PS... A Column

on Things

By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Vol. 1 No. 4

Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.

November 9, 1998

Sit on it, Newt!

I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.

Table of Contents:

Computer Industry News

Web Site of the Week

General News


  • Paul makes the Top 5 list; 20 Ways to Know You're Living in the 90s.


  • Joe Brancatelli (I swear, he'll take over my column if I let him), Michael D. McNamee, Craig Reynolds, Neal Vitale, Matt Jalbert, Daniel P. Dern.

Computer Industry News

News Server Seized

I got some email that said the following:

It seems that the Attorney General of NY executed a search warrant against 2 ISP's for having illegal material on their USENET servers.

There have been a couple of news stories on the subject, but not nearly enough, considering what a threat this could be to the Internet. Think about it. Will any ISP anywhere run a news server with several gigabytes of news content if they run the risk of having their hardware seized by an overzealous local prosecutor? Well, maybe not in California, but there are 49 other states where this could happen often enough to destroy the Internet. You can see the article from a Syracuse newspaper here.

Gates Testimony Released

What is it with guys named Bill and their videotaped pre-trial depositions? Some of Bill Gates' pre-trial testimony in the antitrust case was released on Monday over the objections of Microsoft attorneys.

Several of you will recognize the name Peter Peckarsky. Peter is acting as the TechWeb legal correspondent during our coverage of the Microsoft antitrust trial. When I asked him why the government wanted to show the videotape, when it could just read a transcript (as it did for everyone else) and why Microsoft so violently opposed it, his answer was quite simple: there must be something about Mr. Gates' demeanor which the government thinks will help its case and Microsoft's attorneys think will hurt their case.

I know just how arrogant Bill Gates can be. Digress Here. His demeanor during this trial is of a piece with his general treatment of people he doesn't want/need something from. In my experience, only the very insecure have to treat the lower-power people around them in such a dismissive way.

At one point, David Boies, the private attorney working for the Department of Justice in this trial, is deposing Gates in his Seattle office, and asks, "Did you get this email addressed to you on February 13th?" This is one of the rare occasions in the time I watched when Gates answered instantly. "I don't recall." Boies patiently goes on, "Do you have any reason to believe you didn't get it?" "No," Gates admits. It was a Microsoft exhibit, produced by Microsoft attorneys in answer to DOJ requests for documents. Neither Gates, nor Microsoft, nor its attorneys, have, at any time in this trial, claimed that the e-mail the government is using was faked. They are only making half-hearted attempts to contend that Gates didn't see the mail addressed to him or write the mail that went out over his signature.

At another point, Boies wonders if Gates asked Apple for something. "It depends on what you mean by ask," was Gates response. Eerily reminiscent of someone seeking to redefine the word "now" in his deposition, isn't it?

By the way, I was amused by the several headlines I saw, such as the one in the Contra Costa Times that suggested "Testimony Shows A Different Gates." I suppose that was true for the general public, which had not dealt with him one on one. Alas, for those of us obliged to deal with him professionally, the testimony did not show a different Gates, it showed the quintessential Bill Gates, captured on videotape.

One more quick note: U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson rebuked one of Microsoft's trial attorneys this week for asking misleading questions. He also told him several times to "move along." Darryl K. Taft, covering the trial for Computer Reseller News told CRN radio's Jeff O'Heir that this caused the attorney to "melt down" and become ineffectual for the rest of the hearing that day.

Personally, I am waiting for the judge to rebuke Microsoft attorneys for pretending they don't know the antitrust law.

HTML Programmers: A Challenge

If you're viewing this with Netscape, you'll probably have noticed yet another irritating artifact of my decision to write this in Microsoft Word. Its Microsoft-centric HTML translation produces a column which looks fine in Internet Explorer, but which is too far over to the left in Netscape. If someone out there would like to look at the source code and tell me how to tweak it to get the title block, (from the picture and title through the disclaimer) to move right in Netscape--without ruining it in IE--I'd be most grateful.

Web Site of the Week

 By now, the more astute of you may have noticed a pattern in the "web site of the week." Either I'm a contributor to the site, or it has someone I know and like working there. This week is no exception.

In 1979, CMP Publications founded a lovely little bi-weekly tabloid newspaper called Information Systems News. And, try as he may like to forget it, the original editor of that publication (which went on, after 15 years and a name and format change to become the enormously successful InformationWEEK) was one Joe Brancatelli. Before ISN Joe was a magazine consultant who worked half the year and spent the other half the year on the beach. After ISN he did some of that, and served a stint as editor of Frequent Flyer Magazine.

Joe is one of the best bosses I have ever had, tough but fair, and is also an eloquent natural writer, who should always have a column somewhere. Now, he has two, as a matte of fact, the Brancatelli File and The Tactical Traveler at Even though I am not a frequent flyer, both columns are a delight to read.

I read them every week because Joe sends me email reminding me to read them every week. Which is where I got the idea for sending out an email notice of this column. Joe may be a better columnist than me; he certainly writes a better email blurb. Here's his blurb for this week:

Since it's election day, I figured I'd vote on the best and worst of business travel in 1998. Find out where peanut-free zones and airline ads rate. You'll even find which column I wish I DIDN'T write and the comment I most wish I DID make this year. Read all about it by clicking the hotlink above or point your browser to, then choosing The Brancatelli File from the home page.

I hereby resolve to try to write more interesting email blurbs in the future.

General News

We Won! America Won

It doesn't get much sweeter. The American people have spoken, and I couldn't be happier with what they had to say. You see, I am a Yellow Dog Democrat. That means if the Democrats nominated a yellow dog, I'd still vote for it. I worked for Bobby Kennedy and Wayne Morse when I was still in high school. I voted for Carter and Dukakis. So you can imagine how good I felt on election night. As a resident of California, I am thrilled that I'll have Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate and Gray Davis in Sacramento. It really is morning in America this time. It appears even the Republicans are getting the message. Wanna place any bets on impeachment now?

By the way, my mother, one of the most astute political observers I know, believes the GOP lost its way when it decided to listen to the media instead of the people. "Now maybe you'll listen to the people" she concludes.

I write this column gradually, all week, a little each day after work. Newt Gingrich's resignation broke on Friday when it was almost done. I will probably have more to say next week and in future weeks. I am not saddened by his departure. In fact, I am rather cheered by it. To use his own words, I always thought Newt was "bizarre" and "obscene." My jollity stems from the fact that I am morally certain the Republicans can do worse. And will.

Paul Hankers for Skywalker Ranch

On a personal note, I have been on a quest for years. I'd like a tour of Skywalker Ranch, the audio facility in Marin County where George Lucas is inventing the future. You'd think, as a journalist, this would be a no-brainer, right? Wrong. If you interview someone in the Lucas organization, they meet you in a warehouse in downtown San Rafael. I want to see the studios, the stages, the whole nine yards.

I have missed two chances over the years. The first was some time ago, when a friend of mine who lives on the next spread over was invited in for a "meet your neighbors session" Lucas held. I only found out about it after the fact; otherwise I would have prevailed on my old college roommate to slip me in.

Then, last month, the Audio Engineering Society met in San Francisco. Tour T-1 was a tour of Skywalker Ranch. AES member (and long-time friend) Ross Snyder (the inventor of Sel-Sync, and don't let Les Paul tell you any different) knew of my interest in the ranch and tipped me off. "Get there early," he warned, "the good tours fill early." Registration started at 3 at San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center. I arrived at 2:30. It wasn't good enough. The last Skywalker ranch tour ticket was sold about four people in front of me in the line.

Why am I telling you this tale of woe? It suddenly occurs to me that, somewhere out there, among my vast pool of friends, one of you may know someone who knows someone who can get me into Skywalker Ranch. I can't offer you much in return (a free dinner? A place to stay when you're in San Francisco?), except my undying gratitude.


Firesign Generation Gap

My older daughter Marlow finally listened to some of the new Firesign Theatre CD, Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death in the car the other night. Her response: "I can see why you thought this was funny back then, but I just don't understand why you still think this is funny." Whatever could she mean? (see letters for a spelling check)


Found humor still arrives regularly from the Internet. My friend Phil Gill forwarded Top 20 Ways To Know You Are Living In The 90's.

I made the Top 5 list again this week: No. 4 with a bullet (well, OK, no bullet) on the list of The Top 13 Reasons You Didn't Win the Halloween Costume Contest (Part II). If you look back, you'll see Top5 was the Web Site of the Week in my October 26th column.


I am proud, in the way only amateurs can be proud, of the pop-up boxes I use for digressions, and the fact that if you click a URL for another site in this column, it opens in another window. Matt Jalbert, the best and most thoughtful web page designer and artist I know, called this bad Nettiquette and scolded me in person. "This is the tragedy of the commons," he said, denoting the fact that everyone wants the Web to work in a way that favors them, that never whisks anyone away from their web site. It's probably true. If I keep doing pop-up digressions and "target blank" URLs, I'll kill all the grass and my sheep will die. Or, maybe my way of doing things will become the standard.

By the way, the letters section contains no jumps because I figure if I did a separate jump for each letter, those of you whose letters appear here would only read yours. This way, you have to read until you come to your name. It may not be user-friendly, but it is columnist-friendly.

My college newspaper buddy and fellow ex-editor of The Tech at MIT, Michael D. McNamee (now at BusinessWEEK, was the first to check in with technical errors this week:

Of the 97 visitors on your counter, I account for at least 3 ... guess that makes me a Faithful Reader. So I'm exercising my FR perogative to complain that

(a) you must have been rushed this week -- lots of typos and miscues,
(b) your e-mail message didn't contain a link -- the web address was plain text, and
(c) your link to the Mac-to-PC-to-Mac writer points to the piece he wrote on the first switch -- not the one about his return.
Hmmm ... maybe you should try being a two-fisted columnist (and what are you doing with your other hand, Dr. Schindler?) ...

Yes, Michael, even though I spent all day Sunday on the column and its technology, I was rushed. I resolved to spread the work through the week this week, as I did the week before but not last week (is that clear? Really? Why?)

Outlook Express, the e-mail package I use, does in fact turn partial URLs in e-mail messages into clickable URLs. For those of you with dud e-mail packages, I will endeavor to remember to publish the full URL in the email announcement.

I cannot thank you enough for point C. I just hadn't noticed I put the wrong column up. Finding the right column was a considerable chore (took me a half-hour of searching). People who viewed my column during Monday working hours may have seen a now-vanished message thanking Michael for the catch and noting that it would be corrected as soon as I had time.

You know, I could swear I checked all these links, but not according to Craig Reynolds, another college buddy from The Tech days (sheesh, haven't I made any friends since college?)

Hi, in PSACOT 1(3) under Web Site of the Week, the link named "Gamepower" whose href is

javascript:pup('digress1.html','wnam', 350, 450);

pops up "A Word about Digressions" which in turn links to "Writing Teams". Perhaps this is left over from the previous column? No doubt this can be traced back to faulty authoring software.
BTW, given your fondness Microsoft and its crappy products, why don't you do the smart thing: go out and buy a Real Computer? (Macs, Linux or Unix machines all fall into that category.)
How about adding a mailto link on the column page to facilitate feedback?
I've passed on the URL of your column to my coworkers who, in addition to being involved in R&D on cutting edge game technology, are a coven of rabid Microsoft-haters.

Your guess about the Gamepower URL was absolutely correct. I think it also stemmed, in part, from yet another Microsoft Word/HTML glitch, which is the same reason I didn't have a mailto at the end of this column. Turns out I can add one though, apparently, and so I will.

Craig, just be sure to tell your friends to have me add them to the weekly reminder list! Otherwise they might miss a column.

You've probably noticed I am a Firesign Theatre fan. Thus, I was chagrined to receive this note from college buddy Neal Vitale in Los Angeles:

I've succumbed. I guess I do like vanity publishing when my name is mentioned....Is it Theater or Theatre? (I obviously thought the latter, since you used the former.)

I wrote back:

I will go home tonight, look at the package, and slit my wrists if you're right. But, you'll get mentioned in another column this way!

Neal concluded the string:

Actually, since we "spoke," I checked

Send out for gauze...

Anybody know how to get blood stains out of a keyboard?

Rounding out the college buddy section, Daniel P. Dern was editor of Thursday when I edited The Tech at MIT. We remain friends. He responded to my request for feedback on how this column looks in various browsers:

So I still use Lynx. Sue me. I wouldn't leave any of that fancy stuff enabled anyway.

Speaking of Joe Brancatelli's elegant writing, which I was in the "Web Site of the Week" section, Joe sent yet another thougthful missive this week, with comments on election day, John Glenn and the Mac vs. Windows tempest [in a teapot]. Rather than be outshone in my own column, I will relegate him to a digression here.

He does win my heart by referring to the column as a fun read. And I agree with Joe. Election Day should be a holiday here, as it is in most democracies. In fact, it should be on Sunday, as it is in most of Europe outside England. And for that matter, we should have proportional voting, or Instant Runoff Voting. More on that another time (my daughter Marlow is writing a paper on the subject which I will excerpt here. In December.

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