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The Independent Culture
BRITAIN, GERMANY, Japan and 33 other nations last week followed the lead of the US by agreeing to limit the strength of encryption software that companies in those countries are allowed to export. The US Under- secretary of Commerce, David Aaron, said that encryption technology used to protect intellectual property would be exempt from the controls.

The countries are all signatories to the Wassenaar Arrangement limiting arms exports. The US government controls the export of encryption software using arms control legislation at the behest of security organisations who claim that unfettered use of strong encryption would help criminals.

Each country will draft its own legislation to implement the agreement.

MICROSOFT HAS consistently told the press that the anti-trust case brought against it by the Department of Justice is ill-conceived and ought to be dropped.

Last week it even took out full-page advertisements in American newspapers to say that the trial was irrelevant and that the marketplace takes care of consumers better and more quickly than the government ever can.

That theme was taken up and expanded on by the chief executive, Bill Gates, at a conference in New York. "This kind of lawsuit is something no one should have to go through," he said. "We are in a business that is very, very competitive, so there's a lot of ironies from having the distractions of a government lawsuit - particularly one that seeks to restrict our ability to innovate our products."

In court in Washington, the vice-president of Sun Microsystems and inventor of its Java language, James Gosling, took the stand. Sun complained that Microsoft had tried to destroy Java as a technology that could challenge the Windows operating system monopoly.

Microsoft denied the claims, saying that its implementation of Java was better and faster than Sun's. It pointed out that even Sun's allies had abandoned "pure Java", and that Sun had allowed it to ship its products while seeking to stop Microsoft from doing so.

EUROPEAN UNION ministers have failed to resolve a dispute over a draft EU directive on how to handle the technology used to create secure electronic signatures for authenticating Internet transactions.

France, Germany and Italy, with support from Austria and Portugal, argued for regulations to build consumer confidence. Britain, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands said this should be left to the market.

Martin Bangemann, the European Commissioner responsible for information technology, said the call for regulation was misplaced because it could cause trade conflicts and did not recognise how quickly technology was changing.

"Member states... are underestimating the developments in the information society technology," he said. "They believe they can meet these new developments with their old attitudes."

UNIX COMPREHENSIVELY out-performed Windows NT in tests carried out by a market research company, DH Brown. NT finished last behind five variants of the Unix operating system.

IBM's AIX Unix topped the rankings, followed by Compaq's Digital Unix, Sun Microsystems' Solaris, Silicon Graphics' Irix, and Hewlett-Packard's HP-UX.

"The Enterprise Edition of Windows NT Server 4.0 trails Unix in every area except for PC client support," D H Brown said.

Windows NT came second in support for PC clients, behind Compaq's Digital Unix. The latter also took top marks in its support for services across a large corporation.

DH Brown pointed out that the study does not reflect market share or customer satisfaction. "The best technology does not always win in the marketplace... in a brutally competitive industry that relies ever more on commodity technology, it is still possible to differentiate with leading- edge operating system features."