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Microsoft's bugs rouse the conspiracy birds

When a cell phone rings here in L.A., everyone in the room grabs their pockets like dancers in a Michael Jackson video.

LOS ANGELES--When a cell phone rings here in L.A., everyone in the room grabs their pockets like dancers in a Michael Jackson video. Cuz it's a thriller, chiller yeah! Hee-hee! Ow!! Usually it's an agent or a studio exec or someone's secret lover on the phone--"I told you never to call this number!"--but when my handheld hotline rings, it's Grandma DuBaud, reminding me to wear my sunscreen. The SoCal soleil is scorching even in early March, but not as hot as the Microsoft conspiracy theories rattling my mailbox.

All these browser bugs, security holes, and bad juju (oh my!) in the past week have stoked the embers of paranoia out there. Lots of folks remember the launch of Windows 95 and its online registration wizard that scanned users' hard drives and uploaded information--including the presence of competitors' software--back to Microsoft via the then-nascent Microsoft Network. All in the name of better "technical support," they said, but neglected to add that the support was for the MS marketing team. (Nota bene: The wizard only uploaded info if the user clicked OK.)

Now the IE bugs are buzzing and the whispers are hitting the mill again, charging that Microsoft has deliberately left holes in its browser to pick up where the registration wizard left off and gather Win 95 users' system information. The "proof"? According to some theorists, the browser holes don't affect IE on Macintosh. Until they come up with something better than that, this rumor stays in the spider-eggs-in-the-Pop-Rocks category.

While Microsoft's recent troubles have no doubt gladdened the heart of many an opponent, the Team Gates fan club is crying enough tears to soak the shores of Lake Washington. Their devotion to the Supreme Paramount Leader is inspiring, except for one eensy-weensy problem. The Team Gates site runs on Solaris 2.5 on an Apache server. What's wrong, guys, NT and IIS don't cut it? Hey Bill, with fans like those, who needs enemas--know what I'm saying, big guy? Team Gates runs the following disclaimer, by the way: "Microsoft Corporation in no way endorses or is affiliated with Team Gates, although some members of Team Gates either work or is [sic] affiliated with Microsoft Corporation."

His empire may not be as lucrative as Rancho Redmondo, but Bruce Lehman, head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is a pretty big fish in a very big pond. He's put heavy pressure on international organizations to make it easier for corporations to copyright data in cyberspace. Noting that one of Lehman's top PTO assistants is leaving, one of my Skinformers says odds are not unfavorable in D.C. that Lehman is next to go. He has upward political ambitions, says another Beltway Bigmouth, and has some payback coming after doing heavy lifting for Clinton in Geneva last December and during the recent presi-denture campaign. Billie Jean is not my lover, and neither is Billie Gates. But you can seduce me by sending me a rumor.