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IE 4 can't storm the fortress while Yahoo goes deep

GTE, Silicon Graphics, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police are launching the Bastille, an online database chock full of crime information that lets cops around the country share information, armed only with a browser and an itchy clicker finger (plungers not required).

    Every year on July 14, my family back in Quebec pauses before dinner, sniffles a few tears, and observes a moment of silence. Despite being Canadian subjects, la famille DuBaud still holds a soft spot for les idees monarchistes, which fell so violently that same day in 1789. I don't make it home too often, but I call every Bastille Day just to tweak Grandma's twinkies. "Vive la revolution!" I roar in my best Robespierrian tenor, and she mutters something about the guillotine for us south-of-the-border savages.

    The Bastille, of course, n'existe plus, ripped down by gleeful mobs as the French royalty went to the chopping block, but that hasn't stopped a high-tech team of history ignorami from resuscitating its image.

    GTE, Silicon Graphics, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police are launching the Bastille, an online database chock full of crime information that lets cops around the country share information, armed only with a browser and an itchy clicker finger (plungers not required). Dickensian visions of malnutrition, prisoner torture, and rats the size of two-kilo Camemberts notwithstanding, the fact that the real Bastille fell within hours as the authorities stood helplessly by--or were drawn and quartered--doesn't inspire confidence in our peace officers' intelligence-gathering abilities, not to mention their choice of names.

    Microsoft's longtime PR firm Waggener Edstrom is also a fortress, with only the shiniest spin on MS news emanating from its imposing walls. Despite Wagg-Ed's fealty to the anti-Sun king, its internal security comes first. The company's IT manager won't let Internet Explorer 4.0 over the moat until it's been "thoroughly evaluated," according to one of my Skinformants, who would no doubt be put into leg irons and deprived of the moldy half-baguette du jour if identified.

    One would expect that the people who promote the damn thing would be among the first to enjoy the head-turning, jaw-dropping, meat-slicing, diaper-changing, lifestyle-affirming phenomenon called IE 4. But if they can live without it for a while, I'm sure you can, too.

    Chief Gates finally decided he couldn't live without a private jet, so he went and plunked down a cool $21 million for one of his own, breaking the longstanding company policy of flying coach. He most likely insisted on being served an extra bag of pretzels, not peanuts. Maybe he can drop me off above Grandma DuBaud's farm the next time he heads to Europe.

    My fellow Quebecois expatriates are all abuzz over a controversy concerning online journaliste et Webmestre Jean-Pierre Cloutier. Mon vieux J-P, who writes the Chroniques de Cyberie newsletter, stopped publishing his column in disgust at the prospect of accepting advertising to survive in the increasingly profit-driven environment of the Internet. As he mulls over his options to set the electronic word free, more than 2,000 letters of support have poured in while many Francophone Web sites have adopted the "froid glacial" banner.

    Speaking of froid, the bitter cold in Cleveland last week led to one of the ugliest World Series games ever played, with eventual champions Florida Marlins beating the home team 14 to 11. Just as ugly, no doubt, was Yahoo's 14-11 softball slugfest victory over search rival Excite Tuesday night, with slick marketing wonks and pizza-stained engineers circling the bases with wild abandon, pausing only to swap business cards with the shortstop. If you're in Silicon Valley's Sunnyvale area and have absolutely nothing better to do, mark your calendar for the December 9 rematch.

    If you have a Cobol-powered watch, you might want to write yourself a sticky note. The crusty old language still at the heart of much of the world's big mainframe iron is part of the reason everyone's freaked out about the year 2000. But a note on IBM's Web site warns that a 60-day trial version of a Cobol development tool was expiring incorrectly and won't even run if installed after May 1997. Maybe the apocalypse has come and gone, and we all missed it. Oh, well. Just set some bleachers out in the sun and we'll get around to it soon enough. Leonard Bernstein, Lenny Bruce, and Lester Bangs all sent me rumors and they feel fine. Maybe you should, too, while there's still time.