Pick your poison

And now for some irony: Microsoft's print ads touting its .Net development tools as the solution for DLL hell -- a bit like a cobra advertising antivenom, don't you think?

: I'm looking for people who can think in unconventional terms.

Translation: You're going to have to improvise all the time, because we don't waste money buying the right tools.

-- IS Survivalist Jay Siegel explains how conventional unconventional thinking can be.

And now for some irony: Microsoft's print ads touting its .Net development tools as the solution for DLL hell -- a bit like a cobra advertising antivenom, don't you think?

But wait! There's more! If you've recently watched US television you've surely seen one of Microsoft's dramatic reenactments showing how it can quickly and easily turn your company into a model of real-time efficiency. So it was with some bemusement that Nate Viall, a sharp-eyed regular reader of this column, forwarded an email advertisement for Microsoft Money he recently received that closed with this disclaimer: "Please note that it can take up to eight weeks to update customer information in our database; therefore, you may receive email from us within that time period."

The kids at Sun Microsystems, always trying to out-do Microsoft, are responsible for another longer, but just as ironic tale.

I've been experimenting with Linux desktops, trying to build a satisfactory replacement for Windows. One barrier is cosmetic: Linux's font rendering has made hideous look good, so I was excited when Red Hat 8.0, which installs with OpenOffice 1.0, yielded a thoroughly satisfactory viewing experience.

Figuring many companies will prefer an office suite with corporate support, I next installed StarOffice 6.0. It ran without crashing, but to call its appearance disappointing is to call putrid "mildly unpleasant". Red Hat made it clear this was Sun's problem, and so, in preparation for contacting Sun's crack technical support squad, I tried to register for my free 90 days of support on Sun's website.

No go: the registration process crashed with a Java run-time error. Bloodied but unbowed, I called Sun's technical support number and explained the problem. The next day I received an email with Sun's diagnosis:

"The cause of the problem can be definitely traced to the operating system. Our answer: your problem description points to missing or non-existing files in your operating system. Furthermore, a certain setting or configuration may also come into question since the origin of this problem is not clearly indicated."

Understand, the registration process crashed on a) Internet Explorer/Windows XP on my laptop; b) Internet Explorer/Windows 98 on my desktop; and c) Konqueror/Red Hat 8.0, also on my desktop. So Sun Microsystems (inventor of Java and one of the industry's most vocal advocates of Java server-based processing because, they allege, it runs reliably anywhere) says that if their website crashes it's a desktop issue.

It's enough to make me yearn for DLL hell.

Lewis is president of IT Catalysts. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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