Notes from the Field

SAN MATEO (01/24/2000) - It has not been a good week. I've had to contend with a burst water pipe in my apartment, toothache in a molar that was filled less than a month ago, and a tire blowout on Highway 101.

Still, they say trouble comes in threes, so things can only get better from now on.

An offer you can't refuse

IBM Corp. made the news last week when its Web site started offering selected laptops for $1 -- an offer it is not honoring -- but I also heard from one source that Network Solutions Inc. made a similar snafu.

The Web site was working fine when I checked it out, but I'm told that for a while it was indicating that any and every URL was available for purchase.

Speaking of discovering software glitches, beta testers seem to be getting an increasingly raw deal these days, considering the amount of help they are to vendors with buggy products; last week I heard from one tester who is very annoyed with Microsoft Corp.

After signing up and receiving the Microsoft Project 2000 Beta CD, he started to read the packaging.

"Note that this is beta software, not to be used for production purposes," it started, which the reader considered fair enough. However, it was the next sentence that raised his hackles.

"The files produced by this software will not be recognized by the retail version," it said.

And the reader's reaction? I believe that the CD now has a new role as a very attractive coaster for his drinks.

I don't know what Allaire Corp.'s beta test policy is, but the company is at least very generous with the trial versions of its software, it seems. In early December, a reader installed the 30-day trial version of ColdFusion and Server from the SkillBuilder CD (which is apparently different from the usual test version). The reader actually ran the product for the first time in early January and says he was told that he had 36,250 days left in which to try it out.

Y2K: When is it all going to end?

That anecdote, which was presumably related to the year-2000 bug, brings me neatly to my next tips. I had thought we were done hearing about year-2000 problems, but it seems not.

One reader reports that Norton Antivirus 2000 is having a few problems, and since Jan. 1 has been randomly rebooting PCs and Microsoft Windows NT servers.

The reader added that one poster to Symantec's support forum said he had all 500 of his clients reboot simultaneously.

I've also heard that Novell's GroupWise e-mail notification system suffered a few glitches -- a reader tells me that because it interpreted the year as '100,' it thought there were 4,400 new notices and bug fixes that he needed to know about.

Now, if that notification had come from Microsoft, you might believe it.

(I had to put that anti-Microsoft comment in, after I was accused of pro-Microsoft bias for my "Knocking NetWare" tip last week. Anything to be fair.)In addition to "trouble comes in threes," there's a saying that goes "don't tempt fate." I wish I'd had that one in mind -- my car broke down on the way back from getting my tire fixed.

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

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