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Culture

Taking Notes on the AOL nastiness

The generation gap between Vermel and I hit me in the noggin last weekend when I took him to see Star Wars.

    The generation gap between Vermel and I hit me in the noggin last weekend when I took him to see Star Wars. Lucas's trilogy slithers in my subconscious like the slimy, one-eyed beast that yanks Luke Skywalker into the muck inside the Death Star trash compactor. I still think of Princess Leia every time I eat a cinnamon swirl, and for years, I stared affectionately at shaggy dogs on the street and some carpets as though they were Wookies.

    Vermel thought the movie was terrible. His words gouged a hole in my heart: "The special effects were cheesy--somewhere between Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Didn't they have computer animation back then? I could make a more realistic Death Star with my Mac." Did he spring from my loins? Maybe I should do a DNA check...

    While the kid dumped on one of my favorite flicks, SegaSoft, the software division of video gamemaker Sega, was putting America Online into an Imperial trash compactor. Its Web site is urging visitors to "trash AOL" using Web Vengeance , a program that lets users "assault someone else's Web site with a barrage of dirty diapers, cats, dynamite, maggots, cruise missiles, bird doody and other less pleasant items." Users can upload their, er, work to the SegaSoft site, which promises to give a thousand big ones to the most clever degradation of the AOL home page.

    Vermel loves this kind of cynicism and negativity, so I downloaded Web Vengeance and turned him loose on AOL's site. Speaking of cynicism, there's an amusing item circulating on the Net that lampoons Steve Case's plea that users stop spending so much time clogging up his network. In the grand Net tradition of phony press releases and news stories, the item juxtaposes a report on AOL with stories on Ford Motor asking motorists to limit the amount of time they spend driving Fords.

    "People are just using our cars too damn much," a fake Ford spokesman says in the bogus story. "They're buying them right from the dealerships and clogging up the highways faster than we can make them." The laughs keep coming with another story about hell, asking humans to stop sinning so much in order to relieve congestion in the underworld.

    Is it a sin for a company to sell a Web server but run its own Web site with a product from another company? You can ask Lotus and Quarterdeck which direction they think they'll go on judgement day. According to sleuths at Australia's Webmaster magazine, the two companies are using OPWB (other people's Web servers), even though they offer their own servers (Domino and WebStar).

    My friends down under used a clever server-spying tool from Netcraft that allows you to check what's under the hood of any Web site. While Lotus and Quarterdeck apparently don't get high on their own supply, Netscape, Oracle, and Microsoft all use their own products on their sites.

    Now that I bring up Lotus, I hear Notes 4.0 is a real memory sucker. My little birdies tell me that the latest release of the vaunted groupware product crashes frequently and has some users begging to go back to 3.0. I'm crashing after Vermel's savaging of Star Wars. I'm not a Jedi knight, but maybe you respond to The Force. Beware of The Dark Side and email me your rumors now.