Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Finks and nincompoops—glory days in technology--UPDATED

Remember the days when those terrific kids in Silicon Valley promised they would do things differently? —For Yahoo, this is apparently the Year of the Rat [and thank you, John Paczkowsky for that line—I couldn’t think of a better one]. It turns out that in order to do business in China you have to sign something called the “Public Pledge on Self-Discipline for the Chinese Internet Market." It means that if anyone misbehaves, like expressing an opinion contrary to the offiicial state line or criticizing the country, you have to cooperate with authorities in tracking the miscreant down. OK, you want to do business, you sign the damn thing and then forget it. Not Yahoo. According to Reporters Without Borders, a Chinese journalist, Chi Tao, sent out a message warning people that there could be social destabilization on the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. That, the government said, was a “state secret” and damaging to the country. The government demanded information from Yahoo to track down the evil-doer. Yahoo, to it’s great shame, turned him over to the authorities. He is now in jail. Apparently, profit trumps morality even for the young Silicon Valley set. I don’t often quote the New Testament, but in the words of Paul, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” I’m thinking of changing my Yahoo accounts.

UPDATE--The story finally made it out of the blog world and is in this morning's New York Times.

Look, unless you are really dumb, FEMA can't help you—OK, you are trapped in a house in New Orleans or in Pas Christian or one of those unhappy places left desolate by Hurricane Katrina. You need some information fast. You turn on your Mac (or if you are really a nerd, your Linux computer) and dial up the website for those splendid folks at FEMA. Sorry, can’t help you. The FEMA website, which should know a disaster when they see one, will only work for Windows computers using Explorer 6. Go away. So unless you use Windows and are really stupid (you use Explorer? defense rests), you can’t get any help from FEMA. Don't believe me? Click here.

By the way, Macintouch says you can usually fool the website if you use Opera, the Norwegian web browser that can pretend it is Explorer. And for more, there is always Good Morning Silicon Valley, a wonderful website run out of the San Jose Mercury News.

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