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Same Old, Same Old at HP? 72

theodp writes "Computerworld Editor-in-Chief Don Tenant expresses astonishment at HP's cluelessness in the wake of its boardroom leak investigation fiasco, noting that HP CEO Mark Hurd's choice for a new Chief Ethics Officer was Hurd's go-to guy at NCR when the boss wanted internal leaks investigated." From the article: "It seems incomprehensible that no one at HP could foresee that appointing a former Hurd colleague to the ethics oversight position might be perceived as a shameless attempt by Hurd to keep from being further sullied by the scandal. But there's another dimension to all this that's even more baffling. Nearly two weeks before HP announced Hoak's appointment, BusinessWeek ran a story that recounted how Hurd had to deal with a number of internal investigations at NCR, including probes of leaks of sensitive information on Yahoo message boards."
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Same Old, Same Old at HP?

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  • a shameless attempt by Hurd to keep from being further sullied by the scandal.

    Well, there's no way the Hurd [] can escape further criticism for the scandal of being twenty years overdue when there's still no usable code.

    Oh, that Hurd.

    • Funny, I thought it was a herd mentality.
    • by MORB ( 793798 )
      I never noticed that this guy had the same name as that gnu kernel thing, now that's a funny and novel joke.

      I can barely contain my laughter. Well done, sire.
  • by Salvance ( 1014001 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:03PM (#16537860) Homepage Journal
    Mark Hurd has been the best thing that's happened to HP in a long time. His decision to bring a trusted advisor from NCR to be in charge of Ethics is hardly baffling - this same individual was able to stop leaks and other unethical behavior at NCR while keeping the activities fully legal and 'above the board'. The scandal at HP arose from Mark directing subordinates to take care of the leak problem, but the subordinates not being trustworthy enough to take care of the problem legally and ethically.

    The Computerworld story seems unfair in characterizing this decision as cluelessness - who wouldn't bring in their most trustworthy colleagues to solve their toughest problem?
    • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:27PM (#16538022)
      Um. The problem is that Hurd might have been involved in the scandal. If he was involved, bringing in his good buddy isn't going to do anything to help the shareholders. If he wasn't involved, an unquestionably impartial(notice the unquestionably) party would still be better for the shareholders.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Golias ( 176380 )
        One has to ask... What is the deal with the board at HP?

        To appoint one monumentally bad CEO is unfortunate. To appoint two... smacks of carelessness.
        • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:02PM (#16538212)
          That's probably taking it a bit too far. It isn't clear what exactly Hurd's involvement was; during the testimony of his that I watched, he came off pretty well, it didn't seem like he thought everything that happened was ok, he said all the right things, he was actually willing to testify, etc. Saying the right things is easy, but at least he did it.

          This decision isn't neccesarily bad either, it is just unfortunate given the recent scandal; the problem is that it doesn't do anything to convey that the problems are being fixed, not that it is a problem in and of itself.
        • Or were you referring to Fiorina and Dunn?

          If so, I'm not sure it will be borne out that Dunn was a "monumentally bad" CEO.

        • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
          What is the deal with the board at HP?

          They're doing "a heckuva job"?
    • You apparently dont know about Lars Nyberg, or crept under a rock when NCR still invested locally.
  • ...personally I'd be happy if HP would just go back to making printers, the computers with their brand on them are terrible.
    • Actually it's not their PCs that I think are lousy. It's their technical support. I work at the helpdesk of an appliance store and all of our registers are either dell or HP PC running windows xp. I had two hardrives that went bad that I needed to call in and RMA. One was from Dell and one was from HP. Keep in mind wewe bought the highest level of support from both HP and Dell.

      Dell- Phone call took 5 minutes. I told the guy the error code on the test that I ran on the hard drive using their diagnostics disk, he got my address and contact information and then the call was done. The part was shipped to me the next day. Guy I spoke to was from Georgia and although he had an accent neither of us had problems understanding each other

      HP- Three... god... damn... hours on the phone with these people. There systems are slow as shit, I can't understand what they are asking me to do, they can't understand me. Ask to get transferred? You either end up in the wrong department or disconnected. EVERY TIME! I called in 5 times just asking to speak to a manager and everytime they either hung up on me or transferred me to their television department. Finally I was able to bully one of the techs into just sending me a hard drive.

      Guess which PC company we are going with for our next set of stores?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      • by krell ( 896769 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:00PM (#16538204) Journal
        1)Customer looks for tech support number in product manual and literature. No luck.

        2)Customer looks for tech support number on web site. No luck. (all you can find is a completely worthless FAQ that is missing even the most basic of questions and answers, alongside a Know-Nothing-Base)

        3)Customer finds the support number by looking in the company's domain registration record.

        4)Customer calls number. After being re-routed and bounced and made to call other numbers, customer finally reaches tech support.

        5) Customer waits 37 minutes to talk to someone.

        6) Customer gets a filtering person, who creates a service record after giving the customer the third degree (When the process is repeated, the filtering person always has to re-create the service record because the previous one forgot to save it)

        7) Tech support person asks what the problem is. Customer describes. Support person asks customer to be put on hold. The company disconnects customer after 10 minutes of waiting.

        8) Repeat #5,#6,#7 several times. Usually in the same order, but not always (because you so often get staff people who hang up on you instead of transfer you).

        9) Real tech support person on the phone! He asks: "Xvswwwovv wavvwat qzxwzvxx?".
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by (H)elix1 ( 231155 )
          You missed one...

          10) let you 'order' a CD that has the drivers for your printer, camera, burner, or scanner for $20.

          After getting burned on that one a few times, I know I'll never have an HP logo on anything I shell out cash for again.
          • by krell ( 896769 )
            And don't forget #11. After you get the run-around from Xevxev Waphutslatouunahiuunahi (whose terrible communication skills and thick-as-Mrs-Butterworth's accent indicates that he is so bad that Bangalor must have outsourced to HIM), you ask for a supervisor or manager. He tells you that he doesn't have supervisors or managers.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by klui ( 457783 )
          Where'd you get #2?

          Go to
          Click on Support & Troubleshooting (left-hand side)
          Under Additional Resources on the right-hand side, click on Contact HP
          Under Call HP, U.S. phone numbers for: click on Technical support after you buy.

          No luck? I am based in the U.S. though.
      • Guess which PC company we are going with for our next set of stores?

        The one who sold you the hardware that didn't need to be replaced. Scratch Dell (because their hardware falls apart all the time, which is why their people are very quick at replacing it) and HP (who are having difficulty figuring out what hardware is and if they sell it, so you're lucky if you get shipped a computer and not a walnut or something). Go to another vendor. Have you considered Lenovo?

      • by myxiplx ( 906307 )
        Tell me about it. We had just started purchasing HP/Compaq laptops when I had the misfortune to speak to their tech support department.

        The fault with the laptop was straightforward - the internal modem had failed, pointing to a motherboard fault, something I diagnosed in about half an hour before shipping them the laptop. Despite promising a 5 day turnaround, it took HP over two months to actually get a working laptop back to us. I made dozens of phone calls, and ended up with nearly 20 pages of notes tr
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by zlogic ( 892404 )
      I have an HP laptop and it works perfectly. I bought it, downloaded the drivers and installed them (my laptop was a cheap one with Freedos), and that's it. Their iPAQ PDAs are probably the best. Much higher quality than Palm, Dell and Acer. And HP probably has one of the best support you can find. Someone gave me an ancient 486 HP server and just for fun I tried to download drivers. To my amazement, its BIOS was last updated in 2001! Most motherboard manufacturers stop supporting their products one year aft
    • by MLease ( 652529 )
      I've owned an HP Pavilion zv6000 for a year, and have had no trouble at all with it.

    • I have an HP Pavillion 750n desktop and a Pavillion zt1130 laptop, both about four years old, still working nicely. I've never had any problem with them other than getting the sound card on the laptop working under Linux, which is hardly an HP-specific problem. Back in the late 80s and early 90s when I used them, HP's 9000/300 series workstations were really nice. Maybe in the past few years things have gone downhill, but until a few years ago at any rate HP computers were fine in my experience.

    • they make awesome pdas.
  • by xmas2003 ( 739875 ) * on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:34PM (#16538052) Homepage
    over the previous HP ethics officer who approved the pre-texting effort ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 22, 2006 @02:47PM (#16538136)
    A few quick issues:
    1) The probe started before Mark Hurd became CEO.
    2) The Board of Directors, specifically the Chairman, was directing the investigation.
    3) Internal council, external council and the Chief Ethics Officer (doh, he obviously wasn't qualified for his job) worked closely on the investigation.
    4) Hurd was probably a bit more worried about profit and revenue, not some board room soap opera.
    5) No one has said that NCR's investigations were in any way illegal or unethical.
    6) The illegal activities were performed by a number of other firms.
  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:03PM (#16538214) Journal
    You may think the leaders of the great companies are exceptional and unique people. You are very wrong. They are just like you, for good and bad. The insight into HP has revealed this quite well. They are probably a little arrogant and eloquent, but you will quickly get that in a matter of a year.

    So why do they have millions of $$ and all the perks and you little? A large part is chance.

    Assuming you are reasonably competent with a good attitude, you will surely be a project manager. With success, you will oversee all projects in your division, and then probably become division manager. Now, if your division is successfull, you will be promoted fast to corporate leadership, and again, now you need success of the whole corporation to get further, and with that you will quickly run the company.

    You can at any time, and you should, jump ship, and continue the career for a new company, just like playing frogs.

    The catch in all this is simple: Luck and Selection. If your first project is a failure, your career stops. It does not matter what the reason was. This is true all the way, so:

    1. Only work for a company that sells what you do. Only than can you reach the top. An IT guy in a hospital will never run the hospital. Physicians will.
    2. Only pick sure successes.
    3. Jump ship if neccessary, and do it early. Dont ride a failure to the bottom.

    The HP managers just lucked out on the above due to good times or other random global events, and managed not to screw up early on.

    Just go for it.
    • by sunspot42 ( 455706 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @04:54PM (#16538976)
      Carl Sagan had a great story related to this very subject, in his book The Demon Haunted World. I found a copy of the story at this website []. Here's the story Sagan relates:

      Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, newly arrived on American shores, enlisted in the Manhattan nuclear weapons Project, and brought face-to-face in the midst of World War II with U.S. flag officers.

              So-and-so is a great general, he was told.

              "What is the definition of a great general?" Fermi characteristically asked.

              I guess it's a general who's won many consecutive battles.

              "How many?"

              After some back and forth, they settled on five.

              "What fraction of American generals are great?"

              After some more back and forth, they settled on a few percent.

              "But imagine," Fermi rejoined, "that there is no such thing as a great general, that all armies are equally matched, and that winning a battle is purely a matter of chance. Then the chance of winning one battle is one out of two, or 1/2; two battles 1/4, three 1/8, four 1/16, and five consecutive battles 1/32 - which is about 3 percent. You would expect a few percent of American generals to win five consecutive battles - purely by chance. Now, has any of them won ten consecutive battles... ?"

      The problem with the business world - especially in America these days - is that it's absolutely filled with climbers, idiots with loads of ambition and not a lot else. A few of these baboons get promoted to the executive ranks based largely upon politicking and thanks to random chance - as Fermi correctly observed 60 years ago - and then promptly go about looting the entire organization they run.

      HP, having been hijacked by Carly Fiorina and her ilk, is a prime example. They've surrendered HP's position as an industry and technology leader and are now simply cashing in on decades worth of work by engineers and more competent managers. They're eating the seed corn. Look to Detroit if you want to know where this folly will leave America's technology industry.
      • by Otter ( 3800 )
        Here's the flaw in your logic (and note that Fermi, at least in Sagan's telling of the story, doesn't make the same mistake):

        Either managers can actively do harm or they can't. If they can't, we're indifferent to who winds up in charge. If they can (and HP's previous leadership seems to have clearly demonstrated that they can), then your stochastic model goes out the window.

        Me, I could do without all that stress and am happy to just have a job where I can criticize other people's math every day...

      • by Threni ( 635302 )
        > Look to Detroit if you want to know where this folly will leave America's technology industry.

        I'd rather have some banging techno than a bunch of crap American cars anyday!
      • Or, just maybe, success depends on both luck and skill-- being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, and having the right kind of mindset. And not only in corporations, but also in academia. Anyone who thinks the careful planning of D-Day or the Manhatten project happened by chance is living in a dream world.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      This is utter bullshit - why has it been marked +5 insightful? I can only feel pity for those people that agree with this. The story is about a guy who kept with the same firm for 25 or so years and got to the top. That's 25 years to get a reputation, and there's an old saying that you make your own luck. Mark Hurd isn't a tech, so he didn't work for a company that sells what he did. And changing job once every 25 years doesn't sound like he has a "jump ship" philosophy.

      I love the conclusion "and with that
      • Jump ship "if necessary", AND "do it early"? So which is it?

        Both - identifying a pig and doing it quickly is a serious career skill.

    • by drew ( 2081 )
      The catch in all this is simple: Luck and Selection. If your first project is a failure, your career stops. It does not matter what the reason was. This is true all the way

      You need look no further than the very company we are talking about to see that this is not entirely true. How does a CEO who rode not one but two companies (in a row, even) straight into the ground still have any career at all?
    • by JGski ( 537049 )
      A lot of it is not chance. Yes, executives are profoundly "common" once you know them. But there is a difference. Executives predominantly (70-80%) have two different types of personalities: narcissistic and sociopathic. Both of these allow them to "roll-up" the consequences of their actions into convenient and readily disposable form. Complex, uncertain or stressful situations that give the average person pause or pangs of conscience roll off their backs either because they are so keyed into the goal
  • now, I really don't see how MY rights ONLINE are affected by this...
  • by krell ( 896769 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:07PM (#16538230) Journal
    The writing was on the wall when they started to file nasty frivolous lawsuits against other companies that made cartridges for HP printers. HP: Do only evil.
  • Hurd's teflon. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by isaac ( 2852 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:08PM (#16538238)
    Mark Hurd knew or should have known as much or more about the details of this spy scandal than Patty Dunn. He got detailed reports on the progress of the investigation and somehow was allowed to skate on "I'm sorry, I should have read them but I didn't."

    Thing is, Mark's beloved by investors for righting (however temporarily) the sinking ship of HP. He's also better at eating shit than Ms. Dunn, as anyone who watched the congressional hearings can attest. Looks like he's home-free at this point.

    I hope karma pays him back, because I don't believe he knew nothing about the Nixonian extent of the spying undertaken in HP's name.


    • "Mark Hurd knew or should have known ...."

      2001 called. It wants its business news headline back. It seems like you took an old Enron story and switched Lay's name with Hurd's....
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:23PM (#16538370)
    Why is it that the boards of extremely large companies tend to make bad decisions over and over again?

    My theory is that there are two components. In the case of a public company, the CEO and board are under constant investor pressure. This is one of the only downsides of the internet and instant access to information. In the 50s, 60s, 70s and before, almost no one was individually in the market (though their pension funds might be.) The worst thing a board had to worry about was a bad article in the Wall Street Journal. Even then, some guy on his yacht or in his country estate would get the news a day later, and ask Jeeves to call the broker and sell. Now, all that has to happen is for one disgruntled employee or board member to post something on Yahoo Finance. Instantly, every trader in the universe starts selling within seconds and you have a 20% drop for the day. Look at what happened with Airbus after the fact that the A380 was behind schedule and way over budget. If I were a CEO, the climate would tempt me to make some decision, any decision, to keep the investors from selling.

    The second thing has been around forever. No one in a company, unless they are really fearless, wants to stand up and tell the executives they're wrong. Some companies are more tolerant than others to this, but I've worked in a lot of dictatorships.
    • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @03:36PM (#16538456)
      Actually, they make plenty of good decisions. Th bad ones recieve an inordinate amount of attention.
      • by King_TJ ( 85913 )
        I'm not even so sure about that.... I've only worked for smaller companies, but in some respects, it's easier to see the "big picture" of what's going on in a smaller firm. And I have no reason to suspect things radically change with the abilitiy of the CEO's to make decisions just because the business is larger?

        My observations have usually been that the company owners are likely to repeatedly make bad decisions that get "fixed" by people further down the corporate food chain. Most people working for a p
        • by maxume ( 22995 )
          I'm looking at it from the 'if the US economy is a disaster, it's a fine disaster at that' point of view. I see your point about stuff happening at lower levels, but why not look at letting that happen as a good decision?
  • ...We may not like it, but it seems to work..
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Sunday October 22, 2006 @05:15PM (#16539102)
    From NCR delayed contaminant tests []: For at least 10 years, NCR Corp. put off testing to learn the full extent of environmental contamination at its former manufacturing complex, in part because company officials feared the results would create adverse publicity and prompt an expensive cleanup, internal NCR memos show...In a three-page letter to the Dayton Daily News dated Jan. 22, Hoak stated that the memos were "confidential, proprietary and attorney-client privileged" and raised legal issues with the newspaper's possession of them, including concerns regarding "trade secrets." Hoak wrote that NCR is "closely examining issues and remedies," and urged the newspaper to "refrain from publishing their contents."
  • You understand that HP didn't care about breaking the law; they cared about the appearance it created when the press got wind of it. There's a world of difference between the two extremes although the former likes to masquerade as the latter.

    In other words, Patricia Dunn's biggest sin wasn't breaking the law (allegedly), it was getting caught.
  • ...the easiest, highly-paid work ever.

    Where do I sign up?

    • Classic catch-22. Anyone ethical enough to deserve the job isn't qualified to actually get the job .. cause they're too ethical to kiss that much ass--I mean, play corporate politics and win.
  • With all this that's come from him, it might be time for people to start looking upstream towards his master [] who didnt stop at the executive level, but pioneered in the art of "not giving a damn about the locals".

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan