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My Two Cents Worth

There really only seemed to be one story on the Internet Thursday and Friday, and it was the Starr Report and the Clinton rebuttal. And almost everything that there is to say about it has been said. I said "almost," because I can't quite let it rest.

First of all, what were people THINKING about when they started speculating that its release would "crash the 'Net?" At all the places from which these reports were emanating, these people should know better. What we got was an insane competition for web site traffic. Withing five minutes of the release of the report, I had five email messages telling me where to go for the fastest downloads. It was mirrored everywhere. Even if it crashed the congressional servers, AOL, MSNBC and CNet at the same time - which it didn't - all it was going to take was for one copy to make it out. The Net was going to take care of the rest.

Second, the same Congress that approved the Communications Decency Act published this report on the Internet. It was almost enough to make me wish we still had the CDA to kick around, just so we could watch them all twist in the wind. And if you DON'T think it would have been a criminal act to publish the Starr Report if the CDA was still around, just download the document and do a search for the word "cigar."

Wired magazine, with typical understatement, said publishing the Starr report on the 'Net "may prove to be the single greatest event in the medium's history." I assume that what they mean is that this will eventually be seen as an event that marks the 'Net coming of age as a conduit for news, and maybe that's so. But let's keep in mind that the 'Net has only exploded as a mass medium over the last five years and there isn't a lot of competition for that "single greatest" spot. Video from the surface of Mars would have to be up there, but after that, you've got Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson

Microwave Bank

From the wonderful world of convergence -- look, I like new gadgets as much as anyone. I get that Tim Allen, "grrrhaa," kind of attitude about new electronic devices, especially communications and computer toys. But when I read that NCR Corp. is coming out with a microwave oven that also hooks up to the Net and does online banking, I really thought someone was making it up.

They aren't. Head on over to www.ncr.com and you can read about how to "shop, cook and bank with NCR's microwave bank!" It's expected to be available in about two years. Call me some sort of crazy Luddite, but I'm NEVER going to use a microwave oven to do my banking. I am never going to use one to download recipes or update my shopping list. And if I DID do those things, I wouldn't tell anyone, because it's weird and unnatural.

When they can get the microwave to actually beam the food in and cook it, they can get back to me on this one.

Speaking of useless gadgets, a survey sponsored by U.S. software provider Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) said devices such as mobile phones with data functionality, electronic pagers, computerized personal organizers, and handheld computers often make no impact on business productivity. The survey was done for SCO in Europe by Harris Research.

Among the survey's findings: Electronic gadget usage is on the increase--but three-quarters of users are unable to connect to business systems. Gadgets worth more than $2.17 billion have been sold so far in Europe, but more than $500 million worth have been trashed. It seems to me that Harris Research missed the central, vital reason why cool electronic devices are produced and purchased in the first place: they improve morale and promote the self-esteem of engineers. Everyone knows an engineer with inferior toys is just not going to produce the way an engineer with a full array of state-of-the-art devices on his belt will.

I suspect the survey was ordered up by SCO's marketing department to justify a bigger budget for trade shows. Rutabagas Finally, thanks to an alert Computer Report listener for pointing me in the direction of a picture of a rutabaga after my on-air lament last week that there were none to be found. We have now located two pictures of rutabagas, and one very bad rutabaga graphic. We've learned a valuable lesson about time management, as well. Because it seems clear, in hindsight, that if it was THAT important, we should have driven to the grocery store, purchased a rutabaga and photographed it. That will now be my advice for others seeking obscure vegetables on the Internet.

Jeff Schult and Nicole Chardenet can be reached at jeffbot at this domain.