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Java puts peddle to the metal

I was chasing a one-armed systems integrator down a dark alley the other night when a cramp in my side stopped me short.

I was chasing a one-armed systems integrator down a dark alley the other night when a cramp in my side stopped me short. I cursed my fate as the rogue, who had promised to relay a tip on Microsoft's rewritten contracts with ISPs, disappeared in the fog. "Extra Stairmaster time for you, mon vieux," I promised myself. It's now two weeks later, my back is killing me, and my arches have fallen, but at least the belly hanging over my belt has melted away. What is it that suave man used to say? It is better to look good than to feel good, yes? I wouldn't be surprised if the makers of Java have been saying exactly the same thing.

Programs written in Java, which needs an extra "interpretation" step to run, will never feel as good--or at least as fast--as programs written in compiled languages such as C++. So the Java brain trust has decided to let programmers make their handiwork look mahvelous. Metal works For your perusal, le Moulin des Rumeurs has obtained a peek at the new face of Java, nicknamed Metal, which was made available last week. With Metal, Java programmers will be able to add a standard Java look and feel to their apps, just as Windows and Macintosh apps have a certain recognizable interface.

Strange that they couldn't come up with something a bit more original. The only thing heavy about this Metal are the echoes of other operating systems. My trusted graphics gurus saw the screen shot above (just a mock-up; it doesn't represent a real application) and instantly played "spot-the-reference." The grayscale and font look like Mac OS System 8, some of the controls whisper of Windows 95, but the overall feel is akin to the X-Windows Unix interface. Nothing wrong with a little flattering imitation, of course. But Metal could be a marketing strategy as much as anything else. Sun is making a push this year to squeeze profit from Java, and no doubt the conservatively familiar face is meant to encourage more client-side Java development, not only on the desktop but on smaller devices such as cell phones and PDAs. After all, a screen shot of a real Java program is worth a thousand Tumbling Dukes.

There were unhappy faces a-go-go at last week's BancAmerica Robertson Stephens Tech 98 financial conference in San Francisco. BARS chairman Sandy Robertson may be tight with the nation's chief executive, but Clinton's speech at the conference has put Sandy in hot water with a gaggle of other corporate commanders. The prez not only upstaged but unstaged several companies that planned to use the high-profile capitalist confab to spin their wares to the press, financial analysts, and potential investors.

Because of Bill, presentations that had been locked in for months were shuffled off to side rooms or canceled altogether. My secret service tells me that one large tech company wanted to use center stage to announce a merger but decided to keep the news to itself, at least temporarily, when it lost the spotlight.

All that, and Clinton didn't even show up on time. His speech was short and anticlimactic, but one institutional investor overheard in the elevator of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was still googly-eyed: "I could see these other guys any day, but how often do I get to see Clinton?"

If you're vulture capitalist John Doerr, the answer is probably "pretty damn often." Doerr's name is starting to crop up as a national officeholder, and not just because it rhymes with "Gore" and "2004." With the efforts of his TechNet lobbying group, some say that J.D. has the ears of the head cheese and the vice cheese. Clinton didn't alter that impression by giving Doerr, along with Marimba CEO Kim Polese and other young tech execs, a few minutes of face time last week.

Doerr has also become fodder for societal name-dropping. In the lead "Talk of the Town" item in a recent New Yorker, the magazine's editrix Tina Brown oohed and aahed about a White House dinner she attended. No more than five paragraphs into the article, she gratuitously mentioned bumping into Doerr, who no doubt wore both his pagers under his cummerbund.

Inquiring minds are wondering what the San Jose Mercury News is hiding behind its newly acquired domain name "siliconvalley.com." The URL, which the Valley's paper of record secured back in December, according to InterNIC records, houses a copy of the Merc's Web site. The Mercury Center is now on the Web in triplicate, as it also occupies "sjmercury.com" and "mercurycenter.com." This could simply be a case of casting a wide Net, but my silicon implants tell me that there's something afoot, and the extraneous URLs are in fact a holding pattern for some major Web expansion in the works. Could it be that the Merc is finally dedicating a separate site for its touted tech coverage? Stay tuned. You can help expand my Web coverage by dropping a few names in my in-box. I can't guarantee you face time, but you will bring a smile to my unshaven face.