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[FYI] (Fwd) FC: Anonymity working group starting; Dungeons & Dragons

------- Forwarded message follows -------
Date sent:      	Sat, 09 Dec 2000 10:46:08 -0500
To:             	politech@politechbot.com
From:           	Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject:        	FC: Anonymity working group starting; Dungeons & Dragons movie
Send reply to:  	declan@well.com


    Devising Invisible Ink
    by Declan McCullagh (declan@wired.com)
    2:00 a.m. Dec. 9, 2000 PST

    WASHINGTON -- An ambitious effort to protect online anonymity will
    kick off this weekend.

    A working group of about a dozen technologists, called NymIP, is
    gathering before the Internet Engineering Task Force's meeting to
    take the very first steps toward devising a standard that will
    foster untraceable communications and Web browsing for Internet

    Currently, commercial products such as Anonymizer.com and Zero
    Knowledge's Freedom client permit anonymous or pseudonymous
    Net-surfing. The NymIP effort aims to create standard protocols
    that would be more widely adopted and not tied to one company's
    product or service.

    Zero Knowledge, a Montreal firm, began the project last month, but
    the working group is now headed by Harvard University's Scott
    Bradner, an IETF veteran. Quips Zero Knowledge engineer John
    Bashinski: "I've been heard enough as it is, and am trying to
    moderate my natural big-mouthed tendencies and let others speak
    for a while."

    One probable topic of discussion: The tradeoffs between bandwidth
    and security. Absolute security requires scads of cover traffic to
    mask the communications that a user wants to conceal, but it also
    eats up bandwidth.

    "Scalability isn't too bad if you're looking at scaling the number
    of users," writes Bashinski in a post to the NymIP mailing list.
    "Where scaling seems to bite you is with the size of the anonymity
    group, defined as the set of users that, given the information the
    recipient or an eavesdropper has, could have sent a given message.
    In high-security systems, more or less those with meaningful
    resistance to traffic analysis, scaling in the anonymity group
    size seems to be superlinear, maybe even N^2."

    Translation: That's enough to clog a lot of T-3 lines.



    New Film 'Dungeons' Drags On
    by Declan McCullagh (declan@wired.com)

    7:00 p.m. Dec. 8, 2000 PST
    Too many films based on a tale with origins far from Hollywood
    suffer from that irksome flaw of not being true to the original,
    leaving fans to gnash their teeth and moan like an orc with

    Not so Dungeons & Dragons, which is afflicted with the related but
    equally vexing ailment of hewing too closely to the awesomely
    popular role-playing game that gave it life.

    To wit: The 100-minute flick from New Line Cinema is less a story
    of love and adventure than a convenient vehicle for some
    occasionally-phenomenal light shows in dungeons and hordes of
    swooping dragons flapping around the Empire of Izmer looking like
    nothing so much as oversized pterodactyls equipped with +5
    fireballs and terribly bad attitudes.

    But successful real-life D&D games require far more -- well-drawn
    heroes and convincing antagonists are not at all optional. And in
    devising this wide screen adaptation that opened Friday,
    director-grand-poobah Courtney Solomon has failed repeated saving
    throws against the chaotic-evil forces of blandness and blah.

    By itself, the story shows promise.

    A vaguely medieval society is sharply divided between the Mages --
    an elite and somewhat stuffy breed of magic users who skulk around
    their towering stone fortress -- and everyone else.

    Izmer's teen empress (an unremarkable Thora Birch) wants everyone
    to be "equal," a vague but unobjectionable idea, while the evil
    Mage Profion (Jeremy Irons) has successfully convinced the
    legislature otherwise. A power struggle ensues that makes the
    Florida election look like an endearing display of bonhomie, and
    the winner is the side that can find the fabled Rod of Savrille
    and thus command the mighty red dragons.

    Enter two thieves, Ridley (Justin Whalin) and Snails (Marlon
    Wayans), who join a cute young female mage, a grumpy dwarf, and an
    aloof elf -- your classic D&D traveling companions -- to trounce
    the bad guy, help the good one, and perhaps encounter a love
    interest or two along the way.

    It's a good start, but not much more. The director, Solomon, can't
    seem to decide whether to take the film seriously or allow it to
    spoof itself -- and neither can the actors.

    The performance by Academy Award-winning Irons is remarkable only
    in how lackluster it is, and Wayans' inner-city slang is as out of
    place as he would be in any believable Thieves' Guild.

    Note to Solomon: Thieves should be lithe and sneaky, not bumbling
    trolls. (At least -- spoiler alert -- this Jar Jar Binks stand-in
    is slaughtered halfway through the movie.)


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