SMART Letter #26
September 10, 1999



            SMART Letter #26 - September 10,1999

            Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg

      At we accumulate intellectual capital

           the old fashioned way -- we LEARN it. -- -- 1-888-isen-com




>  Sensitive Private Morsels From

> "How AT&T Got the Internet." A Mercifully Brief Review

>  Quote of Note: FCC Chairman William Kennard

>  GPS Rollover Day: A Y2K Leading Indicator?

>  Quote of Note: Robert X. Cringely

>  Conferences on my Calendar, Copyright Notice, Administrivia



Mining the data in's Purchasing Circle Lists

By David S. Isenberg

I jumped at the chance to violate somebody's privacy (and learn something

titillating and maybe even useful) when I saw the following NEWS ITEM:

" Modifies Purchase Circles" Seattle (AP)

   "Concern over consumer privacy has prompted Internet

    retailer . . . to allow employers to opt

    out of the company specific listings."

The Record, Bergen NJ, August 27, 1999.

Heh, heh! It was COMPANIES who were concerned about their privacy, not

PEOPLE. (Amazon seems to protect PEOPLE'S privacy adequately.)  I licked my

lips, imagining tender, sensitive, forbidden morsels of the corporate corps!

So, quick! -- before companies opt out -- let me climb up on my rickety soap

box and peep through the rear window that Amazon obligingly cracked . . .

   [Snide aside #1: Once I was a scientist, but now I'm a

    story teller. The methodology here is decidedly non-

    scientific -- I should know!  To wit, dig this dirt on

    Purchasing Circles from the website:

       "[We] group items ordered from particular zip

        . . . codes and . . . domain names. We . . . apply

        an algorithm that [identifies which items] are more

        popular with each specific group than with the general

        population . . . Purchase Circle Lists are based on

        groups including at least 200 customers."

    Not to mention (which Amazon diplomatically doesn't) that

    different companies have different policies on use of the

    Company Domain Name, the Company Internet, Company Time,

    and the Corporate Credit Card.]

I began my unscientific survey by ogling AT&T's list.  Then I espied MCI's

(no Worldcom!), and squinted for Sprint's (no Sprint!)  (Did Worldcom and

Sprint opt out already?  Maybe their employees don't like books.) I gawked

at Ameritech, BellSouth, PacTel and Bell Atlantic.  (Neighborhood bully SBC

had no pulpit -- another opt-out?)  I beheld BT but timed out on TCI and

TCG -- they're MIA (missing inside of AT&T).  I contemplated Telcordia

(beheld as Bellcore).  I browsed Netscape, leered at Lucent, eyed Ascend.  I

naughtily noticed Nortel (but there was no Bay to watch). I tuned in on

Motorola and Nokia.  I eyed IBM, and Intel.  I saw Cisco, added Adobe, and

fell upon Apple. Finally, I lifted mine eyes unto Microsoft.

"The Results?" you might ask.  The most important is that SMART People

authored the top two books!

"Harry Newton's Telecom Dictionary (15th ed.)" was the overall winner.

[Yes, I've forgiven Harry.] It appeared on eight of the 19 companies' Top

Ten lists (Ameritech, Ascend, AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Bellcore, Lucent, Nortel

and Pactel).  Who (in any company) wants to go, "Huh?" when the boss is

slinging FLAs (four-letter acronyms)?

Clayton Christensen's "The Innovator's Dilemma," appeared on six Top Ten

lists (Ameritech, Bellcore, Intel, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel). I don't know if

these incumbents 'get it', or if the readers in their employ are preparing

to bail.  Or maybe they've just had Professor Christensen in and the readers

are trying to find a flaw in his logic that would permit them to deny his


Two books appeared in five companies' Top Ten.

The first 'fiver' is Annabel Z. Dodd's "Essential Guide to

Telecommunications" (Ameritech, AT&T, BELL ATLANTIC, Bellcore, Nortel).

It'd better be good -- imagine if the top banks were reading somebody's

essential guide to banking, or if the U.S. Congress were reading "The

Essential McGuide to Federal Legislation."

The second 'fiver' is Tom Brokaw's, "The Greatest Generation" (Bell

Atlantic, BellSouth, Bellcore, MCI, PacTel).  Four of these are RBOC-related

companies; remember the Great old days when Ma Bell ran the Greatest

circuit-switched, copper-wired, electro-mechanical operator-assisted

network, Sparky?

(Gratuitous comments like the above are the only scientific part of this

work, y'understand.)

Two topical telecom books made it onto four Top Ten lists; "Delivering Voice

over IP Networks," by Minoli & Minoli (Bellcore, Lucent, Cisco, Nortel), and

"TCP/IP Illustrated," by W.R. Stevens (Ascend, AT&T, Lucent, Nortel).


    [Snide aside #2:  The Number 1 Best Seller on AT&T's

    list was yet another picture book -- "Teach Yourself

    Networking Visually," by Whitehead & Moran.  (So here's

    a get rich quick scheme -- write "The Comic Book Guide

    to AT&T's Network."  I can see it now . . .

        Volume 1: As Easy to Use as a Telephone

        Volume 2: Bundles for Fun and Profit

        Volume 3: Selling DirecTV and Other Video Services

        Volume 4: The Vertically Integrated Internet

        Volume 5: How to Profit from the Coming Price War

    Budding comic-strip artists can write to for

    further details on this exciting opportunity!]

The following books made it onto three Top Ten lists: "Inside the Tornado,"

by Geoffery Moore, "Tuesdays with Morrie," and "Dr. Atkins' New Diet


"Tuesdays with Morrie" reminds me of a 'sensitive' version of a song I know:

"The Ballad of Carl Martin." The chorus goes, "It's a mighty short trip from

the cradle to the crypt, so you'd better get it while you can." It's a good

message for nerds of the telco-classic persuasion.  Especially those

contemplating an early retirement package.

And it is noteworthy that all three Dr. Atkins' Diet companies were RBOCs --


Eight books are on two Top Ten Lists. A couple of these can be construed

(and why not?) to indicate head-to-head competition.  For example, both

Microsoft and Netscape are reading "Competing on Internet Time," by Cusumano

& Yoffie. Both Nokia and Motorola are reading "Design Patterns: Elements of

Reusable Object-Oriented Software," by Gamma et al.  (Nokia's Number One

Read is "Wideband CDMA for Third Generation Mobile Communications" and

Motorola's is "Mobile IP: The Internet Unplugged."  Don't tell me there's no

espionage value here!)

Now let's look at the top tech topics, and who's reading up on them.  Books

with IP and Internet in the titles appeared 22 times in the lists of Cisco

(8), Ascend (4), Lucent (3), Nortel(2), AT&T (1), Bellcore (1), Motorola

(1), Microsoft (1) and Netscape (1). Books with Java in the title appeared

11 times in the lists of AT&T (3), Bellcore (3), Netscape (2), Adobe (1),

IBM (1) and Motorola (1). Perl was the third most popular tech topic,

appearing 8 times in the lists of Motorola (3), Intel (2), Netscape (2) and

PacTel (1).  SS7 tied Dr. Atkins' Diet with three appearances, and ISDN and

ATM each appeared once.

On a company-by-company basis, several comment-worthy nuggets panned out.

Cisco must be an "all-business, no-fun" place to work.  Eight of their Top

Ten are tech books.  The other two are by marketeer Geoffrey Moore

("Tornado" and "Gorilla").  Five of the eight tech books were Cisco

Certified Internetworking Engineer (CCIE) books.  The other three were about

IP Routing, IP Switching and IP Voice.  They know what their business is,

God bless 'em.

    [Snide aside #3: Beware the Amazon "star" rating system

    One of Cisco's CCIE books had an "average" reader rating

    of three-and-a-half stars.  But readers ripped it!

    Most gave one star, and this only because Amazon

    doesn't allow zero-stars.  Several multi-star ratings

    were generous, given the comments.  The only five-star

    rating I saw was blatantly sarcastic, awarded because the

    book was excellent -- as a sleep-inducer.

Several lists show a turning inward, a certain introspective attitude, a

self-contemplative quality.  In other words, they're blatantly narcissistic.

We could call it Narcisso-capitalism.

Once-great Apple's narcissism is shameless. Number One Read is "Apple

Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc.," and Number Two is

"Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders".

Egomania, indeed.

In the same vain (get it? get it?), Intel's list has "Inside Intel: Andrew

Grove and the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Chip Company," and "Creating

the Digital Future: The Secret of Consistent Innovation at Intel."  And its

Number One Read is "Pentium Pro & Pentium II System Architecture."

Netscape (now part of AOL though '' still exists) has "

How Steve Case beat Bill Gates, Nailed the Netheads, and Made Millions in

the War for the Web," as well as "Netscape Time," by Jim Clark. (Since

company lists are based on domain names, the AOL list is meaningless --

well, it is a *bit* more meaningless than these others.)

Lucent's narcissism takes a technical turn.  Number One is "The Practice of

Programming," by Lucent Bell-Labbers Kernighan & Pike.  (The only-est

programming practice?)  Number Two is "Signaling System 7," by Russell.

They're still reading about SS7 -- well, maybe its a little better than

reading about World War Two.

British Telecom's narcissism is -- pip, pip -- British. Number One Read is

"The Committee: Political Assassination in Northern Ireland," and Number Two

Read is "The Royals," by Kitty Kelly.  The Number Three title is a hoot:

"The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do

About It."  (I wonder why they're not raving about this book in Silicon

Valley?)  It must be depressing when both your company *and* your empire are

circling the drain.

Microsoft's Numero Uno is (surprise!) "Business @ the Speed Thought," by

Chairman Bill.  Also on the list: "The Microsoft File: The Secret Case

against Bill Gates."  Like Cisco, Microsoft is heavy on tech books --

Microsoft tech, of course.  To its credit, Microsoft's list includes Don

Norman's "The Invisible Computer" -- it's the only one of the 19 companies

to do so. (Pro-claimer: Don's a friend and a SMART Person -- buy his books!)

The RBOCs are beyond narcissism -- they've checked out completely!  Bell

Atlantic's list includes five novels, an Oprah Book Club selection, and Dr.

Atkins' Diet.  Ameritech had four novels and Dr. Atkins' Diet.  And PacTel

has one novel, Tuesdays with Morrie, Dr. Atkins' Diet and "Eat Right for

Your Type."

I completed my "study" just in time!  The next day I tried to revisit a

company-specific Purchasing Circle or two, but Amazon's site disingenuously

replied, "System Error: There was an internal error in our system.  We

logged the problem and will investigate it later."  Yeah, sure.

Oh, just one more thing: Amazon's List:

  1. HTML 4 for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart

     Guide, by Elizabeth Castro

  2. Our Dumb Century: The Onion Presents 100 Years

     of Headlines from America's Finest News Source,

     by The Onion(Ed.), T. Herman Zweibel

  3. Learning the Unix Operating System (Nutshell

     Handbook), by Jerry D. Peek, et al

  4. Unix in a Nutshell: System V, v2.0 by Daniel Gilly,

     Mike Loukides (Eds.)

  5. Learning Perl (2nd Ed.)  by Randal L. Schwartz, et al

  6. The Noodle Cook Book: Delicious Recipes for Crispy,

     Stir-Fried, Boiled, Sweet, Spicy, Hot and Cold

     Noodles, by Hayter Kunumi

  7. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

  8. Perl Cookbook, by Tom Christiansen et al

  9. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies

     by James C. Collins, Jerry I. Porras

 10. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, by Terry Brooks

Got it Barnes & Noble?


"HOW AT&T GOT THE INTERNET" A Brief Review (ha, ha, ha?)

by David S. Isenberg

The INDUSTRY STANDARD's hidden strength might be comedy.  The cognoscenti

who read the article "How AT&T Got the Internet," by Jason K. Krause in the

August 9 issue are still giggling. The article describes the triumph of

GeoPlex (what?), the AT&T-built platform that will take the intelligence out

of the endpoints and put it back into the middle of the network.

AT&T's Hamid Ahmadi lays out how this will happen. Plus he explains why a

communications services company such as AT&T is building its own equipment,

saying, "There's a battle between us and the computer companies, and I

believe companies like AT&T could win this battle, because not every device

will be a computer.  We'll build intelligence into the networks, and the

computers will just be dumb devices."

AT&T's chief technology officer David Nagel expands on this theme, saying,

"We've just now discovered the concept of open platforms, re-usable code,

and open standards and specifications."  (Note: Interview done in 1999.)

The climax of the article comes as Nagel explains his grasp of the Internet

revolution.  The article says, "Nagel thinks AT&T should pursue smaller

projects that generate little or no revenue."

I can't believe that The Standard would hang AT&T Labs West (or poor Jason

Krause) out to twist in the strange winds of change like this.  So it has to

be comedy. Right?


QUOTE OF NOTE: William Kennard, on Equal Access for Cable:

   "I continue to believe that the initiation by this

    Commission of a formal proceeding [Notice of Inquiry]

    focused exclusively on broadband access would undercut

    our goal of accelerating the deployment of broadband

    networks. A formal proceeding would chill investment

    in cable modem service, which in turn would reduce the

    competitive pressure on local phone companies and others

    who are currently investing in alternative means of

    providing consumers with access to broadband."

William Kennard, Chairman, FCC, in letter to the FCC's own Local and State

Government Advisory Committee (which requested the Notice of Inquiry), Aug.

10, 1999.

[Gosh, Commissioner, those investments in broadband infrastructure must be

awful risky if a mere *inquiry* about them could freeze them solid.  Should

we hold our breath and cross our fingers too? -- David I]



By David S Isenberg

Back when memory was expensive, the designers of the satellite-based Global

Positioning System (GPS) allocated 10 bits to the GPS week counter.  This

meant that the system would 'roll over' from 1111111111 to zero exactly 1024

weeks from the beginning of GPS time, at 7:59:47 PM EDT on Saturday, August

21, 1999.

Not too many people were thinking about it 1025 weeks ago.  Back them I was

navigating with a chart, an alarm clock and a compass.  Mostly I got my

sailboat to where I wanted to get it. Now my Cessna covers a 24-hour wind

fresh and two points abaft the beam sail in about one hour.  I have become

hooked on my Garmin GPS-90.

In mid-1998, I wrote to Garmin about the rollover.  They assured me that my

model was entirely, completely compliant, that its software had been written

to behave correctly on the critical day.  Cool.  So I put it out of my mind.

The GPS worked fine on the way to Cape Cod on August 19.  But on the way

back to New Jersey on August 22, the GPS took forever to compute where it

was.  I reset it several times in flight.  Finally I tried its auto-locate

mode, and finally after half a flight, its software arrived at the location

of the airplane.  It almost worked fine, but for two displays, each

indicating which satellites it was receiving, that did not agree with each


On Monday August 23, I called Garmin customer service repeatedly.  No way!

Busy, busy, busy.  On Tuesday, I called again. And again.  And again.  And

again.  Baa, baa, baa.  On Wednesday, I called and called, and finally got

through -- to a recording that suggested that I call back on another day

when they were not bothered by the GPS rollover problem.  But I hung on.

After some 20 minutes a customer support person answered.

Had I downloaded the latest software?  No, I didn't have the special cable

for that.  Had I read their web page, where it suggests that the GPS-90

boots faster if you hold down 'page' when you turn it on?  No, I hadn't done

that either.  I decided to send in the unit for an overhaul and software

update.  I should probably do this once every five years anyway.  The Garmin

guy said it would be in the shop 5 to 7 days.  "Yeah, right," I thought.

But I was surprised.  It came back last week on schedule.  And it works fine


So will the Year 2000 problem be a big deal?  I'm still looking at the

leading indicators.  And so far I have not seen any compelling reasons to

worry a lot.  Check this space again after the next leading indicator

date -- September 9, 1999.


QUOTE OF NOTE: Robert X. Cringely, on Microsoft's acquisition of Hotmail:

   "'All we got was money,' said a Hotmail founder. 'There

    was no recognition, no fun. Microsoft got more from the

    deal than we did. They knew nothing about the Internet.

    MSN was a failure. We had 10 million users, yet we got

    no respect at all from Redmond. Bill Gates specifically

    said, 'Don't screw-up Hotmail,' yet that's what they

    did.'  Here's what any company that wants to be bought

    by Microsoft should know about the boys and girls from

    Redmond. First, it is an adversarial culture that makes

    progress only through constant infighting and bickering.

    'During the technical due diligence, two Microsoft people

    got in an argument that we thought might actually come to

    blows,' said a Hotmail founder. 'They were fighting with

    each other in front of us. It was our first hint of what

    was to come. Politeness is ignored and bitches are

    rewarded. Everything is about power.'

 . . .

   "What Hotmail learned is that at Microsoft almost anyone

    can say "no," but hardly anyone can say 'yes.' The way

    it specifically works at Microsoft is that everyone says

    'no' to anyone below them on the organizational structure

    or on the same level, and 'yes' to anyone above. Since the

    vertical lines of authority are narrow this means people

    tend to agree only with their bosses and their boss's boss

    and try to kick and gouge everyone else. The only person

    at Microsoft who hears 'yes' all the time is Bill Gates,

    who must think he is in paradise."

"From Be Careful What You Wish For: Why Being Acquired by Microsoft Makes

Hardly Anyone Happy in the Long Run" by Robert X. Cringely, PBS Online,

August 26, 1999

[Remember the one about, "a company is like a tree full of monkeys"? --

David I]



September 27-29, 1999, Lake Tahoe CA. George Gilder's

TELECOSM!  Sorry, SOLD OUT!  I'm im-moderating a panel on

The Stupid Network that includes Bill St. Arnaud of CANARIE (the guy who

showed how you can get 10 gigabits to the home for the price of a cable

modem), Vab Goel of Qwest, Victor Parente of AOL, and the effervescent Nayel

Shafei of stealthco Enkido. ( Sorry, nobody home.)  For more


October 10-17, 1999, Geneva, Switzerland. TELECOM99,

the every-four-year ITU extravaganza that always seems

to surprise AT&T's leaders.  I will be there 10/9 through 10/13 posing as a

wild-mannered columnist for America's Network.

October 27-29, 1999, New York City.  The New Economy Conference, with John

Browning and Spencer Reiss.  Plus an array of people who believe that

knowledge is wealth, that bigger ain't necessarily better, and that there

are more opportunities and fewer guarantees at the edge.  I don't know what

I'll be doing there yet, but I suspect I'll be there.  Watch for the emergent agenda.

November 4, 1999, New York City.  Merrill Lynch Technology

Advisory Board Panel, quite possibly featuring Gordon Bell

(father of the VAX), Phil Neches (founder of database machine

company Teradata), Don Norman (who wrote "Turn Signals are

the Facial Expressions of Automobiles," and other worthwhile

reads), open source spokesman Eric Raymond (I hope! still unconfirmed) (who

wrote the must-read essay "The Cathedral

and the Bazaar"), and several others, no less

distinguished, whose work I don't know as well. I'll

participate too.  Save the date.  Stay tuned for details.



Redistribution of this document, or any part of it, is

permitted for non-commercial purposes, provided that

the two lines below are reproduced with it:

Copyright 1999 by David S. Isenberg -- -- 1-888-isen-com


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1-888-isen-com            1-908-654-0772


Date last modified: 10 September 99