NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Is no one really safe?

NOTES FROM THE FIELD: Is no one really safe?

I returned to the wide-open spaces of the San Francisco Bay area last week - after too many days in claustrophobic New York - to a distraught Randi. She had been hoping to add several pay-per-view movies to my cable bill while I was gone, but instead fretted about Bill and Steve (Gates and Ballmer).

"Those poor guys," she said. "What a lot of nerve for a hacker to go in and violate them like that. It's just wrong, Bobby."

The story was a really big deal on the Thursday and Friday that the news broke. CEO Steve Ballmer was even quoted as saying, "They did in fact access the source codes. You bet this is an issue of great importance."

And it left us all thinking that if Microsoft can get hacked, anyone can. But what happened over the weekend? On that Friday, the story from Microsoft was the hacker was there for months, the source code was accessed, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation was called in. By the following Monday, Microsoft was saying that it knew all along about the hacker, the attack only lasted 12 days, and none of the source code was touched.

There's nothing to see here folks, so just move along.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has encountered an infiltration of another sort at Corbis, the image-archiving licensing company he founded in 1989. Our spies report that the company recently signed a multimillion-dollar deal with image management software vendor Artesia Technologies.

The deal means that Corbis' current systems, built internally using Microsoft development tools, will be replaced by Artesia's software, Teams. Teams is based on Java, CORBA, and Oracle.

Our spy asks, "If Bill really believes in his own development tools, why in the world would he allow his own privately owned company to add any more dollars to Larry Ellison's net balance?"

Maybe that's the real reason why Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen have been dumping Microsoft stock by the millions over the past few months.

Separately, some Microsoft Net-work users were recently annoyed when their access to newsgroup servers was cut off at the end of October. Although the company didn't notify its users or its customer service workers of the change, Microsoft Network technical support confirmed that the company was dropping the service.

You'd think after all the negative publicity about dot-coms that investors would hold off on any new deals. But that's not so for American Express. The financial services company, best known to Randi as the maker of one of her favourite gold credit cards, is anxious to get into the technology business.

They're doing it by participating in a venture investment led by CMGI to fund a business-to-business e-commerce company.

"Bill and Steve need to stop covering up the truth and just be honest with themselves," Randi said. "They're in denial."

"They're lucky they have us to point that out to them," I said, pulling her down on the couch next to me.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld

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