Internator 3: Rise of the Devices

When archrivals Microsoft and Sun make a joint announcement, something important is clearly afoot. The news that the two companies are part of a consortium that is applying to ICANN to create a new top level domain for mobile devices is a case in point.

At first sight, the story is about convergence: the fact that more computers are portable these days, and that mobile phones now pack a considerable computing punch: contemporary mobile phones such as the Sony P800 are more powerful than the machine that ran Netcraft's first Web Server Survey. But at another level, it is symptomatic of an even more profound change: a move from wired Internet connectivity centred on the users of a Net connection - companies or individuals - to a wireless Internet connectivity of objects, essentially independent of users.

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Is Internationalization finally getting somewhere, or is the DNS just becoming balkanised?

Although Tim Berners-Lee richly deserves his knighthood for creating one of the most important technologies of the 20th century, in one respect the World Wide Web has failed to deliver. It may have been global from the start - potentially accessible anywhere in the world - but making it truly international - able to reflect all cultures, irrespective of their language or writing system - has been an enormous struggle for the non- Anglophone world.

The first problem to be addressed was how to create Web pages with characters other than standard ASCII. The solution seemed simple enough: the use of extended sets, which allowed different non-ASCII characters to be employed on a per-page basis. But the solution brought its own problems, with many alternative extensions for a given script.

Therefore, an overarching approach called Unicode was developed that defined a single, universal coding scheme embracing all scripts. Unicode may not yet include everything, but all the major families are there, and many of the less common ones will be added soon (even Egyptian hieroglyphs are being worked on).

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Eolas Patent is Ruled Invalid

A patent on web browser technology held by Eolas Technologies has been invalidated by the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which recognized arguments from the World Wide Web Consortium and others that existing "prior art" should nullify the patent.

If the USPTO decision survives an expected appeal, it will likely void a $521 million jury award against Microsoft for infringing on the Eolas patent with features of its Internet Explorer browser. It also spares Microsoft the need to make modifications to its Windows operating systems and IE browser to allow them to continue to use popular multimedia plugins from Apple, Macromedia, Real Networks and Adobe. Microsoft outlined the planned changes last year but put them on hold in late January as it awaited a ruling from the patent office. The ruling would also avert the need for developers to modify millions of web pages using the HTML tags APPLET, OBJECT and EMBED, which would have been affected by the patent ruling.

The patent in question is held by the University of California and licensed to Eolas Technologies. It covers systems allowing browsers to "access and execute an embedded program object," and is based on work by a Cal team led by Michael Doyle. This "plugin" concept is now widely used to display multimedia within a browser window.

The concept was widely discussed at the time on the www-talk mailing list hosted by Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, as well as by Dave Raggett in the HTML+ specs he authored in 1993-94 for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

Nonetheless, the University of California's 1994 patent application for the technology was approved by the USPTO in 1998. Microsoft noted that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has only invalidated 151 patents out of nearly 4 million awarded since 1988. That doesn't reflect patents that have been invalidated by outside court proceedings.

Spam’s Tenth Birthday Today

Ten years ago today, spam as we know it was born. On 5 March 1994, a message was posted to some Usenet newsgroups by a law firm called Canter and Siegel, advertising their services for the U.S. Green Card lottery. It sounds mild enough today, but at the time that move and its follow-ups provoked increasing outrage across the Net. Many were appalled that "netiquette" - the unspoken rules that hitherto had maintained order in cyberspace - had been breached, sensing perhaps that things would never be the same again.

They were right, of course. By daring to try what no one had done before, those first spam messages opened the floodgates to the deluge we battle daily. When it became clear from Canter and Siegel's continued postings that their spams were being neither effectively blocked nor ignored, others soon followed in their footsteps.

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EV1′s Marsh Disputes SCO’s ’7 Figure’ Payment Claim

EV1Servers CEO Robert Marsh is disputing The SCO Group's claim that the dedicated hosting company paid a fee in excess of $1 million to license SCO's intellectual property.

"I would discount ANY reports or quotes of a 7 figure cash payment as has been reported," Marsh wrote in a post on the company's customer forum. "We did agree to a one time payment, however we did not agree to pay a 7 figure cash payment as reported in the media."

Blake Stowell, SCO's director of public relations, told eWeek Monday that EV1Servers "didn't pay full retail price on each server, but the deal was still worth seven figures all together for SCO." Similar quotes attributed to SCO appeared in Network World, Information Week and ComputerWorld, and the figure has been repeated widely in online forums discussing the deal.

What's not clear is whether EV1 and SCO are splitting hairs over definitions - Marsh addressed cash payments, while SCO has talked in terms of "worth" - or there is a larger disconnect between SCO's public statements and the undisclosed financial terms of the deal.

SCO contends that Linux includes copyrighted code from its own operating system, and is asking Linux users to pay $699 per server for a license to use its intellectual property. Under the terms of the agreement announced Monday, SCO will provide EV1Servers.Net with a site license that allows the use of SCO IP in binary form on all Linux servers managed by EV1Servers.Net in each of its hosting facilities.

Court that will hear SCO v AutoZone lawsuit itself runs Linux

Executives at Autozone must be feeling unlucky at being the recipient of a lawsuit from SCO when there are so many other corporate Linux users that SCO could have chosen from.

However, the defence may take heart that the court in which SCO filed suit runs its own web site on Linux. Plaintiffs filing lawsuits enter copies of their legal documents in Adobe PDF format in the court's Case Management/Electronic Case Filing (CM/ECF) system, which will provide electronic updates of case information for the litigants and their lawyers. Our initial analysis indicated that this system ran on Linux, but court personnel have since indicated that CM/ECF system runs on Solaris, suggesting the initial reading was detecting content management equipment rather than the web server.

SCO's numerous press pronouncements have thus far not mentioned whether its lawyers sent the Nevada court a cease-and-desist letter prior to filing the documents, or indeed whether it plans to file suit against the court itself.