Sxipper the dog loves to learn new tricks as he gets older

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Sxipper the dog loves to learn new tricks as he gets older
 
Malcolm Parry
Vancouver Sun

Dick Hardt has got a dog for you. Such a dog, too, and not only because he's free and has an excellent pedigree.

Sxipper will guard you night and day, near and far. He'll quickly learn everything you want him to do on your behalf, as well as a lot of stuff you don't know yet or that is too complex for you to grasp.

He'll also learn new tricks as he gets older. And not just from you. In fact, he'll stay in constant touch with possibly millions of other Sxippers around the world, all of whom will share everything they've learned that may protect and aid their masters. And none will ever disclose a single discreet fact about the man, woman or child who holds their leash.

Okay, Sxipper is software. And mechanical engineer Hardt is the 43-year-old Fort St. John native who pioneered what he called "monetizing the Internet."

By that, he meant modifying freely available software into forms business operators could use and he could sell.

Thus he launched the spam-fighting firm ActiveState in 1997, moved it into a former bank building at Granville off Dunsmuir Street, and saw it gross $9 million in 2001. Soon, though, he modified himself from behind the president's desk and back on the technological wave he loves to surf.

Two years later, he sold the 70-employee ActiveState to the British Sophos firm and bought himself a Porsche Carrera GT that recently cost ICBC $190,000 after a parking-lot scrape damaged its carbon-fibre underbody. The supercar is well again, ActiveState employs close to 200, and Hardt is realizing another aim: "To manage your identity in a digital world."

The Cliqin firm he said would do that emerged in 2004 as Sxip (Simple eXtensible Identity Protocol), with a staff of 20 occupying 10,000 square feet at Beatty and Robson for $15 a foot all in. With the option on a same-size floor below, you don't need Hardt's slide-rule to figure 150 could work there.

Sxip begat Sxipper -- www.sxipper.com -- a beta version of which is freely available. Hardt says the good digital dog "manages your identity on line."

That includes straightforward stuff like remembering and applying site passwords, automatically filling in forms, and remembering all the sites you've accessed and what you've told them.

But today's dynamic data is much harder to handle than it was when web pages were static. Sxipper is in his element here, Hardt says, especially when its master's identity data is dynamic and would be hard or impossible to manage.

He's referring to stuff like disposable e-mail and one-time credit cards.

Say a website wants your e-mail address, but you couldn't prevent it going to another site. Sxipper will forward an address only the directed site can access. When you've received all you want, Sxipper kills it.

On-line credit purchases? Sxipper will send a number valid for once only.

Sxipper will remain free, Hardt says, with a package for disposables, data-synchronizing and back-up costing around $25 annually. He expects "millions and millions will want to use the free version, and millions will want the paid service."

Meanwhile, with Hardt's traditional policy of "releasing early and releasing often," new versions of Sxipper will go out every 10 days. "And Sxipper himself will constantly grow as he learns, evolves and adapts to what people ask for and teach him."

As for making another heap of moolah, Hardt is looking beyond supercars to very light jets like the $1.5-million US Eclipse 500, that cruises at 370 knots for up to 2,400 km. Maybe in a couple of years -- 14 dog years, that is.

malcolmparry@shaw.ca

© The Vancouver Sun 2007

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CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.