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Netscape is hot, but sprinklers may cool the Net

While my colleagues sip egg creams this week in the Big Apple at the Netscape Developers Conference, I'm athome with a bad case of giardiasis and a nagging kid.

While my colleagues sip egg creams this week in the Big Apple at the Netscape Developers Conference, I'm at home with a bad case of giardiasis and a nagging kid. I'm not sure which is worse. I'd like nothing more than to schmooze with Marc, Bark, and Clark in New York, but I'm resigned to rely on my East Coast operatives to do the skinny-dipping, so to speak.

"Poppa, will you embrace and extend some money to me?" Vermel asked the other day. Clearly the kid has been reading the trade press too much if he's borrowing marketing slogans from Microsoft. Likewise, Netscape is borrowing Microsoft's now famous "embrace and extend" marketing slogan. In New York this week, the Mozilla thrillas announced that the company will "embrace and integrate" ActiveX, OLE, and COM technologies into Navigator.

Want to know my reaction to Netscape and Microsoft's tired slogans? "Reject and expectorate." We should declare a two-year moratorium on all slogans containing two verbs separated by a conjunction.

Netscape's not even sure how much of Microsoft's technologies it will embrace. The inside word from the show is that the company has no immediate plans to support ActiveX controls in its new Communicator client software, though it will support an older technology, OLE controls. Still, the company made no attempt to clarify these plans to press and analysts this week, thereby making its embrace of Microsoft's technologies seem a bit more passionate than it actually is.

Software, of course, is the topic of the entire Netscape conference. But seething beneath the surface of the event is a more pressing issue: underwear. In New York, Netscape plied press and analysts with the standard trade show gimme, in this case a delightful pair of boxer shorts adorned with Netscape press headlines. The underwear didn't make it to London though, where the Netscape event was simulcast via satellite. Apparently, giving boxers away in Britain is considered borderline vulgar. The Netscapers wanted to avert a diplomatic crisis so they gave out pens instead.

The world doesn't revolve around New York, though its inhabitants think so. Down in Virginia, for example, there's an ISP disaster waiting to happen. Last week, Californians appreciated the extent of their Net dependency after a couple of wayward rats shorted out power at the Stanford Computer Center, a major hub of Internet traffic.

In Virginia, a similar Internet hub, called Mae-East (managed by MFS Communications), has rather anemic defenses against harm. A good deal of the Mae-East equipment is housed in a cinder block room on the other side of a parking lot. According to visitors to the facility, a small overshoot by a zealous car parker and there will be a Cisco 7000 router on someone's radiator grille. The facility also has a sprinkler system that's just waiting to rain on Mae-East's routers at the first sign of fire. You'll rain on my parade if you don't send me a rumor. Like a sweater, I smell funny when I'm wet.