Will gossip for food

SAN FRANCISCO (11/17/2003) - After nearly 20 years of gossip mongering, I'm finally getting noticed around InfoWorld. My editor said he laughed like hell when he read my last column. "The part where you asked for a raise -- that just killed me," he chortled as he slammed the door in my face.

Please hang up and try your upgrade again later: AT&T Wireless' attempt to upgrade to the Web-enabled Siebel Systems Inc. CRM software left some three million of its customers speechless last week. New GSM/GPRS users were unable to activate their service, bringing new meaning to the term customer relationship (mis)management. One Cringe crewmember bought two GSM phones and spent more than a week trying to get them to work. He says, "I think maybe I can hear the other guy, if you know what I mean."

Bullet points: Gun-totin' geeks are up in arms over Symantec Corp.'s NIS (Norton Internet Security) 2004. Apparently the program's Parental Control feature targets the National Rifle Association and other pistol-packing sites, while leaving URLs for gun-control advocates unblocked. Company spokesdude Phil Weiler admits NIS 2004 can block sites that advocate weapons use, but says these settings are turned off by default and can be customized. Then again, NIS 2004 does allow access to the new Crossings by Smith & Wesson catalog, where you can buy a pair of personalized branding irons (US$18) or a table lamp made from a genuine cowboy boot ($129).

Your cheatin' hard drive: Has McAfee, a division of Network Associates Inc., hired robots to handle chat support? That's what one Cringester suspects after a particularly disembodied experience seeking help with SpamKiller. But the truth is much weirder, according to my spies inside the company. To disguise the fact it outsources support to India, McAfee hands its techs English-language scripts to retype and has them use names like "George Jones." But that doesn't mean all McAfee support is bad -- I hear "Garth Brooks" is a whiz at anti-virus and "Shania Twain" excels at firewalls.

Flush right: According to a survey by Wirthlin Worldwide, 62 percent of people use cell phones in the bathroom. That explains the strange sounds when Pammy calls -- I thought it was just her new "waterfall" ringtone.

Got hot tips or good ways to brownnose my editor? Send 'em to cringe@infoworld.com; the best will take home $50.

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