Stories by Nicholas Petreley

  • Mail works best when sitting on your server

    Readers had some interesting comments and questions about my observation some weeks ago that network computing is making its way into the enterprise by osmosis. Some responded with the typical knee-jerk reaction that you'll have to pry their PCs away from their cold, dead bodies. Others pointed out that network computing is about software, not hardware.

  • Musings on the effects of the Y2K crisis

    Some readers have pointed out that I haven't devoted significant attention to the year 2000 problem. In fact, I haven't addressed it at all. The fact is, I really have nothing useful to add to all those who have pontificated on this subject during the past few years.

  • A not-so-ideal revolution

    Is the open-source movement going to revolutionise the software economy? I believe so, but not the way some idealists paint it. They behave as if the open-source and free software revolution is the dawn of a new world order in which programmers work entirely for the personal satisfaction of seeing others benefit from their work. In this future utopia, we all freely share our contributions as we tie-dye T-shirts and tiptoe through the daisies in our copious spare time.

  • Muddling on without best-selling applications

    I've been doing some spring cleaning, and I've recovered a lot of disk space in the process. The first thing to go was Microsoft Office 97 and Outlook 98. Don't get me wrong, there are some things about Microsoft Office that I really like. PowerPoint still has the best multimedia features I've seen. Excel is a fine spreadsheet. And although I personally prefer WordPerfect, there's certainly nothing wrong with Word. On the other hand, I wasn't impressed with Outlook 98 at first, but it grew on me.

  • Speech recognition gains from less competition

    I know this sounds odd, but the problem with third-party speech products is that they tend to have different features and strengths. The problem exists because I want them all. And right now I can't simultaneously run two or more of my favourite speech products. Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products ( makes my favourite speech software. The company really knows how to do two things extremely well - mix dictation with natural-language commands and translate text.

  • Network computing sneaking to the fore

    It's hard to believe that it has been about three years since Larry Ellison began hyping Oracle's Network Computer. Since then, the NC has been largely a topic non grata in the trade press. Almost everyone hates the idea of an NC. Count me as an exception. The chatter about NCs has died down during the past year, but the evidence that we are moving toward a network computing world continues to mount. Here's what I believe constitutes such evidence: software that is Internet-standards based, server-centric, and accessible via a Web browser.

  • Microsoft innovates most devious market killer

    Corel had a big win late last month when it announced a bundling deal with PC Chips Group, the largest PC motherboard manufacturer in the world. Corel will ship about 18 million copies per year of Corel WordPerfect Suite 8 through this deal alone. As it happens, WordPerfect is my word processor of choice (a lucky thing, too, in light of the Microsoft Office-related Melissa virus outbreak), so I'm obviously pleased that my favourite word processor has some added longevity.

  • For natural language, Ask Jeeves

    I'm a sucker for natural language interfaces. I've been waiting for them to catch on ever since I got my hands on a copy of Symantec Q&A for DOS, which had a natural language query interface. (I seem to recall that Lotus also had a natural language interface for Lotus 1-2-3 named HAL.) But as much as I personally liked the Q&A query interface, I admit I've never seen anyone else touch it - and I've known dozens of people who used the product.

  • Wear clean underwear; Microsoft may be looking

    You've seen it in countless movies. An innocent fugitive is travelling across the country incognito. Naturally, an evil government agency is trying to track him down. Suddenly, a government nerd points to a computer screen and says: "We've got him. He just used his Visa card to purchase size 38 Fruit of the Looms at Macy's in Trenton, New Jersey."

  • Microsoft grabs honours in Petreley Awards

    This week, I present my Down to the Wire awards. Microsoft won the most awards again this year. But the competition was fierce. We will start with the Beverage Through the Nose award, which once again goes to Microsoft. You can order Internet Explorer 4.0 on CD-ROM from Microsoft. You can buy it from a retailer. You can download it. The beta version for Microsoft Office 2000 comes with Internet Explorer. You can get IE for Macintosh. You can get it for Solaris. You can download a beta release of the latest version, IE 5.0. But according to Microsoft, it's an inextricable part of the Windows OS.

  • Microsoft can reverse fortunes with the DOJ

    As Microsoft has been besieged with lawsuits from competitors, employees, ex-employees, and of course, the Government, I must admit my sympathies have usually been with Microsoft's opponents. Nevertheless, I would like to offer Microsoft a plan to reverse its fortunes. It is a radical plan, but I believe it will allow Microsoft to address most of its current troubles and help the company emerge from its tussle with the Department of Justice relatively unscathed.