Last year Ivan Pope, a director of Webmedia, the Web consultancy that recently went bust, vented his frustration over British Telecom's failure to provide him with an ISDN line by setting up a spoof web site with the URL britishtelecon.com. Needless to say this rash action immediately attracted the keen attention of BT's legal department and it wasn't long before the site was dismantled. Even so, Pope, who avoided a day in court, had had the opportunity to make his point. Microsoft has been similarly suffered the insincere flattery of imitation with, among others, micro$oft.com set up to ridicule the company and all its works. The latest to take advantage of Microsoft's good name is a site with the URL microdoft.com, which many an inaccurate typist can expect to reach. This time, though, the aim is not vengeful irony but a motive Bill Gates might actually approve of: commercial gain. Microdoft.com is a soft porn site, though British readers may initially be confused into thinking it is still aimed at Mr Gates as the first thing to greet visitors is a banner inviting them to view the "ass of the year". Now another case of passing off has been brought to Mole's attention, this one unmistakably motivated by the desire for revenge. Britishpetroleum.co.uk is a faithful copy of the uninspiring site to be found at www.bp.co.uk, except that whatever link you follow will take you to a message proclaiming that BP are "bastards", followed by several pages of bitter invective from a man who claims that a car wash owned by the oil giant "ate" his car. These claims are backed up by photos of an elderly Rover coupe with its spoiler ripped off and a nasty dent in the tailgate. Anyone wishing to view the site for themselves should do so quickly. Its proprietor is highly unlikely to escape BP's wrath for long and it can be expected to vanish as suddenly as it appeared. In many ways the site represents everything that's good about the Internet - the ability of the individual to make himself heard in an increasingly noisy world - and it's hard to see what real harm it could possibly do to a thriving multinational. As the creator of the site eloquently puts it: "At least this Web site won't trash yer motor." It's difficult to argue with this logic, but no doubt BP's lawyers will find a way. Mole's advice to BP is to turn this trifling incident, which threatens to put no more than a tiny dent in its reputation into a public relations coup: don't sue the man, buy him a decent car. Even before its brush with the aggressive car wash, it was clear that he needed one. Further evidence has emerged to support Mole's theory that a rival to the English language known as MS English is the reason Bill Gates is so often misunderstood. In MS English, you may recall, "illegal" means "narrow-minded", "customer" means "sucker" and "delivery date" means whatever the marketing department want it to mean. It may also be that Redmond is confused about the difference between a synonym and an antonym, which would explain why one of the alternative readings of "illegal" offered by Word's thesaurus is "ethical". Stranger still is the attitude Word takes to southpaws. "Left-handed" is defined as follows: "clumsy, awkward, gawky, inept, bumbling, gauche, maladroit." Mole put in a call to Microsoft's PR firm to find out which hand is favoured by Mr Gates himself. That was over a week ago and still no answer. Until he hears to the contrary, Mole will continue to assume that this puts His Billness in the manual minority. Regular readers of this column will appreciate why it is that the computer industry loathes journalists. What may be less apparent is the extraordinary lengths to which some companies will go to nobble them. Last year, or it may have been the year before that, Mole reported on a Microsoft developers' conference at which the company served up a revolting dish (chicken in a green sauce) which sent the attendees into ecstasies of projectile vomiting. The target of the bacteria-laced lunch was the press, but to cover its tracks, Microsoft was also obliged to target the faithful. Similar tactics were employed by Intel at a press party last month. The affair was held at Planet Hollywood in London, and for most of the following weekend hacks and hackettes were sent on an intensive course in porcelain studies. It is not clear whether the outbreak of what has become known as "Intel insides" was caused by the food or the presence at the party of the nauseating Bunny People, but the drained and enfeebled journalists will think twice before slagging off the company in print again. Is something making you sick? If so, contact Dr Mole, who promises to go straight to the source of the infection.
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