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

Skeptic Tank!

BBB III TTT SSS BBB Y Y TTT EEE SSS B B I T S B B Y Y T E S ONLINE EDITION BBB I T SSS AND BBB YYY T EEE SSS VOL 1, NUMBER 1 B B I T S B B Y T E S 7/13/93 BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS ====================================================================== "The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers." - Sydney J. Harris ====================================================================== Computing by Candlelight Innovation is outstripping assimilation. We are falling further and further behind in exploiting technology's potential for ease of use and enhanced interactivity. . . . I look at the intuitive, no-hassle operating convenience that users expect -- and get -- from all manner of home entertainment electronics, and I wonder if their makers know something our vendors don't. . . . Why should we have to play so patiently with our onerous workstations? As a user, I'm tired already. Give me a Nintendo "Business Boy," or maybe a Sony "Workman" with full audio and video I/O capabilities. (Max D. Hopper, "Computing by candlelight," Computerworld, 4/12/93, p. 33.) ====================================================================== What Makes an I.S. Winner? According to a paper published in the latest edition of the Journal of Management Information Systems, high achieving I.S. employees exhibit three main characteristics: They take personal responsibility for finding solutions to problems; they set achievable goals but also take calculated risks; and they want concrete feedback on their performance. ====================================================================== Technical Matters Imbued with neon industrial auras, "technical" has become a powerful word: there is a wonderful scene in Terry Southern's "Magic Christian" where a man places a Ritz cracker on a crack in the sidewalk around Times Square. He then smashes the Ritz cracker with a sledgehammer and proceeds thoughtfully, new cracker in hand, to the next sidewalk fissure. Soon a crowd envelopes him and a cop pushing through the crowd, asks: "What are you doing?" The man answers: "Oh, it's technical." And the cop replies: "Oh, I'm sorry," and walks away. (Peter Warshall, "Escaping Eco-Echolalia," Whole Earth Review #79, Summer 1993, p. 109.) ===================================================================== NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES: 486 Prices Continue to Drop Intel's new Pentium processor will likely replace the 486 at the leading edge of the desktop PC market, when it finally reaches mass production. In the meantime, Lightning Computers new trade-in program allows users to send in any working 286 or 386 system and receive a "complete," American-made, Pentium-upgradable i486-66 MHz local-bus SVGA system with 170MB drive, for only $1,395. The Lightning Omniflex 486/66 includes: 128KB of cache, expandable to 256KB; six ISA (Industry Standard Architecture), two VESA (Video Electronics Standards Association) local bus slots, AMI BIOS, P24T Pentium ZIF socket; 4MB RAM, expandable to 32MB; 170MB IDE hard disk with 13 ms average access speed; 1.2MB 5.25-inch or 1.44MB 3.5-inch Teac floppy disk drives; local bus SuperVGA card with 1MB RAM; 14-inch non- interlaced SuperVGA monitor with .28 dot pitch; standard desktop chassis with 250 watt UL/CSA power supply; 101 key enhanced AT keyboard; and one parallel, one game and two serial ports. Many other options are available, and the standard warranty includes one year parts and labor with on-site service. Extended term warranties are available. Lightning has received a number of industry awards for their computers, including "Editor's Choice" from PC Magazine, "Byte Best" from Byte magazine and "Best Bet" from PC Computing magazine. (Lightning Computers: 415/543-3111) ========================= ...Or How About a Cheap Pentium-based PC? Advanced Logic Research (ALR) claims it is the first to actually ship, beginning today (7/8/93), IBM compatible PC's based on the new Pentium chip. But, not only is the company the first to ship the new PC's, it is pricing the units beginning at $2,495 to put pressure on its competitors. The Evolution V is geared toward individual users, and features a 60 MHz Pentium processor, a five-year warranty, and a heat sink with a fan mounted on top of the Pentium to handle the heat generated by the new processor. The Evolution V offers 64-bit design and 8 MB of memory on the motherboard expandable to 128 MB. The $2,495 price leaves out several key components, such as a hard disk drive and a monitor, but is still a bargain. For $3,595 ALR offers a full system with a 170 MB hard disk drive, DOS, Windows, a mouse, VESA local bus, and a 14-inch 1024 by 768 pixel screen with a .28 dot pitch. An even more beefed up server version is available. Users can expect to get a Pentium machine ordered today in two to three weeks. However, the Pentium processor is allocated by Intel, so quantities are limited. ALR maintains there has been strong interest in the units, and expects demand for the PCs to be high. (Advanced Logic Research: 800/257-1230 ) ====================================================================== Take Note: The Bottom Line is Service With profit margins under the gun, computer makers are realizing just how valuable their service and support functions can be to the bottom line. The latest true believer is Sun Microsystems, which Tuesday launched a subsidiary to handle all its customer service and support. Called SunService and located in Milpitas, the 1,800-person company will report directly to Sun chief executive Scott McNealy. The underlying reason is that support and service are too profitable to leave split up within the company's other divisions, splintering strategy and creating a nightmare of prices and service levels that invites competition from outside maintenance firms. "Third-party maintainers are a threat," said Cindy Williams, manager of strategic marketing for SunService. An entire company geared to support is in a better position to take that business back and keep new business from wandering off. (Rory J. O'Connor, San Jose Mercury News staff writer) ====================================================================== Bumper Cars An empty Saab Automobila factory in Sweden got a little too mobile recently when a misprogrammed assembly line jump-started itself and assembled 24 cars, rolling them off one after the other into a wall. A worker finally discovered the auto-automated line, but not before it had created an impressive chrome and steel pileup. Saab officials say the damage was minimal. "Assembly lines run slowly, and we have big bumpers," a Saab spokesman said. (Newsweek, June 7, 1993. p. 4) ===================================================================== Microsoft News: Is the Gang at Redmond a Threat to Innovation? Add one more name to the list of those concerned about the high-tech 800-pound gorilla that is Microsoft: Rep. Edward Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the House subcommittee on telecommunications and finance. Tuesday, Markey dispatched a letter to the head of the Federal Communications Commission, expressing concern over a spate of recent announcements about the merging of cable TV and computers into an interactive television system. Capitol Hill sources said the letter is prompted mainly by concern over a reported alliance between Microsoft and the country's two largest cable TV companies, Tele-Communications Inc. and Time Warner. While none of the companies has admitted to the plan, just the specter of the so-called Cablesoft alliance "raises the most questions about the concentration of power" in the interactive TV business, said one insider. Markey's letter left little doubt as to his concern over Cablesoft. "This new force in the marketplace could have the clout necessary to create a single, closed standard for television software and could, in turn, close the market to competitive entrants or force some providers to pay huge fees just to enter the market.'' (Rory J. O'Connor, San Jose Mercury News Staff Writer) ====================================================================== 21st Century Capitalism Politicians and pundits talk loosely of "restoring" or "restarting" American business, as if it were a stalled, broken-down jalopy in need of a thorough tune-up. Others offer plans for regaining America's competitive edge and revitalizing the American economy. Many of these ideas are sound. Some are silly. But all suffer from vestigial thinking about exactly what it is that must be restored, restarted, regained, or revitalized. They assume as their subject an American economy centered upon core American corporations and comprising major American industries -- in other words, the American economy at mid-century, which easily dominated what limited world commerce there was. But as we have seen, this image bears only the faintest resemblance to the global economy at the end of the century, in which money and information move almost effortlessly [ha! - JM.] through global webs of enterprise. There is coming to be no such thing as an American corporation or an American industry. The American economy is but a region of the global economy -- albeit still a relatively wealthy region. In this light, then, it becomes apparent that all of the entities one might wish to revitalize are quickly ceasing to exist. (Robert B.Reich, "The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st-Century Capitalism" New York: Penguin Books, 1991) ====================================================================== ACCESS: U.S. Government Online, part 1 ************************************************ ***E-MAIL TO THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT*** ************************************************ THE WHITE HOUSE Office of Presidential Correspondence ++++++++++++++++++ For Immediate Release June 1, 1993 LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT AND VICE PRESIDENT IN ANNOUNCEMENT OF WHITE HOUSE ELECTRONIC MAIL ACCESS Dear Friends: Part of our commitment to change is to keep the White House in step with today's changing technology. As we move ahead into the twenty-first century, we must have a government that can show the way and lead by example. Today, we are pleased to announce that for the first time in history, the White House will be connected to you via electronic mail. Electronic mail will bring the Presidency and this Administration closer and make it more accessible to the people. The White House will be connected to the Internet as well as several on-line commercial vendors, thus making us more accessible and more in touch with people across this country. We will not be alone in this venture. Congress is also getting involved, and an exciting announcement regarding electronic mail is expected to come from the House of Representatives tomorrow. Various government agencies also will be taking part in the near future. Americans Communicating Electronically is a project developed by several government agencies to coordinate and improve access to the nation's educational and information assets and resources. This will be done through interactive communications such as electronic mail, and brought to people who do not have ready access to a computer. However, we must be realistic about the limitations and expectations of the White House electronic mail system. This experiment is the first-ever e-mail project done on such a large scale. As we work to reinvent government and streamline our processes, the e-mail project can help to put us on the leading edge of progress. Initially, your e-mail message will be read and receipt immediately acknowledged. A careful count will be taken on the number received as well as the subject of each message. However, the White House is not yet capable of sending back a tailored response via electronic mail. We are hoping this will happen by the end of the year. A number of response-based programs which allow technology to help us read your message more effectively, and, eventually respond to you electronically in a timely fashion will be tried out as well. These programs will change periodically as we experiment with the best way to handle electronic mail from the public. Since this has never been tried before, it is important to allow for some flexibility in the system in these first stages. We welcome your suggestions. This is an historic moment in the White House and we look forward to your participation and enthusiasm for this milestone event. We eagerly anticipate the day when electronic mail from the public is an integral and normal part of the White House communications system. President Clinton Vice President Gore PRESIDENT@WHITEHOUSE.GOV VICE.PRESIDENT@WHITEHOUSE.GOV ************************************************* ***E-MAIL TO THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES*** ************************************************* ANNOUNCEMENT OF ELECTRONIC MAIL SYSTEM BY HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Chairman Charlie Rose and Ranking Minority Member Bill Thomas of the Committee on House Administration announced today the pilot program of the Constituent Electronic Mail System. This groundbreaking new service will allow citizens to communicate directly with their Member of Congress by electronic mail. The House of Representatives has established an electronic gateway to the Internet, the vast computer network that is used currently by over 12 million people worldwide. Participating Members of the House have been assigned public mailboxes which may be accessed by their constituents from their home computers. In addition, many libraries, schools and other public institutions now provide, or soon will provide, public access to the Internet. The Members of the House of Representatives who have agreed to participate in this pilot program are: Rep. Jay Dickey (AR-07), Rep. Sam Gejdenson (CT-02), Rep. Newt Gingrich (GA-06), Rep. George Miller (CA-07), Rep. Charlie Rose (NC-07), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (CA-13), and Rep. Melvin Watt (NC-12). These Members will be making announcements in their congressional districts within the next few weeks to make their constituents aware of the new service. For more information, Internet users are encouraged to contact the House of Representative's new on-line information service. Please send a request for information to CONGRESS@HR.HOUSE.GOV, and feel free to send electronic mail comments about our new service to the Congressional Comment Desk, at: COMMENTS@HR.HOUSE.GOV [EDITOR'S NOTE: Perhaps this would be the place to send mail indicating that you would like to see the service expanded to include your representative.-JM] ======================== Getting Information To and From the White House: 1. On CompuServe: GO WHITEHOUSE 2. On America Online: keyword WHITEHOUSE or THE WHITEHOUSE or CLINTON 3. On The WELL: type whitehouse 4. On MCI: type VIEW WHITE HOUSE 5. On Fidonet: See Echomail WHITEHOUSE 6. On Peacenet or Econet: See pol.govinfo.usa. ======================== Sending E-mail to the White House: On the Internet, E-Mail may be sent to the following addresses: Clinton-HQ@Campaign92.Org Please note that the White House e-mail system is under construction. This is a new project and suffers from all of the problems common to a startup operation. E-mail messages are currently being printed out and responses are being sent out via US Mail. Nobody wants this new venture to work more than the staff that has devoted so many hours to getting it up and running. But much time and effort will be required before the system is truly interactive. In the meantime, they will need a little patience from the electronic community. If you send a message to the White House, please include a US Post office address for replies. ***************************************** ***OTHER GOVERNMENTAL RESOURCES ONLINE*** ***************************************** I will briefly mention that the Federal Register, The Library of Congress, and U.S. Supreme Court decisions are all accessible online. More detailed information on these and on various information servers that you can send email to and receive text files on a variety of topics (economic policy, foreign policy, social policy, and transcripts of speeches and press conferences) is contained in the WHITE HOUSE E-MAIL FAQ (frequently asked questions) list, which I can provide you with. FAQ sheets are common on the internet, as newcomers to a mailing list all tend to ask the same questions. This is Internet Lesson #1: Before you start asking questions, obtain and read the FAQ sheet for the topic you're interested in. Get your FAQs straight, or you're liable to be 'flamed' before you know what hit you. I learned this the hard way. More on the internet, mailing lists, FAQs, and flaming at a later date. Next issue, government run Bulletin Board Systems (BBSes). ====================================================================== Indian Computer Company Bosses Beat Blues In Beer Bash Last week, some of the top members of India's recession-hit computer industry met in a Bangalore pub on an unlikely mission -- to greet Bacchus and bid farewell to their blues over mugs of beer. Plummeting profits, flat sales, vicious price wars and deferred big-ticket purchases joined hands with the bank scam, post-Ayodhya riots and Bombay blasts to dip the Indian IT industry growth rate in fiscal (Apr 92 - Mar 93) to 20 percent. This is poor compared to the 40 percent growth until two years ago. The 11 industry heavyweights, who are members of the MAIT (Manufacturers' Association of Information he information technology industry -- Beer Drinkers Association of Information Technology (BAIT). For most, BAIT might provide the funny side of the IT industry, but for the founding members it is serious business as the objective of the association is to "have and share beer-oriented view of the Indian IT industry and to look for the IT market through the beer glass!" That nothing but frothy, distorted images would be visible through the chilled glass does not seem to bother the industry bosses. Founding members include many luminaries of the Indian computer industry. The next meeting of the association will be in August. By this time membership to the group is expected to swell, especially considering the state of the industry. The criteria for membership are: any IT professional desirous of becoming a member will be required to approach any of these executive council members with a formal application; every new member will be required to buy beer for all other members in the first meeting that he/she attends; every member will be required to stay for at least two hours in each meeting. Anybody who leaves earlier will be required to pay for the next six rounds of beer. Finally, members will have to accept anything said by another in these meetings. But that's not all: the association plans to bring out a bimonthly news bulletin called BAN-IT (BAIT's Newsletter for IT industry). This bulletin will contain beer-related jokes for IT professionals, a sure-fire method of bringing some cheer to an otherwise gloomy industry. Finally, DOS will be discussed at these meetings. But for BAIT members it means "Drown Our Sorrows." (NewsBytes 7/9/93) [EDITOR'S COMMENT: This is one foreign custom that will have no problem finding acceptance here at home. In fact, don't we have something along these lines going on at the Irish Pub? I'll meet you there after work. The drinks are on you. -JM] ====================================================================== Bits and Bytes Online is a weekly electronic newsletter. Email Subscriptions are available at no cost from or Put "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject header. If you work for "the rail" send a similar message to my emailbox. To unsubscribe, send a message with "UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject header. Questions and comments are welcome at any address. If you come across anything you think should be included here, please pass it on! Send long postings to the pacs address. If you need to reach me on paper, my snailmail address =============================================== follows: = (Copyleft 1993 Jay Machado) *UNALTERED* = = electronic distribution and dissemination = Jay Machado = of this this file for non-profit purposes = 1529 Dogwood Drive = is encouraged. The opinions expressed = Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 = herein do not necesarily represent = ph (eve) 609/795-0998 = anyone's opinion. So there. = =============== end of Bits and Bytes Online V1, #1.==================


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank