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News & Views

Dr. Dobb's Journal February 1997: News & Views

Electronic Commerce

Purdue's Markus Kuhn kicked off the Second USENIX Workshop on Electronic Commerce with a talk on smart card tamper-resistance (or lack thereof). Kuhn (whose paper, cowritten by Ross Anderson, was selected as the conference's best paper) refuted any assumption of a smart card's security by demonstrating practical techniques for tampering with common smart cards. Other papers at the conference included Openmarket's Daniel Geer on token-mediated certification, Stanford's Steven Ketchpel on a universal payment API, Carnegie-Mellon's Darrell Kindred on automatic protocol checking, and Bell Labs' Eran Gabber on a distributed protocol for electronic commerce.

There were some very good higher-level talks as well. Attorney Benjamin Wright spoke on the legality of digital signatures, comparing and analyzing existing law. John du Pré Gauntt, the business editor of Public Network Europe and a researcher at the London School of Economics, discussed electronic commerce in a social context, describing how electronic commerce changed the very way we think about money, offering several interesting historical examples. UC Berkeley Law Professor Pamela Samuelson, well-known for her work in intellectual-property law and as a legal columnist for Communications of the ACM, discussed intellectual-property law's effect on commerce law, citing current legal cases as examples of the direction and implications of current public policy.

-- Eugene Eric Kim

PC to Mac

Executor 2 from ARDI lets you run many Macintosh applications on a PC. The system, which runs on Windows 3.1/95, OS/2 Warp, DOS, and Linux, was developed using "clean-room" techniques, and includes no Apple code. It can also read/write Macintosh-format floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and hard drives. A free demonstration version is available on ARDI's web site (http://www.ardi.com/).

-- Tim Kientzle

Computers and the Law

The ever-changing issues of server security, cryptography, trade secret prosecution, and first amendment interpretation were hot topics of discussion at the Sun User Group's Computers and the Law III symposium.

Among the interesting computer law cases reviewed was a puzzling new precedent set regarding real-time information and the commercial appropriation of "fresh" news. Jim Hemphill of George, Donaldson & Ford L.L.P. discussed The National Basketball Association (NBA) v. Sports Team Analysis and Tracking Systems Inc. (STATS) case, in which the NBA sued Motorola and STATS over the practice of distributing real-time basketball scores to subscribers via pagers. The federal courts ruled in favor of the NBA, determining that, though NBA scores and statistics could not be copyrighted, the NBA does "own" real-time information about its games. Defining freshness as a commercial property could introduce some interesting new intellectual-property concerns.

Another discussion of note was Silicon Valley criminal defense attorney Tom Nolan's discourse on a recent amendment to California's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The amendment broadens the state's definition of a trade secret, potentially lifting some trade secret disputes from the civil arena and enabling district attorneys to prosecute them under criminal law.

-- Deirdre Blake

Pass the Quarters

You may think that managing a team of programmers is hard work, but to some people it's just a game. MCI Systemhouse and Thinking Tools have developed an "agent-based simulation tool" (read "video game") in which you play a bedeviled manager who must deal with cranky programmers, uncooperative clients, and unsupportive upper-level management. With a $1495 price tag, it's unlikely to outsell Sonic the Hedgehog, but the developers hope large companies will see it as a training investment.

-- Tim Kientzle

E-mail Directory

Later this year, both Pacific Bell and Nynex will begin allowing phone customers to include e-mail addresses and URLs with their white-pages phone-number listings. The service won't be free for Pac Bell customers. Prices are expected to fall in line with the fees current customers pay for adding, say, fax numbers to their listing -- $5.00 setup and 85 cents a month.

-- Amy Wu

MSN2 Alienates MSN Members

Microsoft's new, more public, online service, MSN2, has drawn criticism from disillusioned users of the old Microsoft Network service. Grievances are being posted at a protest site called "The Official MSNot Hate Site" (http://www.geocities.com/ SoHo/9120/). The protesters' gripes range from alleged censorship (critical comments have reportedly been removed from MSN2 bulletin boards by forum hosts at Microsoft) as well as MSN2's heavy use of ActiveX graphics, which makes browsing a slow process for some users.

-- Deirdre Blake

Smart Money

When it comes to chips, the 125,000 attendees at last fall's Comdex in Las Vegas were apparently thinking "Pentium" or "PowerPC" instead of "roulette" or "blackjack." To the disgust of some casino operators, gambling was down during the first two days of the show.

-- Jonathan Erickson

The Season of Sharing

Microsoft topped all other U.S. companies in gift giving, donating $73.2 million in fiscal year 1995. The bulk of the company's largess -- $62.1 million -- was in software donations. Considering the tax write-offs and chance to hook new customers with upgrades, you have to wonder where the philanthropy part comes in.

-- Monica Berg

Virtual Prayers

Virtual Jerusalem (http://virtual.co.il/) has launched the Send-a-Prayer service by which visitors to the site can e-mail prayers to the Holy Land. The staff at Virtual Jerusalem will print out prayers on a daily basis and place them in cracks in the Kotel -- the Western Wall. Placing prayers at the holy site is an age-old Jewish tradition and, according to Virtual Jerusalem, the practice "lends permanence to your prayer." The site also features news about the city, a calendar of events, and interviews with famous international Jewish personalities.

-- Deirdre Blake

Copyright © 1997, Dr. Dobb's Journal

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