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Intel's zingers and Yahoo's sticky fingers

Fatherhood is getting the better of me.

    Fatherhood is getting the better of me. New threats to my child's emotional well-being emerge daily, and sometimes I just don't think I'm up to the job of guiding a young soul through the harrowing storm of adolescence at the turn of the millennium. This week I confessed to my 12-year-old son Vermel that my parental responsibilities were becoming more than I could handle.

    "Son," I said, stubbing out my cigar, ever mindful of the kid's asthma, "I'm seriously considering putting you into open source development."

    Vermel took the news pretty well. He's long been an advocate of the open source model, so it would be hypocritical of him to object to it now. Open source is about sharing, and that's what the Internet is all about--especially when it comes to Yahoo's source code.

    Turns out that Yahoo appears to have been taking an open source approach to its Web design efforts, to the extent that arch-rival Netcenter has been noticing some uncanny similarities between the two portals' digital underwear. Until the Rumor Mill started working the phone, this My Yahoo page contained the following code:

    top.opener.alert('Sorry, you do not have Java enabled or you have elected to deny this preference change. Please use these instructions to change your home page manually or return to the Netscape Netcenter home page.')

    Yahoo, which quickly yanked the incongruous reference to Netcenter, could not say how it wound up there and had no response to Netscape's cries of foul coding. Asked how else it could have gotten there, our normally copious founts of information at Yahoo dried up like a California raisin.

    Speaking of, uh, sharing, perhaps we all could have benefited from the Intel developer conference in Palm Springs, where Intel security expert Greg Christiansen expounded on a new world order dictated by the value of intellectual property.

    "It is no longer physical capital that determines your wealth," said the infosec pro. "It is intellectual property that is increasingly the measure of wealth." The danger, he went on, is that "it has become easier and easier to steal. [There is] a subculture of people who are determined to destroy wealth as we know it!" (Sure I'm a Marxist!)

    Can a $30 billion company be considered subcultural? For that matter, is Intel? After all, the FTC happens to be investigating the chip giant for allegedly trying to force Intergraph to give up its property without royalties--was Christiansen guilt-tripping us, or plugging a new business model?

    However Netcenter's code wound up in Yahoo's domain, the latter is certainly more sinned against than sinning. A company flak notes that Yahoo has caught Web sites small and large eating from its coding trough--though she was too polite to name names. And it's no secret that portals far and wide--my employer not excluded--have learned liberally from Yahoo's look and feel.

    Portals have gotten so touchy-feely, sincerely flattering each other with imitation, that it's no wonder identical bedroom tropes are cropping up in their marketing campaigns. "Go from the dance floor to the trading floor in your pajamas," advises one oversexed Netcenter ad referenced in last week's column. And what do I find in Yahoo flaks' email sigs? "Shop in your pajamas."Bonne nuit!--why not just get it over with and tell us to surf naked?

    Before we leave the topic of pilfering pajama partyers, it's worth noting that you don't have to "borrow" source code to capitalize on the hard work of others. That's the principle behind what I like to call "typorn," the practice of setting up porno sites where poor typists are likely to find you. Like anazon.com, for instance (don't go there--it's dirty!). Or--my personal favorite--nrws.com.

    Web censors--I mean filtering software providers--are using typorn to hawk their wares, as this press release from Cybersitter reveals:

    "Porn Sites Hope Kids Can't Type," screams a suggested headline. "Site researchers at Solid Oak Software, the makers of the popular filtering program Cybersitter, are seeing an alarming trend by publishers of adult-oriented Web sites...Even children can be the victims of this scheme if they mistype the URLs to sites like Disney, Sony PlayStation, Mortal Kombat, and Beanie Babies...An example list of typical 'typo' sites has been provided for members of the press at the following address. This list is not intended for publication."

    Now I can understand the motivation behind setting up shop at "nrws.com." But why Cybersitter would publish a list not intended for publication is completely beyond me.

    It's worth remembering that you don't have to type badly to find sex on the Net. Witness the internetnews.com headline from this Reuters piece: "Virgin Offers Free Net Access."

    But before we let go of typos, reader Bill Yohman wants to know why Microsoft issued a press release saying that "Defense Secretary William Cohen and Microsoft Chairman and CEO Bill Gales agreed that the government and companies in the technology industry must work together to strengthen the national defense in the digital age."

    "Bill Gales?" Yohman writes. "Is this because of the hot air being piped out of Microsoft?" You're not going to pump any more hot air out of me--not until next time anyway. Meanwhile, blow some rumors my way.