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17th March 1997
Life remains dangerous on the Net
Last week it was Microsoft's turn to be the one unfortunate enough to be the victim of several security holes in its browser - but this week it was Netscape's turn.

The wires were alive with reports of a major security hole that could affect any Netscape user who had also installed the ShockWave plug-in.

It seems that the flaw allows a savvy ShockWave author to read email from the disk of anyone who visits their site and while not destructive in the way that the MSIE problems were, it's certainly a concern where Navigator is being used for sending or receiving sensitive information over the Net.

The flaw was found by New York programmer David de Vitry who also believes that it has the ability to render a site's firewall ineffective by creating a "tunnel" from outside the site in to any Web server behind the firewall.

I suspect the boys and girls at Microsoft are rubbing their hands with glee - or at the very least, breathing a sigh of relief that they aren't alone with their problems.

So... who ya gonna trust now?

The king is going, long live the king?
Big news this week, Xtra's Chris Tyler is heading off for pastures green across the Tasman - but why and who's going to take over?

Most interestingly, it seems (if the "official word" is to be believed) that Telecom were the last to know of Chris's intentions to move on.

His departure had been a rumour within the industry since well before Christmas, and while some of those propagating the rumour were probably hoping that it would become a self-fulfilling prophecy, most others considered that there was unlikely to be smoke without fire.

It will be very interesting to see who Telecom put in to take over Chris's job. The background of this appointee will give the rest of the industry a pretty good idea as to what direction Xtra will take from this point on.

We all wait with baited breath...

The wife is always the last to know...
Zap, that'll be $200M please...
Ever lost a modem to lightening?
There you are, surfing away on the Net when all of a sudden - WHAM, there's a clap of thunder and the lights on your modem stop flickering.

If you're really unlucky, you've got an internal modem and your PC also spits its dummy, freezing solid or simply whimpering to a halt.

Yes, it's a lightening strike and everyone is vulnerable. In the past two years I've lost three modems to lightening, even though there's only a couple of Kms of copper cable between my house and the optical-fibre terminator down the road. All that copper's underground too, but that doesn't stop the evil lightening from taking its toll.

But at least you can feel a little relief when you learn that earlier this year a blast of "solar lightening" blew the guts out of a US$200 million earth-orbit satellite. Makes a crispy-fried modem look pretty insignificant by comparison doesn't it?

It seems that back in January, a blast of charged solar particles were ejected from the sun, and travelling at a speed of around 3 million Kms an hour, they effectively turned the Telstar 401 into an expensive piece of space-junk.

At least I don't need to call out the space-shuttle when my old 14K4 modem gets a bolt from the blue.

Buy Kiwi - not for Robyn McDonald
I don't normally get Political (that's Political with a capital 'P') in this column but I can't let the events of recent days go past without comment.

What does Robyn McDonald's action in spending $27K of taxpayer money to attend (with her support crew) a conference on Internet shopping in Europe say about NZ's perceived level of skill? As someone who is involved at the coalface of Net shopping here in NZ, I consider McDonald's trip be a bit of a slap in the face for the local industry.

McDonald was quoted as saying "the trip was valuable and the cost justified". I would ask - "Valuable to who?" and "justified on what grounds?"

When you consider that Internet shopping in New Zealand - and elsewhere in the world accounts for only a very tiny fraction of one percent of all retail sales volume - how can any minister of the crown possibly expect us to swallow such an obvious "Junket" at the taxpayer's expense?

Personally, I can't wait to see the minister's report so that we can all see exactly what she did learn - and find out how we (the taxpayers) are going to be $27K better off because of it. Might not the same knowledge have been acquired just as effectively, and at a significantly lower cost here at home. Did she even bother to ask?

And to those who say it was just the mis-guided actions of a novice MP - what on earth are we doing giving important portfolios to neophytes without properly monitoring their actions and expenditures? Why should such an important ministry be headed by someone of (to be kind) such obvious inexperience?

Tax payers? let them eat cake!
Last week I couldn't even spell Web designer, now I are one!
I want my homepage!
What do most of the little ISPs have that Clear and Xtra don't?

That's right... it' s the ability for their subscribers to make their own mark on the Web.

Talk to any Net user who's been online for more than a few months and you'll find that the novelty starts to wane. Once you've been to Yahoo a hundred times, find that there are no new games at the ID or Happy Puppy sites and realise that IRC can be an incredible waste of time and money - your thoughts turn to perhaps gaining some recognition through creating your own Web page.

And why not? Products such as Microsoft FrontPage, Hot Dog and a raft of other HTML editors have made the job of creating a slick looking Web page as simple as using a word-processor.

But if you're an Xtra or Clear customer - sorry, you're out of luck.

IHUG, Voyager, iProlink, Wave and most of the other ISPs offer subscribers anywhere from 100K to 1MB or more of space on the Web where you can place your work of art, and I believe this will increasingly represent a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

We all talk about content being the heart of the Web - and believe me, there's no more entertaining content than the little gems that can be found in the "user-pages" of some ISPs sites. You can spend hours just puddling around, smiling, yawning, often wincing and even crying at the creative works of other Net users - it's a lot of fun!

If the "little guys" want to maintain their market share then I suggest they promote their "free web-pages" to prospective customers as a real benefit to both recreational and business users.

I Can't Believe It's True!
We all know that the BSA are hunting down software pirates and hanging them from the tallest tree. Of course we expect that these pirates to conduct their business from car-boots or in hushed tones out the back of the local pub - But always!

Yo ho ho and a bottle..
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