Notes from the field

Bobby's sorry that Y2K wasn't as exciting as he was expecting it to beI'M BACK from the U.K. and surveying the lack of damage caused by Y2K. I scheduled my return to give me just enough time to settle back at home with a bucket of popcorn and watch the world fall apart on New Year's Eve, but I'd have been better off with a good book.

That's not to say Y2K went entirely without a hitch, and I'm starting to hear what was going on behind the scenes.

Hack un-attack

Oh, the sweet irony -- my favorite Y2K glitch story was reported to me by a reader. At the start of last week, visitors to, which is the Web site for 2600 -- The Hacker Quarterly magazine, were greeted with the following message:

"The date specified (01-01-1900) is impossible. If you have forced this error condition, you may be in violation of state, federal, and/or civil law. Those outside the United States should check with their respective governments concerning their country's extradition treaty ... "With all the speculation flowing that Y2K would be open season for virus writers and hackers, it's nice to see not only a hacker site that was unprepared for the rollover, but also one that has such a healthy respect for the law.

IT's other big topic of conversation over the holidays was how well online companies would do during the shopping season.

Wal-Mart counted itself out of that equation by relaunching its site on Jan. 1, but I hear that, even aside from this, its online presence doesn't live up to the lofty hopes for it.

Apparently, company executives had been promising to launch the site with 600,000 items, but when the site launched it appeared far, far emptier than that. I suspect that, even as I write this, virtual shelfstackers are filling virtual shelves with merchandise in an effort to prove that Wal-Mart really can compete with online titans such as

Finally, my award for most not-on-the-ball goes to Atlanta-based TeleCommute Solutions Inc.

To give some background, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last week said that companies would be responsible for ensuring that their telecommuters' homes conformed to health and safety regulations, including lighting, heating, and plumbing. Faced with a backlash from companies who said that this would kill the possibility of working at home, OSHA the next day withdrew the statement.

However, that didn't stop TeleCommute from issuing a press release the day after the statement was withdrawn headed: "TeleCommute Solutions enables companies to comply with OSHA."

As well as being unaware that that the statement had been withdrawn, the company also seems unaware of what it said.

TeleCommute is a network service provider, and unless it has recently diversified into networks for lighting, heating, and plumbing without telling anyone, it would have been completely unequipped to help companies with OSHA's regulations anyway.

I'M SORRY OSHA'S rules were withdrawn -- I was going to ask InfoWorld to give me a widescreen TV as a way of ensuring the continued health of my eyesight.

Keep me healthy with a tip. You can call (650) 312-0555, fax (650) 286-2775, or e-mail

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