I was intrigued to read in PC Week (5 May) that Bill Gates has bought a remote uninhabited Pacific Island. Is there any truth in the rumour that this is to dump unsold copies of Windows 98?
It is my firm belief that the joint action by 13 US states to ban the sale of Windows 98 has been engineered by Microsoft in a desperate bid to generate interest through notoriety, it being a well-known fact that prohibition increases demand. One can imagine salesmen hanging round school gates handing out free driver update CDs to kids in the hope of creating an OS upgrade dependent generation (as the ads used to say, "this stuff we make - take it", or words to that effect).
Every week there is an article somewhere saying that 98 is doomed to fail. The contrast with the expectation before the launch of Windows 95 is remarkable, but no-one should be surprised. What exactly does Windows 98 offer that you can't get free with Internet Explorer 4? Drivers for new peripherals which aren't yet available (and when they are, presumably they will be supplied with Windows 95 and 3.11 drivers too). There are some useful sounding features, for example support for multiple monitors, but they are few and far between. Nothing worth upgrading every PC in the office for, especially when you know the whole Windows 9x line will soon be scrapped in favour of NT.
It seems that Microsoft has become obsessed of late with taking a lead in the browser wars, and that all its resources and creative energy (don't laugh!) have been spent in the war with Netscape. The aim of Windows 98 was a Navigator-killing delivery mechanism for IE, rather than an operating system fit for the 21st century, and the development cycle became inextricably entangled with that of Internet Explorer. In that they have succeeded, just in time for Netscape (and possibly the DoJ) to change the rules of the game.
So that's why I expect that one day in the not-too-distant future, some explorer will discover the Island of Dr Tomorrow (named after the launch date of NT5) inhabited by a bespectacled recluse surrounded by his monstrous creations - towering piles of unsold operating systems.
Via the Net
Lack of support
I cannot be alone that whenever I phone a help line mine is always a unique problem, which eventually I have to sort out myself.
The latest problem involved a call to Hewlett-Packard's helpline. After navigating through about 10 minutes of menus I got a real person to talk to. I explained the problem.
"My new HP4000TN will not print large documents over our network, it gets half way through and then starts printing it all again".
She said: "It's a known bug with NT4.0 plus service pack three. It was mentioned on technet a month ago". "Great", I said "can I have the patch"?
"No, you have to get it directly from Microsoft".
"Have you a number I can ring where somebody might answer", I asked.
"No", she said, "we access the Microsoft Web page, we don't talk to anyone there".
"Fine", I replied, "give me the Web address and I will download it".
"You can't" she said, "it's not there, you have to ask Microsoft directly and they will send it to you; other customers have done that".
"Wouldn't it be a good idea to post this on HP's home page," I asked.
"Not our problem", she replied, "talk to Microsoft". So off I went, posted the problem on Microsoft's relevant newsgroup, but no help there. I decided to phone Microsoft and talk to somebody ... ring ... ring ... ring ... no answer.
Still no joy, still no help, still wasting paper.
Dr Pierce Riemer
Via the Net
Tony Blair melts online
Tony Blair's Webcast demonstrates the sophistication of Labour's public relations machine. That portions of his broadcast were blurred shows a deep understanding of the medium, while allowing a technical scapegoat to carry the burden.
I can just imagine the PM being briefed beforehand: "OK, Tony, whenever he (David Frost) gets on to an iffy question, just shake your head and move your arms. You don't even have to fudge an answer, the technology will take care of that for you. If things get really desperate, I'll pirouette across the back of the set."
The natural extension of this is the much-promised achievement of the Internet as a democratising force. It's widely recognised that the body language of touching the face indicates an economy with the actuality.
Rather than needing training to hide this trait, politicians can now exploit it to force an information overload, so their words are lost in screen haze.
With such a demand for high-speed obfuscation, the abolition of the House of Lords will become even more important in the democratic process, waving order papers in the Commons will take on a whole new significance, while Year 2000 policy will suddenly become communicated with alarming clarity.
Via the Net
A wipe clean Godsend
My copy of PC Week gets passed around the team every day at lunchtime.
It usually comes back with colourful additions - dollops of sauce from over-full sandwiches consumed above its hallowed pages.
My colleagues actually look forward to Thursdays when the new edition arrives in its polythene wrapping on my desk. Cries of "Is that the latest PC Week?" echo around the office from developers keen to read a fresh copy and to be the first to soil it. Triumphant shouts are heard as sandwich fillings plop onto its crisp, clean pages.
The new wipe-clean cover on the redesign gets the thumbs up from me.
My only complaint is that Mole appears inside the back page on paper designed as a sandwich magnet.
Via the Net
All hands on deck!
I recently acquired Starship Titanic - the latest Douglas Adams offering.
It will not work on any device which does not have a Pentium chip. My Cyrix 686 is not acceptable and following enquiries to Zablac the UK distributor, I was referred to the American Web site where a patch could be found.
When the patch failed to work I contacted Zablac which closes at 5.30pm and is not open at weekends.
The Web site helpfully gave me a US telephone number. Having spent 20 minutes on hold I was told that mine was an unusual problem as only 12 people had rung in with it - and that a fix maybe available within four weeks.
Is Douglas Adams part of the Wintel plot to take over the world? Are there only 12 Cyrix users who plays games?
Via the Net
A 17IN MONITOR WEEKLY
Roll up for your chance to win a stunning 17in Taxan ErgoVision 730 TCO95 monitor every week! Each week PC Week will be giving you the chance to walk away with a 17in FST monitor, worth #349, and all you have to do is write a letter. Each week we'll be giving away a monitor to the best, or most relevant letter, we receive. Letters should be about something that has been covered in PC Week and relating to some aspect of the industry that you feel strongly about. So, next time you have an opinion on what's happening out there - serious or amusing - write to us and put yourself in with a chance to win. Send your Emails to [email protected] or your letters by post to: PC Week, Letters, VNU Business Publications, 32-34 Broadwick St, London WIA 2HG.
The ErgoVision Pro 730 TCO95 The monitor has a horizontal dot pitch of 0.24mm and a top resolution of 1280 x 1024 with a refresh rate of up to 64Hz - it also runs at 1024 x 768 at up to 86Hz. The front control panel allows users to easily control features such as on-screen functions, colour, brightness, degauss, adjust and contrast among others.
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