PACKET RAT

Uh, oh'the wired one finds his two worlds on a collision course

R. Fink

The Rat congratulated himself on surviving the first round of negotiations for funding his furtive private-sector foray.

Through the scheme, he would give away recycled vintage government PCs as Internet computers under the rMachines label in exchange for monthly Internet service and maintenance contracts [GCN, Aug. 30, Page 82].

It was time for the cyberrodent to head home after turning over the final negotiations with the venture capitalists to his Las Vegas attorney. Though not a specialist in contract law, the Rat's canny consigliere had taken out enough contracts in the past that the whiskered one had complete confidence in him. Besides, the Rat had to deal with his day job back at the agency.

Well rested'or at least, well, rested'from his sojourn in California's wine country, the cyberrodent decamped to his temporary corner office. He left his significant other, the marketing genius of rMachines Inc., to work her magic. As he began deleting the 1,843
e-mail messages that had cyberstuffed his mailbox during his absence, he resumed plotting to end his reign as the agency's acting information technology department chief.



But he didn't plot fast enough. The last e-mail came from political-appointee land to inform him that he had been selected to attend CIO University.

'Like I have time for this now,' lamented the burrow-dweller. 'My candle's already lit on both ends.' Clearly, someone was bent on turning the Rat into a suit, despite his well-tarnished service record.

Meanwhile, back at the burrow, Mrs. Rat lined up her first marketing masterpiece. 'I've nailed down the perfect venues to reach our target audience,' she told the cyberrodent over Internet chat.

'Flea markets,' Mrs. Rat pronounced. 'And craft shows. Where else do people succeed at selling repainted junk at 500 percent markup?'

The Rat considered commenting, but as it was an unsecured communications channel, he decided discretion was the better alternative. You can never tell who is packet-sniffing these days.

So, while the Rat cleared his in-box and spied on his minions, his better half set the ratlings to packing rehashed, predistressed Zenith Z-248s into cheddar-colored boxes. The software czar of rMachines'the Rat's nephew'protested over the packing.

'I haven't loaded the Internet software on those boxes yet!' he cried. 'And we haven't tested the modems, either.'

'If the modems don't work, that's billable service,' Mrs. Rat smirked. 'And customers can download the software off the Web or pay for on-site installation.'

'But they can't get to the Web without the software,' he replied.

Pure capitalism

'Precisely,' nodded Mrs. Rat. 'Isn't this a great business model?'

While his better half flexed her business acumen, the Rat was about to receive a rude surprise. His head underling, acting as the Rat Apparent in his absence, appeared grinning in the doorway of the increasingly claustrophobic corner office.

'Great news!' he announced. 'I've got a source for thin clients to replace those Z-248s we finally offloaded.'

The eager apprentice held aloft a printout of the rMachines Web site offerings.

'Gaak,' gagged the Rat, as his conflicting interests tied his innards into Gordian knots.

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