Operator No. 9: April 16, 2001

The pairing of wireless high-speed Internet provider Metricom with Ricoh's RDC-i700 industrial-strength digital camera, on the face of it, looks like just another rocking high-tech partnership.

License to Print Money

The pairing of wireless high-speed Internet provider Metricom with Ricohs RDC-i700 industrial-strength digital camera, on the face of it, looks like just another rocking high-tech partnership. But the deal, announced last week, might be just what the independent auditors ordered. Metricoms auditors said in its annual report that they arent sure the company can survive, and they estimate it will take something like $500 million to move the company into positive cash-flow territory. Given the state of todays capital markets, maybe other options should be explored. Sure, the wireless Internet-ready, high- resolution camera is meant for legitimate business purposes, like insurance adjusting and construction management. But whos to say its not possible to photograph a couple of $100 bills, shoot them off to the color copier at 128 kilobits per second and end your cash flow problems forever? Just asking.

Lesson 1: Dont Quit Your Day Job

Lou Dobbs, founder and CEO of Space.com, a multimedia company dedicated to outer space, called it quits and says hes going to take his chair again as anchor of CNNs Moneyline Newshour, a show he founded 20 years ago. Space.com has raised $56 million from Blue Chip Venture, Gannett, Greylock Management, NBC, SpaceVest Management Group, UBS PaineWebber and Venrock Associates, and Dobbs — who will remain on the board and retain a 10-plus percent stake in the company — says there are no plans to shut down Space.com, which he claims will be profitable in the fourth quarter. I guess he just missed being on TV; Im sure the lure of a steady, high-paying job with loads of visibility had nothing to do with Dobbs decision to return to CNN.

Marcia! Marcia!

Self-confessed television fanatic and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell had an interesting take on why hes not too worried that digital TV is taking longer to become widespread than some had hoped: "I dont want to watch The Brady Bunch in high-definition TV. Marcias nose was bad enough the first time." The reference, for those of you who didnt tune in during the 70s, was to an episode in which Marcia Bradys nose was broken, right before a big dance, by an errant football tossed by her brother. Thats a relief, Michael — I thought digital TV was slow to catch on because of tech and pricing problems.

"If he can bring peace to Bosnia, perhaps he can bring peace to ICANN as well."

— M. Stuart Lynn, new president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, referring to former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt. Serving as a U.N. envoy to the Balkans, Bildt heads a committee studying whether Internet users should have formal representation within ICANN, which manages the Nets Domain Name System. Lynn spoke at a National Academy of Sciences hearing on DNS.

"Most CIOs will tell you they dont want any barefoot, navel-pierced hippies messing around with their databases."

— Frank Ingari, chairman of Internet marketing firm Wheelhouse, explaining the cultural divide between corporate information technology departments and Linux programmers to The Wall Street Journal. I dont think its belly-button rings thats causing the greater divide. Its peoples attitudes. Maybe those corporate IT folks should take off their wingtips for a while —theyre pinching a little too tight.

Word Play

True story: I was talking to a publicist, who was trying to promote her client, Semantix. She decided to try a health-care analogy. "Semantix took companies to the doctor by asking, What hurts? " Semantix, a knowledge management software company, she said, recognizes "that many companies have yet to recognize they have an illness" and are thus "out of the know." She kept going: "To accurately diagnose this infliction . . ." Hold on, thought I. "Infliction? What infliction? Did you mean affliction or infection?" I politely queried in response. I hope Semantix survives its semantics.

Kennard Springs Into Private Sector

Bill Kennard didnt waste much time making the transition from public servant to industry wheeler-dealer. Kennard, who was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission for more than 13 years, last week was named to the board of handheld maker Handspring, where hell help guide wireless and Internet initiatives, according to the company. "I see Handspring as one of the clear innovators in defining and realizing this exciting future of what will be truly personal computing and communications," Kennard said in a prepared statement. In addition to his Handspring duties, Kennard is a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., a temporary position in which he is advising the think tank on telecommunications policy issues.

0 8 7

The number of days — as of April 16 — that President George W. Bush has been in office and without a technology adviser.

Sign Me Perplexed

A Mr. John Doe — not his real name — wrote to tell me his tale of woe. "I reformatted my hard drive and reloaded everything from scratch. I used programs from Qualcomm, Symantec, IBM, Microsoft, Intuit, H&R Block and some niche vendors. Two things struck me as odd. First, when loading non-Microsoft products on my Windows 2000 computer, a Windows dialog box popped up warning me that the software did not have a digital certificate, it may not be safe and asking me if I really wanted to install it. Second, when loading Microsoft products, a Windows dialog box popped up saying the software had a Microsoft digital certificate and it was safe to install. It also had a check box so, in the future, I could blindly trust anything with a Mr. Softee digital certificate. Remind me again, please. Which is the only company with spoofed digital certificates floating around?" Thats easy, Mr. Doe. The answer is Microsoft.


A press release from the European Commission discusses how the group wants to use the Internet to become more responsive and open to public input. It plans two Internet-based mechanisms for doing this, written in typical bureaucratic-speak: "A feedback mechanism which helps to collect spontaneous reactions in the marketplace, using existing networks and contact points as intermediaries, in order to obtain continuous access to the opinions and experiences of economic operators and EU [European Union] citizens." In other words, you can now comment online.

More Fun With Digital Cameras

If theres an event where people are going to be naked, you can bet youll find pictures of it on the Internet, or perhaps streamed at 15 to 18 pictures per second (streaking media?). The annual "Naked Mile Run," to be completed by University of Michigan students celebrating the end of the spring term, will be broadcast live on the Internet by Cyber Management, the same firm that broadcast a live Madonna concert in London. The run, which was first completed in 1986 and is scheduled for April 17, will be filmed from a blimp as well as by crew on the ground. U of M not only doesnt sanction the event but abhors it and begs students not to do it, for fear of promoting a gropers paradise. Im just curious where youre supposed to put your keys.