Operator No. 9: September 10, 2001

So Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer want to merge? Well, while everyone else spent the week trying to figure out why the $25 billion stock swap makes sense, I spent my time pondering the more important question

Post-Merger Possibilities

So Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer want to merge? Well, while everyone else spent the week trying to figure out why the $25 billion stock swap makes sense, I spent my time pondering the more important question: What will they call the new company? Seems theyre going to take the easy route and keep the HP name. But only, I hear, because the alternatives didnt measure up. In case youre wondering, here are the Top Five Rejected Names: No. 5: IT R Us; No. 4: Bigger than Dell Computer; No. 3: PCs N Things; No. 2: H-Paq; and No. 1: Digital Equipment Corp.

Give Me a W!

2001 is brought to you by the letter "W." You cant go anywhere this year without running into the infamous letter that was formed, ironically, by a preponderance of "U"s. Whether its our famed President George W. Bush or just that its the year of wireless, I dont know. To make matters worse, the annual Computer Associates International shareholder meeting was held last month at the Wyndham Windwatch Hotel, where a battle for control of the company took place between Chairman Charles Wang and Texas billionaire Sam Wyly. When in the world will it end? I know, I know — when we get to "Z." Believe me, Im already there.

BBQ Thighs No More

The only things I barbecued over the Labor Day weekend were the hot dogs and portobello mushrooms. Thanks to the CoolPad laptop base the folks at Road Tools were kind enough to send me to try out with my very hot Apple Computer Titanium PowerBook, my thighs are once again safe from third-degree burns.

Smart Guys

The bleeding edge of telecom research is now in private industry. "You gotta go where the action is," says Richard Prodan, who recently left his post as chief technology officer of Cable Television Laboratories, the industry research consortium, for Terayons Network Solutions Group. Prodan says CableLabs has evolved from a hard-core R&D operation to a more task-oriented place. The Network Solutions Group will work on solutions designed to deliver cool, new, next-gen broadband services. The seven-brain Network Solutions Group includes digital video expert and former CableLabs research director Majid Chelehmal; Edward Miller, a voice-over-cable expert who directed CableLabs PacketCable Voice-over-IP project; and data networking and network synchronization expert Serge Francois, who Prodan says reads spec sheets as a hobby. OK, smart guys. Lets see what you come up with.

The Money Pit

One of my regular correspondents reports that Microsoft Money 2002 cant count. After checking his computer for available disk space and programs, Money reinstalled Internet Explorer 5.5 and related files. A mere 125 megabytes later — maybe it was designed to handle Bill Gates checkbook — the installer stopped. Internet Explorer was fine, but Money said there was no longer enough space to install the actual program. After he installed Money on a second computer, it kept recommending that existing Quicken files be converted to Money files. After the conversion failed — "File cannot be converted" — it recommended that Quicken files be converted, only to fail again. Of course, theres no apparent way out. "We used to call these loops, " my correspondent tells me, with a sigh. "Now its a user interface problem." By the way, isnt "Microsoft Money" redundant?

You Are Here

Were all getting used to hearing about Linux clusters doing seismic research and IBM databases handling the Human Genome Project. But chips capable of mapping the universe? The Sloan Digital Sky Survey is a project under way to image and map one-quarter of the sky. It will determine the positions and brightness of more than 100 million celestial objects, and measure the distances to a million of the nearest galaxies, building a 3D picture of the universe. Well, part of it anyway. It will also record the distances to 100,000 quasars, which are believed to reside somewhere near the edge of the universe. The calculating power will come from Compaq Computers new line of ProLiant servers, based on Intels new 64-bit Itanium chip. So dont be surprised if you see "Intel Inside" on your next map of the universe.

Mono: The Cure?

Asked to comment on Project Mono, the open source effort to create a development system compatible with Microsofts proposed .Net platform, Michael Tiemann, chief technical officer of Red Hat and one of the original open source code developers, said he wouldnt put it past Bill Gates and company to try to reclaim control of any open source alternative to .Net. How? By invoking patents — not currently known to underlie the .Net code — that include the upcoming C Sharp language and a new version of Visual Basic. Other means might be new-found requirements for .Net code that are only available through commercial licenses. "I am hopeful Project Mono will uncover whatever land mines are hidden there," Tiemann said. "If they have their eyes open and realize they have chosen the role of minesweepers, thats fine. Thats a heroic job." And if the Mono team falls asleep on the job? Grab the Windex — were doing Windows.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Sam Mohamad, Exodus Communications president of worldwide sales, could be the next casualty of the companys massive management overhaul, which started roughly four months ago with the departure of the Web hosters chief financial officer and has now spread to CEO Ellen Hancock, who resigned last week. Although the rumor mill had Mohamad as Hancocks successor, the appointment hasnt happened. Instead, Exodus is now led by William Krause, ex-chairman of 3Com. Whether Krause is an interim guy to be replaced once Exodus is sold or becomes the man to take the company to true profitability, it looks like Mohamad doesnt get to rule the hosting universe. Which pops a tough question: Should he leave, or stick it out waiting for the next big break? Executive trauma at Exodus seems to be never-ending.

Object Failure

Its not what you know, but who you know, right? Wrong. Seems even big friends cant help some companies survive the tech downturn. NetObjects last week said it was closing down and that it will sell its remaining assets. The company, which offers software for building and managing Web sites, is 48 percent owned by IBM and was viewed as one of the brightest hopes in the early application service provider industry. NetObjects knew the end was near for some time: In early August, the company said that unless it received outside help, it would be forced to cease operations by Sept. 30. Nasdaq delisted the company at the end of August, and it seems its directors lost the will to fight.


I can see why Hewlett-Packard might want to keep the HP name instead of coming up with some other moniker that tries to incorporate Compaq Computer. I mean, just the cost savings from not redoing logod items such as T-shirts and fleece jackets might be worth leaving the HP name alone. Theres also the fact that HPC sounds like one of those chemicals that causes toads to grow extra eyeballs. And CHP, to anyone who likes to live life in the fast lane here on the West Coast or who actually enjoyed watching Erik Estrada ride a motor-cycle, is shorthand for the California Highway Patrol. Well, whatever they call it, Im sure the 145,000 workers to be employed by the combined company hope CEO Carly Fiorina knows how to spell success.