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Culture

Heigh ho, heigh ho, another Disney exec will go

I was about to pop open a tin of anchovies to go with my afternoon Laphroaig the other day when my faithful secretary and biochemical lab analyst Trixie Pixel showed up for work in an unusual state of disarray.

    I was about to pop open a tin of anchovies to go with my afternoon Laphroaig the other day when my faithful secretary and biochemical lab analyst Trixie Pixel showed up for work in an unusual state of disarray.

    After watching her drop a stack of Skinformant faxes (all out of date--we go for weeks at a time without remembering to check that quaint technorelic) and then mistake a beaker of disappearing ink for her diet cola, I ventured a suggestion she has been known to offer me in the past. "You need a vacation, Trix." Being no digital sweatshop owner, I reminded her that there was more to life than pushing, er, pixels. She gave me a funny look, and we dropped the subject. Would that Disney employees were so humanely considered.

    Recently, as the Mouse's top brass fought over where to take the media giant's online efforts, some executives were sent packing. Others skipped out on their own, leaving behind a hornets' nest of interoffice unrest.

    Just last week, for instance, Disney Online said that its bearded geek president, Richard Wolpert, had abruptly sent in his notice because he decided to "pursue other interests." The timing certainly was curious, given that he had made apprearances at Macworld and had been active in promoting Walt's family Internet directory, dubbed "Dig."

    However, my ever-reliable pack of Mouskinformants report that Wolpert's destiny was not in his own hands. In other words, he was as canned as an anchovy.

    It was not because his job performance was goofy; instead, Wolpert found himself on the wrong side of company strategy as it gave up pursuing interactive technology in favor of playing follow-the-portal-leader. Wolpert's immediate boss, Buena Vista Internet Group president Jake Winebaum, apparently was more than happy to shed all that techie online service stuff and put on his old ad-based revenue hat. Someone had to take the fall...

    "Jake is an advertising guy, so going portal looked easy for him," said my Mickey mole. "But technical stuff was more difficult and so he just rescheduled it instead of fixing it. He decided that the content is not where it's at. The portal play is where it's at. Wolpert became a fifth wheel."

    Speaking of fifth wheels, NT gripes and woes continue to roll in. The specter of Microsoft's server has spooked systems engineers at Hotmail and WebTV, and rumors of its onslaught and its debacles have proliferated thanks to the industry's loose lips (the bread and butter of yours truly). But never before did we suspect that the Unix challenger might actually sink ships!

    It all started when a Navy missile cruiser, while doing routine maneuvers last September, suffered a series of software glitches that stalled the ship outside Cape Charles, Virginia, according to Government Computer News. The USS Yorktown--which the Navy deems a "smart ship" because it uses software to automate tasks and reduce manpower on the vessel--was stranded outside the harbor for 2 hours and 45 minutes, GCN quoted officials from the Atlantic fleet as saying.

    The cause of the failure? Many engineers and technicians blamed the NT operating system. Supposedly, the ship lost control of its propulsion mechanism because local access network consoles and remote terminal units had crashed due to a computer calculation bug. Many claim it wouldn't have happened with Unix.

    However, the Navy's been a big fan of the software king since March 1997, when SOs chose NT 4.0 to be the standard OS for its Pacific and Atlantic fleets. However, many technicians in the high seas have made their gripes clear to GCN.

    "Using Windows NT, which is known to have some failure modes, on a warship is similar to hoping that luck will be in our favor," a Yorktown engineer told the publication.

    If you're not feeling lucky and you still decide to go ahead and install Windows 98, you might want to consult with Borders to ease the pain. Displayed by registers of our local book and music outlet is a free CD titled "Music to Install Windows 98 by," a compilation of swinging tunes by jazz artists like Mel Tormé, Dave Brubeck, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. (Does this mean people will start humming "Take Five" every time they boot up?)

    What's worse, it seems Redmond's finally jumping into the caffeine market. Next to the CD sat a bag of Windows 98 specialty roast coffee. To quote the label, it's "blended for a different kind of buzz." No worry, they're probably just repackaged coffee grinds scraped from the dregs of software developer compost piles. The horror, the horror.

    If the software giant is getting into music and coffee for promotional efforts, might I offer to put the icing on the cake? How about Windows 98 anchovies? Can't beat Starting the day off with Milt Jackson's vibes and a cup of dark Redmond roast while fishing through a can of salted Windows anchovies.

    Lastly, it seems like two transit stations in the heart of downtown San Francisco have been preaching the evils of the free market to commuters scrambling their way to high-rises. An artists' group called "Together We Can Defeat Capitalism" decided to buy advertising space on Commuter Channel monitors in the Montgomery and Powell BART stations that read the following: "Capitalism stops at nothing."

    Ironically, the ad was purchased for the month of July and was shown in full view during Independence Day-- much to the ire of patriotic San Franciscans. According to a BART spokesman, the transit service received angry complaints demanding the message be pulled down. One commuter reportedly said, "How dare you attack capitalism on the 4th of July?"

    But in general, the spokesman noted that the ads "got more laughs than anything. I thought it was funny as hell." At least capitalism didn't stop the artists from buying an $800 ad. It's expensive these days to be subversive. Ask the former No. 2 at Disney, Michael Ovitz. "Summertime...and the rumors are easy." I wish. My daddy isn't rich and Grandma's not so good-lookin', but you better not hush my rumor line or I'll cry.