God's above. Publishing schedules can be cruel. Whenever an issue is dropped for the summer or Christmas holidays, some important or very funny things happen and poor old Mole is unable to report it until it is far too late. Last year's escaped story, which may by now have been caught up with elsewhere, first appeared in the Bangkok Post and featured a chap found clinging to one of Thailand's highest buildings shouting at the top of his voice that he was God. Before you imagine that Mole has also lost his marbles during the break, the story does have some relevance. It turns out that the poor lunatic in question was a junior employee of Microsoft, which puts an entirely different light on the case. Microsoft trains its staff to believe that on a scale that starts with human beings at the bottom and ends with Bill Gates at the top, they are about two-thirds of the way up and climbing. Clearly something went badly wrong this time. Either our man in Thailand had ideas far above his station or someone has accidentally set the status switch on his on-chip personality (MS Self-Importance for Windows tm) to vice president. At Microsoft, only VPs are considered to be on a par with God and only his Supreme Billness is indisputably higher. Put it this way, there is a [email protected] - no kidding - listed in the company's internal Email directory, and he doesn't occupy a position of any importance. Merely being the Son of God does not guarantee that you will reach the top at Microsoft. Lesser deities take note. All gods are fallible however, not just the junior ones. Remember the Norse gods who built a fabulous homestead but failed to pay the builders, setting off a chain of events that eventually brought a retirement home tumbling down on their heads? Bill Gates, who has just spent #30 million on his own Valhalla in Seattle, is not about to make the same mistake. Scarcely has the paint dried on Chez Gates than he's out buying more property. Somewhat distressingly for those of us who believe in the maintenance of the British way of life, Chez Gates 2.0 is in London, conveniently located between the residences of Paul Allen (Microsoft's co-founder) and Richard Branson (Britain's richest beard and knitwear cultivator). Despite the undesirable neighbours, house prices in the area seem to have held up: Mr Gates is said to have paid #8 million for his new gaff. One question that no-one seems to have asked is why this not terribly cosmopolitan man should want a second home at all. Only an unkind soul (and fortunately there is no shortage of these among Mole correspondents) would suggest that he has the second house at an off-site back-up in case the first one crashes. Pity Wotan and his chums didn't take similar precautions; the twilight of the gods might never have come. A confident prediction for the new year and the next one and the one after, is that computers will never be able to speak decent English let alone translate one language into another. This is because language has little to do with logic and absolutely nothing to do with the amount of processing power thrown at it. No sane person would argue with this but because there is no shortage of barely literate hippy twerps running computer companies, the half-baked arguments keep on coming. The dunderheads behind AltaVista, the Internet search engine, reckon they've got it cracked with their new translation software. Here's an example of what it can do when you translate from English to Spanish and back again. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" becomes "the alcohol is arranged, but the meat is weak". Well, at least it got "weak" right. Another example could almost qualify as a critical comment on AltaVista's linguistic efforts: "Out of sight, out of mind" becomes "Outside vista, the mind." New year, clean sheet and all that: time to close the book on two long running items from the old year. The first is Hewlett-Packard's deservedly derided Mopy Fish promotion, the soul purpose of which is to inflate the market for consumables. As reported, customers have been getting the upper hand with the discovery that it is possible to play with one's virtual fish without actually printing anything, thanks to the "print to disc" command. The evil HP has brought its fearsome incompetence to bear on the job of closing this loophole. As owners of the DeskJet 1600CM discovered, both the 1600 Colorsmart and 1600CM drivers recognise the "print to disc" command, but still insist on printing files in the usual way as well. Anyone who still wishes to get the better of HP can hack into the Mopy Fish's BRAIN.DAT file and award themselves as many points as they like, or better still, change the temperature control to freeze or fry the little beggars. The second account Mole must close after several failed attempts is the highly enjoyable series on error messages. This gem from Microsoft Exchange was a classic; "failed to start because of the following error: the operation completed successfully". One from the old ICL 7903 Front End Processor: if a user hit return at the wrong moment, the irascible 7903 would flash back "not now!" then go on to clear whatever was on the screen to teach the presumptuous user a lesson. Finally, with the demise of OS/2 and the uncertain future of the Macintosh operating system, there is no known remedy for the following error message, which many of you see every day: "Starting Windows 95." Make it a happy New Year for Mole. Send him your rumour, gossip and satirical off-cuts to the email address above without delay, or phone 0171 316 9068 and leave a message.
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