There are days when it seems that all al-Qaida has to do to is stay in bed, and the great experiment of the Enlightenment will grind to a halt under its own preposterousness. Today, the US Navy -- at the front line of the technocratic world's defence against the forces of darkness -- reports that it's lost nearly 600 computers, 14 of which contained classified data. Where have they gone? Who's got them? What's going to happen when Operation Kill Lots Of Bad Guys goes into action and everyone's sitting around waiting for their orders from one of these computers? Nobody knows. Nobody's got any idea. This is good headline stuff, but hardly the biggest problem confronting the Jolly Jack Tars' IT department. Another survey out recently revealed that the American Navy has more than 100,000 -- that's one hundred thousand -- different application programs. I didn't know there were that many in the world, but there are and Uncle Sam's using all of them. This includes banks of CP/M computers running Wordstar (ask your grandfather), as well as custom hardware and software and -- of course -- every variant of Windows ever to escape from the belly of the beast. It is all thunderously incompatible with itself, and by far the biggest challenge ever to face those intent on creating a single system where everyone from the Admiral of the Fleet to the lowliest cabin boy can share information. "They'd be better off ditching everything overboard and starting from scratch," said one person connected with the project that's aiming to do just that. Perhaps that's where the 600 lost PCs went, as a fresh-faced IT specialist decided the task of interfacing Electric Pencil with Lotus Notes over Token Ring was just too much for any sane man to bear and threw the entire kit overboard. Quite possibly hitting some dodgy geezer in a rubber boat containing a few kilos of Semtex. Stranger things have happened at sea.