Two turntables and a Clipper chip

In what certainly was not a hacker's delight, RSA Data Security CEO Jim Bidzos stunned the crowd at his company's annual conference this week as he joined old-school rappers The Sugar Hill Gang for a detourned version of da Gang's classic, "Rapper's Delight."

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SAN FRANCISCO--In what certainly was not a hacker's delight, RSA Data Security CEO Jim Bidzos stunned the crowd at his company's annual conference this week as he joined old-school rappers The Sugar Hill Gang for a detourned version of da Gang's classic, "Rapper's Delight."

Well aware that he's no Kool Moe Dee, Bidzos hip-hopped his way through the modified lyrics, which contained such sparkling couplets as... "They once proposed a thing called Clipper
Now there's something new that ain't much hipper
Key recovery won't work, so the experts say
But the government wants to push it on us anyway"


"I like hip hip hop
I like to online shop
I trust RSA
To keep the hackers at bay"
...then promised never to pull such a stunt again. The RSA conference audience of crypto-math geeks, cyberlibertarians, and snoop-dogs cheered, of course. They'd throw their hands in the air (and wave them like they just don't care) for a wet sponge if it smelled antiauthoritarian, but many breathed a sigh of relief.

Despite the awkward moments, Bidzos, who's made quite a name for himself as a public enemy of the federal government's restrictions on the export of encryption software, looked mahvelous sporting a fresh Van Dyke facial-hair arrangement on his prizefighter's mug. He apparently grew the ensemble to match the Sugar Hill Gang--in appearance at least, if not in dope MC talent. Always the suave host, Jim will be back among his tribe at the end-of-conference gala, for which the company has rented out the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park.

The Skintelligentsia certainly will be there looking out for any representatives of Pretty Good Privacy, the crypto company enmeshed in legal battles with RSA. The PGP-brains don't have a booth at the RSA conference this year, but in celebration of their merger with Network Associates--the newly formed utility software company, that is, not the PR agency--they managed to throw a soiree last night at the Marky-Mark Hopkins Hotel, right across the street from the RSA proceedings at the equally fly Fairmont.

Speaking of snubs, crypto rivals VeriSign and GTE, whose booths at the Fairmont were practically alongside one another, have been playing a bit of one-upmanship recently. Certificate authority (CA) VeriSign uses hardware storage from BBN to safeguard software encryption keys at its Silicon Valley offices. The hardware--which looks like small blue boxes about the size of a desktop telephone set--is the crypto equivalent of a strong box, ostensibly impervious to hackers. But BBN was recently bought by GTE, which owns rival CA Cybertrust Solutions, and all of a sudden, VeriSign isn't satisfied with the "performance" of those little blue boxes. The company has started looking elsewhere for its strong-box solutions, according to a Skinside source. How will users of encryption trust the "trusted third parties" if the trusted third parties don't trust each other?

Staying in Baghdad by the Bay, the conspiracy birds are clacking their beaks over the latest public transportation developments. S.F.'s Municipal Railway (or "Muni," as the local posse calls it) has just opened an extension from the end of Market Street down to Willie Mays Plaza, now just a gaping pit where the new baseball stadium will spring up by the year 2000. The shorthand for the new rail spur? "MMX," short for Muni Metro Extension. Sure, the project's gone over budget, but I swear it fixed that floating-point problem years ago...

Speaking of Big Willie Style, San Fran's mayor Willie Brown--who looks great in a fedora, I must say--may be second only to Bill Gates when it comes to haughty treatment of minions, but do Willie's employees sit on Thai temples and proclaim their divinity? That's apparently what happened to a Microsoft programmer on vacation. According to email making the rounds among MSN and WebTV employees, the young fellow (who didn't answer his Redmond phone when my agents rang him up) overheated his circuits, perched himself atop an ancient Thai temple for 10 hours, and told the authorities he was God. It took scaffolding and a special police neck-hold to bring him down, according to the report. Brutal, Juice, brutal!

Whether the item is true or not, it produced some amusing comments as it made its way through the outer provinces of Lawrence Lessig's favorite evil empire.

"So, um, how closely are we supposed to try to blend into the Microsoft culture?" mused one WebTV employee as the tidbit made its way around the company.

"I'm sure that each of us, at one time or another, has had the experience of waking up in some God-forsaken tropical paradise and feeling that horrible falling sensation that comes from being separated from your desk and workstation," wrote another Webhead. I feel the same way when I'm separated from your rumors. Send me one today, and I'll strip nekkid and sing your praises from the top of Coit Tower.