Stories by Nicholas Petreley

Sun Microsystems on the couch

FRAMINGHAM (10/10/2003) - Sun Microsystems enters the office of noted therapist Dr. Sickmund Fraud and lies down on the couch. "Doc, I think I'm having an identity crisis," Sun confides. Dr. Fraud: Well, they say recognizing the problem is the first step toward addressing the problem. So how long have you had this problem?

Digital rights dominate 2002 awards

Given last year's events, it should come as no surprise that digital rights dominate my 2002 "You Can't Be Serious" awards. These annual awards recognise truly astonishing achievements in IT double-think.

Two sides to every dsniff story

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating. All network traffic should be protected by strong encryption. I recently learned that even SSL is simple to bypass, thanks to a powerful collection of free, open-source network sniffing utilities called dsniff. So if you think you're safe because you're using Secure Shell (SSH) instead of Telnet, or because you've connected to a Web site by using the https address, think again.

Singularly vulnerable

There’s an old Three Dog Night song that goes, “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do”. In enterprise computing, there are times when one is the riskiest number you can ever do.

What's new?

It's nice that the US Department of Justice recognises that Microsoft abused its monopoly power. But someone really needs to go after guys like Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer and Jim Allchin for the more heinous crime of voluntary wordslaughter. I'm talking about how they beat the term innovation to death. One gets the impression they think they can justify their anticompetitive business practices if they simply learn to mouth the word innovation when they belch.

Kick-starting the Web

I'm getting tired of waiting for the Web economy to restart, so I'm going to offer two suggestions to give it a kick in the pants. One of the many reasons the dot-com bubble burst is that there are so few ways to fund a Web service. You can adopt a subscription model and make users pay to reach the content, but that approach flops more often than not. Or you can make the content free and support the site through advertising, but most vendors have little incentive to advertise on the Web.

A costly affair

Like many other observers, I am appalled at how we tend to shrug off software bugs, especially when there are so many methods of prevention at our disposal.

Think like a terrorist

I was working from my home office a few years ago when my access to a Web site called NC World was suddenly cut off. My service provider told me that a router in Southern California had gone down. This struck me as odd for two reasons. First, I live in Northern California, about a half-hour from San Francisco, where NC World was hosted at the time. Second, I was under the impression that one of the primary design goals for the Internet was to make sure that communications would proceed uninterrupted even if some of the primary hubs are taken out by a nuclear blast.

Palladium power play

I hope you caught the Computerworld article about Microsoft Corp.'s proposal for a new security chip called Palladium. I read the story a half-dozen times, and I'm still not sure if it's a real project or an attempt at self-deprecating humor by Microsoft. There's so much wrong with this idea that it's difficult to decide where to start debunking it.

Open source's open door

As most of you know, much of success has to do with being in the right place at the right time. A golden opportunity is about to emerge, thanks to consumer advocates and a horde of greedy lawyers, and open source will once again be in the right place at the right time to exploit this opportunity.

An XML breakthrough

Allow me to have one last rant about XML before I finally admit that I've discovered a marvellous use for it. A few years ago, you could sell almost anything by slapping a "fat-free" label on it. There was fat-free ice cream, fat-free brownies, even fat-free socks. The "fat-free" designation doesn't sell goods like it used to, but you can still sell just about anything by calling it a "technology."

Desktop Linux at last?

I kicked the Windows habit back in 1997 and have since been using Linux exclusively as my productivity desktop operating system.

Demise of the disk era

I acquired some years of experience in database management in my former life as a programmer, more experience than I had ever hoped to get with databases. I was shooting for zero.

The road to Cairo

The year is 1992. Jim Allchin reveals Microsoft's plans to deliver a version of Windows NT, code-named Cairo, in 1994.

Secrecy is an illusion

Phil Zimmermann says he doesn't regret creating the Pretty Good Privacy strong encryption program, even though terrorists may use it. But while encryption may protect our Internet transactions and routine communications, it would be naive to think that governments or even wealthy companies and individuals can't get around it.