Matter Of Fact: Truth Or Consequences

Quick hits, strange wit, and a pot full of bits. <I>InformationWeek</I> Research editor Rusty Weston looks for truth in all the wrong places.

Rusty Weston, Contributor

October 2, 2001

3 Min Read

Listen, if Michael Jordan wages a successful NBA comeback, it may inspire us to find a valuable role for our old DEC VAX. Sure, it's got a few frayed wires and could use a good dusting, but then I'm sure the other nodes will understand if it's not like the old days.

Airport security never worked with underpaid and undertrained people manning the controls, so I'm sure that if passengers stand in line an extra hour now everyone will be much safer.

I like the idea of Microsoft setting the standards of Internet privacy. That way, when my privacy is invaded, a blue GPF (general protection fault) screen will notify me immediately so I can give my life the three-fingered salute (control-alt-delete).

I'm looking forward to running Windows XP on my home PC. I'll have to double my RAM and disk space and remove all of my current applications. But I would do almost anything--short of installing Linux--to rid my cyberlife of MS-DOS. Alas, I may be alone here. I'm told shrinks are gearing up to deal with an outbreak of post-traumatic MS-DOS-loss disorders. And computer retailers are offering sales clerks sensitivity training to handle graying customers who shuffle into the store waxing wistfully about their beloved C-prompt.

Sure, IT confidence is down about one-third since the beginning of the year, according to a new InformationWeek Research study. Just about another four-thirds to go, and perception will catch up to reality. Even in the face of this downturn, it's understandable that no one wants to give back their hard-fought budget dollars to protect operating margins. But are business-technology professionals the leading or trailing indicators of what's happening in the U.S. economy? The study is designed to look ahead, and, as it happens, business-technology professionals are among the better-educated and better-paid players in this economy. So if our readers are worried, Doubleya, we hope you devise a more stimulating idea than a $600 rebate to resuscitate the economy.

It's been the butt end of countless jokes: government intelligence. Maybe it's time to give that concept the three-fingered salute, too? Will politicians achieve what lifelong law-enforcement officials couldn't? Maybe. Just ask any network or security guru: It's almost always the low-tech solution that breaks through system defenses. The most successful hackers (Kevin Mitnick, Kevin Poulson) all used social engineering whenever possible. Look around your network; if anyone is named Kevin, watch him closely or report him to Gov. Tom Ridge, future Director of Homeland Security, in the U.S. of A. I feel safer already, don't you?

While networking and IT experts are beginning to grasp the viral popularity of instant-messaging systems, Yahoo, AT&T, MSN, and others are racing to trump AOL with video mail and video messaging. You've never seen a security breach until you see your data streaming outside the firewall over digital media. As for me, I don't have a digital camera yet and I'll probably buy a cheapie. I'm not sure anyone would want to see the wide-angle view of my office.

You have to hand it to Reuters, the British news agency that provides a considerable amount of news content to Web sites, even to ours on occasion. Its policy of refusing to characterize Osama bin Laden or his al Qaeda group as terrorists is downright appalling. According to Reuters, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. That's true, but what happened Sept. 11 was mostly about murdering innocent people and destroying nonmilitary targets. Even bin Laden has said he uses terror to achieve political gains. I may joke around a bit, but I know journalism is ultimately about telling the truth, not hiding behind a veil of "objectivity."

What's your take on reality these days? Please sound off at the Listening Post about these and other matters.

Rusty Weston is editor of and InformationWeek Research.

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