"The Avalanche has begun. It's too late for the pebbles to vote."
- The Vorlon Ambassador in Babylon Five
BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS ONLINE EDITION:
B B I T S B B Y Y T E S =THE ELECTRONIC
BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS =NEWSLETTER FOR
B B I T S B B Y T E S =INFORMATION
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS =HUNTER-GATHERERS
Volume 2, Number 7 (November 8, 1994)
: CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE =
PARITY BITS : =
================: Stay Awake!; Crazy Times, Crazy Organizations; =
: Twilight of the Gods; Flame Form Letter; =
: What Religion is Your Operating System? =
NEW PRODUCTS : =
AND SERVICES : =
================: Internet-In-A-Box; Media Magic; =
: Microsoft's Ergonomic Keyboard =
ONLINE NEWS : =
================: Online Service Provider News Roundup; =
: Censorship in Cyberspace =
NEWS BRIEFS : =
================: Democracy in the Information Age; Nap Time; =
: Schmooze You Can Use; Pentium Update; =
: Technology: Brains Over Muscle; =
"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of congress,
but I repeat myself." -- Mark Twain
[Today is election day. Don't forget to get out there and vote for the
lesser evil of your choice. A slightly cynical public service
pronouncement from Bits and Bytes Online Edition.]
STAY AWAKE! (Jon Lebowsky)
In the 1990's, with the Millennium approaching, so many of us who surf
the fringes, within 'cyberpunk' or other alternative scenes, are
working through a kind of disillusioned cynicism; our heroes have
screwed the proverbial pooch and we've seen the human failings within
everyone and we've seen the sleazy corruption at the core of our
institutions and we've seen exploitation at the heart of our corporate
structures and *this is our life*. In the 60's, when we had an early
sense of the contradiction between the American middle-class fantasy
of whiter whites and bluer blues and the intense suffering within our
own ghettos and the ghetto nations of the world, we built an under-
ground that merged with what we'd once called the death culture, and
we acquiesced, hiding within air-conditioned nightmares across
spaceship earth as it spun out of control. We were inoculated by
daily doses of blandscrew representations of 'news' so that we could
somehow ignore the content of the suffering described by the anchors
and the correspondents and the victims-on-scene.
If you read an account of this world in a science fiction novel, you'd
say to yourself, I'm glad the world's not like that, BUT IT IS! So
what do you do?
If you can't save the world, save the neighborhood. This is similar to
"think globally, act locally", but with stronger reference to human
interdependence. Ignore geographical constraints and make community
work wherever and however you can, i.e. plug into a network of folks
with which you have an affinity, and support your friends. Ignore the
established culture, which creates market blocks where there should
be neighborhoods, which creates tightly controlled, highly
manipulative mall environments when there should be interactive street
markets. Above all, STAY AWAKE!
(SOURCE: FringeWare Review #5, p. 4)
[Editor's note to his (corporate) employer: Just kidding about those
exploitive corporate structures!]
CRAZY TIMES, CRAZY ORGANIZATIONS (Tom Peters)
These crazy times, with exceptional technology, are creating the
fundamental ability of people to work in totally new configurations.
Simultaneously, we're watching several hundred million Chinese and a
couple of hundred million Indians -- not to mention Filipinos, Thais,
and Latin Americans -- coming online. The long awaited global village
is beginning to get into full swing. So between the technology and
absence of geographical constraints, we have almost literally a new
It's not an exaggeration to say that these two forces have come
together with a multiplicative that's going to make the last 10 or 15
years look like small change. That's the nature of crazy times.
It's just a simple, uncrazy statement of logic: If the times are
rather frenetic, then organizations had best be at least as yeasty as
the times. In times that are stable, organizations that are rigid and
structured work very well, almost by definition.
(SOURCE: Tom Peters interview in Information Week, September 5, 1994,
THE ONLINE WORLD
==> BBSs: CENSOR YOURSELVES. In a speech this year at BBSCON ONE, an
BBS industry trade show, Dennis Hayes, president of modem manufacturer
Hayes Microcomputer, said that if the BBS industry does not police
itself, the government will be more than glad to do it for you "in the
guise of protecting your children from violence and nudity." Such a
scenario will favor the most restrictive bulletin boards. Says
high-tech lawyer Lance Rose, "Who wants that kind of environment?"
==> JILLETTE ON CENSORSHIP. Not Penn Jillette, either. Mr. Jillette,
of Penn and Teller fame, also writes a very funny column on the back
page of every issue of PC Computing. He has this to say on the
subject: "We need as much peaceful anarchy as we can keep. We can
suffer bores, but we musn't tolerate cops limiting or invading what we
send or receive on the Net. I'm all for the Thin Blue Line between us
and murderers, rapists, muggers, and thieves, but we can't have nosy,
control-freak, bureaucrat "cops" walking that unconstitutional and
immoral beat... History shows that when only the elite have something,
the government doesn't give a good goddamn. ... The powers that be are
usually pretty cool with fancy modern dancers hopping around nude, but
when men and women start dancing around nude for the "No cover, no
minimum, no buck knives, no colors" majority, the government is ready
to protect us from what some of us are enjoying... The net is wild and
free. It's a zillion anonymous conversations going on all at once,
unfettered by time or space. Yup, it can be disgusting, unpleasant, or
just plain straight-ahead wrong, but that shouldn't be stopped.
Justice Brandeis was right when he said the answer to "evil" speech is
"more speech." (In 1928, he tried to nip the clipper, voting against
wiretapping) ... They caught us napping and we lost the battle for
freedom on radio, movies, TV, and cable -- we can't afford to lose it
on the net just because it's no longer elite.
(SOURCE: PC COMPUTING, September 1994, p. 352)
==> ONLINE SERVICE NEWS ROUNDUP:
COMPUSERVE will offer "state-of-the-art" Internet connections by
year's end, starting with FTP (file transfer protocol) and telnet.
FTP will be available in November as an extended service. Gopher and
WWW servers will be added in the first half of '95. (SOURCE:
InformationWeek 9/12/94, p. 22; PC Week, 10/31/94, p. 67)
AOL will reduce its additional hourly charge beyond the first five
hours (which cost $9.95) to $2.95 per from $3.50 effective Jan. 1.
This matches a rate announced earlier by PRODIGY. AOL recently won
a Dvorak Award at the BBSCON ONE convention for Best Commercial Online
Information System. AOL is currently shipping version 2 of their
software to it's customers. Two copies in fact, one to give to a
friend. Available in both Windows and Mac versions, this is a nice-
looking, multimedia-style interface with improved navigational
features and some new departments, like Kids Only, Sports, Personal
Finance, and Reference Desk. A new Post Office Center integrates
mail-related functions such as fax, mailgram, and the Internet
gateway. Nice Job on the look and feel! IMHO, If you're looking for
one all purpose online service for the entire postnuclear family,
I'd have to say AOL is the one to beat, unless Internet connectivity
is your primary objective. But all the major services are promising
increased access to the net in 1995, and all three currently give
you at least email access. On the less happy side, I have picked up
rumblings of complaints from a group of AOL users who are reporting
problems with AOL's Internet Mail services. AOL officials issued a
response saying there had been a specific problem but that the
problem was resolved. But reputable sources report that systems
accepting mail for AOL subscribers are "overloaded, down, or
otherwise not processing incoming mail during the day and catch up
some time in the evening. By means of comparison, COMPUSERVE seems
to be taking mail all day." If email is your primary reason for
seeking online access, maybe AOL is not for you. Their email access
is kind of klunky for large volumes of mail anyway.
(SOURCES: ONLINE-NEWS mailing list; AOL Press Releases;
Boardwatch, October 1994; Newsbytes)
DELPHI GOES HIGH SPEED. Delphi began supporting 14,400 bps access to
their service at no additional cost, making a good deal even better.
Delphi won a Dvorak Award for "Outstanding Global Connectivity" at
ONEBBSCON. Of the big three (AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy and Delphi)
online services, only Delphi currently offers full internet access
(telnet, ftp, email, gopher, finger, etc) as part of the package.
You can do World Wide Web, but only using the Lynx browser, which
means you get the text and hyperlinks, but not the graphics. Still,
$20 for 20 hours access time per month is a good deal, and their email
works fine, thank you. With Rupert Murdoch behind the scenes Delphi
will no doubt be making an end run for their fair share of the
interactive media pie. (SOURCE: The evidence of my own senses)
NETIQUETTE 101: THE FLAME FORM LETTER
[The following has been making the rounds on the net, and is presented
here for informational purposes only.]
[ ] sir [ ] clueless one [ ] twit [ ] great man on campus
[ ] madam [ ] dweeb [ ] twerp [ ] comrade
[ ] Elvis [ ] moon beam [ ] boor [ ] Obergruppenfuehrer
[ ] citoyen [ ] Geek [ ] grad student [ ] cur
You are being gently flamed because.
[ ] you continued a boring useless stupid thread
[ ] you repeatedly posted to the same thread that you just posted to
[ ] you repeatedly initiated incoherent, flaky, and mindless threads
[ ] you posted a piece riddled with profanities
[ ] you advocated Net censorship
[ ] you SCREAMED! (used all caps)
[ ] you posted some sort of crap that doesn't belong in this group
[ ] you posted the inanely stupid 'Make Money Fast' article
[ ] you threatened others with physical harm
[ ] you made a bigoted statement(s)
[ ] you repeatedly assumed unwarranted moral or intellectual superiority
[ ] you are under the misapprehension that this group is your preserve
[ ] you repeatedly shown lack of humor
[ ] you are apparently under compulsion to post to every threat
[ ] you are posting an anonymous attack
> Thank you for the time you have taken to read this. Live n' Learn.<
==> DEMOCRACY IN THE INFORMATION AGE. Broadcaster Ted Koppell thinks
opinion polls and focus groups are "Stone Age implements in the brave
new world of interactivity," and says that an ongoing electronic
plebiscite in which all Americans can express instantaneously
themselves on any public issue would have a paralyzing impact on
representational government. (SOURCE: New York Times, via the National
Times 11/94 p.63, via EDUPAGE)
==> NAP TIME. The Better Sleep Council recently reported that one in
three Americans gets sleepy on the job, and that a nap every now and
then could make them more effective workers. Macworld magazine is
reported to have a nap room in its editorial offices.
(SOURCE: The National Enquirer, by way of InformationWeek!)
==> DYLAN SUES APPLE. It seems Apple Computer has a problem when it
comes to code-naming their products. This time around, Bob Dylan (AKA
Robert Zimmerman) is suing them for allegedly code-naming a new
CD-ROM after him. Earlier this year, Astronomer Carl Sagan got upset
when he learned that a new Apple product was allegedly codenamed Sagan
in his honor. Apple allegedly renamed the product BHA. When Sagan
learned that BHA (allegedly) stood for Butt-Head Astronomer, he sued
for defamation of character. Sagan did not win his lawsuit. Lighten
up, everybody! Can't we all just get along? (SOURCE: EDUPAGE)
==> REACH FOR THE SKY. This is old news, but instructive as to the
difficulties faced by Artificial Intellligence researchers, and darned
funny to boot. It seems the USDA encountered unanticipated
difficulties in its project to develop robot fruit pickers. To contain
costs, the robots were designed with monochrome scanners.
Unfortunately, to the robots, an orange has the same size, shape, and
brightness as a small cloud. Current  robot pickers are often
hung up literally reaching for the clouds. The USDA says it's back to
the drawing board - this time using color.
[I know how the robot must have felt every time I "cruise the net" --
I'm hypno-tized (to quote David Letterman) by the darn thing. -Ed.]
(SOURCE: "Random Access", 11/21/87, by way of a humor mailing list)
TWILIGHT OF THE GODS (David Guterson)
If the history of capitalism, from the perspective of our emotions
(if not from the perspective of our material comfort), is understood
as a series of thefts---the theft of nature, place, and family, of
daily kinship and community---then it may be possible that in our time
we are witnessing the theft of sport too. Having fathomed how powerful
and fundamental is our yearning for sport, sport's profiteers are now
proceeding with the ambitious work of wringing from it all that they
When I see the athlete-cum-peddler on television, hawking hamburgers
or deodorant, I suffer an emotional dissonance. It cannot be that
this superhuman figure---a man or woman whom God allows to leap across
the sky---is the huckster now gesticulating before me so shamelessly
on the screen, asking me to buy a certain car tire. Though drones
such as I sold out long ago in the knowledge that selling out is
necessary, I nevertheless vaguely thought---or vaguely hoped---that
our athletes, like angels, might be impervious.
This is business's unkindest cut, this usurping of our athletic
heroes ("I'm going to Disney World!" skater Nancy Kerrigan proclaimed
in the afterward of her finest Olympic performance), or, rather, this
remaking of our athletic heroes in business's own pandering image.
Far too many of our gods have been purchased, and our only consolation
is the understanding that at least they went for a hefty sum; we would
have done the same.
(SOURCE: Harper's Magazine, September 1994) [thanks to Ken Laws, the
publisher of The Computist's Communique, for forwarding me this quote]
...BUT FIRST THESE WORDS FROM OUR SPONSOR:
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:
==> INTERNET IN A BOX, from O'Reilly and Associates and SPRY, Inc., is
due to ship this month. The package will provide PC users with an all-
inclusive Internet Access solution. The box contains (optional)
connection to the net via a variety of access providers (fees vary);
a multimedia Windows interface (based on SPRY's AIR Mosaic WWW
browser; the full suite of AIR applications, including email, USENET
news reader, telnet, and Gopher -- all served up with that point-and-
click, drag-and-drop file kind of interface you know and love.
Additionally, the package comes with two books: a guide to getting
started, and a special edition of Ed Krol's terrific Whole Internet
User's Guide and catalog. If this product is half as good as Krol's
book, they've got a winner here. There are single user and a LAN
versions of the product. The biggest selling point here is ease of
installation: setting yourself up for internet access is notoriously
tricky from the technical point of view, getting all the drivers
to play nice together and so on. Here, everything is configured to
work together right out of the box -- or at least that's the theory.
I'm hoping to put this baby through its paces and report back to you
in an upcoming Bits and Bytes Online Edition. In the meantime, if
you want more information, call 800/998-9938, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tell them you heard about it in Bits and Bytes.
==> MEDIA MAGIC. Subtitled "Computers in Art and Science", this is one
cool catalog, featuring books, magazines, videos, PC/Mac software,
CD-ROM, mind machines, ties (go figure), and the ever-popular more.
Subject matter includes fractals, scientific visualization, computer
graphics, animation, chaos, medical imaging, virtual reality, the
Internet, artificial life, mathematics, technology, multimedia, image
processing, robotics, cyberculture, networking, and the Universe.
Artsy-fartsy stuff for late night navel-gazing, technical stuff to
make your head spin, proceedings from conferences, and popular-level
intros to the outer limits of scientific knowledge -- it's all in
here. I could drop a small fortune shopping out of this catalog and
just begin to scratch the surface of what they have to offer. Don't
say I didn't warn you.
<<>> Media Magic, P.O. Box 598, Nicasio, CA 94946.
PH 415/662-2426, 800/882-8284
==> MICROSOFT'S ERGONOMIC KEYBOARD. Microsoft has unveiled the Natural
Keyboard, which features 3 additional keys for Windows users, and a
split-angled keyboard layout designed to help users keep their
shoulders straight, and their arms relaxed. It looks kind of goofy,
like it got left in a hot car all day, but it may be just the ticket
for typists seeking a healthier lifestyle. The keyboard should retail
for under $100. (SOURCE: Informationweek 9/12/94, p. 16)
==> PENTIUM UPDATE. Intel is readying the next generation P54C-class
chips, with new designs that will result in smaller, more energy
efficient chips, with possible clock speeds of 120-130 MHz. The lower
power requirements will pave the way for Pentium notebooks running in
the 90-100 MHz range. Don't expect these chips to hit the market till
mid-1995. In the meantime, be aware that manufacturers and end-users
are reporting some problems with the current crop of Pentium 90 and
100 MHz chips, including problems due to the heat generated by the
chip, and possible data loss due to improper communication between the
chip and connected PCI bus and SCSI peripherals. (This is mostly due
to the peripherals and not so much the Pentium chip itself) Bits and
Bytes advice: hold off on those Pentium purchases till they iron the
kinks out. Wish I'd followed my own advice: I am the proud owner of a
screamin' P-90 machine, and a couple of weeks ago, experienced the
sudden disappearance of an entire subdirectory. The problem repeated
itself three weeks later when it trashed the subdirectory containing
the World Wide Web version of Bits and Bytes. No, I did not have a
backup. The problem has not occurred again. I backup compulsively now,
and I'm still holding my breath, waiting for the other high-tech shoe
to drop. Anyone who knows anything about these kind of things and has
any advice for me, please contact me.
Another important point is to make sure you buy your computer from a
reputable dealer: I bought mine from Comtrade, a firm I cannot in all
honesty recommend to anyone. I had to return mine to their shop, where
they kept it for a month instead of the week to 10 days they had
promised. They sent it back to me sans keyboard, and customer
satisfaction apparently meant very little to them after they'd gotten
my money in their coffers. I don't think I'll ever buy a mail-order PC
again, it was that bad an experience. Plus, they still owe me 20
bucks. B&B advice: Think globally, buy locally.
(SOURCE: InfoWorld 8/29/94, p.1; plus my own demented ravings)
==> SCHMOOZE YOU CAN USE. (Mark Schogol) Don't make the mistake of
thinking that office chitchat is idle talk. In an article in the
Harvard Business Review, John P. Kotter describes top bosses who
engage in apparently unplanned, casual conversation. With successful
managers, he observed, "it looks like they are having these random
conversations when what they are doing are quickie surveys." As to
underlings schmoozing with bosses: "Don't think of it as kissing up,"
Hermina Ibarra of the Harvard Business School tells the Miami Herald.
"It's really an exchange. You get a relationship, and they get
(SOURCE: The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/30/94, p. F1)
==> TECHNOLOGY: BRAINS OVER MUSCLE. 1991 was the first year in which
companies spent more on computing and communications gear than on
industrial, mining, farm and construction machines. And today, a
typical new automobile has $675 worth of steel and $782 worth of
microelectronics. (Fortune 4/4/94 p.25)
WHAT RELIGION IS YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM? (Umberto Ecco)
Insufficient consideration has been given to the new underground
religious war which is modifying the modern world. It's an old idea of
mine, but I find that whenever I tell people about it they immediately
agree with me.
The fact is that the world is divided between users of the Macintosh
computer and users of MS-DOS compatible computers. I am firmly of the
opinion that the Macintosh is Catholic and that DOS is Protestant.
Indeed, the Macintosh is counter-reformist and has been influenced by
the 'ratio studiorum' of the Jesuits. It is cheerful, friendly,
conciliatory, it tells the faithful how they must proceed step by step
to reach -- if not the Kingdom of Heaven -- the moment in which their
document is printed. It is catechistic: the essence of revelation is
dealt with via simple formulae and sumptuous icons. Everyone has a
right to salvation.
DOS is Protestant, or even Calvinistic. It allows free interpretation
of scripture, demands difficult personal decisions, imposes a subtle
hermeneutics upon the user, and takes for granted the idea that not all
can reach salvation. To make the system work you need to interpret the
program yourself: a long way from the baroque community of revelers,
the user is closed within the loneliness of his own inner torment.
You may object that, with the passage to Windows, the DOS universe has
come to resemble more closely the counter-reformist tolerance of the
Macintosh. It's true: Windows represents an Anglican-style schism, big
ceremonies in the cathedral, but there is always the possibility of a
return to DOS to change things in accordance with bizarre decisions;
when it comes down to it, you can decide to allow women and gays to be
ministers if you want to.
And machine code, which lies beneath both systems (or environments, if
you prefer)? Ah, that is to do with the Old Testament, and is
talmudic and cabalistic...
(SOURCE: The preceding excerpts are from an English translation of
Umberto Eco's back-page column, "La bustina di Minerva," in the
Italian news weekly "Espresso," September 30, 1994. They were
originally posted (I know not where) by Hope Nilsson
, and came to me by way of
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=============== End of Bits and Bytes Online V2, #7 =================