Operator No. 9: February 12, 2001

There's nothing like a little bit of money to convince people to put their differences aside.

Daley, Baker to Play Nice

Theres nothing like a little bit of money to convince people to put their differences aside. Take the case of William M. Daley, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and chairman of the Gore-Lieberman campaign, and James A. Baker III, the man who led President Bushs recount challenge in Florida. Just two months ago, these guys squared off against each other in the press and in the courts over the recount. Now, theyre facing each other again — but this time its from across the table as directors at Electronic Data Systems. The EDS board of directors named Daley to take over the three-year term left open when Dick Cheney resigned his board position to become vice president. Daley and Baker will both serve on the board governance committee, EDS said. The company notes that its directors annual take includes a $35,000 salary, $2,000 for attending each board and committee meeting and some stock perks. If I got $2,000 for every work-related meeting I had to attend, Id be writing this from my beachfront home in Hawaii instead of wondering if the electricity will go out before I finish writing this.

Sunday School

Typical Web searches on Sundays look very different than those done during the rest of the week, said Yahoo! Chief Scientist Udi Manber during a research talk at the University of California at Berkeley last week. For Sundays such topics as, "free essays," "essays," "periodic table," "Cliffs Notes," "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" headed Yahoo!s list of most frequently used search terms. As for the rest of the week, the most popular searches turned out to be for news-related information. Quipped Manber, "Students do their homework on Sunday, not Saturday. I can prove it!" Now thats surprising news.

Revenge of The Nerds

Two teams of contestants, the Nerds vs. the Geeks, were asked, "What are BogoMips"? in a mock game show at the recent LinuxWorld conference in New York. Linus Torvalds (pictured) of the Nerds, the original developer of Linux, raised his hand. They are a meaningless measure of processor performance, he said. Wrong, said host Nicholas Petreley. A BogoMip is defined as "the number of millions of times per second that your processor can do absolutely nothing."As the originator of the term, Torvalds took some ribbing from his teammates for getting the answer wrong. BogoMips, or bogus MIPS, are actually used by the Linux kernel as it boots to measure the speed of the processor on which its running. Torvalds dubbed them a bogus measure of performance because they cant be used to compare processors. In case youre wondering, the Nerds won. Both teams had negative scores from answering so many questions wrong, so the lower score won. Which means that although the Nerds had a smaller minus number of points and thus won, the Geeks scored! OK, so much for my stab at computer humor.

Voted Out

Its been a fevered 12 months, politically speaking, and Voter.com, with its star-studded staff — Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame was the executive editor — did a nimble job examining the political beast in its many rages and slumbers. The beast lives on, but the site is dead. Last week, Voter.com shut down because "we were not able to secure sufficient funding to maintain the quality site that you have come to expect and that earned us our reputation," said a note on the defunct site. Bernstein will now focus on a book hes writing about Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the rest of the staff joins the looking-for-work Democrats ousted when President George W. Bush prevailed over Vice President Al Gore.

Instead of Flowers And Chocolate . . .

In my in-box this morning was this coquettish offer: "This Valentines Day, remember that special someone with a gift subscription to The Wall Street Journal Online." In an unscientific poll, I asked my special someone if this was a good idea for a V-Day gift. The answer: "No. Thats not romantic at all." Maybe I didnt phrase the question correctly.

Beating the Bushes for Fun

Internet satirists have wasted little time in attacking the new Bush administration. Some clever tricksters have managed to duplicate the real White House Web site at www.whitehouse.org, which is registered to a group called Satire On-line. The first hint that youre not at the real White House site is on the opening page, which promises information about "Americas Forty-First President, George Herbert Bush." George W. Bush is the 43rd president, while his father was the 41st. The mock inaugural address declares: "I am honored and humbled to stand here, where so many of Americas leaders have come before me, and where so many Bushes will follow. Its hard to believe that two short weeks ago I couldnt even spell Washington." George W. Bush is not the only president who has been the subject of a cyberspace parody. The operators of www.whitehouse.net allow Internet users to apply for a pardon — a poke at former President Bill Clintons controversial last-minute pardons. The Web site www.whitehouse.com appears to have stuck to the status quo, continuing to shock unsuspecting Web surfers with a dose of X-rated content. Real information on the new administration, is at: www.whitehouse.gov.

Just Have a Little Faith

The Daley-Baker news may have won the award from most interesting item of the week, but just barely. Proving yet again that truth is stranger than fiction, Vatican sources told Reuters last week that Pope John Paul II is considering naming Saint Isidore of Seville the patron saint of Internet users and computer programmers. Saint Isidore was believed, Reuters notes, to have written the worlds first encyclopedia, The Etymologies, which included entries on medicine, mathematics, history and theology. Dont know who else is in the running, but Im pretty sure Internet "inventor" Al Gore didnt make the cut. Call me a Doubting Thomas, but Im having trouble believing that praying to Saint Isidore will recover lost data or improve my connection speed. After all, Im still praying for DSL or cable-modem service — here in the heart of Silicon Valley.

"Due to the sophisticated nature of Verizon Online DSL, Verizon Internet Services cannot guarantee that the service will be uninterrupted or error-free."

In the fine print of a DSL promotion from VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS. Sort of like how the TV news organizations were sophisticated in calling Florida on election night.

Power Off During Takeoff

The backlash against cell phone users reached new heights this month with reports that a Saudi Arabian court had sentenced a man to 70 lashes for using his cell phone on a domestic flight. Yikes! The flight crew had told the man, reportedly a captain in the Saudi army, to turn his phone off because his mobile conversation was seen as a safety threat during takeoff, according to the newspaper that reported the story, Al-Eqtisadiyah. While Ive grumbled myself at ICPU (inappropriate cell phone use), I think maybe just banning him from using a cell phone for a number of years might have sufficed.