Barney's Rubble

The Sky Is Falling!

Doug Barney ponders apocalypse theories, the true definition of spyware and more.

Intel's top brainiacs are claiming that the Internet is seriously overloaded and will soon collapse if we don't do anything. The answer? Build an entirely new network over the existing one.

IT vets are no strangers to this type of apocalypse theory—in fact it's nearly 10 years old. Bob Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and my former boss at InfoWorld, pounded these drums in the mid-90s, claiming a gigalapse or other catastrophic outage would soon hit the 'Net.

While he was wrong in 1996, the theory is still sound. Like Rosie O'Donnell on a moped, anything that is sufficiently stressed will eventually fail.

Mad As Heck
I'm madder than a flea on a clean-shaven poodle about all these plug-ins and add-ons taking over my PC—that includes tools from respected vendors with monumental market caps. Take AOL Instant Messenger, which my 11-year-old son recently installed so he could chat with his buds on my machine. I got a nifty pop-up blocking toolbar out of the deal. Unfortunately, every other page I hit was hijacked by AOL. When viewing a page, I'd be taken to a "Page Not Available" screen that was curiously filled with AOL-sponsored links.

I got rid of it "tout de suite," and felt good again—at least until I browsed the Forbes 400 list to see how many Microsofties made it (Gates and Ballmer of course, plus two former employees, Paul Allen and Charles Simonyi).

One pop-up that slid past my Stopzilla blocker alerted me that my ViewPoint media viewer had been cheerfully updated and would I please click to accept the wonderful new features. There was no obvious button to opt-out, so I ctrl-alt-deleted my way out. Ten minutes later, after a full Google investigation, I was once again updated. This time I found the out—click on About Us and there is the deeply hidden decline option. Boy, that's obvious.

Every time I've called something Spyware, I get e-mails with a million technical reasons why that is not the case, along with demands to cease and desist. So let me be perfectly clear—ViewPoint is not Spyware. Let me be equally clear, a lot of users on the Internet are convinced it is. Either way, the installation process is intrusive, obnoxious and unacceptable.

Smells Like IT Spirit
Years ago, I had a co-worker whose breath was one notch shy of grim death—which is what I wished for every time he walked into my office. I brought in some Lavoris, and would take a swig, then slyly offer him some. "I'm all set," was the only answer.

Siemens Mobile has a more effective answer. The telecom giant is building a cell phone that can detect bad breath and other offensive odors. Now that's how you drop a hint. For more info, log onto and choose the selection sixth from the bottom.

As always, feel free to shoot me some mail at

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.


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