From @vm42.cso.uiuc.edu:owner-cudigest@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU Sun Jul 10 15:56:49 1994 Date: Sun

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Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

From <@vm42.cso.uiuc.edu:owner-cudigest@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU> Sun Jul 10 15:56:49 1994 Date: Sun, 10 Jul 1994 14:34:00 CDT Reply-To: TK0JUT2@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU Sender: CU-DIGEST list Subject: Cu Digest, #6.62 To: Multiple recipients of list CUDIGEST Computer underground Digest Sun July 10, 1994 Volume 6 : Issue 62 ISSN 1004-042X Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET) Archivist: Brendan Kehoe Retiring Shadow Archivist: Stanton McCandlish Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala Ian Dickinson Copper Ionizer: Ephram Shrustleau CONTENTS, #6.62 (Sun, July 10, 1994) File 1--Sysop Liability for Copyright Infringement (Sysop Beware) File 2--The Disinformation Highway: A-V Shills Do It Again File 3--Re: AA BBS Trial coming up File 4--Re: DNA proposal File 5--Response to Wade Riddick Open Letter Cu-Digest is a weekly electronic journal/newsletter. Subscriptions are available at no cost electronically. CuD is available as a Usenet newsgroup: comp.society.cu-digest Or, to subscribe, send a one-line message: SUB CUDIGEST your name Send it to LISTSERV@UIUCVMD.BITNET or LISTSERV@VMD.CSO.UIUC.EDU The editors may be contacted by voice (815-753-0303), fax (815-753-6302) or U.S. mail at: Jim Thomas, Department of Sociology, NIU, DeKalb, IL 60115, USA. Issues of CuD can also be found in the Usenet comp.society.cu-digest news group; on CompuServe in DL0 and DL4 of the IBMBBS SIG, DL1 of LAWSIG, and DL1 of TELECOM; on GEnie in the PF*NPC RT libraries and in the VIRUS/SECURITY library; from America Online in the PC Telecom forum under "computing newsletters;" On Delphi in the General Discussion database of the Internet SIG; on RIPCO BBS (312) 528-5020 (and via Ripco on internet); and on Rune Stone BBS (IIRGWHQ) (203) 832-8441. CuD is also available via Fidonet File Request from 1:11/70; unlisted nodes and points welcome. EUROPE: from the ComNet in LUXEMBOURG BBS (++352) 466893; In ITALY: Bits against the Empire BBS: +39-461-980493 UNITED STATES: etext.archive.umich.edu (141.211.164.18) in /pub/CuD/ ftp.eff.org (192.88.144.4) in /pub/Publications/CuD aql.gatech.edu (128.61.10.53) in /pub/eff/cud/ world.std.com in /src/wuarchive/doc/EFF/Publications/CuD/ uceng.uc.edu in /pub/wuarchive/doc/EFF/Publications/CuD/ wuarchive.wustl.edu in /doc/EFF/Publications/CuD/ EUROPE: nic.funet.fi in pub/doc/cud/ (Finland) ftp.warwick.ac.uk in pub/cud/ (United Kingdom) JAPAN: ftp.glocom.ac.jp /mirror/ftp.eff.org/ COMPUTER UNDERGROUND DIGEST is an open forum dedicated to sharing information among computerists and to the presentation and debate of diverse views. CuD material may be reprinted for non-profit as long as the source is cited. Authors hold a presumptive copyright, and they should be contacted for reprint permission. It is assumed that non-personal mail to the moderators may be reprinted unless otherwise specified. Readers are encouraged to submit reasoned articles relating to computer culture and communication. Articles are preferred to short responses. Please avoid quoting previous posts unless absolutely necessary. DISCLAIMER: The views represented herein do not necessarily represent the views of the moderators. Digest contributors assume all responsibility for ensuring that articles submitted do not violate copyright protections. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: Thu, 8 Jul 1994 22:50:18 PDT From: George, Donaldson & Ford Subject: File 1--Sysop Liability for Copyright Infringement (Sysop Beware) Source: LEGAL BYTES, Spring 1994, Volume 2, Number 1 gdf@well.sf.ca.us ___________________________________ Copyright (c) 1994 George, Donaldson & Ford, L.L.P. (Permission is granted freely to redistribute this newsletter in its entirety electronically.) ====================================================================== 1. BBS SYSOP LIABILITY FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: LET THE OPERATOR BEWARE! Two recent court decisions should remind electronic bulletin board ("BBS") system operators that, despite popular theories and arguments, current statutory and common law is being applied to BBSs without much attention to the unique nature of the communications technology. These legal actions are challenging the notion that BBSs can be unregulated virtual swap meets or unsupervised shopping malls, where the sysop can provide a place for the swapping of computer files and information, without tending to the content or pedigree of the files available on the board. 1. PLAYBOY ENTERPRISES, INC. v. FRENA. In December, 1993, a federal trial court in Florida decided an important copyright case involving a typical situation faced by many BBS sysops: the unauthorized uploading of copyrighted files by users. The case imposes a high standard of liability on sysops, and should be a reminder that sysops need to pay attention to *actual* court decisions, not just the latest legal theories bandied about the Net. George Frena is the sysop of a BBS in Florida called "Techs Warehouse." His BBS carries, among other things, adult material. At the time of the court decision, Frena provided free access to users who purchased products from him, and charged $25 a month to those who did not. Frena allowed subscribers to upload whatever they wanted onto his BBS, and uploads were apparently immediately available for downloading. According to the opinion, Techs Warehouse contained among its files 170 copyrighted PLAYBOY and PLAYGIRL pictures. Frena conceded that these pictures were on his BBS, and that he did not have authority from Playboy Enterprises, Inc. ("PEI"), to distribute the pictures. The pictures' file descriptions included the registered trademarks PLAYBOY and PLAYMATE. PEI's text had been removed from these pictures, and Frena's name, "Techs Warehouse BBS," and the BBS's phone number had been added. According to Frena, he did not post or alter the pictures; the files were all modified and uploaded by users. After PEI sued him, Frena removed the offending files and now monitors his BBS to assure that no more PLAYBOY pictures are uploaded. In a simple one-two analysis of "ownership" and "copying", the Court held that Frena violated PEI's copyrights. The Court first held that PEI owned the copyrights in the pictures, which was not disputed. The Court then decided that Frena had "copied" these pictures, despite his claim not to have posted the pictures on the BBS himself. The Court *inferred* that Frena had copied because (a) Frena had access to the original pictures, because *PLAYBOY* is a widely circulated magazine; (b) the computer file images were "substantially similar" to the copyrighted PLAYBOY pictures; and (c) the copyright owner's "public distribution" and "display" rights were infringed by having the image files available on the BBS. The two arguments a typical sysop might think persuasive in this situation were rejected. First, even if Frena himself did not copy the pictures, the Court said that was irrelevant. The mere presence of the images on his BBS was enough: There is no dispute that Defendant Frena supplied a product containing unauthorized copies of a copyrighted work. It does not matter that Defendant Frena claims he did not make the copies himself. Second, even if Frena did not *intend* to violate PEI's copyrights, the Court held this too was irrelevant: It does not matter that Defendant Frena may have been unaware of the copyright infringement. Intent to infringe is not needed to find copyright infringement. ... [E]ven an innocent infringer is liable for infringement ... . Innocent intent only matters when it comes to damages, not liability. Along with copyright infringement, the Court also held that Frena was liable for trademark infringement, because the offending files contained the PLAYBOY and PLAYMATE registered trademarks. Again, Frena's claim that he did not himself put these words on the images nor post the images was held to be irrelevant. As a final reproof, the Court held that the trademark infringement also made Frena liable for "unfair competition" against PEI. The Court left the question of damages for a later hearing. The procedural posture of the FRENA decision makes this an especially important precedent: the Court was required to believe Frena's claims, but found him liable anyway. The Court in FRENA has essentially put the burden on BBS sysops (at least those that charge money for access) of reviewing all files on their boards for possible copyright and trademark infringements. Regardless of the sysops' good faith or efforts to remove infringing files, the sysop will be liable for copyright trademark infringement for those files that escape detection. Several aspects of the FRENA decision are open to question and the opinion certainly will not be the last word, especially when a case is decided by a court more attuned to the technology involved. The FRENA court was certainly correct that a person need not intend to infringe, or know he is infringing, to be liable for copyright infringement. In that sense, it is a "strict liability" tort. When applied to computer files actually uploaded by the sysop, this principle is no less fair than when it is applied to non-electronic publishers like newspapers and magazines. However, one can wonder about the Court's unquestioning application of this principle to files uploaded by users. Are a BBS's file directories similar to paper publications, as the Court assumed without discussing the question, or are they more like a swap meet or shopping mall where the sysop provides the space, and the users provide the goods? Holding a sysop strictly liable for the legal pedigree of every file on the BBS significantly limits the core innovation of BBSs -- free two-directional file transfer. A newspaper publisher cannot claim not to know what is in the newspaper; the publisher makes the decision what to include and what to leave out. The sysop does not necessarily do this, or know what is on the BBS at any given time. Given the ability to upload and download files without the sysop's knowledge, is it proper to hold the sysop strictly liable for the presence of infringing files? If it is, is it also correct, as the FRENA court did, to automatically infer the additional element of copyright infringement -- "copying"? Is simply providing the *means* to swap copyrighted files enough to make a sysop liable for illegal "copying"? Should there be some requirement that the sysop at least *know* that copyrighted files are being posted and downloaded by users, and made no attempt, or only inadequate attempts, to prevent such activity before a Court finds that he copied the files? The Court in FRENA imposed liability regardless of the sysop's knowledge of what users were doing on his board. Would the Court have reached the same conclusion so easily if Frena had been the owner of a shopping mall leasing space to a tenant who was (without his knowledge) selling Metallica T-shirt rip-offs? The Court also appeared to misunderstand the nature of a BBS when it held that the availability of the image files violated the "display" right aspect of a copyright. The Court apparently believed the images were actually *displayed* to the user, a capability that is only offered by some large commercial BBSs, and is limited by the user's communication software. Of course, the "public distribution" aspect of a copyright can still be violated by the distribution of a computer file containing an image, and so this error has no meaningful effect on the decision. Finally, toward the end of its opinion, the Court seemed to lose track of Frena's claim that he did not upload the images, erase PEI's text, or add the BBSs' name and phone number himself -- a claim the Court legally had to accept at that stage in the proceedings. It is not clear whether Frena unequivocally stated that he did not know the PLAYBOY pictures were on his BBS before he was sued. However, the Court went a step further, stating that Frena himself deleted PEI's text from the PLAYBOY pictures, "add[ed] his own text" and "appropriat[ed] PEI's photographs without attribution," even though Frena denied having done so. The Court's assumption of disputed facts in PEI's favor, while questionable, might actually limit the impact of the opinion as precedent, because if Frena *had*, in fact, done those things himself there would be little question of his liability. These problems with the FRENA opinion demonstrate that the courts continue to struggle to understand computer communication technology. The natural tendency of the law is to make square pegs fit round holes until someone persuasively explains the difference. For example, judging from the Court's opinion, Frena's lawyers spent substantial energy making an obviously weak, losing defense that making copyrighted PLAYBOY pictures available for download on a commercial BBS was a "fair use" of those pictures exempt from copyright law. The effort would better have been spent explaining the unique nature of BBSs to the judge, and the unique problems facing sysops in patrolling for copyright infringement. PLAYBOY ENTERPRISES, INC. v. FRENA can be found at 22 Media Law Reporter 1301 (M.D. Fla. Dec. 9, 1993). ------------------------------ Date: 07 Jul 94 14:07:23 EDT From: Urnst Couch, Crypt Newsletter <70743.1711@COMPUSERVE.COM> Subject: File 2--The Disinformation Highway: A-V Shills Do It Again Here's a news story for CuD that broke out in June and splashed all over Compuserve, Ziff-Davis On-line, anyone who read NewsBytes and various other places. --Urnst +------------------------------------------------------ Pete: What's the difference between an anti-virus software vendor and a virus writer? Re-Pete: Gee, I dunno, Pete! Pete: The anti-virus software vendor can afford to staff a public relations department. ----------------------------------------------- Although the joke is guaranteed to raise the hackles on conservative elements within the world of computing, it remains quite a mystery to Crypt Newsletter staffers why much of the on-line computer press still react like stone idiots when confronted with p.r. touting super viruses more than two years after Michelangelo. Such was the case, recently, when a small anti-virus company from Washington decided to use the shopworn cry of "Wolf!" over just another of the thousands of viruses which can infect IBM-compatible computers. Reflex claimed to have discovered a virus called Junkie on an unnamed client's system in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A company press release outlining the was issued, landing with a satisfying thud at the on-line NewsBytes news service which essentially republished Reflex p.r. verbatim as wire news. "Another Super-Virus Discovered," trumpeted the title of the June 2 NewsBytes article baring the Junkie threat. NewsBytes proceeded to reprint the advice of Reflex flack Bob Reed who claimed, "The only known cure is re-formatting the [computer's] hard disk." And criminally stupid advice it was. Junkie virus could - in a pinch - be removed from infected machines without the use of anti-virus software and without eliminating all the data on the computer's hard disk. In fact, the advice attributed to Reflex was so bad it should have raised questions among computer journalists whether the company even staffed the kind of experts that should be relied upon when looking for anti-virus security. Another representative from Reflex promptly engaged in an exercise in finger-pointing, blaming Ziff-Davis On-line reporter Doug Vargas who, he said, told readers "the only way to get rid of the virus is to format the drive and start over." "Evidently, this was lost in the translation from the Reflex engineers to Doug Vargas . . . ," claimed the company spokesman. In any case, it gave the impression Reflex representatives had no idea what they were talking about and that on-line reporters weren't helping matters either. The Reflex reps stressed the virus utilized alarming new techniques to enhance its virulence. It could, they said, be spread by anti-virus software to every other susceptible program on the computer. This was dutifully passed on by NewsBytes and later Compuserve On-line, which repackaged much of the original June 2 wirecopy for republication on June 15 as part of its On-Line Today news service. Again this was mendacious, mostly by error of omission. Viruses which are spread by the action of anti-virus programs were not new. Anti-virus specialists had been well-acquainted with such tricks since at least 1992. Even the cheapest manuals supplied with such software describe the mode of action in some detail. Junkie was also a polymorphic virus, said NewsBytes, a virus much harder to detect than average programs of the type because of an encrypting technology which constantly shifts the majority of the virus's instructions into a gobble unrecognizable by anti-virus software. This also wasn't quite true. Bill Arnold, an IBM anti-virus software developer said of Junkie, "For what it's worth, [Junkie] is easily detected with scan strings with wildcards . . ." This meant that although Junkie was "polymorphic," it was so in only a nit-picker's sense of the term. A unique string of instructions could simply be extracted from the Junkie virus and immediately folded into existing software. The current edition of IBM's anti-virus software detected Junkie as did a number of other competing programs. However, Compuserve attributed Frank Horowitz of Reflex with another "good salesman's" claim: that anti-virus scanner software couldn't find Junkie, period. To top it off, Junkie wasn't common. Outside of the alleged report from Ann Arbor, Michigan, the only other claim to surface in the days to follow came from Malmo, a city in Scandinavia. Junkie was actually more virulent when amplified by the power of journalism. A story on it had even been picked up by The New Orleans Times Picayune newspaper. "The only known comprehensive method of detection and prevention [for Junkie] at this date is . . . from Reflex," read the company's press release on the virus. Paradoxically, the press release mentioned the company had to rely on a competitor's product to help identify the virus - a bit of news noticeably lacking from most on-line stories dealing with Junkie. The Compuserve news service also attached hearsay on another virus, called Smeg, to the Junkie story. Funneled through Horowitz, Smeg was dubbed another super virus infecting the financial districts of London. Unfortunately, it was just more silly exaggeration. Richard Ford, an Englishman who edits the trade journal Virus Bulletin, estimated that only between 2-12 cases of Smeg had been found in the United Kingdom. Of those, only two sightings were rock solid. Ironically, the to-do about Smeg and Junkie got the attention of that segment of the hacker underground interested in viruses. Although no one in the underground had a sample of the Smeg virus at the beginning of June, due to the publicity, a handful of hackers started making inquiries and by the second week of the month had been able to obtain a working copy of one of the versions of Smeg - there were actually two - by way of a German named Gerhard Maier who had ties to the European anti-virus software industry. Maier had accumulated a reputation as a bulk purchaser of computer viruses from individuals who operated private bulletin board systems stocking the programs on the US eastern seaboard. The copy of the virus, attached to a copy of the MS-DOS editor, was quickly passed around the United States to anyone with the wit to ask via network electronic mail along the FIDO-net backbone and through the Internet service known as Internet Relay Chat. Some refused to take a hit on the Junkie virus p.r. A reporter for Information Week magazine furnished an article which, in short, claimed the affair nonsense. Earlier, he had contacted Mark Ludwig, an author who has published books containing a multiplicity of virus code, for background. Although Ludwig hadn't seen Junkie, he informed the reporter the case for it was quite probably over-stated. Perhaps the most interesting facet of the Junkie virus story is the way news concerning it was spread, twisted and manipulated into strange and frightening tale far more interesting than the actual program itelf. If there is a good side to the Junkie virus it is the likelihood that the next time anti-virus vendors come knocking - and they will - the chain of fools within the computer press corps who unquestioningly cater to them will be a few links shorter. ------------------------------ Date: Thu, 7 Jul 94 22:19:33 PDT From: hkhenson@cup.portal.com (H Keith Henson) Subject: File 3--Re: AA BBS Trial coming up Re File 9 of the 5 July issue of CuD,--Some thoughts on the AA BBS, the Advocate writes: >Stuff about the AA BBS case. This case is essentially a war of ideas. >Can a backwards, pigheaded state like Tennessee set the moral and >cultural standard of a sophisticated state like California? So far they are making a serious attempt. >I say not, and like minded individuals agree with us. I would guess that 90+ percent of the people on the net agree, but they don't control the federal legal and police forces. >These "Reagan-Jungians" need to be beaten back. The best light is that >of the First Amendment. Bring the press in, point out the vital issues. While the press has been somewhat supportive, they don't get the connection between *their* presses and what an adult BBS provides. They don't understand the need to defend on the margins *before* you get your heart ripped out. ("First they came for the Pornographers . . .) >The judge will be embarrassed if the AP or Court TV is televising >what this action is about. Federal courts don't admit TV. The original bust with its obvious frame up of the sysop was reported on local (Bay area) TV. None of those involved seem to be embarrassed in the slightest. (Though Judge Brazil did remove himself from the case after being accused of serious breaches of conduct.) As a follow on what I posted mid January, it turns out that possessing kiddy porn is not a crime in the 9th circuit. The Excitement Video case in California ruled the law unconstitutional on appeal. Newsom (the TN prosecutor) specializes in porn and must have been up on this landmark case. The case was local to California, so the local prosecutors would have known about it as well. It has always been a mystery as to why postal inspector Dirmeyer did not have warrant for the kiddy porn he mailed to the sysop just before he came in. We now figure they left it off on purpose because even a corrupt judge who knew about the EV case would not issue a warrant for something he knew was legal! However, until the Supreme court rules on a case and unifies the law, possession of kiddy porn *is* a crime in the 6th circuit (where Tennessee is located). So, the sysop was indicted *there* after being framed for possession in California! Aside from the frame up, this raises the issue of: Can someone be charged with a crime in a different district of the country when what they did would not be a crime where it was done? The feds in Tennessee seem to think they can do it. (Ah, well. California has some odd notions of how far they can reach on things like sales and income taxes.) >Has anyone tried contacting the Playboy Foundation or the Guccione >Foundation. Contact people like Spider Robinson or William Gibson. >Publicity can only help. Yes Playboy Foundation, no Guccione. Playboy was marginally helpful. Does anyone have an address or number for any of those mentioned? >Especially given the candy ass tricks the prosecutors are trying out. Right you are! This is clearly political/religious persecution. (Does anyone know anything about the Conservative Caucus??) But what the hell can you do when the courts ignore their own rules and cater to the prosecutors? The court should dismiss this one on the speedy trial issue alone (40 days over the limit), but the judge has not ruled on several of the defendant's motions to dismiss, such as the NAFTA issue. The judge and prosecutor seem determined to break the defendant financially. For example, the last time Richard Williams (the AA BBS lawyer) went to Memphis for a hearing, neither the judge (Gibbons) nor the prosecutor (Newsom) assigned to the case showed up. All Richard could do was to turn around and come home with $2000 in plane fare and expenses down the drain. There is a hearing Friday, (July 8, 1994) at which the judge will ask Richard a single question--"are you ready for trial July 18" and to which he will answer "yes." This could be accomplished by telephone, but the judge said "show up or else." (Fortunately Richard was able to get a local lawyer to show up in his place and say "yes.") I very much doubt *they* will be ready for trial, since the judge has not ruled on the motions in anything approaching the time allowed by court rules. My bet based on watching this business since January is that the judge will stall till the trial starts, rule against all motions, and start a trial which will be overturned on appeal just to break the AA BBS sysop financially. There seems to be no rules against this vile misuse of judicial power--nor any forum in which you can complain. (Except the media--which is rather reluctant to support anyone whom the government has smeared with the "hot button" of child porn.) >Bring heat to Reno and Clinton. I haven't got a clue as to how to do this. I can't (and neither can anyone else who has tried) even reach Veronica Coleman, the local US Attorney, much less her boss Janet Reno. Actually, I feel for Clinton because there are likely people who *do* know how to hold his feet to the fire. My bet is that the NSA/CIA/FIB/XYZ knows (as someone put it on eff.talk) something Hillery does not. I am beginning to think that top politicians should fuck sheep and abuse children on live TV. Otherwise, those who know about their minor sins have an arm lock on them. J. Edgar Hoover abused the US Presidents this way for all of his long career. >If this case is to be tried, it should be in california. Judge Gibbons *did* rule on this one--denied. There wouldn't *be* a case in California. You can buy everything the AA BBS sysop was accused of selling within 10 blocks of the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco. >The Advocate. Keith Henson (who finds that the government disobeying the rules makes him itch!) ============================================================ Postscript- I get conflicting information on the status of the kiddy porn law in the 9th circuit. Mike Godwin sent me a note that the case ruled on the issue of whether the government had to prove *mens rea* (intent) with regard to possession, and that the law--presumably 2252(a)(1) is still in force everywhere. I guess this reasoning might get you off if the cops found child porn which you could prove you did not know you had (tough!). However, I get news from Richard Williams that several people have been released as a result of this ruling. Perhaps Mike Godwin will want to make further comments? *****IN ANY CASE, CONSIDER CHILD PORN ILLEGAL IN EVERY STATE****** Re the hearing Friday, Judge Gibbons is allowing only a week for the trial when three weeks were requested. (Vacation, you know.) I guess that is the Memphis approach to "speedy trial." When asked about rulings on the motions before her, she stated they were all denied, and that they "were in the typewriter." (Reports indicate she was hopping mad that Rich was able to find a local attorney to show up which saved his client a heap of expenses.) The very short trial indicates to me that they may be intending to drop most of the charges. The kiddy porn charge is a blatant frameup, much worse than the entrapment case the Supreme Court ruled on in '92. They are claiming that expressing an interest in "unique" material in chat equals ordering child porn. There is, of course, no evidence that the AA BBS sysop has ever had any interest child porn. (He certainly does have "unique" material for an adult BBS. The kitten- in-a-sandbox one with the provocative title, the montage of 30 assholes, and the lobster shots are great examples!) The downloading charges are equally bogus. There is no possible way a sysop can prevent downloading into an up-tight state. If this *is* a crime, Postal Inspector Dirmeyer is the guilty party. That leaves the GIFS on disks, and the tapes. I know these are available by mail from Europe and Mexico, so they will fall under NAFTA--on appeal is my bet. I sure do wish there was someone In TN who could look up Judge Gibbons record, but that place is almost off the net. Keith ------------------------------ Date: Thu, 7 Jul 94 19:02:02 EST From: rainer@TOPAZIO.DCC.UFMG.BR(Rainer Brockerhoff) Subject: File 4--Re: DNA proposal These are comments on : " A New Computer Standard: Fixing the Flats on the Information Highway" by Wade Riddick , published in CuD 6.60, and a rebuttal by Dr.Jerry Leichter , published in CuD 6.61. In an open letter to US Vice-president Al Gore, Mr. Riddick sketches a proposal for the establishment of an "open standard" he calls DNA, which, as far as I understood his intentions, would define a platform-independent object-oriented way of transporting data, applications, operating systems and yet-to-be-invented other software. Moreover he proposes that this standard be developed and enforced by the US Government. Dr. Leichter cites several examples of government-imposed standard efforts that went awry, such as the late unlamented IBM channel architecture and the never-quite-here OSI standards, and also mentions the "death of object-oriented programming" as published in Byte Magazine to bolster his dismissal of Mr. Riddick's arguments. I agree with most of Dr. Leichter's rebuttal (although I see his repeated mention of Mr. Riddick's lack of credentials as somewhat ad-hominem) but I would like to call attention to an as-yet unmentioned flaw in Mr.Riddick's proposal, namely the problems inherent in the establishment of a standard by the _US_ Government (or any other "merely" national government). Although the US certainly has been for many years the main player and focus in hardware and software, the international market is growing intolerant of products that do not take international requirements into consideration very early in the design process. Most major 'popular' computer magazines had recent articles on software localization (I don't have the pertinent issue of Byte Magazine at hand, to continue the line of the previous letters). Here in Brazil we have had several excellent examples of the evils of government intervention into computer standards. For instance some years ago the local industry produced a slew of modems based on the 1200/75 baud standard that the national packet network used, discouraging manufacturers from using the faster standards used elsewhere. As a result, Brazilian modems are still (nearly all) huge, slow and vastly overpriced. Another example was the definition of a Brazilian ASCII (BRASCII) character set. At the time (83) I was designing 8-bit microcomputers for a local manufacturer. Since there was no clear international standard at the time that incorporated all accented upper and lowercase characters needed in Portuguese, BRASCII defined a new character set for that. As a result we not only had to provide for the use of these characters in an operating system designed around English ASCII, but also had to provide alternatives a few years later when the different extended character set of the IBM/PC became the norm. Luckily the machine went out of date before Macintoshes and Windows came out, since those use yet another (mutually incompatible) extended ASCII. Today BRASCII is used, you guessed it, only on machines bought by the government. I have done much work in localizing software for the Brazilian market and have had great trouble getting around the provincial mindset that many computer companies build into their products (although that's slowly getting better). I shudder to think of the biases the US Government, given its inertia and general ignorance of foreign cultures, would build into any standard as that proposed by Mr. Riddick. I also venture to predict that any government-driven approach to standards on the "information super-highway", to use the latest buzzword, is doomed to failure on the long run. The US cannot hope to cling to provincial standards on such a large and _necessarily_ global undertaking. As a counterexample we need look no farther than the Internet over which all this debate is taking place. The Internet protocols and (relating to my example above) the MIME mail interchange standard are in place and working, whatever their minor flaws, in a way that no standard not obtained by consensus would work. I say, let the expanding Internet community work on developing and proposing such standards as they may be needed (_which_ are needed I won't venture to propose here) but let's keep the government - any government - out of it. In keeping with Dr. Leichter's letter I suppose I should mention my own credentials : I work in computing since it was still called data processing (1969), have programmed systems ranging from plug-board machines over 4K IBM1401's to IBM and Burroughs mainframes, as well as several brands of ancient and modern microcomputers. I also have done hardware design, operating system design, embedded software for medical systems, software localization and user interface design. Lately I own and operate MetaLink, Brazil's first commercial on-line service. Perhaps least importantly I have a Specialist (ABT) degree in Computer Science from UFMG, Brazil. ------------------------------ Date: 06 Jul 94 21:55:20 EDT From: David Moore <72074.1740@COMPUSERVE.COM> Subject: File 5--Response to Wade Riddick Open Letter Response to : Wade Riddick An Open Letter To Al Gore, Vice President of the United States of America A New Computer Standard: Fixing the Flats on the Information Highway As a long time CUD lurker, I read this and planned to ignore it. However, upon completing the entire article, I decided that Wade Riddick is sincere and well meaning and deserves a response. (I'm also guessing that he is a recent and enthusiastic purchaser of a Macintosh Power PC. ) QUOTE: ------------- The U.S. government, however, has not done a good job of standardizing the basic commands needed to operate computers-the languages, compilers, operating systems and other instructions governing the microprocessor (the central processing unit, or CPU, that is a computer's "brain"). These forms of programming instructions are the most valuable types of electronic data because they tell computers how to handle information. If an application (program) can be transmitted between two different computers but cannot run on both machines-the current norm in the industry-the application's value is limited. -------------- A parade of images danced through my head of programmers hard at work coding in government mandated Ada using a government certified Ada compiler without integrated debug on a government approved computer targeted for government mandated instruction sets. I can see them illuminated by the green glow of their 3277 screens. OK, maybe that little image is unfair. There are two misconceptions here. The biggest is that there is someone in authority who knows the best way to develop software (or anything). The other misconception is that the computer application contains the value and therefore should freely port between machines. The value is contained in the DATA, not the application. More and more the ability to port formatted data between machines is demanded. You want to move your MS Word Document or your Excel spreadsheet, or your Canvas drawing between PCs and Macs. You don't move the application software because not only will it not work, you don't move it for the same reason you wouldn't move it between two different PCs. You have legal problems accounting for the machine installation. You also don't want to have to keep installing and de-installing applications. If you exchange via modem or e-mail, you want to send your 6K Excel data file, not your 15 Meg application. QUOTE: ------------- No one company has the business expertise to design an entire system in a world where more diverse products have to be brought to market faster than ever. That speed requires higher levels of coordination, cooperation and standardization between companies. ------------- You seem to be suggesting that some government agency has the expertise and speed to define standards for diverse products in order to bring them to market faster. I can only say that your faith in government is very patriotic. I'd also like to remind you that "Government" is not an entity. Most government products, including military products, are produced under contract by the very companies you seek to replace. QUOTE: ------------- The incentive to sell incompatible platforms is still there; companies have just decided to rely on translation software that they make, called microkernels, instead of full-blown operating systems for their profits. They have failed to break up the operating system into individual components that can be built by different companies according to comparative (instead of historical) advantage. ------------- As much as it seems like a dastardly plot, it really isn't. Each operating system came about through a series of enhancements from prior versions along with the market need to maintain backward compatibility. Contrary to your implication, there is nothing magical about "full-blown operating systems" as compared to microkernels. Microkernels are a modularized design technique applied to operating systems to allow for future flexibility and expansion. It's not simply translation software. In most cases these microkernels represent pieces of standardized interfaces that lead toward hardware independent applications. Isn't that what you're asking for? QUOTE: ------------- Under this system, it would be up to the CPU's manufacturer to supply the most basic translation libraries, but other firms could supply add-ons or extensions for functions too complex for the CPU to execute. ------------- This is not a new system. In fact I remember thinking what a wonderful idea this was when I picked up my first UCSD P-Code package about 15 years ago. One pseudo-instruction set that could execute on any computer, Nirvana. The real world impacts of this are many. First there is the performance lost by not running native code. Even more than this is the question of complex I/O (Graphics, Sound, i.e. non-textual). Even with the same computer instruction set, you can't expect to port complex I/O. Just try moving a 68000 application from a Mac to an Amiga (both of which are 68000 based). What's more even systems that are nominally the same cannot be expected to port applications without difficulties. Ask anyone who's upgraded Unix versions or implemented network changes. As for functions that are too complex for the CPU to execute, again that's relative. It wasn't long ago that multiplies were too complex. QUOTE: ------------- In the past, companies have objected to the slight performance degradation caused by interpretation. The Macintosh has been successful precisely because of the huge "toolbox"18 of standard commands it makes available to applications. Because programs "call" these functions in the system, instead of in the application itself, Apple has managed to reduce program size and smoothly maintain the system's evolutionary growth path. ------------- You appear to be suggesting that the Mac Tool box is interpreted and is the reason for the Mac's success. Actually the reverse is true. The toolbox is highly optimized native instruction routines that are in essence the very microkernels you objected to earlier. QUOTE: ------------- The Power PC uses a new platform and microprocessor, the 601. To run the old software, which is written for a 68000 microprocessor, the Power PC interprets and translates that code to the 601. Reinterpreting the old 68000 instructions slows things down, but by rewriting the toolbox to run on the faster new 601, Apple makes up for that loss. Users see no performance degradation with old software and see tremendous gains with new software. ------------- I don't understand why you think that this supports your argument. This is the same evolution we've seen to date. A product with a new instruction set (the 601). You were arguing earlier that we shouldn't allow new incompatible instruction sets. In order to break into the existing software market base Apple implemented a translator that will support old applications until new instruction applications are produced to supersede them. The old applications don't run any better. No one buys a next generation machine to obtain the same performance as their old machine. The sole purpose is to lessen the pain of transition to next generation incompatible instructions. You imply that we can simply translate any future instruction needs. That's true, but that's always been true. We can translate an Apple II 6502 processor on a pentium machine and get better performance than a genuine Apple II. Never the less, I doubt that there's much market for that. QUOTE: ------------- The real issue to be decided in the telecommunications debate is not over who owns the virtual asphalt or builds the on-ramps. The question is who will own the resulting computer standard governing the packaging of information. ------------- Again, you're confusing the DATA with the APPLICATION. The exact instructions, CPU, or hardware are not important. What's important is access to the information and the ability to interpret it, not the specific interpreters (pun intended). QUOTE: ------------- There is already a consensus in the industry as to what features computers will incorporate in the next decade. It is also clear that some sort of standard for object code will emerge as well. ------------- I don't know who you're getting your consensus from, but I seriously doubt that you could get two or more people to agree on the features of a computer ten years in the future. With an 18 month generation cycle, your trying to standardize an Intel..5,6,7,8,9,10,11.. 801286! I wouldn't even bet on the instruction size much less define it. As for defining an object code standard. Not only would I not attempt it, I would argue that it's a giant step backward. As processor power increases, portability and flexibility comes from Source code. The object code that it compiles to becomes less and less important. QUOTE: ------------- Government, though, has several options for the role it can play in this process: (1) the Commerce Department, perhaps with some authorizing legislation, could call industry heads together and order them to set a common object code standard; (2) Commerce could acceptbids from various companies and groups for such a standard; or (3)finally, the federal government could itself craft a standard with thehelp of qualified but disinterested engineers, and then try to forceit upon the industry through the use of government procurement rules,control over the flow of research and development money or othereconomic levers. ------------- Sputter, Gasp, Shudder! I'm so stunned by this statement, I don't know where to begin. Perhaps someone else will address it. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a government standards meeting, you'll find it quite ... er ... different! QUOTE: ------------- A serious effort should also be made to reach a consensus with other industrialized nations, for computers are globally interconnected to a degree that no other mass consumer product has been. ------------- One more time. It's the data and the communications interface to this data that's important. Not the specific hardware or software applications. Last but not least. It's clear that you're enthusiastic. Hang in there! ------------------------------ End of Computer Underground Digest #6.62 ************************************

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