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Picking Microsoft nits

After nearly 15 years in the field, I've taken some hard hits from CEOs, readers, and even lawyers over things I've written. But I got the most painful blind-side tackle when I got home last week after two days at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference. It seems Pammy hasn't been too happy with me lately - especially when I commended her on her Halloween costume, only to find that it wasn't a costume at all.

As long as we've lived together, she's joked that she could have my stuff on the street in a heartbeat. I thought it was a joke. Let's just say the driveway looked like that scene from "Waiting to Exhale", with Pammy playing the Whitney Houston role. The cab dropped me off in front of the house just as the team from the fire department had finished dousing my car with foam.

It was a cruel twist. On the plane back from Long Beach I'd started writing this week's column, noting that Microsoft's developers conference and OS briefing shared the Convention Centre with the annual HazMat conference. It seemed a curiously appropriate coincidence, given that a relationship with Microsoft, like dancing with an elephant, might be considered "hazardous materials".

And there were some hazardous moments for Microsoft. They're still trying to find out which hotel worker toppled their satellite dish during the keynote. But the highlight came from the gent Microsoft flew in from Australia to endorse the Zero Administration initiative. Yes, the fellow said, he's glad Microsoft is addressing this IT headache. But you should have seen Microsoft Veep Jim Allchin's face when the Aussie said his bank is looking at Sun solutions too. No doubt Allchin wanted to reverse time and pick another reference.

And maybe Allchin could do that, too, considering the way Windows 95 handled the daylight savings time clock reset. If on that Sunday a few weeks ago you had been working at your computer at the stroke of 2am, Windows turned back the clock an hour, resetting the time to 1am. Now if an hour later you were still working away, Windows again set the clock back one hour.

If you missed the developers conference, and particularly Bill's "Information at Your Fingertips 2000" presentation, you can find the PowerPoint slides on the Microsoft Web site. Attempts to download the slides and unpack the files suggest our friends in Redmond need to pay more attention to detail. A self-extracting "Pack and Go" compressed file downloads with the decom- pression utility, but the version Microsoft used doesn't support long file names. You need to unpack the slide show to a directory with a name that has eight or fewer characters. Other files were missing or had broken links from the site, and the Gates presentation just about completed its download before aborting with a Server Reset error. Information "just beyond" your fingertips.

I can't believe what she did to my car, but I don't want Pammy to slip through my fingers. Looks like I've got a lot of fixing to do.