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RE: MS and help files
Turn cookies off in your browser and try <http://support.microsoft.com> Another milestone.
With cookies on, one finds a totally new interface - all old bookmarks are obsolete - and other annoyances. How long before the 'premium' content extracts a fee?
On the cookie business, this was Netscape's creation, I believe. It is not that benign inasmuch as the specification indicates it can consume over one meg of your workstation's drive space. These cookies can consist of information on YOUR demographic patterns or other yet unexplored information for someone else's use and/or sale which, if you are curious, you cannot access or determine the nature of, all of which you have in some sense legally agreed to, which you are storing cost free on your equipment. Not a bad trick when you consider all of those hard disks and CPU cycles freed up on servers.
This may have come about in a fairly innocent fashion when ISP's were running out of fixed IP addresses from the internic (internet addressing authority - see note (1) for the latest on their impression of cyberspace). These fixed addresses are a must for any machine to communicate on the internet. They accompany any packet of information that travels the net providing routers the ability to quickly forward them in a general direction toward their destination address - also part of the packet conversation between systems. The current addressing scheme had a number more finite that the predicted near term use of them several years ago. That is like running out of phone numbers AND local exchanges AND area codes with equipment that cannot accommodate longer sets of numbers.
So what happened? Clever programmers at ISPs found that out of, say, 100 registered users only 10 were on-line at any one time. Given a worst case they devised software that would dynamically assign an IP address out of a pool that they had assigned to their site when someone logged on and re-cycle that same number back into the pool when they logged out. The net effect was that 100 IP addresses could then support 1000 machines in the same address space. Not bad. We can live with this for a while, they thought.
What this also did was create an anonymity of ownership for those addresses, eliminating the ability of server systems to accurately determine the amount and nature of traffic from a particular machine or person, probably totally botching the demographic database that they had been accumulating. Something needed to be done - cookies.
Further, (on the plus side) this dynamic address scheme has anther feature in that no system is really sure how to reach you until you make a request of it and it learns your temporarily assigned address, nor would the net at large be aware of your machine being logged in, which is the case with fixed IP addresses that are in the internic's database - but I would guess, not by design.
(1) I hope the above is not too off-topic here in that it looks at general internet architecture, but I think that there may be some relevance in, among many other things, possible efforts to wrest control of these all important numbers from the open access provided now by ISPs with the help of the internic. You may be interested in the information at:
From: James Love[SMTP:email@example.com]
Sent: December 04, 1997 11:59 AM
To: Multiple recipients of list
Subject: MS and help files
This was an interesting note, posted to a discussion on
intellectualcapital.com, which concerns Microsoft's integration of MSIE
and help files.
11/25/97 Steven Jong SteveFJong@AOL.com
Here's another example of Microsoft forcing IE down the throats of the
desktop community. Until now, the universal means of providing online
help for Windows applications has been the Windows Help display engine,
because it's included with Windows 3.1/95/NT and because it's free.
Microsoft does not document or support its Help compiler, but a whole
industry has arisen to create tools for creating help source files
for that compiler. Now, Microsoft has announced that its new model for
displaying help is HTML-based. Further, it's moving to an HTML help
display engine, and dropping the Help display engine. But it gets
better--the HTML isn't vanilla HTML, but HTML extended for use
with (you guessed it!) Internet Explorer. The effects are (1)
third-party help tools have to be redone; (2) third-party applications
developers are coerced into providing HTML help; (3) if they do, they're
coerced into providing Internet Explorer as the display engine. I think
is as blatant an example of illegally tying a Microsoft application to
Windows as any I've read about.
James Packard Love
Consumer Project on Technology
P.O. Box 19367 | Washington, DC 20036
voice 202.387.8030 | fax 202.234.5176
firstname.lastname@example.org | http://www.cptech.org