I got a TCI engineer in to look at my digital cable service last week, because after I complained that channel surfing was very slow and that the picture kept freezing, several people contacted me to say that these problems were the result of a weak signal. Just getting an engineer out took a while in itself - the company initially tried to tell me that this was "not an ongoing problem", and that as a result I would have to pay for the visit.
I don't know how they define "ongoing" in TCI-land, but over at SAP they are definitely suffering from ongoing problems.
I'm told that Andy Zoldan, senior vice president responsible for New Dimension Business in the Americas, has left to join some of his old pals who are now at Siebel Systems.
Zoldan's departure follows that of Kay Anderson, the driver behind the ASAP implementation methodology, who has also gone to Siebel.
Finally, Andy Hayden, vice president of solutions and partners for the consumer sector, has left for Commerce One.
If my sources are to be believed, the atmosphere at SAP is pretty unpleasant. Apparently, the company is now suffering from the fact that it did not have the highest hiring standards during the time it was expanding. As a result, there are not many strong internal candidates to fill the vacated spots.
One SAP-er who did get a promotion out of the latest round of departures told one of my sources that "it's like being promoted to captain of the Titanic after the iceberg has been spotted . . ."
AOL: The new Microsoft?
I was greatly amused last week that the titan of the software industry, Microsoft, was locked out by America Online when Microsoft tried to get its instant messaging service to interoperate with AOL's.
I think Microsoft has every right to be outraged. I mean, how dare a company try to dictate which of its rivals' products work with its own? How dare it try and use its dominant market position to maintain its market share? You would never catch Microsoft doing that . . .
I've not heard whether Microsoft is preventing its staff from taking vacations over the coming December holiday period, but apparently the entire Electronic Funds Transfer industry - representing all ATM and point-of-sale networks - has been told not to take vacations from mid-December until the end of January.
To make matters worse, the staff has been told to be on-site on December 31 and to stay on-site in 12-hour shifts all weekend until things are deemed stable.
And their reward for all this dedication and hard work? A pat on the back, and nothing else.
After a lot of persuading, TCI accepted my assertion that hourly picture freezes - and the irritating slowness every time I change channels - can be defined as ongoing problems.
The engineer came over, and was able to boost the signal and stop the picture freezes (at least so far). However, he said he couldn't do anything about the channel-surfing problem. "It's just slower than analog and that's all there is to it," he said. That's progress for you.
Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.