Co-founder of Microsoft, early supporter of commercial space flight, and major world philanthropist Paul Allen has already left a pretty large footprint on the world. Now it seems he's determined to leave his muddy tracks over some of the biggest names in tech.
Stories by Robert X Cringely
For a few weeks, I managed to keep this column a Microsoft-free zone (an increasingly rare situation anywhere). But this week the company we love to hate did not disappoint, giving Santa even more reasons to put rocks in their stockings.
All week I've been battling a sense of loss, like there's something big missing in my life (and not just romance). Then it hit me: I've got a hole the size of Comdex in my heart. I miss the neon, the hubbub, the brain-dead marketers and booth bimbettes, desert air so dry it turned my tongue to matzo, and gaggles of geeks in every direction. I tried to recreate the essential Vegas experience by seeking out insanely long cab lines and asking friends to blow smoke in my face while thrusting adult literature at me, but it just wasn't the same.
I've spent the past week playing with MSN's new beta search engine. Unfortunately, Redmond fixed the bug that displayed Google.com as the first hit when searching for the phrase "more evil than Satan". But I noticed the default location setting is Cupertino, California. Do you think Microsoft's planning a play for Apple?
When I broke off a budding relationship because she voted for the wrong guy, some of the Cringe faithful were appalled that I'd let politics get in the way of my, umm, pursuit of happiness. They called me elitist, obnoxious, and shallow. You'd think I'd dumped them instead of her. Jeez guys, I never knew you cared.
Looking at the steam coming off the mail in my inbox this week, I definitely need a place to lay low for a while. One reader kindly recommended Geek Cruises, where I could work on my tan and my Perl programming skills at the same time. He also thought it would help my love life but I'm not so sure. The brochures are full of guys with goatees and laptops — not exactly my idea of The Love Boat.
I know spammers are usually a few transistors short of a full circuit, but lately it seems like they've become even more addled. During the past week, I've been buried with spam for (ahem) personal enhancement pills from senders with names like Hiatus Q Emotive, Undulations L Sharlene, and Lapwing T Buttocks. I'm starting to miss the good old days when spammers went to some effort to fool you into reading their junk. Now they act like they just don't care.
So Yahoo published the results of its internet deprivation study last week, and I can't say I'm surprised. Subjects who had their net connections shut off for two weeks became disoriented and unable to look up phone numbers or read a map without a browser in front of them. Me, I can't live without the net for two minutes, let alone two weeks. I'd have to check into the Betty Ford clinic for bandwidth dependency.
You know it's been a strange week when you're mulling over cellular plans for your pet. But I seem to be doing just that. PetsMobility Networks is developing a phone that clips to your dog's collar. Fido can hear his master's voice and, I suppose, respond in kind. I'm not entirely convinced this is a good idea. I can just see Apache running up my cellphone bills with crank calls.
I get trade show invitations like my dog, Apache, gets fleas, but this one really stung: it was for the Honeymoon and Romantic Getaways Show. Do you think they'd let me go stag? Meanwhile, I took the suggestion of a reader and checked out eHarmony, but that 436-question personality profile you must fill out lasted longer than most of my relationships. I prefer to be a little more mysterious.
Perhaps I'm not cut out for this online dating thing. After my last experience with Janet Reno's spinster sister, I decided to go for youth and exuberance. So I had a cup of mango raspberry chai with Margo, a 25-year-old web programmer who spoke entirely in HTML. Things were going great until we got into a heated argument over Cascading Style Sheets, and then she climbed on her Segway and glided off. But she left me her IM handle, so maybe there's hope after all.
My whining about what to do now that Comdex is kaput prompted many helpful hints from the Cringe Crew. Readers suggested I attend Burning Man (sorry, but I'm too old), hit Gnomedex 4 (too tall) or take my chances at the craps table (too broke). Then again, I might adopt one reader's suggestion to drive the strip with a Wi-Fi scanner, warchalking casinos. I've always wondered what it feels like to get your legs broken.
It's another tragic day in Cringeville. Last week MediaLive International unplugged the respirator on Comdex, announcing that after 24 years the show must not go on. But like the swallows returning to Capistrano, I'm genetically programmed to return to Las Vegas every November. Now what am I going to do? I may just go there anyway to wander the desert, searching for my lost geek tribe. Then again, the Las Vegas convention centre has a stellar lineup of alternatives: there's a seminar on skin diseases, the International Bartenders' Association World Cocktail Championships and the Miss Rodeo America contest. I'd take any of them over another Bill Gates keynote.
Last week Irish rocker Bono joined Silicon Valley’s Elevation Partners -- a VC firm, not Viagra spammers. Although allegedly recruited to help EP identify new entertainment ventures, rumour has it Bono was really hired to sing with the VC’s garage band. Makes me wish I’d stuck with the ukulele a little longer. It could’ve been me out there making megabucks, promoting worthy causes and swearing like a sailor on live TV.
InfoWorld's compensation survey last week was a real eye-opener. Turns out my salary is somewhere between an IT helpdesk lackey and the guy who swabs out the loo. I stormed into my editor's office to complain, but he was out partying with Paris and Nikki Hilton. Guess he makes more than I thought.