Track in the Name of the Law

E-mail used to be an ephemeral thing. Then archival storage came along and we couldn't get rid of it. Now, new rules from the Supreme Court mandate that companies store, and prove they can retrieve, e-mail so they can be used as evidence in a lawsuit.

Storing is the easy part. Disks are cheap and getting cheaper all the time. But knowing what message is where and how to get it back – now, there's the rub. Fortunately, the rules apply to messages and data that could be relevant to the lawsuit, so nonrelated archives can still be purged.

Novell Makes OpenOffice MS Office-Friendly
Remember the brouhaha over Microsoft Office and whether it would or would not support the OpenDocument format, which would allow files to be easily interchanged with the open source OpenOffice and StarOffice?

Microsoft didn't take the OpenDoc bait and instead promoted a new file format, OpenXML. Like stubborn kids fighting, someone eventually had to give in and, in this case, it was Novell, which is adding OpenXML to its version of OpenOffice.

Ma Bill
In the old days, AT&T (Ma Bell) dominated the U.S. telco market. After the Telecommunications Act of 1996 there was real competition, and AT&T almost entirely collapsed under its own monopolistic weight. The act, though far from perfect, ushered in new companies and new services. With VoIP (once we can get it to work) and the upcoming iPhone, we are on the verge of another revolution -- and Microsoft wants its fair share. The company this week wrangled together eight telcos and developers to support the Microsoft Connected Services Sandbox, a framework to help various services and tools work together, creating "managed network mash-ups." So far, other Web services vendors (like a little outfit called Google) have yet to sign up.

2,000-Year-Old Computer Found
A 2,000-year-old astronomical computing device of Roman origin has been found in the waters off of Greece. No, this isn't a fake news report from theonion.com -- it actually happened.

No word on what OS it ran, but the corroded remnants of the Ctrl, Alt and Del keys do offer a clue.

SCO Stumbles in IBM Suit
The SCO Group (now based in Utah, not Santa Cruz) just had the bulk of its lawsuit against IBM tossed out. SCO claims that IBM took SCO's proprietary Linux code and simply gave it to the open source community.

Here's where it gets weird: SCO wants IBM to show what code it supposedly stole (I guess that's "innocent until you prove yourself guilty"). Also, there's a question as to whether SCO gained any copyrights when it bought the rights to Unix from Novell.

Doug's Mailbag: Beaten to the Punch, Who's OK with Whosarat.com?, More
While it looks like the idea of having Bill Gates for president appeals to a good number of you...

He'd have my vote.
-Matthew

Now that you put this idea into the ether, Bill Gates may be a good candidate.
-Manoj

I like the idea. All your points are logical and make sense. But alas, I fear there is no room for logic in politics.
-John

...many of you pointed out that neither "Dilbert" creator and blogger Scott Adams nor I were the first to bandy that idea around:

The shtick of declaring someone for president is as old as the hills, whether it is Bill Gates or not. You broke no new ground and Adams' blog is funnier than yours. Stop whining and be a man, or pretend to be a man.
-Michael

First of all, a quick Google shows that somebody posted this prank declaration in 1995, beating both you and Scott Adams by a decade. Apparently, this idea has been in the ether since the dawn of the commercialized Internet/Web. Second, nothing personal against Gates, but let's not fall for this illusion that wealthy, successful businesspeople and/or philanthropists are somehow thereby qualified for political office. Ask yourself whether Silvio Berlusconi has been such a boon for Italy, or whether the U.S. would have been better off in the '90s under a President Perot. Wouldn't it be far better for humanity if Mr. and Mrs. Gates simply focus on distributing their largesse to the most worthy projects in public health and education worldwide?

Third, if we're going to elect iconic personalities to the highest public office, why not go for the celebrities that have already launched themselves into the political arena and have demonstrated some ongoing commitment to that (potential) career change? Let's not get mucked down in the partisan dispute about whether a President Schwarzenegger (if he fit the eligibility criteria) or, say, President Clooney would be better for the USA and the world. Let's focus instead on the character qualifications for the job of president. Adams did so when he stated: "For my president I want a mixture of Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Warren Buffett and Darth Vader." (An altruist in M.T. and a militarist in D.V.? A theorist in C.S. and a pragmatist in W.B.? A president who's everything to everybody? No. Who wants such a combustible, unpredictable mixture in somebody with his/her finger on the button?) So did you when you stated: "Bill has no major skeletons (I'm guessing) and has taken nonpolitical, purely rational stances on today's major issues." Nonpolitical, purely rational stances? You want one-part Plato, one-part Mr. Spock? How about a president that is adept at gaining political consensus on policies/programs that effectively address the nation's problems without glossing over all the inevitably emotional/cultural/ideological ramifications?

Of all the celebrities in the political arena, the only one I actually visualize governing a country some day is Paul Hewson (a.k.a. Bono). My sense is that some day (perhaps soon) he'll run for president of the Republic of Ireland. And he'll win by a landslide. He's clearly a serious, committed, intelligent man (in his late 40s) who has thrust himself into the world political landscape by taking on a seemingly boring but critical issue: third-world debt relief and development.

In our country, we somehow seem to discount the apparently boring but eminently qualified people in the race for president. In your Gates endorsing post, you ask a question that just begs for a certain candidate to come forward once again. You ask: "Who would you trust to develop a policy on global warming?" Run all the criteria and potential candidates through your al-gor-ithm. The rational answer will pop right out. And he's not boring at all. A lovely fellow.
-Jim

The idea of Bill Gates running for president isn't so far out there that you could propose you thought of it first. Bill Gates is the richest person in the world. The person who is president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. These two people being 'the most' of some category makes them well-known to a lot of people. I'm sure there have been many people to suggest Gates should run for president.

I've even batted the idea of Gates for president around with my brothers over at least a year ago. Now, it may be possible that Adams did read your column and subconsciously let it influence his blog. However, there is just as good a chance that he came up by the idea all by himself. It may also be possible that you were the first person to publish a substantial writing piece on it, and possibly the first person publishing a writing piece on it which sincerely considered the idea.
-Sheldon

And what are the ramifications of a site that snitches on snitches? One reader weighs in on whosarat.com:

This is another unfortunate chapter in the erosion of our privacy. We're on our own to keep our stuff "off the grid." As you pointed out, it's publicly available information, but now it's much easier to obtain. Do we give up and just save everything on Google? Or do we "fight the good fight," pay for everything in cash and take bus rides everywhere? Depending upon how wiped out I am at the end of the day, I could go either way. Right now, my answer is to let the whosarat.com live -- until I get my next notice that my credit card has been hacked.
-John

Finally, a reader spots a semantic problem in a news item about SCO's suit that we linked to on Monday:

None of SCO's claims have been dismissed, though SCO did try to claim that its legal claims were being dismissed in order to get the magistrate judge (Wells) overturned. Instead, certain evidence regarding a single claim was thrown out due to a lack of specificity. But all claims remain intact, as shown in IBM's legal briefings on the issue, and as agreed with by Judge Kimball.

Saying a claim is dismissed means that, for example, SCO's claims of copyright infringement have been dismissed. But in this case, SCO's copyright claims have not been dismissed, but instead, only certain items of evidence related to its copyright claims have been dismissed. This is a critical difference, and the source of much of the criticism about how the media has covered the SCO lawsuit.
-Rob

Got a bone to pick? Let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me directly at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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