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News Schmooze: Bert really is evil

Reality got Web-ified, the US government joined the Internet race and BT foiled competition plans

Just when you thought things might be about to settle back to some semblance of normality, you suddenly get this strange new phenomenon of life imitating the Web. There was something particularly chilling about the sight of our dear old childhood pal Bert appearing side-by-side with the world's most-wanted terrorist suspect, Osama bin Laden, in posters wielded by anti-American protesters, and realising that the surreal joke site Bert Is Evil had somehow infected reality. Next the Schmoozer expects to see a 50-meter-high Animal wreaking havoc through London's streets, like that scene in The Muppet Movie.

Is this the same cyberspace referred to by Richard Clarke, the US' Cyberspace Security adviser, as the fundamental pillar of our way of life? Clarke was proposing a completely secure, governmental version of the Internet, with virtual armed guards, no anonymity, no weird Muppet sites or hackers -- in other words, a big network with a sign on it saying "CRACK ME".

As one way of ensuring that everybody on the Internet knows you're a dog, the Schmoozer would suggest mandatory face recognition built into all Internet-connected PCs, like they're planning to build into ATMs.

Maybe governments will turn out to be ace at network infrastructure -- hey, made up the Internet, after all. But the Schmoozer is not particularly inspired by the example of the No. 10 Downing Street site, which collapsed for several days after posting the evidence against bin Laden.

Linux saw what must be its fastest kernel update this week after a final version posted on Tuesday, version 2.4.11, suddenly vanished two days later to be replaced by 2.4.12. The explanation was a "serious" bug that had made its way into the earlier version, something that obviously miffed Linus Torvalds: "I made a 2.4.12, and renamed away the sorry excuse for a kernel that 2.4.11 was," he said.

IBM and Citizen must think Linux is cool, because they've spent lots of R&D money building it into, yes, a watch. This is something like Dick Tracy's "two-Way Wrist Radio" except it doesn't have a radio or a TV built in, and the battery runs out after six hours. Probably doesn't even do command line.

In the big, bad monopolies department, BT endeared itself to customers this week by defending a policy of capping download speeds for some heavy users of its ADSL service, apparently unaware that its own chief executive had just given a speech urging people to go out and download all they want.

They later recanted, but as though to prove that they are still the bad guys, vowed to fight tooth and nail against plans to increase ADSL competition. This would involve letting other companies into BT's local exchanges, unsupervised -- and as we all know, BT is the only company capable of keeping terrorists, spies and hackers out of the phone network.

Increasing competition would presumably bring broadband prices down, but the Schmoozer doesn't know for sure -- it wasn't in Oftel's press release, and their spokeswoman didn't know one way or another.

The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.

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