The Luncher

"Trouble comes in pairs," explained The Luncher to a rapt audience.

He was holding forth in the snug of a pub just off Piccadilly Circus where cigarette smoke and London traffic fumes fight for breathing space. "The thing about software now is that it's all about public beta testing and nobody does the QA any longer."

Of course, the bearded wonder was referring to Micrografx and Eidos/Core's time-bombed calamities earlier in the week. He'd had the scoop on each story but an urgent appointment with a demanding spouse had made him miss out on the glory.

"ZDNet News wouldn't have had those damned stories if it wasn't for me," he raged. "I was the one who handed them the tips." Thank God for petty-minded software engineers, he thought: if you want the real story, go to the techies.

Hardware has its mishaps too. After all, this week wasn't the first time Dell had had to recall notebook adapters through risk of fire. 'Every cloud', and all that though. The new Dell notebooks due next week are nice... even if you might be able to buy the same things cheaper from a cloner with another name.

Not much scandal at the Networld+Interop show last week, someone said. Not unless you count Lanbase butting some old buffer in a goalkeeping jersey and making him pretend to try and save penalty kicks, someone said. Or exec Peter Joseph saying Novell only give him a 486, someone added. Or paying £2.60 for a pint of warm, flat beer, The Luncher said.

"How come the Journal beat you on the Compaq-to-buy-Digital story then, Luncher?" mocked a cub.

"No story there," he replied. "DEC's stock is flying too high for that to happen anytime soon. So run along and chase a couple of these story-ettes: Pentium II chips a bit scarce; Carrera to use Cyrix's MediaGX in a new line; and Mitel to put Win CE in a Web phone product."

"Like the chap in Shakespeare who threw away the pearl worth all his tribe," mulled The Luncher. But he knew there would be other days, other stories to be written.

"Remedios, guapa," he called, cheering slightly. "Another round for me and my friends here when you're ready."

The Luncher's Sleaze and Corruption chart - recent freebies received at ZDNet

(previous week's position in brackets)

1. (-) Gamespot: Stacks of champagne and pizza (lovely)

2. (-) Fujitsu Fun Pack: Squeaks, looks cute

3. (1) Canon: Trip to Rome for Italy versus England game (inc. non-violence seat)

4. (2) Xerox: Trip to New York (inc. soothing Body Shop foot massage lotion and eye gel)

5. (3) Philips: Genie, world's smallest GSM phone (still awaiting receipt, included Egyptian themed party with belly dancer)

6. (4) Toshiba: Dinner and football for Chelsea v Blackburn (great food, terrible game, risible Vialli)

7. (5) Fujitsu: Trip to Sweden, Finland (inc. overnight stay on luxury liner, vodka and crackers gift)

8 (6) Hewlett-Packard: Tix for Spurs v Leeds (inc. pre- and post-match drinks, four-course lunch)

9. (7) Lotus: Invite to Monte Carlo (inc. 3-day trip, 5-star hotel, sorry

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