...Continued from page 1

For shoppers, the value-added tax on most goods of 20;6 percent will drop a full point to 19.6 percent - which is still nearly 20 percent; or a fifth. This won't have much of an effect on low-priced items but could mean a little saving for tour purchases of diamonds and very pricey cars.

Despite all the people on the streets of France throughout the day, the little 'boost' for national education was announced as - one billion francs - which certainly is a big number, but only one-fiftieth of the whole 'jackpot.' Teachers unions and parents' associatons were furious.

The average household will have a tax saving of about 700 francs, which is about the price of two multimedia CD-ROMs.

The Dumb 'Smart-Card'

In France our plastic has a chip embedded in it and its information is encrypted by a 96 digit number. In some manner, the 'key' to this was posted on the Internet on Friday, 4. March.

Quel horreur! With a single blow, all of our 'smart cards' have been rendered totally transparent to every 10 year-old hacker with bad intentions. With the posted code, anybody with a bit of skill and some common household kitchen utensils can make their own 'smart cards.'

This has caused an outcry by newspapers and all other uninformed sources and their spokesmen. Little do they seem to know that you need to be a licensed cryptographer, you have to have a source of the chips, a way to code them, and a source of plastic, and so on.

But the whole system works more on public confidence than on technology. So the banks have mistakenly acted worried and the government says it is not their business anyway. All a thief needs is the regular number of a card to be able to order goods by phone - no chip is necessary.

All the same, the government fired its 'smart-card' security expert and a new guy was quickly named to the 'hot' seat.

Meanwhile, the inventor of the 'smart-card,' Rolandphoto: librarie polanaise Moreno, has said it is not his chip or card that is in question, but the fact that the bank consortium decided on a 96-number crypto 'key.' Mr. Moreno says the magic number should be several hundred digits.

Mr. Moreno, an ex-journalist, worked a long time to perfect his invention, and he is living happily ever-after on the royalties from it.

The numbers can be increased, and this bullet will probably be bitten soon. What the banks don't like, is they just finished with paying for upgrading the cards and all the other systems that go with it, to handle the 2000 dating.

The banks should have asked Roland first. He is so confident that his card is crack-proof, that he is offering a million francs of his own money to anybody that can hack it.

French Web Life

The 'Fête de l'Internet' - Until Sunday, 19. March

In some ways this 'Fête' looks like an explosion of e-commerce, but this is only the way some people are treating it. A special edition of the newsmagazine 'Le Point' has a selection of 'news' sites, but omits Libération, which was one of the first French papers to be active online.

In fact, Le Point's little 18-page 'guide' - with 100 URLs referenced - seems to omit any Web site that isn't commercial. We need commerce in order to live, but we need soulfood too in order to survive.

The Fête's organization is non-profit and it is coordinated by the AFI association. This event is not restricted to France; at the European level it is called the Fiesta 2000.

Another major actor is the Cité des Sciences at La Villette, which is supposed to have the fête's program.' You can also try this site, but it may be the Dot.com version of the same thing.

A little bit more worldly, Radio-France International - aka RFI, Courrier International, Glaz'art and Mondomix have a site that unites five continents, with art, literature, music and oral traditions. It is called 'Wings 2000.'

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