Net Buzz

FRAMINGHAM (01/24/2000) - But filing the travel request might be worth a chuckle . . . and, well, you never know.

Docked at www.geekcruises.com, start-up Geek Cruises, Inc. of Palo Alto is the brainchild of Neil Bauman, "captain and CEO." The idea is simple enough: Geek Cruises reserves a few hundred cabins on a handful of Holland America's regularly scheduled vacation tours to Alaska and the Caribbean. Then Bauman enlists a lineup of expert speakers on topics such as Perl, Java, XML and databases. Voila: You've got a series of floating technical conferences, provided you can find enough geeks (easy) and enough gullible bosses (not so easy) to fill those cabins.

Bauman claims he has 75 commitments for the first cruise - a "Perl Whirl" to Alaska Memorial Day weekend. That's enough for him to break even and keep the cruise line happy, he says, with plenty of calendar time remaining for additional bookings.

So if you want to take a flier - just to see if the brass is awake - you might want to prepare by reading Geek Cruises' "Convincing The Boss" tips page.

Here's the first entry:

"Don't tell management you want to go on a cruise: Tell them this is a 'conference.' If necessary, tell them the 'conference' is in Alaska, but simultaneously emphasize the quality of the talks and the fact that the speakers are well-known authors."

Here's my advice should that tactic work: Be sure to have plenty of resumes on hand before boarding because you'll be job hunting once the cruise is over.

But think about it. Is Geek Cruises really that absurd? After all, corporations routinely rubber-stamp convention travel that sends employees on all-expenses-paid trips to the gambling and prostitution capital of America.

"As more bosses start thinking about [the cruise alternative] logically and practically, they're going to see the advantages," Bauman insists.

We should live so long.

We do not live in the sticks. Yet our local cable company says we shouldn't expect high-speed service until the fourth quarter . . . of 2001. Bell Atlantic says DSL "should be available" in about six months, a promise I wouldn't believe if James Earl Jones walked up to my front porch and insisted it was so.

According to International Data Corp., only 1.9 million out of 36 million online households in the U.S. had high-speed connections as of December. That's one-half of 1 percent. The IDC researchers predict those numbers will grow to 20 million out of 65 million wired homes by 2003, although what that means for my particular street remains frustratingly unclear.

Which is why a press release from iSKY, a fledgling broadband satellite service provider, caught my attention last week. The company landed a $50-million round of venture capital from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, TV Guide and Liberty Media. The money is but a fraction of the $750 million iSKY intends to spend in order to provide two-way satellite service to broadband-poor customers such as yours truly.

So when do I get to give iSKY my business?

Well, the company says it will start beaming to customers sometime late next year - in other words, long after Mr. Jones has taught me not to question his word, and perhaps even after my pokey cable company comes across.

Whatever happened to Internet time?

Condolences, gossip and Internet news tips to buzz@nww.com.

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