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Couch potato chips and Freudian slips

As you might have read, Intel summoned the peons last week as it announced its once-and-future strategy in 21st-century couch-potato land: set-top boxes and digital TV.

    I was lying supine on the couch of Dr. Helmut Fraeme-Relais, cognitive physician and eminent shrink to the rumor-plagued. He nodded his oversized head and listened as I recounted my recurring dream of trying to climb up the slippery side of a well while voices whispered to me from all sides.

    "You obviously heff ze post-gossip classification neurosis, ja? You kan't distinkvich ze real from ze blatantly absurd. I heff seen zis before. Vee must--how you say?--nip it in ze butt. Vat you need is better sources. I tell you vat. If you don't say vere you got it, I give you some good schtuff."

    Just what the doctor ordered! As you might have read, Intel summoned the peons last week as it announced its once-and-future strategy in 21st-century couch-potato land: set-top boxes and digital TV. Company execs hinted several times that a deal is imminent to bring the WebTV set-top box, now running on a MIPS chip, over to the Intel architecture. Sounds like a natural fit, oui?, given that WebTV is now a Microsoft colony and that its service will one day run on Windows CE. But remember that Windows CE itself runs on several non-Intel handheld PCs. And before you murmur into your collar about the Wintel conspiracy, note whose interface Intel chose to show off when it booted up an NC: Oracle subsidiary NCI. Not exactly Friend of Bill material.

    Throw into the mix Intel's decision to buck its PC buddies MS and Compaq and side with broadcasters in the contentious dispute over digital TV display standards (Redmondian roustabout Steve Ballmer Friday said politely that MS and Intel agree to disagree) and you've got the seeds of some serious Intel-Microsoft divergence over convergence.

    "Ach!" said Dr. Fraeme-Relais. "Ze classic example of ze sibling chelousy, rooted deep vithin ze superego. I vould luff to have Steef Ballmer on my couch for 40 minutes!"

    Ballmer is anything but a thin client, or, as Intel kept saying last week, "lean" client. I guess thin is no longer in. Whether it's lean, thin, or even skinny, a whole lot of NC use will allegedly be happening down in Larry's Glass Haus, a.k.a. the mirror-windowed towers of Oracle HQ just south of San Francisco. Like the flu bug that seems to be knocking out my sources left and right this early winter, a rumor's going around at Oracle that every employee will get an NC up the stocking at the company's upcoming 20th anniversary bash. And maybe a fire extinguisher, given The Larry's previous bad luck with demos of thin clientele. There's also a fun rumor that Madonna will show up at the party, perhaps to debut her new singles, "This Used to Be My Database" and "Justify my MIG."

    I then told Dr. Fraeme-Relais that my use of America Online left me with transgender nightmares of killing my mother to win my father's affections.

    "Vell, it's no vonder," the good doctor said after scratching his clipped mustache with the tip of his chewed felt pen. "You must be visiting ze new Electra site, ja?"

    Electra, of course, was the daughter of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, who along with her brother Orestes avenged her father's death by killing mom and mom's new lover, Aegisthus. For Electra, it wasn't just a sense of justice that led her to chop mère into bits, but her own repressed hankering for dearly departed dad. At least that's how Euripides sussed it out. Freud didn't have to look too hard when he needed a female equivalent to the Oedipus complex. AOL's new women's site flies the slogan "Real Women, Real Life." Real weird psychosexual overtones, too. Vat iz going on in ze mind of Steef Case?

    Speaking of Freudian slips showing, a court hearing today in San Francisco pits the Justice Department's appeal against a formerly Berkeley math professor--no, not thatone--over the right to publish strong encryption without a government license. In support of professor Daniel Bernstein, whose cabin is NOT being trucked in from Telegraph Avenue, a whole gaggle of cypherpunks is expected to show--in suits and ties, no less. One of their fearless leaders, Electronic Frontier Foundation founding member John Gilmore, urged them with a nudge and a wink to "dress up" for the media to create a good impression. And for God's sakes, folks, make sure your socks match!

    Another Bay Area battle, part deux: a softball game tomorrow night in Sunnyvale finds the pitching-poor but scrappy Yahoos-on-First club taking on the chaw-chomping, strikeout-prone Excite-ables. Last time around, 'Hoo beat 'Cite 14-11 with the wind blowing out. Gentlepeople, start your engines. Now that you're relaxed, tell me about your childhood. Especially if it's replete with high-tech gossip and rumors.