Bits and Bytes

Is Bill Gates out as Microsoft’s chairman? Not exactly.

Capitalizing on the cult film, “Napoleon Dynamite,” Microsoft kicked off its recent Professional Developers Conference with a video spoof showing how the film’s anti-hero comes to work as a programmer for the company.

Jon Heder, the actor who plays Napoleon Dynamite, later beats Gates in a slapping match to become the software giant’s boss. The nerd icons are seen together in ill-fitting brown suits at Microsoft’s headquarters.

The spoof’s last scene features Gates scurrying into the office of the boss—Napoleon Dynamite.

In the October 1995 issue of ADT, Andrew “Flip” Filipowski, Platinum Technology president and CEO, fresh off of “having gobbled up 15 or so companies,” predicted the future of the software market. “Every signal, if one believes history, tells us that we have gone to the extreme of chaos. With all of the consolidation and acquisitions, by the end of the decade there will be no more than 12 leading software companies.”

Editor John Desmond offered a prediction of his own in Travels of the Editor. “Current estimates of the number of users able to access Internet services indicate 38 million worldwide… By the year 2000, 100 million hosts are expected to have Internet connections, and more than $1 trillion in transactions is projected.”

Neale Hirsh broke down the reality of performance threats in Back of Envelope, Performance Modeling Protection for Developers. He claimed: “Like most art forms, application development has its share of myths. One is that if a program code is clever and efficient, the application is guaranteed to produce acceptable response time and throughput.”

Hirsh proposed techniques to ensure an acceptable response time, “from the straightforward and low cost (Rules of Thumb) to expensive and time-consuming (using benchmarking).”

Authorities in Delhi authorized the use of RFID chips to thwart a popular scam concerning the ownership of cows.

An earlier ruling by the Delhi High Court required the government to award $45 to anyone turning in one of the city’s 40,000 stray cows to a new owner. The new owners would too often turn the cow over to another owner, claiming it was a stray, to collect the reward for themselves.

Now, an RFID chip will be placed in a cow’s stomach after its first capture.

Paging Dr. Spammer…

Healthcare-related spam, promising everything from the latest in crystal therapy to superhuman powers, makes up the majority of unsolicited e-mail, according to the ClearSwift Spam Index. While some offer cures to dysfunctions, others guarantee big winnings and high rolling. Gambling spam has increased 1,500 percent in recent months, spurred by the World Series of Poker and football season,” ClearSwift says.
Spam Breakdown by Category:
Direct Products:13.96%
Spam Related:0.12%
SOURCE: ClearSwift, based on analysis of millions of spam e-mails harvested by ClearSwift’s seed accounts

The Indian outsourcing industry is compiling histories of all its employees to combat data fraud. Though voluntary, the system has the backing of India’s main software trade body, and the records are controlled by a government- mandated electronic depository.

Companies can scan prospective employees and may use the histories as a prerequisite for employment. The effort is in reaction to high-profile data theft cases from Indian call centers. In one instance, employees of a firm hired by Citibank were accused of scamming four Citibank customers out $350,000.

De-coder: Hummer Laptop GM’s Hummer won’t be “like nothing else” much longer. Itronix is fashioning a laptop inspired by the multiterrain vehicle. As with Hummer’s reputation for durability, the notebook takes a licking, but the user keeps on clicking.

Itronix, which makes PCs for the military, is branching out into the civilian sector with this semi-ruggedized design built to withstand vibration, temperature extremes, bumps, knocks and spills.

The outdoorsman who wants to stay connected, or the construction crew looking for a heavy-duty mobile computing solution, may like this $2,998 laptop, which Itronix expects to ship in November.

Activists from Greenpeace heaved a half-ton of used PCs outside the Bangalore headquarters of Wipro, one of India’s largest outsourcing firms, and a builder and seller of PCs.

In preparation for the dump, the activists collected ditched Wipro-brand computers from recycling yards in Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore. The protest was meant to highlight the spread of chemicals being released into the environment during electronic waste recycling. According to a recent Greenpeace report, electronic waste recycling releases heavy metals, such as lead and cadmium, acids and organic contaminants into the environment.

The Karnataka Pollution Control Board recently served notice to Wipro for allegedly disposing and storing electronic waste at illegal recycling yards.

According to various reports, Wipro says it’s reviewing its practices into electronic waste disposal. Wipro doesn’t have a take-back program for its computers except when it upgrades customers’ computers. The outsourcing firm also says the toxic chemicals in PCs are difficult to track because manufacturers and suppliers must work together; Wipro only assembles PCs in its facility and doesn’t make the parts themselves.

Have you been fleeced by a ticket scalper? With FatLens, you may do better next time. is designed to help users get deals on hardto- find and hard-to-afford tickets. It displays pricing and availability information from dozens of agencies and auction sites.

“As the only search engine that searches all across the Web for tickets, FatLens has a unique lens on the reality of the ticket market,” claims Nanda Kishore, FatLens CEO.

If the NFL is your ticket, FatLens knows the score. Pricing trends show ticket prices track Super Bowl odds, so expect to pay more to see contenders such as the New England Patriots or Philadelphia Eagles. Look for your golden ticket at

Normally cheerful Britons are being asked to suppress their smiles for passport photos to avoid confusing airport facial recognition security systems.

The U.K. Passport Service issued guidelines, insisting that photos “must show their full face looking straight at the camera, with a neutral expression.” Additionally, hair cannot cover the face and the mouth must be closed.

Bernard Herdan, UKPS chief executive, claims, “These new guidelines are an important step in the development of the new biometric ePassport and use of facial recognition technology that will be introduced in 2005 as part of the ongoing fight against fraud and international terrorism.”

Software companies enjoy somewhat more loyalty from their customers than hardware makers, according to a recent study by Walker Information. The 2005 Walker Loyalty Report for Software and Hardware examines customers’ attitudes, experience and perceptions of software and hardware companies across eight sectors: CRM, enterprise apps, desktop, infrastructure, mass storage, servers and workstations, networked storage and networking equipment.

Fifty-six percent of U.S. software customers are ranked truly loyal, whereas 50 percent of hardware customers fall into that category. In Europe, software companies earned a 42-percent truly loyal score compared to 40 percent for hardware. Walker Information defines truly loyal customers as those that have positive attitudes toward vendors and expect to continue to do businesses with them.

Hardware companies lag behind their software counterparts in earning customer loyalty because product commoditization makes it difficult for vendors to differentiate themselves. By developing apps that cater to businesses’ specific needs and tasks, software makers have the edge to forge ongoing relationships with enterprises.

One in four IT customers on both continents feel trapped, meaning their commitment to the vendor is weak, but they expect to continue doing business with these vendors. Nineteen percent of all those surveyed are at high risk to ditch their current vendors.

Walker received more than 18,000 brand evaluations from 5,475 respondents in the U.S. and Europe. The leading loyalty vendors are Adobe Systems, Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Sun Microsystems and Symantec.

Truly, Madly, Loyally

U.S. responses
Software sectorTruly loyalHigh risk
Hardware sectorTruly loyalHigh risk
Servers & workstations5516
Networked storage5518
Networking equipment4821
Mass storage4025
European responses
Software sectorTruly loyalHigh risk
Hardware SectorTruly loyalHigh risk
Networked storage4320
Servers & workstations4221
Networking equipment4028
Mass storage3333
Source: Walker Information; based on 18,089 brand evaluations from 5,475 respondents in the U.S. and Europe

A software developer fired for having the audacity to eat co-workers’ leftover pizza claimed the title Grand Prize “Loser” in a Web contest to identify the most outrageous firing.

The offended co-workers, who apparently planned to take the remainder of the pie home, reported James Garrison to management. The situation snowballed, and he was fired a month later.

Other contest finalists include a programmer who wrote code that contained a “STUPID” error message, and a techie that “sent off the bundles by internal mail to Michael Finn” instead of microfilm.

The site,, solicits stories from those who got fired and awards monthly prizes for the most ridiculous reasons.

Going Mobile Toshiba is shipping 2- and 4-gigabyte hard disk drives that measure 0.85 inches in diameter—about the size of a postage stamp. The drives are starting to appear in mobile devices, including cell phones and digital audio players. Imation recently implemented Toshiba’s 2GB 0.85-inch diameter HDD in its Micro Hard Drive, a portable consumer device.

Routine computer housekeeping deleted almost 1 million U.K. taxpayer records from 1997 to 2000, according to a recent report by the House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee. More than 360,000 taxpayers who can’t be identified are missing out on about a total of $149 million, while 22,000 taxpayers owe a total of around $11 million.

Inland Revenue, a department of HM Revenue and Customs, admitted last year it accidentally deleted files from its income tax database, the national pay-as-you-go system. For more than 10 years, the PAYE database’s housekeeping function deletes records when they’re more than 3 years old with the assumption that cases will be closed by then. The department eventually developed a backlog, but the function continued even for cases still open, the report said. Open cases included people who left work or moved away from the U.K. Inland Revenue first realized the files were deleted in 2003, when it implemented a new system to monitor PAYE. It now stores deleted cases in a backup file so they can be restored if necessary, and the department now deletes cases after 6 years.

The department is negotiating with Electronic Data Systems, its previous IT services provider, for compensation for what it considers unsatisfactory system performance. EDS isn’t accepting the findings of an independent arbiter, and Inland Revenue is considering legal options.

What technology is expected to dominate the industry in the coming years? Gartner answers this question with the 2005 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. “The IT industry is awash with hype and buzzwords,” claims Alexander Linden, a Gartner analyst. “The Hype Cycle cuts through this to offer an independent overview of the relative maturity of technologies in any given domain.”

Gartner identifies three themes enterprises should watch, as well as individual technologies in those areas.


  • Peer-to-peer VOIP
  • Really Simple Syndication
  • Corporate blogging

Next-Generation Architecture

  • SOA
  • XBRL
  • Business process platforms

Real World Web

  • Location-aware applications
  • RFID
  • Mesh networks—Sensor