NOTES FROM THE FIELD: MS faces Sun on ice

I heard from lots of people and from the company itself, telling me the rumour in last week's column about Adobe axing FrameMaker is completely untrue.

"All the information in your column is false," Adobe wrote. "There have been no layoffs on the FrameMaker team, nor has Adobe had any layoffs as a result of the current economic situation."

Someone else said I'd fallen victim to a rumour that had been circulating for years.

"The whole ‘FrameMaker is Dead' [FID] thing is a running joke with us Framers, and when many of us saw your snippet, we were laughing out loud and slapping our knees. I think that the FID rumour has ascended to urban legend," this reader wrote. I'm glad I could provide entertainment to longtime Framers, but I'm sorry for any confusion I caused.

"Don't take it so hard, Bobby," my girlfriend Randi said. "As you've told me many times before, that's the nature of a gossip column."

With the Java lawsuit now settled, the Sun versus Microsoft battle has moved from the courtroom to the ice rink. On March 11, the two sides will face off in a hockey game at Key Arena in Seattle. In addition to home-ice advantage, Microsoft will have Brian Valentine, senior vice president of the Windows Division, in goal. After deflecting criticism of Windows 2000 for a couple of years, Valentine should have no problem keeping out the puck.

Apparently hockey-loving Sun CEO Scott McNealy won't be playing, though; one Microsoft smart aleck said, "They had trouble finding a mouth guard big enough."

But if Microsoft plays hockey anything like it runs its free e-mail service, my money is on Sun. After so many complaints about Hotmail, it would seem that the solution would be to just not use it.

But that wasn't enough for one company that is running the latest version of Microsoft Exchange Server. For about a month, messages with file attachments that are sent to Hotmail hang in the outbound SMTP queue, according to the company's system administrator. Hotmail's technical support staff confirmed the problem in an e-mail but couldn't give any kind of time frame for when it would be fixed.

What do Hotmail users have in common with companies running Dell computers in California? Both are out of luck when it comes to customer service. One company running entirely on Dell and paying for extended tech support says Dell has a new policy for California users.

"Any problems on servers or any Dell hardware in these roaming blackout zones nullifies service warranties" if there's no UPS (uninterruptible power supply) in place, Dell said in an e-mail message. First the new US president and now Dell. Doesn't anyone care about California's power crisis?

"I've found a house for sale with solar panels," Randi said. If she buys it, maybe I can move my Dell computer over there.

Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld