The Brown fella

For about half a second we thought the founder of the ill-fated PC Company, Colin Brown, had come up with a new venture when a name resembling his appeared as the sender of an email.

For about half a second we thought the founder of the ill-fated PC Company, Colin Brown, had come up with a new venture when a name resembling his appeared as the sender of this email.


Though judging from the public utterances of Brown of late, he might well have relocated to Africa.

Truth and reconciliation

If you haven't seen them, the 12 networking truths are well worth a look.

(1) It Has To Work.

(5) It is always possible to aglutenate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution. In most cases this is a bad idea.

(7) It is always something

(7a) (corollary). Good, Fast, Cheap: Pick any two (you can't have all three).

(10) One size never fits all.

(11) Every old idea will be proposed again with a different name and a different presentation, regardless of whether it works.

(12) In protocol design, perfection has been reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

Code read

The unintended release of an estimated 15% of the source code used to write Windows NT and 2000 "makes it easier" on hackers, Ken Dunham, malicious code intelligence director for security firm iDefense, told CNN. "Instead of trying blindly to get in, now you can just go in, see the lines of code, run it, test it."

Dunham and others spent hours looking for clues in the code, a mix of assembler, C and C++ programming languages in Zip files riddled with hidden notes and profanity (though whether they were penned in Redmond remains unknown). The leaked Windows 2000 code contained nearly 31,000 files and 13.5 million lines of code, he said, while the NT code had three times as many files and 28 million lines.

"You have a mixture of good code and junk that doesn't make sense," he said. "It looks like someone was playing around with it."

Several mentions were made of California-based software maker Mainsoft. The Microsoft partner reportedly gained access to the source code in 1994 to build applications that allow Windows programs to run on Unix servers.

Patent watch

Microsoft faces a trial in a patent infringement suit from California-based TV Interactive Data over the "autoplay" feature in Windows that automatically starts an application after storage media is is loaded into a PC.

The Indian government, meanwhile, says it will challenge GM champion Monsanto's newly granted patents on the wheat used for making chapati -- flat Indian bread to those who don't like curry. According to The Guardian, the patents give the US seed giant exclusive ownership over Nap Hal, a strain of wheat whose gene sequence makes it particularly suited to producing crisp breads. Another patent, filed in Europe, gives Monsanto rights over the use of Nap Hal wheat to make chapatis, which consist of flour, water and salt. Environmentalists say Nap Hal's qualities are the result of generations of farmers in India who spent years crossbreeding crops. Monsanto got the patent after buying the cereals division of Unilever in 1998, which got it from a publicly funded British plant gene bank.

And you're never too young to apply ... The New York Times reports that Dustin Satloff, a fifth grader at the Collegiate School in Manhattan, received his first patent at the age of 10. It was for a new way to play fantasy baseball with special trading cards. He's not unusual. About half of the 70 young people who competed to be selected for this year's National Gallery for America's Young Inventors have filed for patent rights.

Always on

And we think we've got it bad. Third-running Democratic presidential wannabe Howard Dean was reportedly taking questions from a crowd in New Hampshire voters when he was asked: "Governor Dean, can I pray for you?" The man started praying then and there. (It didn't help.)

A CNN producer typed a short email message into his BlackBerry wireless device about the prayer and the time -- "Live NBC Feed. 12:47:22" -- which meant CNN could find the comment, which was being filmed by a pooled crew from NBC. A few years ago the producer would have filed the story after the event, he said. "But there's more competition now, 24 hours a day."

Everybody's like the newswire services now, with deadlines every minute for print and web. Forget cellphones, BlackBerries and handhelds, that means more gadgets like cameras, wireless laptops and digital tape recorders. Batteries can now be charged on airplanes or using the cigarette lighter of a car. Flash sticks have replaced floppy disks and CDs. But is there any time to think?

Nazi erasure

Microsoft has released a tool allowing users of an Office 2003 font set to remove swastika symbols inadvertently shipped with the product. In December a customer discovered that the Bookshelf symbol 7 font, derived from a Japanese font set, contained two swastikas. Microsoft vowed to enable users to remove the ancient Buddhist symbol which was commandeered by the Nazis. Last week Redmond released an update enabling users to do just that. In the intervening two months, it had been in contact with Jewish organisations about the matter.

Love, perhaps

Brightmail spam filters detected 15 million junk emails riding on the back of Valentine's Day this year as against just over a million in 2003.

Naturally, not all were strictly relevant in their content to the expression of affectionate wishes and the giving of gifts to a loved one. Well, there were a lot of chocolates and stuffed toys on offer and some traditional spam marketing lines like adult entertainment and anatomical enhancement might be seen as having a vague connection, but that would be stretching a point, so to speak.

"Despite the lighter, romantic tone of some of the subject lines of these Valentine’s spam messages, many of them can pose a serious threat to email users by clogging up email networks of businesses or offending unwitting consumers with pornographic images," frowns Brightmail.

And non-internet marketing of romantic lurve is fine? Bah, humbug!

Browses with waterbuffalo

Those who have been following the evolution of Mozilla-derived browsers might be excused for feeling somewhat disoriented. What used to be known as the Phoenix browser tripped over a trademark conflict last year and was renamed Firebird. Oops. As open source people, the Mozilla-ites really should have known, there is an open SQL database development of that name in progress. So in the new year the Firebird browser suddenly became Firefox, complete with a new logo.

The firefox, we are solemnly informed, is another name for the red panda. One of our staffers speculated on whether they might eventually adopt Salvador Dali's "Burning Giraffe" as the next mascot. In emails among Computerworld staff discussing its features, it became variously Firedog, Firebog, Foxfur and others we can't recall. Some enterprising developers were clearly thinking similar thoughts and have produced an extension to the browser that renames the header and help menu with each newly spawned copy. FireMonkey, PowerOyster, WaterPig and SpaceFrog are only a few of the permutations on the standard list. Dali's variations on the burning giraffe can be explored here.

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