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The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Saturday, February 28, 2004day link 

 Verisign sucks
Verisign is one of more despicable and corrupt companies I can think of. They still have a bit of a monopoly position in that they maintain the central registries of .com and .net domains, amongst others. The domains can be sold by many other registrars, but Verisign maintains the central database. If that's all they did, even as badly as they typically do, it might be fine. But they keep coming up with clever business schemes for tricking people into registering domains with them rather than with competitors, or paying them ransom money for useless services.

One of my clients had a couple of domains names I had registered for her. When it came time to renew them she didn't get my messages because of an old e-mail address, so they expired. They were registered with OpenSRS, which is the registrar I'm a wholesale provider for, and which generally does a great job. They have very clear rules about what happens when a domain expires. After a few days it stops working in DNS, and after a 40 day grace period, it gets deleted. And that is how it works. The domain becomes unregistered after 40 days. After which I, or anybody else, should be able to go and re-register it.

But Verisign got the bright idea of offering a special "service" for domains that are deleted. It consists of that they don't actually delete the domain as instructed, but they offer the recent owner that for $80 they can re-instate it. Which is as well fairly cumbersome and takes 7 days. The period where this arrangement is in place should supposedly be a 30 day "Redemption" period (beyond when the domain should have been deleted) and a 6 day "Pending Delete" period. So, one could just wait till after that time and re-register the domain? Not even that, because Verisign doesn't even stick to their own guidelines. Like it has done for many years, it keeps the domains for much longer times, without any explanation as to why or how long. One of those domain has been two months in the Redemption period. Another has been a month in the Pending Delete period.

ICANN, the entity actually responsible for the whole domain system, is also being blamed for this. However, looking an their previous proposal, meant to help domain owners avoid losing their domain by forgetting to renew it, I realize that it is what my own register already had implemented, as had most others. I.e. if your domain expires, your domain will be on hold for about a month of grace period. Then it will be "pending deletion" for about a week or so after that, and then it will be gone. That's normal registrar practice. That Verisign then adds their own procedure on top of that is totally unnecessary and nothing more than a scam. Kind of like if the post office kept a letter sent to me and then offered me the service of paying $80 for receiving it sooner than in a couple of months.

There have been a string of other similar business practices from Verisign, or proposed future plans. Verisign and ICANN just got sued by a group of registrars for a planned scheme that involved selling already registered domain names by auction to other people, to "guarantee" that one would get the domain name if it expired. And at the same time sell insurance to the actual domain owner, to ensure that nobody else can get their domain.

And Verisign just sued ICANN for trying to hinder them from running the "Site Finder" scam they had started up last year. The idea was that whenever anybody mistyped a domain name address, and accidentally asked for a domain that didn't exist, they'd end up on Verisign's site which would offer to sell them that domain name. Remember, as a registrar Verisign is just one of many competitors, but they used their control of the underlying database to lead people to their own registration service, making them think it would be the "correct" path to follow.

Before that, they tried their luck by sending out phoney renewal notices for domains that weren't registered with them, just like several other unscrupulous companies were. I.e. you get a "renewal" notice in the mail, saying that your domain is expiring on such and such a date, and that if you pay now, it will be renewed and taken care of. Except for that the domain wasn't registered with them, so what they're really asking you to do is to *transfer* the domain to them from your current registrar. But many domain owners don't really understand the fine points of that, and renewing one's domain before it expires always sounds like a good idea.

Around that time too, another of their schemes was that they would automatically throw a wrench in the machinery whenever a domain was requested to be transferred to another registrar. Which is a standard function in the domain system. The receiving registrar checks with the owner of the domain that they really intend to transfer it, and then file the transfer instruction with the domain database, which should then be carried out in a day or two without incident. Instead, Verisign would automatically throw away all of the transfer requests, and not say anything to the owner of the domain, nor to the requesting registrar. And after a couple of weeks, the transfer would time out and fail without explanation. Only if the customer called Verisign and verbally instructed them to allow the transfer to go through would it actually happen. And talking to Verisign is a bit like getting through to the IRS. Plus that the actual customer is likely to have a hard time explaining what is going on to them, as it is naturally a bit technical.

Oh, there's a good deal more, but that's enough of a rant for now. But look at the Verisign Sucks page, as lots of other folks have had the exact same problems I describe here. Or go here or here. Lots of stories of fraud and deception.
[ | 2004-02-28 18:00 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, November 3, 2003day link 

A few people responded to my previous post about an EU poll of which country would be the biggest threat to world peace, and hinted that I'm anti-semitic for posting it, and for voicing an agreement with the majority opinion expressed in it. And, well, that's a rather explosive thing to even try to discuss, but I'm trying anyway.

When I grew up in Denmark, the history of the German occupation and extermination of Jews was a big part of our education. And there would be no question about that we of course were on the side of the persecuted Jews and against the Nazis.

But it was also sort of an abstract thing. I didn't really know what a Jew was. Meaning, it would be sort of a puzzle to me why Jewish people were singled out. I couldn't really see any difference between Jewish people and non-jewish people. Did they have more crooked noses, or what's the deal? And why should that be a problem? I really didn't get it. I couldn't understand how it could be a racial thing when the people percecuted didn't look any different from anybody else.

When I moved to the U.S. it became a little more clear. In part because there's a lot of racism in the U.S. Let me clarify. In California I didn't experience much racism in terms of some skin colors being considered less than others. Maybe a little bit of looking down on Mexicans, but I didn't really understand that either, as I don't perceive hispanic people as being of any different race than I am. But the kind of racism I'm talking about is kind of in reverse. There was a lot of attention put on people's races. When I filled out public forms, I'd have to check off that I was "Caucasian", whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. And everybody's very sensitive about stating that somebody's african-american or hispanic or asian-american or something. And very afraid of offending anybody. I really found it rather tasteless to always emphasize races, when I'd really much rather have that we're all just humans, which is pretty much how I see it.

And it was in the U.S. that I first met people who would identify themselves as Jewish. My boss for a number of years, whom I was very fond of, was Jewish. As was a bunch of the managers. And I went to his son's bar-mitzvah. Which was enjoyable. The ceremony in the temple was really lively and down-to-earth. In my lunch break I would frequently go and eat fallafels in an Israeli food place. Every week there was a rabbi speaking to a group of people there, telling stories from the Torah and explaining what they meant. Which I found rather enjoyable too. And all of which only gave me a pleasant feeling about the Jewish culture and religion. And then there's the Kabbalah, which is a great source of wisdom.

Certainly nothing has given me any reason to conclude that Jewish people across the board would somehow be something to be against. I haven't found anything about Jewishness not to like. And the whole idea of being anti- some particular cultural or racial group, that's very foreign to me.

At the same time I do understand that various kinds of people might carry deep-seated grudges against each other. Cultural groups that have very stronly negative opinions about each other, often based on things that happened a very long time ago, but which somehow is part of the cultural heritage. Again, I have a hard time personally identifying with that, as I don't have any personal experience to relate it with. But I realize that it is different for some people.

I still get kind of puzzled and surprised when once in a while I run into Jewish people who have very strong opinions when the subject of the Israel-Palestinian conflict comes up. Or, rather, strong opinions do not surprise me, and would be perfectly understandable. Rather when what a moment ago what was a pleasant, relaxed, well-reasoned person suddenly is somebody apparently filled with hatred and anger and vengeance. Somebody going to great lengths to convince me that I'm an idiot if I don't understand that Palestinians, as well as all Arabs, are violent, lying, criminal sub-humans who aren't to be trusted. And that Palestinians don't deserve any land to live on, because it was never theirs in the first place, and there's really no such things as "Palestinians", and it would be easier to just mow down the whole lot anyway. And if I dare to disagree, that's around the time when I get called anti-semitic, and somebody will question why I've listened so much to Arab propaganda that I can have such an outrageous opinion.

Note, I'm not trying to generalize that all Jewish people see it that way. They most certainly don't. And I'm not trying to generalize that it is a particularly Jewish thing. I'm sure there are plenty of Palestinians or Arabs who'd prefer that all Jews would be wiped off the face of earth. For some reason they just haven't crossed my path much, other than on TV. And I'm sure there are plenty other groups that feel in similar ways about each other. Yugoslavia, Rwanda, etc.

But I can say with some confidence that that attitude certainly doesn't help in creating peace anywhere. Whatever past history of transgressions it is based on.

And I can say that it is my opinion that the Israeli government is going about the matter completely wrong, and probably is guilty of many war crimes.

And, sure, most likely Arafat is a bumbling idiot and has missed several great opportunities for peace laid out in front of him.

And, sure, strapping explosives to your body and blowing up innocent people in buses and shopping centers, that's a very bad idea. As is gunship attacks on people's homes. All of it is just escalating a conflict that didn't have to exist.

I happen to think the Israeli government holds most of the cards, and that it is playing them wrong. And I suppose the people in the Israeli government are Jewish. Does that make me anti-semitic? Not any more than my opinion that George W's government is illegitimate and corrupt makes me anti-caucasian or anti-christian or anti-american.

People and governments are different things. Individual people, such as government leaders, are different things than the country or race or culture they come from.

I usually can't recognize Jewish people unless they identify themselves as such. It doesn't matter to me if you're Jewish or not. Or whether you're Muslim or not. If you are and it is important to you, great. But I don't go around looking for signs that you're in some kind of cultural or religious group that I can then have a bias for or against. If you have a unique perspective or an interesting heritage, I might very well be interested in hearing it. But as far as I'm concerned, I'm a member of humanity, and so are you.
[ | 2003-11-03 15:02 | 44 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Monday, April 21, 2003day link 

 Smoking guns or not?
picture NY Times reports that an Iraqi scientist is suddenly talking, and saying that Iraq had chemical and biological weapons, but destroyed them a few days before the war. That sounds a bit overly convenient for Bush. Both justifying the war and also justifying why none of the purported 'weapons of mass destruction' are being found. Very clever. Oh, it might be true, but that would have been extraordinarily non-sensical from Saddam's perspective.

And what's with not being able to find Saddam Hussein? If they end up not finding him at all, I'd say there's a pattern forming here. Osama bin Laden was enemy number one, as the supposed mastermind of 9/11. For months everything was about him. He's here, he's there, maybe we got him, maybe he's dead, blah, blah. And suddenly nobody pays any attention any longer, despite that he wasn't found and probably isn't dead.

Same thing with Saddam Hussein. If they don't find him, and the media suddenly loses interest, I'd say something very sinister is going on. It was simply a matter of George W. being business partners with Osama bin Laden, and with Saddam Hussein. Shouldn't be much of a stretch, as his Dad pretty much hired them for their jobs in the first place, as CIA director. So, they did their scripted part, and we have a phoney chase trying to find them for a few months. And then they go into the equivalent of the witness protection program. They get plastic surgery, new passports, a few billion in a bank account, and spend the rest of their lives in underground palaces in Bora Bora. Or they moved on to the black government's bases on Mars for all I know.
[ | 2003-04-21 14:45 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, April 4, 2003day link 

 War and Comedy
picture Jewel posts some great quotes from comedians, that succeed in presenting the paradoxical truth in one-liners, like nothing else could. Some examples:
"War continues in Iraq. They're calling it Operation Iraqi Freedom. They were going to call it Operation Iraqi Liberation until they realized that spells 'OIL.'" -- Jay Leno

"President Bush has said that he does not need approval from the UN to wage war, and I'm thinking, well, hell, he didn't need the approval of the American voters to become president, either." -- David Letterman

"In a speech earlier today President Bush said if Iraq gets rid of Saddam Hussein, he will help the Iraqi people with food, medicine, supplies, housing, education ? anything that's needed. Isn't that amazing? He finally comes up with a domestic agenda ? and it's for Iraq. Maybe we could bring that here if it works out." -- Jay Leno

[ | 2003-04-04 15:00 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Friday, January 31, 2003day link 

 Personal responsibility versus law
picture Most of our societies are based on the "rule of law". Which works out to be about the opposite of how I think things should be. The rule of law is essentially that some rules are written down and agreed upon, and everybody will be equally forced to follow the rules. That is usually presented as a reasonable alternative to everybody just doing whatever they feel like, which would be perceived as a chaotic anarchy.

The problem is that lawmakers don't know how to write down principles of social behavior, or they're really just trying to enforce their own moral biases on everybody, so they end up writing huge volumes of detailed rules about how people are supposed to behave or not behave. And invariably they leave a lot open to interpretation, and they forget to think about many contexts where those behaviors aren't necessarily what works, and they end up with a self-contradictory mess. Which makes it a good business to be a lawyer, and those people who can afford more lawyers than others would tend to be more able to get what they want.

Now, the people who actually enforce laws will tend to hide behind the word of the law, and will tend to have the attitude that they're just carrying out the law, or they're just following orders. In other words, they're not responsible. That is by design, by the division of the powers of government. But it is also what usually turns governments into such unfeeling monsters. Lawmakers can sit in confortable chairs and make rules, without having to soil their hands with involvement in the actual circumstances where those laws might or might not work. Police forces will carry out the laws, using force, potentially lethal force. Nobody's really responsible. Different people make the laws than who interpret them than who carry them out.

There's a lot to say about all of this. My first point, however, is that personal responsibility would be a better fundamental principle than would institutionalized irresponsibility. In other words, if the police officer stops you for speeding, or for taking too long zipping up your pants in the public bathroom, he'd better be able to defend why that was the right thing to do right then. Not whether the law told him so or not, but why it served a useful purpose right then and there. Judges who condemn people need to be thoroughly exposed to that which they condemn them to. I.e. attend their executions, or visit them in prison. And politicians should have to face all of that, to experience on their own skin the consequences of their laws. That would be a good first step.

What really ought to change is the inherent insanity in making volumes of laws that are just 'good ideas' but that really don't work in all circumstances in real life. A law says that certain things ALWAYS must be a certain way, and that this will be enforced. Somebody makes a law that says 'nobody's allowed to drive faster than 55mph'. Might sound like a good idea, as it sounds more safe, and it would save gasoline. But then later on somebody thinks 'what about the police or firetrucks?' and maybe they change the law to have an exception for police or firetrucks, or maybe everybody implicitly agrees that it of course wouldn't apply to them. Why not? Any law that has any kind of exceptions is a bad law. What about if I have a medical emergency and need to get to the hospital? What if I drive 75mph and nobody else is around for miles? What if there is some urgent need that you didn't think of spelling out in the law? Its the law that is bad. What it is really trying to accomplish is that people are safe while driving, but it tries to do it by applying the same numbers to everybody. What would rather be needed would be a guideline, a general principle, and some people to carry it out who actually would be responsible for their own choices. There should be nothing to hide behind.
[ | 2003-01-31 15:23 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Saturday, November 23, 2002day link 

 War is Fun
picture Part of what keeps us all from living in an entirely peaceful world is that, if we're honest about it, most of us find guns and violence and war very entertaining. War makes for great programs on the History Channel. Violence makes for great action movies, and most of us cheer when the good guy kills the bad guy at the end. Guns are kind of cool and sexy. It is a powerful feeling to shoot a gun. Part of what motivates people to be police officers or soldiers is that you drive fast, or fly expensive toys, and you chase bad guys and you blow things up.

But what we like is exactly the game aspect of it. The thrill and risk, the power, the rush, the gadgetry, the stimulating special effects. But if we are really exposed to the effects of violence and war, very, very few of us would think that it is cool. Just one bullet, or the tiniest of bombs, do horrible things to human bodies. Just one life lost, or one life lived as an invalid, can be a huge tragedy for the people involved. The only way we accept it as a society is to be detached from it, by just watching it on TV and thinking about it abstractly. Yeah, let's go whip Saddam's ass real good. Looks good on TV. But we aren't able to fathom the scope of what several hundred thousand dead Iraqi children means. It is just numbers. And most Americans have never even heard about those numbers.

We'll have to embrace our desire for action and violence, and provide for it, without leaving all those innocent victims behind. I hear people giving visions of the future where there is no violence. "In the New Civilization there must be no violence!" Aha, ok, then what are you going to do with the people who want it? Outlaw boxing and wrestling? Action movies? Body piercing? Jackass stunts? That's all violent stuff, but it is violence that people volunteer for. And it is entertaining. Hoping that nobody will be interested in watching it just isn't going to work. Finding a harmonious relation between all sides of ourselves is more likely to take us somewhere.
[ | 2002-11-23 20:21 | 13 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

Tuesday, November 19, 2002day link 

 Digital Rights Management
picture DRM - Digital Rights Management - is a euphemism for media companies trying to control your behavior in order to maximize their own profits. It is in brief that big companies will be enabled to control when and how you look at THEIR stuff, and that they'll be able to tamper with your computer, or your car stereo, or your VCR, if there is any indication that you want to play their content in a different setting than they had in mind. It is a BAD thing. See an intro here from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Microsoft and the big record companies and movie studios love DRM. They've bribed some U.S. congress people to back them. They all think it is the solution to piracy and a rapidly changing marketplace. They can turn the clock back to the way it was, or rather, the way it always should have been, in their view. The hidden agenda seems to be to manipulate you into a position where you pay something whenever you read or view or listen to their copyrighted materials, and to pressure the hardware manufacturers and operating system manufacturers to make your hardware and software do their bidding. Apple is taking a stance against it, so buy a Mac. And read Chris Locke's righteous rage about not being able to quote a review about his own book, because of DRM.
[ | 2002-11-19 23:22 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

pictureI think the legal fiction of a "corporation" is probably the biggest roadblock on the way towards a free society and a free market.

A corporation is largely a construct used to scam many people into giving their power to the very few, who will use it for their own gain.
[ | 2002-08-26 23:27 | 3 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Recording artists on downloads
pictureThere's a showdown going on between a greedy monopolistic music industry and its customers, which it (RIAA, the recording industry's organization) seems to consider consisting mostly of thieves. And there are luckily some courageous artists who are willing to provide some alternative views about this as well. Most recording artists, except for the huge stars, are getting a very short end of the stick themselves. See Courtney Love's speech where she does the math. And now Janis Ian has some rather intelligent things to say about the subject of downloads and CD copying, making the well-researched and rational argument that most recording artists and authors benefit from the increased exposure, rather than being bereft of any profit.
[ | 2002-07-09 21:16 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Product Secrets
Grr, I really don't like monopolies that keep secrets from you in order to control you better. See this article about how car manufacturers keep the repair codes from their computers secret for anybody who isn't their own dealer. In case you don't know, all modern cars are controlled by an onboard computer, and very often the only way of diagnosing or repairing anything about the engine is by talking with the computer. But if you aren't allowed to know what its codes mean, you can't. The result is that around 10% of all car repairs can not be carried out, because the repair person doesn't have access to the computer codes, and he will have to tell the car owner to go away and go to a (much more expensive) dealer.
[ | 2002-06-26 19:50 | 15 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 The Man Who Bought the Internet
I hate monopolies. I have a lot of not very nice things to say about companies or governments that try to own and control the Internet, for example. Now, one of the companies that have been most successful in that regard is not Microsoft, but Verisign. I've never liked that company, but have found it hard to avoid as they methodically would buy up any competition. I was using Thawte for secure digital certificates, as they were the only competitor to Verisign, and much cheaper, but Verisign bought the company, and raised the prices instantly. I was using CyberCash for online credit card processing, but Verisign bought them. Verisign bought Network Solutions, who used to be the domain name monopoly, and their service dropped to even lower levels than before. I believe I've finally gotten all my domains trasferred elsewhere. Anyway, here is an article from business2.com about Stratton Sclavos who runs and owns most of Verisign.
[ | 2002-01-16 21:50 | 8 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 E-mail is Dead
It has been several years since e-mail stopped being a useful medium for me. Now it is mostly an ongoing source of guilt for me, because of all the needles I don't notice in the loads of hay stacks I get every day. I still get 5-600 e-mail messages per day. Amongst them, I'm sure, many gold nuggets of information, as well as important personal messages I really should be attending to. But in the mass of everything else, and by the sheer volume of it, it is a matter of complete luck whether I happen to notice some of the stuff I ought to notice. What isn't working for me is the linear, unstructured nature of e-mail.
[ | 2001-11-26 05:22 | 19 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Fundamentalist Quiz
Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Usama bin Laden seem to have a whole lot in common. Take the quiz and see if you can identify statements by each of these prominent fanatics.

[ | 2001-10-12 18:03 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Y2K, and betting on the wrong horses
It took a little bit before I remembered who the Peter de Jager is that I mentioned in the previous message. He was probably the person who was most responsible for starting the Y2K craze, by predicting doomsday for our civilization. He was pretty much the main spokesperson for Y2K Doomsday, and one of the people who profited the most from that whole thing. Maybe the guy is just consistently betting on the wrong horse, and good at convincing everybody that it is the right horse. Or, maybe he's just going where the money is, I don't know. .... Well, he just sent me a very decent response, so let me not be too down on him. He said essentially that he is independent, and that, even though he himself has had problems with some of Unisys' history, he finds it better to look beyond that and support the positive projects he sees.
[ | 2001-08-17 14:24 | 0 comments | PermaLink ]

 Boycott Software Patents
pictureI received an invitation from Peter de Jager to join with other futurists in a Global Future Forum, organized by the Unisys company. I strongly declined. Basically because Unisys is on my list of greedy, destructive, anti-social companies. In brief because they've tried very hard to get license fees from anybody who's using GIF pictures. After the Internet had caught on as a big phenomenon, and everybody were using GIF pictures in their webpages, Unisys showed up and claimed a patent on a compression algorithm used in GIF files. They of course didn't mention anything when GIF was originally chosen on the basis that it seemed to be free to use. At any rate, a number of open source software efforts either had to be halted, or GIF support was removed from some of the key software libraries used on the Internet. Simply because they were being developed for free, and given away, and the developers couldn't afford the exorbitant licenses Unisys was asking for. That has personally as a programmer cost me many hours of grief and wasted work. Here are some links about the Burn all GIFs! movement, and about the evils of software patents, and . Unisys has later moderated their position somewhat, but the damage is mostly done, and the licensing terms are still not compatible with open source software.
[ | 2001-08-17 13:38 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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