Democratic group suggests 'online Congress'
Could Congress convene and vote online if anthrax scares or other threats continue to disrupt life on Capitol Hill? The centrist Democratic Leadership Council, a policy organization headed by Bill Clinton before he became president, says a system "easily" could be built to allow members to draft legislation, debate it and vote over the Internet in times of emergency. The council's Web site, ndol.org, posted an article this week titled "Legislating By Any Means Necessary." The DLC claims an online legislative system "may not be as not as far-fetched as it might initially seem," but experts who spoke to Wired News about it were somewhat skeptical. "As an idea, this is laudable, but there's the potential to make the system much more closed than it is in the physical world. Maybe it can't be open to the public because we don't want hackers breaking in," said Ari Schwartz, associate director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
IDs could be boon for Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley's interest in a national identification card system goes beyond the debate between privacy advocates and law enforcement, between individual freedom and personal safety. The creation of a national ID probably would mean billions for the tech industry in California and elsewhere. Chris Christiansen, an analyst at research firm IDC, told the San-Jose Mercury News: "If you set aside the civil liberties issues, it's very expensive, it's technologically challenging and the logistics are enormous," which means such a project could also be doomed before Congress even gets it off the ground. The newspaper notes that a rollout of 4 million ID cards for Defense Department employees already has cost at least $33 million, and that's only for 75,000 cards.
Windows XP arrives with worldwide push
Microsoft is spending at least $250 million to market its new Windows XP operating system, which has gotten some good reviews, but also plenty of criticism from rivals who say it is designed to push smaller firms out of the Web software business. XP integrates features such as a media player and a chat application, two items that have been provided by third-party software firms before. Privacy advocates are also wary of the way XP allows users to update its software: To get a special activation number from Microsoft, consumers must provide the company with information about themselves and the configuration of their computer. Changing too much hardware in the machine could render XP useless. When the new operating system is installed, it also asks people to sign up for Microsoft's Passport service, a password collector and electronic organizer that some say is intended only to keep computer users well within Microsoft's computing world.
MP3.com founder plans 'Lindows' OS
Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com and one of the loudest voices in the fight between the music industry and file-sharing sites, plans to take on Microsoft with a new operating system of his own. The software, known as "Lindows," would combine the Unix-based Linux operating system with a graphical interface that looks like Windows, and a layer of translation code that would allow the OS to run both Windows and Linux programs. The Wall Street Journal reported that Robertson expects to ship the new OS early next year. It is expected to cost consumers $99, and the software will be designed to be downloaded, the Journal reported. A news release about Robertson's plans is available at Lindows.com.
Flower retailer escapes Web crush
Its name might be a telephone number, but 1-800-Flowers is proving to be a rarity these days -- it's making decent money with help from the Web. The company's site, 1-800-Flowers.com, pulled in $32.3 million in online revenues in the most recent quarter, which accounted for about 44 percent of the company's overall business. Telephone sales, meanwhile, fell 0.8 percent to $41 million "as customers continued to migrate to the company's Web site," a company statement said.
Anti-piracy movement targets Ukraine
The music industry has a most-wanted list that includes more than just peer-to-peer services where MP3 files fly in the face of copyright laws. Ukraine, considered to be Europe's largest source of pirated music CDs, is moving to crack down on that black market after facing pressure from U.S. and European officials. The Ukrainian parliament was expected to vote Thursday on legislation that music industry lobbyists say would go a long way toward reducing the former Soviet republic's flow of bootlegged discs. The United States has threatened harsh trade sanctions if the bill is not passed, reports The Financial Times. The London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry estimates Ukraine exports tens of millions of pirated discs each year.
'First alert' system urged for cyberattacks
Richard A. Clarke, the adviser for cyber-security in the newly created Office of Homeland Security, wants the government to create a second Internet, called Govnet, that would allow federal agencies to operate in security. But he hasn't ignored the need for more coordinated protection of the current Internet, according to The Washington Post. Clarke is among those urging industry to create a "first alert" system that would disseminate information about cyber-attacks so businesses could avert further damage. Computer security experts said the main problem in creating such a system has been the same for years: Corporations generally don't trust each other, and they are reluctant to share cyber-security information with one another. The FBI is attempting to change that with a public-private group called Infragard that allows the anonymous sharing of information about attacks, the Post reported.
(Compiled by Joe Warminsky in Washington.)