12th > June > 2000 Archive

Luminaries tip up in Taipei for Congress

WCIT 2000WCIT 2000 The twelfth 2000 World Congress on Info Technology will officially open for business in one hour's time, with a cast of top luminaries preaching their views on IT, the internet and e-commerce. Speakers today winclude winsome Carly Fiorina, CEO of HP; Stan Shih of Acer; John Rockefeller IV; Ericsson's president Kurt Hellstrom and top nobs from MIT, Andersen Consulting and others. But tomorrow's list of speakers is what many are waiting for (sorry Carly, Stan and Kurt), with Bill Gates from Microsoft scheduled to speak at 9 AM, local time. Will he be here? Seventeen hundred delegates from 85 countries will be very disappointed if he isn't. Gates is immediately followed tomorrow by Rob Young, chairman and founder of Linux firm Red Hat -- followed by John Chambers from Cisco, and later in the day Corel's Michael Cowpland. Wednesday we will hear from Patricia Hewitt, the UK minister for small businessmen and e-commerce, who will talk on information age government. We're probably likely to miss Dr William P. Magee (no relation), founder of Operation Smile Inc, because we'll be flying out of Taipei later that day. The Register will bring you news and gossip from the Congress as it happens. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jun 2000

HP's Fiorina calls for governments to change policies

WCIT 2000WCIT 2000 Carly Fiorina, CEO of Hewlett Packard, today described changes caused by the Internet as creating a new renaissance, but said that world governments needed to change their policies to create "boundary-less and "border-less" states. Fiorina said, quoting Charles Darwin, that survivors in this new renaissance would not necessarily be either the strongest or the most intelligent, but those who could adapt the quickest. "I do believe that governments have recognised the benefits of IT," she said. "but they do not yet truly understand about the need to re-invent their own institutions. It is not because governments are obstinate, but because government power is rooted in things that IT now makes increasingly irrelevant." She said that boundaries of time, space and geography are less and less relevant to both government and to industry. "Governments must now think about policies being compatible across the world," she said. "This is a problem that government has only just begun to recognise. There should be a recognition that public policy is more boundary-less and that industry and government must collaborate together in new and inventive ways. "That is easier said than done because industry and government have traditionally regarded each other with suspicion," she said. "I believe that we are entering the renaissance," she said. "Technology is now entering its transformational phase. It can touch human lives and transform everyone and everything. Internet infrastructure must be as available as oxygen and as reliable as the sun and the moon. This world is bringing forth a torrent of new creativity." Fiorina said that HP had promoted efforts to admit both mainland China and Taiwan to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and that would ultimately promote better relations between the two countries, as well as fostering the welfare of their respective populations. She declined to be drawn on the issue between Microsoft and the US government, saying: "I think what should guide policy with Microsoft is always that it should benefit consumers." ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jun 2000

Napster use survey takes heat off college students

In spite of the recording-industry hype decrying the legions of spoilt college students rapaciously downloading MP3 content and thereby contriving to take food from the mouths of starving artists like Metallica and Dr. Dre, a recent survey funded by the Pew Charitable Trust finds that the majority of those illegally downloading music are actually males between the ages of thirty and forty-nine. Only thirty-seven percent of the malefactors are campus-aged, or between eighteen and twenty-nine. There is however a strong sex bias: sixty-four percent of survey respondents who 'fessed up to pirating music are male. Meanwhile, for-profit survey group Webnoize found that more than half of college students surveyed who use Napster would willingly pay as much as US $15 per month for the service. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has directed much of its attention towards defeating piracy on college campuses through a campaign which involves maligning American youngsters, and informing administrators about copyright regulations and making numerous veiled threats regarding their potential liabilities thereunder. Only two percent of those in the Pew survey said they had ever paid to download a piece of music, but the study also found that over three-quarters of the Netizens polled had never downloaded a music file, and sixty-two percent had not bothered to listen to any music on line. "Fourteen percent of Internet users, or about 13 million Americans have downloaded music they don't own and got it for free. These are the freeloaders," the study notes. Interestingly, a sizeable portion of these 'freeloaders' were found to go out later and buy the music they had sampled on line, putting the lie to MPAA claims that piracy is about to bring civilisation to its knees. The RIAA is obsessed to the point of comedy with the frustration of having its rules broken, without considering whether such rules might be standing in the way of increased revenues. Indeed, Napster and Gnutella may turn out to be the two best music-marketing gimmicks yet devised, if only the RIAA would take its head out of its ass long enough to realise it. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jun 2000

MS should keep browser with OS, says Netscape founder

MS on TrialMS on Trial Netscape co-founder Jim Clark is at it again; in an interview with CNET over the weekend he said that Microsoft should be allowed to keep the browser with the operating system. This isn't the first time Clark has made what the government might describe as an unhelpful contribution to the trial - a begging "let's make a deal" email from him the Microsoft's Brad Silverberg was one of Microsoft's few near triumphs during legal proceedings. Clark's rationale for keeping the OS and browser together, rather than giving the browser to the apps company after the split, is that by putting the browser in the same unit as Microsoft's Web services operations the government could be creating an even more dangerous and devastating monster. The key point, as he tells CNET, is that the browser "can be like the operating system." Well, yes indeed Jim, and who thought of that one? Take a little trip down memory lane to the time when Netscape had the lion's share of the browser market, and was planning something called Netscape Communicator. Netscape did indeed want to hold onto, even increase its share, and Microsoft was spotting that the browser could well be used as a mechanism for running apps and Web services, and for removing the advantage Microsoft had by owning the proprietary OS standard everybody had to write for. Use Netscape as the platform instead, the Windows effect would vanish, and Microsoft would be snookered. Thus began the browser wars in earnest, and thus Microsoft laid the first foundations of the US government's antitrust case against it. While we're down this particular part of memory lane, incidentally, we might as well note that Netscape was then intent on achieving and maintaining a monopoly, and that it integrated products on a 'whether you like it or not' basis. We remember Lotus complaining about Netscape refusing to unbundle Navigator from Communicator. But although this sort of stuff makes Microsoft apoplectic, because it does indeed show 'everybody does it,' that's not the point; you're allowed to plan world domination, you're even allowed to have a monopoly, you're just not allowed to maintain your monopoly illegally, OK? Anyway, Clark's latest outburst is interesting both from an ironic point of view, because integration of browser and OS was the weapon used to destroy Netscape's market share, and because he's absolutely correct in identifying Microsoft's potential to use a trick it learned from Netscape. A split Microsoft could build NGWS (Next Generation Windows Services) as a collection of middleware applications, Internet and server-based applications, without close integration with the underlying OS being necessary. The final irony, of course, is that this seems to have been the very point Clark's old email pal Brad Silverberg was making last year, shortly before he left Microsoft. ® See also: Clark's CNET interview
John Lettice, 12 Jun 2000

IBM plans Linux ThinkPads for Q3 – Transmeta?

IBM is due to put some muscle behind its oft-professed support for Linux and actually do something about it later today. The company is to announce that it will offer Caldera OpenLinux 2.4 on ThinkPads... from Q3. Clearly we have here another sign of how exceeding slow the mills grind round at Big Blue. It's been possible to run Linux on ThinkPads for yonks, IBM has been committed to preinstalling Linux on ThinkPads for yonks plus n, and the company even managed to screw up by getting ThinkPads accidentally certified compatible with Red Hat a little while back. Accidentally, because nothing had actually changed between the not -certified and certified stages. IBM's big problems, apart from the company tending to prefer talkware to shipware, have concerned hardware IP. The ThinkPads include DSP-based audio and internal modem, and the bits of IBM who own this IP wouldn't necessarily smile on an open source connection. Last we heard IBM was fixing this, but that was a very long time ago, and the current generation of ThinkPads still can't use the internal modem under Linux, and still has some audio issues. The decision to ship in Q3, and the choice of Caldera, are both interesting. It's not just a case of what happened to the Red Hat connection - IBM also (more mouthware) committed to supporting multiple versions of Linux a while back. That might still happen, presumably, as local subsidiaries might - as was the stated intent - support the flavours that are most appropriate for their markets. And why Q3? Well, imagine IBM finally decided the IP problem was more trouble than it was worth, and IBM was also expected (which it is) to unveil a Transmeta-based ThinkPad range later this year. We don't have to imagine very hard at this point, because although Transmeta chips are intended to be Windows-friendly as well, it'd be kind of difficult to officially support Linux while not shipping it with your Transmeta-based machines. A side-effect of IBM deciding to go with a new range for its Linux notebook offering would of course be that the driver issues on the current range would quite probably never get fixed. Tut. ®
John Lettice, 12 Jun 2000
SGI logo hardware close-up

Ericsson's Stromhell seeks Taiwan band aid

WCIT 2000WCIT 2000 Although Kurt Stromhell's keynote speech wasn't exactly riveting here in Taipei this afternoon, things got a little racier during a Q&A session held soon afterwards. During his speech to something like 1700 delegates, Stromhell repeated the mantra that by 2003, mobile users of the Internet will exceed fixed users, but conceded that problems in shipping had led him to exert changes at Ericcson, breaking with the rule that it did its own manufacturing. At the same time, he also acknowledged that shortages of Flash and other parts were having an effect on Ericcson's ability to ship product. He said: "There's a very strong surge in the number of phons manufactured and we need many more models in our portfolio. Taiwan is a very attractive place to acquire models to complete our portfolio. We have changed our previous policy of manufacturing everything in-house." And Ericsson is challenged by serious competion from Webpads and Information Appliances, he admitted, although if this market was successful, it could bring his company benefits. He said: "We are expecting tremendous competition. There are a lot of new players in this field. But Ericsson is 80 per cent a systems company. We have plans to do PDAs and we will collaborate with others for our portfolio. We like to stimulat these developments because it promotes traffic." Ericsson will also start using independent software vendors (ISVs) for its products, Hellstrom said. "Ericcson has gone through some difficulties on the handset side and that's increased a readiness to look at other ways of working. It's fully possible that there will be others who develop the software." The market is accelerating and that called for change within the company, he said. "We know things are moving faster and faster. I'm getting Ericsson's culture changed so we can be out there and focussed on servicing our customers." The whole industry was suffering from component shortages, he claimed. "There is a component dilemma but this is because forecasts have been revised upwards all the time. We thought there would be 400 million [mobile units] and it's been completely revised upwards to 420 million and it's going up still. I know there are other shortages than just Flash." Hellstrom claimed that despite its difficulties, the firm would be able to deliver its first GPRS handsets in Asia during the second half of this year. ®
Mike Magee, 12 Jun 2000

Dear Bill: Time to lay down your jobs for MSFT

Dear Bill, I'd like to explain why I think that the smartest thing you could do would be to settle the case with the government and resign from Microsoft. If you did that, it would be a win-win. I have been following your career since you and others developed a version of Basic, through your first big break when IBM selected you to produce its OS rather than Gary Kildall's Digital Research, and onwards and upwards through the Windows experience. Gary Kildall incidentally told me the true story about how his CP/M was ripped off and became MS-DOS: this differs significantly from the version (how Gary was supposedly out flying when IBM came calling) that with your help has become a legend. But you were there, and I want to make the point that I know you were one of the pioneers, and that you did play a significant part in the early development of microcomputers. Your subsequent career since Windows is better-known, even though the truth has been "improved" from time to time. You have succeeded beyond your wildest dreams at Microsoft, and you deserve much - but not all - of this success. The current legal aggravation is not going to go away. Indeed, the arrogance with which you and Steve have been criticising Judge Jackson's Final Judgement is only going to make matters worse. Did you see that California attorney general Bill Lockyer pointed to your comments after the Judgement and said that it "shows their unwillingness or inability to understand what the damage is about". It is unwise to antagonise Silicon Valley's attorney general. Bill: you must face reality. You must appreciate that Microsoft's way of doing business will no longer be tolerated by your competitors, that the DoJ will dig its heels in and do its best to stop any future law breaking. This is not just a case of a "disagreement" with the DoJ over IE being included with Windows, as you claimed last week. We both know that Judge Jackson made a mistake in not calling you to task for making it impossible for Netscape to distribute copies of its browser cost-efficiently. In your press conference after the Judgement, you claimed that "the Internet and support in Windows could never be enhanced, it could never be updated to new standards, whether they relate to privacy or XML or any other consumer needs." You know this is untrue, and that in essence this is a blackmail threat to users. You also know that the Microsoft argument about being "a unitary company" is meaningless semantics, and that the real issue is that you do not like the prospect of Microsoft being split into two companies. I can understand that: it's worse than any fine, had that been on the cards, because it will effectively stop your monopoly leverage and put Microsoft back to competing on merit. That's how most of the world works, by the way. As you admitted, you should have paid more attention to the videotaped depositions, but had you given evidence at the trial, this would have been a disaster; you no doubt remember your cross-examination during the Stac trial. Lawrence Lessig, who was to have been Judge Jackson's Special Master, wrote to you recently about the remarks attributed to you in Time magazine last month. In a gentle way, he pointed out that you have lost the argument about innovation by chilling any development that might threaten Windows. He also asked you to detail how separating Windows and applications would interfere with innovation. You know you have no good reply to this. Your contribution to Microsoft nowadays is certainly not a technical one, but rather as chief evangeliser. But you would bring more kudos on Microsoft as a philanthropist - and I suggest you would find it personally more rewarding - than to continue in your present roles. You've become a mascot at Microsoft: your technical contributions are small compared with your considerable understanding of how to leverage your software against competitors, but this will no longer be tolerated. You are not indispensable. Microsoft software needs a makeover that you cannot achieve in you role as chief software architect because you are of a previous generation. It's tough for us oldies at times (you going too then Graham? - Ed). Quit now, for the sake of your own health, before the burn-out and other problems become more apparent. There is a danger that this case could make you into a latter-day Howard Hughes, if you pursue it to the end. With your politicised judiciary, the final outcome is a lottery, but as we both know, your real objective is to bog the case down as long as possible so that the result does not ultimately matter. And if push comes to shove, you would not like being able to run only one of the Baby Bills. The appeal process is going to alienate your customers increasingly, and the media will make your life very uncomfortable. The smart move now would be for you to put your resignation from Microsoft on the table and negotiate personally with the DoJ to get the best deal you can. Involve Judge Posner again, if he's willing to help. Judge Jackson has said very clearly that he would like to see a negotiated settlement, so even if the DoJ did not agree the last mile, you have a good chance of getting the judge to order the best settlement you could get in the circumstances. If you do this, you would emerge as the saviour of Microsoft in the eyes of your employees, customers, and shareholders. There could be no better outcome. You could then throw yourself into charitable work, where your family has a fine tradition. I saw the reports last week about your giving out scholarships to the first batch of 20 minority students from a billion dollar programme established by your Foundation, and what a happy time it was for you. I read too how you had tears in your eyes when you were talking about this the next day, and your saying that it was the most exciting thing you'd done all week. I believe you. You are at the moment admired by most Americans, because they equate financial success with being smart, although here in Europe the reverse is more often true. You are no politician, but you have the politicos eating out of your hand. I watched the Webcast of your appearance before the Joint Economic Committee of Congress last week. It was good, but remember they flattered you because you were the entertainment, not because of your remarks about piracy or data privacy. Give up trying to be an industry campaigner, and become a campaigner for a better America. After all, basic healthcare is unavailable to many of your fellow citizens because they cannot afford the astronomically high insurance contributions. Urge change in the system, which reflects badly on America as a compassionate country. Continue working for better education for all, and for a better world. Your Foundation has started to do some sterling work in these areas. After all, if you do negotiate a settlement with the government, and then retire from Microsoft to devote yourself to philanthropic work, the best will truly be yet to come. Yours sincerely Graham Lea
Graham Lea, 12 Jun 2000

Telia gets wired with new flat-fee ISP

British Web outfit, 24/7 Freecall, has teamed up with Telia to offer unlimited flat-fee Net access in the UK. The British VISP will offer the service for £24.70 a month. 24/7 FreeCall makes no apologies for the cost of the service and claims that if people want a reliable service they must be prepared to pay for it. Gary Allsopp, Chairman of 24-7 Freecall, said: "Our focus is on creating a tailored service for a limited number of people who are interested in new technologies and want the peace of mind of complete reliability. "We are not the cheapest, however, as users of unmetered services are discovering, if an ISP is making a loss on free calls it will be unable to invest in an adequate technological infrastructure. "Ultimately, you get what you pay for," he said. The service provider said it will adopt the unmetered wholesale Net access product, FRIACO, when that becomes available. Telia has invested more than £2 million in its Net access platform and 24/7 Freecall claims to offer one of Europes lowest contention ratios for an ISP. This means that users will have "no difficulty in assessing the service even during busy times of the day", it boasts. We shall see. ®
Tim Richardson, 12 Jun 2000

Apple UK marketshare up 46 per cent

Apple's success in the US is being replicated in the UK, according to the latest figures from IDC. Well, sort of. The growth numbers sound impressive, but the result isn't perhaps as spectacular as the percentage increase at first sounds. So, while Apple's share of the UK PC market grew 46 per cent during Q1 over the same period last year - the good-sounding number - but that really means nothing more than a 0.8 per cent increase in market share, rising from a measly 2.7 per cent to a slightly bigger 3.5 per cent. That's not bad news for the company, but it nevertheless highlights the distance Apple has to travel to get its marketshare back up to the ten per cent plus is saw in the glory days of the mid-to-late 80s. Apple's UK success appears to have been built on the back of the education market, one of its traditional strongholds. Apple recently announced its status as the world's number one supplier to the education IT market - a claim based on IDC figures. It also seems that Apple has put its supply problems behind it - an issue that, according to IDC analyst Andy Brown, cited by MacWorld, that hit Apple's 1999 shipments hard. The only snag: that suggests that Apple's 2000 marketshare growth is as much about satisfying pent-up demand as growing the userbase. The UK PC market as a whole grew 13 per cent between Q1 1999 and Q1 2000. Apple ranked tenth, according to IDC, behind Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Tiny, Packard Bell, Toshiba, IBM, Time and Gateway. ®
Tony Smith, 12 Jun 2000

FBI wiretaps increased on Y2K pretext

The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which restricts some government surveillance related to terrorist investigations, was massaged during the Y2K Millennium rollover to enable quick wiretaps of US residents who would otherwise have been beyond the FBI's authority, National Commission on Terrorism Chairman Paul Bremer revealed during testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. Bremmer would like the relaxed FISA standards in use during the Millennium period to become permanent, we gathered. To streamline FISA wiretap orders, nitpicking officials in the US Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy Review (OIPR) should be prevented from "interposing themselves" between the FBI and the courts, and "performing a screening, shortstop role" when the FISA is invoked, Bremmer said. The Commission's written report, "Countering the Changing Threat of International Terrorism", states that "during the period leading up to the Millennium, the FISA application process was streamlined. Without lowering the FISA standards, applications were submitted to the FISA Court by DoJ promptly and with enough information to establish probable cause." But this appears to be a lot of official, soft-pedal rubbish. Commission member Juliette Kayyem replied to Bremmer's recommendation by saying that it would be "a terrible mistake to permit the FBI to wiretap any American who was at one time, no matter how long ago, a member of an organisation that we now have deemed to be 'terrorist.'" "I think keeping the Millennium standard is exactly what we don't want to do when terrorism is involved," Kayyem continued. "If that became our [permanent] standard, and the next terrorist event happened, [domestic surveillance] would only increase after that." So while the Commission's report states flatly that FISA standards had not been lowered during the Millennium madness, Kayyem's reference to wiretapping Americans with only vague ties to terrorist organizations strongly suggests that they were lowered considerably to accommodate a twitchy Clinton Administration, which has promoted the most dramatic increase in domestic law-enforcement snooping in US history. "What happened during the Millennium, although I don't know the specifics of it, meant that everyone could come together and get the surveillance through. But that's not a standard we'd want to stay with," Kayyem said. We find it interesting that a member of a Commission charged with making recommendations to the Senate Intelligence Committee should not have been trusted with the full facts of what legal 'adjustments' were made to FISA standards on the pretext of impending Millennium horrors. Bremmer, who served US President Ronald Reagan as his Counterterrorism Ambassador-at-Large, defended the FISA alterations without revealing what, exactly, they accomplished. "The events surrounding the Millennium showed that a lot of concerns....among our intelligence agencies were well justified," he claimed. "It turned out that there really were plans for some major attacks during the Millennium, and thanks to some excellent liaison work with some countries, and some excellent detective work in this country, we were able to avoid them." Perhaps that's so. Yet we have trouble taking him at his word, since he offers nothing more than an assertion that if he could tell us what he's alluding to, we would all be grateful for Uncle Sam's vigilance. ®
Thomas C Greene, 12 Jun 2000

World Congress on Information Technology

13 June Microsoft software 'like heroin addiction' - Red Hat Bill Gates says nothing... at great length Watch out cyberkids... the Feds will get you 12 June HP's Fiorina calls for governments to change policies Ericsson's Stromhell seeks Taiwan band aid Luminaries tip up in Taipei for congress ®
Team Register, 12 Jun 2000

Scoot nabs Loot

Scoot.com said today it had agreed to buy Loot, the UK consumer ad newspaper. Oxford-based Scoot will pay £178 million cash and give five million shares to Loot, as well as taking over two million pounds of its debts. The Loot brand name will be kept, with Scoot saying it expected the newspaper and Loot's online service to add £20 million to sales by 2003. The former chairman of Comet is to launch an e-tail site selling white goods. Eddie Styring will spend £3 million advertising his Helpful Home Shopping Company. Still, if this e-commerce venture fails, his domain helpful.co.uk could be worth a few bob. T-Online is rumoured to be ready to fork out £5 billion for monster ISP, Freeserve. Press reports at the weekend claimed NTL had become the favourite to buy the ISP. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Jun 2000

Jungle launches SME site

Etailer Jungle.com has launched a sister site aimed at SME customers. Junglebusiness.com is selling computer software, hardware, peripherals and consumables to the mid-sized business sector. The site has only IT-related goods, and will avoid consumer products such as music and videos to distinguish it from the Jungle site. Steve Bennett, founder of both sites, has hired ten new sales staff for the venture, as well as another ten for the consumer telesales area of Jungle. This brings the total staff number back to 380 employees after a number of redundancies earlier in the month. Bennett wants 50 per cent of total revenue to be business sales by the end of the year (including corporate sales from the corporatedirect.co.uk site). It shouldn't be too difficult - the figure currently stands at around 45 per cent. According to research by Kadence, commissioned by Jungle in March, only five per cent of UK SMEs at the time were buying PCs online a figure expected to rise to 11 per cent by March 2001. Regarding software, the figures were nine per cent rising to 16 per cent, and peripherals five per cent and 11 per cent. Consumable sales were due to see most growth in this area, increasing from 3 per cent to 12 per cent. Junglebusiness will not get such a monster advertising campaign as Jungle it will be publicised in trade magazines and trade shows, but there will be no TV or radio ad campaign. The site launched on May 1. ®
Linda Harrison, 12 Jun 2000

BOFH skills test: How are you with Marketing Blurb?

Episode 20Episode 20 BOFH2000: Episode 20 We've all seen it, and, some of us have even read it. Sadly, though, with the advent of gas-fired barbecues not many of us get to use it any more.. But today The Bastard would like ask some questions about your interpretation of their propaganda. 1.Reading the Advertising blurb for a product which may suit your needs, you notice the phrase: "Runs on most PC Compatibles". This means A. Any X86 box will run it B. Most X86 boxes will run it C. Runs on DOS boxes D. Doesn't run on DOS boxes E. Doesn't run 2.In the same blurb you see: "Developed by a highly skilled team of programmers" A. It was developed by a crew of like-minded supergeeks who we managed to lure away from the space program with large salaries B. It was developed by a team of grad students working for us nights and weekends C. It was developed by two grad students as a thesis paper, and we stole it. D. It was developed my two high school students learning Visual Basic E. The skills we were talking about were Juggling and Morris Dancing 3.You also notice that it claims to be "fully compatible with international standards". This means A. It adheres to current industry standards B. It adheres to ad hoc industry standards C. It adheres to the new standard that they've just made up (See Microsoft Standards) D. They'll stick to their story about standards, even under interrogation E. The wrapper will adhere to your foot if you stand on it 4.Finally the brochure mentions "Fully Manned Personal Worldwide Support", which really means: A. There's a support team in every country for 24hr support B. There's a support team in one country, with 24hr support C. They've hired one full man for Worldwide Support D...and by "full" they mean drunk E...and he only speaks Hindi 5.The accompanying Company Propaganda claims that they are experts in the "Fully Fault Tolerant" field. That means: A. They have a large amount of experience in delivering 24x7 applications B. They have a large amount of experience in using 24x7 applications C. They know there's 24x7 hours in the week D.. They know about Full Fault conditions E... and they tolerate them in their software. 6.The Company Profile also mentions that they're "Firmly based in Silicon Valley", i.e. A. They're based in the heart of the Computer world B. They read Computer World C. They've heard there's Computers in the World D. It was a typo which was supposed to read DEATH Valley E. Nope the typo was supposed to read Silicon "Alley" - they back on to a TV Repair shop 7.Good Lord! It says down the bottom of the page in Huge, emboldened letters, that the software is Completely Free! This can only mean A. It won't cost you a penny B. It's crippleware C. It's crippleware that also has a service connection charge D. Did they mention you have to sign up for 24 months. E. PANTS DOWN and BEND OVER, HERE COMES THE RED HOT SPIKE!! 8. "Contact us now and we'll get someone to call you". This means A. They'll only call you if you respond B. They'll only call you if they think you didn't get the blurb (i.e. don't respond) C. They call on you regardless D. They'll add you to their mailing list if you don't respond, hoping to wear you down E. They know your name, they know where you work and live, and they're calling Readers Digest!!! 9."Can your business afford to pass up this Opportunity?" A. No B. Don't know C. Yes D. To dob them in to Readers Digest? I think not. E. To ring the Armed Response Unit to inform them that a man wearing a "I hate Western Civilisation" badge, and carrying a large ticking parcel, mumbling to himself that "The Capitalist Pig Dogs will never take me alive", etc. No. 10."For More information Please put your name and address here". This means A. They will keep you informed of items relevant to your business B. They will keep you informed of items relevant to THEIR business C. Both A and B, long after you've left the company, the country, your partner and threatening messages on their answerphone D. The guy in the next cubicle's going to be getting a lot of mail soon E. But not as much as every single beancounter will be getting once you make some calls... How do you work out your score? I know what you mean - some answers seem so... equal don't they? If so, that's -10 for a start! Other than that, it's 0 points for every A (and - another 10 points if you think that's harsh), 2 for every B . . . 8 for every E. -20-20 You don't deserve a Computer. In fact, it's surprising you can read. But I do have some Leading edge 1 Meg SIMMs that you could buy at 20 quid a pop 20-40 About those leading edge 4 Meg SIMMs at 50 quid a pop... Not buying? Worth a crack, though. Still, you need more work. 40-60 Yes, that's more like it. You're unlikely to be taken for a ride so easily. Well done - though you're still giving them the benefit of the doubt. 60-80 Yes, you're right, the only benefit they deserve is a sickness benefit. And to qualify for that, they're going to have to have had a nasty accident of some kind.... 80-100 You cheating bastard! Take another 20 points for trying it on. 100-120 My Hero ® BOFH is the Bastard Operator From Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his copyright
Simon Travaglia, 12 Jun 2000

Egg flotation doesn't stink

Shares in internet bank Egg soared on its first day of trading but online private investors couldn't make a quick buck due to technical hitches. Trading began at 177.5p and reached a high of 190p and has since settled down to around 176p. Egg customers were emailed shares last night with accompanying customer numbers and a link to the Lloyds TSB registrars site where they could trade provisionally online until trading in London opened this morning. Technical hitch number one: The link to the Lloyds TSB site was broken, meaning that while the banking community could trade the shares, private investors could not. Hitch Two: Egg customers could not trade even after the link had been restored. It transpired that a zero prefix had been omitted from the customer number emailed to investors - a human error that took some time to remedy. A tenfold oversubscription meant that both private and institutional investors' applications were scaled back. The sale was expected to raise £150 million for Egg and £86 million for Prudential. The 160p share price set yesterday by Egg's parent Prudential, valued interent banking offshoot at £1.3 billion. Meanwhile, Abbey National has joined the fray as its internet bank, Cahoot, went live today. The bank is offering an interest free overdraft and credit card for a year to "at least" the first 25,000 people to sign up for an account. Predictably, some users had trouble accessing the site - it seems Abbey National underestimated the demand for two grands-worth of free overdraft. No one at Cahoot could be reached for comment. Those customers who miss the first wave of accounts will be charged between 7 and 11 per cent on overdrafts and will receive interest on accounts in credit of around three per cent.®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jun 2000

BOFH meets the Bitch Operator – match made in Hell

Episode 16Episode 16 BOFH 2000: Episode 16 So I'm working on a piece of kit when my nose picks up a smell that can only mean one thing - the PFY's been cranking up the supply current to some of our more sensitive equipment. Only the PFY's on holiday for a week, - I'm genuinely mystified. It can't be a fault?! Not in my kit. But it appears to be so. Following my nose to an area where the smell is strongest I notice a rather old disk unit with a heat-marked label on its front panel. It doesn't look good. I check out our maintenance schedule, and of course, it's been discontinued as the boss's thinking in this manner is "If it hasn't misbehaved in the past it's unlikely to fail in the future" - The Yorkie Terrier rule of maintenance. So it's stuffed, and - being ancient - the replacement cost of the full height disk is the same price you'd expect to pay for an entire desktop computer with 10 times the Processor Power and Disk Space. Only then you'd still only be talking a P75 with a 2gig disk in it, so multiply that figure by 10 too. While you're at it, add the non-customer callout fee of 200 quid (for the Zone 1&2 travel pass), plus 150 quid an hour, and we're starting to talk a lucrative business that I really should be thinking about getting into. I'm fairly surprised at the technician who presents herself to my office. She's interesting on several accounts, not the least of which is that she doesn't look in any way stupid, nor the sort of ugly that parents use to frighten their children when they play with matches. In fact, I would go so far as to say that she was rather attr.. "So where's this disk drive then?" she asks. "In the computer room." "Have you got a maintenance access card for me?" "Yes, but we have to oversee all work in the computer room - sensitive data and all that," I adlib. "So I'll just let you in." She follows me into the computer room and shows no hesitation in shutting the machine down in an orderly manner by flicking off the power switch. I like it. In double quick time the disk is replaced and the machine is back in business. "Coffee before you go?" I offer. "Go on then," she says, after consulting her watch and message pager. I whip out of the office and return in double quick time with a coffee made to what I'm sure are her exacting standards. "Can't I'm afraid, just been paged across town and it's just about lunchtime rush, wouldn't want to put a dent in the P76!" A P76 Leyland, the epitome of offensive driving. A veritable land canoe! CAN THIS WOMAN DO NO WRONG!?! It's only when she's gone I notice that my wallet is too. And there's a 8mm tape drive missing from the PFY's desk... THIS COULD BE LOVE! . . . So she's back in the office a day later to fix a server which accidentally fell out of a rack three times (at a maintenance cost that was so excessive I think the Boss lost control of his bladder when he read the quote). This time I'm not stupid and make sure I keep an eye on the contents of our desks, and have my wallet in the safe. And the funny thing is I never even noticed the gaping hole in the beancounter server where their 4 x 50 Gig spool disks used to be until about 2 hours after she'd left... The beancounters, on the other hand, knew quite some time before that. Ah well. Not wanting to draw any more attention to the situation, I slap in some replacement disks from the surplus spares pool that the PFY and I keep on hand for... uh.. installing licensed software onto, (and definitely NOT MP3 downloads) and claim it was caused by a the area being set to RAID level MINUS 1, doesn't store the data at all. They buy it, which only goes to show... Something has to be done, if only because the PFY will be back next week and is bound to ridicule my inattention. . . . So after she comes in to fix the console keyboard which bears all the hallmarks of having been hit with a large blunt instrument, but which in fact is just suffering from wear and tear, I slip five brand spanking new drives into her toolbox when she's not looking, and leave her to her thoughts. Thoughts which I cannot begin to fathom when I find the five drives later that afternoon, sitting on top of a machine in the computer room. Where a tape stacker used to be. Something has to be done. I call her company immediately, and ask to be put through to her. Eventually, she answers and it's time to sort things out once and for all. "So, how about a quick drink after work?" She accepts and we agree to meet at a nice place out of the city later in the evening. Later arrives. We make small talk, till get down to business and ask her why she's such a klepto. "Oh, I'm not a klepto, it's just boring doing the same old thing day after day. So I distract myself relieve the boredom." "Which explains why you took the stacker and left the drives." "The stacker, 4 of your pens, your coffee mug and the book you used as a backing to sign the Work Done form." "The visitors book?!?" I gasp. "I spose so, I didn't look. The more blatant the theft, the more interesting it is. I suppose you didn't notice that your office is down by two wheelie chairs then?" Yes, it could be love. To cut a long story short, we have a great evening, ending with me walking her to the tube station AND staying with her till her tube arrives. And stealing her wallet - lets face it, you can't let a catch like that get away... ® BOFH is owned by Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his copyright
Team Register, 12 Jun 2000
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The BOFH interpretation skills test – try it if you DARE

Episode 13Episode 13 BOFH 2000: Chapter 13 (THAT's unlucky...) The Bastard wants to know: how're your interpretation skills? Interpret the following: 1. You get called by the most recent in a looooong line of saleswomen for a large software company. Judging from past experience, she'll be absolutely gorgeous and know as much about computing as Sonny Bono did about skiing through trees. She proceeds to tell you that the product she's just received, which, believe it or not, is the best thing that she's ever seen. You know immediately: A. It's an excellent and well-researched product B. It's probably a fairly good product C. It's crap D. There is no product, they're selling vaporware, but you're going to buy one anyway. 2. An Engineer visits your site and, after setting a new speed record for ripping the guts out of your kit and stuffing most of it back in the box, pronounces it fixed and ready for action. This means: A. It'll work till he gets back to the office B. It'll work till he gets to his car C. It'll work till he gets in the lift D. He's turned it off at the wall so that it won't catch fire till he's out of the building 3. One of your users calls up to see what sort of back-ups you keep. He assures you that he has NOT deleted any files at all, and his system is sound. This means: A. He's just checking on back-up policy out of interest B. He's deleted a file that it would take a small amount of time to recreate C. He's deleted a file that it would take a large amount of time to recreate D. He's deleted someone ELSE's file, and now knows not to own up to it 4. The beancounters deep-six one of your equipment purchase orders because they say it's too expensive. What they REALLY mean is: A. It's too expensive B. It's slightly expensive, and more research might find a less expensive option. C. They say that to anything over 50 quid. D. They want a morning of power surges and file share outages. 5. Your Boss rolls into your office with a fist full of Purchase orders that haven't yet been signed. He tells you that he's going to need justification documents for the kit you've proposed to buy. He obviously means: A. He has to answer to the Head of Department like everyone else B. He has to justify expenditure like everyone else C. He's no what the kit IS, but doesn't want to look stupid. D. He's got his eyes set on a new laptop+desktop combo, which your purchases are going to put the kybosh on. 6. Security sends a memo around informing everyone that they'll be running their usual site-safety workplace/office check in the next few days. What they really mean is: A. Office safety is paramount and they're concerned about accidents B. Office security is paramount and they're concerned about break-ins C. They've noticed the similarity between the marks on the door of the vending machines and the pry bar that you keep for "floor tile removal" D. The head of security wants his safe back. 7. You're reading a trade mag which tells you that a certain popular operating system of the 80s is making a comeback. In plain terms this means: A. Serious development has produced results at OS/2 central B. Serious money has produced results at VMS central C. Guru Meditation has produced results at Amiga central D. Alcohol has produced results at the editorial office 8. You're looking for new staff when a slave trader rings you with a fantastic person to join your team. From your experience with slave traders, you know: A. The applicant will be perfect for your needs B. The applicant will probably be OK C. The applicant will probably recognise a computer if they see one D. The applicant won't find their way to your office 9. You're at a trade show where the latest and greatest hardware is available for perusal. The demonstrator of the kit in front of you (which looks EXACTLY like the kit the boss bought last year) tells you that their product is the new version with twice the performance for half the cost!!! You realise: A. The kit is AMAZING! B. The kit sounds amazing C. The boss would think it was amazing D. It's amazing they had the balls to turn up at the show! How did you do? Mostly A You are green aren't you? Are you sure you're not Management reading forbidden literature? Meantime I have an attractive land package in Leeds known for it's tourist draw-card mini-putt course... Mostly B Or maybe YOU'RE the Manager in the pie. I know there's one in here somewhere, sniffing about. Mostly C That's more like it. The tinge of cynicism and worldly experience. With a little bit of practice you could become and asset to society. Mostly D COME ON DOWN! We have a winner! You're not fooled by the thin veil of lies used so often by other parties to obscure their real purpose (trying to take you for a ride). Congratulations. Now, about that Leeds investment... ® BOFH is owned by Simon Travaglia: don't mess with his copyright
Team Register, 12 Jun 2000

BOFH specs the Quake Box From Heaven

Episode 5Episode 5 BOFH 2000: Episode 5 So I'm trialling Quake III on my new (i.e. The Boss's hand-me-down) machine and the lag on it's so bad I'm in serious danger of getting refresh fatigue. Or disconnecting the CPU fan and letting it die as nature intended. Of course, it is a fairly reasonable desktop machine (a couple of months old, but an out-of-vogue colour), so I can't really complain. "It's the worst piece of crap I've ever worked on!" I complain to The Boss. "The graphics are shocking!" "You're in Systems Management - what would you need good graphics for, anyway," he asks, in what could be construed as a surly manner. "The SNMP monitor for a start. Why, just recently I rebooted two database servers, because I thought their Icon colour had changed from orange to brown!" "When was that?!" The Boss asks, no doubt worried about the swathe of complaints that'll be waiting for him on his voicemail. "Soon as I get back to my office. Probably..." "Is that a threat?!?" "Of course not, we don't make threats! Promises yes, threats, no." Seeing where this conversation is going, The Boss switches to bargain mode... "So what would it take to keep you happy?" "A couple of 3D graphics cards would be a scorcher," I say, pointing out a couple of 32 meg babies that are just GAGGING for a bit of wholesale slaughter onscreen. "Hmm. I suppose so. Get me a purchase order and I'll sign it." . . . The old seventh sense (Junket Detection) is flagging an NMI in the grey matter. He obviously wants me out of his hair for some reason. Time to go on the offensive. "Well that's the problem. The cards aren't compatible with the ASIJMU technology that the machine's based on." "ASIJMU?" "Asymmetric Sychronisat..." *DUMMY MODE ON* "What will it cost?" he asks, interrupting before I can think up an acronym better than "Standard I Just Made Up". "For a machine that's compatible? Should be around a couple of Grand." "TWO THOUSAND POUNDS!" he gasps. "It IS future-proof equipment!" I cry defensively, "and besides, I can give my old box to the PFY, which should keep him happy..." In the end, The Boss folds, and not just because he's scared that I'll come around his side of the desk and see all the browser windows that the porno site he's visiting has thrown up on his screen. (Reflection in the spectacles.) "So, do you have a Requisition form?" I ask, knowing full well that if I leave his office without a signed order, he'll clear his machine and rescind his goodwill quicker than OS2 goes down. "No, but there's one in the secretaries' office." A good volley, but not good enough. Time to crank up the heat... "How about you print one to your printer - before you forget," I respond, moving towards his screen AND a printer with rather a lot of pages that look to be recently printed. "AH! I know," he blurts, reaching for his top drawer, "I keep one here." He waits impatiently while I fill in a form so vaguely that I could buy a TV set and still be within spec. Once I've got his signature, I'm off! So I call up one of the bits-and-bobs vendors which always hang around like vultures on a Western movie and tell them what we want. And then it starts. The Car Sales-like pitch... "What would you be wanting to use it for?" Step One of how to REALLY get on my tits: when your Sales Assistant - who's been in the job since his voice broke three weeks back - decides he's going to ignore the spec you've given him, and designs his own, using the tiny amount of experience gleaned since his nappies were changed... "DHCP server," I cry, pulling an App out of the air. (But still not sad enough to say "Exchange Server" to get the sympathy vote.) "But you don't need the graphics card you've specced for that!" "Yes I do! Digital High Convergence Peripherals are heavily dependent on graphical representation," I ad lib, cranking up creativity a notch or two. "Digital High Convergence Peripherals? I thought you meant Dynamic Hos..." "Old Hat. This is the new juice." "So you won't be wanting much disk then?" "Yes I will." "Well do you really need low profile - what about a desk side tower unit - only 20 quid more and you have all this space to slap extra drives in." "Don't need extra drives, just the two 72 Gigs I asked for" "What about a dual processor - got a great deal going with thes.." "Don't need a dual processor." "What about a RAID card -- protect your data with one o.." "If I'd wanted a RAID card it'd be on the spec. Remember the spec?" And so it goes, till we eventually settle on the spec I'd faxed him in the beginning... . . . So two weeks later I get the kit, a Tower with three extra disks, a RAID card and a price tag to match. I ring the vendor back and he agrees, after a due amount of lying (i.e. "We sent you the wrong order - but you could still change your mind," etc.), to send the machine we'd configured. Two days later my kit arrives - around the same time the Sales guy rings me to find out where all the internals of the machine he sent me have got to. "Had the box been opened?" I ask. "No, it was still factory sealed," he admits. "So it must have been mis-shipped." "Yes, I suppose you're right..." "Of course I am! Now, can you do me a favour?" "Uh, yeah." "Can you tell me where I'd get drivers for a RAID card like the ones you guys ship in Tower Units?" Experience - a great teacher. Like me. ® BOFH is owned by Simon Travaglia: don't mess with his copyright
Team Register, 12 Jun 2000