Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Note to readers: there is a short quiz at the end. Write on one side of the screen only. No conferring.

Monday

Phone call from a close friend saying 'Help! I installed Internet Explorer 4 and now my computer doesn't work!" Reflect for a moment that it's actually her ex-boyfriend's computer and that there may be Ramifications. Nevertheless, turn up during the evening with boot disk, printouts and a purposeful glint and set to work on the stricken beast (the computer, not the ex-boyfriend). It takes about three hours of in-depth registry hacking, SYSTEM.INI snippery and general swearing to undo the damage - IE4 not installing properly is the least of the woes. Track problem down to a SYSTEM.INI entry which refers, mysteriously, to an old Adobe Type Manager driver. Heaven alone knows what IE4 did to it.

Finish at around 3am, a lot of wine to the worse yet flushed with success. As I slide into a coma on the sofa, I reflect that tomorrow is going to be painful and it's all due to Bill Gates.

Tuesday

Wallop along to Broadcasting House, where Radio 5 Live has got a bod from Microsoft to say how evil it is when businesses make illicit copies of software. My task is to 'provide some balance' - it's not often one gets the chance to have a live discussion on air, and I'm relishing the prospect. Especially since I'm still tired and hungover from battling with the Seattle demons the night before.

In the end, it turns out to be rather low-key. He says his bit - "Microsoft needs all this money for R&D, and it's illegal not to give it to us if you're using our software". I say mine - "If you gave better technical support and had better products, people might consider them better value for money and be less inclined to rip them off" and our time is up. No chance to really get going, or to mention that Microsoft is perfectly happy to give away software half the time anyway.

Wednesday

Sit in on press conference from Nortel/Norweb about Internet access via the mains. Quite clever - up to 1Mb shared between up to 200 people, fed from the local substation. However, there is almost no technical information and the time scale of the trials and any possible commercialisation is such that it'll have a hard time surviving against ADSL, radio access and many other alternative access arrangements.

You wouldn't know this from the coverage they get from the national press and the broadcasters. Front pages are cleared, leaders are written, news slots filled with 'computer experts' who explain what a huge breakthrough this is for British technology and how amazing it all is. Even if - as is rarely the case - the facts of the matter are correctly reported, the ignorance of context is total.

Despair. Perhaps I could forget how to read...

Thursday

In conditions of tippermost toppermost secret, the editorial side of PC Magazine convenes in the upstairs room at a nearby restaurant. Our task: to decide the winners for this year's Technical Innovations awards, the good old Tinas. Of course, no details can be published until the awards breakfast itself (towards the end of November), but I can exclusively reveal I threw two paper aeroplanes at Mark Child, labs Technical Director, and we ate vegetarian rolls for lunch. Oh, and the proposal that we give Microsoft a special award for keeping us all so busy was rejected.

However: the restaurant overlooks St Kathryn's Yacht Haven, as do our offices. As we chewed our red onion and eggplant rolls in the weak yet welcome autumn sun, we let our gaze rest lightly on the various boats bobbing on the water. One dark-windowed gin palace in particular caught our interest - a well-dressed businessman was making his way towards it, followed closely by... well, a woman in very short skirt, rather dazzling jacket and rather a lot of makeup. They were shown aboard by a bloke in jeans and T-shirt, who then left. One of our number, bolder than the rest, sidled up as close as he dared and reported that a cheque had been signed and left next to an erotic statue of two people... well, not doing anything nautical.

Not that anything untoward was going on. A million respectable explanations suggest themselves. Just... well, watch this space. One word. Webcam.

Friday

The weekly pile of press releases hits the bin, and thoughts turn to delicious pints in waterside pubs. Favourite release of the week is headlined "Motorola Heralds New Era Of Internetworking For Europe" and goes on at length about "strengthening focus". It's only by page 2 that it admits that this new era is one remarkably lacking in Motorola, who is strengthening its focus by 'phasing out' loads of products.

This week's quiz comes courtesy of Networld+Interop show in Atlanta.

Study the following passage, then answer the questions below.

"If you're using the argument that 'we aren't there because the standard isn't there yet,' then that's a pretty poor argument," said Frank Hayes, program manager for LAN switching at Cabletron. "If you don't enter in this relative time space, you're behind the power curve."

1. What do you think the proponent is trying to say?

a. I watch Star Trek, me.

b. Buy our kit NOW. It won't work with anyone else's.

c. I know more than you. Be scared. Then buy our kit (which won't work with anyone else's).

d. I've lost my mummy. Why am I wearing this suit?

e. Please give me one of my purple pills.

2. What happened next to Frank Hayes?

a. The power curve suddenly turned around and bit him

b. He got first prize at the Kyoto Zen School of Incomprehensible Koans

c. Relative time space became relative space time and he vanished up his own wormhole

d. He was hoisted onto the shoulders of his fellow marketing droids, who shouted "Yeay! Way to go, Frank!" and punched the air a lot.

e. He was recruited by John Birt.

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