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By Jeff Schult


MS, U.S. Ready to Go to War

Talks between Microsoft and the Justice department aimed at preventing major antitrust action against the company broke down yesterday and it seems likely we’re looking at a protracted battle with the first major shots coming as soon as tomorrow.

A question for the legal eagles -- when, if ever, has the U.S. government truly "lost" a major antitrust action? As in, fled with its tail between its legs, while the corporate victor brayed the triumph of its ways and tactics?

I'm increasingly looking at the MS case as censorship-related; the near-absolute control the company seeks to exercise over the appearance and access of function from the desktop seems scary in ways I haven't even considered yet. Makes me long for a "C:\" prompt, it does ...

Spam Legislation

It was Internet week on Capitol Hill, and one of several anti-spam bills made it through the Senate. Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski won Senate approval for an amendment that will rein in the distribution of junk e-mail messages by requiring online marketers to identify themselves and stop sending messages when requested to do so by computer owners. It provides for fines of up to $15,000 for violations.

The amendment was added to an "anti-slamming" telephone consumer bill. The bill now heads to the House. Will it stop spamming? Is it Constitutional? No one knows, but one thing is clear – no one in Congress wants to be seen in the corner of junk emailers any more than they want to be seen in the company of Triple-X web site operators

My Favorite Scam of the Week

Speaking of XXX web sites, as someone who believes pretty absolutely that free speech is a good thing, I’m often appalled at the people whom I find myself defending. So for a change, I was delighted this week to find someone whom I really would throw to the wolves. I received a piece of spam urging me to vote against a ban of X-rated web sites, telling me my vote would be forwarded to Congress on May 25. This email begged for help, in the name of the First Amendment. The punchline is – receivers were asked to vote on a 1-900 number, at $1.99 per vote … No, the sender did not identify himself.

Ex exec of CompuServe Goes on Trial

The former head of a major online provider went on trial yesterday charged with disseminating child, animal, and violent pornography in cyberspace.

Arguments on cyber-censorship, commercial pressures, and transnational restrictions on the use of the Internet will feature in the trial of Felix Somm, 34, a Swiss national, former head of the German subsidiary of CompuServe, the Internet provider.

The Bavarian authorities allege that he "knowingly" facilitated the dissemination of illegal pornographic pictures and could have erected electronic "firewalls" to prevent the spread of criminal material. Somm faces up to five years in jail if convicted.

One More Note on OSs …

I was doing some work this week for an Internet Service Provider that has decided to put up a TUCOWS mirror site. TUCOWS, for those who don’t know, is "The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software," one of the best collections of shareware and freeware on the Internet. I was talking with the folks from TUCOWS and they asked what server software we’d be using for the mirror. I responded "either Linux or NT, doesn’t matter, we run both," and they said, "Oh, yes, it DOES matter."

Apparently, nearly half of all attempted mirror installations using NT have failed. "Use Unix and we can fix it. Use NT and you’re on your own," I was told.

Can’t wait for NT 5.0, huh?