As do-gooders never tire reminding us, the Internet is not a very safe place for children. Whatever dubious form of entertainment your twisted offspring crave is never more than a few mouse-clicks away. Whether it's dabbling in the occult, joining neo-Nazi movements or goggling at hard-core porn that most appeals, this marvellous educational tool, beloved of smelly academics and media-savvy Labour politicians, encompasses it all. On the Excite search engine, for instance, it takes just five clicks to get from the new Family section on the home page to a site called Luscious Lesbians. Don't go there, kids. It's not nice.
Less well publicised are the dangers of the Internet to parents. The London Evening Standard last week reported on the case of an American child who spent #1.75 million at an online auction. During his spending spree, the extravagant lad acquired a #312,000 Van Gogh, a replica Viking ship and a bedroom suite said to have belonged to the first prime minister of Canada, which was knocked down to a very reasonable #250,000. Fortunately for the parents, the greedy child's tender age got him - and them - off the hook. At 13, he was legally disqualified from bidding. Parents with older children should take reasonable precautions. A sensible first step would be to cut the phone lines. Also effective is to disable your teenager's computer.
Reporting of a so-called "independent" comparison of Linux and Windows NT has been very kind. Mindcraft, the company that carried out bench-tests, initially forgot to mention that the research had been paid for by Microsoft.
Perhaps Mindcraft thought this would be obvious, as NT emerged a clear winner.
The far from objective, Eric S Raymond, whose enthusiasm for Linux is only matched only by his hostility to Microsoft, put the boot in firmly in Linux Today. He accuses Mindcraft of deliberately contriving to ignore the technical assistance on offer from leading Linux distributor Red Hat, of applying "tweaks" that slowed the Linux test machine down instead of speeding it up, and of effectively nobbling Apache, the Web server running on the Linux box. Sadly, Mr Raymond is an unreliable witness so we are obliged to dismiss his evidence, however appealing it may seem. We should listen instead to Microsoft spokesman Ian Hatton, who was reported as saying: "A very highly tuned NT server was pitted against a very poorly tuned Linux server." The Microsoft man is quoted in Mr Raymond's article, so it is possible that he is a figment of the Head Druid's seething imagination, but if he's real Mr Hatton is to be commended for his refreshingly un-Microsoft-like frankness.
In the run-up to the millennium, IT managers at Britain's biggest companies are inundating Mole with requests for last-minute help. At this stage, chaps, your options are rather limited. But you could follow the example of Peter Camidge, desktop computing manager at the London Electricity Board, who circulated a message to all staff asking them to delete files over 12 months old from the company's computers. This will be excellent news for students, the unemployed and the otherwise impoverished, who can look forward to an amnesty from last year's unpaid bills, but not such good news for anyone complaining to the company about an unaccountably large bill or the fatal electrocution of a close family member following a visit from the board's engineers.
Mr Camidge wisely takes the view that if you don't have time to fix the programs, getting rid of all the pesky data will do just as well. Although he advises users to eradicate only "non-essential" files, he also warns that failure to comply will result in random purges. "Please be ruthless in using the Delete command, as you will be best placed to identify key data for retention. We will start ... to delete files in June 1999 if the number remains at the current high level."
As Mole always says, when it comes to creative solutions to mission-critical problems, Britain's IT managers lead the world.
Further examples of enlightened management practice should be sent to Mole at the usual address.
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