Pop Korn and cheddar
Mole was tickled to read about the theft of a large quantity of cheese, in which the chief suspects were professional rivals who feared the producer was about to carry off first prize for his cheddar in a prestigious national competition. This would have been the third year the man's curd had been victorious and jealous fellow competitors apparently decided that enough is enough.
"They knew exactly what they were looking for," the man told reporters.
"They didn't touch any of my other cheeses."
The distressed cheese man is offering #2,000 for information leading to the return of his precious produce - a rather mean reward when you think that the haul is valued at #50,000. It won't make much difference to the real thieves. The newspapers, as usual, have missed the obvious explanation. This has all the hallmarks of a job by professional mice, who roam the west country in well-organised gangs and have strong links with rodent criminals overseas. The cheddar will be out of the country by now, gracing dining tables in America and Japan, no doubt.
Bill Gates is another who would never eat his own cheese if he could steal someone else's. A reader with sharper eyes than Mole spotted an interesting claim on that part of the Microsoft Web site devoted to fawning to the great man. Among countless pages of Billisms, including a selection of his stirring memos and the dreadful syndicated columns written for him by someone in his marketing department, is an advert which flashes up a list of Microsoft's inventions and technical breakthroughs - among them Windows, Altair 8800, 8086/BASIC. Also on the list is SCSI, which is strange because Mole had always imagined that SCSI was developed by Apple. Mr Gates already firmly believes he invented the graphical user interface, so it is entirely possible he is misappropriating other technical milestones as well. Next week, we learn how His Billness conceived the relational database while trying to remember a phone number, how he came up with the idea for the Internet as he was tucking into a plate of spaghetti, and how as a child he discovered that if you nailed frozen pizzas to a piece of wood you had a crude vehicle capable of carrying a passenger downhill at speed. He called this invention the "plank". (A colleague, who has since faded into poverty-stricken obscurity, took the pizza idea and ran with it. The so-called wheel went on to be moderately successful.)
When you become a product manager at Microsoft a large part of your brain is removed to make room for another soft substance that has no polite name but controls the output of product messages, positioning statements, USPs and other forms of marketing nonsense. Armed with this and a layer of impenetrably thick skin supplied by one of Bill Gates' bio-technology start-ups, the product manager is ready to smug it up with a bunch of PowerPoint slides in front of conference audiences.
These straightforward surgical procedures are usually successful, but in rare cases, the product manager simply crashes and ceases to work altogether.
An example was provided by Greg Sullivan, who addressed a conference of Unix diehards recently to spell out how Microsoft planned to wrap Unix scripting and other facilities around NT for the sake of compatibility with the installed base of systems and to take advantage of existing programming skills. It was all fairly dry, technical stuff of interest only to people with ginger beards until Mr Sullivan reached the bit about the Korn shell, a vitally important bit of the compatibility equation and the sort of thing that causes a lot of furious debate in the beard wearing community.
Korn shells come in a variety of brands and the one chosen by Microsoft, the MKS from Mortise Kern Systems, appeared to be troubling one member of the audience, a grey-haired man who got to his feet and asked Mr Sullivan whether Microsoft was sure it had made the right choice. "Yes, definitely, complete solution, compatibility, humbug, er, every confidence, customers' best interests, blather, busk, you can sit down now ..." replied Sullivan (Mole has lightly edited his actual words). But the grey-haired man persisted: "Are you sure?"
"Yes, definitely ... etc."
"Yes, definitely ... etc."
And so it went on, with the product manager leaning more and more heavily on the condescension pedal with each new rally, just like it teaches in the Microsoft marketing training manual.
Just when it looked as if the umpire would step in and order a tie-breaker, someone else got up from the audience and explained to Sullivan who the grey-haired man was. Almost for the first time in history a Microsoft product manager was lost for words. The rest of the audience wouldn't have heard them anyway - they were too busy laughing.
Had Mr Sullivan bothered to check the list of attendees he would have found that one of them was David Korn of Bell Labs, author of the original Korn shell.
More pointless publicity seeking by an IT company, this time by Shiva which has installed a man in a bed on Waterloo station. You can watch him lie there simply by going to the Shiva Web site (www.europe.shiva.
com/man-in-bed/). If the prospect of a jerky picture of a scruffy man in pyjamas does nothing for you, go and take a look instead at the altogether racier image to be found at www.vnunetmole.com/mole-in-bed/ and find out how Mole intends to spend the winter.
He will be getting up every week or so to check his Email, so keep it coming.
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