Operator No. 9: October 29, 2001

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs might not agree on who's got the best computer operating system on the market, but they do share one belief: music sells.

Music to My Ears

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs might not agree on whos got the best computer operating system on the market, but they do share one belief: music sells. For the launch of Windows XP, its new OS, Microsoft not only paid $15 million to use Madonnas song Ray of Light. It also got Sting to give a free concert in New York last week "in celebration of the worldwide launch" of XP and to "thank people for continuing to support New York City." Back on the West Coast, Jobs called on Moby, Seal and Smash Mouth to sing the praises of the iPod, Apple Computers cool new, stainless steel-plated, ultrathin MP3 player. "You can see the thought and the time and the love that went into it," Seal said. For its part, Apple wants to see loads of profit from the 5-gigabyte device, which goes on sale early next month with a list price of $399.

Scan This

Our readers would like to nominate one of the programmers of Symantecs Norton AntiVirus as a contender for the Homer Simpson "Doh" award. Heres why: One of the settings in the software allows you to scan outgoing e-mail to ensure youre not going to inadvertently forward viruses to someone else — a noble concept, especially in these bug- and worm-ridden times. Unfortunately, if that setting is on, a splash screen pops up, interrupting your work, every time you send e-mail. You cant really do anything until the mail is sent. Symantecs Web site acknowledges, "There is no way to turn off the splash screen. Norton is aware of the complaints." Now, this same product scans incoming e-mail, and has for quite some time. The icons for the incoming e-mail scanner can be turned off. Maybe the "incoming" programmer should wander down the hall and have a little talk with the "outgoing" programmer.

Here Come the Lawyers . . .

There was no question that the class-action lawyers were coming. But its still hard to believe that Enron is the one in their crosshairs. The once high-flying energy company — led by CEO Ken Lay, a notable friend of George W. Bush — has been humbled by its broadband plans and questionable deals involving a series of partnerships headed by Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. The stock, which was at more than $80 per share earlier this year, now trades for less than $20, and it keeps falling. And in a class-action lawsuit filed in Houston on Oct. 22, venerable vulture firm Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach alleges that Enron failed to disclose declining demand for its broadband services unit, which Enron is now reportedly selling; that it overstated the value of the partnerships involving Fastow; and that the company didnt document assets according to accepted accounting principles. The suit alleges that Enron execs sold $73 million of their stock in the company during the period in question. Looks like Lay will be spending more time with his lawyers than with W.

Thank You, No

Our fearless editor-in-chief noticed that three versions after he notified Microsoft of the fact, Outlook still has Thanksgiving listed on the wrong day — and its not even a Thursday. Instead of showing Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 22, Outlook lists it as Wednesday, Nov. 28. How hard can this be to fix? Heres my alternate explanation: Bill Gates was busy on Nov. 22, and wanted the holiday rescheduled for the next Wednesday.

Shoulda Listened

While attending the bankruptcy auction held by Winstar Communications — a broadband fixed wireless provider in Washington, D.C., — a bargain hunter tells me he found an interesting item in one of the desks. "Its a plastic cube paperweight that says, Maintain Financial Discipline. I guess it didnt work." Thats putting it mildly.

Acronym Alert

When Dave Walling, IBMs vice president of marketing for storage systems, said his new storage product supported JBOD, I thought he was letting us know about an important new standard. Was this a component of the Fibre Channel storage area network, or possibly an emerging Gigabit Ethernet standard? What exactly is JBOD? I asked. "Just a bunch of disks," or any old configuration of disk drives to be attached to a server, Walling said.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Hurricanes of hot air swirl out of Capitol Hill all the time, and frequently the targets of congressional storms are government agencies for failing to do this, or trying to do that. Government Web sites have also been targets. So, youd think the sites of our two legislative bodies would be top-notch. Think again. The House of Representatives (www.house.gov) and the Senate (www.senate.gov) have been beset with problems for nearly a month, with anthrax apparently floating through various offices and buildings being closed. But dont expect to find any information whatsoever about the chaos on their sites. Come on, pols. The Webs been a prominent fact of life for about six years. Maybe you should think about, you know, using it.

"Windows Xp Isnt Going to Change Basic, Fundamental Economics ... the Economy Is Depressed."

— Hewlett-Packard Chairwoman and CEO CARLY FIORINA, when asked last week how MICROSOFTs Windows XP will affect HPs PC sales.

48-Hour Bed-In

From the Press Releases We Never Finished Reading file: "18th October 2001 — Masterton, New Zealand — In response to the events in the U.S.A. and Afghanistan, artists Amy Berk and Andy Cox, currently in residence at New Pacific Studio, New Zealand, are holding a bed-in for peace this coming weekend. They will be staying in bed and fasting for 48 hours. The event will be Webcast live over the Internet to try to connect disparate groups online and create a world community for peace." See www. twcdc.com/bed-in-for-peace.html, if you must.

Legal Notes

Reporters on hand for the iPod rollout at Apple Computer got to take home a demo unit — and a little extra. To show how fast — and easy — it is to transfer digital music files off the Macintosh onto the iPod using Apples FireWire interface and its iTunes 2 music software, Steve Jobs had reporters download music from 22 digitized CDs onto the player. It took about two minutes to transfer the 1.3 gigabytes of tunes. I was impressed. But since sharing copyrighted music is illegal, Apple gave copies of all 22 CDs to the 200 or so reporters walking out the door with the music-loaded iPods. "We spent $50,000 [on the CDs], so no one would be accused of stealing music," Jobs said. In case youre wondering, Jobs music picks included Bob Dylan, Sarah McLachlan, Yo-Yo Ma and, of course, The Beatles.