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An AOL mole digs a Crockpot hole

There's something about long weekends that gets the Rumor Mill churning.

There's something about long weekends that gets the Rumor Mill churning. But while the in-box was getting pounded, I hung up my gumshoes, recharged the cell phone, and unpacked a box of cooking supplies Vermel's mother left behind along with me and the kid. There I found an old crock-pot, which miraculously still worked after all these crazy years.

That was no small blessing these days, when crock-pots are not only rife with leaks but also with moles. I'm not talking furry, blind insectivores or hairy, dark spots on your mama's nose. I'm talking about the type that sends a cold chill down security managers' spines.

As a colleague recently reported, an AOL community leader with the screen name of "Crockpot" had her account cracked last week by a system sleuth who made off with confidential information, including more than 1,300 user names and corresponding account numbers. That info has been making the rounds among the CL-loathing AOL cracker community, resulting in a rash of threatening phone calls rumored to include a death threat or two.

What went unreported is that a spotlight-hungry teeny-cracker (whose obscurity we need not tamper with) had an insider as a partner in crime. In a confession corroborated by an AOL Skinsider, the cracker writes:

"I had a AOL in-house employee reset the password to the remote staff employee 'Crockpot,' kinda like what Endo did to hack the ACLU. In Crockpot's mailbox was a file with the real name and screen names of 1,300 Community Leaders. I sent the file to five of my friends and they mass-mailed it to thousands. Endo called customer service. I did an inside job."

Despite the gloating, AOL says there's no indication that the job was done from within its hallowed halls. But rumors abound in the CL network claiming the deed was a conspiracy rather than a lone hack. Who knows what lurks in the service rooms of that corporate cross between Green Acres and Pandemonium.

Speaking of gargantuan halls of fire and brimstone, it seems the demons and convention-goers at Macworld had been mulling Wall Street speculation for days about the Magic Kingdom adopting the iMac. Many suits were whispering about a grand vision of "an iMac in every resort room." I'm sure Vermel would have been pleased if we escaped for a week's vacation to Mickeyville to find a transparent, aqua-blue console greeting us at the end of the monorail line.

However, all the chitter and chatter got to some people's heads, like those of my local colleagues who quoted unnamed sources saying the deal was on. Au contraire, mes amis! Speculation turned to dust and prompted the following statement that resembles a retraction: "Rumors of an Apple-Disney partnership were rife this week, but many erroneously thought Disney would announce that it was installing thousands of iMacs in its hotels around the world."

Speaking of surprises, AT&T recently sprung one of its own on consumers who had downloaded its image compression technology called DjVu, which the company says is kind of like JPEG but better. But along with their compressed images, users were signing up for an added bonus: spam. Here's the fine print:
"By installing the software," warned the terms of service, "you agree that AT&T, or third parties on AT&T's behalf, may send unsolicited email messages or other unsolicited communications to you."

The telco giant now says that the TOS clause was to "ensure that people who had the compressors would have access to the newest versions and improvements" to the product. But a spokesman adds that "due to the fact that people have had problems with this, we are going back to narrow that statement so that it would pertain just to sending unsolicited messages pertaining to this software." Ah, the power of an irate customer base!

What would be this column be without adding to an already hefty basket of Easter eggs? Murder-minded readers point out that the Microsoft Word thesaurus, when queried on the phrase "kill Bill Gates," recommends "kill by beheading." But on closer inspection, the digital wordsmith suggests the same method for "Bob Barker," "Bambi," and the immortal letter "B."

Likewise, astute readers have pointed out that a previously reported thesaurus egg--the one that responds to "I'd like to see you naked" with "I'll drink to that!"--has a wee crack in it. "I'd like to see you clothed" elicits the same response, as does the fragment "I'd." Also, the phrase "unable to follow directions," to which the Word thesaurus responds "unable to have an erection," shares that distinction with "unable to eat Viagra," "unable to get to the point," and "unable to end this column." I'm good at scrambling eggs, but unless you send me your rumors I'll get some on my face.