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When Net News Is No News 12 September 2001 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
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At around 1 am this morning I woke from a deep sleep to images of a blaze in one of the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center.

Live footage of the fire was being transmitted via satellite directly to my TV set -- and as I watched, a twin-engined passenger jet slammed into the other tower causing a massive explosion.

It was hard to believe -- and in fact the BBC announcer didn't even notice the approach of the aircraft, simply remarking on the large ball of flame.

This is the power of modern TV -- you get to see things "live" and within milli-seconds of them actually happening.

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Of course the first thing I did was jump on the Net and race off to CNN to see what had already been published on this breaking story.

Unfortunately, the Net once again failed to deliver its promise.

Neither CNN, Yahoo's news section, FoxNews nor ABCNews were accessible -- all obviously overloaded by the tsunami of websurfers all with the same idea as me.

And herein lies the problem with the Internet -- the more people using it, the slower it goes.

TV and radio are still the perfect vehicles for handling such things -- not necessarily because video is better than text or still images -- but simply because the reliability and availability of the signal is not affected by the number of viewers.

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    Some people have said that a lack of widely available broadband access is responsible for the slow uptake of streaming video on the Net -- but it could also be argued that the ready availability of such access probably accounted for some of the congestion experienced last night.

    How are we going to get around the fact that the Net is so very vulnerable to failure under high-traffic conditions such as breaking news or denial-of-service attacks?

    It's annoyingly paradoxical that the Net works best when you need it the least and works worst when everyone needs it at once.

    Of course the Net has not been totally worthless in the face of these earth-shattering attacks.

    United Airlines who lost two aircraft to hijackers in the attacks, used their website to post an informational message for those affected. While it's possible that American Airlines, who also lost two planes, might have done the same, their site suffered a melt-down and was inaccessible so I couldn't tell.

    However, one thing you can be sure of is that the newsgroups, bulletin boards, chat-rooms and discussion forums on the Net will be filled with comments, arguments, and accusations relating to the day's events.

    Because -- what the Net does best is allow the individual to have their say and express their opinion. In this area, neither TV, nor print, nor radio can come close to the strength of the Internet.

    Microsoft Flight Simulator -- The Terrorist's Secret Weapon?
    Just how did these groups of terrorists manage to fly their hijacked passenger jets into the chosen targets?

    What pilot would willingly fly their plane, and all its passengers, directly at a building in the full knowledge that a huge loss of life (including their own) would result?

    The answer is likely that no pilot would do this -- even if a gun were held to their head.

    But think on this: Once a modern passenger jet is in the air, flying them is fairly easy and a few hours on Microsoft's Flight Simulator program would likely give a terrorist all the skills they need to point a plain at a target and fly it right in.

    Perhaps the pilots were "disposed of" once the targets were in sight and the terrorists flew the planes themselves for the final segment of their mission.

    Does this mean that Microsoft's Flight Simulator program is now a threat to public and the national safety of the USA?

    Will it be outlawed as a potential terrorist weapon?

    Don't laugh -- stranger things have happened.

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