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 2
B B I T S B B Y T E S 7/19/93
BBB III T SSS BBB Y T EEE SSS
The digitization of information in all its forms will probably be
known as the most fascinating development of the twentieth century.
(An Wang, founder of Wang Laboratories)
The Age of Information I
What's information really about? It seems to me there's something
direly wrong with the Information Economy. It's not about data, it's
about attention. In a few years you may be able to carry the Library
of Congress around in your hip pocket. So? You're never gonna read the
Library of Congress. You'll die long before you access one tenth of
one percent of it. What's important - increasingly important is the
process by which you figure out what to look at. This is the beginning
of the real and true economics of information. Not who owns the books,
who prints the books, who has the holdings. The crux here is access,
not holdings. And not even access itself, but the signposts that tell
you what to access - what to pay attention to. In the Information
Economy everything is plentiful - except attention.
(Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk science fiction author and futurist)
The Mother of All Databases
It could be the biggest database in the commercial world. United
Parcel Service (UPS), based in Mahwah, N.J., is running a 2.6 terabyte
DB2 database, which logs the location of all packages in the U.S. and
Canada. The database requires over 3 million Dasd cylinders, and is
supported on an IBM 9021 Model 900 mainframe. DB2 produces over 150
logs per day. Once, when a disk pack was lost at 11 A.M., it took 38
hours to recover, said Casey Young, who manages the database for UPS.
"After we updated our resumes, we decided we were writing too many
logs," she said. No ad hoc queries to the database are allowed, she
said. ("UPS Database Reaches 2.6 Terabytes," Software Magazine,
July 1993, p. 16.)
Computing by Candlelight II
... we are seeing the beginning of the end of the $500 to $800 big
league application software pricing. "If you take advantage of the
limited time special offer, you can get it for just $99." Frankly,
anyone who buys a system for $1200 is going to steal the software
unless you "give it to them" for just $99.
OK, so what's the big problem here? Why isn't this all just happiness
and good news? If this story was about TVs and VCRs, it would be --
but it's not. Our contemporary computers are not pieces of recently
designed coherent equipment with 30-page owner's manuals printed in
three languages. The sad and sobering fact is, our current personal
computers -- the Macintosh included -- are amazingly fragile nightmare
kludges of delicate interactions that only barely work right most of
the time. They are fragile. Yeah, so what else is new?
I'll tell you what I think is new: The amazingly low cost of these new
systems has virtually removed the barrier to entry for a whole new
wave of purchasers and users who are utterly unequipped to deal with
the nightmarish messes and debris we've created. Our technical support
personnel glibly say to these confused people: "Oh yeah, that again.
All you have to do is add the line AutoPleaseNoRebootConfirm=1 to the
[MiscDebris] section of the WOMBAT.INI file in your C:\HIDDEN\THINGS
directory, OK? Click."
(Steve Gibson, "The PC Industry's Low-Ball Pricing May Spell Its Own
NEW PRODUCTS AND SERVICES:
Recycle Your Laser Printer Toner Cartridges For Cash
Laser-Pro says it will pay $5 and shipping charges for your used laser
printer toner cartridges and will also pay the shipping on orders for
remanufactured or new cartridges. The company says it is now selling
remanufactured laser printer cartridges that do not leak and cost up
to 20 percent less than new cartridges. Laser-Pro President Jim Ogborn
says this is a "win-win" situation for customers: "Not only can
businesses feel good about recycling but they can purchase quality
printer cartridges for a fraction of the standard retail prices."
Originally, toner cartridges were designed to be thrown away when the
toner was used up, and early attempts at re-filling the cartridges
were less than succesful: the cartridges often leaked toner into the
machine, making a mess on the paper and sometimes causing mechanical
damage to the printer. Later attempts were more successful, with
re-manufacturers disassembling the cartridges and replacing worn
parts. With a savings of 30% to 40% over the cost of a new cartridge,
combined with an increased interest in recycling, users have become
more interested. Laser-Pro says the newest cartridges are better made
and reduce the need to cannibalize old cartridges for parts.
(contact: Laser-Pro, 800-377-0551 or 708-893-1888)
Egghead Software has just begun a similar program. Contact them for
details. (Egghead Software, 1-800-526-7344)
PC Phone Home
Plan on hearing more from your friends and co-workers starting in
1994. A proposed standard for adding voice telephony to Windows was
announced by Microsoft and Intel. Expect telephony features to appear
in word processors, spreadsheets, and communications and fax software.
For example, Delrina may add features such as voice cover sheets and
turbocharged answering machine functions to its Winfax fax software.
(PC World News Monitor, July '93)
Turbulent Times For PC Stocks
With the personal computer industry already in turmoil, investors are
bracing for more bad news after deeply disappointing earnings at Apple
Computer Inc. and a warning from Dell Computer Corp that their
earnings will be down. The Dow Jones industrial average was off 22.64
at 3,528.29. Big Board volume was 277 million shares for the week
closing July 16. Industry analysts say they will be scrutinizing other
earnings reports for any hint of a slowdown in the heady demand that
has fueled the explosive growth in PC sales over the past year.
"Industry growth rates and shipments are going to decelerate," said
Sanjiv Hingorani of Nomura Research, adding that "the current state of
the PC industry is similar to 1984, when it also experienced a pickup
in demand after coming out of an economic downturn." The price wars
that have benefited computer buyers over the past year have reduced
many companies profit margins to dangerously low levels. Analysts said
that as profits continue to fall, consolidation among PC firms will
continue, such as AST Research's recent deal to purchase Tandy Corp.'s
computer operations. Oddly enough, one PC maker that may be in a good
position to deal with the industry flux is IBM, which streamlined its
PC business last fall. (sources: AP, Reuters)
The Internet - It's Not Just For Nerds Anymore
"It works, it's cheap, and it's ubiquitous." That's why commercial
users are increasingly interested in the Internet, says Martin
Schoffstall, VP and chief technical officer for PSI, an internet
connectivity provider. The network, long considered a haven for the
scientifically oriented, is drawing the attention of corporate
America. Currently, there are an estimated 12 million people worldwide
using the Internet every day, and those numbers are projected to grow
well into the next decade. Bits and Bytes will featuring a series of
articles on Internet basics in upcoming issues.
("Not Just For Nerds," Information Week, 7/12/93, p. 16.)
Megatrends or Megamistakes?
One major problem is that of "information overload" or so-called
"infoglut." This arises because modern society generates so much new
information that we are overwhelmed by it all and become unable to
distinguish between what is useful and what is not-so-useful. In
essence, it is a problem of not being able to see the wood for the
trees. For example, 14,000 book publishers in the US release onto the
market 50,000 new titles every year. There are now at least 40,000
scientific journals publishing more than 1 million new papers each
year -- that's nearly 3,000 per day -- and the scientific literature
is doubling every 10-15 years. Clearly, it is impossible for any one
individual to keep up with the literature, except for very small
areas. The book and research paper explosion has been assisted by the
"publish or perish" ethic in academia, which encourages the production
of mediocre, repetitive and largely useless work. It also creates a
serious headache for cash-strapped libraries.
Improvements in IT enable us to gather, store and transmit information
in vast quantity, but not to interpret it. But what are we going to
*do* with all that information? We have plenty of information
technology -- what is perhaps needed now is more intelligence
technology, to help us make sense of the growing volume of information
stored in the form of statistical data, documents, messages, and so
on. For example, not many people know that the infamous hole in the
ozone layer remained undetected for seven years as a result of
infoglut. The hole had in fact been identified by a US weather
satellite in 1979, but nobody realized this at the time because the
information was buried -- along with 3 million other unread tapes --
in the archives of the National Records Centre in Washington DC. It
was only when British scientists were analyzing the data much later
in 1986 that the hole in the ozone was first "discovered."
Perhaps the time has come for a major reassessment of our relationship
to technology, especially the new information and communication
technologies. After all, haven't manufacturers belatedly discovered
that expensive high-tech solutions are not always appropriate for
production problems, that robots are more troublesome than people and
that the most "flexible manufacturing system" available to them is
something called a human operator? Didn't one study of a government
department conclude that the only databases worth accessing were those
carried around in the heads of long-serving employees? And is it not
the case that the most sophisticated communication technology
available to us is still something called speaking to each other? One
conclusion to be drawn from this is that technological advances in
computing seem to have outpaced our ability to make use of them.
(Tom Forrester, Opening Address to International Conference on the
Information Society, Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute / Green Meadow
Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland, 11/18/91)
French Visa Smart Card Network Crashes
Just imagine it's the weekend, and you've decided on a last minute
trip to the shore. You're a little low on cash, so you pull in to your
local neighborhood automated teller machine (ATM). You put your card
in and - nothing happens. Well, that's what happened in France on the
weekend of June 26, when 40% of the French banking network's capacity
was knocked out for 28 hours. Cardholders were left without cash from
ATMs, while restaurant-goers and shoppers were faced with the prospect
of owing money when their cards were rejected. An estimated 6 million
bankcard users were affected. The problem hit the French particularly
hard, since the Carte Blue smart card is widely accepted in France,
acting as a checkbook, debit card and credit card all in one. As a
result, many French rely totally on their Visa smart card for all
banking transactions. The problem stemmed from a single cut in
communications between their central computers and the banking control
center. (Sources: Information Week 7/5/93, Newsbytes 7/13/93)
Meanwhile, Back in Hollywood...
The agonies filmmakers have suffered as their work is chopped, tinted,
And compressed are nothing compared to what technology has in store...
Unless the United States achieves uniformity with the rest of the
world in the protection of our motion picture creations, we may live
to see them recast with stars we never directed, uttering dialog we
never wrote, all in support of goals and masters we never imagined we
(Star Wars director George Lucas, 1991)
On the other hand, old George is not above making a buck in the
computer software field. It was recently announced that producer and
director Steven Speilberg (ET, Jurassic Park) has joined forces with
entertainment production giant LucasArts to create The Dig, billed as
a "dangerous, deep space computer adventure." The hugely successful
filmmaker, who's also a noted computer games enthusiast, says he's had
the futuristic story in his head for years," and I thought it would
make a better game than a film."
("Computer Games," Information Week, June 7, 1993, p. 10)
ACCESS: U.S. Government Online, part 2
***US Government Run Bulletin Board Systems***
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of listings of some of
the bulletin boards run by various government agencies. Dial in and
watch your tax dollars at work. Note that while most of these BBSes
are free, some do charge a fee for their services. These are denoted
by dollar signs. Some boards have separate numbers depending on what
baud rate your modem is capable of supporting. Where this is the case
the baud rate is given in parenthesis before the number. For those of
us concerned about our long distance phone bills, the state is given
in parenthesis after the number. While we're on the subject, an
upcoming ACCESS column will list some low(er) cost alternatives for
those of us who wish to explore the BBS scene without going broke. :-)
Human Nutrition Information Service BBS - Voice Number: 301-436-8491
(2400) 301-436-5078 (MD)
- Run by the Department of Agriculture.
- Covers topics related to food and nutrition research. Databases and
Department of Census/ Bureau of Economic Analysis Electronic Forum
(2400) 301/763-7554 (MD) - (9600) 301/763-1568 (MD)
- Run by the Department of Commerce.
- Contains a *lot* of business and industry information. Manufacturing
shipments, inventories, orders, plant expenditures, TIGER street
indices, CDROM information, housing and 1990 census data. Files
include foreign and domestic trade data, country business policies,
state ratings, population estimates. Also press releases. A goldmine
of information for large businesses and small entrepreneurs alike.
Economic Bulletin Board ($$$)
(2400) 202/482-3870 (DC) - (9600) 202/482-2584 (DC)
- Run by the Department of Commerce.
- $35/year plus 5-20 cents per minute (2400 baud) and $100/year plus
50 cents per minute (9600 baud).
- Use GUEST as password to browse. This board contains press releases
from the BEA (see above), Federal Reserve, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, and others.
FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data BBS)
(9600) 314/621-1824 (MS)
- Run by Federal Reserve system.
- Contains information on banking, interest rates and the economy.
- Run by 9th District of the Federal Reserve Bank.
- *Daily* financial data for the nation. Forecasts, securities auction
results, bank directories, Federal Reserve information, money facts,
and consumer finance statistics. Online publications include the
Fedgazette newspaper, and banking-related magazine articles.
(2400) 800/597-1221 or 202/219-4784 (DC)
- Run by Department of Labor
- Labor statistics, acts of congress relating to labor laws, testimony
and speeches, indexes and trade data from a variety of labor related
(9600) 919/541-5742 (NC)
- Run by the Environmental Protection Agency
- This number is the master gateway to 10 different EPA BBSes, most of
which are only available through this number.
FEMA Hazardous Materials Information Exchange
(9600) 708/972-3275 (IL)
- Run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Information and educational materials on hazmats. Chemical
databases. FEMA and DOT publications.
(2400) 703/506-1025 (VA)
- Run by the Environmental Protection Agency
- PPIES (Pollution Prevention Information Exchange System). Contains
a calendar of events, program summaries from the Federal, state, and
corporate level. Case studies and general publication references.
- PPIC (Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse). Contains
documents and booklets on waste reduction, aimed at both individuals
- ICPIC is like PPIC but here the focus is global. Ozone information,
and databases of phase-out chemical data and specific pollutant data
(sources: Online Access BBS Edition, August '93, Boardwatch Magazine,
April '93, Bob Breedlove's USBBS list)
Bits and Bytes Bookshelf
Business Dictionary of Computers (3rd Edition) by Jerry M. Rosenberg
[John Wiley & Sons. 403 pages. $39.95 (cloth), $14.95 (paper)]
- Over 7500 computer terms running the gamut of IT-related topics
The Children's Machine: Rethinking School In The Age Of The Computer
by Seymor Papert [Basic Books. 225 pages. $22.50
- Papert, a professor at MIT and the creator of LOGO, a programming
language for children "convincingly explains why the first computer
revolution in U.S. Schools failed" and offers his ideas for a second
one that may succeed and hopefully end the decline in our nations
High Tech Dumpster Diving
Up to his waist in mustard, cigarette butts, cardboard and foam
rubber, Bob Kaiser and others in his group, Essential Elements, plumb
the depths of corporate dumpsters throughout Silicon Valley in search
of gold-plated integrated circuits, reusable computer parts, and
unopened packages of MS-DOS 5.0. High-tech dumpster divers can make as
much as $1,000 a week.
(Tom Schmitz, "High-Tech Scroungers Going For The Gold," San Jose
Mercury News, 7/6/93, p 1A)
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my snailmail address ===============================================
follows: = (Copyleft 1993 Jay Machado) *UNALTERED* =
Jay Machado = electronic distribution of this file for =
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Cherry Hill, NJ 08003 = The opinions expressed herein do not =
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= actual opinion. Your mileage may vary. =
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