More Junkmail from Bob!

Wednesday, November 22, 2000
Important Stuff.



What's new at Comdex? The owner, for one thing. Key3Media has taken over and they seem to be improving things.

In the DesignCAD booth we had our traditional high-tech multimedia presentation. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), we can't keep this up too long or the neighbors complain.


Wireless communications and biometrics are two "new and exciting" areas. Biometrics is measuring life, if you take it literally. It's a way of identifying people by fingerprints, face scans, voice identification, etc. This is getting a lot cheaper, but the two companies I sampled couldn't identify me very well. I think before long it will be common to use automatic fingerprint, face, or voice identification for computer access. In fact, in the Netherlands they're using biometrics for nightclub access:,1284,39812,00.html

Everybody seems to be wanting wireless wideband internet access, but it's just not quite there yet. There are a lot of companies getting on the bandwagon though.

Boeing has signed up for a large booth at Comdex next year. Well, I think it was 50'x70', which might be too small for one of their airplanes. Maybe they bought someone in the computer business.

Xerox, who has been reporting serious financial problems, was clearly in a cost-saving mode:

       Img_6752.jpg spent a large bundle advertising on the back of most of the Las Vegas taxis during Comdex:


Unfortunately for them, the web site "" displayed on the taxis doesn't work. You have to use "" Whoops! It would only take a 30-second change to their web server, but I guess they haven't caught on.


A few weeks ago a guy who melts metal for a living (Bruce Jacobs) mentioned to me as a search engine. I tried it out and I like it so much I've even dumped altavista. It's fast and searches the entire web site for text. Here's a write-up on the company.

Britannica Rules the Web

A little more than a year ago, Encyclopedia Britannica launched their web site with the announcement, "The Encyclopaedia Britannica will make the entire contents of its 32 volumes available for free on the internet on Wednesday." After a couple weeks of down time, they eventually got online. Since then they've transformed the encyclopedia site into one of a jillion "web portals" with news, shopping, markets, sports, etc.  The latest news is that they've laid off 75 of the employees.

I think a plain encyclopedia site would have at least been useful, if not profitable. It seems to me like the big web sites try to add everything in order to be the only web site you visit, and in the process they dilute themselves into web oblivion. Is that what they mean by cyberspace?

But the layoffs are not so unique. Here are some other dotcom problems:

My favorite is this letter from Among other things their web site says, "It is with deep regret that we have to inform you that has ceased operations effective immediately. We will no longer be in a position to receive or deliver orders from Tuesday, November 14, 2000," and "we would strongly suggest that you alter any garage door access codes that have been communicated to us for delivery purposes, and remove any keys that may be stored in lockboxes."

Mir, etc.

Earlier this week a Russian rocket was launched with a U.S. satellite on board. It pooped out before getting into orbit, and the satellite is history. Russia is also planning a not-so-soft splashdown of the space station Mir next February, into the Pacific Ocean. Apparently it's not worth keeping around.

NASA has announced more evidence of water on Mars.


Rambus, owner of a questionable chip patent, is now hitting up all chipset makers for royalties on any device that interfaces with an SDRAM, DDR, RDRAM chip. This includes ASICS, programmable logic and graphics chips. It is ridiculous, in my opinion, and is as bad as a lot of the stupid software patents that have been awarded lately.


Last March in Junkmail 32 I talked about the new software law UCITA that favors software companies over users. It was passed in Virginia and was headed for several other states. So far Maryland is the only other state that has passed the law, and it's losing support.


The Aircam has paint and wings! Unfortunately, now it won't fit through the door.

       Img_6928.jpg     Img_6932.jpg

Pictures of Today

Driving home from Comdex last weekend, I took a couple of shortcuts.

       Img_6894.jpg     Img_6921.jpg

Here are some ancient ruins I found in the Panhandle of Texas:


An Arizona sea urchin:


A bumpy desert:


A rock:

       Img_6886.jpg     Img_6908.jpg

A strange plant...


... and a not-so-strange plant:


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I'm Bob Webster and I live at Happy Thanksgiving!