Packet Rat: The Rat's caffeine jag gives boss a jolt

Microsoft Corp.'s recent announcement that it will let government officials peek inside its Windows source code'if they come to Redmond, Wash., to scrutinize the last 3 percent'curled the furry one's whiskers.

'How bogus can you get?' he fumed as he waited for the coffee machine to fill his 25th cup of the day.

'You really should cut back on your caffeine intake,' said his latest department head, watching with some concern.

'It helps me hang on to the will to live,' the Rat replied and grabbed his quart cup from under the spigot. 'I mean, wouldn't you rather have me angry and effective than passive and ineffective?'
'Let me take that under consideration,' his boss muttered as he followed the twitching cyberrodent into the conference room.

The agitated Rat had been carefully building a case for an agencywide shift to Linux and open-source software for desktop PC operations when the latest Microsoft public relations blitz began.

Simultaneously, his old boss, who had signed off on the Linux project, had gotten himself transferred to the new Homeland Security Department in the latest shuffling of the executive branch deck. That left his IT subordinates back at square one with a new political appointee in the corner office.

'This isn't changing anything for us,' the Rat explained while they waited for the rest of the enterprise architecture advisory team to show up. 'It just lets us look at the same source code we've been able to look at before, and maybe add some other security system if we want to waste our time messing around with bits that we'll end up having to get licensed back to us. And it doesn't even begin to cover the problems with the application software.'

The new chief asked, 'So they'll only let us look at the last bits if we go to Redmond?' The fine print was at last beginning to percolate into his brain.

'Unless we figure out how to pry it from their cold, dead hard drives,' the whiskered one replied. 'And I believe there's no travel money in my budget for this year.'

Sensing possible victory, he continued down the budgetary road. 'On top of that, our colleagues at the state level aren't in on this, so we'd have to carry the work for them on our dime.
Microsoft hasn't given them our level of clearance. Which probably means they wouldn't be privy to any security changes we might squeeze into our special editions of Windows unless we pay for them to get a special version meeting our specs ... whatever those might be.'

'So we'd still have to pay for the application software,' the boss mumbled.

'Right,' the wired one nodded. 'Or we could just use the open-source apps we've been evaluating for free. That's all we'll be able to afford anyway, until we get our enterprise architecture up to compliance with that nice note that came from the Office of Management and Budget yesterday.'
The boss' neurons fired fitfully. 'Want some more coffee?'

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace.


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