The furry one finds himself in the middle of a messaging fracas

By R. Fink

The Rat has found little time to enjoy the new comforts of his well-appointed, though slightly scorched, corner office.

Although the disappearance of his erstwhile supervisor created a power vacuum into which the cyberrodent was serendipitously sucked, there was no one to suck into his own daily duties. So he's still doing them. He hasn't been making life easier for himself in his new role as acting information chief, either.

During a routine Internet sniff, the whiskered one discovered that agency employees were using electronic instant messaging services to conduct official business. That would have been fine if they were using the instant messaging service the Rat had recently set up under Lotus Sametime. Instead, most of the nattering nabobs were using a free public server and a combination of America Online Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. services to pass along official-use-only information.

The cyberrodent did what comes naturally. He blocked the port on the firewall. Suddenly all the nattering turned in his direction. Instead of firing off instant public exposure to co-workers, the squelched squawkers began firing off flaming e-mail to him'so many messages, in fact, that his mailbox crashed and had to be recovered from the previous night's backup.

Of course, it was all Microsoft's fault. In one of its rare efforts to be open, which, true to form, follows the company's embrace-extend-and-extinguish approach to openness, Microsoft created its own instant messaging client based on its Hotmail user base. It reverse-engineered access to America Online's Instant Messenger service so that users could use the Microsoft client to access their AOL buddies.

This torqued the folks at AOL, who changed their Instant Messenger to be incompatible with Microsoft's service'until Microsoft rehacked them.

As the corporate instant-message war raged, so did harassment of the furry one. The budget people, who had been shuttling numbers back and forth via instant messaging, threatened to cut the Rat's travel budget.

Appeals to the hierarchy didn't work, either. The sad fact was that many department heads had scoffed at the Rat's real-time internal communications system, saying their users had no need for it. And once the need was discovered via the Rat's port plug, they were reluctant to bow to the superior logic of a mere acting chieftain.

The wired one decided it was time to let them have their way'sort of. He has been picking up tips on handling upper management by watching HBO's mob series, 'The Sopranos.'

A rose by any name

'Effective immediately, all users will have access to instant messaging services,' declared the Rat in a policy statement. 'To ensure data security and prevent misuse or exposure of agency data, users must first register their Hotmail and AOL account names for posting on the agency intranet.'

A brief huzzah arose from the bowels of agency headquarters, followed by silence. Users pondered having their AOL screen names'which included such gems as hot4u and disgruntledfed'posted next to their pictures in the official directory.

Next day, things were back to normal. AOL had once again turned off Microsoft access to Instant Messenger users. And department heads were requesting quietly that Sametime client licenses be allocated for all their system users against their information technology support budgets.

'It's good to be king,' gloated the Rat.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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