From politics to porn, via Microsoft and the supernatural

'Varied' does not do these letters justice

Letters Bernie Ebbers shed a tear or two as he was sentenced to 25 years in the nick for his part in the financial disaster that was WorldCom. We'd cry, too, in his shoes, and we suspect a lot of other people would too. But that doesn't necessarily mean there is an awful lot of love out there for him:

As I was listening to the news about Bernie Ebbers' 25-year jail sentence - longer, AFAIK, than many people get for murder - I felt a comparison stirring. B. Ebbers: Told a pack of lies, wasted $11 billion of other people's money. Jailed for 25 years.

G.W.Bush: Told a pack of lies, wasted several hundred billion dollars of other people's money, invaded a country illegally, ignored the Geneva Conventions, and caused over 100,000 deaths. Honoured, respected, highly paid, enshrined in the White House.

Isn't "dumbocracy" wonderful?


I'll weep more if that sonabitch doesn't get what he deserves. How many pension plans, etc. have been hit by the vile bastard's machinations? All because some Red State (Red Neck) jerk from Yazoo, Mississippi didn't have enough homes, cars and boats.

Hang the bastard. We have enough rapacious corporate greed, and far closer to the White House, to please everyone everyone that needs that sort of thing.

Surely we can spare one scumbag for the rope? It's not as if there's a shortage.


Clearly his instincts left him in the court room. Any decent exec would have offered the judge to outsource his sentence for a fraction of the cost of what the State will pay to keep him incarcerated.


Steve Ballmer (pumped up and sweating, naturally) tried to gee up Microsoft's partners at the annual partner conference by telling them to bet the farm on MS:

I think Mr Ballmer has "lost the plot" and has had his fifteen minutes of fame. His exhortations now are towards infamy and cannot do Microsoft any good, whatsoever.

And the evidence for such a suggestion?... The mixed and misleading and false messages which he shares with us.....some of which sit in direct opposition to earlier pronouncements to the Industry. This suggests a Panic Knee-Jerk reaction to that which he is hearing and to which he is choosing not to Listen to...

...although I could also be totally wrong in that analysis suggesting that Steve's presentation was too subtly clever for me to fully understand. Which would be a shame for it is not SMART which is what Softerware is All about and if Microsoft cannot see that, then IBM and Open Source will soon rule in their boardroom... doing them a Favour.



I use Microsoft products but you know, Steve Ballmer cracks me up. He has never worked out why, after two years, Office 2003 has barely made more than a ripple: it doesn't do anything better than versions five years old do. If there's one thing people grumble about it's the Office suite tax. People use the same, dull old features they always have and there is just no value in reinvesting in Microsoft's cash-cow. I reckon most Microsoft Word documents are never more than two pages in length and most Excel spreadsheets never more than 400 cells in size. You could take versions of Word and Excel from 10 years ago and they'd do the same job.

It's the same way he's trying to obliterate Windows NT 4 installations: many are still doing the same job as they did 6 or 7 years ago and there is no value in many instances of buying new hardware and a new OS. It's think the Ballmer's of this world will never accept: the incremental changes they make to their products are not worth the effort and disruption ripping and replacing causes. If I have a six year old NT 4 print server that never breaks down what value do I get from replacing it?

For a company that seems to claim it is so business orientated it seems to have a fairly thin grasp of business needs and priorities - Ballmer needs to focus on the long view and look at supporting their products over a much longer period of time: commercial products are too expensive to throw out every two-three years. If Ballmer really does wants us to change that often then the only realistic alternative is free/open source software and the question he needs to ask himself, is does he really want that?

Best regards,


These days it's becoming harder to laugh at Microsoft's offerings, their server software is quite good and Windows XP Pro isn't a bad client either. But they seriously need to hide Office under the carpet, at least from administrators that need data accessed over networks. Word might be a decent app, but everything else is junk.

In fact it's hilariously so, as Office still can't handle multiple users reading and writing the same data - and they suggest we replace proper database systems with their toy-like applications.

Their software is stuck in the eighties, a time where multiple users might have been able to read the same data, but all but the best systems couldn't properly handle writing to the same database, let alone database record. Record locking is the old term used, and it was a problem fixed in modern software about ten years ago.

Access can still lock out an entire database just because one user hasn't shut down the application they're using to write or modify data. Sure it's a bug, it is actually supposed to be able to handle this, but because it's crap, it can't.

So sure, go ahead, let sysadmins compare their crap to the working software they currently have, and watch Microsoft's credibility disappear forever.

The only people that would buy this software instead of Oracle or Notes are those that let their bosses bully them into buying the next shiny object from Microsoft.


More Microsoft mayhem erupted in the postbag when we ran a piece on Mike Nash's musings on Longhorn security:

"In October 2003 someone asked: 'How come, when I go to a Windows machine, everyone has to be an administrator?',"

Wow, Most people I know were asking that back in 1999.


Nash said dryly: "Unbreakable? I think no

Yes. Microsoft has every reason to sneer at UNIX for claiming great security. It's not as if anyone ever hacked into Windows box, deleted all the files or turned the computer into a zombie, right?

My test machine developed a virus, just by being connected to the internet. If the corporate scanner hadn't caught it, I'd be in a world of hurt right now. Sure, Nash, be smug about UNIX having a flaw here and there. If operating systems were power plants, Windows would be Tsjernobyl.


Try to hack into It then, Mr reveal all of the tricks of the trade. Open Source is a "black hole" sucks in Information and spews it out on the Other Side ......I suppose it is because IT hides nothing, it only needs to know who is using IT which it does by granting Peer Access for Input and Mentors/Monitors IT.



"Nash said 281m copies of XP 2 have been distributed during the year since launch."

They can take back the copy which came on my Compaq Laptop. GNU/Linux is my primary OS. I thought it was "interesting" that OfficeDepot listed Microsoft XP w/SP2 as a $1 line item. They charged me $10 for Microsoft Works...

It does please me to see Microsoft mention Linux so often. It doesn't matter if it is mostly lies and marketing-speak. The simple act of mentioning it give it merit and I've heard of a few department managers who've now started showing interest in Linux just because Microsoft is talking about it so much. Looks like the move off the MSFT treadmill is starting to pickup. Longhorn or no Longhorn.


This is a much older idea than UNIX. Commercial OS like Univac Exec, CDC Scope and DEC VMS all had special accounts with various permissions. UNIX in fact was never known for its security until very recently. It's traditionally been a lax academic system with quite a bit of very amateurish coding in it. Old timers can tell you many horror stories about outrageous UNIX security holes in UUCP and Sendmail and other systems. Remember the Morris internet work that almost shut down the whole net, that was largely due to the careless design of Sendmail.

Real information about security research in Windows seems to be hard to find. Unfortunately, almost all articles about Longhorn or Windows are 1 percent fact and 99 percent political opinion.


Ah, baseball. Incomprehensible to many (most) in the UK, this is the US' most beloved pastime (apart from watching porn, but we digress). So how awful when the nation's favourite family-appropriate game should be tainted by something so crass as commercialism. Ahem:

You complain about journalistic practices? That would be the pot calling the kettle black. Your politics show when you report. As they do here.


Ah, yes, but no one pays us for our get all that for FREE!

In radio, this type of advertising is called "blind promotion", where the jock (such as myself) ACTS oblivious to what's going on in an attempt to get viewers and listeners to "GO SEE FOR THEMSELVES".

In this case, it WORKED! Remember the radio station that got fined for giving away "100 GRAND"? The CANDYBAR?

Things aren't always as they seem, and alotta times it ON PURPOSE, to get the listeners and viewers curious enough to go find out for themselves.


Nothing to do with technology, everything to do with a lefty who hates the successful right leaning FOX network. "Deceives millions..." Come on. Really. Was any one killed? Was anyone cheated out of money? Was anyone harmed in any way whatsoever? Is it their network to do as they please with? This is no more deceitful than the BBC stealth editing stories or Dan Rather forging documents. Where are the articles about these things.


"Deceit: deliberate and misleading concealment, false declaration, or artifice". Hmm, no, no mention of any killing or causing harm. What was your point again?

Let us all just progress through the pork barrel and accept criminal charges from the big corporations for not watching their adds and buying their products on condition that in exchange they keep lots of good-paying jobs in the West.

It makes sense because if you're paying the [Asian country of your choice] worker 84 cents on the dollar per hour to build the chevvy, he's going to be working for a VERY long time until he can consider buying one, let alone actually doing it.

Conversely, if all the jobs go to Asia and nobody in the West works anymore, there's not a whole lot of sense flooding the market with cheap goods that nobody will buy anymore since they're no longer in a position where they can spend disposable income.

The theory must sound good to corporate execs, but even in business you can't have your cake and eat it. If someone is to buy their products, then someone really needs to be able to make money enough so they can actually spend it on the product.

If I'm wrong I'm sure you'll point that out to me.


As promised, a few of your thoughts on the whole business of Dell and its customer support forums:

The problem with Dell and everyone else is that they've absolutely sold their collective customer support souls to India.

Even Microsoft has jumped into this with both feet, and not just for home user support. Pay US$250.00 for a Professional Support Incident and see where you wind up. More likely than not, it will be India. And when you get there, ask the support representative if he or she even has a PC at home. Chances are, they don't.

The only way this will ever change is when consumers start voting with their wallets.


If you are going to use Google as a metric for something, then at least use double quotes!

All you are doing here is including "Dell" in a search for the words "customer", "service" and "problems". This statistic is 93.6% meaningless.

I'm all for a bit of Dell bashing, but do it properly! One way to improve this would be to wrap quotes around your key phrases. To do it properly, you would probably need several common phrases.

Using this method your search returns 818 hits.

If you replace "Dell" with "Apple" you get 874 hits. Put "Microsoft" in there and you get 5,610.

But is this a measure of actual problems, or a measure of how popular the website is?

The truth is probably a combination of the two.

Ewan Wilcocks Who has neither a Dell, nor an Apple.

I've read your 'want to complain about Dell' article just now, and I very much appreciate stories telling the truth about these popular companies every now and then. But your remark about the Google search led me to search for Apple customer service problems, which gave me 6,180,000 (!) opposed to 2,330,000 of Dell at this moment. So I'm very curious about Apple stories on this subject.

Kind regards, Bram

Charles responds:

To those pointing out that the Google search should have been "Dell 'customer service problems'" - yes, I know, but I was quoting someone else. Which was why I compared it to Britney's similar problems. (Heaven knows she has others now...)

Dell does indeed seem to be turning down their customer service. A year ago, a support e-mail was answered in 48 hours. 6 months ago, it took a week. Now, when you're finally fed up with waiting and call them, you're told "oh, we don't read those anymore".

A shame, really. I have loved and recommended their products for years, both privately and professionally. Not so any more.


Nothing like a little high explosive to get some nasty laws passed, eh? Seems that thought has occurred to a couple of the UK's most senior ministers, who are now pushing Europe to revive legislation on data retention that has been declared illegal and inappropriate:

Concerned? I certainly am. It seems that as well as "burying bad news" on 9/11, this government now wants to "implement bad legislation" after 7/7. How they think any of this legislation is supposed to stop determined terrorists is what really amazes me:

ID Cards - bring the suicide bombers into the UK at most 3 months before an attack. Or even don't worry about it, just blow the ID card up with the bomber and the bomb in true suicide style! Data Retention - get yourself a copy of PGP.

And what about eroding the time proven concepts of justice and human rights - detention without trial, trial without jury, etc. etc.

This government needs to have a leash put on it rather quickly.


"There may be some costs but it is surely a cost we ought to pay for the preservation of human life," he [Jack Straw] said, according to the BBC.

Leaving aside that there are many small ISPs, I wonder Jack Straw has ever thought of doing a quick calculation on the amount of data. The LINX looks like it averages 40Gbps, assuming an average packet size of 1500 bytes, thats over 9TB per day of TCP/IP packet headers alone. Thats before worrying about the fact that many servers will support multiple websites and email addresses.

Should this be read a "strong buy" on Seagate's stock?


since the London bombing suspects have been identified so quickly, does that mean we don't need ID cards after all?


One in three Americans believes in ghosts. 'Nuff said, really:

That's nothing compared to the percentage of Americans who believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.....


Regarding the IT angle to "One Third of American's Believe in Ghosts"... and how you couldn't think of any IT angle.

I present you with three (really weak) IT connections this has... 1. Holographic displays. The images that holographic displays produce look rather ghostly. 2. The belief in ghosts and ownership of old LCD displays (with ghosting issues). 3. There are many people who think their computers are either possessed, have a mind of their own, or that their computer hates them.

Peter Stern Toronto, Canada

Whaddaya mean "No IT connection".

Well over 1/3 of IT-droids at least profess to believe in supernatural manifestations, preferring explanations like "sometimes it just does that" to "Well, I spilt a beer in the switch about ten minutes ago". Or might they be lying to the lusers?


I was surprised at the higher number of liberal believers. With the last two elections going for the god loving Bush administration, I would have expected the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost" crowd would be in the majority.

As far as the 'with age comes wisdom' idea goes, my guess is that as people get older, if they've not seen or smelled a ghost in all those years, they are likely to NOT exist. The young pups are just more gullible and naive...

I will tell you, after Bush was actually elected this time, I would not be surprised to read that a large percentage of Americans believe in flying pigs. Hey, they believe the Iraq war is/was about terrorism and tied to the 9/11 attacks...

Funny article about stupid people. ;-)


Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The other day we noticed we had two "one in three.." type headlines next to each other. One was a daft survey about ghosts and the other was a serious review of medical research published in the US. Ha ha, we though to ourselves, doesn't that look funny? Let's put up a "One in three survey's made up rubbish" story to complete the picture:

El Reg is currently running three "One In Three [Nouns] [Verbs] [Noun]" stories. In a row. It truly is the silly season when the most recent of those is has noun, verb, noun of Survey, Fabricates, Results respectively.


Oh, Ken. Perhaps we do need to re-introduce the irony tag...

Cartoon sex offends Senator. Yes, the X-rated extras on GTA have certainly been noticed. Marketing peeps across the world are taking notes. You, meanwhile, are taking us entirely too seriously:

Sen. Clinton (not former President Clinton) is arguing that GTA went too far and should be recategorized as an Adult Only game. Her argument somehow gets enmeshed in her husband's peccadillos which, in turn, get attributed to Hillary.

Apparently, you are in the bash Hillary crowd. But your version has a strange twist. Either you have a medieval concept of marriage, that is, the husband and wife are inseparable, legally and otherwise and the misadventures of one may be attributed to both, or you have failed to appreciate that in Lewinsky affair, Hillary was the victim, not the perpetrator.

Why not focus on the issue the GTA kerfuffle raises - which is far more interesting than the non-issue you raise - the existence of "easter eggs?" These have been around for a long time and now they apparently come in a XXX version. In the "old days," that is, the 1990s, Easter eggs might include hidden games within games. The XXX version may reflect that the programmers aren't getting enough social time or that their idea of social time may exceed "normal" standards. Stay on point

K Bruno

An alternative scenario, K Bruno: we don't give a monkey's either way about the politics, of New York or of marriage, but we do like toilet humour, and cheap seaside-smut gags. Just something you might want to consider, while you are staying on point.

whilst playing a little of the smut-fest that GTA is I happened to notice what appeared to be a little oral action in the background of a completely un-modded game.

either way, the beast with two backs is an act of nature surely, and rather a tame beast when compared to a criminal master mind who through the years has encouraged us to run over religious groups, encourage & solicit prostitution, act as hitman, murder policemen, execute prison escapes, push drugs, distribute pornography, assist drug cartels, distribute classified french military hardware.

by comparison to something that you see regularly on channel 4 it all seems rather out of context doesn't it? ah well. lets wait till the Daily Mail gets ahold of this story and see what moral depravity they can blame us gamers for next eh?


"...bad news for the game's manufacturers because it hits them where it hurts, and that's not in the graphically exposed and dangling cojones."

As an owner of the game (with the applied save file patch, aka Hot Coffee mod) the male character, CJ, maintains his clothing throughout the explicit scenes even when the censor flag is removed. No willy-waving here!

The lady's most personal part is plain to the point of seeming asexual.

Furthermore, in the Police Station showers you can find a 3' Double Ended dildo, which while being no use as a sex aid in the game (locked or unlocked), it makes a very handy replacement for a truncheon.

How did that escape the censors? Or is a sexual aid not considered "Adult Only"?


As a Brit living across the pond, I've noticed several opposite hypocrasies that exist here, when compared with there.

Back home in England (and I'm guessing most of western Euroland) violence is the big bad evil delivered to us by Satan reincarnated as the gaming industry. Large amounts of porn on network tv (Channel 4's foreign films spring to mind), page 3, etc are regarded as good and decent fun, nothing to be ashamed of.

Over here, smut is the evil delivered to us by Satan reincarnated as the gaming industry, violence on the other hand, guns, live school shootings, mowing down of Iraqi conscripts, etc are regarded as good, clean fun, to be enjoyed by all ages on all TV channels, including Cartoon Network and Disney.

Here, showing a blurred tit for 3 seconds on TV, thus exposing kids who were breast fed for 18 months, to the horrors of nudity is a national outrage that demands recrimination at the highest levels.

On the other hand banning military assault weapons (useless for any sport and hunting, but brilliant at killing people) is considered a crime against the Constitution, and worth keeping even if a few hundred kids get mowed down by them every year in your average High School.

Forcing Gramps to put a bicycle lock on his M-16 would be regarded as treading on very dangerous Constitution ground. Spying on American Citizens and massing their personal and credit data in a freely accessible, non-encrypted, sold to the highest bidding cold calling agency, regarded as necessary to battle the twin evils of liberalism and terrorism.

BTW, oftentimes you guys forget we can use alternate words just as well as the aluminum bat wielding natives of this former colony, what concerns me is why Ashlee can't spell 'is name proper like what we does in Ingerlernd.


And we think that is quite enough for today. ®

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