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Calling All Tea Ladies 15 February 2001 Edition
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Yesterday I had the need for an expensive and seldom-used piece of electronic equipment so I figured that hiring this device was the only economic option.

So I jumped on the Net and raced off to the website of Tech Rentals to see if they had the device I was looking for and to find out how much it might cost to hire it.

What I found prompted me to add a small postscript to yesterday's column in which I berated the fact that this website didn't work well (and here) enough to be usable with Netscape.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)

ird... - Bede

How many people use Netscape?... - The Hobbit

From Yesterday

Domainz... - Tom

freenet 10 free hours please pay in advance... - next2normal

The Question That Wasn't Asked... - Michael

Have Your Say

I must say that I was impressed to find that almost within the hour, I received a response from the company's Managing Director Gary Wicks.

Gary explained that the website wasn't a "big dollar" one and that it wasn't maintained by a professional web designer but by a member of staff.

He went on to say that it wasn't really the staff-member's fault that the site didn't work with Netscape -- it must be a problem with DreamWeaver and so the programmers at Macromedia should be carrying the can for this problem.

In closing, Gary said:

"As I haven't loaded netscape for several years, I can't comment on the bugs you found, but like most Internet users (who use IE), guess I'll never know."

According to BrowserWatch, 21 percent of Net users still rely on good old Netscape as their preferred browser. Tech Rentals must be doing very nicely indeed if they are unconcerned about the impression their website gives to one fifth of those who might wish to inquire online about their products and services.

Tech Rental's case is a sad one -- but unfortunately not an uncommon one.

Too many businesses believe that when it comes to creating an online presence "she'll be right" and that they can get someone already on staff to "knock up" a quick website using MS Word, FrontPage or whatever other tool happens to be laying about.

What they fail to appreciate is that a bad website is often worse than no website. If you can't do the job properly then please, please -- don't damage your image and reputation by making a dog's breakfast of the whole thing.

Would you have the tea-lady design and print your company's promotional material during her lunch break? Of course not. Would you allow the cleaner to create those important quotes or proposals for new clients? Hell no!

So why oh why do so many businesses still think that it's okay to hand over the task of creating your presence within an online community of nearly a million Kiwis and 240 million others world-wide to someone with no training and little experience in such issues?

But hang on -- don't these new HTML editors such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage make the creation of a website a simple WYSIWYG affair that almost anyone can do?

No! While it's true that they make the creation of the HTML code which describes the webpage at a computer-level much easier -- that is probably the least important aspect of any website design. In the case of Tech Rentals they clearly lacked the commonsense to test the resulting HTML code on any browser other than Internet Explorer -- with entirely predictable results.

I must reiterate that although I have used TechRentals as a convenient example in this case -- what I've said applies to all those businesses who have tried to be clever and save a few dollars by "giving it a go" themselves.

If you really can't afford to have website professionally built then either keep it very simple (just one page with a brief summary and contact details is better than a "show-off site" that doesn't work) or hire someone to check things out before you launch.

And no ... I didn't end up hiring that piece of equipment from TechRentals -- because their website wouldn't even give me access to a phone number.

I've just received another email from TechRentals who say they're installing Netscape and intend to give the site a good once-over.

An excellent result -- at least this is a company which is addressing the matter, which is more than many others do. Maybe I'll ring them and hire that gear after all.

Not Just The Little Guys
As Telecom NZ conveniently proved yesterday, it's not just the little guys operating on a tight budget who need to keep an eye on the details either.

If anyone could afford to configure their network to provide industry-standard levels of redundancy you'd think Telecom could -- but oh no -- they appear to have made exactly the same mistake as Microsoft made a few weeks ago -- a mistake that saw telecom.co.nz disappear from the face of the Net for several hours.

When are people going to start taking the Internet seriously I wonder?

The Weekly Is Downloadable
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As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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There is 1 New Press Release today

Security Alerts
Group Warns Against E-Mail Wiretap (AP - 6/02/2001)

Multiple Vulnerabilities in BIND (CERT - 29/01/2001)

Windows Media Player 7 opens system for hackers (IDG - 18/01/2001t)

Net worm hobbles Linux servers ZDNet - 18/01/2001)

Interbase Server Contains Compiled-in Back Door Account (CERT - 10/01/2001)

AIM Flaw Could Open Users' Computers to Attack (InternetNews)

Virus Alerts
Kournikova virus smashes Net (ZDNet - 13/02/2001)

Melissa-X disguised as Mac doc (ZDNet - 22/01/2001)

Kriz virus makes return appearance (ZDNet)

Tool to beat killer Xmas virus promised (IDG)

Virus: Snow White not so innocent ZDNet

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Copyright © 2001, Bruce Simpson, free republication rights available on request

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