floor.
Software 'round the whole globe was perverted!
But VeriSign simply showed us the door.

... Two three four, stick around we'll tell you more!

(boomp)

It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
A profit center that's bigtime they said!
An itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
And COM-plainers might as well just drop dead.

(Ba-ba-ba-ba ba-DA-ba-ba-ba-ba)

Fi-nally ICANN yelled a bit more loudly,
And VeriSign backed off -- yes, that is true.
But anyone who thinks the story's over,
I'll sell a bridge down in Brooklyn to you!

... Two three four, tell the people what's the score!

(boomp)

It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
Set up some wildcards then bucks would roll in.
An itsy bitsy teenie weenie change to DNS machinery,
VeriSign thought that it had a sure win!

From the user to the router,
From the router bits would soar!
But then VeriSign took over,
Guess there isn't any more!

(boomp!)

- - - -

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 01:29 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 04, 2003

Will the BIOS Be Biased?

Greetings. ZDNET is reporting that Microsoft and Phoenix Technologies, the 800-lb gorilla of PC BIOS makers, are working to integrate key Windows functions into the BIOS itself.

Such a pairing carries the potential of creating an "unholy alliance" that could doom users' ability to control their own systems to the degree they do today. What's more, the impact on Linux could be disastrous, depending on the details and openness of the implementation. On the other hand, the Digital Rights Management folks must be chomping at the bit with the mere prospect of getting their hooks down that deep into the PC hardware.

Yes, this is pretty geeky stuff, but it's something that all computer users need to be concerned about, and needs to be monitored very closely. The potential for us all to be seriously shafted is very real indeed.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 12:10 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 03, 2003

VeriSign Backs Down

VeriSign has backed down, and will temporarily suspend their Site Finder service and related DNS changes. Obviously, they are none too happy about this, as their press release referenced in the above link clearly shows.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 02:29 PM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


ICANN Demands VeriSign Shut Down Site Finder

ICANN's president and CEO Paul Twomey has sent a formal letter to VeriSign demanding that they shut down their Site Finder service and restore the DNS to its earlier configuration, by tomorrow evening.

While I have been an outspoken critic of many ICANN policies, and while the sequence of events involving both ICANN and VeriSign that led us to this point will certainly bear investigation, this action by ICANN is certainly good news.

Now we wait for the other shoe to drop. Stay tuned!

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 11:06 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 02, 2003

VeriSign: "Hang 'Em High"

Greetings. The fallout from VeriSign's "hijacking" of the DNS (Domain Name System) for the .COM and .NET top level domains continues. I've released some preliminary information concerning responses to the PFIR Public Call For Data regarding the effects of VeriSign's actions.

In general, the tenor of many responses was just this side of a lynch mob, suggesting that anger and concern over VeriSign's new "profit center" remains extraordinarily high to say the least.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 12:50 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


October 01, 2003

Plan 9 From California

Greetings. I've lived in California my entire life -- specifically in L.A. That this could have resulted in a somewhat unusual (some might say distorted) view of the world may be a given, but I've typically found that much of the criticism piled on California by the rest of the country, and the world, is frequently unjustified.

This is not the case regarding the Governor's recall election however, now exactly one week away. Every bad thing anyone outside the state can think of to describe the idiotic nature of the proceedings is true, and then some.

Californians may be on the verge of showing their utter lack of common sense, by allowing a vacuous actor (and not a particularly talented one at that), the puppet of entrenched old-guard political interests, to be declared the leader of one of the world's largest economies. Spouting insipid movie lines, platitudes, and a constantly changing description of his life story and past indiscretions, he may yet prove out the line from Ed Wood, Jr.'s classic "Plan 9 From Outer Space": "All you of Earth are idiots!" -- at least as far as California is concerned.

As bad as the California recall law is, I hope it stays in place long enough so it may be used, if necessary, to correct the error that Californians may be about to make.

--Lauren--

Posted by Lauren at 09:14 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein


Origin

Greetings. I'll admit it right at the start -- I'm not entirely convinced that blogs are necessarily a "great idea" in the scheme of the Net. Too often they seem like trees falling in the forest with nobody to hear them, and their "faddish" aspect of the moment is another turn-off.

However... We'll give it the old college try and see how things work out. Obviously this blog isn't very fancy right now, and it's likely to stay rather utilitarian in design. How often I'll actually be updating it is also utterly unknown right now.

By the way, Joi Ito urged me to start this thing, so if it doesn't work out at least there is someone else to blame along with me!

And away we go...

--Lauren--
lauren@pfir.org or
lauren@vortex.com or
lauren@privacyforum.org

Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800

http://www.vortex.com/lauren

Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility -
http://www.pfir.org

Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International
Internet Cooperation and Analysis
www.uriica.org

Moderator, PRIVACY Forum
http://www.vortex.com

Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
http://www.pfir.org/lauren

Posted by Lauren at 07:00 AM | Permalink
Twitter: @laurenweinstein
Google+: Lauren Weinstein