After hearing from several readers about how silkworms are boiled alive to harvest their silk, my peace-loving girlfriend Randi gave up on the idea of growing them as part of her back-to-nature, self-sufficiency kick. Really, I don't think she'd have done too well in the country, away from her regular masseuse and her weekly trips to Macy's to pick up the latest beauty products (the ones that aren't tested on animals, of course). It's doubtful the silkworm farm could have paid for all those things anyway, I told her.
"Bobby, I wouldn't need all that stuff if I lived on a farm," Randi purred. "It's the stress of modern society that makes me crave material things."
But still, Randi was intrigued when I told her about a new system called SmartWear that has been developed by a company called Wearlogic. This product, sources tell us, is a tiny server that fits into the user's wallet.
The system functions as the server for all the user's other devices - perhaps personal digital assistants (PDAs), laptops or cell phones.
Microsoft contractors are apparently running into some trouble because of a new mandate by the software giant. It seems Microsoft recently made the pronouncement that all contractors use Microsoft Time Tracker (MSTT), to report their hours. Accessed via Exchange, the contractor enters his or her hours, then the system tracks that and records approvals. But even though the system has been in place for months, it's still a little buggy - it does not reliably transmit the time sheet or approval information.
One contractor reports that he has to take screen shots of the MSTT user interface and e-mail those as bitmaps to prove that his time is approved.
Perhaps Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen knows something that we don't: It seems Allen has been dumping Microsoft stock by the bushel recently, with trades averaging about $US300 million a pop.
Whatever Allen's doing with all that money, he's probably not investing it in PacBell. The mailbox was flooded with notes from PacBell DSL victims, detailing their torture experiences at the hands of this telephone monopoly.
Even PacBell's owner, Southwestern Bell Communications (SWB), is not exempt from criticism. One reader wrote in with some insight from a SWB representative he encountered.
"I was lucky enough to corner a Southwestern Bell pole climber in my neighbour's backyard and refused to give him back the keys to his truck unless he gave me the scoop on my DSL delays," our fed-up reader said.
According to the SWB DSL technician, different regulations were in place for guaranteeing minimum connection speeds for the telco and its startup competitors: In effect, SWB had to guarantee higher connection speeds than mom-and-pop DSL. So SWB spun off its DSL service unit into an entity that would be required to guarantee only the lower speed.
Randi looked wistfully out toward the mountains. "Maybe we could just move to the hills, Bobby," she said.
Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld