There is something very beautiful about error messages. About a year ago, Mole managed to fill most of his column for several weeks with computer errata. Then he vowed never to raise the subject again. Then he changed his mind.
Here are two very fine examples of the art of the error message. The first, from a program called Sniffer, is the archetypal insultingly pointless advisory. The second, from Microsoft Outlook, is a classic of the pointlessly insulting variety.
Pointless: "An unknown error occurred while accessing an unnamed file."
Insulting: "Cannot perform the requested operation. The command selected is not valid for this recipient. You don't have appropriate permission to perform this operation. You do not have sufficient permission to perform this operation on this object. See the folder contact or your system administrator." Had there been room, the message would presumably have concluded "now get lost and don't try that again, you miserable git".
Given all the bad publicity about poisonous substances in confectionery, you would think computer companies would steer clear of the stuff. Not so. Equanet, a supplier of PCs, has been sending out lumpy envelopes containing packets of sweets labelled "Belgium's Best". It is not clear whether the company's customers are being rewarded or punished.
Users of Fujitsu PCs are almost certainly being punished. Several readers have been in touch with Mole about the increasingly desperate state of the company's support operation. Recent Fujitsu PC models have been plagued with technical problems, and the support staff are not coping with the fallout.
If it seems unfair to single out a particular brand of PC for criticism, remember that Mole is prepared to report on defective products from any supplier, large or small.
An enormous amount of time and money has been wasted on the year 2000 date change. Big companies that have invested millions in insurance against IT disasters will be sickened by a foolproof antidote to the millennium bug, which is available for £19.95.
"Tiki the happiness virus" is on offer as a brooch, a pendant and a key-ring and is claimed to counteract the ill effects of the date change.
The rather strange advertising blurb reads as follows:
"I was born out of the imagination of a special eight-year-old boy. A child of two millennia, so frightened by the doom, gloom and Armageddon of the bug, he had to find a hero. A hero to battle the bug in the hearts and minds of all of us. I am that hero - Tiki." A reader has discovered what he believes to be a serious problem in McAfee VirusScan v4.0.3 for Win9x. Suffice to say, the problem affects the scheduler, a rather critical chunk of code whose job it is to ensure that updates to virus signature files are timely and regular. If you use this program, chances are that there could be a gap of up to three months in scheduled updates to your defences. And three months is a long time in the feverish world of the virus. Worried users and McAfee staff keen to fix the problem are invited to contact Mole for further details.
Cheap jewellery is at least reliable. Some of the more costly approaches to Y2K proofing are demonstrably useless. Take the humorously titled Action 2000, the government-sponsored body charged with taking care of all our pre-millennium needs. In June (think about it) Action 2000 ran full-page ads claiming that there was "less than six months to go" before the impending disaster. Would it be asking too much to expect a little more accuracy from the organisation supposedly dedicated to the preservation of our data?
Bill Gates is something of an art buff and has acquired works by the Beatles and Leonardo da Vinci as well as electronic reproduction rights to the British National Portrait Gallery collection. Mr Gates' tastes are nothing if not eclectic, but it is a safe bet that the winner of the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica is one work he will not be bidding for.
In this year's competition, the judges departed from their normal habit of awarding the prize in the ".net" category to an exemplary piece of online multimedia wizardry and gave it instead to Linux, which celebrates its eighth birthday this year. The judges made it clear that the award was made as much for the beauty of the idea of open source development as for the work itself: to make it clear, in other words, "that the real material of the Web is the code".
A couple of weeks ago Mole wrote that the latest version of Internet Explorer, release 5.0, flagrantly ignored the internationally standardised "font" tag. He has received numerous messages to say he is wrong, so Mole will concede the point.
The same experts may like to write in again to quibble with Mole's latest complaint against the half-baked IE5 - namely that it disables the "find" tab in the help system of NT Workstation 4.0.
Those who have experienced the blue screen of death on a regular basis will either be amused or appalled by Microsoft's latest television advertisements, which stress the toughness and reliability of Windows NT.
Even more brazen in talking up the feeble operating system's capabilities is Hewlett-Packard. The company should know that its advertisement which ends with the words "now running the reliable Windows NT", has already prompted a complaint to the ITC, the independent advertising regulator.
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older
Two of the big four supermarkets will use the system to control sales of restricted products
PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23