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Is Truth A Victim Of The Net? 10 January 2002 Edition
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There is probably no other medium on the planet which can offer access to so many untruths, scams, deceptions and ill-informed perspectives as the Internet does.

Once upon a time the Net was largely filled with very factual stuff, mainly consisting of the work of academics. If you found some information on the Net then you could bet on its credibility being fairly good -- or at least if it was simply theorising or postulation, it was clearly marked as such.

These days however, things are a lot different.

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Of course there are the mainstream news sites such as CNN who we can rely on to publish only the truth -- or can we?.

Unfortunately, there's also a huge amount of hype and plain misinformation being published on the Web too.

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Some of this garbage comes from the usual expected sources -- such as individuals who have already come to the attention of authorities and offer promises such as free electricity but some of it also appears to come from more credible sources.

Take Microsoft for example -- according to this story (ZDNET) they've been engaging in rigging after an online poll indicated that the software giant's new .NET strategy was none too popular with customers.

Of course there's nothing illegal about what Microsoft did -- and some would say that it wasn't even dishonest -- they just reminded people to vote for them. However, since there was nobody (obviously) lobbying for Microsoft's competitors, did it turn the poll into another piece of Net misinformation?

Another very interesting piece of possible misinformation might be the claims made this week by a group of commercial researchers who claim to have invented a new data compression technique (the Zero Space Tuner) that can offer compression rates up to ten times that of existing algorithms.

Imagine that -- VHS-quality video over your 56Kbps modem!

But hang on -- I've seen claims like this on the Net before.

Back in 1998, an Australian by the name of Adam Clark told the world that *HE* had invented a new compression algorithm that would allow full-screen (768x576), full motion video (25 frames/sec) complete with stereo audio to be delivered across the Net using standard dial-up modems.

Like the Zero Space Tuner, Clark's algorithm also promised a 1000:1 compression ratio.

Here's some of the original media coverage of the miracle compression breakthrough.

Unfortunately, as was anticipated by just about everyone except the easily duped journos and mental midgets amongst us, the whole thing appears to have been discredited last year.

So what chance is there that the "Zero Space Tuner" will live up to its bold claims where Clark's Platform was exposed as yet another piece of disinformation.

Well just ask yourself -- what ever became of Cold Fusion and, closer to home, the Split Cycle engine invented by Kiwi Rick Mayne?

Mayne managed to rake up millions of dollars of investors' money by making wild claims for this "breakthrough" new engine. I still have a promotional video here which showed their one and only prototype running and included promises of deals with European auto-makers and universities.

These days, even their website is is gone.

The moral is -- don't believe what you read on the Web.

Note: parts or all of this column may be incorrect ;-)

Have your say (remember to select For Publication if you want to see your comments on this page).

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Security Alerts
Admins asked to check buggy line printer daemons (AAP - 08/11/2001)

New vulnerability exposes Excel and PowerPoint macros ZDNet - 29/10/2001)

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Code Red Worm A 'Runaway Success' (7amNews - 20/07/2001)

Virus Alerts
Happy New Year' worm hits Windows (ZDNet - 19/12/2001)

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