August 6, 2001-- Newsletter #142

By Joe Burns

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August 6, 2001--Newsletter #142

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Most of you know how I feel about cellular phones. I'm not a big fan. Well, now I own one. More precisely, my wife owns one. Her new position demands it and the company will reimburse the cost. We hit five different companies and bought the cheapest local coverage at 700 anytime minutes a month. The young man who sold us the purple phone received four calls while selling to us. He answered all four calls on a clear plastic phone that blinked red and yellow lights in the body of the phone. The little antenna also sparkled. Over the four phone calls I learned that his friends were going to a bar that night. His sister should have gotten into the shade while at Biloxi Beach. His buddy was interested in what he was doing and that his boss wanted him to work on Saturday. Each three-minute call concluded with the young man saying he had to go because he had a customer.

As we were walking out, he asked me to come back when I wanted a phone of my own. I told him I would return when the Cleveland Indians win the Series the same year the Saints win the bowl...in New Orleans.

Did you hear...

As if we didn't know it already, hacking is at an all-time high. According to "The Register" newspaper citing stats from The Honeynet Project, the biggest increase was in the area of defacing corporate Web sites. For some more specific number see here.

There is a real conflict of results between the often-sited American Management Association (AMA) study of workplace email and Web monitoring and a new study by the Privacy Foundation (http://www.privacyfoundation.org/). The AMA study had suggested that 78% of American firms monitor employee's Internet usage. Furthermore, the AMA study suggests that 47% actually read their worker's email. Those are frightening numbers indeed. Now comes Andrew Schulman, head of the Privacy Foundation study. That study suggests that only 15% of American workers have their email read and 19% have their surfing tracked. Some might suggest that the big difference is that the AMA study deals with percentage of companies while the Privacy Foundation study shows percentage of workers. Even so, those are fantastically differing results. Look for more research on this subject real soon.

All it takes to somewhat legitimize something is one major player to get involved. Well, don't look now but the MGM Mirage has applied for a cyber-gambling license from, get this, the Isle of Man, a small semi- independent island located in the Irish Sea. The casino grew tiered of waiting for Nevada regulators to allow cybercasinos.

Lucent Technologies Inc. has finally made a profit. It has nothing to do with their business either. They sold the company's private Hamilton Farm golf club. The buyer was the Maryland-based company Townsend Capital LLC. Both sides agreed that Lucent made the profit but neither would comment on exactly what was the profit amount.

Now onto today's topic...

The other day I was talking to a fellow professor whom I admire not so much for his programming abilities but rather for his unbelievable lust for what was coming next. The latest version had to be on his computer. Out of date was out of fashion and should be immediately out of mind, he felt. I was like that for a while but not anymore.

During my discussion I asked if he had upgraded to Internet Explorer 5.5 as our university had asked us to do. He answered that he had on his school computer but not at home. He wanted to but it just kept slipping his mind.

Say what?

It wasn't just that he didn't upgrade that caught my ear, it was that he was saying what I've been thinking for a long while now.

Has the Web audience hit a sort of critical mass when it comes to new technology?

I ask that question because it used to be that upgrading to the next version or the latest and greatest would mean some great change, some wonderful repair, or a new method of manipulating data.

This is not to say that there isn't new technology coming out. On the contrary, there is. New versions and new languages (that all seem to end in "ML" for some reason) are flooding the market, but none of them seem to be packing the grand wallop like new versions of the past.

Could it be that we've all got what we need?

Time was that Internet users were made up of the hardware haves and have-nots. Those with big fat Pentium 100s would giggle at the lowly 486 users. Not any more. Except for rare cases, most everyone has a pretty fast Pentium or Mac. That leveled that playing field pretty well. Software was the same have and have- not question for a while. Free downloads of just about everything has leveled that playing field. It seems now that the only real have and have-not divide is between dial ups and "dsl/cable/T-line" people. I think you'll agree that even that divide is starting to close up as prices come tumbling down.

I guess I can wrap up my entire argument in two words, "I'm good". I have what I need. My Micron computer has a really fast CPU, big hard drive and tons of memory all of which came standard. I have DSL and versions of software that work.

Like many of the people I know...I'm there. I have hit a critical mass.

Furthermore, I believe the "status" part of new hardware and software has almost been eliminated. I would impress the heck out of people because I had the latest thing. Not now. Those I know are either equal or, more than likely, happy with what they have. They too have hit a critical mass in terms of technology.

The critical mass I'm talking about seemed to manifest itself in two areas, electronic books and PDAs. Both were to be the next biggest thing. They were both technology and status incarnate. Both are struggling to stay around.

When PDAs and electronic books hit the market with overblown hype, the majority of people looked at what they had, weighed the option, raised an open hand and said, "No thanks. I'm good."

This is not to say that a user not jumping on the latest and greatest is a bad thing. It's quite the opposite. It shows that a level of comfort has been reached. It has with me. I like what I have and see no need to change or upgrade anything anytime soon. It's the same with most everyone I talk to. Sure I found some students that were still ravenous when it came to the new stuff, but they didn't seem like they were in the majority anymore.

As we look over the Internet horizon, the next big ship to come in, if all the news reports are to be believed, will be the wireless Web. There are hints of it now, but those hints are only small glimpses into what will be...so it is said.

OK, fine. Let's assume that everything that the wireless Web should be comes to pass. It's here. In order to participate in the parade, all you'll need to do is get some new pieces of hardware and upgrade some of that outdated, yet functional, software.

Will we buy the wireless Web or will be stop, take stock of what's around us, raise an open hand, and say, "Thanks."

"I'm good."

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

That's That. Thanks for reading.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And remember: The first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel and live to tell the tale was Annie Taylor in 1901. Her wooden barrel was beaten around at the base of the falls for 17 minutes before being kicked out into calmer waters. Another interesting fact about Ms. Taylor was her age at the time of the stunt. She claimed to be 43. However, historical records showed that she was more than likely 63. I hope I can pass for 43 when I'm 63.

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