Operator No .9: August 13, 2001

I can't tell if this is good news or not. Russ Curtis, CEO of JustTechJobs.com, says the number of job seekers registering on his online job site has "diminished greatly in the last two months."

Leading Economic Indicators

I cant tell if this is good news or not. Russ Curtis, CEO of JustTechJobs.com, says the number of job seekers registering on his online job site has "diminished greatly in the last two months." That decline — about 75 percent fewer people registered in recent months as compared with February and March — leads Curtis to conclude that the economy may finally be on the upswing. "Fewer job seekers means fewer people are getting laid off," JustTechJobs claims. That might be true. But I got an e-mail from someone who was laid off four times this year and has just been released from a psychiatric hospital, leading me to conclude that some out-of-workers may just be taking some time off from job seeking.

Alive and Well

Not everyone is giving up on dreams of reaching the masses through a dot-com. Nearly century-old Batesville Casket, "the leading funeral service supply company in the country," announced last week that it has published a catalog of its caskets and urns. Now, Batesvilles customers — funeral directors, that is — can "meet the time-sensitive needs of families planning meaningful ceremonies for their loved ones" by easily searching the online catalog and even downloading digital images of each product. I got the news from The SoftAd Group of Mill Valley, Calif., which proudly announced that it had designed the catalog — proving that even during an economic downturn, the business of death continues to be a lucrative market. By the by, wasnt "Bates" the name of the motel in Alfred Hitchcocks movie Psycho?

Wheres the Beef?

Jim Allchin, group vice president of Microsofts platform group, says the next version of Windows — the one after Windows XP, which is due Oct. 25 — is code-named Longhorn. Im assuming Microsoft borrowed the name from the noted Texas cattle, which is the oldest breed of cattle in America, a quick read of the International Texas Longhorn Associations site reveals. The Longhorn breed is described as hardy and adaptable. Lets hope the same can be said for the new operating system.

Say Again?

Proving that cluelessness is alive and well in the tech industry, a reader sent in this e-mail he received from The Learning Co.: "Unsubscribe Confirmed. You should receive no further e-mail from The Learning Company. A confirmation e-mail will be sent to your e-mail address."

The Digital Cracker Barrel

Care to chat, Mr. President? LivePerson, which provides outsourced sales and customer service to companies doing business on the Internet, says it will open a Live Chat Cyber Café inside The Coffee Station, the only restaurant in Crawford, Texas. For those of you who arent up on all things Dubya, Crawford is the town to which President George W. Bush and the First Lady retreat for rest and relaxation. The Bushes bought 1,600 acres just outside of the town in 1999. Robert Campbell, mayor of the town of 631 souls, will cut the ribbon on the cybercafé Aug. 14 and do the first chat, with the owners of The Coffee Station. Im sure the folks in Crawford will keep the chat lines buzzing with the latest Bush gossip.

Spew This

Heres another one from the "you cant make this stuff up" file. A Windows developer writes in to tell me that "one of the methods of the MS ActiveX control for Internet Transfer is defined as GetChunk. To help the developer, Microsoft has defined some constants for the error numbers. The constant for error 35758, Unable to retrieve data, is icBlewChunk." See for yourself at http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/Inet98/html/vbmsgerrorsinternettransfer.asp. Guess Microsoft engineers do have a sense of humor after all.

DSL Hell

Although I remain among the bandwidth-impaired in Silicon Valley, Im nonetheless entertained by the e-mails from you DSL customers who have been going through all sorts of hell as the industry implodes around you. One reader tells me his credit card was maxed out by EarthLink after a bug in its online billing system left him also picking up the "entire billing tab for my employer company of several thousand employees!!" Meanwhile, journalist Lew Perdue, a Pacific Bell customer here on the left coast, decided to do more than just whine. He set up a site called, appropriately enough, PatheticBell.com: "I built it as a way to avoid going insane in my continuing ordeal with PacBell . . . but the horror stories others have posted on the message board make my problems pale by comparison."

Land Grab

In response to a July 16 item ("State of the Union,") describing the problems of a guy in Mississippi who couldnt get a copy of Windows XP because he was told that Mississippi wasnt in the U.S. or Canada, I was offered this theory: "The reason your reader from Mississippi is having trouble getting a copy of Windows XP is that his state uses the abbreviation MS. Microsoft wants to have complete market share of these letters, has removed their state from the desktop and is discouraging all use of stately references in an effort to force them out of business." You laugh, but stranger things have happened.

Death Takes a Holiday

Webmergers.com, a firm that charts the demise of Internet companies, pegged at 32 the number that shut down in July — 30 percent fewer than in June. Webmergers adds that Julys death toll is the lowest since September 2000. FYI: At least 592 Internet companies have folded since January 2000 — 367 of them, or 62 percent, in the first seven months of 2001 alone. Still, Wembergers is upbeat. "Julys data reinforces our belief that we have seen the worst of the Internet shakeout." Somebody tell the stock market.