Notes from the Field: MS validation hell, Google outexcels Excel

Referring to the Windows Genuine (dis)Advantage validation tool, reader Peter K asks, "Why would Microsoft want to p**s off everyone?" Other Cringesters report that Windows won't download updates until WGA is installed (so much for it being a "voluntary" program) and that if you replace your motherboard, your formerly legal copy of XP could now be considered counterfeit. And, oh yeah: Microsoft now admits that WGA phones home every day - contradicting information given directly to my highly underpaid research minions. Microsoft calls WGA a "pilot program", but it's apparently being steered by the captain of the Titanic.

Slipped discs: When Daniel S opened the box for his new Dell Dimension 5150, he was surprised to find no Windows reinstallation discs inside. A support tech reassured him the OS files he needed were on his hard drive. And if his PC is so stinky he can't get to the files, well, he must send Dell $US10 and wait a week for the CD to arrive. Let's just hope he doesn't install WGA.

Out to launch: A reader who requested anonymity recently received a message from a NASA employee containing email addresses for 200 high-ranking folks at the space agency, the Air Force, the Pentagon and various news organisations. The employee was trying to transfer his address book to a new job. Two weeks later, he did it again. It seems not everyone at NASA is a rocket scientist.

Stupid email tricks, part deux: Cringe fan, Paul B, directs our attention to InBoxer's registration-gated Enron email site, which lets you search more than 500,000 emails from Enron's heyday. Now we know what employees were doing while Enron flushed $US60 billion down the loo - forwarding stupid jokes. The messages from Kenneth Lay and Ken Skilling about Enron's Business Ethics Policy are a special treat. I just love science fiction.

Google's Excel-ent adventure: Following the release of Google's browser-based spreadsheet, residents of Redmond reported sightings of low-flying office furniture over the Microsoft campus. No problem; I hear Ballmer was planning to remodel his office anyway.

Send hot tips or flying desk chairs to and you may get an aerodynamic carry-on bag in return.