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16th June 1997
What's missing from Netscape 4?
Another few months - another version of Netscape (with MSIE not too far behind). Good news? Yes and no.

The discovery by a Dane of a pretty bad security flaw in Navigator version 2, 3 and 4 was perhaps not the best way to launch a new version and I'm afraid if you were hoping (like me) that the newest version of Netscape's browser would be more stable than the last then you're going to be equally disappointed.

Just as with its predecessors, Netscape 4 ads quite a number of new features - but it seems that robustness and reliability comes a long way down the list of important attributes.

I've said it before - I'd gladly trade fancy features that most of us are not likely to use, for a browser that would not spew its guts out all over my screen every two or three hours when used heavily.

No doubt someone will suggest that I switch to Microsoft's Explorer browser - which is not without its own security problems and which is equally unreliable - albeit usually dying in a less spectacular manner - quietly deciding it doesn't want to talk to the Net any more. In fact, during the recent IDG Internet XPO, the WWW demonstrations given by presenters were all too regularly interrupted by the need to shut down and restart Navigator and Explorer.

So what's missing from Netscape 4? Maybe just a little peace of mind. Please.... why can't Netscape and MS focus on reliability before they continue their games of "one-upmanship". The result might just be a safer and more pleasant experience for most Net users.

Who can you trust?
The security flaw in Netscape's browsers is big news but what have been strangely unreported are the seemingly unscrupulous tactics engaged in by some "big names" involved in the story during the past few days.

In this story from News.com it clearly states that CNNfn and PC Magazine both signed non-disclosure agreements before Cabocomm (the Danish company that found the bug) agreed to demonstrate it to them.

Why then did PC Magazine give Netscape access to the computer they used for the demonstration? In this story by Wired, it is stated:

"Although Netscape refused to meet the Danish consultant's demand, the company's engineers found the bug using a computer, owned by PC Magazine, that had reproduced the bug earlier."

"What happened is that Netscape engineers were able to recreate the bug by examining the contents of PC Magazine's computer that was used to validate the bug," said Andrea Cook, a Netscape spokeswoman.

This begs the question - wasn't that a breach of the non-disclosure?

A number of other very important questions arise from this event and the way it was handled:

  • Was it unreasonable (given the scope of the problem) for the Danish programmer to request more than the "standard" $1,000 (plus tee shirt) reward that Netscape offers?
  • Would YOU ever trust PC Magazine with a scoop story that required their discretion and agreement not to disclose anything other than that which you'd agreed to?
  • How many other as yet undetected holes are their in our browsers?

Another Domain Name Scalper
The Domain Name Company was one of the first in NZ to try and scalp domain names. Of course they included some commercial trademarked names as well - which, after a court battle they had to hand over to the legitimate holders such as Sanyo and Cadburys.

Well there's yet another scalper operating under the name of "Pogo" and with the seemingly irrelevant and false subtitle "the world's first Virtual Economy".

This crowd seems to have gone on a domain-buying spree, snapping up such generics as: prices.co.nz, products.co.nz, services.co.nz, systems.co.nz, bank.net.nz, cash.co.nz, space.co.nz, economy.co.nz and a raft of others.

I must admit to having a chuckle when I read the rationale behind the grabbing of these domains and subsequent attempt to resell 4th-level domains based on them:

"We felt it was important that no one organisation could claim proprietary rights over such domain names as products.co.nz or services.co.nz"

Hmm... Based on that claim, I assume they're giving away the rights to sub-domains based on such names. How philanthropic of them!

Stupidity on the Net
Some of these guys should have received the Aardvark "I Can't Believe It's True" award but there always seem to be too many deserving candidates and not enough weeks in the year - so here are a few of the stupid things that have crossed my path recently:

A junk email that arrived on Sunday which said:


Over 30 million e-mail addresses free of duplicates, one per line and alphabetically sorted.

PS: If you have received this message more than once, we apologize

No duplicates huh?

Here's another "Come and arrest me" site put up by a cowboy who really hasn't got a clue. Let's hope that the IAD aren't too busy chasing kiddy-porn on the Net to deal with this.

Now you can do your tax returns on the Web - but how happy do you feel about giving details of your income to a site that is run by people with names such as the ones on this page?

Jump where?
That's smart AND cheap!
Remember over a year ago I pointed out the smart move being made to take advantage of Iceland's unusual top-level domain name (.is). Just type this.is into the location line of your browser and you'll see what I mean.

Well now there's a similar initiative a little closer to home.

Try typing jump.to into your browser's location line.

Smart eh? Working out how this works is left as an exercise for the reader :-)

In these days of domain-name battles and arguments over adding new names to the top-level, maybe this type of thing will be a useful option to existing domain names?

But why is jump.to better than this.is?

Just compare the prices! You'll pay up to US$30,000 for a this.is address - but jump.to will give you a free one - albeit with some conditions. Pay NZ$100 and you can have your choice of names - so long as they aren't already taken.

If you visit the site you'll see that I've been bribed. Well not really - I just think it's a smart piece of work.

I Can't Believe It's True!
Can it be true? Does the simple act of reading the copyright notice at the bottom of this page represent an infringement of that copyright?

Don't look Ethel...

I see no written permission to download the page for the purposes of reading the copyright notice - and it says written permission is required!

Perhaps MAF is a little too enthusiastic about its copyright?

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