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Bloatware has egg on its face

After a sound thrashing by Upside Media loyalists concerning last week's column, I've decided that from now on I'm only running nice items.

After a sound thrashing by Upside Media loyalists concerning last week's column (see this week's Chewin' the Fat), I've decided that from now on I'm only running nice items. Actually, the email I could handle, but postings to Upside's discussion forum inspired me to send Vermel over to Grandma DuBaud's to pick cranberries until this thing blows over. Some sample postings:

"Who is that guy to rip on Tish's taste in column topics when he's talking about his acne?" (Zits alors! I thought skin care was all about good, clean fun.)

"I'm cleaning my sniper scope as we speak...Skinny DuBaud must die." (Guns! What is this, an elementary school?)

"Maybe 'DuBaud' is some pale, pasty nerd who has it out for our tanned, vivacious, perspicacious Tish." (So I avoid the sun. Does that make me some kind of pariah?)

Here's the zinger:
"I have a theory: Dubaud is really Tish. Here's why:

  • Like Tish's column, it isn't very interesting.
  • Like Tish's column, it talks about Tish."
    (So now I'm a sexually ambiguous, self-referential, vivacious nerd with a bad complexion and a tan. How post-gender!)

    Bored readers and would-be assassins, take note: Duly chastened, I am retiring my poison pen. As a demonstration of my reformed ethos, I will devote the remainder of this column to the neato things they're doing up at Microsoft.

    A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the prescient Viagra reference coded into Microsoft Word. (Type "unable to follow directions," highlight it, hit Shift-F7.) A year or so ago, I wrote a column or two about some other Easter eggs hidden in common software applications. The older batch of eggs had to do with nifty tricks built into Netscape Navigator, such as the "about:mozilla" link that yields a fire-and-brimstone sermon whose prophecies are beginning to sound a little hollow.

    The latest egg to hit the face of the bloatware community--found in Excel 97--is a testament to what $3 billion in annual R&D, some really creative and bored programmers, and an unlimited supply of high-grade caffeine can get you. Unfortunately, I couldn't crack this egg on my SkinkPad because I was missing something called "DirectDraw," but before shipping Vermel off to the Canadian wilderness I was able to use his fully loaded laptop to view this mother of all Easter oeufs.

    Directions: Open a new spreadsheet, press F5 and type "X97:L97" sans quotes in the Reference box. Click OK. Hit Tab. Hold down Ctrl-Shift while clicking on the blue, yellow, and red "chart wizard" icon, found on the upper right side of the screen. Once this Fabergé feature kicks in, cruise above the groovy black and blue world before you with the mouse, accelerating and decelerating with the left and right mouse keys. In case you fail to find the monoliths with the rolling text and programmer credits, here's Microsoft's answer to Netscape's bible-thumping:

    "At first there was nothing...Then there was Excel 97...Hmmm, OK, before that there were some other versions of Excel...And some nachos...But nothing else...And Excel 97 did calceth thy numbers and hath plotteth thy data...and draggeteth and droppeteth thy lesser applications...And this was good and the world was at peace and stuff."

    Whoever laid that Easter egg may be going up to the spirit in the sky, but I'm less optimistic about those responsible for the other Word roe being lobbed at my in-box this week. Highlight "I'm having an orgasm" or "I'd like to see you naked," run the thesaurus, and find out that sex isn't the only thing flowing through Redmond's mental gutter.

    Another nice item about Microsoft: The software giant isn't trying to crush its competition after all. Au contraire: Microsoft appears to be embracing Linux (named for Linus Torvalds, the Finnish-born creator of the operating system), the freeware competitor to its ubiquitous Windows. A few weeks ago, Linux fans were able to access the URL "linus.microsoft.com," where they found a default screen for RedHat Linux, running the Apache Web Server--more of Microsoft's freeware competition. (In their own gesture of good will, Linux users this week are giving Windows 98 a really nice send-off.)

    Those who accessed Microsoft's Linux site before its almost immediate disappearance guess that the company may have been testing IE 4.0 on the free OS, but Microsoft isn't returning calls on this one. Which just goes to show that being nice doesn't necessarily get you better service.

    On that note, let me remind my critics at Upside that I may be "inaccurate," but I'm never wrong. Last week, Skinformants predicted more defections from the Web site staff, and indeed, Upside's trio of defectors became a quintet this week when an online producer and designer trotted out the door. Between dodging bullets and staying out of the sun, I don't get out much, so I rely on you to send me the goods!