Cringely Capable: Rubes, boobs and noobs of 2006

Cringely Capable: Rubes, boobs and noobs of 2006

It's that time again in Cringeville when we present The MOONies, honoring the most Morally Obtuse, Offensive, and Noxious behaviour in high tech. This year's MOONie winners will receive a handsome statuette of Steve Ballmer bending over and dropping his trousers, affectionately known around Redmond as The Google Salute. Along the way I offer a few tips of the Cringely fedora to deserving folks who made the tech world a better place. So without further ado...

Been there, Dunn that: Our top award goes to HP board chairperson, Patricia Dunn, who apparently underwent a scruples bypass shortly before ordering the most elaborate spying program this side of G. Gordon Liddy. Her mission was to uncover which HP board members had been talking to the press. Now Dunn and other HPers are talking to a judge, hoping to plea bargain their way out of charges of fraud, conspiracy, and identity theft. A tip of the fedora to: former board member, Tom Perkins, who resigned in protest when he learned about the spy tactics last May, then went public when HP refused to fess up to its dirty deeds.

You two don't Yahoo anymore: Yahoo CEO, Terry Semel, wins a MOONie for finally reading the writing on the wall -- and finding it written in Google blue, red, yellow, and green. He axed two execs and promoted two others in an effort to avoid getting lapped by the Larry & Sergey Express. Semel declined to resign, but he did give himself a strong talking to. As of this year he now makes an annual salary of $US1. And I understand he's worth every penny.

A tip of the fedora to: Yahoo's Time Capsule project, which was pretty cool despite its creators' strange inability to do basic math.

Hotter than ... Dell? The No. 1 PC maker isn't anymore, thanks to a combination of ham-fisted support, overheating hardware, and hubris. A burgeoning accounting scandal didn't help matters, and then there was that little matter of those exploding laptops. The good news? Last summer's wave of battery recalls took the heat off Dell and put it squarely on Sony. Too bad Dell can't pull the same trick with its financials.

A tip of the fedora to: YouTube's Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, whose palms must be raw from high-fiving each other after Google peeled off $US1.65 billion for their viral video Valhalla. Imagine what the site would have been worth if it had actually made money.

Making a federal case out of it: A well-deserved MOONie goes to Uncle Sam, who's shown an insatiable appetite for collecting ever-increasing amounts of personal information while demonstrating a complete inability to safeguard the data he already has. Last year alone the IRS, Department of Transportation, FTC, Department of the Census, and Veterans Administration lost hundreds of laptops containing the records of millions of American citizens. More proof that trusting the Feds to protect our information is like hiring Homer Simpson to guard the donuts.

A tip of the fedora to: Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. Without its hacker-inviting, bug-infested, endlessly delayed products and rapacious marketing tactics, our lives would all be a little less interesting -- and I might actually have to work for a living.

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