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Breaking and entering? You're hired!

Gathering rumors at a data security conference is harder than pushing Grandma DuBaud on a sled through waist-deep snow with one arm tied behind my back.

Gathering rumors at a data security conference is harder than pushing Grandma DuBaud on a sled through waist-deep snow with one arm tied behind my back. We're talking my old grammie, often mistaken for a Volkswagen Beetle when she wears her red parka. Get the picture? Snooping among the crypto geeks as they whispered in small groups atop San Francisco's Nob Hill, I learned that no matter how good your software, your best defense is to surrender completely. That's what Citibank did.

According to those in the know at the RSA Data Security Conference, the New York banking giant couldn't catch a hacker who continued to invade their network. They managed finally to exchange email with the intruder but couldn't trace him and couldn't convince him to stop. Finally they dangled the ultimate hacker prize in front of his monitor: a job. The guy now runs a division of computer security for the company. No wonder the Citi never sleeps.

If you have friends at PlanetOut, you can suss out their job security by dropping a dime. Recent callers to the offices of the queer community Web site needed only to be put on hold to find out the beleaguered company's fortunes. Apparently, some mischievous staffer programmed the while-U-wait music to reflect the mood in the office. One day, it was Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere". Uh-oh, bad sign. But later, callers heard that saucy diva Julie Andrews belting out "The Hills are Alive." I assume that's a positive sign, unless they were alive with the sound of unceremonious layoffs and lack of spine.

Is Microsoft colluding to give Executive Software a big break? According to the guys who produce the NT Internals Web site, the answer is yes. They say Executive's Diskeeper defragmentation tool for Windows NT 4 is the only game in town because Microsoft added special functionality to support Executive's product, but Redmond still hasn't produced documentation for others to use. The conspiracy apparently stems from the relationship between the chief Executive executive and the head of the NT development team, both of whom worked together at DEC.

Finally, I did glean from a caterer at one of the RSA Conference cocktail parties that Microsoft's Slate is opening an office in San Francisco and plans to move editorial staff there. Not exactly high-clearance stuff, but what do you expect while noshing mini-quesadillas? You know, Stewart Brand is a smart guy, but the next time he tells you that information wants to be free, tell him the analogy about my fat Grandma. And have him send me some email while you're at it.