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Complain, Complain

Everybody who's anybody on the 'Net likes to complain about bandwidth, and how there really isn't enough of it, and we'll complain about it right up until about the time we're routinely getting full-motion, real-time video delivered to us on 45-inch monitors. And then, we'll go back to complaining about disk storage space.

It's hard for geeks like us to remember that the rest of the world - including the United States -- isn't necessarily ready for prime time. MediaMetrics released survey results last week, coinciding with the release of the Clinton videotaped grand jury testimony, that said only 25 percent of the computers on the Internet could receive streaming video. Along with that: About half have Pentium level processors, but 57 percent have processors running slower than 100 mhz. Only half have a 28.8k or faster modem. Approximately 63 percent of home PCs have the Windows 95 operating system. (That does NOT mean the rest are Unix wizards.)

It's a little discouraging. I thought having neat computer stuff had become mainstream by now, but the numbers say I'm wrong. And everybody else is going to have to upgrade their PCs before they care about bandwidth. It'll be another five years.

This Annoying Email

A lot of people started getting an interesting and new variety of Spam in the last few months, the kind that starts out "This email sent out pursuant to " and goes on to explain to you why it's LEGAL for them to send the email to you, before telling you how to get rich quick. This has been a ploy - it confuses the receiver, and I've even run into Internet Service Providers who ask "What is the deal here? Is it legal?"

The deal is, there has been legislation kicking around the House of Representatives for months that would have legitimized Spam and set rules under which it could be sent. The House Commerce Committee last week removed the language from HR 3888. It isn't legal, and even Congress seems to know better than to support bulk email.

Annoying, But Legal

A federal court ruled last week that the right to communicate indecent material with intent to annoy over the Internet is constitutionally protected. ApolloMedia, the publisher of Annoy.com, brought the suit. The site is specifically designed to flout a provision of the old Communications Decency Act that bars "indecent material with intent to annoy" from the Internet.

Annoy.com was created in January 1997 for the sole purpose of drawing attention to this disparity. The site is aflame with stinging attacks on conservative political targets, and flashing four-letter words. Readers are invited to send lewd hate email, complete with soft-porn images and ransom-note graphics.

Free speech activists noted that the case helps finish off the Communications Decency Act of 1997, which had been mostly but not entirely ruled unconstitutional earlier this year. An undeterred Congress is currently pushing through "Spawn of CDA."

Linux Getting Cooler. :-)

Intel, Netscape and Linux News.com reported Saturday that Intel, Netscape, and some venture capital firms are said to be preparing to announce a deal on Tuesday under which the companies will take equity stakes in software vendor Red Hat Software, which makes a version of the Linux operating system. Intel declined comment on the situation, but sources close to Red Hat said that a deal will be announced Tuesday. At the moment, terms and conditions are still being worked out. Red Hat is privately held. If the deal goes through, look for some fireworks at upcoming conferences like ISPCON in San Jose and Internet in New York, both this month. Linux is perceived by Microsoft as a direct threat to NT in the booming low-end server market, and Linux enthusiasts tout the potential of the free OS even for the consumer desktop. I've mentioned before that I set up a Linux server at home, though I use Windows for most things. However, I can report that I'm gravitating toward the Linux setup for some things, especially straightforward, power surfing. Why? It's faster and it's yet to crash.

Jeff Schult and Nicole Chardenet can be reached at jeffbot at this domain.