Thanks to the vigilant reader who sent Mole a warning about an insidious new virus. Internet Explorer 4.0 can waste huge amounts of hard disk space, bring the most powerful Pentium machine grinding to a halt, cause Java applications to malfunction, crash browsers from reputable firms such as Netscape and seriously interfere with your operating system. The virus is undetectable by virus checking software and, once caught, is virtually impossible for the user to remove from the system. To avoid infection do not click on any instance of the Internet Explorer logo which has been widely distributed on the Internet. Warning signs of a different kind have been spotted in the song The Circus, by Erasure, from the album of the same name. "Call it New Technology And they use it to burn And they show no concern Work for their prosperity While the big wheels turn It's too late to learn" If only we'd listened. All may not be lost. Intel appears to have found a more suitable role for NT at long last, as an operating system for arcade games. Intel and others have decided that machines based on Intel microprocessors and NT offer a far cheaper and more flexible alternative to the proprietary machines in widespread use today. Next stop for NT, the Gameboy. Yet another warning about Microsoft products reaches Mole in the form of a press release. The document is probably a spoof, but it's difficult to tell. It begins: "Today, Microsoft announced COM+, the third generation of its distributed object technology vapourware. After DCOM and ActiveX, COM+ is set to shake enterprise computing at its roots. Of particular importance to COM+ is the fact that 'the location of an object is considered an administrative detail'. Underlining the importance of this major breakthrough in Microsoft's announcement technology, a spokesman said: 'Unlike the OMG, Microsoft are not burdened by the need to standardize anything. The OMG are completely overwhelmed by their attempts to define interoperable technology that suits a wide range of deployment scenarios. Microsoft are under no such constraints, and can therefore apply their full creative energy to defining the technology for the next announcement.'" The Costa Ricans have come up with a solution for the troublesome problem of rigging elections. As it begins trials of an on-line voting system, the government plans to do away with paper ballots entirely by 2002, ensuring that from now on the results will be very much easier to fiddle. Other Central American states are following the trials with interest. Here in Britain computers are also changing the face of government - if in a rather less radical way. The red boxes used to convey ministerial documents are to be replaced by dull grey or black ones in the form of notebook computers. Among the many advantages claimed for the updated versions is greater convenience, and indeed the new ones should prove far better suited to leaving on the backseats of unlocked cars and on the luggage racks of commuter trains. In his rather long and drawn out correspondence about the Jewish calendar and its contribution to the Year 2000 problem, all Mole managed to prove is that, when it comes to counting, he is a couple of years short of a millennium. One piece of genuine intelligence to come out of this otherwise fruitless exchange of messages comes from Mole's pal Howard who suggests that anyone planning to take an orthodox approach to the end of the century should forget Internet Explorer 4.0 and whatever version of Netscape is current, and opt instead for the KB, or Kosher Browser version 5 ... but to you only 3. What can you do to make Guy Fawkes night safer for your children? Mole favours locking the little devils in their rooms but for those who consider this a little unsporting, help is at hand from Cheshire-based software developer Europress. In a press release headed Home computer to end firework misery the company describes Click & Control, a piece of software that "lets you program displays and ignite fireworks in complete safety using most popular home computers". Reluctant as he is to commend these seasonal, faddy products, this one seems fairly sensible. As firelighters go they are a little unwieldy, but liberal use of plastic in their manufacture means they burn nicely once you get them going. Whether they are any safer in the hands of young children than a sparkler remains to be seen. Finally, Microsoft has found a clever way out of the dispute with the US government which could start costing it the princely sum of $1 million (#0.6 million) a day. "In direct response to accusations made by the Department of Justice, Microsoft announced today that it will be acquiring the federal government of the United States of America for an undisclosed sum. "'It's actually a logical extension of our planned growth', said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, 'It really is going to be a positive arrangement for everyone'. "Microsoft representatives held a briefing in the oval office of the White House with US President Bill Clinton, and assured members of the press that changes will be 'minimal'. The United States will be managed as a wholly owned division of Microsoft. An initial public offering is planned for July of next year, and the federal government is expected to be profitable by 'Q4 1999 at latest', according to Microsoft president Steve Ballmer."
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