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this week, iomega's ZIP drive

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24th February 1997
Security, spin and sparring
Last week Microsoft spent a lot of time and money trying to restore the Net-public's faith in the trustworthiness of ActiveX components on the Internet.

They did this in the wake of a potentially very serious demonstration given by a group of German hackers who proved that they were able to use an ActiveX component to transfer money from someone's bank account without their permission or immediate knowledge.

In an attempt to control the damage that this revelation would obviously produce, Microsoft immediately sent out a mass emailing to a number of Net users and created a set of pages on their web site including this one which contains a copy of the letter.

There's some good advice in the letter, but the "spin doctors" have also been at work here, making it sound as if Java applets have just as much potential to wreak havoc on your computer - which they don't.

The shrouded allegations made in this letter, combined with other verbal battles currently being waged between MS and Sun look set to heighten the tension between these two giants. It's bound to spill over into litigation at some time in the near future - after all, there are billions of dollars at stake here!

With this ring, I thee web
Want some free advertising for your web site? Join a Web Ring!

It's pretty hard to engage in a surfing session of any length without encountering one of the growing number of "Web rings" on the Net.

These are a clever little idea, many of which fall into the "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" category. In return for providing a link to other site, you'll end up with links to your own site on tens or even hundreds of others.

Examples of "cooperative" Web rings include

Sites linked through a Web Ring usually all deal with the same subject matter and therefore it's sometimes worthwhile adding the keyword "ring" to your search-engine queries when looking for information on the Net. Once you've found one site in a ring you can visit all the rest by simply clicking on the Next link.
sites of a feather
but it's free!
Then there's the banner exchanges
Okay, so Web Rings link multiple sites dealing with the same basic subject material - what if you're just looking for some free advertising?

This is where the many Banner Exchange sites come in, perhaps the most well known and successful of which is Link Exchange.

In return for handing over a piece of your own Web page to the Link Exchange, you'll have your banner ad posted on thousands of other sites around the world. They offer a 2:1 ratio which means that your ad will be displayed on someone else's site every time two other ads are viewed from your pages. Of course that probably doesn't help a slow-moving site very much at all. If your page is only getting a handful of visits per day then Link Exchange is only going to deliver half a handful of your ads to other sites. But it's free so who cares!

Beware the hype!
A number of people have reported receiving unsolicited email from a crowd operating under the name of "The New Zealand Hyperbanner", which is "yet another link exchange", but one which seems to have been created by someone who has plans of creating a whole set of banner exchanges which will, no doubt, be sold off.

Take a look at their web site to see what it's all about.

Now this might be a good idea, but - if it's so damned effective, why the need for unsolicited email?

One must also ask whether their pages are factual or just full of hype. Most specifically, their FAQ asks the question:

18. Why haven't I seen my banner on other member's sites?"

The New Zealand HyperBanner is HUGE - there a lots [sic] of other members and you won't see your banner on their sites unless your site is extremely popular

Try searching AltaVista or SearchNZ for links to the domain ads.hyperbanner.net (this is what will be included in any sites carrying these banners). AltaVista says "none in NZ" and SearchNZ finds only two pages - which are on the same relatively obscure Seido Karate site.

Actually visiting that site is a disappointment because the link in fact refers to yet a different "franchise" specifically dealing with Martial Arts - so there appear to be NO NZ sites carrying NZ HyperNet banners. I think you can therefore work out the real answer to question 18 in the FAQ.

Further evidence of this appears on the page which claims to show the Top Five banners.

and the answer is...
but it's a good idea
On closer investigation it appears that this really is a strictly commercial venture looking for both sponsors (a.k.a. paying advertisers), investors, licensees, and sites on which to place the ads.

Don't get me wrong, this is a good idea and one which potentially offers value to all concerned - I just wish they'd been a little more honest about their claims at this point in time. There's nothing wrong with saying "here's a good idea - join now and get in on the ground floor". It's certainly more likely to solicit more response than the "we're a huge success already" line they're currently spouting.

I'll take another look at New Zealand HypberBanner in a few months and we'll see how it's going then.

The Aardvark Backlog
Many thanks to those who have sent comments and/or Letters To The Editor here at Aardvark. Unfortunately there's a bit of a backlog at present so you may not have received a reply or seen your prose in virtual-print yet. Rest assured that I'll do my best to catch up during this week.

To take some of the pressure off I'm planning to add a discussion forum facility to the Aardvark site. This will allow everyone to have their say "here and now", hopefully making this location more interesting and interactive.

If anyone has any strong opinions for or against the introduction of these discussion forums then please tell me.

AND as I mentioned last week, don't forget that I'm now adding a weekly PRODUCT REVIEW to Aardvark. This week it's the iomega Zip Drive. In coming weeks you can expect some "cutting" reviews of:

  • Microsoft's Front Page 97
  • Symantec's Visual Cafe Java RAD product
  • NT Server versus WARP 4.0 as a Web-server platform
and a whole lot more. Remember - there's no advertorial pressures here at Aardvark so you won't find me being anything less than totally honest and objective in my reviews. If the product's good then I'll say so, if it's a dog then you'll hear it bark!
loose ends...

I Can't Believe It's True!
How many times do you click on a link or mistype a URL and end up with a 404 error or a page telling you that the page your requested can't be found? Why should such a common error message be so boring? Well it doesn't have to be...

Error 404 with panache!
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nothing this week, I need to be more controversial!

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