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Culture

The big ones that got away

Truer words were never spoken!

    Truth is the most valuable thing we have. Let us economize it.

    --Mark Twain

    Truer words were never spoken! The industry has been extremely wasteful this week with Truth, handing it out right and left as though it were an AOL CD-ROM or a Comdex invite. Rumor after rumor--stories that couldn't possibly have been true--one by one fell in line on the stern side of the Truth.

    First it was the Halloween memo, obviously the creation of hacker types who cut class, $p3ll lik3 thi$, and crack air traffic control computer systems for kicks.

    This was followed closely by Halloween II, leaving us in breathless anticipation of Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later, a remake starring Bill Gates as Michael Myers and Janet Reno as Laurie Strode's great-grandmother.

    Next it was the incredible tall tale that ABCNews.com posted election results before any votes were cast, and the ridiculous rumor that USWeb is run by space cranks.

    In other words, it was shaping up to be a good week. Until, that is, the dreaded Truth snatched each and every story out of my hot little hands. All the journalist types went gleefully to work, while we rumormongers tried to avoid hangovers by staying drunk.

    But if there is a sterner master than the Truth, it is the Deadline, and even if we are a day late and a dollar short, we are cheerfully obliged to entertain you until we can squeeze not one more suspect word from our addled brains, or until you click on over to drier pastures, whichever comes first. Bereft of rumors, we snatch at the crumbs of the business: anecdotes, spam, specious URLs.

    But wait! Here comes my assistant Trixie Pixel, running nimbly into my office in her spandex miniskirt and six-inch heels with Newton gossip in her hot little hands. The tale regards the multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by hardware vendor Harris Corporation against Apple for dropping the Newton. The inside dirt on this is that Apple had one tech support person, a contract employee, still hanging on by a thread after the Newton was dropped. Just a short while ago, Apple sent Newton licensees a pro forma notification that this employee was no longer with Apple and with him went support for the platform.

    Someone at Harris, still smarting over sleepless nights spent developing a Newton-based product, apparently remembered a clause in their contract that Apple promised to support the platform for five years from the date of signing. That date was to come due mid-1999 or thereabouts, Trixie's Skinformant said, so probably all Apple had to do was keep the employee on past that date and then fire him. His salary was probably somewhere south of the $17.2 million suit now staring Cupertino in the face--not to mention the cost of fighting it. The kicker? Harris has been seen waving a similar wireless handheld device around at Windows CE get-togethers.

    And that brings us to the spam portion of today's show, brought to you by the ghost of Sanford Wallace and dedicated to those of you who don't actually read this stuff when it lands in your in-box. Hot off the spam circuit, we have the following ditty, with words by the talented if obscure Brad Rhodes, and sung to the familiar Pirates of Penzance tune "Model of a Modern Major General":

    Bill Gates:
    I am the very model of a Microsoft Executive
    Work 16 hours ev'ry shift on days that are consecutive
    I make a line of software that is of the highest quality
    But leave in bugs to fix in upgrades in perpetuality.

    Though some might claim that we compete in ways that are not very just
    That's just vindictive rumor spun by folks who can't compete with us
    Besides they cannot prove a thing, no judge will ever take their side
    We'll crush them with our lawyers known for litigation far and wide.

    Men's Chorus:
    He'll crush them with his lawyers known for litigation far and far and wide!

    (snip)

    Gates:
    We made our Windows system one which we hold in propriety
    And tweak it every now and then to screw up Lotus 1-2-3
    Developing for Windows makes our competition often frown
    They haven't any choice--our system is the only game in town.

    We'll use people's inventions that will make our software sell the best
    Idea is the first step but the market is the real test
    And though we may use others' thoughts and intellectual property
    Stealing's such a nasty word, we like to call it R&D.

    Chorus:
    Stealing's such a nasty word, he likes to call it R&-R&D.

    Gates [faster]:
    My business tactics are compared with Henry Ford and Genghis Kahn
    They built me up from nerdy kid to billionaire and then beyond
    And while my competition spews out words full of invec-u-tive
    I am the very model of a Microsoft Executive!

    Chorus: And while his competition spews out words full of invec-u-tive
    He is the very model of a Microsoft Executive!

    Speaking of Microsoft, we all know how hard those guys work, but it turns out that Netscape workers get more done.

    Something just occurred to me about Gates and his recent attack of amnesia--isn't he rumored to have a photographic memory? I for one can't remember.

    We were talking about something, what was it? Oh yes, spam! There's more, though the expiration date may have passed on some of this stuff:

    "Imagine if instead of cryptic technoidal text strings, such as Error -32768," suggesteth the spam, "your computer produced error messages in Haiku that would read like this" (and here I quote selectively...):

    A file that big?
    It might be very useful.
    But now it is gone.

    First snow, then silence.
    This thousand dollar screen
    dies so beautifully.

    With searching comes loss
    and the presence of absence:
    "My Novel" not found.

    Windows NT crashed.
    I am the Blue Screen of Death.
    No one hears your screams.

    You step in the stream,
    but the water has moved on.
    This page is not here.

    Radio.com ace reporter Rose Aguilar doesn't have time for spam--she's too busy working the phones on the undigitized frontier, as this call placed to coupon giant Val-Pack shows:

    Aguilar: "Hi, can I speak to someone in PR about your new coupon Web site?"

    Val-Pack receptionist (age 50+): "Web site this, Web design that, Web, Web, Web...I don't understand all of this crap. What's the Web? Are you on the Web?" I may be on the Web, but that doesn't mean I get any of this crap either. Got a rumor? Clue me in