Criticised for far too long for its inability to market ISDN, BT is showing every sign of learning from its compadres in the fast-moving world of computer software. Among the goodies that come with the Ignition terminal adaptor, which connects analogue bits and pieces to ISDN II lines, is a driver for hooking up a PC running Windows 95. But what happens if you carelessly mislay the disk the driver comes on? Never mind: BT helpfully provides a number for you to dial. Shame it's an ISDN number, which means you can't get through without the driver on that disk you just lost. Next week: how the AA will cut costs by asking drivers to bring their broken-down vehicles to its central service depot by road.
In a not dissimilar vein, a story about how Microsoft would love to sell you MS DOS - but can't. A reader who bought a bunch of PCs with the intention of making a phased migration to Windows NT via DOS 6.22, rang Microsoft to find out where he could buy the requisite copies of DOS. Sorry, said Microsoft, DOS is only available as an upgrade. But the machines we've just bought only come with Windows 95, replied the customer. Ah, then you'll need to get hold of the OEM version of DOS, said Microsoft.
Customer: Where can I get that?
Microsoft: I can give you the name of a company that will sell it to you. Unfortunately, it will breach our licensing terms.
Customer: Er, okay, can you put that in writing.
Microsoft: No, sorry.
Because the customer had just signed up to the Federation Against Software Theft, he decided that, on balance, living without DOS 6.22 was preferable to committing an offence. For its part, Microsoft, which until recently claimed to be an active supporter of FAST until it threw its weight behind the Business Software Alliance, seems to be advising customers to acquire certain of its products illegally. Of course, there is a precedent for this style of doing business. Bent police officers of Mole's acquaintance have been known to peddle controlled drugs to users with the intention of busting them later, earning themselves beer money in the short term and promotion in the long run. The BSA is running a poster campaign advertising a u2,500 reward for blowing the whistle on pirates. It would be interesting to know how many of the people they nick have just bought an apparently innocent copy of DOS, and how many of the phone calls reporting these offences came from the Reading area.
Bad news for American computer users earlier this month as the Washington Post reported on legislation to make 'shrink-wrap' licences enforceable.
For many years, software vendors have followed the legally dubious practice of printing their terms and conditions inside the packaging of their products with a note to say that once the seal is broken the customer has agreed to the terms of the licence he has not yet seen. Under the proposed legislation, this practice would carry the full force of law, removing the consumer's right to redress should a package fail to do what it says it does. Consumer groups are angry about this, but a spokesman for the BSA was philosophical.
The aptly named JD Fair told the Post that if consumers wanted software that worked they would have to pay more for it. "All software is imperfect," he said, a sentiment that BSA members (aka the world's biggest software vendors) would doubtless endorse.
The bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Netscape is getting out of hand.
Take the example of Sam Sethi, the pint-sized product marketing man from Netscape, who has been told by his former colleague and pal from Microsoft, Andy Lees, not to set foot on Microsoft premises. A reasonable enough demand for one contender to make of another, one might think, but it does make it rather difficult for poor Mr Sethi to pick up his girlfriend, Microsoft product manager Gillian Kent, from work - particularly as the ban now extends to the company car park.
Will Microsoft stop at nothing in the race to conquer cyberspace? Apparently not. According to a notice, purporting to come from Bill Gates: "Please be aware that the background colour 'white' has been trademarked by Microsoft Corp and it is illegal for any pages to appear on the Web with a white background. Please change the colour on your pages immediately or we will have to file a suit against your corporation."
Put the frighteners on Mole by doing a bit of heavy breathing on 0171 316 9068. Or send him a threatening email message at the address above.
No gossip, no Mole, so get cracking.
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