Ex-Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer caused quite a stir last month when video of him giving a “pep talk” to fans of the Los Angeles Clippers, a professional basketball team that he just bought for $2 billion, went viral. Unlike most sports team owners who tend to be quiet, behind-the-scenes people, Ballmer seemed completely unhinged as he screamed at the crowd in front of his bemused players.
For the public at large, Ballmer’s style may seem a surprise, but to those who follow the tech world it’s old hat. For years, Ballmer’s keynote addresses at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and his appearances at Microsoft meetings were legendary for his almost incomprehensible ravings, many of which are captured for posterity on YouTube. In fact, tech journalist David Pogue (formerly with the New York Times and now with Yahoo) famously opened his speech at MacWorld in 2010 by jumping on the stage, windmilling his arms, and screaming at the top of his lungs in an obvious parody of Ballmer’s bizarre keynote at CES barely a week before.
Another former technology founder – Mark Cuban – manages to do his screaming on a different stage: the basketball court itself. Cuban, who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in 1999 at the height of the dotcom boom, is also an NBA owner. He’s been fined a record 20 times for a total of $1.9 million by the league mostly for his criticism of referees when their decisions go against his team – the Dallas Mavericks. Cuban’s tantrums in basketball arenas across the country are also the stuff of YouTube legend.
Now there are rumors that the notoriously temperamental Larry Ellison of Oracle is angling to buy a sports team himself. If he does, another technology exec will likely soon be making his own screaming viral videos on YouTube.
In other news around the tech world:
Software problems delay bike share programs – What if you owned a computer, the maker of your operating system went bankrupt, and they were the only supplier in the world? That’s the concern cities from San Francisco to New York are facing today as they struggle to overcome problems with their bike sharing programs. Although the programs have proven to be fairly popular with local residents, it still takes technology to manage the system.
Most of the large city bike programs are run by Alta Bicycle Share, a small company based in Portland. But Alta’s software comes from a Canadian firm called Bixi which declared bankruptcy in January. Bixi’s murky finances have made it difficult to sort out repayment to creditors and dependence on their technology has delayed expansion plans in a number of U.S. cities, including San Francisco. If there was ever a good industry for a second-source software vendor, bike sharing is it.
New car tracking technology ready to roll – A company called 911TRACKER has introduced a small security device that uses GPS and cellular tracking to protect motorists in the event of accidents or theft. Vehicle owners can now command a call directly to 911 without needing to go through a third party call center and the authorities know immediately where the car is located. The company is targeting their product towards businesses that use vehicle fleets as a way to monitor location and resolve breakdowns quickly. There are also future plans to use the technology for Alzheimer patients, hikers, or even ships.
But first, 911TRACKER is pushing hard for widespread adoption in the car market. “We think eventually automobile manufacturers will license our technology,” says Chuck Roedel, the company’s President.
Airport security springs another leak – In the aftermath of the startling research unveiled at the Black Hat cybsersecurity conference in Las Vegas last month that showed huge network vulnerabilities at TSA airport checkpoints, it’s hard to imagine the story getting any worse. But two weeks ago, it did. Researchers from three major universities published findings that showed Rapiscan Secure 1000 full-body scanners simply don’t work. The results showed an inability to detect knives, guns, or explosives, which just about covers the field. The machines are also vulnerable to malicious software that can conceal such threats from view. The team successfully picked the lock of the cabinet where the scanner’s computer is stored in ten seconds using a commercially available tool. Feeling any safer now?