Perhaps it is Mole's eligible batchelor status or perhaps it is the flattering portraits that have adorned his column over the years, but quite without meaning to Mole has attracted a large and enthusiastic female following. To put an end to the tiresome business of opening bundles of lavender-scented envelopes and issuing polite refusals to the many offers of marriage he receives each week, Mole has taken the sensible, if drastic, step of betrothal. Common decency prevents Mole from revealing the identity of the extremely fortunate bride-to-be, except to say that she is nocturnal and, like Mole, rather short-sighted. Given this shared infirmity, Mole can only speculate as to whether she is beautiful, though he is certain she is. And he is given to understand that the future Mrs Mole sees things the same way, albeit dimly. Being a great believer that matters of an intimate nature should be kept out of the press, Mole will say no more. He only mentions it in the hope that his romantically inclined female fans resign themselves to their loss now while there is still time to rebuild what's left of their shattered lives.
Ever since 1989 when Compaq introduced the Systempro, the PC has given other architectures a run for their money. Unable to compete with Sun, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Digital proprietary computers on raw performance, manufacturers of Intel-based servers turned to the next best thing, price-performance, measured first with such crude yardsticks as $/MIPS and later with more scientific benchmarks devised to test transaction rates - in both senses of the word - by the Transaction Processing Council. Dividing a machine's TPC-C rating by its price provides an index of value-for-money (or cheapness, depending on your point of view). Compaq's Proliant 5000 is a fine recent example, a machine that made cheapness history with a sub-$100/tpmc rating of which the company was justly proud. Mole says "was" because about six weeks ago Compaq quietly withdrew its claim to the benchmark without so much as a word of explanation. Under TPC rules, member companies are not obliged to give reasons for relinquishing claims, but Compaq's silence is still considered mysterious by those in the know.
As far as Mole can make out, the story, though a few weeks old, has also gone unreported in the press, which rather adds to the sense of mystery.
Mole is sure there is a rational explanation - that the machine was rigged, to take a purely hypothetical example - and that Compaq will be writing in with it soon.
Everyone will by now have been accosted by someone trying to sell them a copy of the Encyclopaedia Britannica on CD-ROM. Mole has to assume the publishers are having trouble shifting the beastly little disks because they are resorting to increasingly desperate marketing tactics, the latest of which is to offer a hefty discount to anyone who sends back "the encyclopaedia that came with your computer" in a reply paid envelope. Perhaps all that book-learning has overtaxed their brains, but the Britannica's publishers might have given a little more thought to their scheme before ordering the envelopes that accompany the offer, which are considerably smaller than the average CD.
The marketing department at Xerox has also been pushing the envelope, as the expression goes. In a recent promotion, the company sent out "u30 off" vouchers for its Textbridge Pro software, but only bothered to pay half the postage. Wisely the vouchers were sent in plain envelopes with no return address to prevent the Post Office from marking them undelivered.
Recipients faced with shelling out 40p a piece for unsolicited junk mail can at least console themselves with the fact that they still stand to save u29.60 if they take up the offer.
Xerox is not the only company taking a creative approach to surcharging.
If you have recently purchased Windows NT Workstation 4.0 you may have noticed the absence from the CD-ROM of the WINNT initialisation file, a fairly important item without which it is not possible to use the software.
Luckily there is a solution. A customer who rang Microsoft's support people was told they'd be happy to help - for a very reasonable u150. Perhaps we can expect to see a note to this effect on the packaging in future.
"Price does not cover working version of software."
If you want to congratulate Mole or even keep him informed of the latest gossip, phone 0171 316 9068.
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