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Tracey E.Schelmetic

[August 6, 2003]

Dot Commentary

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
Senior Managing Editor, CUSTOMER INTER@CTION Solutions™

More News And Other Disturbances

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It's been a long time since I've written this column, as some readers may have noticed. Not because I don't have things to say, it's finding the time to say them that's the tricky bit.

I figured since so much time has passed since my last commentary, I'd run a recent and current events update of the most exciting things to happen in cyberspace lately.

The French Ban E-mail; Insist On "Couriels"
If you're looking for French-bashing, you're not going to find it here. Any nation that can produce Veuve Clicquot champagne is OK by me. However, I do take a dubious view of the French government's recent attempt to dictate that its citizens cease using the very non-French word "e-mail" and instead use "couriel," which is a made-up word that is supposed to imply "courrier électronique," or "electronic mail." Considering that French citizens have been using the word "e-mail" for the better part of a decade, I predict the success rate of the French government in its endeavor is right up there with the potential success rate of the average supermodel's acting career.

The RIAA Sues Billy Peterson, Age 12, Of Green Bay, Wisconsin
Co-defendants in the Recording Industry Association of America's suit are Billy's parents, his grandparents, his great auntie, his sixth-grade classmates who were aware of his illegal file-swapping activities, his teacher, his softball coach, his dog Spot -- who likes to bark along with some of Billy's music selections, thereby illegally gaining pleasure from music for which Spot did NOT pay -- and the mailman, who was once spotted by agents of the RIAA boogeying to pirated music drifting down to the sidewalk from Billy's open bedroom window.

The Men In Black Are In My Kitchen
Some branches of the U.S. government recently admitted that they find the Department of Justice's sweeping powers of Internet surveillance "a little over the top." These concerns seem to be coming from the areas of government where one might have expected it, but from entities that might have been afraid to appear unpatriotic 18 months ago.

You mean those FBI agents AREN'T allowed to find out what Amazon puts in my "special gold box of bargains"?

Microsoft Announces Another Critical Flaw In Windows
As the sun rises in the east…

Actually, this one ties into the previous news item, as the flaw involves a potential security breach that could allow hackers to view files, delete files and send and receive material over your computer. "But, Mr. Ashcroft, those aren't MY detailed lists of Swiss bank accounts of notorious dictators! Somebody must have broken into my computer and planted them there!"

Gone Phishing
Following the news that the Feds recently caught a 17-year-old boy who was impersonating AOL and getting subscribers to give him their credit card information, we all learned a new word that's likely to cheese off the source from which it was presumably lifted, the band Phish (the band members can commiserate with the Hormel Company).

From White Supremacy To Penis Enlargement
Turns out, according to Salon.com, that one of the most rampant and profitable penis enlarging e-mail spammers used to be the head of a neo-Nazi group. Wow…those spammers have really gone down in my estimation now. I thought they were all such NICE people.

Broadband Price Hikes
Has anyone else noticed that monthly cable or DSL broadband bills seem to be climbing faster than the national debt? I thought the point of technology is that the more widespread its adoption, the more the prices stabilize for us early adopters (i.e., DVD players are now under $100, just in time for those of us who paid $600 for one several years ago to replace the old one with a new unit.) Secondly, the principle that the lower and more attractive you keep your prices, the more customers you'll attract seems not to apply to broadband. Don't you think the companies whose sales rely on customers having broadband access (the makers of digital cameras and MP3 players, online merchants with dense, heavy Web sites, e-book sellers, companies that offer video streaming, etc.) should be riding in on a white horse to defend us? I don't see no stinkin' white horses, just a broadband bill with rates that have been hiked twice in an eight-month period.

Millions Giving Their Land-Lines The Heave-Ho
Several news sources have reported this week that as many as 7.5 million Americans have dropped their land-lines, tired of paying double for both traditional phones and their cellular service. Granted, 7.5 million isn't a lot, statistically speaking, but it does seem to be the start of a trend, particularly among younger people. It's a wonder to me that phone companies haven't started bundling services, offering customers of both a break on prices. I have often wondered why I pay $32 a month for the privilege of having a phone sitting on my bed-side table, gathering dust. The only purpose it seems to serve is to amuse my cat, who likes to walk on the buttons of the built-in answering machine and listen to the electronic woman's voice tonelessly drone, "You have no new messages." The only thing that keeps me from dropping my traditional service is the mental image of me in my apartment on a dark and stormy night, an ax-wielding maniac at the door and a dead battery on my cell phone. SBC, beware…the only thing keeping our relationship together is my overactive imagination and my inability to fully recover after seeing the original "Halloween" at too tender an age.

The Rise Of Flash Mobs
What's a flash mob? It's a group of people who really, really need healthy hobbies. Actually, it's a group of people who meet online, then decide a place and time to perform a silly activity, then quickly disperse. A recent flash mob of over a hundred people appeared suddenly in Central Park in New York, made pigeon noises, and then went away. A Google search on flash mobs is currently yielding over 20,000 results in a multitude of different languages. If you've got a hankering to suddenly appear in a Starbucks in Duluth with 120 other people, yell "fish widgets!" and then leave, you can find all the support and information you need at www.cheesebikini.com.

It's official everyone. We've all gone mad.

The author, who is irked she didn't think of flash mobs first, may be reached at tschelmetic@tmcnet.com.

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