Down to the Wire

IT'S TIME ONCE AGAIN for the Down to the Wire General Protection Fault (GPF) awards. Ironically, although Microsoft exhibited its most outrageous behavior ever in 1999, it only hobbles away with two awards and one honorable mention. Microsoft has lost so much credibility that much of its behavior is no longer shocking or entertaining and therefore not worthy of an award. Here's hoping Microsoft rebuilds its image and returns to its former GPF award status.

This year's winner of the "beverage through the nose" award goes to the Alibi Agency for its slogan, "Our aim is total peace of mind for you and your family." For a modest fee, this agency will provide alibis to adulterers so they can continue to keep their infidelity secret.

The honorable mention for "beverage through the nose" is the expression "Embedded Windows NT." I can't wait until Sony releases an Embedded NT CD player that lets you listen to music as you jog: The Sony Wheelbarrow Man.

The "most effective proponents of free software" award goes to those who devised the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA). UCITA is so dramatically anti-consumer that it could be the deciding factor that ensures the future success of free software. Free software, especially that which is protected by the GNU General Public License, is essentially immune to the anti-consumer effects of UCITA.

The "bury the gold" award goes to Hewlett-Packard, which makes HP OpenMail 6.0.

HP is sitting on a potential gold mine, but it is afraid to start digging.

OpenMail runs on a variety of platforms, including Red Hat Linux, Sun Solaris, IBM AIX, and HP-UX. OpenMail is not only a drop-in replacement for Microsoft Exchange, it is faster, more scalable, more stable, less expensive, and performs some tasks more intelligently than Exchange. But HP won't market OpenMail as an Exchange replacement. HP is petrified of what Microsoft might do in retaliation.

The "spinach in the teeth" award goes to Red Hat Software. I've heard a lot of complaints about Red Hat Linux 6.1 although, personally, I believe it's an excellent distribution. I think I can account for the discrepancy, however. Red Hat was one of the last to deliver a graphical installation for Linux. I get the strong impression that folks at Red Hat resent the fact that people even want a graphical installation program. So it comes as no surprise that the one Red Hat finally delivered runs like someone slapped it together over the weekend so Red Hat could put a check mark in the features list. Red Hat underestimated the value of a good first impression.

The "company that eats its young" award goes to Microsoft. Microsoft wanted to demonstrate in court that Windows performance will suffer if you remove Internet Explorer. To make this point, Microsoft delivered a marketing film that simulated the alleged performance degradation by using two different computers with two different configurations loaded with two different sets of software. Microsoft spokesman Jim Allchin then presented the film as if it were scientific evidence. Microsoft earns the award because I believe Jim Allchin was truly unaware the film had no scientific value. If I'm right, whoever concocted the bogus benchmark was fully aware Allchin would look like a complete fool on the stand if the deception was exposed.

Speaking of the Microsoft trial, the award for "best trial coverage" goes to the comic strip Help Desk at Chris Wright has an uncanny way of stating the truth and keeping you in stitches while doing so. The relevant strips are at

The "amateur spy" award goes to the creativity-challenged fellow at Microsoft who couldn't think of a fake name more clever than the spoonerism "Phil Bucking". (Spoonerisms change phrases such as "Slow Job" into "Joe Slob.") When Microsoft went to war with America Online over Internet instant messaging, this Microsoft employee donned the alias "Phil Bucking of Bucking Consulting" to masquerade as an impartial third party concerned about a potential AOL security hole. At first, "Phil" accomplished his goal and generated bad press for AOL.

But the strategy ultimately backfired when the complaint was traced back to Microsoft. Perhaps he should have tried a more imaginative name like Ben Dover and sent his e-mail from somewhere other than the Microsoft campus.

Nicholas Petreley is editorial director of LinuxWorld (

Reach him at

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