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Domain Protect – Another Act of Desperation by NSI

by @ 10:27 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In the beginning there was Internic, the quasi-government outfit tasked with assigning domain names, numbers, etc. Anyone who wanted a domain name could get one for free just by applying.

Soon the Web turned popular and Internic began charging annual fees for the domain names. It eventually morphed into Network Solutions Inc. or NSI (a for-profit registrar later purchased by Verisign). The other parts became a non-profit known as ICANN tasked with over-seeing the IP addresses and the domain name registrars. Soon there were other registrars competing with NSI and competition moderated prices.

So far so good, except that NSI's prices never quite became competitive and people started to move their domain names to other registrars. Operating out of paranoia and panic NSI has employed some desperate acts to retain its customer base and boost its revenues. First came their deliberately convoluted way to transfer domain names; obviously designed to discourage migration. Then came the unregistered domain redirect fiasco, in an effort to capture that segment of the typo-prone Web browsers. Instead of allowing accesses to non-existent domains fail naturally, NSI decided to redirect them to their own site where they would be greeted by advertising and who knows what else.

The Domain Protect program is their latest gimmick in an effort to throw roadblocks in the way of customers migrating their domains. Don't get me wrong, Domain Protect is a useful feature designed to thwart would be slammers from switching domain names to other registrars. But in their latest email to customers (in an ostensible response to ICANN's latest domain transfer policy changes) NSI states:

"To further enhance the security of the domain names you have registered with NSI and to protect you against unauthorized or fraudulent transfers, we will activate our free Domain Protect service for all of your domain names beginning October 18, 2004."

In other words, we don't care if you had decided not to use this service in the past. We will force it back on you to make your domain transfers as difficult as possible. NSI may be desperate but its trickery machine never seems to cease.

Applauding France

by @ 2:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The new school year has just begun in most of the world, but in France this year is especially poignant. It is the first year that the French government has banned prominent displays of religious effects on students. This includes head scarves for Moslem women, skull caps for Jewish men, visible crosses for Christians, and turbans for Sikhs.

In some sense the French society is struggling to get its country back and release it from the bonds of various religions which mainly cause hatred, division, and segregation in societies. The French government, and by extension the French people, have every right to demand that its citizens respect the secular laws of the land and stop the hypocritical displays of bigotry.

This law is fair and it is uniformly applied to all French citizens. Of course the French laws do not ban belonging to certain faiths or the right of worship. What they attempt to do is stamping out religions and cults from the public institutions and return them to the private sector where they belong. This is a bold and commendable act to separate church and state.

Americans may disagree with the French on many platforms, but they should applaud them (and perhaps learn from them) for having the courage to stand up to religious forces and do the right thing.

The City of WiFi Love

by @ 10:46 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

The City of WiFi Love

Becoming the largest WiFi hotspot in the world is no small task but that is exactly what Philadelphia is aiming for.

The plan currently under development by the city of Philadelphia would uniformly cover the entire city (135 square miles), and best of all would be available to the residents for free or a small fee. The projected budget for this ambitious project is a mere $10 million, and it would involve installing a large number of WiFi transmitters in and around the city.

It remains to be seen whether this project comes to a successful conclusion, and how it is received by the residents. It also introduces a number of challenges such as maintenance, management, and security.

I, for one, applaud Philadelphia for undertaking this feat. There is no doubt that the DSL and Cable outfits are watching nervously and praying for this project to collapse. I can only hope that other cities and municipalities follow suit and free us from our $600/year Cable and DSL contracts. Or in my case, from my slow dial-up torture.

E-commerce, Political Style

by @ 2:43 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

E-commerce, Political Style

Imagine my surprise when I went surfing on msnbc.com today at lunch time and I saw this banner:

I have seen political banners before but this was probably the most blunt one I have seen to date. The banner itself was enticing enough to persuade me to click. And I was immediately ushered to the Democratic party's donation page. No preambles and no information, just a simple donation form waiting for me to enter my credit card information.

I guess some people don't mind cutting to the chase and skipping the formalities, but I doubt companies would get far if their banners just funnel the masses to their payment pages asking for money. Usually such banners lead to a page describing the product or service with some information about how the user can be benefited and what the main advantages of such product or service are. If you are asking for money, you need to be a little more subtle and discreet about it.

In this case, it might make sense to highlight Democrats' advantages over Republicans, and once the reader is sold on the concept, then ask for a donation. It’s not about political affiliation, it's about e-commerce etiquette.

The Perfect Customer Dissatisfaction Model

by @ 5:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Perfect Customer Dissatisfaction Model

To all those frequent flyers out there, you have my sympathy. These days traveling by air is nothing short of a nightmare. This is specially true if your trip calls for a connecting flight. About the only thing these flights don't do is connecting.

On a recent short trip I took by airplane, I found out just how stressful connecting flights could get. Obviously the crux of the problem is the incessant delays that just seem to get worse all the time. Don't you feel stupid rushing to an airport just to find out that your flight has been delayed? And don't you promise yourself to be late the next time, only to find yourself arrive at the airport on time and go through the frustration yet again?

Delays on direct flights are one thing, but they are downright exasperating on indirect flights. In my case the first legs of my trip (both to and from) were delayed, triggering a run-like-hell action to catch the second flights and subjecting myself to the passengers' angry stares who thought my tardiness had held up the flights. What's worse is that on both occasions my luggage never arrived with me. It was delivered to me two days after I had reached my destination, and on my return flight, I am still awaiting my suitcase's arrival.

One wonders if the airline industry is a perfect not-to-do model to gain customer satisfaction. I won't mention the airline here, but what difference does that make? I'm sure my experience would have been just the same on most of them. If you know of a good one, don't be shy and leave a note.

Penguin in Your Notebook

by @ 2:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Penguin in Your Notebook

One could call it a historic moment. Hewlett-Packard today announced the shipment of one of their notebook lines with a Linux variant known as SuSE. SuSE was acquired by Novell about a year ago. After watching its fortunes disappear into thin air, mainly due to competition from microsoft on the server side, Novell is now trying to muscle in its way into the desktop market but I wonder if laptops are ideal vehicles to go about this.

Don't get me wrong. I adore Linux. But where Linux truly shines is in a server role. Be it a Web server, mail server, print server, file server, or a firewall, it can outperform Windows any day. Sure, setting up a Linux server is an arcane task, but once up and running, it's stable, graceful, and frugal with the resources.

On the desktop, Linux is a different story. It’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Suddenly this splendid product turns into an unreliable and ugly beast with little to offer. Not to detract from the devoted developers, but the desktop still has far to go to catch up to Windows.

Now let's go back to this notebook offering from HP. With only a meager 5% cost savings over an equivalent Windows notebook, only the absolute Linux fanatics would possibly opt for it. Even I wouldn't order a Linux'ed laptop. A laptop is a mobile device designed to be taken on business trips, remote offices, and vacations. Most laptop users are busy executives and salespeople, and many don’t care to get technical with it. The next time they are in their hotel rooms and have a problem establishing a network connection, I wonder how many people in the hotel's IT staff will be familiar enough with Linux to offer a helping hand.

Linux on notebook is a valiant effort, but while Windows soars like an eagle, it does appear that this penguin just wasn't meant to fly.

DDoS – Deliberate Denial of Service

by @ 10:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

DDoS – Deliberate Denial of Service

A week ago one of our salespeople approached me with a simple question. Some of the people in his client company were unable to browse to our company’s Web site. He was rather embarrassed at the prospect that our company’s Web site (and by extension, our company) could be viewed as shaky and unreliable.

While I am biased, I believe our Web site is highly reliable and it operates as flawlessly as they come. Sure, there are the occasional hiccups, but in most cases reported issues have been at the users’ end and not ours.

So after carefully examining the Web server and running some internal and external tests, I declared our systems healthy and asked the salesperson to relay the findings back to the company. We all agreed that our Web site appeared completely accessible. Even employees from other departments at the same company had no problems reaching our site. The problem was spotty and I speculated that the company’s IT department should be able to resolve it rather quickly.

But a few days later I received an interesting email from their IT manager. They had inspected their systems and had found no issues on their end. They were prepared to dig deeper into the problem, but they made a simple request first. “I would like to ensure that you are not blocking [our IP address] in an ACL list on your ingress router.”, the email requested.

“Impossible”, I thought. But just to humor him I logged on to the firewall and looked up the deny list. And there it was, their IP address almost at the top of the list with my own note from over a year ago declaring it a rogue address due to packet flooding. Turns out that their network had caught a virus at that time and was flooding us causing a denial of service, and that had landed them in our deny list.

This incident is now resolved, but I wonder how many deny lists like ours are there with old, dated, or even wrong information. It's a deliberate type of denial of service or reverse denial of service that can hamper progress on the Internet just as much as the real thing can.

At least it keeps us employed.

Developer Dilemma

by @ 1:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Developer Dilemma

One of my chief passions in life is programming, and some of my best times at work is spent working on software projects. Unfortunately a good part of my day is spent managing and trouble-shooting various servers and technologies at work, so it’s difficult to find a sufficient block of time to immerse myself in development work.

So what’s a developer to do? Switch to faster and more productive platforms to get the job done. And so when microsoft released the .NET platform, we became an early adopter. In Web development, ASP.NET offers great improvements over its predecessor, ASP. ASP.NET affords a faster development time than the classic ASP, and additionally it offers a number of useful controls (ready-to-use, pre-packaged software components) to facilitate the task of presenting data to the users.

When a recent project called for a grid layout to be presented to the user, the component to choose was DataGrid. This is a very useful control that can be programmed to display data to the users, and with some additional coding it allows users to page, sort, update, or delete data among other tasks. Providing all this in the classic ASP would have taken considerably more time. So why am I not happy with DataGrid? Because the next version of ASP.NET (version 2) comes with a brand new grid component, called GridView, that makes DataGrid look too archaic and cumbersome. Only problem is that we’re a still a few months away from the release of ASP.NET 2. Knowing that an easier and more powerful component is on the horizon, should I pause and wait for its arrival, or should I plow ahead with the existing component?

This developer’s quandary is certainly not exclusive to Microsoft products nor Web development. Developers everywhere must make choices like this everyday. I suppose it makes life more interesting, but I’d still rather spend my energy developing applications than being stuck at a fork in the road.

MSFT – From Growth to Income

by @ 11:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

MSFT – From Growth to Income

Microsoft is a classic example of a company that has gone through the stages of its business life perfectly, and it has done that in a super-accelerated pace.

Think about it. Microsoft started its life as a tiny company, a glimmer in its founders’ eyes. As it gathered momentum, it turned into a speculative public company, then it became an aggressive growth company, followed by a plain growth one. And now it has finally reached maturity.

The announcement of the $75 billion cash reward to the investors is all the reason to believe that Microsoft has transformed itself from growth to an income company. With the stock yield just above 1%, a commanding dominance in the markets it operates, and a clear vision for the future, Microsoft is firmly planted in the list of the elite companies that includes admired institutions like GE and Wal-Mart.

The company may not experience the break-neck growth it has experienced in its short life, but its future looks bright.

Martha's Relief

by @ 9:51 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Martha's Relief

Friday morning, after hearing that Martha Stewart had been sentenced to 5 months in prison, the first thing I did was to check the stock of the company she founded, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc (MSO). While I was surprised that the stock had surged 40%, I wasn't stunned that it had gained in value. Somehow I had a feeling that the stock would do well even if she were sentenced to the maximum prison term.

This was a classic example of a relief rally. The stock had languished for months as investors were unsure of the fate of its founder. Once her sentencing term became public, investors clamored and the pent up pressure was finally released. Coincidentally, Friday was also the July's expiration date for stock options. A shrewd speculator could have made up to 20 times the amount invested, if he or she had bought a few options contracts on Thursday.

The MSO stock may still not be a good investment and the long term vitality of the company is far from certain. The company is facing a multitude of challenges and its future is as murky as it was prior to Stewart's sentencing. I wouldn't be surprised that once the excitement has worn off, it would slide to even below its pre-sentencing value. But that all depends on how MSO handles its business now that its founder's legal uncertainty is behind her.

I wonder if she found some time on Friday to sell a few shares of her own. Hopefully this time around she played by the rules.

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