To get the most out of an anecdote you really need to take it at face value, probably because this is when a story is at its least true.
An example turned up last month on a press release headed "Ecommerce salesman ejected from retail show", which told the story of Martin Langley, sales director of Open Systems Services, who was removed from the Retail 98 show in Birmingham by a senior representative of the organiser accompanied by private security men, for no lesser crime than distributing "Ecommerce sales literature".
It's a good story with the right amounts of pathos and irony, and a grave injustice thrown in for good measure. Langley was "shocked and disappointed" by his treatment, which was motivated by fear of "Ecommerce solutions" on the part of traditional retailers, he claims in the tear-stained document.
Mr Langley, who no doubt wrote the press release himself, doesn't seem to have spotted the other possible interpretation of the organisers' actions, which is that he was thrown out after legitimate exhibitors, who had paid good money for space at the show, complained about the bloke with the Brylcreemed hair and the shiny suit hawking his brochures up and down the aisles.
The time is not far hence when a majority of the world's correspondence will take the form of error messages. Someone sent Mole a fine example recently, attached to an email message, but he could not read it because, as Windows testily explained, a "required DLL" was missing. When it finally arrived, the message turned out to be a spoof, though only experienced computer users could be expected to know this. In the style of a Windows error message, it reads: "This program has performed an illegal operation and will be shut down. If you had installed Unix you wouldn't have had this problem in the first place. It serves you right."
The advertising copywriter who penned an advert for Microsoft which appears in the latest edition of Byte magazine obviously had something similar in mind when he wrote: "Windows is the part of the machine that is human." This would explain a lot: unreliable, changeable, prone to irrational behaviour, uncooperative ...
Mole has learnt the hard way not to comment on explicitly technical matters because he usually gets it wrong, but is he alone in believing Windows' so-called safe mode to be a bad joke? The operating system starts in safe mode when it gets confused, when for instance there is a conflict between drivers or other third-party software, two or more bits of which find themselves competing for the same limited resources. The "solution" is to start the computer with all these potentially disruptive programs disabled, which makes it impossible to discover what is causing the problem. If Microsoft ran the AA, no doubt it would respond to breakdowns by removing your wheels.
More strange messages from the Microsoft Literacy department, though it's hard to tell whether or not they are erroneous. If you run the phrase "unable to follow directions" through the thesaurus in Word, it suggests "twaddle", though whether this is a comment on directions in general, or Microsoft directions in particular, it is hard to tell. According to someone with Word version 4, the US English version of the thesaurus, offers an even more intriguing alternative: "unable to have an erection".
Does Mr Gates have shares in Viagra?
Similarly, AOL appears to be issuing hidden messages, but what on earth do they mean? Someone unlucky enough to have received numerous "trial" disks for things he doesn't want or need was intrigued by the passwords issued with the software. Among them, GOITER-SCRUFF, ADOPTS-APATHY and one that presumably originated in a playground (or IT department) - WEEDY-BOTTOM.
The venerable bank, NM Rothschild, is the latest company to take pre-emptive action against World Cup related outbreaks of sick leave. To prevent IT professionals from going AWOL, one of the bank's precious Epson LCDs, which are normally used for presentations of a more corporate nature has been mounted on one of the office walls for the showing of matches. Needless to say, the office is an alcohol free zone, but the bulging trouser pockets of staff are accounted for not by a wave of pre-match MS Viagra consumption but by the widespread adoption of hip flasks by Rothschild's consummate IT professionals.
Another in Mole's long running series of tips and hints for aspiring PR executives: this time it's venues to avoid if your clients are Japanese.
A PR man once took a pair of visiting dignitaries from a very large Japanese computer manufacturer to London restaurant School Dinners, where the waitresses dress as cheeky schoolgirls and the patrons are encouraged to throw bread rolls while they wait for their bangers and mash. All very jolly, particularly the bit where the waitresses come round and administer corrective discipline to the mainly male diners. The Japanese guests are enjoying themselves, when one of the waitresses descends on their table, slaps one of the little chaps on the wrist with a wooden ruler and admonishes him with the words: "... and that's for Pearl Harbour." Exit oriental guests, and farewell lucrative PR account.
Although this column has already spent several weeks preoccupied with error messages, and Mole vowed never to return to the subject as long as he lived, he can't resist the following from the Intel Web site, which uses an Oracle database to search for information. Mole will spare you the slashes, dashes, hashes and obscure error codes, but the last line of the message read: "Error while trying to retrieve text for error ORA-12203." Only Oracle could make a mistake telling you it got it wrong.
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