So Long, Sir Clarke

You, I'm sure, have heard that Sir Arthur C. Clarke left us last week at the age of 90. Clarke was a true renaissance man. Many forget that he was a real scientist and technical visionary. He invented the idea of orbiting satellites and later proposed them as a way to bring the Internet to the Third World.

I was lucky enough to correspond with Sir Clarke for several years. Even though he was way over in Sri Lanka, Clarke read AmigaWorld while I was editor in chief. Clarke loved the Amiga and used it to explore Mandelbrots, geometrical shapes that expand inward and out infinitely. The shapes they form also make great hippy T-shirts. These fractals drove his novel The Ghost from the Grand Banks.

Clarke would fax me his thoughts, along with clips of Mandelbrots carved into corn fields in England as well as stories about the 25th birthday of HAL, the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I now have a prize collection of letters and newspaper clippings from one of the world's greatest minds. Who says journalism isn't cool?

Clarke more recently survived the tsunami and worked to find better ways to predict these waves and warn coastal inhabitants.

What's your favorite Arthur C. Clarke work? Let us know by writing me at [email protected]. The Arthur C. Clarke Foundation is also a good place to park some of your extra dough.

VMware Ain't the Only Hypervisor in Town
VMware made news last month when Dell, HP and IBM all agreed to bundle a small, tight version of VMware with its servers. This made it seem almost like VMware is the only game in town, the Microsoft of virtualization. The reality is the field is far more complex and competitive.

It's not just the looming threat of Hyper-V, which will be huge as Microsoft is making all the right moves with pricing and enticing developers. Citrix is also playing big-time in this space with its acquisition of Xen. Sun is basing its new xVM hypervisor on Xen, and last week HP announced that it will embed a version of XenServer on HP servers -- just like it's doing with VMware.

Like the early days of productivity software and even desktop operating systems, this market is wide-the-heck-open. This is gonna be fun.

There's a New Web Site in Town
Call it Redmond Report Take 2. Last week, we launched a new Web site that's so simple in concept, even I could've thought it up (but I didn't; my boss Henry Allain did).

Redmond Report (yup, it shares its name with this here newsletter) is simply a bunch of links from a bunch of sites to a bunch of stories about Microsoft.

Like I said, pretty dang simple. Already, the site has stories about Vista Service Pack 1, a new Word exploit and advice about what company Microsoft should buy (instead of Yahoo).

So click over to, then write me at [email protected] and let me know what you think.

Mailbag: Microsoft vs. Novell, More
Readers share more of their thoughts on Novell's antitrust suit against Microsoft:

I'd be the first to admit I don't know much of anything about Novell's lawsuit but, IMHO, Microsoft Office won the war long before Novell cobbled together its suite of long-forgotten also-rans. WordPerfect's first Windows offering wasn't very good and pretty buggy. dBase really stumbled before even the transition to Windows. I recall Lotus' first Windows product being pretty good but not compelling. The Microsoft offerings, with the possible exception of Access which had no real Windows-based competition and eventually grabbed FoxPro's engine, were far better.

Quattro Pro? An old Borland hand-me-down. WordPerfect? Another hand-me-down. Didn't Corel once own them? Who else? I remember Novell putting this suite together and wondering how desperate a company can get. These Windows products had failed time and time again! I recall even Novell admitting it was a last-ditch effort at the time.

Does anyone in their right mind actually believe that Novell was sitting on a multibillion-dollar product line (forgetting the fact whether Microsoft sabotaged it or not)? Next, they'll sue the open source movement that's produced the only real competition, OpenOffice, for predatory pricing!

Overall, I'd like to see MS get more than chastised. I've watched it since the 1980s as it shot one competitor after another in the knees; it seemed like it canvassed the entire software market, and whenever any software company became too successful, Microsoft would either hobble the other company's app in the MS operating system (as they did to Lotus 1-2-3: "DOS isn't done 'til Lotus won't run!"), or else include a scaled-down version of the competing program with the MS OS of the day. So I'd like to see Novell win a big one.

I don't have any first-hand information to back this up but I always worried it was the case. When I worked at a company named Revenio in Burlington, Mass. about six years ago, there were a few software engineers there who had worked at MS in Waltham. They always claimed that while in the employ of MS it was the mantra of the company to pick whoever was in their crosshairs and say, "Windows is not done until Lotus won't run" or "Windows is not done until Novell won't run." Years back, I heard from employees of Dell that MS made it abundantly clear when they first started offering Linux on their machines that MS would make life very difficult to the point that Dell abandoned the Linux market. They stayed out of the Linux market for years.

I hate being a conspiracy theorist, but man, oh man, it always seemed obvious who was next on the MS list and MS never seemed to fail in crushing its competitors: Lotus, Aston-Tate, Novell, Netscape... I would like to believe Microsoft just plain won, but its products were not superior; its products were always good enough and marketed well. Maybe that's the key, where it focused its effort. In any event, it did win. It's the de facto standard and you cannot run a business without it so I am not sure it matters much. Even if Novell wins the suit, a couple billion dollars is not enough to hurt MS. It will just prolong the inevitable for Novell -- the long, slow death spiral.

I definitely believe that Microsoft did something to impede WordPerfect's progress. At our junior college, around 2001-2003, we were teaching "Integrated Office Applications" using Microsoft, and also "Word Processing" using WordPerfect. I remember having to fight (configure) the computers in the students' computer labs: WordPerfect ran the semester before, but now suddenly needed "Administrator" privileges. Each new semester was a challenge, to see what would suddenly no longer work, and how to fix it.

We had used Lotus in our curriculum. I had Quattro Pro at home, and was quite satisfied with it. The main thing about Excel was that it was bundled and convenient. And once the new skills were acquired, it integrated much better into Word documents.

Last week, Lafe reported on the Hannaford Bros. security hack and asked readers whether they've had any experiences with stolen personal data. Here's what some of you had to say:

Were that to happen in Florida, there's a good chance that hackers can access the Florida county public records Web sites to obtain everything they need to know about people, including SSNs, some bank accounts, certainly home addresses, sometimes Florida drivers license numbers -- all because the county records clerks bought and installed software that also provide images of documents instead of just the text indexes of documents that the state law called for. Now, for the last seven years, many property owners' identity data is up for grabs.

I had my debit card number stolen from a restaurant firm, Not Your Average Joe's, that I used to frequent in Acton, Mass. Oddly enough, there was a company-wide e-mail alerting our employees about the theft. A couple of days later, I noticed a $1,500 purchase on my statement from an electronics store in Florida. I went to the company's Web site and everything there was listed in Spanish, no English anywhere. Apparently, someone bought a large flat-screen TV using my card.

My bank credit card account was hacked semi-recently. The (National City) bank was running Windows 3.1 on its teller stations at the time -- remember, with Program Manager? A story had apeared the month before warning that some NCB accounts had been hacked.

A hacker used my card number online to order a Fuji FinePix 9000 camera for around $900. He forgot to change the delivery address, and it was dropped on my doorstep with no signature. When I contacted the seller (Best Buy), I convinced an employee to forward the original e-mail to me before I mentioned the word "hacked." After I said that word, Best Buy refused to discuss the matter with me. (I still have the camera.) I used the e-mail header to track the order back to an IP address in Texas. The bank refunded my money and gave me a new card, no problem. They refused to take any action with the information on the hacker. I explained the whole issue to the local FBI, and was told that they didn't have the resources to do anything about it. Hmm...

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].

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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