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Culture

Larry on the go is Java Expo no-show

You poor wretched souls. Anyone actually reading this column, while the rest of the world lingers for the remainder of these dog days on the beach or in a cool mountainside retreat, deserves a friendly pat on the head and scratch behind the ear.

    You poor wretched souls. Anyone actually reading this column, while the rest of the world lingers for the remainder of these dog days on the beach or in a cool mountainside retreat, deserves a friendly pat on the head and scratch behind the ear. But take heart, miserable curs--at least you're not in sweaty, muggy New York, and if you are, that's more than Oracle CEO Larry Ellison can say.

    Of course, you don't have a gargantuan luxury sailboat and a genuine Soviet jet fighter, as Ellison does, to help you explore the world's nether regions. And if you're anchored somewhere off Bimini, the Steamy Apple is everywhere you don't want to be. It's also the venue for this week's Java Internet Business Expo, perhaps the biggest gathering of the Java tribe outside the JavaOne shindig. The Larry is scheduled to keynote on Wednesday, but a veteran Skinsider and former busboy tipped me generously about a possible no-show. Sure enough, Oracle confirms that Larry has better fish to fry. As of this weekend, his bearded mug still graced the program guide, so it must have been a last-minute business conflict, yes? Illness, perhaps? Mais non: According to Larry's minions, he's still on vacation and out of the country. Caught in the trade winds sounds more like it.

    Those same winds must have been blowing in the Great White North this week, as Canadian software colossus Corel scrambled to assure people that, no, it wasn't flushing its Java development efforts down the toilette. It was however working on a middleware technology called Remagen that will let NT Server-based apps run on Java virtual machines. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the current state of Java business applications. "What Java business applications?" you ask. Exactly.

    I set my crack research team to the microfilm to check out this code word Remagen, which turns out to be a German city where a key WW2 battle unfolded. Apparently the Nazis had blown up every bridge across the Rhine except one, the Ludendorff bridge in Remagen. The advancing Allies found it, stormed it, and secured it as a key supply line across the river. OK, so Remagen is a bridging technology; I get that part of the analogy. But where does the rest fit in? Is Corel the Allied army and Microsoft the Nazis, or are the NT Enterprise troops storming the retreating, embattled Java front? Who thinks of these code names, anyway?

    Up in Redmond, the Softies are partial to cities for code names, too: Memphis, Nashville, Cairo, to name a few. A battle-tested Skinny ally passed along these alternate suggestions (my apologies to the original author, lost somewhere in the Internet chain-letter haze):

    Bataan: A team of programmers pull a series of all-nighters and drive themselves to the point of collapse in order to meet the release date.

    Stalingrad: The project turns out to be far more difficult than expected. Management responds by assigning more and more programmers to the development effort, but it ultimately fails.

    Jerusalem: The ultimate legacy application. Generations of hacks, fixes, patches, different operating systems, and changes of management have produced an application that is completely unmaintainable.

    Mumbai: For reasons best known to themselves, marketing tries to sell an existing well-known product under a new name. The typical response from customers is a blank stare, followed by "Oh, you mean Bombay."

    Excusez-moi if some of you have seen those already, but one can't always be hip and fresh. No one's as hip as the eight-year-old son of another veteran Skinformer; in his eternal pursuit for the hottest game play on the Net, he became perhaps the youngest tipster ever. According to his proud parent, he noticed that the Dreamworks games folk are asleep at the joystick. Prowling for game news, my mini-agent noticed they hadn't updated their announcements for quite a while, with their teaser for last June's E3 conference still posted two months later. OK, it's not earth-shaking, but give the kid encouragement now and in fifteen years, he'll be ratting out Mafia dons and corrupt CEOs.

    A much older tipster at a Silicon Valley start-up company might not work for a corrupt CEO, but judging by the chief's pep talk last week, he's linguistically bankrupt. Rallying the troops around the young company's recent financial success, the head cheese said, "Our commitment to the Street going forward is to be trending toward profitability." OK, stop, cut. It's time to blow the whistle on "going forward." It's up to each and every one of you to promise your Uncle Skinny never to say it again and spread the word to friends and colleagues. One sure way to cure someone of the gobbledygook habit is to interrupt--"but how are your prospects going backward?"--whenever the vile phrase oozes forth. It's so nice to have a soapbox of one's own. Now all I need is soap to put in it. If you have some, or perhaps some dirt to share, send me an email.