If you've ever regarded Internet spam as little more than a nuisance, you've probably changed your mind. Especially if you were among the less fortunate greeted this morning by thousands (yes, thousands) of unwanted email messages.

Sadly, we don't expect some sort of cyber "Do Not Call" registry to ride to the rescue. One hates to generalize, but let's face it: Spammers are less reputable even than telemarketers and a whole lot harder to track down.

High-tech problems call for high-tech solutions. Just one more reason to love our techies here at Fool HQ!

In today's Motley Fool Take:

PCs Hurt HP

Carly, you've got some 'splaining to do.

The way market pundits are wagging the finger at Hewlett-Packard's(NYSE: HPQ) disappointing quarter, CEO Carly Fiorina may want to think twice before pointing to the fence next time she's up to bat. After all, this was the same person who assured us that HP was no longer an integration story, while praising the $3.5 billion in yearly synergistic savings.

So, what's all the fuss about? For the quarter, total revenues grew to $17.4 billion; however, pro forma profits of $0.23 a share fell three cents shy of earlier projections -- and that's before a laundry list of charges marked that down to just 10 cents.

And don't overlook the fact that $739 million of the company's $858 million operating profits come from HP's flagship printing and imaging business. Yes, the company may be a leaner outfit these days, but it's still no closer in justifying the controversial merger with Compaq.

Quite the contrary, Hewlett-Packard posted operating losses for both its personal and enterprise systems divisions -- the very divisions it was banking on when it spent $19 billion for Compaq. Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) certainly isn't having any problems competing in these areas, and Gateway(NYSE: GTW) and Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL) diversified when PC demand pulled up lame. Will HP be next?

Going forward, management has some lofty fourth-quarter goals (roughly $0.35 per share, on earnings on at least $18.8 billion in revenue), and maybe the integration story is best left muddy. Heck, if this is the merger that is saving Hewlett-Packard $3.5 billion a year and the Compaq side is still in the red, what does that imply about Compaq's real value?

Either the company was worth well shy of $19 billion or Fiorina hasn't done much of an integration job. The vaunted "HP Way" is a two-way street. Watch out for head-on collisions.

Shameless Plug: When in Rome . . .

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Dillard's Doldrums

Department store chain Dillard's(NYSE: DDS) reported ugly second-quarter results today. Total and same-store sales both fell, and the retailer recorded a whopping net loss. In recent years, department stores have struggled to remain relevant with shoppers, and Dillard's unfashionable results provide more evidence of those troubles.

Sales dropped 5% to $1.7 billion. Same-store sales were also off 5%. Gross margins were pressured by summer inventory markdowns, and fell to 31% from 34%. Dillard's said it ended the quarter with more summer goods than it had hoped, which means that the markdowns for them will continue into the current quarter and will affect margins again.

The company's net loss for the quarter was $50.4 million, or $0.60 a share. That compares to a profit of $6.7 million, or $0.08 in the year-earlier period. Included in that net loss were two charges: $10.9 million to account for asset impairment and store closing costs and $10 million related to a call premium for early retirement of some debt.

Not counting those charges, Dillard's lost $0.35 a share, which is nearly double the expected loss of $0.18 a share. The market reacted to the news by sending shares 13% lower, although the stock recovered a bit in afternoon trading and was down at around just 5%.

Dillard's has been trying to stave off the competition from specialty stores and discounters by closing underperforming stores and remodeling existing ones, as well as opening new stores in select locations. It closed three locations during the second quarter, and has plans to open three before fiscal 2003 ends in January 2004. Its square footage shrank during the quarter from 56.6 million to 55.9 million, and it ended the period with 329 stores.

Despite Dillard's bargain-basement P/E of 13, investors would do themselves a favor to pass this one by. Even when compared to its already-troubled department store peers, Dillard's fundamentals aren't at all appealing.

Quote of Note

"A little neglect may breed mischief: for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost." -- Benjamin Franklin

Viagra's New Competition

Soon, American men will have more than just Viagra to choose from for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED).

Bayer AG (NYSE: BAY) and GlaxoSmithKline(NYSE: GSK) announced last night that the FDA has approved Levitra (pronounced luh-VEE-trah) for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, and the new prescription drug should be available nationwide in a few weeks. What's more, Eli Lilly(NYSE: LLY) and Icos(Nasdaq: ICOS) are expected to gain approval for the impotence pill Cialis (pronounced see-ALL-iss) in the U.S. later this year. Both Cialis and Levitra have already been approved in Europe.

To give you some idea of how large the market is for ED treatment, consider Pfizer(NYSE: PFE) raked in some $1.7 billion in Viagra sales last year. The newcomers won't have an easy time gaining market share, however; Pfizer has heavily promoted its little blue pill to the estimated 30 million American men with some degree of impotence, making Viagra one of the most recognizable brand names in the U.S. But here's the kicker: About 90% of those 30 million have not yet sought treatment.

Are there any differences in the three products? It's hard to say because there have been no head-to-head tests. We know that all three work by blocking the same enzyme, and all three are pills (though Viagra is blue, Levitra is orange, and Cialis is yellow). The three do have some different properties, however. Perhaps the biggest distinction belongs to Cialis, which its marketers claim is effective for up to 36 hours -- or about five to seven times longer than the other two.

One last difference: Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline have tabbed tough guy and former NFL coach Mike Ditka as their Levitra spokesman. Even though he's about twice the age of Viagra pitchman and Rangers first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, "Coach Ditka" could back Palmeiro down with just a scowl.

Look for a ton of advertising as this battle escalates... coming soon to a television near you

Discussion Board of the Day: Hewlett-Packard

Was this quarter just a hiccup for Hewlett-Packard or has Carly Fiorina's master plan been derailed? Did Hewlett-Packard do the right thing in buying Compaq? With strength in its services, is the company now a more fitting rival of IBM than Dell? All this and more -- in our Hewlett-Packard discussion board . Only on Fool.com.

Quick Takes

The Energy Department says gasoline prices are up about $0.10 per gallon in the past three weeks, and have spiked even higher in some places since last week's blackout. The average price nationwide is $1.63 per gallon, $0.24 higher than a year ago.

R.J. Reynolds (NYSE: RJR) announced more job cuts today. The maker of Winston and Camel cigarettes did not reveal details, but the layoffs will be in addition to the 600 -- 6% of the workforce -- who lost their jobs last December. The company anticipates lower shipping volume, primarily due to competition from cheaper brands.

Intuit (Nasdaq: INTU) , maker of TurboTax and Quicken software, reported a fourth-quarter loss of $0.12 per share and a full-year profit of $1.63 per share after the bell yesterday. The company warned that first-quarter results would not be up to expectations, however.

In local news, nothing happened. That's the first time that's happened in eight months.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com: As you probably know, we're celebrating our 10th anniversary here at The Motley Fool. In honor of the occasion, we're revisiting some of the landmark columns in Foolish history. Mostly, as in Tom Gardner's seminal introduction of the Foolish Flow Ratio, that's Foolish with a big "F." But not always. Check out Bill Mann's ill-fated January 2001 defense of PSINet, and you'll know what we mean.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Kate Southerland, Dayana Yochim