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Rockettes do cancan; naughty NCs no can do

One week in New York was enough.

One week in New York was enough. After several days of pounding the PC Expo floor and negotiating rush-hour crowds on the C train, I found myself screaming obscenities at pigeons in Tompkins Square Park. Fortunately, a friendly cab driver took me in, drove me around aimlessly for a few hours, and shared with me a fine-yet-unassuming Macanudo. Not only did I luck upon the nicest hack in town, he was also a big fan. "Sure thing, Mistah Doo-bodd, I'll keep my ear to the ground for youse."

Sure enough, Bernie the Cabbie called the hotline this weekend to tell me about two priests who walk into a bar with a duck under each arm...oops, that one's off the record. But I can relate to you what Bernie saw at Larry Ellison's high-steppin' NC spectacular at Radio City Music Hall last week. No, Larry didn't don a sequined leotard and pin ostrich feathers in his hair, but he did wire up 108 (yes, 108--Bernie counted each and every one) of those rascally network computers and scattered them throughout Radio City thicker than pushcart vendors on Times Square selling pretzels and dirty-water franks.

Problem is, the NCs weren't on their best behavior, according to Bernie. Guests at the event received a smart card to log on and take the NC challenge; many who tried to download certain software accessories were rewarded with crashes. The worst offenders seemed to be streaming media clients. Apparently, there's no "NC" option to click when you're asked to name your OS just before you download, say, the RealMedia player or the Vivo video streaming player. Bernie also observed several frustrated attendees try to check their mail via the Netscape browser, to no avail.

When pressed to explain, red-faced Oracle officials deflected the questions and mumbled something about, ahem, looking forward to more development on the platform.

Meanwhile, Microsoft held its own gathering of the vibes last week up near Rancho Redmondo. The two-day Internet Explorer 4.0 workshop ended with IE honcho Brad Chase sitting onstage in T-shirt, shorts, and Teva sport sandals. His closing remarks were sprinkled with feel-good marketing exhortations and the obligatory "revolutionary" label. (Memo to marketing wizards: Your product is not revolutionary until it directly causes heads of state to roll. Otherwise, stick with "cool.")

Chase's mantras, like all Microspin, were finely tuned to drown out what 'Softies call NOISE. That is, the constant attacks from Redmond's public enemies: Netscape, Oracle, IBM, Sun, and Everyone else. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you.

Speaking of paranoid, I'm still scratching my head at Microsoft's excuse for canceling the Windows platform workshop, originally scheduled to follow the two-day IE shindig. When they deep-sixed it earlier this month, officials cited the difficulty of getting all the executives' schedules lined up. Uh, yeah. Must be one of those Outlook bugs they're fixing.

At the IE show, another flack offered the excuse of the Memphis beta, which the OS team was scrambling to finish, then threw in the time-tested "executive schedule" excuse just to cover all bases. I like my Java, as Chuck D. once said, too black and too strong. If you can't bring the noise, at least email me some rumors.