Shark Tank: Talkin' Trash

FRAMINGHAM (07/17/2000) - Now that Oracle Corp. is in the trash-collection business, this dot-com headed up by former Microsoft execs is getting more serious about garbage security. Well, sort of. The big plastic trash bin next to the copier now has a combination lock on the lid. "Bet the lock combo is the same as the company's phone number," a pilot fish jokes to a co-worker. They try it. "Sure enough," the fish reports, "It opens the lock."

DEAD ZONE A pilot fish working on the database for a hospital volunteer group gets a user request for database updates when someone dies. No problem, says the fis; we can add fields for users to put in the information. "No," say users, "we want it automatically updated when somebody dies so we'll know when to send flowers."

HARDWARE PROBLEM An e-business guru at a big wholesale hardware outfit plans to send out 40,000 electronic catalogs on CD-ROM. But a month before they're due to be mailed, he can't send a test order using the CD. Programmer pilot fish can't either; the server seems to be tied up. Turns out the server has a fast CPU, a big hard drive - and a single 28.8K bit/sec. modem.

DON'T GET ME WRONG IT managers can't make any sense of the IT director's plan to reorganize the department - each one has a different understanding of what the boss meant in the meeting when it was announced. This pilot fish asks the director for clarification, eliciting this helpful response: "I was intentionally vague so that no one would get the wrong idea."

THIS IT SERVICE PROVIDER sends the troops a memo urging them all to become better informed about viruses by reading the attached Word file describing what viruses are, how they're spread and how to avoid them. Next day, another companywide e-mail hits the mailboxes, "urging us not to open the attachment sent out the previous day," a pilot fish says. "Apparently, it contained the Word B virus."

Pilot fish reports that the Web site for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles lists local numbers for patrons to call, followed by this message:

"Our call center is currently closed." Sharky checked it out, and actually, that's a live-update message. During the day, it almost always says - hey, this is the DMV, after all - "All customer service representatives are currently busy."

Get busy sending me your true tales of IT: sharky@computerworld.com. If it prints, you get a sharp Shark shirt. And get more online daily, and the Sharkives, too, at computerworld.com/sharky.

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