As investigators gradually come to terms with the cataclysmic disaster once known as WorldCom, we are being treated to some of the most memorable quotes to have come from a telecom company in years. Chief executive Bernard Ebbers seems to have been at least partly responsible for the mess, dismissing the idea of a corporate code of conduct as 'a colossal waste of time'. Chief financial officer Scott Sullivan reportedly dismissed a budget that included estimates of actual costs by saying: 'This is complete, complete garbage.... What am I supposed to do with this? What have we been doing for the last six months? This is a real work of trash.' But the most memorable WorldCom quote comes from director of general accounting Buford 'Buddy' Yates. When an underling approached Yates with some discrepancies that he had noticed in the firm's accounts, Yates reportedly yelled at him: 'Show those numbers to the damn auditors and I'll throw you out the f***ing window'. By the time this column reaches your news stand, Unix litigant SCO should have announced the next stage in its bid to be bought out by IBM. After wrecking the UnitedLinux alliance, alienating Linux partners, frightening customers and threatening 1,500 of the world's largest companies, SCO appears to have noticed that it has something of an image problem. The company's latest United States advertising campaign claims 'you can relax with SCO software'. Perhaps the irony was intentional. But if that is the case, it is clod-clubbingly insensitive; like advertising whisky in an accident and emergency ward. 'SCO's products are often in the back office of the largest and most successful companies in the world,' claims a hopeful SCO. Even if that were true, they won't be for long. Still on the free software theme, the patent on the Lempel Ziv Welch (LZW) compression algorithm is due to expire on Friday. Never heard of Lempel Ziv Welch? Way back in the early 1990s, LZW dominated the Web. The algorithm was used by Compuserve when it devised the Gif image standard, and it quickly became a universal standard. But then up came grumpy computer services firm Unisys, who pointed out that it had picked up a patent on LZW in 1985, and just had not told anyone. As any software developer knows, patent searches are extremely expensive. So nobody bothered to look before developing the Gif standard. LZW is also used in TIFF, PostScript, portable document format (PDF) and other formats. Since Unisys decided to assert its ownership, anyone using any of those formats in the course of their business has been expected to pay the firm a fee. If you created your PDF or Gif using a product from a large business like Adobe, you would have no worries, because most large firms quickly covered the cost. But if you used a freeware or shareware application, you would be expected to figure out whether the creator had paid Unisys, and then pay up. Three years ago, in a last-ditch attempt to squeeze the last pennies from the patent, Unisys sent e-mails to several thousand Web sites asking for royalties of up to US$5,000. On Friday, the patent expires, and anyone can use the Gif format. without let or hindrance. And as a nice contrast to all the fears expressed around the Web four years ago, free software is still with us, and the Web still has free graphics. So while the whole episode may have shown up the inherent flaws in the software patent system, in the end, it really didn't matter. Hot on the tail of Motorola, China Mobile and Sohu, which brought animated text messages to Everest climbers, Palm has become the latest hi-tech company to cash in on the 50th anniversary of the first climb to reach the mountain's summit. This time, it was a group of clambering Ivy Leaguers from Brown University. Backed by Nasa, the researchers took their Palm Tungsten-Ts up the mountain to study hypoxia - a condition caused by the lack of oxygen - on climbers' abilities to think clearly. The main feature of the Tungsten T is its built-in Bluetooth capability, so in theory, the Brown team could synchronise their Palms with China Mobile's network and get some of that MMS action. Any gossip, rumour or ignominy to share? Send it to Neil Taylor by e-mail at email@example.com .