PACKET RAT: Rodent vs. machine, and other realities of FOSE

Machine chasing the Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

The Rat

It was FOSE time again, and the trade show that convened in the cavernous, relatively new Washington, D.C., Convention Center (which stands next to the ongoing demolition of the old Washington Convention Center) reminded the Rat that the more things change, the more they stay the same'though they do get stranger.

After a low-key reunion with friends old and new in the press office, the Rat trekked off into the wilds of the expo floor. The crowd seemed thicker than last year'it was almost like the bubble never popped. The event staff said they were expecting more than 23,000 attendees. Most of them seemed to be in the Rat's way.

While the whiskered one had his nose in his program trying to run an optimization subroutine on the speakers, panels and lunches he planned on crashing, he was attacked by a booth robot. Strangely enough, the remote-controlled comedic device backed over the Rat's tail while performing in front of a cubicle vendor's display.

'I guess they're even outsourcing trade-show talent these days,' the cyber-rodent sighed as he nursed his flattened tail over a cup of coffee.

Back on the floor, seeing Apple and Adobe with such large, front-and-center exhibits made the Rat think he'd stumbled into the wrong conference on the wrong coast. The Infinite Loopers seemed stuck in one themselves as they waited anxiously for Chairman Steve (Jobs, that is) to let loose the Tiger. Mac OS 10.4 is due any day now, and the Rat would say more except he'd rather not be subpoenaed for breaking confidentiality agreements.

Microsoft, as usual, bought acres of FOSE floor space in its continuing effort to dominate the government market. Earlier in the week, various analysts released a flood of studies pumping up Windows 2003 Server's productivity advantages over Red Hat Linux. (And at least one of them was not sponsored by Microsoft.) At the same time, one of the Rat's informants tells him Microsoft is spending a good chunk of money trying to figure out why Linux is doing so well in the federal space.

'I could have saved Steve Ballmer all that money if he had just come down to my data center,' the Rat told his friendly source. 'I would have shown him all the server licenses I didn't have to pay for.'

And while Sun Microsystems was nowhere to be seen on the show floor, the echoes of CEO Scott McNealy's cantankerous 2004 FOSE keynote year were still bouncing around (Java will never be open-sourced, to paraphrase).

Kevin Rollins, CEO of Sun's nemesis du jour, Dell, was giving an afternoon keynote when a packet landed in the Rat's lap. Apparently McNealy himself might soon be an echo, according to one of the wirebiter's intelligence agents. Rumor has it he could be out of the captain's chair by summer.

Shaking his head, the Rat said to himself, 'Maybe that red-hot four-dollar stock price has something to do with it.'

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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