Word is out that Larry Ellison, the hardnosed (and some would say hardheaded) CEO of No. 2 software developer Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL), married his longtime girlfriend, novelist Melanie Craft, over the holidays. Will the nuptials mellow Ellison, 59, as he approaches his golden years?

No one knows, but if fiction is autobiography his wife might have something to say about it. Her third novel, scheduled for release in May, is titled Man Trouble and tells of a romance author who's trying to make a family man out of a billionaire playboy whose company's sales are sliding.

We can't wait to find out how it ends, and if the marriage will hold up beyond the first book tour.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Microsoft Reverses Course

If you're a Windows 98 user, you'll be happy to know official support for your software will not end this Friday after all. Instead, Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) has changed its mind and will extend the service at least through mid-2006.

According to published reports, the world's largest software producer is making the move largely because of confusion in developing countries about the length of the support period for different Windows 98 products. But Reuters points out another possible reason: Officials in these and other countries have felt Microsoft is guilty of pushing consumers to upgrade to newer and more expensive products.

What's more, Bill Gates and his crew may be wary of having thousands of businesses and millions of unhappy users with strained budgets considering alternative operating systems, such as Linux -- distributed by the likes of Red Hat(Nasdaq: RHAT) and Novell's(Nasdaq: NOVL) SuSE Linux.

It's estimated that some 20% to 25% of all Windows-based computers still use Windows 98 or 95. As one analyst told ZDNet UK, "I'm not going to say a large chunk of the install base would have moved to Linux, but certainly there is an alternative there -- but I don't want to overstate that."

Free support for Windows 98 ended last July, and the newly extended paid support will still cost users $35 per incident. Those with problems can continue to consult the Windows 98 support center for free, or ask the many experts on the Fool's own Help with this STUPID computer! discussion board.

Quote of Note

"The crowning fortune of a man is to be born to some pursuit which finds him employment and happiness, whether it be to make baskets, or broadswords, or canals, or statues, or songs." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

StorageTek's Heavy Load

Here's guessing that StorageTek(NYSE: STK) is going to need some space to store its good tidings. Last night, the data storage specialist announced that it would be topping its fourth-quarter projections, handily. It is now looking to earn at least $0.55 a share on revenue of better than $660 million.

While the market had been singing the corporate-spending blues over the past couple of years, StorageTek has been whistling a different tune. This will mark the 14th-straight quarter of improving quarterly profits for the company.

Two months ago, we singled out the stock for its Flow Ratio improvement. Truly a global player with half of its business coming from its international operations, StorageTek has come a long way since selling tape drives some 34 years ago. While it has remained loyal to its roots, technology has ramped up the significance, proliferation, and means of storing information electronically.

Focus has been StorageTek's strong suit. As rival EMC(NYSE: EMC) acquires companies to grow its server business and IBM(NYSE: IBM) is -- well, what isn't IBM into these days? -- StorageTek has been true to its past. "We're not distracted by trying to sell servers or other computing products," the company boasts on its website.

You can argue that a little diversification can be a good thing in a technology sector where flux and obsolescence are the norms, but you can't argue with StorageTek's results. With the new guidance coming in a nickel a share higher than Wall Street's targets, the company will have earned at least $1.25 in 2003. Even after surging into the $30s in after-hours trading last night, it gives the company a reasonable trailing earnings multiple in the mid-20s.

Serving an industry that will only continue to grow as business spending improves to go along with a balance sheet that's flush with roughly $8.50 a share in cash, StorageTek may be worthy of one more task of data collection: your attention.

Discussion Board of the Day: EMC

StorageTek and EMC are growing in different ways, but they are both still data storage specialists. What are their differences? Which one should you consider buying into -- if at all? All this and more -- in the EMC discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Sell Your House Tax Free!

If you're thinking of selling your home, know that you may be able to avoid paying taxes on $250,000 of capital gains when you sell it -- if you meet a few requirements. Anyone planning to sell a primary residence in the near future should read up on the exciting home-sale exclusion rules, which are just a few years old. While you used to be able to exclude up to $125,000 of gain just once in your life, you can now exclude up to a whopping $250,000 every few years.

If that isn't tantalizing enough, consider that married couples can exclude up to a half-million dollars. That amounts to many tens of thousands of dollars in savings. Here are some of the requirements:

  • You (the seller) must have owned and lived in the home as your principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the date of sale. The two years don't have to be consecutive, though.

  • In most cases, you can only take advantage of this home sale exclusion once during any two-year period.

  • A married couple may exclude up to $500,000 of their home sale gain if all of the following apply:
  1. They file a joint return for the year of the home sale;
  2. Either spouse owned the home for at least two years in the five-year period ending on the sale date;
  3. Both spouses used the home as a principal residence for at least two years in the five-year period ending on the sale date; and
  4. Neither spouse had used the new exclusion on the sale of another residence within the two-year period ending on the date of the current home's sale.

Since this is such a big tax break, make sure you plan your home sale carefully to ensure that you qualify. This includes living in it for the required amount of time. Proper planning can save tens of thousands of tax dollars.

Shameless Plug: Home Center

For all this talk of housing bubbles and investor flight from the homebuilders, dwellings keep popping up and rates just don't seem to want to. All this will change at some point, but for most of us, housing prices and mortgage rates are not just talking points, but factors in very important life decisions. If you're thinking of moving on up, you want the best rates and to know that you've made the right decision. Visit our Home Center to ease your mind.

More Fool News

For all of today's stories, see Today's Headlines.

And Finally...

Fresh off an inbox overloaded with reader emails, Dayana Yochim is at it again -- this time with a few words on the wisdom of rolling over that old 401(k). Makes sense. But what's with that cheapshot at her faithful (say nothing of brilliant) editor? Find out in Trillion-Dollar Treasure Trove. If that doesn't wear you out, Don Crotty thinks he's found 3 Values in Oil. Sounds messy -- but fun.

Contributors:
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Sam Edwards, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Hwang, LouAnn Lofton, Alyce Lomax, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Dave Marino-Nachison, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim