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Microsoft tweaks geeks; Adobe sneak-peek leaks

Microsoft knows a thing or two about making things disappear--and I'm not even talking about its own Web sites.

    Longtime readers of this column will recall that two years ago, my son, Vermel, went on a hunger strike to protest the proposed demotion of Pluto from planet to space junk. I was relieved for nutritional, if not astronomical, reasons when Pluto ultimately escaped such a humiliating declassification, and TV dinners once again resumed their steady migration from our freezer to the microwave.

    The threat of hunger once again loomed large in the DuBaud household this week as reports circulated that New York's spiffy new planetarium had gone ahead and stricken Pluto from the solar system. Poof! No more Pluto.

    Microsoft knows a thing or two about making things disappear--and I'm not even talking about its own Web sites. While Microsoft has so far opted to overlook the remaining, seven extraterrestrial planets, certain Visual Basic aficionados are advising Mercury to watch its back.

    The trouble started when Microsoft introduced VB.Net, the new and supposedly improved Visual Basic language that had programmers' boxers in a bunch this week. VB geeks freaked when they realized that upgrading to this key component of the Microsoft.Net strategy for writing Net-centric applications was no walk in the park--and that in many cases it was going to be easier to start writing their applications over from scratch.

    As reported, Microsoft "most valuable professional" Karl Peterson launched the VB.Not page on his Web site, enumerating incompatibilities between the currently shipping VB 6.0 and VB.Net.

    Days later--you guessed it--poof! No more VB.Not.

    Rumor has it that the page disappeared after Redmond's henchmen exerted some of that old-fashioned Microsoft charm with which Tod Nielsen and his buddies, formerly employed by Crossgain, are so familiar.

    As one developer, who was dismayed that the page was offline quipped, "Sounds like MSLawyer.Net works!"

    Peterson didn't return calls; neither did Microsoft.

    The skinny behind the rumor is that Microsoft expects--and demands--lockstep loyalty from its MVPs. There are 600 of them, but only a handful are Visual Basic MVPs, making it an honor to be designated one. The day the story broke about VB.Net dissension in those hallowed ranks, Microsoft CFO John Connors went out of his way in his Q2 earnings call to crow about how "on track" the company is with developers.

    Does railroading your developers into submission count as being "on track?" Or, for that matter, does distrusting them?

    Foreglance at After Effects
    When he's not fasting on behalf of heavenly bodies, my son Vermel is a real 3D fan. He was all abuzz this week after scoring an illicit sneak preview of Version 5.0 of Adobe's video effects software, After Effects.

    "The new 3D engine is supercool," Vermel said. "In addition to the standard movie clip layers, solid layers and composition layers, you now get 3D layers. The movie and solid layers can now be converted into 3D layers and then manipulated like in a 3D program. There are also new lighting and camera layers or objects that can point and cast or shoot on video layers. This is a major addition and will render some 3D plug-ins unnecessary."

    Behind the wheel at Covisint
    I live in a household of well-informed and voluble 12-year-olds, and none more so than Ammonia Blossom, Vermel's perspicacious paramour and the Rumor Mill's social conscience-in-residence, with whose dispatch we close this week's column.

    "The New Economy, never heralded as a particularly friendly place for working women, is clearly out-testosteroned by the Old Economy," Ammonia said. "When Covisint, a giant online parts mall for automakers and their suppliers, unveiled its first 12 board members, there wasn't a double-X chromosome to be found.

    "Never mind that the name Covisint stands for cooperation, vision and integration.

    "It's no surprise that the auto industry couldn't find any women for the board. The senior-ranking female executive in the auto industry, Kathleen Oswald of DaimlerChrysler's American wing, got the ax recently in a shakeup spearheaded by the German CEO, Juergen Schrempp. But what is surprising is that the board doesn't include a single Japanese executive--interesting, considering that Nissan is one of five automakers that has signed on to tackle the project," she added.

    The board members are mostly solidly entrenched members of Detroit automoterati, with two Germans, a Frenchman and a well-heeled Buenos Aires native, all shades of the same color. The Rumor Mill is assured that one or two of the five additional board members Covisint hopes to pick in upcoming months are women. Maybe they could diversify their palette while they're at it. Ammonia's on my board, so I answer to her. What she demands every week are your rumors.