Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday

First day in the new job - moving computers, tidying up desks, getting to meet the new team. All very congenial, relaxed and totally unlike what will undoubtedly become a mammoth adrenaline-fest as The Date rolls towards us.

During the tidy-up, I find an old Connectix black-and-white QuickCam sitting at the bottom of a draw. Excellent - loads of my friends are getting going with videoconferencing these days, and I quite fancy being able to scowl at the world when I'm working here at midnight. Of course, the drivers are long gone, but that's what the Web's for, right? Right.

Wrong. Connectix' site has updates, but they only work if you've already got the software loaded. If you've uninstalled it, had a disk crash or are moving things to a new machine, you must use your original disks, then upgrade it. If you don't have those, Connectix will send you a new CD for ten dollars - and if you don't pay, you can't play.

And I always thought they were such a nice company - still, looking around the Web for other things about them, it transpires that they've also been very reluctant to let third party developers know how their compression scheme works and thus forced loads of people to move to other products.

With the number of cheap PC-based videocameras about to explode like a dynamite-eating dog in a microwave - and with nobody else trying to take ten bucks a pop for drivers - it's going to be interesting to watch Connectix' fortunes. Or at least I would, if I could get this camera to work...

Tuesday

The siren call of Kensington Olympia wafts up the hill to my Highgate fastness, so I schlep off to see the Windows 98 Show. Confusingly, it's all about Windows 95, NT and CE. First impression - my, how it's shrunk! If you took away the Adobe and Microsoft stands, you could fit the rest in a large marquee. Apart from the usual press room gossip about who's moving to what magazine, what the opposition is up to, and exactly which senior figures are involved in what illicit love affairs - boring stuff I won't bother you with, the most interesting thing on show was ZY.COM and its server-based Web creation package. Go to the site, sign up and start creating content using nothing but a browser. It's got lots of fab graphics stuff too - online rendering of 3D and rotating text, that sort of thing - which you'd expect seeing as the company comes from the same table as Xara.

It's still in beta (better believe it - it's already lost some pages on me), and I've got serious reservations about its flexibility and how it'll work under load, but it's a fascinating experiment that does get you on the Web faster than just about anything else I know. And if you want to know more - the basic service is free! Just pop over there and have a fiddle.

Wednesday

Spend the day wandering the Web, researching 'enterprise connectivity' - which, unfortunately, has little to do with the protocols behind Scotty's transporter beam. I've kept a mild watch on this during my days on PC Magazine, but it's much more to the fore with IT Week. This leads to me getting embroiled in a 'The mainframe's dead!' 'No, it's better than ever!' discussion with Nick Edmunds, our steely-eyed Enterprise Editor and one-time manager of very large Cray installations for very discreet people. I can see I'm going to have to learn a whole new set of acronyms... but not, perhaps, for long.

A conversation with my favourite network analyst reveals that Token Ring is dying out so fast that even the untouchable corporate heartland which was its natural home is ripping cables out of the walls and going over to Ethernet. And IP.

(PS - National No Smoking Day! Ooo-eer. Pension fund scandal! My, my... Giant Asteroid To Hit Earth! That's more like it. Right, twenty Capstan Untipped Full Strength and tell my financial advisor to go mug a pensioner...)

Thursday

Microsoft sends me a big yellow hard hat, bless it, to publicise the launch of Microsoft Site Server. I am so moved by this that I wear it all day.

A thought occurs. Since I've got a brand-new computer with almost no software on it yet, I wonder how many times the word Microsoft occurs. I ask File Find to locate all files with Microsoft in them - 2,510. That's on a clean computer. A look in just the Windows subdirectory reveals 19,102 mentions in 1,540 files... so a quick calculation indicates that some 300k of my hard disk is taken up purely with the word Microsoft.

Is this strictly necessary?

Friday

Wahey! Webcast! Ericsson is announcing - ooh, don't know what, exactly, but they're Webcasting the event. So I can sit at my desk and drink my coffee and still be virtually present. Alas, the appointed hour arrives and all that's cast across the Web is a 'sorry, it's broken. Server problems.' message.

Which is ironic: I investigate the rest of the site and find the company is talking about its range of telephone exchanges - sorry, switches - which now have oodles of Internet connectivity. This is the same week that Deutsche Telekom has announced huge investments in voice over IP: the monstrous amoeba of the Internet is absorbing the telephone companies faster than anyone ever really believed possible. Wonderful!

Final irony: I spend a very happy hour pulling stuff about this from the Ericsson site and printing it out: at the end of the day, a arge folder arrives by courier by way of apology for the Webcast not working. It contains duplicates of every page I printed off...

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