Bush-Cheney Campaign to World Internet: You’re a Security Threat

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As feed subscribers will know, yesterday I added a del.icio.us link about the apparent blocking of all international traffic to George Bush’s official re-election site — non-Americans need not apply. I gave the link a comment along the lines of “Somebody please tell me that this was accidental.

Well, the BBC has followed up, and it was no accident. The article reports that Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush-Cheney campaign said: “The measure was taken for security reasons.”

Ah, yes. More small-minded, isolationist, useless Security Theater. This action may have been taken in response to a DDOS attack on the site that occurred earlier this month; with a very tight race, I’m sure that the Bush-Cheney team wants to make sure that the site is operating.

What probably bothers me the most about this is that it conveys a mindset of “swift, decisive action is more important than a considered response.” How does the rest of the world feel about being prevented from accessing the official Bush-Cheney campaign site? What if they’re interested in learning more about the Bush campaign’s ideas? Who cares? Screw them, those foreigners aren’t voting, so their opinion isn’t worth squat. What if there are, say, Americans abroad — either anti- or pro-Bush, who want to learn more about the ideas upon which Bush is campaigning? Tough nuts. They shouldn’t have left the US of A.

And then, of course, there’s the fact that this swift, decisive response to an apparent, nonspecific potential for “threat” doesn’t actually accomplish anything. An internationally based DDOS attack could still take down the Bush-Cheney site by hitting the IP address of the machines, or by attacking the other domains — pointing to the same site — that are still accessible to the rest of the world. Despite this draconian “security measure” the Bush-Cheney campaign site is no safer than it was before.

Anyone who chooses to draw parallels to other signficant events in recent history is welcome to do so.

Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock

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The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.

Wallace Stevens, from “Harmonium,” published 1923

No, Seriously, I Have to Stop Posting about Bad Patents

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It’s not even an issue that I spend a lot of time thinking about, but others keep pointing these things out and I’m invariably horrified. Then I have to share my horror with all of you. Enjoy.

Today’s delight comes via Techdirt, being another little gem filed by Microsoft. The original submitter summarizes the claim as “an ‘invention’ that consists of retrieving the previous or next 20 records from a database in response to ‘previous’ or ‘next’ buttons”, which seems fairly accurate. I summarize it as “one of the most common answers given by Web developers when we pose the question ‘how would you allow a user to quickly and easily page through the ordered results of a query, 50 items at a time, when that query returns 1,000 rows?’ during their job interviews.”

I promise that I’ll come up with something else to post about soon…have a nice Friday, everyone, and to you developers out there — don’t use any SQL statements in the form of SELECT TOP 20 * FROM Table WHERE (Table.Field1>Current Maximum Field1) OR (Table.Field1=Current Maximum Field1 AND Table.Field2>Current Maximum Field2) today, or you’ll be stepping on Microsoft’s intellectual property. Consider yourselves warned.

Mars Wants Women

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…and startup Affini, currently offering a Beta product, wants to stop spam in an exciting new way! Oh, and by the way, they also want you to provide a fair amount of demographic information! And if you want to provide them with information on your paypal account or credit card, you’ll get access to vaguely defined “additional features that require an added level of trust”!

I have to give them some credit though…there aren’t many startups that manage to pack quite so many buzzwords into their pitch: see, it’s an anti-spam company, but it’s also a social software/networking company, with a hint of penny black-style micropayments for email to spice things up. If only they’d figured out a way to get RSS into the mix…or perhaps that’s coming in the next release.

I’d write more on Affini’s services, but after registering and poking around on their site I’m too confused to even try to explain it It’s not actually a Web-based email account, you have to pay (currently “tokens” but eventually cash) to send email to other Affini members, non-Affini members have to “verify their identity” before they can send mail to you…I’m still not entirely clear how I would actually *send* email from my affini.com address without manually changing my email client settings, and the emails that I’ve sent to that address are bouncing with the message that the user is unknown in the virtual alias table.

Affini has put together a fascinating offering…whatever it is. I suppose that they can honestly claim to be the market leader in their space…whatever it is. VCs, don’t miss this opportunity to invest in Affini…whatever it is.

The Ass Patent is Inevitable

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Techdirt noted this morning that Microsoft has been granted a patent on a game show format. I know that MS is trying to work the IP scene, but really, now — this seems a bit much.

I can imagine the day that this application was filed…MS managers holding departmental meetings, passing out sheets of paper to their groups: “Okay, everybody, settle down. Each one of you needs to write down one idea for something cool on your sheet of paper before four o’clock. And print neatly, please — all of them are being sent directly to the USPTO.”

The ass patent is inevitable…the lone and level sands stretch far away.

Quick Hit: Microsoft Lives in Interesting Times

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It is apparently unclear whether “may you live in interesting times” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb/curse or the product of a SciFi author’s imagination; whatever the source, it’s a phrase that probably resonates all too well in the halls of Redmond these days.

There’s no question that Windows still dominates the desktop. Windows will continue to be the major player on the desktop for some time to come. It’s started to get interesting, though.

When the CIO of AT&T tells a reporter that “any CIO would not be doing due diligence if they are not looking at their options now” when considering what OS to deploy on corporate desktops, he’s probably just sending out a warning shot to MS — letting them know that they’re going to have to be really, really aggressive on price in the upcoming negotiations.

What’s interesting, though, is that it’s no longer an empty threat. AT&T will almost certainly go with Windows in the end, but it’s within the realm of possibility that they could choose to do otherwise. Choosing Linux or OSX would be…well, ballsy for a big corporation, but it’s possible these days. It’s a threat that MS has to take seriously.

Three years ago a CIO might have said that he was considering “all available options” on the desktop, but an MS rep could still walk into that first meeting secure in the knowledge that he would eventually — inevitably — walk out with a big, fat contract in his hands.

Now, in 2004, it would take a combination of real arrogance and inflexibility (on the part of MS) and deep conviction and willingness to take on the uncomfortable position of leading the pack (on the part of the corporation) for that to happen, but it could happen. Everybody involved knows that it could happen…and many of them believe that it will happen in the not too distant future.

Makes for some very interesting times.