Guy Kewney's Diary

MondayFirst day back after a holiday.

Fat chance. You cannot get serious work done on your first day back from holiday: this is widely known.

Tuesday

In passing, someone asks me what I think about the Power Computing takeover. That, of course, is the trouble with holidays; you have no idea what went on the past week. Ask me about the wind strengths on the south coast, and I can give you tedious detail. Ask me who has been appointed head of Apple, and I have to think hard to remember what Apple is. Oh yes, computers.

So phone calls start to Motorola, Apple, and other luminaries of the Mac world. Naturally, they're all in California, and I have to get home early.

Wednesday

A friend from the west coast of America is in London, doing a security analysis. He pops over to buy me lunch, and collect a $420 debt I incurred nine months ago.

"This is the least secure organisation I've ever, ever surveyed," he says, over a pint of Adnams (an American with good taste!) -- absolutely nothing is secure. He isn't talking about Windows NT either. This group has a few hundred Sun servers; less than half of them have secure passwords (which is not unusual). What is startling, he says, is that most of those have no passwords at all. Nothing.

It's not just the computer side. He finds that he can get into all their Chubb safes, that he can forge new IDs for SWIFT funds transfer authorisation, and that "If anything goes wrong, we wouldn't know about it until the other party complained." Standard bloody banking incompetence in this country, I tell him.

"Oh, but that's not the best bit. The best is their physical security."

Apparently, you arrive in their London HQ to be greeted by a half dozen closed circuit TV cameras, and a squad of uniformed security jobsworths. They make you fill in a day badge which is instantly processed into a low-privilege access card that gets you into the building. It shows his name. I am not prepared to reveal his name. What I can tell you is that he has been walking in and out of that high-security financial institution for two days, wearing the name Armitage Shanks.

Thursday

Frantic scribbling of updates to the Kewney's World story about PowerPC as new rumours come in.

It is hard to be sure of anything at all, in the New Mac business. One thing, however, I can tell you: and that is that Steve Jobs is behind the takeover of Power Computing, and that I knew he would be, and I chickened out. I watched Steve at January's MacWorld show, and I thought: "He's in love with the adulation! He's going to come back!"

Everybody there, who (I thought) knew Apple better than I do, said: "No, Guy, he's got too much to do at Pixar, and he's hardly even involved in Next, which Apple has now taken over. He's not going to be interested in Apple."

Wrong, wrong, wrong, and I should have said so. Instead, I meekly reported the consensus. Oh well.

Oh, and there is another thing I can tell you: you do not, in the computer business, sell through the "dealer channel" if you sell direct off the page. It's a simple, basic, kindergarten truth. Dell sells off the page, Gateway 2000 sells off the page. IBM and Compaq sell through dealers. To try mixing both channels is simply impossible.

Friday

Citrix has promised to send me their "Windows Mainframe" software. You install it on an NT server, and you spend a fortune on RAM, and then other people can log into the NT machine and run their apps on the server, and watch the output on their little boxes. Fiendishly clever, I can do this already with Laplink for Windows NT, but this isn't the moment to talk about my own private security loopholes, is it. We'll test it, just as soon as I can find another 96Kb of RAM for my NT machine.

Talking about NT Server, it's a fact that generally, it doesn't run any better than you might expect on a portable. Some say that this hardly matters, since nobody in the possession of an IQ in three figures would ever want to run a server OS on a portable -- but this isn't quite right. For example, my friend the futures guru desperately wants to run NT Server on a Toshiba, because he has to do development work on NTS, and spends three hours a day in a train. Having NTS on his portable means he can do a lot of work without having to worry about which users have been inadvertently logged out by a bit of test code. And there are other reasons.

The problem, of course, is that NT is an operating system that never expected to be on a notebook, and the people who created it therefore never thought it was worth wasting time coping with notebook features. For example PC Cards or power management.

Here's the interesting thing: out of all the portables I know, the Toshiba range is supposed to be the best at managing portable battery-saver technology. And bing!, right on cue, in comes that Call from A Reader: "Guy, your magazine says that Toshiba portables are reliable. But I've just seen a rival paper, which says they are the least reliable."

Huh?

Call to Toshiba and it turns out that this very afternoon, they've got a new set of NT drivers which make power management work. They're very anxious that the world should know about it, and not a bit sure what to do about the report. So, I've mentioned the new drivers; if you are an NT user with a need to run on a portable, you will now be able to 'suspend' the system by closing the lid.

Do not expect next week to be any more sane or sensible than this one, by the way, Next week is the ECTS games show at Olympia, and it includes lunch with my old friend Douglas Adams. I wonder if he remembers me?

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