Enter infamous last words

Yes indeed, one’s final words can be profound (“Friends applaud, the comedy is finished,” Ludwig van Beethoven, March 26, 1827), witty (“I should never have switched from scotch to martinis,” Humphrey Bogart, Jan. 14, 1957), or poignant (“All my possessions for a moment of time,” Elizabeth I, Queen of England, 1603).

But how do you know your words and comments will be reported after you shuffle off this mortal coil?

And if they are reported, will they be reported accurately? How about those choice words for those you hate, those you scorn or those you want to be brutally honest with but would rather not be around to experience the consequences? And what about those files you would prefer not be found after you pass away – you know, your “entertainment” collection (nudge, nudge).

I have found the answer: Thanks to a note in one of my favourite newsletters called “Need To Know” (www.ntk.net), I stumbled across a piece of software that addresses this problem. The software is called Dead Man’s Switch, or DMS.

DMS (which can be found at http://daisyman.arsware.org/dms) was produced by “Daisyman,” the pseudonym for one of the contributors to Arsware.org (www.arsware.org).

Let me digress here to s’plain…this Web site, according to its owner, “hanser,” contains “arsware,” which, he notes, “is loosely defined as apps, themes, graphics work, code libraries, or anything else written by Arsians.” I have no idea what Arsians might be, and frankly couldn’t care less unless it qualifies under the heading of original sins. Be that as it may, it is a very cool site.

So DMS is a simple idea: “If not reset by a given time, [DMS] will automatically carry out a series of tasks, such as posting messages to Web sites like Ars, sending e-mails to loved ones (or hated ones), and encrypting or destroying sensitive files.”

What a neat idea! The software runs without installation – you save it to a directory and, when you first run it, all the required registry entries are created. DMS keeps all its own files in the same directory as the application and generally keeps everything simple and tidy.

Anyway, I thought the whole idea of DMS was interesting, and it made me wonder what the last words of various public figures in our industry might be…

Bill Gates: “Yes, I wanted to take over the world, and I can’t believe that we ever got away with those OEM contracts. Oh, and I always thought that Oracle was better then SQLServer. And I wish I’d written Linux.”

Larry Ellison: “It was true, Oracle’s software was a buggy, overpriced con and MySQL was actually much better.”

Walter Hewlett: “I didn’t really give a rat’s ass about the Compaq deal, I just had time on my hands.”

Linus Torvalds: “Actually, I always rather liked Windows.”

The idea of this software got me thinking that there are some interesting snafus that could occur using DMS.

Imagine setting up DMS on your PC, and then the machine gets stolen! The thief doesn’t know it is running and doesn’t care, so DMS doesn’t get reset in time. Suddenly you find you have confessed your infidelities to your spouse, sent the Internal Revenue Service a nose-thumbing note about how you lied about your expenses over the last decade, told each of your business colleagues exactly what you think of them and bequeathed your golf clubs, boat and widescreen TV to the nearest homeless shelter.

DMS is an interesting idea and not without certain possibilities, but the risks are far too great for my tastes. I’ll stick with an old-fashioned will for now.

Gibbs is a contributing editor at Network World (U.S.). He is at nwcolumn@gibbs.com.