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Lighten Up 19 April 2002 Edition
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Million $ Ideas
At last, the contents of Aardvark's "million-dollar ideas" notebook are revealed for all to see!
Click To See
Time for more fun, frolics and freakiness from the deepest darkest depths of the world wide web.

I wonder if Harvey Norman, Dick Smith, Noel Leeming and all those other large electronic retailers will review their policy of employing people with only minimal knowledge of the products they sell after this guy's story gets a little more coverage?

For goodness sake, don't visit this site unless the boss is going to be out of the office for at least 20 minutes. I normally avoid online games because the good ones normally involve downloading and installing software on your PC (risky) and the others tend to have such poor gameplay that they're just not worth bothering with. Well here is a Flash game that surprised me and explains why today's edition is a little late. It *is* a very simple concept but still decidedly captivating -- give it a try.

At the end of a week when expensive computer upgrades have been a topic for debate, Project EUNUCH is a great example of how to teach an old dog new tricks.

Need Cutting-Edge Copy?
As NZ's longest-running online commentator, I'm looking for extra syndication opportunities for this daily publication -- or I'm happy to write casual or regular material specifically to order for print or Net-based publications. If you're interested, drop me a line

The Great Web Fraud?
An anonymous reader emailed me yesterday to complain that they were being ripped off by their ISP.

Like so many service providers these days, his ISP uses a transparent web-proxy with very agressive caching.

For those who don't understand those terms -- here's a quick tutorial:

In the good old days (when Net access cost $5/MB or more), typing the address of a web page into your browser or clicking on a hypertext link would establish a connection from your computer to the webserver responsible for dishing out that information.

The requested page(s) would be delivered directly (albeit after bouncing across any number of other computers) to your screen. None of these other computers through which the data passed would change it in any way -- they simply relayed the data verbatim.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
From Yesterday...
  • broadband... - Alan
  • Sorry State of DSL... - Brian
  • ADSL... - Brian
  • You're not old... - Allister


  • New computer WITH... - Philip
  • Foreign Affairs to OSS... - Peter
  • Replacement PCs... - Paul
  • Is $11,000 For A New PC... - Oliver
  • $11,000... - Camryn
  • $11k PCs... - Geoff
  • get a mac?... - Andrew
  • Excessive?... - Chris
  • Open Source... - John
  • $11,000 PCs... - MFAT
  • Have Your Say

    However, this isn't necessarily the most efficient or effective way to do things.

    There are a huge number of "static" pages on the Web that haven't changed since the first day they were put up. Likewise, even on regularly updated pages there are often graphic images that are almost never changed from day to day or even year to year.

    It doesn't seem to make much sense that this identical information should be downloaded all the way from the USA or even further afield every time a local websurfer loads the page does it?

    This is where the caching proxy servers come in.

    By passing all its customers requests for webpages through a caching proxy, the ISP is able to build a library containing "local copies" of the most commonly accessed webpages and graphics.

    Now when your browser requests a page or graphic from an overseas site, the ISPs system will first check to see whether it can deliver that information from its own cache rather than from overseas.

    This sounds like a win-win situation doesn't it? The ISP can handle more users for a given amount of overseas bandwidth because many of the most commonly requested pages can be served up from the cache. Customers find that their websurfing experience is faster because the data need only travel from the ISP's servers to their PC rather than half way around the world.

    In the good old days (even when the price Net access had fallen to $2.50/hr), many ISPs offered their users the OPTION of using their caching proxy server. If you wanted faster Net surfing then you could elect to enter the proxy-server's address into your browser's preferences -- if not then you could still bypass the proxy.

    But why wouldn't you want to use a caching proxy server if it makes web-access so much faster in many cases?

    Simple -- these devices aren't perfect. Sometimes they get screwed up and that makes it impossible to reach websites that are actually functioning perfectly well. There's also a more insidious aspect: some ISPs use caches that are wound up too high and which don't check often enough to ensure that the local copies of the web pages actually match those actually being served up by the site concerned.

    A good example of this is Aardvark's own pages.

    Even after I've updated this site each morning, XTRA's cache continues to dish up yesterday's edition. Simply entering aardvark.co.nz into the browser won't actually get you the latest edition of this column -- and that's bad, very bad.

    I could argue in fact that XTRA is breaching my copyright by copying and publishing the previous day's edition without permission.

    The only way to get at the *real* contents of today's edition is to force a reload by hitting refresh button.

    Aardvark's site is not alone in this. Just check out the following screen dumps taken just a few seconds apart when I was accessing the NewsBytes website this morning: when typing www.newsbytes.com into my browser and after hitting refresh just a couple of seconds later.

    So why all the bitching?

    Well as mentioned above -- users used to be able to choose whether or not their websurfing requests were handled by a caching proxy server -- but these days many ISPs have removed the option and force all traffic through their often flaky systems. The result appears to be an increased incidence of sites that appear to be down (but aren't) and a plethora of outdated pages that don't reflect the current content of the requested websites.

    Now there are ways for website operators to force properly configured web-caches not to keep local copies of selected pages (such as the "expires" meta-tag) -- but these aren't always practical when you're trying to publish something that may (or may not) be updated at any time rather than to a regular schedule. Some search engines will also ignore content that, according to its meta-tags, has already "expired."

    So yes, maybe this is the great web fraud. When you request a web-page do you expect to be given an old, outdated copy of yesterday's news -- or does your ISP have a responsibility to deliver exactly the same information that the site's webserver is currently dishing out?

    Does any lawyer out there want to make a name for themselves by taking a case against XTRA for unauthorised republication of this column in a manner that adversely devalues the brand by representing that its content is out of date?

    MFAT Responds
    Following the hard time I, and some readers, gave the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade earlier this week, I received this right of reply which elaborates on the details provided in the story on the Stuff website.

    Top marks MFAT for taking the time to provide this extra information and clarifying the situation.

    Have Your Say
    As always, your comments are welcomed. Please remember to select "For Publication" if you want them included on this site.

    Have your say.

    Due to other higher-priority calls on my time and resources over the coming days, the publication of this column may be a little erratic.

    Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible however.

    The Jet-Kart is For Sale
    Check out the latest bid.

    It's time to clear out the closet here at Aardvark's country residence so I'm having a bit of a garage sale. I need to spend a whole lot more time and money on my jet engine R&D activities (now that the defense industry has shown a very real interest) -- so I'm trying to scrape up some more cash.

    The world-famous Jet-powered Gokart is up for sale by way of an informal auction. Send me your bid and I'll post the current highest offer on the bidding page.

    As far as I'm aware, this is the only pulsejet-powered gokart in the Southern Hemisphere -- I wonder why that is?

    It may not be the quietest, smoothest, most comfortable or safest vehicle in the world -- but it's sure different!

    To place a bid, just drop me a line.

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    Did you tell someone else about Aardvark today? If not then do it now!

    Security Alerts
    Security flaw in Microsoft Office for Mac (CNet - 18/04/2002)

    A trio of MS-Office security vulns (TheReg - 10/04/2002)

    Two new "critical" bugs patched in IE (ZDNet - 01/04/2002)

    Second Java hole poses Windows risk (CNet - 20/03/2002)

    Microsoft offers patch for Java software (CNet - 06/03/2002)

    Virus Alerts
    New Klez worm squirms across Internet (CNet - 18/04/2002)

    Aphex E-mail Worm Has A Way With IRC, Instant Messenger (NewsBytes - 11/04/2002)

    'Bill Clinton' Worm Gets Around (NewsBytes - 22/03/2002)

    Bookmark This Page Now!


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