As you may have guessed from my last name, I have a bit of French blood coursing through my veins. The DuBaud clan is quite proud of our heritage, and Grandpepé Marcel DuBaud, rest his dear soul, always insisted that our ancestors invented the semiconductor while Grandma DuBaud would reminisce about washing "le zizi du p'tit Skinny" in the evening bath during my visits to their summer cabin in Northeastern Quebec.
That same stubborn French pride has popped up on the Web. I hear that Georgia Tech Lorraine, the European branch of the Georgia Institute of Technology, is in trouble for its English-only Web site because French law stipulates that goods and services offered in a foreign language must also be offered en Français.
That same bullheaded attitude also meant that the world's protests fell on deaf ears when the French decided to test nuclear weapons in the South Pacific last year. Short of chaining yourself to a palm tree, what was there to do? Write a Microsoft Word macro virus, of course.
Skinny's snoopers have picked up complaints from Word users that when they finish a letter and add their name, this appears as a postscript: "And finally I would like to say: STOP ALL FRENCH NUCLEAR TESTING IN THE PACIFIC!" Go little virus! Fight the power! Greenpeace might be impressed, but Word users are less enthusiastic. Even when erased, the little agitator pops back up after the document is saved. The final test, by the way, was last January.
Halfway across the globe, controversy is brewing along the rocky shores of Maine, home of the original Cajuns if you're looking for the French connection. Our Maine bureau chief at the Wiscasset General Sto-ah sent news of independent governor Angus King and his software dictum. To standardize desktop software for all state workers, Angus chose Lotus over Microsoft because of price. (You read it here first--the beginning of the end of MS Office domination has its seeds in the Pine Tree State.) Workers were apparently miffed because their recommendations were ignored. Even more so when they found out that the Guv hasn't made the switch himself despite appearing in a Lotus ad. They'll switch when they buy new computers, says his aide-de-camp. Read all about it in the Casco Bay Weekly, ayuh.
Last stop in today's globetrotting excursion : Our nation's capital, where the 105th Congress will apparently have not one but two encryption bills to consider. One D.C. deep throat says the Security and Freedom through Encryption Act, or SAFE, will be reintroduced in the House of Representatives by last year's sponsor Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia). The Senate is also going to have another look at the Pro-Code Act, this summer's sleeper hit that almost made it to a floor vote. Certain members of Congress, including Pro-Code sponsors Conrad Burns (R-Montana) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), will continue to work to make strong encryption widely available without government restrictions, but it's unclear how either bill will address Clinton's latest encryption prescription. While I work over a few buddies from my National Security Agency days for the latest Beltway 411, do some sleuthing of your own and send me email.