Dog Bites

Reeling in the Web Hype
The next time someone tells you that the number of servers on the World Wide Web is doubling every 53 days, slap him in the face. The man behind that estimate, Jakob Nielsen of Sun Microsystems, has canceled it.

Nielsen based his January 1995 estimate on an 18-month survey of the Web compiled from a number of sources, including the findings of Web "robots" that travel from site to site and record the number visited. Nielsen discovered a growth rate that corresponded to an annualized rate of about 12,000 percent, or a doubling of Web servers every 53 days.

Nielsen's estimate has become such a well-quoted stat that he feels obliged to modify it. Writing on Sun's own Web site, Nielsen asserts that "growth rates this fast cannot continue indefinitely, and now (September 1995), the same method provides an estimate of 400 percent annualized growth, corresponding to a doubling of the number of Web servers every 157 days."

A Cabbie by Any Other Name
Richard Hack is an editor, a publisher, and a former taxicab driver. A poet, too, but that's not the point, at least when it comes to Proposition I, which is the taxi measure on the ballot this November, and which seems to have drawn a bevy of suitably named fans and foes.

Hack has promulgated a pamphlet supporting Prop. I, which would regulate the amount of money cab owners can charge drivers to operate their cabs, and would establish a centralized dispatch system for all taxis.

Opponents -- who include six members of the Board of Supervisors -- say the measure will cost San Francisco money without improving drivers' working conditions or the quality of taxi service. Among those hewing to this argument: current drivers Jeffrey Wheeler, Charles Rolling, and John Cruse.

But Hack says Prop. I should pass. "This is the first time that I've seen logical and real thorough reform proposed for the taxicab business," he says. "There's really nothing in this beautifully written 26-page initiative that would be any hardship for any of the drivers."

Car Wars
Call it auto neurotica, but the San Francisco Housing Authority for the past two years has been haunted by deals about wheels.

First there was former Director David Gilmore's insistence on driving a snazzy Land Rover, which gave critics of the cash-strapped agency plenty of ammo. Next, the SFHA purchased a car for Gilmore's successor, Felipe Floresca. But Floresca didn't drive. "Apparently, he'd never learned how," says Housing Commissioner Barbara Meskunas. A chauffeur ferried Floresca at an additional cost of $20,000 during his 11-month tenure.

Meanwhile, according to housing activists, the car that the agency bought for Floresca was grabbed by Al Nelson, SFHA deputy executive director -- leaving Floresca's replacement, current Director Shirley Thornton, carless. Nelson says the story is not true. But undisputed is the fact that Thornton -- who asks to be called Dr. T, or Col. Thornton, and whose critics call her Dr. Colonel -- wants to drive to the projects in something other than her own silver Mercedes. And so the Housing Authority agenda last week included a proposal to spend $20,000 -- of Section 8 housing money -- to buy her, yes, a car. (A disapproving Housing Commission President Richard Carpeneti pulled the item.)

Thornton, by the way, says all she wants is a 1995 Oldsmobile Ciera. Which costs $15,995. Not $20,000, says a salesman at the city's George Olsen dealership. "But if the Housing Authority wants to give us $20,000, we'll be happy to take it," the salesman notes.

By Jack Shafer, Ellen McGarrahan, Amy Linn

 
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