Weekly Wire
Nashville Scene Still a Nerd -- But a Rich Nerd

Gates gets humiliated...again.

By James Hanback Jr.

MAY 4, 1998:  Bill Gates is still a nerd. As most of America knows by now, the computer-industry mogul was embarrassed by his own Windows operating system in front of the whole world last week. While attempting to demonstrate Windows '98 at Chicago's Comdex Spring Computer Show, the system crashed, leaving Microsoft's chief executive officer with little more to say than, "I guess we still have some bugs to work out. That must be why we're not shipping Windows '98 yet."

According to reports on the Internet, Windows shattered when a Gates underling attempted to plug a scanner into the computer being used to demonstrate the software. Gates was forced to move to another computer to complete his demonstration. This is the second time this year that Gates has suffered public humiliation--the first being in Brussels in February, when he got a cream pie in the face.

More is likely on the way: Of late, the computer industry is up in arms about the seeming lack of coverage regarding Microsoft's most recent public-relations move. In an attempt to draw popular support, the company reportedly planned to fake letters to the editor and opinion pieces in newspapers and other media around the country.

Microsoft insiders have denied that such a plan was going to be implemented, although they reportedly admitted to Internet news services that it had been discussed.

Does all this embarrassment mean that underdogs like Sun Microsystems and Apple Computer Inc. are going to catch up to the market-dominating computer software giant?

Not likely. Unfortunately for other computer-industry manufacturers, people usually stick with what they know (or what's most popular), even if it doesn't work as well as another product. It's human nature: People may feel a little satisfaction when one of the richest men in the world gets kicked in the can, but it doesn't mean they're going to stop buying his products.

All the negative publicity aside, Gates' operating system isn't the first to crack under the pressure of a public demonstration. At a 1996 Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Apple Computer employees encountered a few snafus while demonstrating the 20th-anniversary Macintosh to a crowd of anxious Mac fanatics. (Remember, this was at the height of the rumors that Apple was dying.) Apple executives attempted to display a map of the world on their demonstration computer, but the system wouldn't cooperate. That year's Macworld Expo ended on a rather sour note as a result.

Since then, however, Apple has hit a comeback stride, proudly strutting its stuff in television commercials poking fun at Intel and its Pentium II processor. In other words, no matter how many times they're pantsed in public, the nerds will usually hoist their suspenders and continue about their business. Don't expect Gates to be any different.


One good Apple

Apple Computer Inc. wants interim chief executive officer and cofounder Steve Jobs to head the company on a permanent basis. This is no surprise to anyone who has been watching Apple's profits grow since Jobs took the temporary position last year.

Insiders reported on the Internet that Jobs would likely be pressed to decide for certain if he'll stay with the company. From the beginning, he indicated that his appointment as chief executive was not a permanent deal.

When Apple first took off for corporate America in the 1970s, Jobs felt the company needed leadership more familiar with the territory, so he hired the former chief of PepsiCo, Mike Sculley. But apparently Jobs had the stuff of leadership all along. This month, the company reported its second straight quarterly profit--surpassing its first-quarter profit of $45 million with a whopping $55 million second quarter.

Apple says the profits are a result of Jobs' leadership, scaled-back costs, and its powerful G3 line of computers, which are aimed mainly at the printing and graphics industries.

What's in a name?

A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of Panavision International after a legal battle over the domain names "panavision.com" and "panaflex.com." Both names are trademarked by Panavision.

According to Internet reports, the two domains were registered by private citizen Dennis Toeppen, of Champaign, Ill., who offered to sell Panavision the panavision.com domain for $13,000. It was cheaper, he said, than suing him.

Not so, said the courts, who informed Toeppen that his acts were a form of extortion against Panavision, adding that his actions violated trademark-dilution laws. In other words, Toeppen's acts weakened the trademark's connection to its owners. The trademark scam is called CyberPiracy, and, according to Internet reports, this was an appellate court's first ruling on such a matter.

Further investigation of Toeppen's activities indicated he had registered more than 100 domain names using the trademarked names of popular companies, including Delta Airlines, Neiman Marcus, and Eddie Bauer.

Hacked off

The Pentagon announced last week that its computer system is not as secure as it should be. The announcement comes after research into how several teenagers broke into unclassified sections of the Pentagon's computers earlier this year.

Government officials hired an outside research team to play a cyber war game with the Pentagon's equipment. Reports indicate the team was highly successful. Officials also said the Pentagon would be working on sealing security holes, as well as watching for information on the latest hacker "techniques."

James Hanback Jr. is systems administrator for the Scene. Send e-mail to james@nashscene.com.

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