Packet Rat: The Rat's boss prepares to take aim

Michael J. Bechetti

As he arrived in San Francisco for LinuxWorld Expo via government-approved live freight, the Rat sensed enthusiasm waning all around him.

Maybe it was the 'For Lease' signs in windows around the conference venue. Maybe it was the dearth of party invitations from vendors. Or maybe it was just the foul mood of some of his fellow attendees in the registration line.

'It sure isn't the open-source Woodstock of two years ago,' the Rat instant-messaged his spouse as he picked up his badge.

The Rat had caught the earlier Linux event in the cozy confines of San Jose's convention center. But the shift to the Moscone Center's vast reaches seemed somewhat oversized in the new era of lowered expectations.

'Call it LesspectationsWorld,' his better half replied. 'When the biggest Linux venture capitalists are IBM and Sun, that's what I call a burst bubble.'

'At least the hotel rates are down,' the whiskered one observed. 'And the bars are bound to be full, what with Microsoft exhibiting here.'

As it turned out, Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. both used the event to grab hold of Linux coders and try to suck them into the twin vortices of Java and .Net development programs.

It didn't help that Bill Joy, Sun's esteemed chief scientist, took time out from his latest Sisyphean endeavors to slam his own company's Linux efforts and open-source software in general.

Meanwhile, Microsoft was trying to keep open-source from gaining traction in government by funding the ironically named Initiative for Software Choice.

Its lobbyists are attempting to stall legislation in Peru and the European Union that would make open-source software a preferred or equal option for government IT projects.

'Talk about ungrateful guests,' a fellow fed muttered to the Rat.

And Microsoft didn't do much to help its own cause by announcing that a newly revealed security error in Internet Explorer was, in fact, a problem in Windows itself. Supposedly it let malicious individuals unscramble encrypted Internet traffic carrying trivial data'you know, such as credit card and Social Security numbers and passwords.

Given other flaws the whiskered one has unearthed, these might sound rather trivial, but they were finally enough to convince the Rat's boss to agree to the cyberrodent's proposed pilot of OpenOffice and desktop Linux.

Maybe the final straw was Microsoft's statement that the company wasn't sure when patches would be available for the latest hole.

Regardless, a gauntlet had been tossed. 'Give me the ammo,' ordered the assistant secretary back in D.C. via cell phone.

'Say it again, chief,' the Rat said as he tapped the arm of a Microsoft program manager he recognized. 'Here's someone I want you to deliver that message to personally.'

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

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