Does Bill Gates get up your nose? Then try Microsnot

BUNHILL

This evening the television programme Triumph of the Nerds will undoubtedly have much to say about Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.

An extraordinary thing about Gates is the venom he generates among the computerati. The Internet is full of rather laboured anti-Gates jokes, usually concentrating on his supposed megalomania and failure to deliver products on time.

But this is more than jealousy. Some people really do think he is bad. This, for example, taken from a discussion group: "I hate Microsoft. Microsoft is the focus of evil in the modern world. Bill Gates is the Anti-Christ." A joke? I don't think so. The "Microsoft Hate Page" is full of such stuff.

So I was glad to find some witty and less deranged Bill-bashing. It was an announcement by "Microsnot", and it said: "Microsnot is pleased to announce the acquisition of Englandf, a leading country. England will bring many advantages to Microsnot including Englishf the world's leading language, some prime real estate, and a strong military.

"Englishf will no longer be made available publicly. All users of Englishf must register with Microsnot. A trial version of Englishf will be made available with a limited vocabulary." The point here is that Microsoft has a ruthlessly commercial attitude when it comes to defending copyright on computer languages it owns - use a pirate copy of one of them, many believe, and a thunderbolt will blast you to Kingdom Comef.

A colleague rang FT Magazines (publisher of Investors Chronicle, The Banker and the like) at 10.20 on Tuesday morning. "The switchboard is closed," a recorded voice announced. Who says the days of leisure are dead?

Digitally challenged

You have probably heard that our young are becoming dimmer and dimmer. Well, it is probably true that their Latin is less fluent than it was, but we are apparently going from strength to strength in the Informatics Olympiad, an international computer programming competition. Now computing is not of course as important at Latin, but I understand that it has certain narrow uses.

The final will be held in Hungary in July, but results from the British heats are encouraging. Anthony Rix, who organises the team, has high hopes it will come back laden with medals.

What, you may ask, are these youngsters so good at? I asked, and was given this question as an example. It is all about a cuddly mathematical concept called amicable numbers.

Amicable numbers are almost, but not quite, as friendly as perfect numbers. A perfect number is one whose divisors add up to the number. Six can be divided by three, two and one. Add them to together, and you get six. Clear?

Amicable numbers are pairs of numbers such as 2,620 and 2,924. Take the divisors of 2,620, add them together and you get 2,924. Do the same with the divisors of 2,924 and you get 2,620.

Anyway, our bright boys and girls were asked to write a computer program that worked out whether numbers were amicable or not. Now do you see see why computing is almost as useful as Latin?

The problem with business is that, rightly or wrongly, it has a deeply dull image. I therefore intend to introduce business people who are anything but dull.

Number one is James Fisk, born in Vermont on All Fools' Day, 1834, died 7 January, 1872. Dead people are better because you can't libel them and, boy, is this guy worth libelling?

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he worked as a circus hand, a pedlar, a dry-goods salesman, a stockbroker and a corporate official. Then in 1866 he formed a brokerage firm called Fisk and Belden with the support of Daniel Drew. The next year he joined Drew and the notorious Jay Gould in issuing fraudulent stock in the Erie Railroad, as a device to protect it against Cornelius Vanderbilt's attentions. Fisk also used company money to corrupt public officials, produce Broadway shows and "support" Broadway beauties, whatever that means.

Getting more adventurous he, Drew and Gould tried to corner the gold market. This triggered one of the great crashes of the last century, Black Friday - 24 September, 1869. Unfortunately for Fisk, Gould secretly sold much of his gold before prices fell. Then, romantically, Fisk was shot dead by a business associate in a quarrel over Josie Mansfield, one of the Broadway lovelies.

And you still say business is boring?

Boring bankers

A refinement of the above. The British Bankers' Association recently sent out a letter saying that its press briefing had been cancelled because "we feel that at present there are no developments of significant interest which can be tabled". So bankers are indeed boring, but at least they know they are boring.

A correction. On 4 June last year I wrote that the Nissan Cedric, a car popular in Japan, was so named because a past head of the company was an admirer of Sir Walter Scott (who, as you will know, invented the name Cedric in Ivanhoe).

How wrong I was! Jeremy Bell has written from south-east London with the real explanation which is much more interesting. The first Cedric was built in 1936, which gives it a longer pedigree than any other model, I think. Apparently a founding director of one of the two companies that today form Nissan had a fondness for Hollywood films. Hence the Cedric was named after Cedric Hardwicke, the distinguished British actor, the Nissan Gloria after Gloria Swanson and the Nissan Laurel after Stan Laurel (Nissan still makes a Laurel too).

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering