Rupert Goodwins' Diary

This Week: The users are revolting, virtual murder outclasses the real thing, Microsoft takes our breath away, DVD dead in the water and how to make your accountant very, very miserable.

Monday 11/4/1999 You remember that BT ADSL trial? All over by March, they said. 2Mbps across the country, they said. Oh yeah, we said... well, word is that it's extended to October now. Which is great for jammy so-and-sos such as myself in the trial area, but not much cop for UK plc. One of the ongoing gripes is that BT itself has been terrible at talking to the triallists. We want information, but we ain't getting it. Perhaps that will change, as we've started to find out who each other is and a number of the more energetic members are building alternative websites to the incredibly naff BT offering (which nobody -- absolutely nobody -- thinks is or ever will be any good whatsoever). As a result of this, information is starting to circulate. Information like the passwords on some of the trial infrastructure, which hadn't been changed from the (publicly known) defaults with which they came out of their boxes. This came out on the newsgroup to much guffawing, and was changed very shortly thereafter (but we don't know by whom...). More worrying is the degree to which the trial's security is holding up. It's not terribly good, and while no triallist has actually been hacked it's not going to surprise anyone when it happens. And BT? Silence. Perhaps if they spent less time in building useless portals and more concentrating on client-side firewalls to keep the nasties out, they'd have a much stronger product. As things stand, it'd be hard to recommend the DSL service to anyone who wouldn't be happy configuring a Linux box as a firewall -- and that could just limit the market for a domestic product a tad. Tuesday 13/4/1999 One of my pals, a writer for PC Magazine, has just been playtesting a new game. It's called Everquest and you may not have heard of it yet -- but you will. It's an enormous swords and sorcery online multiplayer environment with fabulous graphics: Sony started it last month in the US, and it's already the fastest selling game in history. With over 20,000 people in it, you can really get engrossed. Matey certainly did, only glancing up at the clock one evening to spot it was five AM. He got what sleep he could, then staggered out of his flat at 8:30 the next morning. Or at least he tried -- as he peered, bleary-eyed, at the scene in front of him he made out twenty policemen, five vans and one bumpy white sheet on the ground in front of his door. It was one of those bumpy white sheets that might be covering a large pile of vegetables but probably isn't. "Hello, hello, hello, sir" said a nearby plod. "Thinking of going somewhere, were we?" It turned out that someone had been murdered outside his flat the night before, and by the general demeanour of the deceased it had probably been quite a struggle. Unfortunately for the forces of Laura Norda, our hero had been so absorbed in chasing the elfs through Everquest that, although his computer was around three yards from the scene of the crime, he'd noticed nothing at all. "Elfs, you say, sir?" They let him go, although I understand they were a little reluctant to allow him to wander the streets "for all our sakes, sir." Wednesday 14/4/1999 Question 1. 10 marks. Read the following passage from a recent ZDNet UK story carefully. "At the start of the year, Microsoft CE product manager Dilip Mistry said that Microsoft could and would not commit itself to consortia like Bluetooth until they obtain support from standards bodies. "We don't want to get caught in a proprietary route," he said" 1. Is irony a powerful enough concept to describe the report? (2 marks)
2. Do you think the person quoted understood what he was saying? If so, had he had local anaesthesia in order to keep a straight face? (4 marks)
3. How easy is it to answer exam questions when your jaw is holding down the keyboard? (3 marks)
Thursday 15/4/1999 Into town, to see MPO. Who? Moulage Plastique de l'Ouest, that's who. Nope? OK, let's try Hi-SPACE. This is the brand with which MPO, a French company who make records, tapes, MiniDiscs and CDs, is breaking into the UK market for recordable optical media. If you've got a MiniDisc recorder, you'll know that these people sell recordable blanks for two quid a pop through Richer Sounds while places like Tower flog Sony and TDK equivalents for twice as much. And, being digital, you can't hear a whisper of a difference: it boils down to whether you want to pay double for identical results or not. MPO has some interesting figures. The market for recordable CDs was 200 million in 1997. It was 600 million in 1998, and should top the billion this year. It seems that while the DVD people are busy bickering over whether to let us have the technology to record movies -- we will, of course, whether they like it or not, and it's entirely up to them as to whether they get some of that market or not -- the great unwashed have got fed up waiting and are steaming into CDs. It may even be possible that the CD-ROM player has a limited lifetime, and in a year or so the writers will be in everything as standard. Something else for the poor beleaguered record labels to worry about. It's heartening that MP3 and CD-R have made them so sensitive to the needs and rights of musicians... Friday 16/4/1999 It has come to my attention that there are those among you who come into contact with those fine people in suits at Price Waterhouse Coopers. Some of you may even, from time to time, be minded to pull a little jape at the expense -- there is no other word suitable when dealing with accountants -- of such people. So, here's a thing to make them cringe -- in fact, if you pull it off with sufficient panache in a public place you may even be able to make them physically implode in a purple >poofentire song (which is about 2Mb so be warned!) up on their site in wav format.


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