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JAUNDICED EYE SCIENCE & COMPUTING


NEWS AND LINKS AND OPINIONS AND SUCH


Updated 17 FEBRUARY 2000


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Hollywood, California, January 20th, 2000: When we started the Jaundiced Eye Productions Home Page in 1997, it was supposed to be a very broad-based, and include news and links and opinions on all of the arts and sciences and politics and . . . . Of course, it didn't quite work out that way. Our entertainment news and fan page links and our film and television reviews became so popular so fast that we have rarely had a chance to cover anything else. In response, today we initiate a page devoted to science (including mathematics) and computing. We hope that the world will forgive us for starting out mostly with links and banners.

Opinions expressed herein are our own and not necessarily those of any of the owners, webmasters, or users of the sites to which we maintain links. None of those to whom we maintain links have the misfortune to work here, either.








WE'RE #36!

We've mentioned previously that we have an international audience. Now EuroSeek™ has made it official. After only being listed with Euroseek™ since 10 April 1999, we have received more than 62,000 "hits," so that . . .

ON THE LATEST LIST OF ALL EUROSEEK™ COOLSITES IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, WE ARE THE 3ˆ5th MOST POPULAR!

"35th? What happened to 20th?"

Euroseek™ is in the process of changing their software (which will enable people to pass freely from our GeoCities pages (currently being held hostage by the evil Yahoos) to our new site here on Tripod. As their upgrading proceeds, the CoolSites counter may not always be visible on this page, but, Euroseek™ has consolidated the various classes of web pages and . . . OURS IS THE 35th MOST POPULAR EUROSEEK™ COOLSITES PAGE -- OF ALL TYPES -- IN THE WORLD! As mentioned elsewhere on our site, we now have visitors from at least 30 countries, and about 16% of our visitors return at least four times. (We're not bragging about this, mind you, we're explaining why it takes us so long to mirror fan pages from geoCities captivity to Tripod freedom -- we have a lot of e-mail from around the world to go through every day.)

We confidently assert that our web site is most definitely and emphatically “a work of recognized stature” under Title 17 of the United States Code!






THE LOST WORLD AND CLARKE'S FIRST LAW



We dedicate this highly opinionated page to

PROFESSOR GEORGE EDWARD CHALLENGER

the arrogant hero of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Lost World (and its film versions), who compares himself to Galileo and Darwin.

The year 2000, is, incidentally, the 75th anniversary of the film The Lost World, which was the first motion picture to use stop-motion photography of miniatures. Indeed, the original film was so good that in 1922 Doyle, a Spirtualist, was able to bring footage of the dinosaurs from the still-unfinished motion picture to a gathering of the Society of American Magicians, at which the great magician and de-bunker of Spiritualism Harry Houdini was present. The astounded magicians were at a complete loss to explain the footage and began speculating upon what sort of psychic manifestation had been required to embed the images of "living" dinosaurs upon the film.

The Spiritualist Doyle thus demonstrated what has since become immortalized as (Sir Arthur C.) Clarke's First Law:


"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

As we approach the 21st Century, Doyle's trick pales into insignificance. With a few keystrokes CBS alters reality and obliterates an NBC billboard from Times Square for an alleged "news" broadcast. Dead actors dance with vacuum cleaners in television commercials. Paralyzed actors stand up and walk out of their wheelchairs causing people with spinal damage to jam the phone lines of an organization which is sponsoring medical research. It's magic.





14 FEBRUARY 2000: TRIDENT OPPONENTS ARRESTED IN SCOTLAND


According to the Associated Press, police have arrested more than 60 people who tried to blockade the Faslane Naval Base, near Lochgoilhead in western Scotland. The protestors, organized by Trident Ploughshare, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and supported by Sir Sean Connery, tried to prevent workers from entering the complex where the UK's Trident nuclear submarines are based. Up to 400 protesters were involved, including two members of the European Parliament and Scottish legislators and clerics.

According to the AP, "the demonstration followed a ruling by Scottish Sheriff Margaret Gimblett in October that the Trident system was illegal under international law and attempts to 'disarm' it were justified. The Lord Advocate, Scotland's senior law officer, has asked the High Court to review Gimblett's decision."

The Jaundiced Eye view: It will be extremeley interesting to see how this plays out in Scots courts in light of Sheriff Gimblett's ruling. Did the protestors constitute a posse comitatus or participate in a lawful "hue and cry" because they were acting upon the Sheriff's decision? Or were they an unlawful assembly? The arrests raise many issues of Scots law and may have a direct impact upon the interpretation of the legal status of Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom.





13 FEBRUARY 2000: UCSB ONE NODE OF INTERNET ASSAULT


Within days of a series of attacks on Internet sites, including Yahoo! CNN, eBay, Amazon.com, and E*Trade, the University of California at Santa Barbara has announced that one of its campus computers was a node of the massive "denial of service" assaults on the services. CNET is reporting now that computers at Stanford and the University of California were also involved in different phases of what seems to have been a co-ordinated attack.

The attack slowed Internet service to a comparative crawl in the United States for more than three days either directly or as a result of users trying to catch up on work which had been delayed by the attack. According to the United States Justice Department, the assault was launched Tuesday as a massive bombardment of millions of queries for information from more than fifty "different directions" {sic}, all apparently from computers which had been instructed to make the inquiries due to a program introduced from outside their own systems, making the computers something like disease vectors.

Federal authorities are alleged to be unhappy with the University's admission, because it allegedly undermines U. S. Justice Department hints that the attacks were a result of foreign computer terrorism. For its part, the University acknowledged that its securtity had been breached, but said that the unauthorized use of its computer in the attack was part of the price to be paid for maintaining an open system and a free Internet.

Federal authorities were quite voluble in denouncing the blitz, with even Bill Clinton, not one noted for his technological savvy, getting into the act. According to CNET, Attorney General Janet Reno insisted that the U. S. government would insure that "e-commerce remains a safe place to do business." Even the military has been callled in to investigate the denial of service hack.


INVASION OF PRIVACY ISSUES IGNORED BY GOVERNMENT


Conspicuously absent from the pronunciamentos were any assurances that the government would act to protect the privacy of non-commercial Internet users or the property rights which they have vested in their computers and their work. Indeed, if previous events are any guide, the Federal reaction to these assaults will be to storm into the homes and businesses of "suspects" and seize any and all telecommunciations devices in violent raids. Indeed, when Steve Jackson Games was about to publish their Cyberpunk game book several years ago, Federal agents raided their ofices before the book was published and even seized a telephone answering machine which, according to eyewitnesses, the agent who took it apparently did not even recognize, thinking that it was some sort of computer peripheral! (As is widely known, after a lengthy legal struggle which nearly bankrupted the company, a judge finally ordered all of the seized materials returned, holding that not only had the agents acted improperly, but ignorantly as well -- the book contained no information whatsoever on how to tamper illegally with computer systems; its title was derived from the genre of science fiction upon which their game was based!)

The magnitude of the assault on the Internet was readily visible at the Jaundiced Eye: our main page, which contains a link to Yahoo!-owned GeoCities, suffered an 83% drop in traffic during the first twenty-four hours of the attack, and at one point our computer here had slowed down to a transmission rate of less than 100 bytes per second. All-in-all, the attack on the servers, which would have been considered merely a nasty prank twenty years ago, when the 'net was a means for academic communication instead of a major industry, was a considerable nuisance which will undoubtedly lead to considerable encroachments by government authorities upon computer privacy. (See Patricia Nell Warren's essay for more on that subject!)

In that we are always suspicious of anything involving the Yahoos, we note with grave concern that one of their corporate officers, in a televised statement to assure users that the "security" of their system had not been breached, let slip that Yahoo! Inc. had data on one hundred million computer users. Given that the total population of the United States is only slightly more than 260,000,000 and that only a small fraction of these people are Yahoo! customers, the question immediately arises: How did Yahoo! obtain its files on these 100,000,000 people, and why are they maintaining those files? Given that Japanese-owned Yahoo! is supposedly based in California (whose State Constitution guarantees the right of personal privacy to its residents), we wonder if the state's Department of Justice will investigate Yahoo!'s databases and see if they are violating California laws by maintaining records of the computer usage of non-customers? One also wonders what other information Yahoo! is maintaining on so many people? . . .





GAME SHOW CONTESTANTS -- PAY ATTENTION!


The "Jeopardy!" College Tournament for the year 2000 featured a question on Kennewick Man which the contestants would have gotten right if they had bothered to check this page before appearing. As it was, none of the contestants knew the question to the answer regarding the origin of Kennewick Man's remains: "What is Washington?" Pay attention to us, folks, something you read on this page might be worth thousands of dollars to you some day . . . possibly even . . . a million dollars, if you are on some game shows!





COMPUTING & PRIVACY EDITORIAL:

5 February 2000: Patricia Nell Warren Exclusive:

"INTERNET VICTORIES, INTERNET THREATS"


Abstract © 2000 by Patricia Nell Warren:


As we enter the new Millennium, the Internet cuts both ways for gay people -- both as a much-loved medium of communication and activism, and as an increasingly worrisome way to attack privacy. Author Warren notes some political victories of 1999 that were achieved through Internet activism, notably passage of the Dignity for All Students bill in California. She also notes public-health authorities' insistence that AIDS infection rates are linked to gay chat rooms...though "AIDS dissent" is creating some questions about what "AIDS" really is.

MORE . . .



(Opinions expressed elsewhere on this page are not necessarily those of Ms. Warren. We, however, concur with Ms. Warren's editorial.)





ARCHAEOLOGY, ANTHROPOLIGY AND BIOCHEMISTRY:


5 FEBRUARY 2000: "KENNWICK MAN" DNA TO BE ANALYZED


Reuters reports that the United States Department of the Interior intends to conduct a DNA analysis on the 9,300 year old skeletal remains of "Kennewick Man."

Discovered in 1996 near Kennewick, Washington, the ancient has been claimed as an ancestor by five different local Native American tribes, but bears strong Caucasoid traits which have led many anthropologists to link him to the Ainu, the aboroginal inhabitants of Japan. DNA analysis may help to determine if Caucasians lived in North America more than 8,000 years before the Norse arrived in Eastern Canada or might imply that current tribes of the Pacific Northwest have a greater claim to the remains than current Washington State tribes.

Frank McManamon, Chief Archeologist for the National Park Service, said that the test "will be useful for cultural affiliation purposes," but warned that contamination of the DNA samples may make exact identification of its genetic relationship to living peoples impossible.




13 FEBRUARY 2000: MP3.com SUES RIIA


In the latest clash in the seemingly never-ending legal struggle over new technologies, MP3.com (see articles below) has sued the Recording Industry Association of America (RIIA) for defamation and interference with their business. The suit was filed in the Superior Court of California in MP3.com's home city of San Diego, where the courts are not as likely to rule against new technologies as the judges in New York District Court, where the RIIA's suit against MP3.com has been filed.

Unless the RIIA manages to quash the suit in California, it is not inconceivable that the two courts may rule for different plaintiffs: it is possible that the Federal court in New York may hold against MP3.com's use of technology, while the state court in California may rule against the RIIA because of its tactics. The whole matter seems destined for the United States Supreme Court, which has ultimate jurisdiction of all court decisions in the United States.



5 FEBRUARY 2000: MP3 TECHNOLOGY & COPYRIGHT LAWS:

RIAA SUES TO STOP MP3.COM TECHNOLOGY


Variety has reported that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has filed suit in a U.S. District Court in New York City against the San Diego-based company MP3.com, allegedimg that the company compiled an online library of 40,000 albums, in violation of copyrights. RIAA represents recording companies and record manufacturers.

Specifically targeted are the company's technologies linked to their "My.MP3.com" service, which allows users to listen to music from their personal CD collections on any computer. The service verifies that a user possesses a CD included in MP3.com's database and then streams those songs for the user.

The RIAA is also suing MP3.com over its "Instant Listening" service, which allows users to buy CDs and listen to them immediately online.

The RIAA claims that the services utilize "an unauthorized digital archive with ... valuable copyrighted sound recordings ... that is not owned by MP3.com."

MP3.com Chief Executive Michael Robertson replied to the RIAA allegations by stating, "My.MP3.com provides more choices for consumers to do what they want with music they already own. Our technology also enables artists to communicate directly with their fan base." According to the Reuters/Variety story, most of MP3.com's business derives from "250,000 songs from 40,000 mostly unsigned musicians. Visitors to its site can download the songs for free and buy CDs and other merchandise from the artists."


THE JAUNDICED EYE VIEW:

Jaundiced Eye Productions is on Lycos's Tripod service to protect its own copyrighted materials and the copyrighted materials of the motion picture and television production companies who have graciously permitted us to use photographs and other materials from their movies and television shows.

Begun in 1980, Jaundiced Eye Productions established an Internet presence on the then-independent service, GeoCities.

In June, 1999, Yahoo! Inc. acquired GeoCities and within weeks demanded that all GeoCities "homesteaders," such as we, who were legally members of GeoCities and neither customers nor subscribers, agree to "terms of service" which would have permitted the Yahoos to utilize any and all material on member sites, including copyrighted materials, without the advice or consent of the member, and without paying any compensation to the member or to any third-party copyright holders. Adamantly refusing to yield any of our U.S. copyrights to foreign-owned Yahoo or any of its dubious "partners," and also refusing to permit them to utilize copyrighted materials licensed to us by others, we have since been "mirroring" our site to copyright safety on Tripod.

The Jaundiced Eye thus sympathizes with copyright holders whose rights are endangered or violated by others, and we endeavour to respect the copyrights of others within the limits of "fair use" provided for in Title 17 of the United States Code. We question, however, the propriety of bringing a California company to trial in New York City over what seems to be an issue of technology and not copyright law. If MP3.com permits CD owners to listen to recordings which they already own on computers instead of on CD players, wherein lies the copyright violation? MP3.com seems, on the surface, to be merely facilitating the utilization of music already purchased by consumers, allowing them to listen to music which they already own without the necessity of lugging around the phsyical CDs and CD players. It would appear that MP3.com functions rather in the same capacity as videotape owners and cable television subscribers who permit other videotape owners and cable television subscribers to come over and watch television with them -- extending the RIAA's position to videorecordings and cable television would be comparable to videotape distributors and cable services demand that video owners or cable subscribers who watch videos or cable television at the homes of others pay an additional fee to watch something which they have already purchased!

We additionally note with alarm the story below, which may indicate that U.S. District judges in New York City are predisposed to rule against the entrepeneurs of new technology and in favor of vested interests whose profits are endangered by scientific and technological progress.





SETI@home -- THE SEARCH FOR EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE at HOME



SETI@home is a project which allows home computer users to download a screensaver which functions as a number cruncher for the results obtained from the radio telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Home users can run SETI@home around-the-clock as a stand-alone application (which maximizes efficiency) or just let it quietly crunch numbers as a screensaver (which saves on electrical usage). When the home application finishes its "work unit," it asks for permission to contact Berkeley and transfer its results to the big computer there and download a fresh batch of data.

With over a million and a half users, SETI@home is the largest "distributed computing" project in history. Take your place next to the Royal Society and the most powerful observatories in the world and join the Search for Extra-Teresstrial Intelligence today.


13 FEBRUARY 2000 UPDATE:

Berkeley has introduced SETI@home 2.02, which supercedes earlier versions of the software. This version seems slightly faster than its predecessor and is also reputedly more difficult to "hack" by those trying to alter the data. It is still visually pretty, but at the moment our "work unit" is either a piece of dead space or else this version removes the capability of the user to see the results of the crunched data. We hope that it is the former; if the latter, much of the mystique of this distributed computing project will be lost: who wants to keep a computer running around the clock and not know what results it is coming up with? We sure don't!





FOURMILAB -- JOHN WALKER'S MEGA-SITE



John Walker is the founder of Autodesk and co-author of AutoCAD, and he also maintains one of the most amusing, informative sites on the Internet.

Among Walker's other contributions to science and computing are programs for cryptography and steganography, an emulator for Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine (that 19th century gizmo so beloved by fans of steampunk), a diet, a scientific analysis of eternal life, an on-line experiment in Retro-PsychoKinesis (RPK), histories of Autodesk and of UNIVAC® computing, and what was probably the world's first computer virus, a brilliant little program for the UNIVAC® 7100 series called ANIMAL (a wonderful game which was also one of the world's first artifical intelligence programs), which old-time computer users may remember for its famous greeting:

THINK OF AN ANIMAL.




20 JANUARY 2000: WE MAKE THE MICROSHIFT


John Walker (above) having already told the world the top ten reasons Eternal Damnation is better than Windows Software Development, we are calling an end to our decade-long use of software from the company which markets Windows software, that third-rate imitation of the Apple Graphical User Interface. Our reasons for making the Microshift (yes, we know that it's mis-spelled, but this is a "kid-safe" site, so we added an extra letter for clarity -- adults who cannot figure out what we mean should ask a youngster to explain the facts of life to them) are manifold, but let's try to summarize:



Accordingly, we are now openly soliciting submissions of integrated word processing and spreadsheet software, including beta versions, usable on a Macintosh PowerPC running System 8.5.1, from any and all business rivals of Microsoft, Inc. We will freely endorse whichever software we adopt to all of our thousands of readers in thirty+ countries.






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