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July 10, 2000-- Newsletter #88
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HTMLGOODIES EXPRESS (tm)
July 10, 2000--Newsletter #88
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,
I'm three days back from vacation and I can't seem to shake London time. I keep waking up at 3 in the morning wanting fish and chips and mushy peas. Vacation usually does two things to me. First I realize how much I really enjoy being in my own home even though I love going to another country. Second, my true love of airline food is reinforced. Those little tins and plastic wrapped whole grain rolls are heaven. I'm not kidding either. I've always wondered how an airplane food restaurant would go over. The wait staff could actually come to your table with one of those tall, gray, rolling cabinets and serve you on little fold out plastic trays. After your meal is served, another tall gray cabinet would follow and offer you half a soda in a plastic cup. I'm serious! I think it would work.
Did you hear?
Just as the local car dealer became worried about losing business to persons buying their cars on the Web, so goes real estate. The traditional commissioned agent who takes up to 7 percent of the sale as fee is now competing against a host of Internet start-ups employing salaried or very low commissioned sales people. The thinking is that the buyer, using the Internet, can now do much of the work that was once done by the agent. These new real estate employees come into play only after the buyer has either narrowed down or chosen their home. The times they are a-changing.
DotComGuy, formerly Mitch Maddox, is alive and well after six months of living in a Dallas compound using only the Internet for the necessities of life. With over 1.5 million hits a day, the dotcomguy.com site is still making money and going strong even with TV edging in on the isolation act. Unlike the new CBS reality-based shows Survivor and Big Brother, DotComGuy isn't eating rats or in danger of voting himself out of the house. He has found the Internet a pretty good source for food, furniture, clothes and the other amenities that make barricading yourself inside your home the joy we all knew it could be.
If you're going to hack, hack big. Twenty-year-old Ikenna Iffih, a computer student from Northeastern University, has been found guilty of hacking multiple U.S. government agencies including NASA. Iffih placed sniffer programs intended to gather user IDs and passwords in the systems he hit. For all his trouble, Iffih will get a six-month stay at one of our federal prisons. He's lucky. The original sentence was 20 years. I would guess that the plea bargain involved his explaining exactly how he got into the servers.
Now onto today's topic,
For the second year in a row, my wife and I made a sweep through Italy, France, and Great Britain. This time last year I wrote a newsletter about how much communication technology and Internet exposure I saw on the trip. I'd like to do the same this time around because much has changed.
To begin with, Europe was once again packed with the usual hordes of teen-aged and twenty-something travelers strapped down with backpacks. I have always envied these brave students. I wish I had taken a year after high school or college and walked around Europe, but I went to work instead.
The major difference between this year and last was that these students were now loaded down with more than bedrolls. It seemed every one had a cellular phone. Not only did they have it, they used it. I'm not sure what their bill will look like, but calls back and forth to countries around the world were being made at all hours of the day. I had no choice but to listen I'm sorry to say.
Speaking of cell phones, my wife and I noticed, especially in Italy and Great Britain, that young women from the country were carrying their cellular phones in front of them as they walked. At first I thought it was because of status, they were showing off their phones. Later I found that it was a safety measure. The women carrying the phone were showing it to others as if it was pepper spray. With the press of a button, an emergency call would be sent. It was a pretty good idea, I thought.
I've noticed that the earpiece/mouthpiece cellular phone attachment is beginning to catch on here in the U.S. People are becoming nervous about possible radiation from the phone itself so they have begun attaching these wires to the phone so the hand piece and antennae can be kept away from their head. In Europe, this attachment is all the rage. I don't know that I saw more than ten people not using the attachment. It may be safer, but it also tends to make personal interaction a little tougher. We ran into numerous people who were walking down the street alone talking to no one. It wasn't until we got right up on the person that we saw they were using the earpiece. This will take some getting used to.
Public Internet connections were far more prevalent this year. Rome, Florence and Venice all had Internet coffee shops that looked like they came right out of New York's Greenwich Village. Each offered time at a computer terminal for a certain amount of lire. I never did more than send an email at each stop. That took around ten minutes and cost me between two and six thousand lire. That's one to three bucks U.S.
The Internet shops always had people there to help and offered very fast connections. One word of advice though, the shops did not offer the ability to send email without an email account. I was lucky enough at the first shop to find a young man who allowed me to send an email on his account, but past that I had to set up a Hotmail account to send and receive. No, it's not hard to set up the account, it just took time and you are paying by the minute. Set up your Hotmail account before you go.
In case you're wondering, I'm email@example.com.
We left Italy for Paris and I expected to find just as many Internet coffee shops. No luck. Either I wasn't looking in the right place, or public connections just weren't as prevalent as they were in Italy. In fact, I only found one near the highest point in Paris known as Montmartre. Use the Abbesses metro stop to get there, turn right when you get up the stairs and walk up the hill. I'm sure there were others, but I never saw them. I sent an email and cost me five franks, about 80 cents U.S.
Then we arrived in London.
If there is a city in the world more Internet crazy than London, I want to see it. Advertisements for dot-coms were everywhere offering everything from temp workers to a clean, pressed shirt in two hours. Everything was dot co dot uk. I loved it.
Getting on the Internet was unbelievably easy. Just about any store that catered to the public also had Internet connections. Major department stores offered deals where you received a half hour of free online time with any purchase. You just buy and then take the elevator to the top floor to surf.
The television was packed with advertisements for unlimited nighttime and weekend access. British Telecomm has chosen ET as their spokesperson. ET is always there while you surf.
Internet coffee shops were everywhere. The biggest of the bunch was named easyEverything The Internet Shop. There were multiple locations, but I was lucky enough to be staying right near the largest on Oxford Street near the Bond Metro stop. You'll see it just as you come up out of the tube.
The store claims it is the largest Internet coffee shop in the world. I'll bet that's a true statement. There were 500 (yes, 500) available workstations each equipped with a keyboard, mouse, and flat screen display. It took three floors to cram them all in.
As the night went on, the store offered deals for a pound. If you waited long enough, you could get up to an hour and a half for one pound, around a buck-fifty U.S. Being cheap, I waited.
After paying your pound you received a little slip of paper with an ID. You sit down at a terminal, enter the ID, choose a password, and you're off and running. The amount of time you have shows in the lower left-hand corner. If you don't use all of your time right then, the user ID is good for 28 days. If you played the game correctly, you could probably get a month's access pretty cheaply.
The feature I found most interesting was that when you logged off, the computer not only cleared the cash, but it fully rebooted so any trace of what you were doing was gone. I thought that was very clever.
The Web is alive and growing. I spent some time with Harry, a shipper from Greece who was on his honeymoon in Venice. He said that the Internet has just started to take hold there. People are beginning to really take to it and that the wildfire had begun.
That makes my wife sleep very well at night. The purpose of this trip was less vacation than it was a business trip in order to buy product for her online business. Now we're home, we're confident there is a viable Internet audience out there, and we'll start setting about the task of getting the site ready to open later this year.
My job today is to scan every photograph we took over three weeks.
Wait a minute. I thought this was her business
That's that. I'll get back to more news-ish topics next week after my body gets back to the right time zone and I have time to read up on what happened since I've been away.
Joe Burns, Ph.D.
And Remember: You've probably heard the expression that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. According to historians, Nero didn't fiddle while the city was ablaze in 64 A.D.
He did, however, stand at his window and watch after reciting, The Sack of Troy, a poem of his own composition. Rome's Christian population was blamed for the fire and many persons died as a result including Saints Peter and Paul. But did they really set the fire? Many people believe Nero ordered the fire himself in order to clear land for his Golden House.