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Of Gates, golf, and garage doors

What is it with technology tycoons and sports anyway? Whether it's Gates and golf, McNeally on ice, or Ellison doing bar dips, these middle-aged geeks relish being seen on the playing field, damp in the underarms and breathing heavy.

On days when I'm not shamelessly mongering for rumors or teaching my ungrateful son Vermel how to reverse engineer Grandma DuBaud's dessert recipes, I do what every paunchy dad does: I play golf. But don't expect me to get Nike sponsorship anytime soon; Tiger Woods I am not. Vermel is an excellent caddy though, and seems to enjoy washing balls as much as he likes burying them in the sand trap.

Bill Gates enjoys the links too. On Thursday, a press release hit the wires declaring Gates the low net score winner of the Wayne-Dalton/Richard Karn Celebrity Golf Classic in Seattle. Big Bill must have been thrilled with his score, 57, and even more thrilled with his prize: a set of Wayne-Dalton garage doors. Whether Citizen Gates will retrofit his multimillion dollar cybermansion on Lake Washington to accommodate the garage doors was unclear at press time. Also uncertain was whether the doors would integrate well with Gates' domestic IT infrastructure.

Microsoft officials declined comment.

What is it with technology tycoons and sports anyway? Whether it's Gates and golf, McNeally on ice, or Ellison doing bar dips, these middle-aged geeks relish being seen on the playing field, damp in the underarms and breathing heavy. Ellison, for one, can't seem to go three months without getting a rope burn in front of the cameras on his racing yacht, Sayonara. Fundamentally, this sports obsession among IT titans must be a result of their being teased as kids. That's the case for me, at least.

Golf is a pastime--or a good walk wasted--for some. Others get their kicks from installing whatever software they find on the Net. For weeks, a leaked alpha version of Internet Explorer 4.0 has been wending its way across the Internet, finding its way onto the hard drives of hard core IE fans. Now, a number of those eager beavers are learning what "alpha" really means.

Usenet and Microsoft's own discussion groups are rife with complaints from users who've encountered untold problems with the software. Some have lost their cherished IE 3.0 Favorites folders, others have had their hard disks nuked. Alas, support from Microsoft has not been forthcoming for the rogue IE 4 users.

While impatient IE users contemplate the error of their ways, Microsoft is promoting funny numbers to show how the browser is gaining on Netscape Navigator. This week, the company issued a media alert saying that IE's market share was rising fast, citing as evidence two Web sites that track browser statistics, Interse and BrowserWatch. It turns out that the sites only track browser statistics on their own sites, not the entire Web. Meanwhile, Vermel is tracking my golf game, and he tells me not to expect to win a garage door anytime soon. Help me pay for my golf lessons and send me a tip pronto.