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Anomalous things

Apr 12, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsIBMLinux

Anomalous Message: “An unexpected error has occurred.” – An unexpected message unexpectedly produced by Microsoft Word.

Anomalous Message: “An unexpected error has occurred.”– An unexpected message unexpectedly produced by Microsoft Word.

The error message I quote above fascinates me in a strange and unwholesome way because it raises all sorts of questions: If the error is unexpected are there errors that are expected? And if there is such a thing as an expected error, couldn’t someone prevent it from happening?

Moreover, when an unexpected error happens how do you know it is actually an error rather than being perhaps an unexpected feature . . . because if it is unexpected, how can you know if it is an error or not?

This reminds me of my previous favorite error message: “Error: No error,” which Windows used to occasionally show and is available for your pleasure on various other platforms (go to Weird Error Messages for an explanation of the Windows version). But I digress . . .

What really gets me is that despite searching the ‘Net, I can find no reference to this exact message from Word because the text “An unexpected error has occurred” wasn’t accompanied by any other explanations for my error (or should that be “non-error”). There was no status code, no supporting explanation – simply that lean and hungry-looking, Zen-like, philosophically challenging, totally unhelpful text that preceded Word disappearing along with my document rather like your drinking buddies disappearing when that huge bar bill appears.

Anomalous Relationship: “We are both big developers of intellectual property. We both own lots of patents.”– Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer referring to a commonality between his company and Sun that really doesn’t explain their new accord unless you understand the subtext.

The day after April Fool’s Day we saw a fine exhibition of the old Italian saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” as Ballmer and Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun, hugged each other, swapped Red Wings jerseys and declared, “We do both believe in intellectual property.”

Let me rephrase that statement: “We do both believe that open source in general and Linux in particular are real threats to our businesses.”

So to settle Sun’s outstanding law suit against Microsoft over the latter’s fast and loose ways with Java, Microsoft shook $1.2 billion out of its coffee fund and Sun suddenly had a new best friend.

In the light of McNealy having dressed up as a penguin way back in 2002, the newfound friendship reeks of desperation and opportunism on Sun’s part and business as usual at Microsoft. Might Microsoft buy Sun? Hmm.

Anomalous Legalities: “IBM’s untimely responses to discovery have hindered orderly prosecution of the case.”– The SCO Group’s lawyers trying to make the company’s case against Big Blue sound like normal business – which might well be how it actually is for them.

SCO, in its ongoing efforts to tick off as many people as possible for as long as possible, is trying to drag out its case against IBM by asking the judge to slide the trial from the currently scheduled April 2005 to September 2005. SCO says IBM isn’t cooperating with the discovery process, while IBM says SCO is being unreasonable in asking for every version of Unix it ever had anything to do with.

The fact that after all this time SCO refuses to substantiate its claims of copyright infringement in Linux (the company first sued IBM more than a year ago) continues to make SCO look like Mafia hoods trying to shake down neighborhood business owners.

What do you find anomalous? Reports to


Mark Gibbs is an author, journalist, and man of mystery. His writing for Network World is widely considered to be vastly underpaid. For more than 30 years, Gibbs has consulted, lectured, and authored numerous articles and books about networking, information technology, and the social and political issues surrounding them. His complete bio can be found at

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