The most interesting stuff you learn at Comdex never comes from the sources you expect it to come from. For example, did you know that Bill Gates counts on his fingers when he plays blackjack? Nor did I, until I was told by an off-duty Hilton pit boss seated at the bar stool next to mine. It explains a lot, though.
Some things just don't add up
I wish I'd been seated next to Gates. It would have been a good opportunity to ask him about a bizarre rumour I've been hearing.
Reports from inside Microsoft indicate that a lot of early users of Windows 2000 are experiencing a runaway mouse phenomenon with Excel 2000 spreadsheets running on top of Windows 2000. It seems that the Windows 2000 systems start randomly moving the cursor around different cells and clicking on them, and at the moment, the only cure seems to be rebooting the machine.
Everybody is sure it's a Windows 2000 bug - because the problem doesn't manifest itself on Windows 98 - but nobody's sure why it happens.
Excelling at maths
This problem reminds me of something I was told a few weeks ago, about another problem with Excel. It seems that if you use the Autosum button to total rows on a worksheet one at a time, it will create an error on every third row. While it adds (correctly) the row to the left the first two times, on the third row it will add the two cells above the row you're trying to add.
Wrong answers also occur if you insert a row into the middle of a worksheet, and then use the Autosum button.
My source says he was told by Microsoft that there are no plans to fix the problem, and that the easiest workaround is to highlight the row you're trying to add.
Hey, maybe that's why Bill counts on his fingers - he knows enough not to trust a spreadsheet program to do it for him.
Speaking of trust, there's not a lot of that over at Sun's internal IT department, I've been told. A while back, I reported that staffers are concerned about plans to outsource Sun's data centres, and the blow that morale has taken as a result.
Now I'm told that IT/operations staff in the Bay area are leaving at a rate of about 20 a week - and that nobody is applying to fill the vacancies, because word has gotten around about how bad things are.
Things are looking up, though - I hear that everybody is to get a feel-good message from management, telling them how valuable to the company they are. I'm sure that will make all the difference.
Finally, I hear that IBM is doing its part to ensure that Linux continues to flourish - and the company is nothing if not fair. Apparently, Big Blue is considering a minor equity investment in Linux vendor Caldera to complement its existing investment in Red Hat.
Well, after a good week, I'm ready to head for home. I'd better get in line for a cab now - my plane takes off in 11 hours.
Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.