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Culture

Busy signals from PacBell, Big Blue

I'm concerned about my son: He's beginning to think more and more like a Web site.

I'm concerned about my son: He's beginning to think more and more like a Web site. Vermel is totally incapable of telling a story from start to finish. The kid wanders off on digression after digression like an absent-minded Net surfer following hyperlinks. Who knows, though? Maybe his mind is better equipped to deal with the chaos of the Information Age than mine.

Apparently, Pacific Bell is no better equipped to deal well with the Information Age than I am. In the Baby Bell's left coast territories, a good T1 is seriously hard to find. Pac Bell has been hit before by criticism from backlogged users who are begging for a big pipe to the Net.

Now, it looks as though a group of Northern California ISPs may have had enough and are planning to file a complaint en masse with the California Public Utilities Commission. Currently, the wait for a T1 line in the land of silicon and sunshine takes about three months, roughly the same amount of time it takes my son to outgrow a new pair of shoes.

Vermel is growing quickly indeed. He already insists that he's stronger than I am, a bit of teenage braggadocio that I'm not about to challenge for fear that it may be true. "I bet I can hack that JavaScript faster than you can," he told me the other day. The kid's competitiveness really irks me sometimes, particularly when he's right.

Network administrators who try to install Office 95 on Windows NT 3.51 and 4.0 are irritated as well. There's a bug in NT that causes certain Office features like wizards and OLE (object linking and embedding) libraries to stop working when an administrator sets up a PC as a shared workstation. One can bypass the problem by installing Office from an administration account on the local system. But that workaround has it own headaches: a local administration account could allow an enterprising user to create new accounts, change their own IP address, and other stuff that network administrators fear and loathe.

All the horror stories of client-server computing make some IS managers pine for the good ol' mainframe days. Oddly enough, however, IBM wasn't pining for mainframes last week, even though the company invented the things. Big Blue's IBM Global Network still runs some of its mail servers on mainframes. When one of its chief POP servers went down last week for more than 24 hours, IBM technical support said it couldn't find spare parts for its big iron, leaving mail-hungry users in the lurch. I don't have a mainframe, so please don't leave me in the lurch. Launch your email program, create a new message, and send me a tip. You'll feel better about yourself.