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Embrace the Hackers

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Trade Show 5 The limo rolled up to the Casino and Frank opened my door and grinned. When I got out I had to step around a punk with blue hair wearing a woman's leopard-print shirt. He was screaming and crying and his legs bent as he sagged against his girlfriend. She slapped his face. "Get with it!" she snarled.

Later in a conference called "The Need for Business Models" Rich Lappenbusch, a Director of Strategic Planning for Microsoft, told us that one profitable industry on the web that is "rarely talked about" is pornography. "The business model is there," he said.

Sex and trade shows seem to be always linked. Two years ago in San Jose I attended a party that VA Linux held in a dance club. Roughly around midnight the disco music stopped and a chain of exotic dancers paraded onto the floor. Hand drummers pounded out a tribal beat and the dancers shook their asses and clapped finger cymbals. Executives wearing expensive suits began to stomp like pagans around the dancing girls to the thundering rhythm. When I asked Brian Ritchie, a PR man for VA Linux if the dancers were his idea, he told me it wasn't. "But I like it!" he said with a grin.

Williams told me once that the majority of the comments he gets about his software come from pornographers. "They want to use Broadcast to cut-up their dirty movies," he said, "edit them into little pieces for porn sites".

I thought about the limo driver and his Chinese porn. He used Linux to reduce expenditures without reducing production. Undeniable proof that money can be made using Linux and the Internet. But how far can it go? How many bar and grills would go out of business without their strippers? Even Yahoo sells porn these days.

In another conference called "Convergence - Will the Melding of Technologies Create New Industries?" Brian Seth Hurst, a consultant from Mediaxi, said that content providers need to "embrace the hackers". He talked about the "Napsterization of television" and how hackers were figuring out how to wire their Tivos to the Internet and trade television recordings.

Dick Glover, an exec from ABC, then gave a dopey presentation about how nicely his network was converging. He played a video clip that featured celebrities plugging the ABC website. Regis Philbin looked at the camera and said: "you can now play 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire' at home by logging on to abc.com right now."

Everyone clapped after the presentation. "Some networks make others feel like crawling under a rock," said the moderator. But I didn't clap. Glover never gave the numbers, but I have a hunch that the dancing gerbil page got more hits then ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (minus the million dollars) web page ever will. The presentation was meant to please stock holders. "Everything is fine," it said, "we have things under control. This whole Internet nightmare is under wraps."

During the Q&A I asked if any content providers had any solutions to dealing with this so- called "Napsterization" of content, besides "lawsuits or pretending that it isn't happening". Glover gibbered for five minutes. "Everything is so new," he said.

That evening Williams and I tried to talk Jason's mom into letting him go out with us. "You're young, and your hormones appear to be kicking in late," Williams told Jason, "but when they do, you'll want to get away. . . you'll want your independence. Me? I can't spend more then a few hours around my parents."

"Well!" Jason's mom snapped, glaring at me, "at least he's not out drinking and womanizing!"

"That's OK," I said, "he's coming with us. He'll be fine. But I'm still having horrible nightmares about that awful car ride last night. We went flying off the road into the desert and did several 360s before we stopped."

"Cacti, sand and porn swirling around inside the car!" cried Williams.

"Jason, you stay here!" screamed his mom.

"He's coming with us!" I yelled back.

"I shouldn't have had that 15th Whiskey," continued Williams, "the country music calmed me."

"Johnny Cash was singing 'Ring of Fire,'" I said, "but he woke up from the bleating car horn. His forehead was mashed against the steering column. Asleep at the wheel. . ." (Cont'd)

Trade Show

1 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (The NAB edition)
2 I was a teenage hacker
3 Linux Media Arts Cuts the Fat
4 Linux saved my Life
5 Sex and Trade
6 Bring on the Little Guys

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