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Letters So, Carly Fiorina has left HP, to the delight of the stock market and Register readers, among them current and former HP employees. Whether she jumped or was pushed is a mere detail, the end result is the same. Out goes the most powerful woman in corporate America, with a $45m golden parachute to help her to a nice soft landing.

You had plenty to say about it, none of it terribly complementary.

[Bootnote: The predictable slew of "she's a witch"/"she's a bitch" duly materialised, in accordance with the universal law that women executives will be attacked on such grounds. Seriously people: move on. Go after her for bad ideas (merging with Compaq, for instance?), or incompetent management, or something substantial...]

There was plenty of praise for the old guard, though:

From your article - "HP said on Monday (7 Feb) that Sanford Litvack was leaving the board and would be replaced by Thomas Perkins who was an HP director between 2002 and 2004. He originally left because at 73 he was too old to sit on the board - HP policy says directors should not be over 70 years old."

"They're more like guidelines..." - Pirates of the Caribbean

Thank you for your article - as a former employee of the company many years back, I look forward to the change in direction at HP - All niceties aside, it appears that Walter Hewlett was right and is vindicated. Bob Wayman is a most capable and experienced HP executive - a perfect choice to lead through the transition - the company is in good hands.

Alan


About appointing retired execs: It should be noted that the concept is not new to HP, at least in Germany.

Jörg Menno Harms quit HP GmbH's management board on April 30th 2000 to join the supervisory board. A search for a successor ensued, with no real results but in April 2002, a successor was finally found (Mr Heribert Schmitz).

Months later, Schmitz and Harms changed positions and Harms, then 62, returned as HP's "number 1" in Germany to help with the integration of Compaq. Harms was (and probably still is) very popular in- and outside the company, so that could explain it. He only stepped down just last fall, aged 65.

cheers, Rainer


I shall miss reading stories concerning CF as they made me laugh. AM very glad not to be an HP employee.

So any gossip on what the 'dispute' was? Or did someone on the board say to her (in the style of Harry Enfield), 'Oi, nutter! No!'

Roop


Steal the company from its originator, combine it with another lost company, stir gently, sell CRAP for products with 90 day warranties, proceed to go out-of-business. Great recipe or not...

Randy


Must protest your front page characterization of Fiorina's departure from HP as falling on the sword. Falling on the sword implies self sacrifice for the sake of honor or some other noble cause. Carly, quite pleasingly, was kicked rudely down the stairs.

Steve


"Although the merger was not the disaster many predicted, HP has not reaped that much benefit."

It may not have been an outright disaster, but as a result of the Borging of the HP laptop designs (all replaced by Compaq designs with new HP badges), our firm no longer purchases any HP computers whatsoever. We've spent roughly US$100,000 over the past 18 months on new servers and laptops. They're all Dell.

Rich


After several years at HP, she should easily get a job at a ketchup firm, eg. Heinz ...

Mike

Class


From HP, to Dell and its efforts to build a more environmentally friendly PC:

I heard that with some of the early adoption of silver solder used on the electronics boards of PCs, disc arrays etc problems have been encountered when in contact with even small amounts of sulphur in the atmosphere. Best not to smoke too close to these new PCs then. Which is a thought, maybe these are not just green but also healthier machines!

Will


And from Dell to Apple, and our review of the Mac Mini. As you must know, it is nearly impossible to write anything about Apple without a billion enraged fans writing in to explain exactly how wrong or stupid you are for not loving the product as much as they do. So, what follows is what remains after we have sifted through the splutterings of colour coordinated computer users:

I am actually surprised from a technical standpoint that so many people have switched to Mac at all. I think I'm hot stuff. I've switched to Lunix before. How hard can it be? Heh. You know what took the most time? The bloody keyboard. 15 years of keyboard experience out the window. It took months to re-train on this thing.

Aristus


"Hmmm. The problem is that while Apple machines will join networks of all flavours very happily, talking to Windows machines is another matter. I struggled for hours trying to get an HP laptop running Windows XP SP2 with file sharing on to play nicely with the Mini. So how would Joe Wannaswitch import his bookmarks and Outlook Express files?"

My experience with Joe Average The Windows User, that he will not guess that it is even possible to import bookmarks or something from OE.

And I have met people who have dumped new computers solely for the reason: frustrating Windows import/export capabilities or their total absence.

In the end, I belive, that Mac OS provides best import/export capabilities among other OSs I have used last decade (MS DOS 3-6/Windoz 9x/NT+, GNU/Linux 2.0+). And this is not that Apple didn't wanted people to easily move theirs stuff from Windows, but it is M$, which is reluctant to provide import/export to many of its applications (Outlook anyone? Address book? IE?).

Ihar


I've read several articles and opinions of this new Mac Mini, and it seems that Apple may be on to something, although no one, including Apple themselves, seems to know what. I'm not a Mac user, nor do I plan on tossing years of experience out the MS Window in order to swap for a more stylish computer.

But on the other hand, they have done something that no one else has been able to do and everyone seems to be desperately trying, and that is to make a small, very stylish, cheap computer that is possible to integrate into home entertainment center . I never see myself having a Mac Mini on or under my desk as a primary computer, but when I first saw it, I thought, "That would look great in my entertainment center, I wonder how well it can integrate with all the other equipment."

And also the IPod comes into play. I imagine plugging an IPod into a device like the Mini, playing my MP3s while surfing the web, and maybe burning or watching a DVD with it or using the device as a DVR. Or perhaps plugging in a USB drive and viewing documents and emails on my TV or listening to MP3s. The options are endless, and Sure, this is already being done, but mostly in another room, with several dedicated pieces of equipment.

There is an empty shelf in my living room waiting for something like the Mac Mini. Look at how well Apple is doing with the Pods. There is no business secret, they gave the consumers what they wanted. If they can expand on the Mac Mini idea with that same line of thought, then I do see an Apple in my future.

Patrick


I read with some interest your article about the Mac Mini--indeed, I think the whole question is "Will Windows Users Switch?"--but not for the reasons you'd think.

Will I Switch - Never! Will I use a Mac Mini? I ordered one last week. Should get here at the end of the month.

To explain it a bit, every Mac zealot out there, and quite a few Windows users, think you have to be all or the other. You should either embrace the whole Apple fan mentality with open arms, or stick exclusively to Windows. There's always someone who says "Both are good, both have merits." Yet the truth is they are different machines for different uses.

My frustration with Windows is mainly summed up in four things: Product Activation, DRM, spyware, and Microsoftisms. Gates and Ballmer should be hung out to dry for ever bringing Product Activation to Windows.

I should add I'm not a pirate and my machines are licensed, but the idea we have to call in and get permission to keep using our software, especially a dated OS such as XP, is just too much.

DRM is regrettably a fact of life, but Microsoft seems to have embraced it wholeheartedly. Reasonable DRM would not be much of a problem, but it seems to me the ultimate goal of the entertainment industry is to turn time back to the days of movie theaters and make us pay for every viewing. I maintain no illusions that Apple is really any better, but it seems in the hopes of getting more people to use their software they've been much more open about DRM.

Spyware is also a fact of life, and while I've been pretty good at keeping it off my computer, it's a non-stop arms race. The possibility always remains some new thing has found it's way onto my machine, and I won't know until it's too late. Mac users may be smug that they don't have as much of a problem with it, but it's really security-through-obscurity. Still, less of a problem is less.

Finally, Microsoftisms. By that I mean the lovely passion Microsoft has for new versions of software (Media Player, DirectX) that can't be uninstalled; or relentless product pushing like tying Explorer into the OS, or how the Microsoft Messenger originally couldn't be closed without whacking all kinds of "critical components" like Outlook, Explorer, and the Quantum Continuum. In other words they lie through their teeth to try and keep us using their versions of software rather than what we choose. It's simple, make it better, not unremoveable.

So that brings me to the choice of a Mac Mini. The Pros I see are:

  • Total power use is about 125 watts with an LCD monitor. Power is money nowadays
  • I can get some of the same software I use in Windows, not all of it, but the important parts
  • I can also run some Linux/Unix apps if I want
  • It's so dang little

The Cons are simple: Limited upgradeability, (but I'll live with that) and the whole fruity left wing smarter-than-thou mentality of the Mac zealots. Almost invariably men with a few good talents and a lot of compensating. Grow up and get a life, and then maybe they'll see they do more harm than good.

My Windows computers (both of them) are going nowhere, I'll still use them for a lot of things, although they may be taken off of the Internet, and I have a little silver CD-Case boxen to look forward to.

Sincerely,

Scott


Staying with Apple, this time the iPod Shuffle. We suggested that Apple had a market in mind when it built this product, and included only enough features to make it function, while still hitting the price range of its intended demographic. No, you said. Apple's designers are just minimalists:

I would contend that Apple was not in fact strictly "building down to a price". If they had believed that a display was necessary, it would have been included. People screamed when the first iMac didn't include a floppy drive, but they had designed it that way for a reason. Just build what you need. Part of their elegant and minimalist design credo.

At first, I was put off by the lack of a display as well, until I thought about it.

It would have added to the cost. It would have reduced durability and increased weight. It would have been one more thing to break... one more complication. It would have compromised the form factor. It would have disrupted the sleek aesthetics. But above all... it simply wasn't needed.

They determined that one of the top features utilized by iTunes users (and lets face it, all the members of the 'Pod family are just extensions of the iTunes software) is the random shuffle mode. If one is listening randomly, then it doesn't really matter, and if you are listening in sequential order, then you know what song is next because you are the one who put together the playlist. With the larger iPod, you can carry around your entire music collection, so a display is essential if one is to navigate it.

However, the much smaller shuffle-pod is designed to take one playlist only, so you are going to be looking at the song titles beforehand, when you load it up before going out. And if you didn't catch it when loading, you will upon re-loading. We all go home to sit in front of the Big Machine eventually.

It's not an oversight, it was a design decision that makes sense on multiple levels. And perhaps cost was one more factor to consider... but hardly the most important one. Even with the addition of a small LCD display, it would likely still be cheaper than it's competitors.

Cheers,

Jules.


Microsoft automatic updates. The bane of your life, or a useful idea to protect your computer from itself?

I have just installed the latest batch of updates from Microsoft - the usual set of patches all with almost identical and uninformative descriptions (why do they bother with a description?). I was presented with a pop-up message:

"Updating your computer is almost complete. You must restart your computer for the updates to take effect. Do you want to restart your computer now?"

So far nothing special. The problem is I can't make it go away. I don't want to reboot just now - I'm trying to do some actual work. But every time I click on "Restart Later", the message just goes away for a couple of minutes and then pops-up again.

It appears that Microsoft now knows better than I when I need to reboot my PC and they are not going to give up until I agree with them!

I have never been keen on they automatic update service - and this latest effort is not helping.

Tony


Contact management services, like Plaxo or LinkedIn, might have some fans out there, but not among the Register readership, it seems:

Hi Mr Editor,

May I suggest the article "How to win friends and influence people" be re-titled "How to lose friends and annoy people".

I haven't used LinkedIn, but I have had bad experiences with both Plaxo and Bebo (www.bebo.com).

Both of them, are in my spam filter, and both domains are blocked so my internal users can't use them.

Why?

Well, for starters Bebo has this in their privacy agreement.

---start Acquisition. It is possible that as we continue to develop our website and our business, Bebo's service and/or related assets might be acquired. Notwithstanding any provision in this policy to the contrary, in event of a merger or acquisition, your personal information may be transferred to the acquiring entity, and become subject to the acquirer's data practices. ---end

Am I the only one in the world that is interpreting this as: "We reserve the right to allow the dodgy company that we sell your contact details to, to spam you into oblivion if we can get this business model to work"?

Plaxo had this too, and were forced to change it, but they only changed it after lots of bad publicity on blogs.

The fact that the bastards have my email address already given I didn't give permission for my "friends" to give my email address to them annoys me enough. The thought of somebody not reputable potentially having all my contact details is downright scary.

The fact that most of these services don't have a domain based opt-out is annoying.

The fact that I have to opt-out of something I didn't opt-in for is even more annoying.

Call me a cynic, I don't care. The only useful application I see for this is to help annoying sales people keep their Act! databases up to date. These things suck. Welcome to my spam filter.

regards Shane


Next up, Philip Howard's article on the fate of UML attracted a few more comments this week. In particular, it attracted the attention of Andrew Watson technical director at OMG:

Hi,

Philip Howard's conclusion that "UML is past its sell-by date" is based on highly-selective data. Allow me to fill in the gaps.

1. UML is a notation, not a methodology. Catalysis, Fusion, KobrA, UML Components and the UN/CEFACT Modeling Methodology (UMM) are all methodologies that use UML notation, as does the highly-successful Unified Software Development Process (USDP, formerly RUP), and its many variants. With many different methodologies that use (or can use) UML, saying that it has "mandated a methodology" is clearly wide of the mark.

2. Philip has apparently missed a slew of product announcements for tools supporting *standard* UML 2.0 notation. In addition to IBM's "Atlantic" suite (which he mentions), I also know of: Borland Together Designer, I-Logix Rhapsody 5, Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect 4.5, MagicDraw UML Version 9.0, Telelogic TAU Generation2 and Omondo EclipseUML. There may already be others that I haven't heard about - new UML2 tools are appearing all the time.

3. Saying that Rational "pushed [UML] through as a standard" implies that OMG cravenly rubber-stamped one company's specification. Au contraire, if you look inside the front cover of a UML 1 spec, you'll see it's copyright by EDS, HP, IBM, ICON Computing, i-Logix, IntelliCorp, Microsoft, ObjecTime, Oracle, Platinum Technology, Ptech, Rational Software Corporation, Reich Technologies, Softeam, Sterling Software, Taskon A/S and Unisys Corporation. They all contributed.

4. Philip says that UML2 has "yet to be ratified". Not so. The UML 2.0 Superstructure specification was adopted by OMG's board of directors in mid-2003, and published on OMG's web site for everyone to download, study and implement. Send us your bug reports - we're not too proud to take 'em.

By misrepresenting UML as a methodology, ignoring cross-industry consensus on the specifications and overlooking most UML 2 tools, Philip concludes that UML is a has-been. Happily, customers know better - over 80% of companies surveyed by BZ Research in August 2004 said they plan to use UML on future software projects. And we all know the customer is always right.

I hope you'll find room to put the record straight.

Keep up the good work!

Cheers,

Andrew

Philip replies:

"Actually, I didn't conclude that UML was past its sell-by date: I posed the question. Similarly, I did not suggest that UML was a has-been. I compared it to SQL - is Drew suggesting that SQL is a has-been? No, it is a lowest common dominator that is useful as a starting platform but is otherwise widely extended and implemented in a proprietary fashion. UML is much the same."


Finally, the Rise of the Machines continues, unabated. We thought that the latest attack might be thwarted by the machines' own faulty mathematics. But no! We just weren't thinking big enough:

Re the Cuddly menace. We're not out of the woods yet.

"According to page 5 of their manual they're expecting to increase the nitrogen content of the atmosphere by 900%.

As any graduate of GCSE science will know, our atmosphere is approximately 78% nitrogen already, so a ninefold increase would involve the atmosphere being 702% Nitrogen, and therefore presumably around -600% Oxygen..."

This argument does assume that the atmosphere stays exactly the same size. Of course, they could simply dump nine times as much nitrogen into the atmosphere as is currently there, making the whole thing roughly (9 x 78%) larger, and shifting the nitrogen:oxygen balance from it's current 78%:20% to a much more Zogg-pleasing 97%:3%.

I'm not sure if the gravity of the earth is currently sufficient to retain an atmosphere of that size, but they may have plans for that too....

So can we still keep on panicking, please?

Dave

Yes, you have our full permission to panic as loudly and/or messily as you like. But please, put on a tinfoil hat first. ®

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