Rupert Goodwins' Diary

MondayFlu. Really rather nasty. You don't want to know. Alternate sweats and shivers. OD on Actifed - shame they've reformulated it to get rid of that off-planet buzz...

Tuesday

See Monday. Still, had a rather useful burst of hallucinatory fiction writing. Scribbled ideas down, still seem OK in the cold light of viral sobriety.

Back in the real world, CompuServe has finally been sold. Mildly interesting that AOL is taking possession of the wetware, computers and online services, but much more interesting that WorldCom is using the deal to get control of both the CompuServe network and the AOL network. WorldCom, in case you haven't noticed, also owns UUNet. That's Pipex. And MSN's access. According to the Web page -- which may not have been updated to take account of the CSI/AOL deal -- the company has some half-million dial-up access points worldwide: it's also the US's fourth largest telephone company, with fingers in pies across the globe.

Watch these people. They own your bits.

Wednesday

Back at work... still grotty, but probably non-infectious. A pleasantly large selection of tasks await. My AGP/300 MHz Pentium II machine has arrived, so settle down with screwdriver and copy of 3D benchmarks to test the old hype. Amazingly, AGP -- the Accelerated Graphics Port -- doesn't seem to do a darned thing more than PCI. Mumble. Fumble. Phone -- everyone's still on holiday. It's impossible to get anything done in this industry between July 15th and September 15th.

Eventually find the computer is missing a small but vital file -- the USB support. Yes, without the Universal Serial Bus files, AGP won't work. Why? Hey, it's all IO, right?

Mumble some more, replace the file, and as if by magic AGP springs into life! A 4Mb graphics card can run as many textures as an 8Mb graphics card! Coo. Err, that's it. No other detectable differences.

Hey ho. Some days, the excitement is just too much...

Thursday

Wandering the web looking for cool stories -- find a genuine Kubrickian character out there designing brains. This man, oh so suitably named Dr Hugo de Garis, runs the Brain Building Group -- no word of a lie, distant reader -- in Kyoto, Japan. And he has the complete kit of parts to complete the task -- what looks like grand funding, the appearance of a Hollywood mad professor, and some majorly off-whack ideas. You really must look at his Web site to appreciate the chap.

Some samples: he is designing a Robokitten (Robokoneko in Japanese) to show off one of his more recent brains. A long document includes various spine-chilling comments: right at the end "It would be a good idea to look at some real kittens to see what they do. That way we could get ideas for behaviours to be put into the kitten brain".

If I read the site correctly, these people have built the first fast evolving-network hardware already, with a capability of 100 billion cells/second reconfiguration in three dimensions.

You couldn't make this stuff up. Go see.

Friday

More stuff you couldn't make up -- in Japan, telephone companies are putting Tamagotchi code into mobiles. When you call somebody else with a Tamagotchi phone, the two virtual pets converse... and if you then don't call again for a while, the pets start to pine and hint that they're missing each other. Nasty, eh?

But not as unsettling as Microsoft's Actimates. Yes, Our friends in Seattle have got into the cuddly toy business, peddling an interactive purple dinosaur which can link to your PC or TV. It has a range of actions, sensors in paws, feet and eyes, and a vocabulary of 2,000 words (which increases to 4,000 when it's watching television or 14,000 when it's wirelessly linked to the computer. Now, wouldn't you like to hack that?).

Long-memoried types might remember Petsters, Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's abortive attempts at much the same thing just after he got out of videogames. He also did the Chuck E Cheese pizza chain... can we expect to see Bill doing Big Macs? Oh -- too late. He's already bought the company.

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