NOTES FROM THE FIELD: It's a dangerous world

After a week-and-a-half worth of constant company, Amber and I decided to escape by taking Apache the pooch for a walk in the woods. Only thing is, it wasn't exactly what we had hoped. Instead, Amber fell and cut her leg rather badly, needing to get about a dozen stitches.

AOL moves

After last week's report that Microsoft MSN billing issues resulted in at least one spy almost losing his account status, my spies informed me of a similar problem on AOL that is frequently cooked up by some evil third party. Such scenarios, I'm told, are most likely scams, so keep a lid on those credit card numbers.

Speaking of AOL, another spy

reported that as of July 31, AOL is moving a significant chunk of its support lines to India. Indeed, Star Tek, an outsourcing company that has handled AOL support for years, will be closing its Laramie, Wyoming, doors, along with several Colorado locations.

Microsoft rewrites

Another spy said Microsoft asked him to write a white paper for distribution outlining why one of its products is head and shoulders above the competition - and to write a shorter piece for internal Microsoft use only. "Obviously, the marketing folks want to be able to point to so-called ‘independently done' research that proves their stuff is better, but the engineers actually wanted to hear the truth," my spy said.

Last week I reported on growing suspicions that Microsoft's XP online update system is wreaking havoc on Sony laptops. Add IBM to that list, as another spy reported this week an infliction against an IBM ThinkPad that rendered his system helpless. My spy even had to return the notebook to Big Blue when he couldn't restore the OS.

Battery blues

Sony, however, is not yet in the clear. A spy recently reported of a bogus battery in the Sony laptop. After many time-consuming problems related to boot-up, a series of bug fixes had seemed to resolve the battery issues, until recently. Concerned with the likelihood of having to demonstrate a boot-up in front of airport security, the spy bought a third-party battery, only to find that the problem resides within Sony hardware or drivers. After hours of effort, my spy resigned himself to the fact that his mobile notebook computer works reliably only on AC power.

"I'm not being a wimp," Amber insisted, all the way to the hospital. I know it was a bad cut, but I can't help wondering if perhaps she is exaggerating to get me to wait on her. "Cringe, can you fill up my glass of water, please?"

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