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Hell, no! We won't crack code

We've come a long way from the '60s, baby.

    We've come a long way from the '60s, baby. Back when I was in school, any time the administration as much as sneezed in the wrong direction, students would rise up, occupy classrooms and the dean's cushy office, and demand that the university purchase recycled Kleenex.

    Back then, a protest meant sacrifice; it meant hunger; it meant bad hygiene. These days, the Internet makes you a protester at the push of the return key in the clean confines of your own basement. However, one fellow who's mad as hell over Apple's latest shenanigans is taking more than a token stand in his little corner of cyberspace.

    Miffed about the Jobs-enforced hard-line licensing policies and Power Computing buyout, Macintosh programmer Andrew Meggs is withdrawing his software from an online campaign to crack a popular encryption code. The code-cracking is part of a contest sponsored by RSA Data Security to show off the quality of its own crypto products.

    Meggs wrote and contributed a Mac client to the effort, in which users link their computers over the Internet to share the vast amount of number-crunching needed to crack RSA's 56-bit cipher known as RC5-32/12/7, but he's now asking Mac users to stop using his work until Apple stops the madness.

    Last week, Meggs explained his actions to the RC5 mailing list in the following terms: "...The decision not to license new hardware designs or CHRP systems threatens an end to an innovative and competitive marketplace that has caused all companies, including Apple, to make better systems at competitive prices. While it may help Apple's bottom line in the short term, this return to the old 'closed Apple' marks the single darkest action that the Mac OS community has seen in my memory."

    While Meggs takes his Jobs and shoves it, other Netheads often take to the HTML to lodge their protests. Witness the plethora of parody sites that skewer companies like Microsoft, Time Warner, and yes, even CNET. One of the best is Ned Lilly's Nedscape site.

    No word yet on when Nedscape will go public, but Lilly is working on an innovative new twist to his site called the Nedcenter, no doubt to pull in more advertisers. To attract investors, however, the Nedster will have to come up with something better than pictures of himself. According to assorted punditry, other types of pictures--and I think you know what I mean--are just about the only way to make bank online. If Ned wants to show some flesh on his site, it's certain there'll be a software vendor that wants to do business. (If the price is right, I could provide a couple snapshots of Mike Homer in a Turkish bathhouse.)

    For instance, one of my Skinformers caught this tidbit: the International E-Commerce Network has just announced its Sentia Web hosting and e-commerce service for adult Web sites. If you've got the goods, IECN has got your back-end needs covered. Out of the box, the Sentia system includes robust tools for age verification, customer billing, secure credit card payment transfers, and "outstanding 24-7 technical and customer support." Order now and they'll throw in their award-winning ergonomic pamphlet, "One-Handed Typing, Carpal Tunnel, and You."

    Take it from a veteran: the best way to avoid repetitive stress injuries is to let someone else do your one-handed typing for you. That's what happened in the Detroit suburb of Warren this summer, when local councilwoman Gloria Sankuer entered a branch library and demanded to see some of the Net's naughty bits.

    "My need was urgent. I needed pictures of this disgusting, appalling porno on the Internet," Sankuer told the Detroit Free Press.

    Sounds like Gloria could have used some 24-7 customer support. Alas, she was asking the library staff to break a city ordinance that she herself had fought to implement. The librarian on duty just said no, even when Sankuer whipped out her city council ID and said she needed the pix to take to a county commission meeting. Maybe it would have worked if she promised only to read the articles. Sorry, Gloria. Next time, just log on from home and use your husband's bookmarks. Are you of legal age to read this column? If not, I sentence you to sending me an email with a titillating rumor. And please, use both hands.