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Informix ain't down with the ill communication

Grandma DuBaud called the other day and left an irate message on my answering machine.

Grandma DuBaud called the other day and left an irate message on my answering machine. "Hein, Skinny!" she snapped. "How come no one at the bingo parlor ever heard of my so-called famous grandson?" I called back and assured her that I was this close to hitting the syndicated big time. It's just a matter of getting some decent PR to put the spin on the Skin, but that's easier said than done, as one troubled database vendor has discovered.

Bruised and battered by market forces, horrific financial management, and a nasty billboard war, a company that rhymes with Skinformix is on the verge of cutting its corporate communications team loose, a knowing soul told me recently. Sounds like a classic case of "blame the messenger." Of course, the messenger can't be held responsible for a total accounting meltdown, but everybody else who could be blamed has hightailed it outta Menlo Park, California, with rabid investors snapping at their heels.

Meanwhile, the old PR team has apparently handed in resignations but will stick around until the databaseheads find a new flack firm. Silicon Valley commuters will no doubt remember the dueling billboards Informix and Oracle posted near each other's headquarters that seemed to disparage everything from the quality of programmers and market share to parental lineage. The Skin Patrol never spotted any "yo mama" jokes, but the rhetoric was nonetheless fast and furious. We'll have to wait and see what tack Informix's new spinmeisters take.

On the party tip, new PointCast CEO David Dorman had a cozy debutante ball last night at the same South of Market S.F. nightclub, where HotWired held its raucous 4.0 launch soiree. This time, attendance wasn't exactly overwhelming and the food wasn't nearly as good, except for the pomegranates. Dorman spent a couple uneventful hours meeting and greeting before hanging up his Dockers. The few remaining stragglers, hoping for one last free Heineken, tried to whip up some dance energy, but at 9 p.m. sharp the DJ politely thanked everyone for coming and started packing up. (PointCast may be a "push" player, but there's not much interest in pushing those curfews. Next time, try Pabst Blue Ribbon, people.)

Pen pushers, beware: In the wake of Congressional efforts to limit the export of not-so-supercomputers in the name of national security, Intel is now worried about another potentially deadly export: pens. At least that's what a memo circulating around the company says. This week's Intel employee bulletin warns not to export pens, even as "recognition awards." (Hey, who needs a Christmas bonus or a gold watch when your employer could reward your hard work with a writing utensil!)

Under the 21-year-old U.S. Toxics Substance Control Act, the company has to file an annual notice to the Environmental Protection Agency if it wants to export various hazardous and nonhazardous chemicals, including ink. Too bad for Intel, which last year promised the EPA it would cut its pollution rates in exchange for less oversight, as it could have used ballpoints, felt-tips, and fountain pens to store the effluvium its fabs pump out and whisk it overseas without anyone the wiser.

From green feds to blue feds: FBI director Louis Freeh--whose brother World B. was an NBA all-star in the late 1970s--is getting some serious face time in the national press, and that, my friends, is a thing that makes me go "Hmmm." This week's New York Times Sunday Magazine slapped Louie's mug on its cover and lavished the top G-Man with a warm, fuzzy profile. It touched upon Freeh's crusade to control and snoop on U.S. citizens' use of encryption, but not until the last third of the article.

The buzz from the Beltway has me wondering if the Times piece was timed to soften public opinion before Freeh pushes a new pro-law enforcement crypto bill, as the previous one was rejected by the House Commerce Committee. No new crypto bill activity has surfaced, but with all legislation bogged down for the rest of the year, I wouldn't be surprised if the FBI was freshening up its attack for the next Congressional session.

If FBI agents need a relaxing refreshment after a long day of collaring technohoods, maybe they should try popping a few online creeps in the temple. Imagine Publishing's Game Addict ran this tidbit on Monday:

"Gaming could be good for your health. A recent study has apparently shown that playing games increases the production of 'nonspecific immunoglobin-A antibodies' that help fight off illness and stress. The study at Westminster University claims that Doom players were producing the extra antibodies in their saliva." Uh, sure, and reading rumors will improve your sex life. Sending rumors, however, is a different story. My tipsters always get lots of play.